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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Exodus 15

Verses 1-27

Exodus 15:2

Happy the heart that has learned to say my God! All religion is contained in that short expression, and all the blessedness that man or angel is capable of.

Thomas Erskine.

'He is my God... my father's God.' Compare the early reflection of Dr. John G. Paton, the New Hebrides missionary, as he watched the piety of his old father in the home: 'He walked with God; why may not I?'

Lord, I find my Saviour's genealogy strangely chequered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations:

1. Rehoboam begat Abijam: i.e. a bad father begat a bad son.

2. Abijam begat Asa: i.e. a bad father begat a good son.

3. Asa begat Jehoshaphat: i.e. a good father begat a good son.

4. Jehoshaphat begat Joram: i.e. a good father begat a bad son.

I see, Lord, from this that my father's piety cannot be entailed: that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary: that is good news for my son.

Thomas Fuller.

References. XV. 2. R. E. Hutton, The Grown of Christ, vol. i. p. 53. XV. 2-13. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, etc., p. 61.

Exodus 15:3

It may help us to understand the scrupulous regard for the rights of the God of War entertained by the Gauls, the Hebrews, and other nations of antiquity, if we look for a moment at the traces of this feeling which manifest themselves among the civilized nations of modern times: I need only allude to the singing of solemn Te Deums after victory, or to our praying in this country that our Queen 'may be strengthened to vanquish and overcome all her enemies,' and to our adorning our cathedrals with the tattered flags of the foreigner. That 'the Lord is a Man of war' is a sentiment by no means confined to the song of Moses; it is found to be still a natural one; and I need only remind you of the poet Wordsworth's ode for the English thanksgiving on the morning of the 18th day of January, 1816, and more especially the following lines:

The fierce tornado sleeps within thy courts

He hears the word he flies

And navies perish in their ports;

For thou art angry with thine enemies.

Rhys, Celtic Heathenism, p. 52.

Anticipations of Faith

Exodus 15:13-18

'Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou hast redeemed.' He had only led them forth a single night's journey, but in that single night's journey they saw the completion of the whole long journey they were to take. In the anticipation of faith victory is already obtained before the war has commenced.

I. When we come to ask ourselves the secret of this triumphant anticipation we shall find that it is all expressed in one single sentence 'Thou hast redeemed '. The joyful confidence of the Israelites sprang not merely from the abstract consideration that the God Who had shown Himself so strong to save already, was capable of any further exhibition of strength that might be demanded of Him. Beyond all that there was the consideration that the deliverance of the present was a part of one grand purpose completed already in the mind of God; a purpose which had been indicated to them in the mission of Moses.

II. We too have been the subjects of a great deliverance, a deliverance as supernatural in its character and as astonishing in its conditions as ever was the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. This deliverance is also the product of redemption. We are saved in order that we may rise to the prize of our high calling, and become inheritors of our true Land of Promise; and the first great deliverance is with us also surely an earnest and a pledge of all that is to follow.

III. Instead of joyous anticipation, how common a thing it is to meet with gloomy forebodings on the part of the newborn children of God, fresh from the cross of Christ, just rising, as we may say, spiritually out of the waters of the Red Sea.

How common a thing it is to meet with young Christians who seem indeed to be on the right side of the Red Sea, but who appear to be more inclined to wring their hands in terror than to 'sound the loud timbrel' in exultation!

And thus our anticipations of coming disaster take all the bloom off our early joy, and mar our triumph before it has well begun. And thus we pave the way for failure; for if we begin by doubting the God who has redeemed us, at the very outset of our Christian life, when the great fact of deliverance lies fresh before our view, how can we expect to trust Him better when the actual struggle has begun? and not to trust Him is to ensure necessary defeat and failure.

Now all this dismal apprehension, this cowardly misgiving, comes of our not sufficiently realizing what it is that is contained in redemption. We do not see that our justification is not only a fact of the present, but a pledge for the future.

We forget that we have passed from nature into grace, and now we have to count upon Divine resources. We forget that Christ is the First and the Last; that as He is the Alpha, so He is also the Omega, and that He is all the alphabet between the Alpha and Omega.

W. Hay M. H. Aitken, The Highway of Holiness, p. 63.

Exodus 15:14-15

Dr. Chalmers used to quote these verses as an illustration of verbal suggestiveness: 'I have often felt, in reading Milton and Thomson, a strong poetical effect in the bare enumeration of different countries, and this strongly enhanced by the statement of some common and prevailing emotion, which passed from one to another.'

Reference. XV. 17. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, etc., p. 63.

Exodus 15:20

In the seventh letter of Time and Tide Ruskin describes a monotonous, twitching, girl's dance which he once witnessed in the theatre. 'While this was going on, there was a Bible text repeating itself over and over again in my head, whether I would or no,' viz., this verse of Exodus. 'The going forth of the women of Israel after Miriam with timbrels and with dances was, as you doubtless remember, their expression of passionate triumph and thankfulness, after the full accomplishment of their deliverance from the Egyptians. That deliverance had been by the utter death of their enemies, and accompanied by stupendous miracle; no human creature could, in an hour of triumph, be surrounded by circumstances more solemn. Consider only for yourself what that "seeing of the Egyptians dead upon the seashore" meant to every soul that saw it. And then reflect that these intense emotions of mingled horror, triumph and gratitude were expressed, in the visible presence of the Deity, by music and dancing... both music and dancing being, among all ancient nations, an appointed and very principal part of the worship of the gods, and that very theatrical entertainment at which I sate thinking on these things for you that pantomime, which depended throughout for its success on our appeal to the vices of the lower London populace, was, in itself, nothing but a corrupt remnant of the religious ceremonies which guided the most serious faiths of the Greek mind.'

References. XV. 20. J. Vickery, Ideals of Life, p. 271. J. G. Stevenson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. 1905, p. 38. XV. 22-26. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2301.

Exodus 15:23-24

The enthusiasm with which men of all classes had welcomed William to London at Christmas had greatly abated before the close of February. The new king had, at the very moment at which his fame and fortune reached the highest point, predicted the coming reaction. That reaction might, indeed, have been predicted by a less sagacious observer of human affairs. For it is to be chiefly ascribed to a law as certain as the laws which regulate the succession of the seasons and the course of the trade winds. It is the nature of man to overrate present evil, and to underrate present good; to long for what he has not, and to be dissatisfied with what he has. This propensity, as it appears in individuals, has often been noticed both by laughing and by weeping philosophers. It was a favourite theme of Horace and of Pascal, of Voltaire and of Johnson. To its influence on the fate of great communities may be ascribed most of the revolutions and counter revolutions recorded in history. A hundred generations have passed away since the first great national emancipation of which an account has come down to us. We read in the most ancient of books that a people bowed to the dust under a cruel yoke, scourged to toil by hard taskmasters, not supplied with straw, yet compelled to furnish the daily tale of bricks, became sick of life, and raised such a cry of misery as pierced the heavens. The slaves were wonderfully set free; at the moment of their liberation they raised a song of gratitude and triumph; but in a few hours they began to regret their slavery, and to reproach the leader who had decoyed them away from the savoury fare of the house of bondage to the dreary waste which still separated them from the land flowing with milk and honey. Since that time the history of every great deliverer has been the history of Moses retold. Down to the present hour rejoicings like those on the shore of the Red Sea have ever been speedily followed by murmurings like those at the Waters of Strife. The most just and salutary revolution must produce much suffering. The most just and salutary revolution cannot produce all the good that had been expected from it by men of uninstructed minds and sanguine tempers. Even the wisest cannot, while it is still recent, weigh quite fairly the evils which it has caused against the evils which it has removed. For the evils which it has caused are felt, and the evils which it has removed are felt no longer.

Thus it was now in England. The public was, as it always is during the cold fits which follow its hot fits, sullen, hard to please, dissatisfied with itself, dissatisfied with those who had lately been its favourites.

Macaulay, History of England, chap. XI.

Though every man of us may be a hero for one fatal minute, very few remain so after a day's march even.

George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, chap. xxx.

References. XV. 23. T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 62. XV. 23-25. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 987. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, etc., p. 64. R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 46. XV. 25. J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. ii. p. 185. T. G. Rooke, The Church in the Wilderness, p. 36. F. B. Meyer, The British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 561. XV. 26. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1664. XV. 27. C. Silvester Horne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 87. G. Dawson, Sermons, p. 19. XVI. J. McNeill, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 489. XVI. 1-5, 11-36. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2332.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 15". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.