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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Exodus 15

Verse 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.

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song. The scene of this thanksgiving song is supposed to have been at the landing-place, on the eastern shore of the Red Sea, at Ayun Musa, the fountains of Moses. They are situated somewhat further 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.

These wells are not mentioned in the sacred history; but local tradition, confirmed by the testimony of many intelligent travelers (Lindsay, Wilson, Lepsius, Tischendorf, etc.), has marked this as the spot at or near to which the Israelites, after their awful passage through the sea, first reached the Arabian shore. They are mere holes, varying from seven to seventeen in number, because the shifting sands often choke them up, so that many of them are invisible; and the warm, brackish, discoloured water contained in them has, by leaving a calcareous deposit, gradually formed a hard sediment, from which rivulets flow out into the neighbouring plain. A few stunted palm trees shade the fountains, which are situated in the midst of a few acres of cultivated ground, while all else far and wide is a wilderness of barren sand. It was here that the Israelites stopped and turned back to see the terrible destruction of their pursuers, as they were overwhelmed in the commingling billows, and to collect the spoils of the Egyptian army strewed all along the beach. Here, perhaps, they refreshed themselves and their cattle with a fresh supply of water, whence the wells were ever afterward honoured with the name of the Hebrew leader.

And here, too, the whole congregation were drawn up to sing a hymn of thanksgiving to their Divine Protector for so marvelous a deliverance. The time when it was sung is supposed to have been the morning after the passage. This song is by some one 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 splendour of the diction. Its poetical excellences 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 special to itself.

I will sing. 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. Since every individual had cause, so every individual gave utterance to his feelings of gratitude; and never before had the divine praises been celebrated on earth by so vast a multitude under the influence of such intensely elevated devotion. The universal animation with which this jubilant song was repeated in chorus, may be more easily imagined than described:

`loud as from numbers without number, Sweet as from blessed voices uttering joy-

But the enthusiasm of popular feeling, inspired by a sense of wonderful preservation, was intensified by still higher and holier influences; because this song which they sung, so replete with 'thoughts that breathe and words that burn,' was not only an effusion of ebullient joy at their newborn freedom and independence, it was an expression of pious gratitude, that their idolatrous defections (Ezekiel 20:8) having been forgiven, they had been brought to the knowledge of the true God as their God, and distinguished by such unparalleled tokens of His presence and favour; and so well was the remembrance of this birthday of the nation preserved in after-times, that the prophets, when announcing any bright epoch of religious as well as political regeneration, were accustomed to depict the state of Israel as being so happy, "she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt" (cf. Hosea 2:15; Psalms 98:1; Micah 7:15).

Moreover, this song is referred to as the foundation, or the model, of the thanksgivings in the more glorious Church of the future. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt was a type of something greater, to be performed at an advanced stage of the Christian dispensation, when the plagues of heaven would be poured out upon the Antichristian powers; and the union of the song of Moses with the anthem of the Lamb-the one referring to the inauguration, and the other connected with the glory of the perfected Church-indicates that the burden of praise shall be a hallelujah for all the manifestations of divine grace which the Church, in the course of her chequered history, shall have experienced (Revelation 15:2-3).

Unto the Lord, [ la-Yahweh (H3068)] - Yahweh, the distinguishing name of Israel's God (Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:3).

For he hath triumphed gloriously [ gaa'oh (H1342) gaa'aah (H1342)] - for He is highly exalted, or He has highly exalted Himself by a marvelous display of His majesty.

The horse and his rider, [ cuwc (H5483) wªrokªbow (H7392)]. In Exodus 14:9 the conflicting opinions of two eminent Egyptologers, relative to the use of cavalry by the Egyptians in the Mosaic period, were stated. Those who espouse the views of Champollion render the words soos verechebo, "horse and his chariot, or charioteer;' and hence, the Israelites, in their song of triumph, say no more than that the warrior mounted on the chariot was, along with his vehicle, immersed in the depths. Our version, which has "horse and his rider," is supported by the opinion of Wilkinson, whose explorations among the monuments have been later, as well as more extensive, than those of Champollion, and to whose testimony, therefore, corresponding weight is due, as establishing the agreement of the Mosaic history with the ancient sculptures, and thereby demonstrating the truthfullness of the sacred writer. The words in the concluding part of the verse formed the refrain; and as the song consists of three strophes-the first contained between 2-5, the second between 6-10, both ending with a mention of the Egyptian's destruction, and the third or last strophe dilating on that catastrophe as a sure preparation for the establishment of the Israelites in the land of promise-it was probably joined in by a chorus of singers at the close of each division.

Verse 2

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.

The Lord is my strength and song, [ `aaz (H5794)] - denotes strength, also glory, praise; and the import of the clause is commonly taken to be this: my glory and song is Jah ( Yaah (H3050)); and (the waw consecutive in an explanatory statement) = for He is to me for salvation - i:e., Yahweh is the burden of my song of praise for the great deliverance granted to me. [Hengstenberg prefers the primary meaning of `aaz (H5794), as expressing the covenant relation of God to Israel, and considers the meaning to be, "He is my strength and song" - i:e., my mighty and glorious helper; and the latter clause, "and He is become my salvation," as the consequence which proceeded from that relation. Wªzimraat (H2176), and song, from the root verb zaamar (H2167), to hum or complain, so that zimraat (H2176) signifies a song or psalm accompanied by a musical instrument. Yaah (H3050) is derived by some from yaa'aah (H2969), to be beautiful, excellent; and is considered by others to be an Egyptian word which is used in several ancient works. But Tholuck ('Bib. Repos.,' January, 1834) has successfully proved that the writings referred to speak not of an Egyptian deity, but of the God of Israel; and it is now generally agreed among scholars that Yaah (H3050) is the abbreviated form of Yahweh (H3068) (Jehovah), or the more ancient Yahweeh (Jahve). It occurs chiefly in poetry, and most frequently in refrains and doxologies.]

This clause is quoted, Psalms 118:14; Isaiah 12:2, and applied both by David and Isaiah to the spiritual salvation. The deliverance of the Israelites from a grinding servitude-from the sword of their infuriated enemy, and from the imminent perils of the deep-was owing entirely to Yahweh's protection; and therefore their united tribute of gratitude and praise was justly due to Him who had been the great and only source of their "salvation."

He is my God, [ zeh (H2088)] - He (this Being whom I have just mentioned) is emphatic, importing that of all gods, He is the sole object of my adoration and praise.

I will prepare him an habitation, [ wª'anweehuw (H5115)]. The verb [ naawaah (H5115)] signifies to sit or rest; hence, [ naaweh (H5116)], a habitation. But in the Hiphil it is used to denote extolling, celebrating with praises; and the Septuagint has doxasoo, I will glorify. This is the proper translation of the word here; and the clause, preserving the parallelism, will stand thus:

`He is my God. and I will glorify Him; My father's God, and I will exalt Him.'

"My father's God" - i:e., the God of my father Abraham, to whom the promise recorded (Genesis 15:14) had been fulfilled.

Verse 3

The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. The Lord is a man of war - i:e., a mighty warrior, a resistless conqueror; because all the flower and chivalry of the Egyptian army were destroyed in one moment by his omnipotent arm. The phrase is according to the Hebrew idiom, which uses [ 'iysh (H376)] a man, with the genitive of an attribute or quality, as an adjective to denote one to whom that attribute or quality belongs: thus "a man of form" means a handsome man; "a man of blood," a bloody man; "a man of name," a famous man; "a man of words," an eloquent man; "a man of the field," a farmer; and so "a man of war" signifies a great warrior (1 Samuel 17:33). Yahweh is poetically represented as a mighty champion-encountering the foe in the same style of military equipment as the Egyptians-with horses and war-chariot. This same figure is used in an amplified form, with reference to the same historical event, by Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:8).

The Lord is his name - i:e., according to Scripture usage, His nature: He has now actually shown Himself to be what the name Yahweh implies. The application of this warlike epithet to Yahweh harmonizes with the strain of this triumphant paean, which celebrates the total destruction of a hostile army. Their discomfiture was due solely to the might of Israel's God. There was no room, as there commonly is, after a signal victory, for landing the military skill of the human leader, the gallantry of individual combatants, or the valorous conduct of the people generally. The victory was won solely by "the right arm" of the Lord, and all that the Israelites had to do was to "stand still and see His salvation." This song, therefore, was sung in celebration, not of what God had enabled His people to achieve, but of what He had done for them.

Verse 4

Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.

Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea. The Hebrew word rendered "cast" signifies what is hurled with great force, as an arrow shot from a bow, and it describes the fearful rapidity of the destruction which overwhelmed the Egyptians.

His chosen captains, [ shaalishaayw (H7991)] - third men [Septuagint, Tristatas; see the note at Exodus 14:7.

In the Red Sea, [ bª-Yam (H3220) Cuwp (H5488)] - in the sea of sedge or weeds. This was the name given by the Hebrews and the Egyptians to that bay or gulf of the Indian Ocean which was called "the Red Sea by the Greek geographers. 'On the waters of the "Red Sea"' says Dr Phipson, 'a species of algae, Trichodesmium Erythraeum, belonging to the group Oscillariae, is found sometimes in prodigious quantities. It is a microscopic plant, and of such a magnificent blood-red colour that there can be little doubt Herodotus gave the name of "Red Sea" to the Arabian Gulf from this circumstance. After a certain time these algae completely lose their red colour and become green, so that the phenomenon is intermittent.'

Verse 5

The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.

They sank into the bottom, [ bimtsowlowt (H4688)] - in the abysses.

Verse 6

Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.

Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power. The right hand was the pledge of good faith, and the truth or faithfulness of God to his promises (Genesis 15:14; Genesis 46:4) is magnified, illustriously displayed, by putting forth his Almighty power in destroying the enemies of Israel.

Verse 7

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 in the greatness of thine excellency, [ gª'ownªkaa (H1347)] - height or majesty (cf. Job 37:4; Job 40:10). [ tahªroc (H2040) qaameykaa (H6965), thou hast pulled or brought down those that rose against thee -

i.e., in the persons of thy people]. The Hebrew verb is commonly used to denote pulling or tearing down buildings, and hence, destroying a people.

Thou sentest forth thy wrath, [ chªronªkaa (H2740)] - a burning, metaphor glowing anger, fierce wrath (cf. Nehemiah 13:18; Psalms 2:5), and sometimes with the addition of [ 'ap (H639)], the fire of the nostril (Numbers 25:4; Numbers 32:14; 1 Samuel 28:18). The allusion in this passage is probably to the fire darted from the cloudy pillar.

Verse 8

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.

And with the blast of thy nostrils - i:e., the strong east wind (Exodus 14:21: cf. Psalms 18:15).

The waters were gathered together, [ ne`ermuw (H6192)] - were piled up. The floods stood upright as a heap. The translation of each one of these words is objected to by those whose theoretical views tend to diminish the magnitude of the miracle, and therefore it is necessary to examine into the strict and proper import of each of them. [ nitsªbuw (H5324) is rendered "stood upright."] The same verb occurs in (Genesis 21:29; Genesis 37:7; Exodus 33:8, where it is contended that the word signifies standing apart." But a slight inspection of each of these passages will suffice to show that the idea of "standing upright" is included as much as that of "standing apart;" nay, more, that the word would not, of itself, express the separation, unless, as in Genesis 21:29, other words had been added; and consequently that the primary, as well as principal, import of the verb used in this verse is to "stand upright." [ nozªliym (H5140) is rendered "floods."] This translation is found fault with, as giving a violent and a false idea of the storm, and, instead of it, 'flowing waters' is substituted, by which is meant, 'the upper tidal current'-the Israelites having passed over at the lowest ebb of the gulf. But this view appears manifestly inadmissible from the words that follow - "the floods stood upright as an heap" [ kªmow (H3644) need (H5067)]. It is true, the meaning given to the word need (H5067) has also been called in question, which, it is alleged, signifies simply a removal or displacement of the waters, such as takes place in an ebb. But this term occurs only six times; here, and Joshua 3:13; Joshua 3:16; Psalms 33:7; Psalms 78:13; Isaiah 17:11 - in all of which passages it implies something more than motion. Gesenius and the Septuagint always render it "heap."

And the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea - not frozen, but curdled, condensed. It is a strong poetical figure, and there is a beautiful gradation observable in the description. The waters were first of all arrested in their ceaseless billowy agitation, and prevented from any further flow; then they were compressed on either side, so as to leave an intermediate space; they were next piled up as a heap; and, lastly, there was a congestion of the waters at the bottom, produced by the superincumbent mass. This is poetry, indeed; but the whole tenor of the description, as well of the images employed in this chapter (Exodus 15:5; Exodus 15:10) as in other parts of Scripture, conveys the impression that the destruction of the host of Pharaoh took place at a part of the sea where the water was sufficiently deep to correspond with the account given of its division and accumulation, as well as of its subsequent immersion of the impious and incorrigible rebels whom it was commissioned to overwhelm.

Verse 9

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.

The enemy said, I will pursue ... The pride and insolence of the Egyptians are very graphically depicted in their confident assurance of success, and the exultation with which they anticipated all its happy results. They far exceeded the boastful declaration of the vain-glorious Roman; because his 'Veni, vidi, vici' described a conquest that had been achieved; whereas, in the height of their impious presumption, the imaginations of the Egyptians were already feasting on the fruits of a brilliant and an easy victory ere ever they had reached the camp or struck a blow on the objects of their meditated attack.

My lust shall be satisfied upon them, [ timlaa'eemow (H4390) napshiy (H5315)] - my soul is filled with them, my desire of vengeance is satisfied. The pursuit originated in a determined purpose to chastise the rebellion, as Pharaoh deemed it, of his insurgent slaves: the desire of inflicting signal punishment upon the fugitives became more intense, the closer he came upon their track, and he is described, in the words of this clause, as having in fancy got them in his power, and like a ravenous beast, glutting his appetite with the clause, as having in fancy got them in his power, and like a ravenous beast, glutting his appetite with the luxury of revenge.

My hand shall destroy them, [ towriysheemow (H3423)] - shall possess them; i:e., after having dispirited and discomfited them, I shall exterminate them.

Verse 10

Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.

Thou didst blow with thy wind. Yahweh, like a consummate general, concealed, as it were, his plan of onset, until the Egyptians were in the middle of the channel; and the moment the Israelites were securely landed on the Arabian shore, 'He who gathered the winds in His fists, and bound the waters in a garment' (Proverbs 30:4), sent them forth as His messengers of destruction. The strong wind, by which the waters had been divided, and the bed of the sea was dried, subsided as suddenly and miraculously as it rose; or, as perhaps may be inferred from the words, the wind changed to the contrary direction, compelling the separated waters to collapse. With resistless impetuosity they rushed on in one stupendous billow, until commingling amid the foam and roar of confluence, they rolled like a cataract over the host, sweeping into the abysses of the gulf the pride, power, and chivalry of Egypt. "Horse and his rider," or charioteer, might be seen here and there upon the boiling surface, and perhaps with desperate convulsive struggle for self-preservation,

`Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto.'

But it was a vain effort. The gulf, after chafing for a little like a caldron, exhibited erelong its accustomed calm; but the host of armed warriors which during the night had sped over its bared channel, 'where were they?' 'They had sunk as lead in the mighty waters.'

Verse 11

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? [ baa'eelim (H410)] - not potentates and great men, but the pagan gods (cf. Psalms 86:8, where 'ªlohiym (H430), gods, is used); and the interrogative form of the outcry implies a strong negation. There is here a retrospective glance at the grand result of the exodial crisis. That was a conflict between two spiritual kingdoms-the kingdom of light and true religion on the one hand, and that of darkness and idolatrous superstition, carried on in a series of appalling calamities upon Egypt culminating in the awful catastrophe of the Red Sea, whereby was unmistakeably demonstrated the insignificance, or rather, nothingness, of all the gods of Egypt against the unrivalled greatness of Yahweh's sovereignty. The phraseology used in this passage [ miy (H4310) kaamokaah (H3644)], "Who is like unto thee?" was so deeply engraven upon the minds of the Hebrew people by the memorable song of Moses, that, in subsequent times of public contest between the claims of God and of idols, it was frequently embodied in the name Micaiah, or Micah (1 Kings 21:10; 1 Kings 22:8; 1 Kings 22:18; Micah 7:18).

Glorious in holiness. No attribute in the character of the true God presents a more striking contrast to the low and grovelling qualities ascribed to the pagan deities than His purity or righteousness. It is the brightest jewel in the crown of the Divine Majesty, shedding a luster on all his other perfections, and being that which most of all exalts Him in the estimation of all His intelligent and moral creatures. [The Septuagint renders it: dedoxamenos en hagiois, glorified in the holy ones - i:e., among saints and angels, or in holy things.]

Fearful in praises - i:e., to be reverenced with godly awe even in joyful songs of praise.

Doing wonders - or works of wonder, marvelous things (cf. Job 5:9). This verse contains one of the sublimest descriptions of the majesty and excellence of God to be found in the whole Scripture. It is thus rendered by Boothroyd:

`Who among the gods is like thee, O Yahweh Who like thee, excelling in holiness: Awful, praiseworthy, working wonders?

Verse 12

Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.

Thou stretchedst out thy right hand. Recurrence is here again had to the image of a warrior driving a war-chariot. Like fiery steeds which find the reins slackened (Habakkuk 3:8), the waters, no longer restrained, rushed forward into the dried sands, and entombed all who stood on them in a watery grave-the deep parts of "the earth" (cf. Jonah 2:6).

Verse 13

Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.

Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed. In this third and concluding strophe the poet makes a natural transition from the justice of God executed upon His enemies, to the gracious and timely protection vouchsafed to His people. The Israelites, after having been rescued by the direct interposition of God from the house of bondage, would inevitably have perished amid the privations and perils of their journey (Exodus 14:14; Exodus 14:30: cf. Psalms 124:1-8), had not God benignantly condescended to conduct them by the visible symbol of His presence; and that safe guidance, in circumstances so menacing, and by a path so new and untrodden, was a pledge that He would establish them in the possession of the promised land. So sure a pledge was it regarded, that the sacred bard, transporting himself in imagination to scenes of the visioned future, speaks of it as actually fulfilled. "Thou hast guided them in thy strength to thy holy habitation" - i:e., Canaan, which, from the many revelations made there to the patriarchs, might be called, in a wide sense, Bethel, the house of God (Genesis 28:16; Genesis 35:7), and the way for their settlement in which would he paved by the widespread panic which the events of the exodus produced among the inhabitants of all the neighbouring countries.

Verse 14

The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.

Sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina, [ chiyl (H2427) 'aachaz (H270)] - terror hath taken hold. The people of Canaan are described as thrown into fearful commotion, as panic-struck by the intelligence of the miraculous passage through the sea; and they are specified first among the alarmists, as being most deeply affected by the subsequent movements of the heaven-directed emigrants. From traditional reports of the promise made to the patriarchs, confirmed by the consciousness of their own national demerits, they must have long been aware that their country was divinely destined to be occupied by another race, and that they themselves were, by the same irresistible decree, doomed to utter extermination.

Palestina, [ Pªlaashet (H6429)] - Philistia (cf. Psalms 60:8; Psalms 83:7; Psalms 86:4; Psalms 108:9: and Palestina, Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 14:31; Joel 3:4). [The Septuagint has in this passage: Fulistieim; but in Isaiah and Joel, locis citatis, allofuloi.] The Hebrew word as thus used was the proper and exclusive name of the southwest corner of Canaan, occupied by the Philistines; and such also was the early application of its Greek equivalent, Palaistinee, by Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 1:, ch. 6:, sec. 2; also b. 2:, ch. 15:, sec. 2), although in later times it became the designation of the whole land (Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 8:, ch. 10, sec. 3; Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' b. 1:, ch. 105).

Verse 15

Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.

The dukes of Edom shall be amazed - literally, were troubled, were in trepidation, paralyzed with terror (cf. 1 Samuel 28:21; 2 Samuel 4:1; Psalms 48:6; Psalms 90:7; Ezekiel 26:18). [ 'aluwpeey (H441) 'Edowm (H123), shiekhs, the special name which is given in the Pentateuch to the Edomite princes or phylarchs (see the note at Genesis 36:15), and by which they are distinguished from 'eeyleey (H352) Mow'aab (H4124), the mighty men (nobles) of Moab (cf. 2 Kings 24:15; Ezekiel 17:13).]

All the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away, [ naamoguw (H4127)], shall melt with fear (cf. Joshua 2:9; Joshua 2:24; Psalms 75:4; Isaiah 14:31; Jeremiah 49:23).

Verse 16

Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.

By the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still literally, struck dumb with astonishment and terror; i:e., petrified.

Till thy people pass over, O Lord - i:e., pass through the intermediate regions on the way to Canaan.

Which thou hast purchased, [ qaaniytaa (H7069)] - redeemed, recovered possession of (cf. Deuteronomy 32:6). There is a beautiful gradation observable in describing the distress of the people in the contiguous countries. First, there is a widespread panic produced. Secondly, the rulers in Edom are agitated and perplexed; the Moabites are seized with consternation, and the whole Canaanites are plunged into a state of deep despondency. Although both Edom and Moab opposed the passage of the Israelites (cf. Numbers 20:18; Numbers 22:2), yet the prevailing state of mind among the people in all the region round about was terror-a complete prostration through uncontrollable fear (Joshua 2:9-10; Joshua 9:9).

Verse 17

Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.

Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance-or possession. Since the ostensible reason for their departure from Egypt was to celebrate the worship of God, and a mountain was commonly chosen as the most suitable spot for the performance of sacred rites, so Moses, who was well aware of the destiny of his nation in the promised land, anticipates with prophetic foresight the completion of the purpose for which they were selected, in their keeping up the national worship of God in a definite locality. Some, indeed as Aben Ezra, Rosenmuller, Lowth, etc, take the phrase 'the mountain of God's inheritance,' as a poetical designation of Canaan, which is a mountainous country (cf. Deuteronomy 3:25); and in that view it was God assuredly who not only "brought in" the Israelites into the possession of it, but "planted" them in it, by establishing the Jewish polity in that land.

But Hengstenberg and others maintain, on the ground of the two following clauses, that Moriah-appropriated to God by the typical sacrifice of Isaac, and on which the temple afterward stood (Psalms 78:54) - was intended by 'the mountain of God's inheritance.' Rationalists have founded on this expression an objection against the historical character of the song; and de Wette ('Introduction to the Old Testament' Parker's edition) maintains, on the ground of allusion to the sanctuary, that the date of this composition must be fixed after the temple had been built. 'But the reference to "the sanctuary" is so general that we have here only the idea of a mountain set apart for the divine honour, and consecrated as the habitation of Yahweh-an expression which, in the mouth of Moses, should surprise us the less, as the whole system of laws in its ceremonial part relates to such a definite sanctuary of Yahweh, and we must unquestionably attribute to him such a previous knowledge of the divine counsel' (Havernick's 'Introduction to the Pentateuch,' p. 267).

The Septuagint represents this verse as an invocation: eisagagoon katafiteuson. Bringing in, plant them, etc. Whether in this precatory form, or prophetically expressed as in our version, the change of person is too common in all poetry to warrant any conclusion being drawn from that feature in the poem, that it belongs to a late and artificial age.

Verse 18

The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.

The Lord shall reign for ever and ever. They had seen Pharaoh's reign brought to a sudden end; but that of Yahweh over His people would be everlasting; and the deliverance which they had just been celebrating, and for which they had been indebted to His special presence and protection was an earnest pledge of future victories over all their foes. 'God is here for the first time called a king (shall reign) (the patriarchs knew Him as the Lord, the Shepherd) because He now had formed for Himself a people and kingdom on earth. This name forms the leading thought in the whole constitution of the people. (Gerlach).

Verse 19

For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.

For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots ... This verse, in accordance with the Semitic style of competition, which indulges in frequent repetitions, is a recapitulation of the great facts in which the song originated. In this view the initiatory word "For" serves to introduce the explanation by rehearsing the substance of the first verse as an epitome of the whole subject. [But Rosenmuller (Schol., in loco.) considers that the song closes at Exodus 15:18; and that this verse, together with the two following ones, contains a brief resume, in prosaic narrative, of the memorable incident which gave birth to this epinikion.] Pharaoh is here represented as riding upon his horse at the head of the army which marched in hot pursuit of the Israelites, and the total destruction of which, in circumstances so appalling, is graphically described in the preceding song. It is alleged that a memorial of the king's person and dreadful fate is found among the Sinaitic inscriptions. 'Among the events of the exode.' says Mr. Foster ('The Voice of Israel from the Rocks'), 'those records comprise a reference to the passage of the Red Sea, with the introduction of Pharaoh twice by name, and two notices of the Egyptian tyrant's vain attempt to save himself by flight on horseback, from the returning waters; together with hieroglyphical representations of himself and of his horse, in accordance with this passage before us, which has hitherto been unexplained.'

Verses 20-21

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

Miriam the prophetess - so called from her receiving divine revelations (Numbers 12:1; Micah 6:4), but in this instance, principally from her being eminently skilled in music; and in this sense the word 'prophesy' is sometimes used in Scripture (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 10:10-15; 1 Chronicles 25:1; 1 Corinthians 11:5).

The sister of Aaron - ranked with him, as both were subordinate to Moses, who was placed at the head of Israel as the mediator of the old covenant.

Took a timbrel, [ hatop (H8596), the timbrel] - or tabret, a musical instrument used chiefly by women, in the form of a hoop, edged round with rings or pieces of brass, to make a jingling noise, and covered over with tightened parchment, like a drum. It was beaten with the fingers, and corresponds to our tambourine.

All the women ... We shall understand this by attending to the modern customs of the East, where the dance-a slow, grave, and solemn gesture, generally accompanied with singing and the sound of the timbrel-is still led by the principal female of the company, the rest imitating her movements and repeating the words of the song as they drop from her lips.

And with dances, [ uwbimcholot (H4246)] Some render this 'flutes,' the word being supposed to denote an instrument of the pipe kind, with holes. But the generality of commentators prefer the rendering adopted in our version (cf. Judges 11:34). So the Septuagint has choroon, dances.

Verse 21. Answered them - "them" in the Hebrew is masculine, so that Moses probably led the men, and Miriam the women, the two bands responding alternately, and singing the first verse as a chorus (cf. Hosea 2:15). This whole scene is illustrated by the Egyptian monuments, on which separate choirs of men and women are represented singing in alternate responses, the timbrel or tambourine being the instrument of the women, as the flute is that of the men; and the beating of the tambourine, together with the notes of the other instrument, is regulated to accord with the cadence of the song and the evolutions of the dance. Both music and dancing were among the Egyptians enlisted in their sacred services (Champollion, 'Lettres, 53;' Wilkinson, vol. 2:, pp. 253, 254, 314-6; Rosellini, 2:, 3, p. 78; Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and Books of Moses,' pp. 136, 137; Lowth's 'Dissertation,' p. 47).

Verse 22

So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.

Wilderness of Shur - comprehending all the western part of Arabia-Petraea. The desert of Etham was a part of it, extending round the northern portion of the Red Sea, and a considerable distance along its eastern shore; whereas the "wilderness of Shur" (now Sudhr) was the designation of all the desert region of Arabia. Petraea that lay next to Palestine. It appears to be identical with the present pasture grounds of the Arab tribe Terabin, extending 'from the mountains near Suez to the region of Gaza' (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' vol. 1:, p. 274; Wilton's 'Negeb,' p. 6; Burckhardt's 'Syria,' p. 481).

Verse 23

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.

Came to Marah - following the general route of all travelers southward, along the Wady Werdan, an almost interminable plain of smooth white sand, between the sea and the table-land of the Tih (valley of wandering). Marah is almost universally believed to be what is now 'called Howarah, in Wady Amarah, about thirty miles from the place where the Israelites landed, on the eastern shore of the Red Sea-a distance quite sufficient for their march of three days. The basin of this well is about six or eight feet in diameter, with two feet of water. Burckhardt says that the journey from Ayun Musa to Howarah took his party 15 hours and 15 minutes; but in the case of a whole nation, including old men, women, and children, we may reasonably allow a longer time, and consider that this was the march on which "they went three days in the wilderness," until they came to his spot.

Lepsius ('Letters on the Peninsula of Sinai') traces their route thus: After taking in a full supply of water at Ayun Musa, he says, 'they proceeded without stopping, and halted at Wady el Ahtha, making a day's journey of about 15 miles; because if this was not their resting-place, they must have gone nine miles further, to Wady Sudhr-a distance too great for a single day. From Wady el Ahtha they proceeded on the second day to Wady Werdan-a march of 16 miles, where there is the sweet little stream Ain Abu Suweirah, which must have been at that time dry, because "they found no water."' On the third day they came to Marah, which Lepsius fixes in Wady Ghurundel, where there is one of the chief watering-places of the Arabs, with plenty of bushes and shrubs. But his arguments are not thought good; and Robinson says of Howarah, which is four or five miles nearer, that since the days of Burckhardt it has generally been regarded as the bitter fountain Marah. There is no other perennial spring in the intermediate space. The water still retains its ancient character, and has a bad name among the Arabs, who seldom allow their camels to partake of it. The following analysis of the bitter water from this spring given by Osborne, ('Palestine Past and Present,' Appendix 6:) Its specific gravity at 30 degrees Celsius, is 1,00845. It contains in 1,000 parts:

Sulphate of Lime 1,545 parts Sulphate of Magnesia, 1,000 parts Sulphate of Soda, 0,919 parts Sulphate of Potash, 0,281 parts Chloride of Sodium, 3,940 parts Bituminous matter, traces Silicic Acid, traces

Carbonic Acid, traces TOTAL: 8,345 parts

Verse 24

And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 25

And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

The Lord showed him a tree. Some travelers have pronounced this to be the elvah of the Arabs-a shrub in form and flower resembling our hawthorn; others, the berries of the Ghurkhud Peganum rectusum of Forskal, 'Floriculture of Egypt') - a bush found growing around all brackish fountains. But neither of these shrubs are known by the natives to possess such natural virtues. It is far more likely that God miraculously endowed some tree with the property of purifying the bitter water [ `eets (H6086), a tree or wood of any species employed as the medium]; but the sweetening was not dependent upon the nature or quality of the tree, but the power of God (cf. Job 9:6). And hence, the "statute and ordinance" that followed, which would have been singularly inopportune if no miracle had been performed.

There he made for them a statute and an ordinance. Several Jewish Rabbis, followed by Paley and a few Christian writers, consider that this was the first occasion for instituting the Sabbath and promulgating the commandment to honour father and mother-their moral law consisting hitherto only of the seven precepts of Noah. But there is no reason to believe that any particular law or statute was enacted there (the specification of moral and religious duties being reserved for another time and place); but the general principle or rule of the divine procedure was explained to them, as it had been to Abraham (Genesis 17:1). God having performed His part of the covenant made with the patriarch, by bringing his posterity out of Egypt, and engaging still to preserve and deliver them, now informs them that He requires a fulfillment of their part of the covenant-its privileges offered by Him being suspended on the condition of their obedience. That this general precept was meant by "the statute and ordinance," is evident from the tenor of the verse that follows.

Proved them - or tried them. God now brought the Israelites into circumstances which would put their faith and obedience to the test (cf. Genesis 22:1).

Verse 26

And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 27

And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.

Came to Elim - i:e., the trees, or palm grove; supposed by Robinson ('Biblical Researches,' vol. 1:, pp. 100-5) to be what is now called Wady Ghurundel, the most extensive water-course in the western desert-an oasis, adorned with a great variety of trees, among which the palm is still conspicuous, and fertilized by a copious stream, which, in the rainy season, flows through it. The objection to this being Elim is, that it is within a distance of six miles from Howarah. It is estimated to be a mile in breadth, but stretching out far to the northeast. Wilson ('Bible Lands,' vol. 1:, p. 174) and Laborde ('Commentaire Geog.' in loco) prefer the neighbouring Wady Useit, chiefly from the palm trees which it possesses. Lepsius ('Letters,' pp. 540, 1), from his theory respecting the position of Marah, fixes upon Wady Shubeikeh, considerably further onward, as the Elim of the Israelites. Stanley leaves the point undetermined, by saying 'Elim must be Ghurundel, Useit, or Taiybeh,' ('Sinai and Palestine,' p. 37, 68).

But Wady Ghurundel has most suffrages in its favour. 'As Ghurundel,' says Robinson, 'is one of the most noted Arab watering-places, and the Israelites probably would have rested there several days, it would not be difficult for them once to make a longer march, and thus reach the plain near the sea. Besides, in a host like that of the Israelites, consisting of more than two million people, with many flocks, it can hardly be supposed that they all marched in one body. More probably the stations, as enumerated, refer rather to the headquarters of Moses and the elders, with a portion of the people who kept with them; while other portions preceded or followed them at various distances, as the convenience of water and pasturage might dictate.' (See Porter's 'Answer to Colenso,' p. 31. Also articles by the same author, 'Family Treasury,' parts 11, 12, 1866.) [ `eeynot (H5869) denotes springs; but they might properly enough be called wells, as, being liable to be choked up by the drifting sand, the water must frequently be dug for.]

The palm tree, with its dwarf trunk and shaggy branches, is eminently the tree of the desert, and flourishes only in moist ground. Wherever this tree is, water is near; and, accordingly, travelers through the desert find it on digging usually within such a distance that the roots of the tree can obtain moisture from the fluid (Shaw's 'Travels,' vol. 1:, p. 259-261; Wilson's 'History of the Expedition to Egypt,' p. 18). The number of palm trees is recorded, and this accords with existing usage. 'The palms in the palm-grove at Tor (mountain-land of the Sinai peninsula) are all registered. Property in them is capital' (Henniker, quoted by Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 22, note). The palm trees are still numerous, though somewhat stunted. The shade of one of the remaining palm trees in Wady Ghurundel was found by measurement to be 180 feet in circumference. Kurtz ('History of the Old Covenant,' vol. 3:, p. 14), who is of opinion that Elim was divinely prepared for an encampment or the Israelites, sees in the twelve wells of water a reference to the twelve tribes, and in the 70 palm trees, with their tufted tops, a canopy under which each of the 70 elders might erect his tent. After the weary travel through the desert, this must have appeared a most delightful encampment from its shade and verdure, as well as from its abundant supply of sweet water for the thirsty multitude. 'For two days their journey had lain in a wooded, well-watered, and even romantic country. In most impressive contrast with the dreary flatness of Egypt, the mountain scenery of the peninsula here burst on them' (Drew's 'Scripture Lands,'

p. 55).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/exodus-15.html. 1871-8.