The Lord is my strength and song - How judiciously are the members of this sentence arranged! He who has God for his strength, will have him for his song; and he to whom Jehovah is become salvation, will exalt his name. Miserably and untunably, in the ears of God, does that man sing praises, who is not saved by the grace of Christ, nor strengthened by the power of his might.
It is worthy of observation that the word which we translate Lord here, is not יהוה JEHOVAH in the original, but יה Jah ; "as if by abbreviation," says Mr. Parkhurst, "for יהיה yeheieh or יהי yehi . It signifies the Essence Ὁ ΩΝ, He who Is, simply, absolutely, and independently. The relation between יה Jah and the verb היה to subsist, exist, be, is intimated to us the first time יה Jah is used in Scripture, ( Exodus 15:2;): 'My strength and my song is יה Jah, and he is become (ויהי vajehi ) to me salvation.'" See Psalm 68:5; Psalm 89:6; Psalm 94:7; Psalm 115:17, Psalm 115:18; Psalm 118:17.
Jah יה is several times joined with the name Jehovah יהוה so that we may be sure that it is not, as some have supposed, a mere abbreviation of that word. See Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4. Our blessed Lord solemnly claims to himself what is intended in this Divine name יה Jah, John 8:58; : "Before Abraham was, (γενεσθαι, was born), εγω ειμι, I Am," not I was, but I am, plainly intimating his Divine eternal existence. Compare Isaiah 43:13. And the Jews appear to have well understood him, for then took they up stones to cast at him as a blasphemer. Compare Colossians 1:16, Colossians 1:17, where the Apostle Paul, after asserting that all things that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, were created, εκτισται, by and for Christ, adds And He Is (αυτος εστι, not ην, was) before all things, and by him all things συνεστηκε, have subsisted, and still subsist. See Parkhurst.
From this Divine name יה Jah the ancient Greeks had their Ιη, Ιη, in their invocations of the gods, particularly of Apollo (the uncompounded One) the light; and hence ei, written after the oriental manner from right to left, afterwards ie, was inscribed over the great door of the temple at Delphi! See Clarke's note on Exodus 3:14, and the concluding observations there.
I will prepare him a habitation - ואנוהו veanvehu . It has been supposed that Moses, by this expression, intended the building of the tabernacle; but it seems to come in very strangely in this place. Most of the ancient versions understood the original in a very different sense. The Vulgate has et glorificabo eum; the Septuagint δοξασω αυτον, I will Glorify him; with which the Syriac, Coptic, the Targum of Jonathan, and the Jerusalem Targum, agree. From the Targum of Onkelos the present translation seems to have been originally derived; he has translated the place מקדש לה ואבני veebnei leh makdash, "And I will build him a sanctuary," which not one of the other versions, the Persian excepted, acknowledges. Our own old translations are generally different from the present: Coverdale, "This my God, I will magnify him;" Matthew's, Cranmer's, and the Bishops' Bible, render it glorify, and the sense of the place seems to require it. Calmet, Houbigant, Kennicott, and other critics, contend for this translation.
My father's God - I believe Houbigant to be right, who translates the original, אבי אלהי Elohey abi, Deus meus, pater meus est, "My God is my Father." Every man may call the Divine Being his God; but only those who are his children by adoption through grace can call him their Father. This is a privilege which God has given to none but his children. See Galatians 4:6.
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 Exodus 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.
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.
The Lord is my strength and song - My strength and song is Jah. See Psalm 68:4. The name was chosen here by Moses to draw attention to the promise ratified by the name “I am.”
I will prepare Him an habitation - I will glorify Him. Our Authorized Version is open to serious objection, as suggesting a thought (namely, of erecting a temple) which could hardly have been in the mind of Moses at that time, and unsuited to the occasion.
A man of war - Compare Psalm 24:8. The name has on this occasion a special fitness: man had no part in the victory; the battle was the Lord‘s.
The Lord is his name - “Jah is His name.” See Exodus 15:2.
Hath He cast - “Hurled,” as from a sling. See Exodus 14:27.
His chosen captains - See Exodus 14:7 note.
As a stone - The warriors in chariots are always represented on the monuments with heavy coats of mail; the corslets of “chosen captains” consisted of plates of highly tempered bronze, with sleeves reaching nearly to the elbow, covering the whole body and the thighs nearly to the knee. The wearers must have sunk at once like a stone, or as we read in Exodus 5:10, like lumps of lead.
Thy wrath - Literally, Thy burning, i. e. the fire of Thy wrath, a word chosen expressly with reference to the effect.
The blast of God‘s nostrils corresponds to the natural agency, the east wind Exodus 14:21, which drove the waters back: on the north the waters rose high, overhanging the sands, but kept back by the strongwind: on the south they laid in massive rollers, kept down by the same agency in the deep bed of the Red Sea.
The enemy said - The abrupt, gasping utterances; the haste, cupidity and ferocity of the Egyptians; the confusion and disorder of their thoughts, belong to the highest order of poetry. They enable us to realize the feelings which induced Pharaoh and his host to pursue the Israelites over the treacherous sandbanks.
Thou didst blow with thy wind - Notice the solemn majesty of these few words, in immediate contrast with the tumult and confusion of the preceding verse. In Exodus 14:28, we read only, “the waters returned,” here we are told that it was because the wind blew. A sudden change in the direction of the wind would bring back at once the masses of water heaped up on the north.
They sank as lead - See the note at Exodus 15:5.
Among the gods - Compare Psalm 86:8; Deuteronomy 32:16-17. A Hebrew just leaving the land in which polytheism attained its highest development, with gigantic statues and temples of incomparable grandeur, might well on such an occasion dwell upon this consummation of the long series of triumphs by which the “greatness beyond compare” of Yahweh was once for all established.
Thy holy habitation - Either Palestine, regarded as the land of promise, sanctified by manifestations of God to the Patriarchs, and destined to be both the home of God‘s people, and the place where His glory and purposes were to be perfectly revealed: or Mount Moriah.
The inhabitants of Palestina - i. e. the country of the Philistines. They were the first who would expect an invasion, and the first whose district would have been invaded but for the faintheartedness of the Israelites.
The dukes of Edom - See Genesis 36:15. It denotes the chieftains, not the kings of Edom.
Canaan - The name in this, as in many passages of Genesis, designates the whole of Palestine: and is used of course with reference to the promise to Abraham. It was known to the Egyptians, and occurs frequently on the monuments as Pa-kanana, which applies, if not to the whole of Palestine, yet to the northern district under Lebanon, which the Phoenicians occupied and called “Canaan.”
In the mountain of thine inheritance - See Exodus 15:13.
The earliest song recorded in the Bible from the lips of men was that glorious outburst of thanksgiving by the hosts of Israel at the Red Sea: Ed 162.1
Great have been the blessings received by men in response to songs of praise. The few words recounting an experience of the wilderness journey of Israel have a lesson worthy of our thought: Ed 162.5
“They went to Beer: that is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” Numbers 21:16. “Then sang Israel this song: Ed 162.6
How often in spiritual experience is this history repeated! how often by words of holy song are unsealed in the soul the springs of penitence and faith, of hope and love and joy! Ed 162.8Read in context »
Like the voice of the great deep, rose from the vast hosts of Israel that sublime ascription. It was taken up by the women of Israel, Miriam, the sister of Moses, leading the way, as they went forth with timbrel and dance. Far over desert and sea rang the joyous refrain, and the mountains re-echoed the words of their praise—“Sing ye to Jehovah, for He hath triumphed gloriously.” PP 288.2Read in context »
A Soul-saving Instrumentality—The melody of song, poured forth from many hearts in clear, distinct utterance, is one of God's instrumentalities in the work of saving souls.—Testimonies For The Church 5:493 (1889). Ev 496.1
The Power of Song—As the children of Israel, journeying through the wilderness, cheered their way by the music of sacred song, so God bids His children today gladden their pilgrim life. There are few means more effective for fixing His words in the memory than repeating them in song. And such song has wonderful power. It has power to subdue rude and uncultivated natures; power to quicken thought and to awaken sympathy, to promote harmony of action, and to banish the gloom and foreboding that destroy courage and weaken effort. Ev 496.2
It is one of the most effective means of impressing the heart with spiritual truth. How often to the soul hard-pressed and ready to despair, memory recalls some word of God's—the long forgotten burden of a childhood song—and temptations lose their power, life takes on new meaning and new purpose, and courage and gladness are imparted to other souls!—Education, 167, 168 (1903). Ev 496.3
A Continual Sermon—These words [song of Moses] were repeated unto all Israel, and formed a song which was often sung, poured forth in exalted strains of melody. This was the wisdom of Moses to present the truth to them in song, that in strains of melody they should become familiar with them, and be impressed upon the minds of the whole nation, young and old. It was important for the children to learn the song; for this would speak to them, to warn, to restrain, to reprove, and encourage. It was a continual sermon.—Manuscript 71, 1897. Ev 496.4Read in context »
In the deliverance of Israel from Egypt a knowledge of the power of God spread far and wide. The warlike people of the stronghold of Jericho trembled. “As soon as we had heard these things,” said Rahab, “our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for Jehovah your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” Joshua 2:11. Centuries after the exodus the priests of the Philistines reminded their people of the plagues of Egypt, and warned them against resisting the God of Israel. PP 369.1
God called Israel, and blessed and exalted them, not that by obedience to His law they alone might receive His favor and become the exclusive recipients of His blessings, but in order to reveal Himself through them to all the inhabitants of the earth. It was for the accomplishment of this very purpose that He commanded them to keep themselves distinct from the idolatrous nations around them. PP 369.2
Idolatry and all the sins that followed in its train were abhorrent to God, and He commanded His people not to mingle with other nations, to “do after their works“, and forget God. He forbade their marriage with idolaters, lest their hearts should be led away from Him. It was just as necessary then as it is now that God's people should be pure, “unspotted from the world.” They must keep themselves free from its spirit, because it is opposed to truth and righteousness. But God did not intend that His people, in self-righteous exclusiveness, should shut themselves away from the world, so that they could have no influence upon it. PP 369.3
Like their Master, the followers of Christ in every age were to be the light of the world. The Saviour said, “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house”—that is, in the world. And He adds, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16. This is just what Enoch, and Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses did. It is just what God designed that His people Israel should do. PP 369.4Read in context »