Chapter 15

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2020-08-03 13:28.

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To express their gratitude to YHWH, Moses and all the “sons of Israel” sang a song that focused on the deliverance they experienced at the Sea of Reeds or the Red Sea. The specific mention of Moses suggests that he had composed this song. (15:1; see the Notes section.)

To YHWH is attributed the act of tossing horse and rider into the sea. In the context of the events at that time, “rider” could apply more specifically to the charioteer. Regarding YHWH’s saving deed for his people, the Hebrew text repeats the verb that may be defined as meaning “to rise up” or “to be exalted” (“to be exalted, exalted”) and could be understood to signify “to be exalted in triumph” or “to be impressively exalted.” The Septuagint rendering may be translated, “gloriously he is glorified.” (15:1)

All the people of Israel were delivered from the Egyptian force that was determined to enslave them again. Accordingly, the singular pronouns identify what happened as a personal experience. YHWH is referred to as “my strength and my song,” the source of “my salvation,” and “my God.” Moreover, the expression of praise is personal. “I will praise him, the God of my father, and I will exalt him.” At the sea, the Israelites, in their vulnerable circumstances, were weak and helpless. YHWH, however, proved to be their strength when he delivered them. He rendered the mighty Egyptian host helpless, and all the warriors perished. YHWH was the “song” for the Israelites individually, for his deliverance provided the occasion for the song of praise. In the Septuagint, the expression “My strength and my song” is not rendered literally. It says, “A helper and protector he has become to me for deliverance.” The reference to “God of my father” could apply to their forefather Abraham or to Jacob as the patriarchal head from whom all the tribes of Israel had descended. Targum Jonathan does not include the personal aspect but says, “God of our fathers” or forefathers. (15:2)

YHWH had fought for his people, providing the basis for his being called a “man of war” or a warrior. The Septuagint refers to him as crushing wars. (15:3)

YHWH threw Pharaoh’s chariots and his military force into the sea. All the Egyptian warriors sank into the sea like a “stone.” (15:4, 5)

The right hand is commonly the one that functions when wielding weapons of offense or defense. For this reason, YHWH’s “right hand” is portrayed as the hand of glorious or impressive power and as shattering the enemy. To YHWH, foes are like stubble that the expression of his anger consumes as does a fire. (15:6, 7)

The strong east wind that divided the water of the sea and created a wide, dry pathway is likened to the blast of YHWH’s nostrils. According to the Septuagint, the “spirit” or “wind of [God’s] wrath” divided the water. On both sides of the created passageway through the sea, the water “stood up in a heap” or like a wall as though the water had been congealed. (15:8) According to Targum Jonathan, the waters stood “as if bound like skins that confine flowing water.”

The Egyptian warriors, the enemy, intended to pursue and overtake the Israelites, divide the booty, and wield the sword against them to effect their destruction. The words about their “soul” having “its fill of them” relates to fulfilling their desire or aim regarding them. In the Septuagint, the objective is expressed as follows: “Pursuing, I will overtake; I will divide spoils; I will fill my soul [or desire]; I will lift up [kill with] my sword; my hand will dominate.” The Egyptians did not succeed, for YHWH blew with his wind, the water of the sea then covered them, and the warriors sank “like lead in mighty [or turbulent] waters.” (15:9, 10)

In view of what YHWH had accomplished that none of the deities the Egyptians worshiped could do, the questions are raised, “Who is like you among the gods, O YHWH? Who is like you, majestic in holiness [impressively holy or pure in all respects; glorified among holy ones (LXX)], awe-inspiring in renown [astonishing in glories (LXX)] or astonishing in acts that reveal glory, splendor, or majesty], performing wonders?” YHWH is indeed the God without equal. (15:11)

YHWH is represented as stretching out his “right hand,” extending his arm to take action against the enemies of his people, and the “earth” then swallowed these enemies or the earth became their watery grave. In his compassionate concern, kindness, or enduring love for them (his “righteousness” or “justice” [LXX]), YHWH had redeemed them from Egypt, their house of slavery. With his strength, he guided them, using his power to aid them. His purpose was to bring them to his “holy abode,” apparently the land he had promised to give to them. The attainment of their future dwelling place was a certainty and, therefore, is referred to as if the Israelites had already arrived there. (15:12, 13)

News about the calamity that had befallen the Egyptian military force spread to neighboring lands, causing the peoples there to tremble in fear. The Septuagint says that “nations heard and were angered.” In Philistia, the inhabitants were seized with “pangs” (like those of a woman about to give birth), possibly when contemplating what could befall them. Chieftains of Edom were frightened (hurried [LXX]), and leaders of Moab gave way to trembling in fear. The inhabitants of Canaan “melted away” or were deprived of their strength and courage. All the peoples in the various lands experienced terror and dread. On account of the greatness of YHWH’s arm or the power he displayed when destroying the entire Egyptian military force, the various peoples are depicted as becoming “still like a stone,” unable to move, as if the Israelites (the people whom YHWH had acquired) were already passing by their lands. (15:14-16)

Ultimately, YHWH would bring his people into the land he had promised to give to them. There they would be “planted” or established. The “mountain of [YHWH’s] inheritance” apparently would be the place where his sanctuary would be. It would be a place of his choosing and, therefore, the place he made and the sanctuary that he established by his “hands” or power. (15:17)

As the only true God, YHWH is the supreme Sovereign, and he “will reign forever and ever.” It appears that, with this thought, the song concludes. (15:18)

The words of verse 19 seemingly function as a summary about the destruction of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, horsemen or charioteers, and concerning the deliverance of the “sons [or people] of Israel.” (15:19)

Aaron’s (also Moses’) sister Miriam is called a “prophetess,” indicating that inspired messages were conveyed through her to the people. In view of her taking the lead in singing praise to YHWH with the other women, this may have been included in her prophesying. Miriam, with a tambourine in her hand, led all the women who played their tambourines and danced. Miriam sang to the women, “Sing to YHWH, for he is impressively exalted. Horse and its rider he has tossed into the sea.” Likely Miriam was the first woman to begin singing and then the other women joined in playing their tambourines, dancing, and singing. According to verse 1, Moses and the “sons of Israel” sang the song. Therefore, Miriam and the other women probably sang the words as a refrain in response to the singing of the men. (15:20, 21; see the comments on verse 1 and the Notes section.)

From the “Sea of Reeds” or the “Red Sea” (LXX), Moses led the Israelites into the “wilderness of Shur [Sour (LXX)],” possibly the arid region near the place named Shur. This place cannot be positively identified with any known site. For “three days” in that arid region, the Israelites did not find any water. When they did find water, they could not drink it, for it was bitter. Therefore, they named the location Marah, meaning “bitterness.” The people then began to murmur against Moses, saying to him, “What shall we drink?”(15:22-24)

In response to his outcry to YHWH, Moses was instructed to toss a specific tree into the water, and it became “sweet,” suitable for drinking. It was there at Marah that YHWH put the people of Israel to a test as to whether they would trust him to care for them and to supply what they needed. Drinking water that is bad can make people sick. When Moses followed YHWH’s direction in using the designated means to make the water fit to drink, this revealed that YHWH could do what was essential to protect his people from illness. The statute and ordinance that the Israelites were then given is set forth in the words that follow. If they heeded the “voice of YHWH [their] God,” did what “is right in his eyes,” obeyed “his commandments” and “all his statutes,” they would not experience the diseases that he “put upon the Egyptians” or the diseases from which he did not shield the Egyptians. He did not prevent the Egyptians from following practices that were injurious to their physical well-being. Instead of being the One to put diseases upon them or allowing them to contract illness on account of disobedience, the Israelites, as an obedient people, would find YHWH to be the One who would be healing them. (15:25, 26)

Moses next led the Israelites to Elim (Ailim [LXX]), a place that cannot be identified with certainty. One conjecture links Elim to Wadi Gharandel (not far from the western shore of the Gulf of Suez and about midway between the land bordering the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula). According to the Exodus account, there were twelve springs in the area and seventy palm trees. (15:27; see the Notes section.)


There is no record in the Exodus account that the Israelites had any weapons when they left Egypt, but later they had an armed conflict with the Amalekites. (17:13) Josephus includes information that explains how the Israelites came to have weapons of war. “On the next day [after the destruction of the Egyptian military force] Moses gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians, which were brought to the camp of the Hebrews by the current of the sea, and the force of winds assisting it; and he conjectured that this also happened by divine providence, so that they might not be destitute of weapons.” (Antiquities, II, xvi, 6) This could have happened either before or after the singing of the song.

When Moses was three months old, his sister Miriam was old enough to take the initiative to approach Pharaoh’s daughter and ask her whether she should call one of the Hebrew women to nurse the infant for her. (2:2-9) This means that, at the time she led the women in song (15:20), Miriam may have been in her late eighties or early nineties. (7:7) The other women must have had high regard for her and viewed her as a “mother” in Israel, a woman to whom they looked for teaching and advice.

In his Antiquities (III, i, 3), Josephus describes Elim as an undesirable place. At a distance, the site appeared to be a good place, for it had a grove of palm trees. When the Israelites came near the location, “it appeared to be a bad place, for the palm trees were no more than seventy; and they were poorly grown and creeping trees.” There was insufficient moisture to water the trees. The twelve fountains were a “few moist places” rather than “springs.” When the people “dug into the sand, they met with no water; and if they took a few drops of it into their hands, they found it to be useless, on account of its mud.”