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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 15

Verses 1-27


The Song of Moses

On the further shore of the Red Sea the Israelites celebrate their deliverance in a magnificent hymn of praise. It consists of three strophes or stanzas of increasing length, viz. Exodus 15:2-5, Exodus 15:6-10, Exodus 15:11-18. The first v. is introductory and may have been repeated as a chorus after each stanza: see on Exodus 15:21. On the structure of Hebrew poetry see Introduction to the Psalms. In language and style the song bears many marks of high antiquity. There can be little objection to attributing the first two stanzas at least to Moses. The third presupposes the conquest and settlement in Canaan: see on Exodus 15:13-19. The original song may have been modified and expanded at a later date, with a view to being used as a festal song at the Passover when the deliverance from Egypt was celebrated.

1. The Lord] Jehovah—so throughout the song, in which the might of Israel’s God is contrasted with the powerlessness of the Egyptian idols: see e.g. Exodus 15:3, Exodus 15:6-7, Exodus 15:11.

2. I will prepare him an habitation] RV ’praise him.’

8. Blast of thy nostrils] referring to the east wind (Exodus 14:21). The whole v. is figurative and highly poetical.

10. See on Exodus 14:27.

11. The gods] see on Exodus 15:1, and on Exodus 7:4, Exodus 7:5. At this period the gods of other nations might be conceived as real beings, though infinitely inferior to Jehovah. Gradually, however, the Hebrews rose to the truth of one God, the so-called gods of the nations being nonentities: see on Exodus 20:3; Exodus 32:1, and Psalms 96:5; Psalms 115:4.; Isaiah 41:29.

12. The earth] a general term including the sea.

13. Thy holy habitation] The land of Canaan is meant, or perhaps more particularly Mt. Moriah, where the Temple was erected. This is an indication that the Song assumed its present form after the occupation of Canaan.

14. The people] heathen nations dwelling in the wilderness and in Canaan. Palestina] properly the land of the Philistines. The name was afterwards extended to the whole land of Canaan.

15. Dukes] leaders, princes, rulers.

16. Purchased] Jehovah’s proprietorship in them was secured by redemption. Hence His claim upon their gratitude and obedience: cp. e.g. Deuteronomy 4:34-40 and the ground on which the Ten Commandments are based, Exodus 20:2, where see note: cp. also 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19.

17. Mountain of thine inheritance] The highlands of Canaan: cp. Jeremiah 2:7. In the place in the Sanctuary] The fixed abode of the ark is meant here, perhaps Shiloh its first resting-place: see Joshua 18:1.

19. This v. is a later addition indicating the occasion on which the Song was composed. Its insertion here suggests that the Song had a separate existence prior to its incorporation in the book of Exodus. It is unnecessary where it now stands.

20. Miriam the prophetess] the sister of Moses: see on Exodus 2:1. As Aaron was the elder of the two brothers, she is here described as his sister. On the meaning of the term ’prophet’ see on Exodus 7:1; Numbers 11:25. Timbrel] i.e. tambourine, still used by Eastern women to accompany their singing and dancing.

21. Answered them] The pronoun is masculine. Miriam and the women sang the refrain to the stanzas sung by the men. With these triumphal strains the first part of the book of Exodus closes.

Part 2.
(
Exodus 15:22 to Exodus 18:27) March from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai

Leaving the shore of the Red Sea, the Israelites enter the peninsula of Sinai, the triangular area lying between the two northern arms of the Red Sea. The centre of the peninsula is a vast limestone plateau of an average elevation of 2,000 ft. above the sea level. It is almost waterless, and bare of vegetation save in the ’wadies,’ or watercourses, at certain seasons. To the south the point of the peninsula is occupied by the exceedingly rugged mountain district of Sinai. To the north stretches the wilderness of Paran, lying between the peninsula and the southern part of Canaan, and having on its western side the wilderness of Shur, and on its eastern the wilderness of Sin. The peninsula of Sinai was inhabited from very early times by various wandering tribes. During their sojourn there, the Israelites fell in with the Amalekites and the Kenites. The Egyptians are known to have worked copper mines in certain districts, and to have maintained fortresses for the protection of the miners. Recent travellers assert that the present barrenness of the peninsula is due largely to neglect, and that there are evidences of its having at one time supported a considerable population. This fact has an important bearing on the credibility of the Scripture narrative, according to which the Israelites spent some forty years in the peninsula. See intro. to Numbers 1.

22. Wilderness of Shur] Between the coast of the Gulf of Suez and the high central table-land is a strip of level country. The northern half is part of the wilderness of Shur. The southern part is called the wilderness of Sin in Exodus 16:1. The Israelites march southwards along this narrow maritime plain.

23. Marah] lit. ’bitterness’: cp. Ruth 1:20. This station is by some identified with Ain Suweirah, 30 m. S. of the present head of the Gulf of Suez. The bitterness of the springs in this district is attested by all travellers. It is caused by the abundance of natron in the soil.

25. The Lord shewed him a tree] There are certain plants whose bark and leaves are employed to sweeten bitter water. Lesseps mentions a kind of thorn found in the desert possessing anti-saline properties. Here, as in the case of the Plagues in Egypt, the miracle was effected by means of a natural agent. The miracle consisted in God’s directing Moses at this particular juncture to the use of the right means. The tree would not have been employed had it not possessed the property required. He made for them a statute] The subject is most probably God, not Moses. God used this occasion to teach the people that such troubles as the present were intended to ’prove’ them, i.e. to test their loyalty to Him, and that if they stood the test He would protect and provide for them.

26. That healeth thee] lit. ’thy physician.’ The term is employed with reference to the ’healing’ of the noxious waters: cp. Psalms 103:8; Psalms 107:19, Psalms 107:20.

27. Elim] The word means ’trees.’ Elim is probably the modern Wady Ghurundel, ’where there is a good deal of vegetation, especially stunted palms, acacias, and tamarisks, and a number of water-holes in the sand.’ The minuteness of the description in this v. suggests the testimony of an eye-witness. There would be no occasion for it in a fictitious narrative.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 15". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/exodus-15.html. 1909.