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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Then 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: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
With the deliverance of Israel is associated the development of the national poetry, which finds its first and perfect expression in this magnificent hymn. It was sung by Moses and the people, an expression which evidently points to him as the author. That it was written at the time is an assertion expressly made in the text, and it is supported by the strongest internal evidence. In every age this song gave the tone to the poetry of Israel; especially at great critical epochs of deliverance: and in the book of Revelation Exo 15:3 it is associated with the final triumph of the Church.
The division of the song into three parts is distinctly marked: Exodus 15:1-5; Exodus 15:6-10; Exodus 15:11-18 : each begins with an ascription of praise to God; each increases in length and varied imagery unto the triumphant close.
He hath triumphed gloriously - Literally, He is gloriously glorious.
The horse and his rider - The word "rider" may include horseman, but applies properly to the charioteer.
2The 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 my strength and song - My strength and song is Jah. See Psalm 68:4. The name was chosen here by Moses to draw attention to the promise ratified by the name "I am."
I will prepare Him an habitation - I will glorify Him. Our Authorized Version is open to serious objection, as suggesting a thought (namely, of erecting a temple) which could hardly have been in the mind of Moses at that time, and unsuited to the occasion.
3The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.
A man of war - Compare Psalm 24:8. The name has on this occasion a special fitness: man had no part in the victory; the battle was the Lord's.
The Lord is his name - "Jah is His name." See Exodus 15:2.
4Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.
Hath He cast - "Hurled," as from a sling. See Exodus 14:27.
His chosen captains - See Exodus 14:7 note.
5The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.
As a stone - The warriors in chariots are always represented on the monuments with heavy coats of mail; the corslets of "chosen captains" consisted of plates of highly tempered bronze, with sleeves reaching nearly to the elbow, covering the whole body and the thighs nearly to the knee. The wearers must have sunk at once like a stone, or as we read in Exodus 5:10, like lumps of lead.
Exodus 15:5They are extinct - They are destroyed, as the wick of a lamp is quenched suddenly when immersed in water. This is a striking figure, to denote the suddenness with which it was done, and the completeness of their destruction. As a flame is entirely put out when plunged beneath the water, so the whole host of the Egyptians were suddenly and completely destroyed in the Red Sea. The sentiment in this verse is, that God has power over the nations to control them; that it is one of his characteristics to lead on the enemies of his people to destruction; and that they are suddenly destroyed, and their hopes, and joys, and triumphs put out forever. If it was so in regard to the Egyptians, it will be also in regard to all his foes. And if this took place in regard to a nation, it shall also in regard to individual sinners who oppose themselves to God.
How oft is the candle of time wicked put out?
And how oft cometh their destruction upon them?
God distributeth sorrows in his anger.
They are as stubble before the wind,
And as chaff that the storm carrieth away.
6Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
7And 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.
Thy wrath - Literally, Thy burning, i. e. the fire of Thy wrath, a word chosen expressly with reference to the effect.
8And 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 blast of God's nostrils corresponds to the natural agency, the east wind Exodus 14:21, which drove the waters back: on the north the waters rose high, overhanging the sands, but kept back by the strongwind: on the south they laid in massive rollers, kept down by the same agency in the deep bed of the Red Sea.
9The 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.
The enemy said - The abrupt, gasping utterances; the haste, cupidity and ferocity of the Egyptians; the confusion and disorder of their thoughts, belong to the highest order of poetry. They enable us to realize the feelings which induced Pharaoh and his host to pursue the Israelites over the treacherous sandbanks.
10Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
Thou didst blow with thy wind - Notice the solemn majesty of these few words, in immediate contrast with the tumult and confusion of the preceding verse. In Exodus 14:28, we read only, "the waters returned," here we are told that it was because the wind blew. A sudden change in the direction of the wind would bring back at once the masses of water heaped up on the north.
They sank as lead - See the note at Exodus 15:5.
Exodus 15:10The depths have covered them:
They sank into the bottom as a stone.
11Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
Among the gods - Compare Psalm 86:8; Deuteronomy 32:16-17. A Hebrew just leaving the land in which polytheism attained its highest development, with gigantic statues and temples of incomparable grandeur, might well on such an occasion dwell upon this consummation of the long series of triumphs by which the "greatness beyond compare" of Yahweh was once for all established.
12Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.
13Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.
Thy holy habitation - Either Palestine, regarded as the land of promise, sanctified by manifestations of God to the Patriarchs, and destined to be both the home of God's people, and the place where His glory and purposes were to be perfectly revealed: or Mount Moriah.
14The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
The inhabitants of Palestina - i. e. the country of the Philistines. They were the first who would expect an invasion, and the first whose district would have been invaded but for the faintheartedness of the Israelites.
15Then 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.
The dukes of Edom - See Genesis 36:15. It denotes the chieftains, not the kings of Edom.
The mighty men of Moab - The physical strength and great stature of the Moabites are noted in other passages: see Jeremiah 48:29, Jeremiah 48:41.
Canaan - The name in this, as in many passages of Genesis, designates the whole of Palestine: and is used of course with reference to the promise to Abraham. It was known to the Egyptians, and occurs frequently on the monuments as Pa-kanana, which applies, if not to the whole of Palestine, yet to the northern district under Lebanon, which the Phoenicians occupied and called "Canaan."
16Fear 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.
17Thou 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.
In the mountain of thine inheritance - See Exodus 15:13.
18The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.
19For 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.
For the horse ... - This verse does not belong to the hymn, but marks the transition from it to the narrative.
20And Miriam the 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 the prophetess - The part here assigned to Miriam and the women of Israel is in accordance both with Egyptian and Hebrew customs. The men are represented as singing the hymn in chorus, under the guidance of Moses; at each interval Miriam and the women sang the refrain, marking the time with the timbrel, and with the measured rhythmical movements always associated with solemn festivities. Compare Judges 11:34; 2 Samuel 6:5, and marginal references. The word used in this passage for the timbrel is Egyptian, and judging from its etymology and the figures which are joined with it in the inscriptions, it was probably the round instrument.
Miriam is called a prophetess, evidently Numbers 12:2 because she and Aaron had received divine communications. The word is used here in its proper sense of uttering words suggested by the Spirit of God. See Genesis 20:7. She is called the sister of Aaron, most probably to indicate her special position as coordinate, not with Moses the leader of the nation, but with his chief aid and instrument.
21And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
22So 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.
So Moses - Literally, And Moses. The history of the journey from the Red Sea to Sinai begins in fact with this verse, which would more conveniently have been the commencement of another chapter.
From the Red sea - The station where Moses and his people halted to celebrate their deliverance is generally admitted to be the Ayoun Musa, i. e. the fountains of Moses. It is the only green spot near the passage over the Red Sea. There are several wells there, which in the time of Moses were probably enclosed and kept with great care by the Egyptians, for the use of the frequent convoys to and from their ancient settlements at Sarbutel Khadem and the Wady Mughara.
The wilderness of Shur - This name belongs to the whole district between the northeastern frontier of Egypt and Palestine. The word is undoubtedly Egyptian, and is derived probably from the word Khar which designated all the country between Egypt and Syria proper.
Three days - The distance between Ayoun Musa and Huwara, the first spot where any water is found on the route, is 33 geographical miles. The whole district is a tract of sand, or rough gravel.
23And 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.
Marah - Now identified with the fount of Huwara. The fountain rises from a large mound, a whitish petrifaction, deposited by the water, and is considered by the Arabians to be the worst in the whole district.
24And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
25And 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: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,
A tree ... - The statement points to a natural agency, but the result was manifestly supernatural.
He made ... - The Lord then set before them the fundamental principle of implicit trust, to be shown by obedience. The healing of the water was a symbol of deliverance from physical and spiritual evils.
26And 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.
27And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.
Elim - The valley of Gharandel, two hours' journey south of Huwara.
Twelve wells - Read springs; the Hebrew denotes natural sources. These springs may have been perennial when a richer vegetation clothed the adjacent heights.