Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song - Poetry has been cultivated in all ages and among all people, from the most refined to the most barbarous; and to it principally, under the kind providence of God, we are indebted for most of the original accounts we have of the ancient nations of the universe. Equally measured lines, with a harmonious collocation of expressive, sonorous, and sometimes highly metaphorical terms, the alternate lines either answering to each other in sense, or ending with similar sounds, were easily committed to memory, and easily retained. As these were often accompanied with a pleasing air or tune, the subject being a concatenation of striking and interesting events, histories formed thus became the amusement of youth, the softeners of the tedium of labor, and even the solace of age. In such a way the histories of most nations have been preserved. The interesting events celebrated, the rhythm or metre, and the accompanying tune or recitativo air, rendered them easily transmissible to posterity; and by means of tradition they passed safely from father to son through the times of comparative darkness, till they arrived at those ages in which the pen and the press have given them a sort of deathless duration and permanent stability, by multiplying the copies. Many of the ancient historic and heroic British tales are continued by tradition among the aboriginal inhabitants of Ireland to the present day; and the repetition of them constitutes the chief amusement of the winter evenings. Even the prose histories, which were written on the ground of the poetic, copied closely their exemplars, and the historians themselves were obliged to study all the beauties and ornaments of style, that their works might become popular; and to this circumstance we owe not a small measure of what is termed refinement of language. How observable is this in the history of Herodotus, who appears to have closely copied the ancient poetic records in his inimitable and harmonious prose; and, that his books might bear as near a resemblance as possible to the ancient and popular originals, he divided them into nine, and dedicated each to one of the muses! His work therefore seems to occupy the same place between the ancient poetic compositions and mere prosaic histories, as the polype does between plants and animals. Much even of our sacred records is written in poetry, which God has thus consecrated to be the faithful transmitter of remote and important events; and of this the song before the reader is a proof in point. Though this is not the first specimen of poetry we have met with in the Pentateuch, (see Lamech's speech to his wives, Genesis 4:23, Genesis 4:24; Noah's prophecy concerning his sons, Genesis 9:25-27; and Jacob's blessing to the twelve patriarchs, Genesis 49:2-27 (note)), yet it is the first regular ode of any considerable length, having but one subject; and it is all written in hemistichs, or half lines, the usual form in Hebrew poetry; and though this form frequently occurs, it is not attended to in our common printed Hebrew Bibles, except in this and three other places, (Deuteronomy 32, Judges 5, and 2 Samuel 22)., all of which shall be noticed as they occur. But in Dr. Kennicott's edition of the Hebrew Bible, all the poetry, wheresoever it occurs, is printed in its own hemistich form.
After what has been said it is perhaps scarcely necessary to observe, that as such ancient poetic histories commemorated great and extraordinary displays of providence, courage, strength, fidelity, heroism, and piety; hence the origin of Epic poems, of which the song in this chapter is the earliest specimen. And on the principle of preserving the memory of such events, most nations have had their epic poets, who have generally taken for their subject the most splendid or most remote events of their country's history, which either referred to the formation or extension of their empire, the exploits of their ancestors, or the establishment of their religion. Hence the ancient Hebrews had their Shir Mosheh, the piece in question: the Greeks, their Ilias; the Hindoos, their Mahabarat; the Romans, their Aeneid; the Norwegians, their Edda; the Irish and Scotch, their Fingal and Chronological poems; the Welsh, their Taliessin and his Triads; the Arabs, their Nebiun-Nameh (exploits of Mohammed) and Hamleh Heedry, (exploits of Aly); the Persians, their Shah Nameh, (book of kings); the Italians, their Gerusalemme Liberata; the Portuguese, their Lusiad; the English, their Paradise Lost; and, in humble imitation of all the rest, (etsi non passibus aequis), the French, their Henriade.
The song of Moses has been in the highest repute in the Church of God from the beginning; the author of the Book of The Wisdom of Solomon attributes it in a particular manner to the wisdom of God, and says that on this occasion God opened the mouth of the dumb, and made the tongues of infants eloquent; The Wisdom of Solomon 10:21. As if he had said, Every person felt an interest in the great events which had taken place, and all labored to give Jehovah that praise which was due to his name. "With this song of victory over Pharaoh," says Mr. Ainsworth, "the Holy Ghost compares the song of those who have gotten the victory over the spiritual Pharaoh, the beast, (Antichrist), when they stand by the sea of glass mingled with fire, (as Israel stood here by the Red Sea), having the harps of God, (as the women here had timbrels, Exodus 15:20;), and they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, the Son of God," Revelation 15:2-4.
I will sing unto the Lord - Moses begins the song, and in the two first hemistichs states the subject of it; and these two first lines became the grand chorus of the piece, as we may learn from Exodus 15:21. See Dr. Kennicott's arrangement and translation of this piece at the end of this chapter. See Clarke's note on Exodus 15:26.
Triumphed gloriously - גאה גאה כי ki gaoh gaah, he is exceedingly exalted, rendered by the Septuagint, Ενδοξως γαρ δεδοξασται, He is gloriously glorified; and surely this was one of the most signal displays of the glorious majesty of God ever exhibited since the creation of the world. And when it is considered that the whole of this transaction shadowed out the redemption of the human race from the thraldom and power of sin and iniquity by the Lord Jesus, and the final triumph of the Church of God over all its enemies, we may also join in the song, and celebrate Him who has triumphed so gloriously, having conquered death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
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.
As the Hebrews witnessed the marvelous work of God in the destruction of the Egyptians, they united in an inspired song of lofty eloquence, and grateful praise. Miriam, the sister of Moses, a prophetess, led the women in music. 3SG 236.1
“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. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation; he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. 3SG 236.2
“The Lord is a man of war. The Lord is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them. They sank into the bottom as a stone. Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power. Thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee. Thou sentest forth thy wrath which consumed them as stubble. And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil. My lust shall be satisfied upon them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them. They sank as lead in the mighty waters. 3SG 236.3Read in context »
No sooner does the child of God approach the mercy seat than he becomes the client of the great Advocate. At his first utterance of penitence and appeal for pardon Christ espouses his case and makes it His own, presenting the supplication before the Father as His own request. 6T 364.1
As Christ intercedes in our behalf, the Father lays open all the treasures of His grace for our appropriation, to be enjoyed and to be communicated to others. “Ask in My name,” Christ says; “I do not say that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loveth you, because you have loved Me. Make use of My name. This will give your prayers efficiency, and the Father will give you the riches of His grace; wherefore, ‘ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”’ John 16:24. 6T 364.2
God desires His obedient children to claim His blessing and to come before Him with praise and thanksgiving. God is the Fountain of life and power. He can make the wilderness a fruitful field for the people that keep His commandments, for this is for the glory of His name. He has done for His chosen people that which should inspire every heart with thanksgiving, and it grieves Him that so little praise is offered. He desires to have a stronger expression from His people, showing that they know they have reason for joy and gladness. 6T 364.3
The dealings of God with His people should be often repeated. How frequently were the waymarks set up by the Lord in His dealings with ancient Israel! Lest they should forget the history of the past, He commanded Moses to frame these events into song, that parents might teach them to their children. They were to gather up memorials and to lay them up in sight. Special pains were taken to preserve them, that when the children should inquire concerning these things, the whole story might be repeated. Thus the providential dealings and the marked goodness and mercy of God in His care and deliverance of His people were kept in mind. We are exhorted to call to “remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” Hebrews 10:32. For His people in this generation the Lord has wrought as a wonder-working God. The past history of the cause of God needs to be often brought before the people, young and old. We need often to recount God's goodness and to praise Him for His wonderful works. 6T 364.4Read in context »
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 »
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 »