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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 15

Verses 1-27

Exodus 15:1. Then sang Moses. The Israelites sang in companies; and the one company often answered the other. See Bishop Lowth on the Hebrew Poetry. Also Psalms 68:25. Ecclesiastes 2:8. Ezra 2:65.

Exodus 15:10. Thou didst blow with thy wind. Thou didst send thy spirit, the strong wind excited by the Almighty, as in Exodus 15:21.

Exodus 15:12. The earth swallowed them. Alluding to the burial of the dead bodies driven on shore.

Exodus 15:13. Holy habitation. Moses foresaw that a tabernacle would be built for national worship, and that the Lord’s house would be built on a mountain, as in Exodus 15:17. They had, no doubt, after the manner of their father, an altar or a holy place; all sacred things were not lost, as appears from Exodus 16:9. They came before the Lord, and had priests also of the patriarchal order, as appears from Exodus 19:22.

Exodus 15:20. Timbrel. A little drum. Jdg 11:34 . 2 Samuel 6:5. Psalms 68:25.

Exodus 15:27. Threescore and ten palm trees. This tree is now called the Date. “In Egypt the Date tree is very lofty, and from the singular formation of its bark, it is as easy to ascend to the top of one of them, as to climb a ladder. Wherever the date tree is found in the dreary deserts of that country, it not only presents a supply of salutary food for men and camels, but nature has so wonderfully contrived the plant, that its first offering is accessible to man alone; and its presence is a never-failing indication of water at the root. Botanists describe the trunk as full of rugged knots; the fact is, that it is full of cavities, exactly adapted to the reception of the human feet and hands; and these cavities are formed by the decay of the leaves, the stems of which are as thick as branches. It is impossible to view these trees without believing that He who in the beginning fashioned “every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed,” as “food for man,” has here manifested one among the innumerable proofs of his benevolent design.

“The Date tree is a curious subject for consideration. Many of the inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia, subsist almost entirely upon its fruit. They also boast of its medicinal virtues. Their camels feed upon the date stones. From the leaves they make couches, baskets, bags, mats and brushes; from the branches cages for their poultry, and fences for their gardens; from the fibres of their boughs, thread, ropes, and rigging; from the sap is prepared a spiritous liquor; and the trunk of the tree furnishes fuel. When the tree is grown to a size for bearing fruit, the leaves are six or eight feet long. The stems of the leaves are the only branches the tree has.” Dr. Edward Clarke’s Travels.


The song of Moses is unquestionably the most ancient poetic piece in the world. In point of originality of thought and poetic merit, it stands unrivalled by any thing Homer and Virgil have produced. The sentiments are all congenial to the grand occasion of national joy. The narration, the similies, the metaphors, the apostrophes are all striking, beautiful, and sublime. The soul elevated by the events, and expanded with gratitude, utters itself with a felicity of expression, and clothes its effusions in the grandeur of scenery the richest that nature can boast. The apostrophe to JEHOVAH at the eleventh verse, contrasting him with the gods, is incomparably sublime. More exalted ideas of his glory, language is unable to convey. The descent also of the song from the highest summit of elevation, by tracing the terrific effects the subject would produce on Canaan and Edom, is retiring majesty, gentle and apposite in aspect: it is the language of faith and confidence, leading Israel to repose in the promised land. Where is the critic, where the infidel, who can adequately appreciate its merits, and deem it a production merely human?

In a religious view we may observe, that this song is a model of the gratitude which the church should at all times pay to God after a signal deliverance; and in particular, when a sinner feels the divine displeasure removed from his conscience by a sense of pardoning love, it is a model of the grateful effusions of his heart. So David in Psalms 103:0. “Bless the Lord, oh my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.”

The Israelites being miraculously delivered from the Egyptians, would now go in the greater confidence against the Canaanites. In like manner, being delivered from guilt and condemnation, and made happy in our souls, we are the more encouraged to venture on our spiritual pilgrimage, and combat the difficulties of life. Whom shall we fear, while the rock of Israel is our defence? But let us at all times rejoice with trembling: we, as well as God’s ancient people, have the difficulties of life before us: and happy if we never murmur, never tempt the Lord, nor wish to return again into Egypt.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 15". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.