Exodus 15:1 MEANING



Exodus 15:1
XV.

THE SONG OF MOSES.

(1) Then sang Moses and the children of Israel.--With his usual modesty, Moses does not say that he composed the magnificent ode which follows; but it is scarcely conceivable that it can have had any other author. It bears a close resemblance to the Egyptian religious poetry, with which Moses--and probably no other Israelite of the time--would have been familiar from his early training; and it breathes the elevated tone of religious sentiment that was scarcely shared with Moses by any contemporary. The prophetic statements in the latter verses of the hymn have led some to assign to it a date later than Joshua; but the vagueness of these statements stands in a remarkable contrast with the definiteness and graphic power of the descriptive portion, and points to the time of Moses for the composition. The poetic genius shown in the composition is, no doubt, very considerable; but the statement that it transcends all later Hebrew poesy would not have been made by any critic whose judgment was not biased by his theories. The ode is distinguished from later similar compositions by greater simplicity in the language, and greater freedom in the rhythmical arrangement. There is the usual "parallelism of clauses," with its three varieties of "antithetic, synthetic, and synonymous;" but the regular cadence is interrupted with unusual frequency by triplet stanzas, and the parallelism is less exact than that of later times.

The ode divides itself into two portions (Exodus 15:1-12 and Exodus 15:13-18): the first retrospective, the second prospective. Part II. has no sub-divisions; but Part I. Consists of three, or perhaps we should say of four, portions. First comes the burden, or refrain (Exodus 15:1), which was repeated at the close of each sub-division by Miriam and her choir of women (Exodus 15:21). Then we have the first stanza, or strophe, reaching from Exodus 15:2 to Exodus 15:5. Next we have stanza or strophe 2, extending from Exodus 15:6 to Exodus 15:10. After this, stanza or strophe 3, comprising Exodus 15:11-12. These shorter, and as it were tentative, efforts are followed by the grand burst of prophetic song which constitutes Part II., and extends from Exodus 15:13 to Exodus 15:18, terminating with the sublime utterance, beyond which no thought of man can go, "The Lord shall reign for ever and ever."

I will sing.--It may convey to the ordinary reader some idea of the rhythm of the ode to transcribe into Roman characters and accentuate this opening passage, which is as follows :--

Ashirah layhovah ki gah gaah,

Sus v'rokebo ramah bayyam.

He hath triumphed gloriously.--Heb., he hath glorified himself gloriously (??????? ??????????, LXX.). The main idea implied in the verb gaah is exaltation.

Verses 1-21 - THE SONG OF MOSES. Full of gratitude, joy, and happiness - burning with a desire to vent in devotional utterance of the most fitting kind, his intense and almost ecstatic feelings, Moses, who to his other extraordinary powers, added the sublime gift of poesy, composed, shortly after the passage, a hymn of praise, and sang it with a chorus of the people as a thanksgiving to the Almighty. The hymn itself is generally allowed to be one of transcendent beauty. Deriving probably the general outline of its form and character of its rhythm from the Egyptian poetry of the time, with which Moses had been familiar from his youth, it embodies ideas purely Hebrew, and remarkable for grandeur, simplicity, and depth. Naturally, as being the first outburst of the poetical genius of the nation, and also connected with the very commencement of the national life, it exerted the most important formative influence upon the later Hebrew poetic style, furnishing a pattern to the later lyric poets, from which they but rarely deviated. The "parallelism of the members," which from the middle of the Last century has been acknowledged to be the only real rhythmical law of Hebrew poetry, with its three forms of "synonymous, antithetic, and synthetic (or verbal) parallelism" is here found almost us distinctly marked as in any of the later compositions. At the same time, a greater lyrical freedom is observable than was afterwards practised. The song divides itself primarily into two parts: - the first (vers. 1-12) retrospective, celebrating the recent deliverance; the second (vers. 13-18) prospective, describing the effects that would flow from the deliverance in future time. The verbs indeed of the second part are at first grammatical preterites; but (as Kalisch observes) they are "according to the sense, futures" - their past form denoting only that the prophet sees the events revealed to him as though they were already accomplished. Hence, after a time, he slides into the future (ver. 16). The second part is continuous, and has no marked break: the first sub-divides into three unequal portions, each commencing with an address to Jehovah, and each terminating with a statement of the great fact, that the Egyptians were swallowed up. These three portions are:

1. vers. 2-5, "The Lord is my strength," to "They sank into the bottom as a stone."

2. vers. 6-10," Thy right hand, O Lord," to "They sank like lead in the mighty waters."

3. vers. 11-12, "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord," to "The earth swallowed them." The first verse stands separate from the whole, as an introduction, and at the same time as the refrain. Moses and a chorus of men commenced their chant with it, and probably proceeded to the end of ver. 5, when Miriam, with the Hebrew women, interposed with a repetition of the refrain (see ver. 21). The chant of the males was resumed and carried to the close of ver. 10, when again the refrain came in. It was further repeated after ver. 12; and once moral at the close of the whole "song." Similar refrains, or burdens, are found in Egyptian melodies PART I. Verse 1. - Then sang Moses and the children of Israel. It is in accordance with the general modesty of Moses, that he says nothing of the composition of the "song." No serious doubt of his authorship has ever been entertained; but the general belief rests on the improbability of there having been among the Israelites a second literary genius of the highest order, without any mention being made of him. The joint-singing by Moses and "the children of Israel" implies the previous training of a choir, and would seem to show that the Israelites remained for some days encamped at the point which they had occupied on quitting the bed of the sea. He hath triumphed gloriously. Literally. He is gloriously glorious." (ἐνδόξως δεδόξασται, LXX.) The horse and his rider. Rather, "The horse and his driver." Chariots, not cavalry, are in the mind of the writer.

15:1-21 This song is the most ancient we know of. It is a holy song, to the honour of God, to exalt his name, and celebrate his praise, and his only, not in the least to magnify any man. Holiness to the Lord is in every part of it. It may be considered as typical, and prophetical of the final destruction of the enemies of the church. Happy the people whose God is the Lord. They have work to do, temptations to grapple with, and afflictions to bear, and are weak in themselves; but his grace is their strength. They are often in sorrow, but in him they have comfort; he is their song. Sin, and death, and hell threaten them, but he is, and will be their salvation. The Lord is a God of almighty power, and woe to those that strive with their Maker! He is a God of matchless perfection; he is glorious in holiness; his holiness is his glory. His holiness appears in the hatred of sin, and his wrath against obstinate sinners. It appears in the deliverance of Israel, and his faithfulness to his own promise. He is fearful in praises; that which is matter of praise to the servants of God, is very dreadful to his enemies. He is doing wonders, things out of the common course of nature; wondrous to those in whose favour they are wrought, who are so unworthy, that they had no reason to expect them. There were wonders of power and wonders of grace; in both, God was to be humbly adored.Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord,.... Which is the first song recorded in Scripture, though no doubt before this time songs of praise were sung to the Lord; the people of God having occasion in all ages more or less to sing his praises. The Jews (n) speak of ten songs, the first of which was sung by Adam, when his sins were forgiven him, and this song of Moses is the second; though sometimes they say (o), from the creation of the world to the standing of Israel by the Red sea, we do not find that ever any man sung a song but Israel; God created the first man, but he sang no song: however, this is the first on record, and is a typical one; Moses the composer of it, and who bore a principal part in it, and was the deliverer of the people of Israel, was a type of Christ, the Redeemer of his church: and Israel that joined with him in it, and were the persons delivered, were typical of the spiritual Israel of God redeemed by Christ; and the deliverance here celebrated bore a great resemblance to the redemption wrought out by him; and Christ, the Angel of the Lord, that went before the Israelites through the Red sea, and fought for them, is the principal person concerned in it, and who is meant by the Lord throughout the whole of it, and to whom it is sung; and a song upon a similar occasion to this will be sung in the latter day, upon the destruction of spiritual Egypt, or antichrist, and is called the song of Moses and the Lamb in allusion to it, Revelation 15:3 The Jews (p) say, this shall be sung at the time, when the wicked shall perish out of the world, and observe that it is not written "then sung", but "then shall sing", &c. Moses had reason to sing, since God had heard his prayer, and had done him honour before the people, and he was both an instrument of and a sharer in the salvation wrought; and the children of Israel had reason to sing, inasmuch as they were a people chosen of God, and distinguished by him; were redeemed from bondage, called out of Egypt, and now saved out of the hands of their enemies, who were all destroyed, and they brought safely through the Red sea, and landed on firm ground. And the time when they sung this song was then, when they had passed through the sea on dry land; and when they had seen the Egyptians their enemies dead on the sea shore; and when they were in a proper frame of spirit to sing, when they had taken notice of and considered what great and wonderful things the Lord had done for them, and their minds were suitably impressed with a sense of them; when they were in the exercise of the graces of the fear of God, and faith in him, and which is necessary to the performance of all religious duties, and particularly this of singing the praises of God:

and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord: that went before them in a pillar of cloud and fire; who had led them safely through the Red sea, and troubled and destroyed the host of the Egyptians; even the same Jehovah, who has undertook the salvation of his people, is become the author of it, and to whom the song of redeeming grace is due:

for he hath triumphed gloriously; over Pharaoh and all the Egyptians, the enemies of Israel, as Christ has over sin, in the destruction of it by his sacrifice, and over Satan, and his principalities and powers, when he spoiled them on the cross, and over death the last enemy, and all others; over whom he has made his people more than conquerors, through himself: or, "in excelling he excels" (q); all the angels of heaven, in his name, and nature, relation, and office; and all the sons of men, even the greatest among them, being King of kings, and Lord of lords; in the wonderful things done by him, no such achievements having ever been wrought by any of them: or, "in magnifying, he is magnified" (r); appears to be what he is, great in his nature, perfections, and works; and to be magnified, or declared to be great, and extolled as such by all that know and fear him:

the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea; the horses and horsemen of Pharaoh; and which is not amiss allegorically applied, by Tertullian (s), to the world and the devil; the world is the horse, and the rider the devil; that being under his power and direction, he being the god of it, and working effectually in it; spurring and exciting the men of it to every sinful lust and pleasure; and may be put for all the spiritual enemies of God's people, especially their sins; which are cast by the Lord into the midst of the sea, never to be seen and remembered any more, and which is to them matter of a song of praise and thanksgiving.

(n) Targum in Cant. i. 1. (o) Shemot Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 107. 3.((p) Tikkune Zohar, correct. 10. fol. 20. 2.((q) "excellendo excelluit", Piscator. (r) "Magnificando magnificatus est", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus. (s) Contr. Marcion, l. 4. c. 20.

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