Then Moses and the Israelites Sang This Song

15: 1-18

    DIG: Pharaoh boasted: I will pursue the Hebrews, and I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils and I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them (15:9). Read Psalm 50:3 and contrast it with Psalm 50:21, Isaiah 42:14 and Exodus 15:13 and 16. What moves God from silence to action?

   REFLECT: How is God’s wrath compatible with His unfailing love? How else could God have achieved His loving purpose for Israel, other than destroying the Egyptians? What would be the most effective means for God to deal with the evil threatening your life? For whom would that be painful? Fearful? Troublesome? Loving?

    Hebrew poetry is not based upon rhyme or rhythm, but is based upon parallelism. If you had two lines of poetry, the second line would refer back to, or complete, the first line. If you had line number three, line number four would refer back, or complete the thought of line number three. In addition, Hebrew poetry is not divided up into verses, but is divided up into what are called strophes. There are three strophes in the Song of Moses, verses 2-6, verses 7-11, and verses 12-16. ADONAI appears at the end of each strophe. It should also be noted that a simile appears at the end of each strophe: like a stone at the end of verse 5; like lead at the end of verse 10; as a stone at the end of verse 16, to describe the destruction of the Egyptians. These three strophes are followed by an epilogue in verses 17 and 18.277

    Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to God. After seeing the bodies of the Egyptians lying dead on the shore of Lake Menzaleh (14:30), it seems that the people immediately and spontaneously broke into song. Before the Israelites joined in with Moses to sing their song of redemption, they were singing the blues, the desert blues. Before crossing the Sea of Reeds, they sang the blues long and hard, and they would return to the desert blues again because it will be their theme song as they travel throughout the desert for forty years. But for a time, however, they would sing this song of redemption.278

    I will sing to ADONAI, for His is highly exalted. The horse and the rider He has hurled into the Sea of Reeds (15:1). This was the introduction, which contained the theme of the song. The phrase: I will sing, frequently begins hymns of victory and praise in the Bible (Judges 5:3; Psalms 89:1, 101:1, 108:1).279 It was a hymn of praise and honor to God. Hymns of the ancient Near East commonly open with such adoration, but usually they are in praise of an earthly king; but here, only God was honored. Sung by the men, it was repeated by the women led by Miriam (15:20-21).

   The first strophe is in verses 2-6 and emphasizes the strength of God.

    The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him (15:2). Divine strength and spiritual song are inseparable. In a future time, Nehemiah would say: The joy of ADONAI is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). He was the same God that appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This verse is quoted in Psalm 118:14 and Isaiah 12:2.

    ADONAI is a warrior; ADONAI is His name (15:3). This is the first overt statement of God as a man of war in the Bible, but the theme of the LORD as a warrior will be repeated throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (see my commentary on Genesis Ec – During the Night Abram Divided His Men to Attack). He upholds those who cling to Him, and He aids them against their enemies. He fights not with weapons of war, but by means of His name (Second Samuel 17:45). Because He is holy, He hates sin; because He is righteous, He must punish it. This is something that we should rejoice in.280

    Pharaoh’s chariots and his army, He has hurled into the Sea of Reeds. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Sea of Reeds (15:4). The fate of the Egyptian army is detailed here.

    The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone (15:5). The deep is the same word found in beginning of the Bible. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep (Genesis 1:2).

    Your right hand, ADONAI, was majestic in power. Your right hand, ADONAI, shattered the enemy (15:6). The second line aids our understanding of the first line. As a result, God’s destruction of the Egyptian army explains what is meant by His right hand being majestic in power. The Jewish culture places great importance in the right hand. It symbolizes power, superiority and strength. The Hebrew word ADONAI appears at the end of each strophe. This serves as a transition to the second strophe.

    The people of Israel were celebrating their deliverance. The Egyptians represented the world, slavery and hopelessness to them, but they had been redeemed. That is what their song was all about.

   The second strophe is in verses 7-11 and emphasizes the power of God.

    In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who oppressed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble (15:7). The second strophe begins in much the same way as the first. In fact, the term majesty is a noun derivative of the verb to rise up, which is translated as: I will exalt Him (15:2). The simile, it consumed them like stubble, is a frequent saying in the Old Covenant describing the end of the wicked (Isaiah 40:24, 41:2; Jeremiah 13:24; Psalm 83:12). What makes this figure so moving is the fact that stubble was what the Hebrews had to gather to make bricks in Egypt. So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw (5:12). Now the Egyptian army was consumed like stubble!281

    By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the Sea of Reeds (15:8). The word blast is actually a common Hebrew word for wind. Surely it refers to the east wind from 14:21. The division of the waters was not a natural phenomenon, it came from the nostrils of God.

    The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them’ (15:9). The Holy Spirit gives us some insight into the thinking and feelings of the Egyptians. In their boasting, five verbs appear in rapid succession. You can sense that they believe that their pursuit would be payback for the horror of the plagues and the loss of their first-born sons. The confidence of the Egyptians as they pursued the people of Israel, oozing of vengeance and anger, was very striking indeed. Their violent intentions, however, were never realized as God stopped them cold in the water.

    But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters (15:10). With one breath of His mouth God overthrew the proud foe in the waves of the sea.282 The verb sank is a hapax legomenon (a word occurring only once in the Scriptures). It is possibly related to the verb from the same root that means to be or to grow dark. Darkness in the Old Covenant can represent being near death (Psalm 102:11, 109:23); therefore, the phrase could be translated: They sank into the darkness of the abyss. The waters are described as being mighty. The word actually means majestic or magnificent. As a result, the waters reflect the character of the Creator (Psalm 18:1, and especially Psalm 99:3-4).

   Who is like You, ADONAI, among the mighty (CJB)? Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders (15:11)? The gods of Egypt had been defeated; none of the gods of other nations could do what He had done. As a result, the second strophe ends in the same way as the last verse in the first one, with praise and worship of God. The parallel nature of the two verses is seen in the fact that the word majestic is the focal point of both. Although two rhetorical questions are asked, no answer is really expected. God has no rivals. ADONAI appears at the end of each strophe. This serves as a transition to the third strophe.

   The third strophe is in verses 12-16 and emphasizes the consequences of Israel’s deliverance by God.

    You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallowed them (15:12). God had commanded Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea (14:16), and now He does the same. Since it was actually the sea that swallowed up the Egyptians, the word earth sometimes means Sheol or the place of the dead (Psalms 63:9, 71:20; Isaiah 14:9, 29:4, Jonah 2:6). So the end result of God’s work was that He swallowed Pharaoh’s army. The same word was used of Aaron’s staff that turned into a snake and then swallowed the snakes of the Egyptian magicians (7:14). Literature of the ancient Near East often uses the act of swallowing to be a sign of death.

    In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength you will guide them gently to Your holy dwelling (15:13). To be redeemed is to be given a second chance, when a second chance is impossible. As a result of His unfailing love, God would lead His people to His holy dwelling. The Hebrew word for unfailing love points to God’s covenant loyalty. He is a promise keeper, and He will keep his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was as if they were already in the Promised Land, and as far as the LORD was concerned, they were there because He was going to take them there. God’s holy dwelling would first be built at Shiloh in central Canaan (Jeremiah 7:12), but would eventually be the Temple in Jerusalem (Psalm 76:2), the place He would choose through the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:14).

   The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away (15:14-15). Here Moses taught the Israelites to look at their circumstances from God’s point of view, rather than their own. The battle is the LORD’s; hence, there is no struggle (Psalm 2). The end is never in doubt.283 The nations named here are listed roughly in the order along the route that Israel would eventually follow on their way to the Promised Land. All four nations became infamous enemies of Israel. But here, we are told of their reaction when they heard what God did to the Egyptian army. The Canaanites never forgot how God rescued the Israelites through the Sea of Reeds (Joshua 2:9-11, 24, 5:1). After forty years of wilderness wanderings, when Joshua and the nation of Israel crossed over into the Canaanite territory, they still feared God. Rahab was an example of godly fear of ADONAI, as she became a convert to Judaism.

    Terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone; Until your people pass by, ADONAI, until the people you bought pass by (15:16). How utterly futile their efforts would be. And how equally futile it is for our enemies, be they human or demonic, to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). ADONAI appears at the end of each strophe. This serves as a transition to the epilogue.

    The three strophes are followed by a short epilogue in verses 17 and 18.

    You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance, the place, ADONAI, you made for your dwelling. the sanctuary, ADONAI, your hands established (15:17). What confidence do these words bring! The epilogue looks even further into the future when God will bring them into the Land, the place where He will establish His own sanctuary. The mountain is obviously Mount Zion, where the temple will ultimately be built. What God had accomplished at the Sea of Reeds was the guarantee to Israel that He would finish what he had started.284

    ADONAI will reign, for ever and ever (15:18). The song ends where it began, with God being lifted up. He is the center of the hymn. Everything begins and ends with Him. In the future, all will acknowledge His kingdom.

    After crossing the waters, the victorious people of Israel stood on the shore of the Sea of Reeds and sang a song of deliverance and triumph. That event was a foreshadowing of the victory of God’s people at the end of time. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John saw a vision, saying: I saw in heaven another great and marvelous thing: seven angels with the last seven plagues – the last, because with them God’s wrath, or the Great Tribulation, is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:

   Great and marvelous are Your deeds. ADONAI, God of heaven’s armies. Just and true are Your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear You, ADONAI, and bring glory to Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed (Revelation 15:1-4).

    Thus John sees a sea of glass mixed with fire, and on that seashore stands a victorious multitude. They are playing harps and singing the Song of Moses. Certainly this vision is based on the story of the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Sea of Reeds. It is exciting to note that the substance of the song is the same in Exodus as it is in Revelation: the glorification of God. He is worthy of our honor and praise because of who He is, and because of His great work of redemption.

    The song of Moses was a song of victory and deliverance for the righteous, and at the same time of judgment and wrath on the enemies of God. Thus, in the last days, Old Covenant believers and the Tribulation saints will stand together before the throne of God on the sea of glass and will sing the same song of deliverance sung long ago by the people of Israel. The blood of Messiah has redeemed all believers, and they will all gather together at the sea of glass in Revelation 15. There, they will receive an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (First Peter 1:4a).285


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