Exodus 15



                                                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 song divides itself primarily into two parts: — the first (vs. 1-12) retrospective,

celebrating the recent deliverance; the second (vs. 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 (v. 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:


            * vs. 2-5, “The Lord is my strength,” to “They sank into the bottom as a



            * vs. 6-10, “Thy right hand, O Lord,” to “They sank like lead in the

               mighty waters.”


            * vs. 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 v.5,

               when Miriam, with the Hebrew women, interposed with a repetition of

               the refrain (see v. 21). The chant of the males was resumed and carried

               to the close of v. 10, when again the refrain came in. It was further

               repeated after v. 12; and once more at the close of the whole “song.”

               Similar refrains, or burdens, are found in Egyptian melodies.



vs. 1-21 - “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” - Literally “He is gloriously glorius” - “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.  The LORD is a man of war” - A strong anthropomorphism,

but one that could scarcely be misunderstood — “a man of war,” meaning commonly

“a warrior,” or “one mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8). God’s might had just been

proved, in that He alone had discomfited and destroyed the most potent armed force

in the whole world. “The Lord is his name.” -  Jehovah — the alone-existing One

“truly describes Him,” before whom all other existence fades and falls into nothingness.

On the full meaning of the name, see the comment on ch. 3:14.  “Pharaoh’s chariots

and his host hath He cast into the sea” - Or “hurled.” The verb commonly expresses

the hurling of a javelin or the shooting of an arrow - “his chosen captains also are

drowned in the Red sea.  The depths have covered them: they sank into the

bottom as a stone” - The warriors who fought in chariots commonly wore coats of mail,

composed of bronze plates sewn on to a linen base, and overlapping one another. The

coats covered the arms to the elbow, and descended nearly to the knee. They must have

been exceedingly heavy: and the warrior who wore one must have sunk at once, without

a struggle, like a stone or a lump of lead (v.10).  “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 sea giving up its nature, formed with its waves a firm wall, and instead

of streaming like a fluid, congealed into a hard substance. - “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.”  This relates what were the

thoughts of the soldiers who flocked to Pharaoh’s standard at his call.  Rage and

hate were the passions to be satiated, rather than lust.  The drawn sword points to

death rather than the Israelites recapture.  Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea

covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like unto thee,

O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in

praises, doing wonders?”  Moses makes three points in which God has no rival!


                        *  Holiness

                        *  Awfulness

                        *  Miraculous Power


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

mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them

in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.  The people shall hear, and be afraid:

sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.  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.”  This prophecy received a remarkable

accomplishment when “it came to pass that all the kings of the Cannanites heard

that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of

Israel, and their heart melted, neither was their spirit in them any more”

(Joshua 5:1).  “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 bringing His people out of

Egypt, their ownership had passed to Him from the Egyptians, just as if He had

bought them. (See chps. 6:6-7; 19:5.)  “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.  The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.”  In terms most simple yet

most grand, often imitated (Psalm 10:16; 29:10; 146:10), but never surpassed, the

poet gives the final result of all God’s providential and temporary arrangements, to

wit, the eternal establishment of His most glorious kingdom. And here reaching the

final consummation of all things (I Corinthians 15:28), He will not weaken the impression

made by adding another word, but ends his ode.  “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” - The next two verses relate the part taken by Miriam in

the recitation of the ode.  And Miriam the prophetess” - Miriam is regarded by the

prophet Micah 6:4, as having had a share in the deliverance of Israel, and claims the

prophetic gift in Numbers 12:2. Her claim appears to be allowed both in the present

passage, and in Numbers 12:6-8. where the degree of her inspiration is

placed below that of Moses. She is the first woman whom the Bible honors with the

title of “prophetess.” - “the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all

the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.  And Miriam

answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the

horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.”





After a stay, which cannot be exactly measured, but which was probably one of

some days, near the point of the Eastern coast of the Gulf of Suez, at which they had

emerged from the sea-bed, the Israelites, under the guidance of the pillar of the cloud,

resumed their journey, and were conducted southwards, or south-eastwards, through

the arid tract, called indifferently “the wilderness of Shur” (v. 22), and “the

wilderness of Etham” (Numbers 33:8), to a place called Marah. It is generally

supposed that the first halt must have been at Ayun Musa, or “the springs of Moses.”

This is “the only green spot near the passage over the Red Sea” - (Cook). It possesses

at present seventeen wells, and is an oasis of grass and tamarisk in the midst of a sandy

desert. When Wellsted visited it in 1836, there were abundant palm-trees. It does not lie

on the shore, but at the distance of about a mile and a half from the beach, with which it

was at one time connected by an aqueduct, built for the convenience of the ships,

which here took in their water. The water is regarded as good and wholesome, though

dark-colored and somewhat brackish. From Ayun Musa the Israelites pursued their way

in a direction a little east of south through a barren plain where sand-storms are

frequent — part of the wilderness of Shur — for three days without finding water.

Here their flocks and herds must have suffered greatly, and many of the animals

probably died on the journey. On the last of the three days water was found at a spot

called thenceforth “Marah,” “bitterness,” because the liquid was undrinkable. After

the miracle related in v. 25, and an encampment by the side of the sweetened spring

(Numbers 33:8), they proceeded onward without much change of direction to Elim,

where was abundance of good water and a grove of seventy palm-trees. Here

“they encamped by the waters,” and were allowed a rest, which probably exceeded a



vs. 22-27 - “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.  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.  And the

people murmured against Moses” - As they had already done on the western shores

of the Red Sea (ch. 14:11-12), and as they were about to do so often before their

wanderings were over.  (See ch. 16:2; 17:3; Numbers 14:2; 16:41; Deuteronomy 1:27)

“Murmuring” was the common mode in which they vented their spleen, when anything

went ill with them; and as Moses had persuaded them to quit Egypt, the murmuring was

chiefly against him. The men who serve a nation best are during their lifetime least

appreciated.  saying, What shall we drink?” - Few disappointments are harder to

bear than that of the man, who after long hours of thirst thinks that he has obtained

wherewith to quench his intolerable longing, and on raising the cup to his lips, finds

the draught so nauseous that he cannot swallow it.  Very unpalatable water is

swallowed when the thirst is great, but there is a limit beyond which nature will not go.

There “may be water, water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink.”  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:” - The miracle consisted in God’s pointing

out the tree to Moses, who had no previous knowledge of it - “there He made for

them a statute and an ordinance” - See the next verse. God, it appears, after healing

the water, and satisfying the physical thirst of His people, gave them an ordinance,

which He connected by a promise with the miracle. If they would henceforth render

strict obedience to all His commandments, then He would “heal” them as He had

healed the water, would keep them free at once from physical and from moral evil,

from the diseases of Egypt, and the diseases of their own hearts. “And there He

proved them.” -  From the moment of their quitting Egypt to that of their entering Canaan,

God was ever “proving” His people — trying them, that is — exercising their faith, and

patience and obedience and power of self-denial, in order to fit them for the position

which they were to occupy in Canaan. He had proved them at the Red Sea,

when He let them be shut in between the water and the host of the Egyptians — He proved

them now at Marah by a bitter disappointment — He proved them again at Meribah

(ch. 17:1-7); at Sinai (ch. 20:20); at Taberah ( Numbers 11:1-3); at Kibrothhattaavah

(ib, v. 34); at Kadesh (ib, 13:26-33), and elsewhere. For forty years He led them through

the wilderness to prove them, to know what was in their heart” (Deuteronomy 8.), to fit

them for their glorious and conquering career in the land of promise  “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.  And they came to Elim,

where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they

encamped there by the waters.”


Israel in the wilderness is a type of our pilgrimage and the trials and vicissitudes

of life:through life.


  • MONOTONY. The long weary sameness of days each exactly resembling the

      last, the desert all around them — and no water!  (v.22)  No refreshing draughts

      from that living spring, which becomes in them that drink it “a well of water

      springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).  Israel was afflicted by want

      of earthly water for three days. Many poor pilgrims through the wilderness of life

      are debarred the spiritual draughts of which Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman

      for twenty, thirty, forty years!  Debarred, it may be, by no fault of their own, born

      in heathenism, bred up in heathenism, uneducated in what it most concerns a man to

      know. How sad their condition! How thankful those should be who may draw of the

      water of life freely:


ü      from the written word;

ü      from the Living and Eternal Word who has said — “if any man thirst,

                   let him come unto me and drink!”  (John 7:38)


  • DISAPPOINTMENT. Hopes long cherished seem about, at last, to be satisfied.

            The long sought for treasure — of whatever kind it may be — is announced as

            found. Now we are about to enjoy ourselves, to take our fill of the delight long

            denied us. Alas!   the dainty morsel as we taste it proves to be —


                        “As Dead Sea fruit, which, fair to view,

                                    Yet turns to ashes on the lips.”


            (It seems as if man wants what he cannot get.  Then when he gets it, that wasn’t

            what he wanted after all?  CY - 2010) - The delicious draught, as we expected it

            to be, is “Marah,” “bitterness.”  Most of life is to most men made up of such

            disappointments. Men crave happiness, and expect it here, and seek it through

            some earthly, some temporal means — wealth, or power, or fame, or a peaceful

            domestic life, or social success, or literary eminence — and no sooner do they

            obtain their desire, and hold it in their grasp, than they find its savor gone — its

            taste so bitter that they do not care to drink. Then, how often do they turn

            to vent the anguish of their heart on some quite innocent person, who, they

            say, has led them wrong! Their disappointment should take them with

            humbled spirits to God. It actually takes them with furious words to the

            presence of some man, whom it is a relief to them to load with abuse and

            obloquy. They imitate the Israelites, not Moses they murmur, instead of

            crying to the Almighty.


·        UNEXPECTED RELIEF. God can turn bitter to sweet. Often, out of the

     bitter agony of disappointment God makes gladness to arise. Sometimes, as in

     the miracle of Marah, He reverses the disappointment itself, turning defeat into

     victory, giving us the gratification of the desire which had been baulked of fruition.

     But more often He relieves by compensating. He gives something unexpected

      instead of the expected joy which he has withheld, lie makes a temporal evil

     work for our spiritual good.  He takes away the sting from worldly loss, by

     pouring into our hearts the spirit of  contentment. He causes ill-success to wean us

     from the world and fix our thoughts on Him.


·        A TIME OF REFRESHMENT. Marah led to Elim. If there are time of severe

     trial in life, there are also “times of refreshing from the Lord” - (Acts 3:19) —

     times of enjoyment — even times of mirth (Ecclesiastes 3:4; Psalm 126:2-3). But

     lately toiling wearily through an arid wilderness, only to reach waters of bitterness,

     on a sudden the Israelites found themselves amid groves of palms, stretched

     themselves at length on the soft herbage under the shadow of tall trees, and listened

     to the breeze sighing through the acacias, or to the murmur of the babbling rill which

     flowed from the “twelve springs” adown the dale. ‘Encamped there by the

     waters” (v. 27) they were allowed to rest for a while, secure from foes, screened

     from the heat, their eyes charmed by the verdure, their earssoothed by gentle sounds,

     their every sense lapped in soft enjoyment by the charms of a scene which, after the

     wilderness, must have appeared “altogether lovely.” And so it is in our lives.

     God does give us, even here in this world, seasons of repose, of satisfaction, of calm

     content. It were ingratitude in us not to accept with thankfulness such occasions when

     they arise, He knows what is best for us; and if He appoints us an Elim, we were

            churlish to withdraw ourselves from it. The Church has its festivals. Christ

            attended more than one banquet. “Times of refreshing” are to be received

            joyously, gratefully, as “coming from the Lord,” and designed by Him to

            support, strengthen, comfort us. They are, as it were, glimpses into the

            future life.



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