Exodus 15:1
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XV.

THE SONG OF MOSES.

(1) Then sang Moses and the children of Israel.—With his usual modesty, Moses does not say that he composed the magnificent ode which follows; but it is scarcely conceivable that it can have had any other author. It bears a close resemblance to the Egyptian religious poetry, with which Moses—and probably no other Israelite of the time—would have been familiar from his early training; and it breathes the elevated tone of religious sentiment that was scarcely shared with Moses by any contemporary. The prophetic statements in the latter verses of the hymn have led some to assign to it a date later than Joshua; but the vagueness of these statements stands in a remarkable contrast with the definiteness and graphic power of the descriptive portion, and points to the time of Moses for the composition. The poetic genius shown in the composition is, no doubt, very considerable; but the statement that it transcends all later Hebrew poesy would not have been made by any critic whose judgment was not biased by his theories. The ode is distinguished from later similar compositions by greater simplicity in the language, and greater freedom in the rhythmical arrangement. There is the usual “parallelism of clauses,” with its three varieties of “antithetic, synthetic, and synonymous;” but the regular cadence is interrupted with unusual frequency by triplet stanzas, and the parallelism is less exact than that of later times.

The ode divides itself into two portions (Exodus 15:1-12 and Exodus 15:13-18): the first retrospective, the second prospective. Part II. has no sub-divisions; but Part I. Consists of three, or perhaps we should say of four, portions. First comes the burden, or refrain (Exodus 15:1), which was repeated at the close of each sub-division by Miriam and her choir of women (Exodus 15:21). Then we have the first stanza, or strophe, reaching from Exodus 15:2 to Exodus 15:5. Next we have stanza or strophe 2, extending from Exodus 15:6 to Exodus 15:10. After this, stanza or strophe 3, comprising Exodus 15:11-12. These shorter, and as it were tentative, efforts are followed by the grand burst of prophetic song which constitutes Part II., and extends from Exodus 15:13 to Exodus 15:18, terminating with the sublime utterance, beyond which no thought of man can go, “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.”

I will sing.—It may convey to the ordinary reader some idea of the rhythm of the ode to transcribe into Roman characters and accentuate this opening passage, which is as follows :—

Ashirah layhováh ki gaóh gaáh,

Sus v’rokebo ramáh bayyám.

He hath triumphed gloriously.—Heb., he hath glorified himself gloriously (ἐνδόξως δεδόξασται, LXX.). The main idea implied in the verb gââh is exaltation.

Exodus 15:1. Then sang Moses — this song — The first song recorded in Scripture, and, excepting perhaps the book of Job, the most ancient piece of genuine poetry extant in the world. And it cannot be too much admired. It abounds with noble and sublime sentiments, expressed in strong and lofty language. Its figures are bold, its images striking, and every part of it calculated to affect the mind and possess the imagination. There is nothing comparable to it in all the works of profane writers. It is termed the Song of Moses, Revelation 15:2-3, and is represented as sung, together with the song of the Lamb, by those who had gotten the victory over the beast, all standing on a sea of glass with the harps of God in their hands. Doubtless Moses wrote this song by inspiration, and, with the children of Israel, sang it on the spot then, while a grateful sense of their deliverance out of Egypt, their safe passage through the Red sea, and their triumph over Pharaoh and his host, were fresh upon their minds. By this instance it appears that the singing of psalms or hymns, as an act of religions worship, was used in the church of Christ before the giving of the ceremonial law, and that therefore it is no part of it, nor abolished with it: singing is as much the language of holy joy, as praying is of holy desire. I will sing unto the Lord — All our joy must terminate in God, and all our praises be offered up to him; for he hath triumphed — All that love God triumph in his triumphs.

15:1-21 This song is the most ancient we know of. It is a holy song, to the honour of God, to exalt his name, and celebrate his praise, and his only, not in the least to magnify any man. Holiness to the Lord is in every part of it. It may be considered as typical, and prophetical of the final destruction of the enemies of the church. Happy the people whose God is the Lord. They have work to do, temptations to grapple with, and afflictions to bear, and are weak in themselves; but his grace is their strength. They are often in sorrow, but in him they have comfort; he is their song. Sin, and death, and hell threaten them, but he is, and will be their salvation. The Lord is a God of almighty power, and woe to those that strive with their Maker! He is a God of matchless perfection; he is glorious in holiness; his holiness is his glory. His holiness appears in the hatred of sin, and his wrath against obstinate sinners. It appears in the deliverance of Israel, and his faithfulness to his own promise. He is fearful in praises; that which is matter of praise to the servants of God, is very dreadful to his enemies. He is doing wonders, things out of the common course of nature; wondrous to those in whose favour they are wrought, who are so unworthy, that they had no reason to expect them. There were wonders of power and wonders of grace; in both, God was to be humbly adored.With the deliverance of Israel is associated the development of the national poetry, which finds its first and perfect expression in this magnificent hymn. It was sung by Moses and the people, an expression which evidently points to him as the author. That it was written at the time is an assertion expressly made in the text, and it is supported by the strongest internal evidence. In every age this song gave the tone to the poetry of Israel; especially at great critical epochs of deliverance: and in the book of Revelation Exo 15:3 it is associated with the final triumph of the Church.

The division of the song into three parts is distinctly marked: Exodus 15:1-5; Exodus 15:6-10; Exodus 15:11-18 : each begins with an ascription of praise to God; each increases in length and varied imagery unto the triumphant close.

Exodus 15:1

He hath triumphed gloriously - Literally, He is gloriously glorious.

The horse and his rider - The word "rider" may include horseman, but applies properly to the charioteer.

CHAPTER 15

Ex 15:1-27. Song of Moses.

1. Then sang Moses and the children of Israel—The scene of this thanksgiving song is supposed to have been at the landing place on the eastern shore of the Red Sea, at Ayoun Musa, "the fountains of Moses." They are situated somewhat farther northward along the shore than the opposite point from which the Israelites set out. But the line of the people would be extended during the passage, and one extremity of it would reach as far north as these fountains, which would supply them with water on landing. The time when it was sung is supposed to have been the morning after the passage. This song is, by some hundred years, the oldest poem in the world. There is a sublimity and beauty in the language that is unexampled. But its unrivalled superiority arises not solely from the splendor of the diction. Its poetical excellencies have often drawn forth the admiration of the best judges, while the character of the event commemorated, and its being prompted by divine inspiration, contribute to give it an interest and sublimity peculiar to itself.

I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously—Considering the state of servitude in which they had been born and bred, and the rude features of character which their subsequent history often displays, it cannot be supposed that the children of Israel generally were qualified to commit to memory or to appreciate the beauties of this inimitable song. But they might perfectly understand its pervading strain of sentiment; and, with the view of suitably improving the occasion, it was thought necessary that all, old and young, should join their united voices in the rehearsal of its words. As every individual had cause, so every individual gave utterance to his feelings of gratitude.Moses and the people praise the Lord, Exodus 15:1-21. They want water, Exodus 15:22. The waters of Marah are bitter, Exodus 15:23. The people murmur against Moses, Exodus 15:24. He crieth unto the Lord; the waters are sweetened, Exodus 15:25. They come to Elim, where they find twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees, Exodus 15:27.

Moses composed the song, and he, together with the Israelites, sung it, unto the honour and praise of God.

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord,.... Which is the first song recorded in Scripture, though no doubt before this time songs of praise were sung to the Lord; the people of God having occasion in all ages more or less to sing his praises. The Jews (n) speak of ten songs, the first of which was sung by Adam, when his sins were forgiven him, and this song of Moses is the second; though sometimes they say (o), from the creation of the world to the standing of Israel by the Red sea, we do not find that ever any man sung a song but Israel; God created the first man, but he sang no song: however, this is the first on record, and is a typical one; Moses the composer of it, and who bore a principal part in it, and was the deliverer of the people of Israel, was a type of Christ, the Redeemer of his church: and Israel that joined with him in it, and were the persons delivered, were typical of the spiritual Israel of God redeemed by Christ; and the deliverance here celebrated bore a great resemblance to the redemption wrought out by him; and Christ, the Angel of the Lord, that went before the Israelites through the Red sea, and fought for them, is the principal person concerned in it, and who is meant by the Lord throughout the whole of it, and to whom it is sung; and a song upon a similar occasion to this will be sung in the latter day, upon the destruction of spiritual Egypt, or antichrist, and is called the song of Moses and the Lamb in allusion to it, Revelation 15:3 The Jews (p) say, this shall be sung at the time, when the wicked shall perish out of the world, and observe that it is not written "then sung", but "then shall sing", &c. Moses had reason to sing, since God had heard his prayer, and had done him honour before the people, and he was both an instrument of and a sharer in the salvation wrought; and the children of Israel had reason to sing, inasmuch as they were a people chosen of God, and distinguished by him; were redeemed from bondage, called out of Egypt, and now saved out of the hands of their enemies, who were all destroyed, and they brought safely through the Red sea, and landed on firm ground. And the time when they sung this song was then, when they had passed through the sea on dry land; and when they had seen the Egyptians their enemies dead on the sea shore; and when they were in a proper frame of spirit to sing, when they had taken notice of and considered what great and wonderful things the Lord had done for them, and their minds were suitably impressed with a sense of them; when they were in the exercise of the graces of the fear of God, and faith in him, and which is necessary to the performance of all religious duties, and particularly this of singing the praises of God:

and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord: that went before them in a pillar of cloud and fire; who had led them safely through the Red sea, and troubled and destroyed the host of the Egyptians; even the same Jehovah, who has undertook the salvation of his people, is become the author of it, and to whom the song of redeeming grace is due:

for he hath triumphed gloriously; over Pharaoh and all the Egyptians, the enemies of Israel, as Christ has over sin, in the destruction of it by his sacrifice, and over Satan, and his principalities and powers, when he spoiled them on the cross, and over death the last enemy, and all others; over whom he has made his people more than conquerors, through himself: or, "in excelling he excels" (q); all the angels of heaven, in his name, and nature, relation, and office; and all the sons of men, even the greatest among them, being King of kings, and Lord of lords; in the wonderful things done by him, no such achievements having ever been wrought by any of them: or, "in magnifying, he is magnified" (r); appears to be what he is, great in his nature, perfections, and works; and to be magnified, or declared to be great, and extolled as such by all that know and fear him:

the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea; the horses and horsemen of Pharaoh; and which is not amiss allegorically applied, by Tertullian (s), to the world and the devil; the world is the horse, and the rider the devil; that being under his power and direction, he being the god of it, and working effectually in it; spurring and exciting the men of it to every sinful lust and pleasure; and may be put for all the spiritual enemies of God's people, especially their sins; which are cast by the Lord into the midst of the sea, never to be seen and remembered any more, and which is to them matter of a song of praise and thanksgiving.

(n) Targum in Cant. i. 1. (o) Shemot Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 107. 3.((p) Tikkune Zohar, correct. 10. fol. 20. 2.((q) "excellendo excelluit", Piscator. (r) "Magnificando magnificatus est", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus. (s) Contr. Marcion, l. 4. c. 20.

Then {a} sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

(a) Praising God for the overthrow of his enemies, and their deliverance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1a. Then sang, &c.] cf. Numbers 21:17. (In Jdg 5:1 the Heb. is simply, And.)

1b. Exordium. The poet bids himself sing (cf. Jdg 5:3); and briefly, but forcibly, announces his theme (cf. v. 21).

hath triumphed gloriously] This fine paraphrase is based upon the triumphando magnifice egit of Seb. Münster, in his Latin version of the O.T. (1534–5). A more lit. rendering would be hath risen up (see, for the rare word, Job 8:11; Job 10:16, Ezekiel 47:5) majestically or proudly: the root idea of the word is to rise up loftily; but derivatives have generally the fig. senses of majesty or pride (see e.g. v. 7, Psalm 96:1).

The horse, &c.] Thus briefly, but completely, is the ruin of the Pharaoh’s army described: its chariots and horses, the mainstay of its strength, are, by Divine might, cast irretrievably into the sea.

and his rider] רָכַבי means both to ride a horse, and to ride in a chariot (Jeremiah 51:21 ‘the horse and his rider, … and the chariot and its rider’; similarly Haggai 2:22): hence, as the Egyptians at this time has no cavalry (on Exodus 14:9), if the verse is contemporary with the Exodus, either ‘rider’ must be understood of the rider in the chariot, or (as the pron. rather distinctly connects the ‘rider’ with the horse: cf. Genesis 49:17, and Jer. l.c.) we may read for רֹכְבֹו either רֹכֵב (so LXX.), i.e. ‘The horse and the rider’ (viz. in the chariot), or (Haupt) רֶכֶב, i.e. ‘The horse and the chariot’ (Exodus 14:9).

Verses 1-21 - THE SONG OF MOSES. Full of gratitude, joy, and happiness - burning with a desire to vent in devotional utterance of the most fitting kind, his intense and almost ecstatic feelings, Moses, who to his other extraordinary powers, added the sublime gift of poesy, composed, shortly after the passage, a hymn of praise, and sang it with a chorus of the people as a thanksgiving to the Almighty. The hymn itself is generally allowed to be one of transcendent beauty. Deriving probably the general outline of its form and character of its rhythm from the Egyptian poetry of the time, with which Moses had been familiar from his youth, it embodies ideas purely Hebrew, and remarkable for grandeur, simplicity, and depth. Naturally, as being the first outburst of the poetical genius of the nation, and also connected with the very commencement of the national life, it exerted the most important formative influence upon the later Hebrew poetic style, furnishing a pattern to the later lyric poets, from which they but rarely deviated. The "parallelism of the members," which from the middle of the Last century has been acknowledged to be the only real rhythmical law of Hebrew poetry, with its three forms of "synonymous, antithetic, and synthetic (or verbal) parallelism" is here found almost us distinctly marked as in any of the later compositions. At the same time, a greater lyrical freedom is observable than was afterwards practised. The song divides itself primarily into two parts: - the first (vers. 1-12) retrospective, celebrating the recent deliverance; the second (vers. 13-18) prospective, describing the effects that would flow from the deliverance in future time. The verbs indeed of the second part are at first grammatical preterites; but (as Kalisch observes) they are "according to the sense, futures" - their past form denoting only that the prophet sees the events revealed to him as though they were already accomplished. Hence, after a time, he slides into the future (ver. 16). The second part is continuous, and has no marked break: the first sub-divides into three unequal portions, each commencing with an address to Jehovah, and each terminating with a statement of the great fact, that the Egyptians were swallowed up. These three portions are:

1. vers. 2-5, "The Lord is my strength," to "They sank into the bottom as a stone."

2. vers. 6-10," Thy right hand, O Lord," to "They sank like lead in the mighty waters."

3. vers. 11-12, "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord," to "The earth swallowed them." The first verse stands separate from the whole, as an introduction, and at the same time as the refrain. Moses and a chorus of men commenced their chant with it, and probably proceeded to the end of ver. 5, when Miriam, with the Hebrew women, interposed with a repetition of the refrain (see ver. 21). The chant of the males was resumed and carried to the close of ver. 10, when again the refrain came in. It was further repeated after ver. 12; and once moral at the close of the whole "song." Similar refrains, or burdens, are found in Egyptian melodies PART I. Verse 1. - Then sang Moses and the children of Israel. It is in accordance with the general modesty of Moses, that he says nothing of the composition of the "song." No serious doubt of his authorship has ever been entertained; but the general belief rests on the improbability of there having been among the Israelites a second literary genius of the highest order, without any mention being made of him. The joint-singing by Moses and "the children of Israel" implies the previous training of a choir, and would seem to show that the Israelites remained for some days encamped at the point which they had occupied on quitting the bed of the sea. He hath triumphed gloriously. Literally. He is gloriously glorious." (ἐνδόξως δεδόξασται, LXX.) The horse and his rider. Rather, "The horse and his driver." Chariots, not cavalry, are in the mind of the writer. Exodus 15:1Introduction and first strophe. - The introduction, which contains the theme of the song, "Sing will I to the Lord, for highly exalted is He, horse and his rider He hath thrown into the sea," was repeated, when sung, as an anti-strophe by a chorus of women, with Miriam at their head (cf. Exodus 15:20, Exodus 15:21); whether after every verse, or only at the close of the longer strophes, cannot be determined. גּאה to arise, to grow up, trop. to show oneself exalted; connected with an inf. abs. to give still further emphasis. Jehovah had displayed His superiority to all earthly power by casting horses and riders, the proud army of the haughty Pharaoh, into the sea. This had filled His people with rejoicing: (Exodus 15:2), "My strength and song is Jah, He became my salvation; He is my God, whom I extol, my father's God, whom I exalt." עז strength, might, not praise or glory, even in Psalm 8:2. זמרת, an old poetic form for זמרה, from זמר, primarily to hum; thence זמּר רב́ככוים, to play music, or sing with a musical accompaniment. Jah, the concentration of Jehovah, the God of salvation ruling the course of history with absolute freedom, has passed from this song into the Psalms, but is restricted to the higher style of poetry. "For He became salvation to me, granted me deliverance and salvation:" on the use of vav consec. in explanatory clauses, see Genesis 26:12. This clause is taken from our song, and introduced in Isaiah 12:2; Psalm 118:14. אלי זה: this Jah, such an one is my God. אנוהוּ: Hiphil of נוה, related to נאה, נאוה, to be lovely, delightful, Hiph. to extol, to praise, δοξάσω, glorificabo (lxx, Vulg.). "The God of my father:" i.e., of Abraham as the ancestor of Israel, or, as in Exodus 3:6, of the three patriarchs combined. What He promised them (Genesis 15:14; Genesis 46:3-4) He had now fulfilled.
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