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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 15

Verses 1-27



This is the first song found in scripture, and a most fitting response to the greatness of God's victory in delivering His people. It is an expression of joy in the Lord and "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). They needed such strength as they began their wilderness journey, just as we too need it for our Christian path with its many trials. Thank God that He can supply such fulness of joy at the contemplation of our eternal redemption in Christ that there is no reason remaining for our ever complaining again. If we do so, it is our own failure in remembering the fulness of His delivering grace and power.



The first section of the song emphasizes the greatness of the Lord, who is declared to be "my God." It is the Lord Jesus who has accomplished redemption for us. He has triumphed gloriously over all the power of the enemy by virtue of His death and resurrection. Horse and rider are cast into the sea, they being swallowed up by death, while He came through it in majestic triumph. Therefore Israel may say, "He is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation." Believers today may echo these words in a higher way still, for theirs is an eternal salvation. More than that, we may say of the Lord Jesus, "He is my God," just as Thomas acknowledged after His resurrection (John 20:28), and as Israel will fully believe when He returns in great power and glory (Zechariah 14:5).



This second section deals with the power of the Lord in accomplishing the great victory over the enemy. "The Lord is a man of war: the Lord (Jehovah) is His name" (v.3) "Jehovah" implies His eternal self-existence and self-sufficiency, and yet in gracious covenant relationship to His people. He alone gains the victory, but His people are blessed by it.

All the resources of the enemy, Pharaoh's chariots and his army, including his choicest officers, were totally vanquished, covered by the sea, sinking as a stone, to be never more a threat (vs.4-5). By faith today believers realize that the Lord Jesus has totally vanquished the power of sin, just as is true of our sins also: "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19).

His right hand, the hand of positive power, has dashed in pieces the enemy. Christ is virtually the right hand of God, as He is indeed "the Man of Thy right hand" (Psalms 80:17). He is the One who carries out the work of God.

His great excellence overpowers and overthrows all who dare to rise against Him. In His anger they are consumed like stubble set on fire. The "strong east wind" that blew the sea back is likened to the blast of God's nostrils, causing the waters to gather together and stand upright (v.9). What power there is simply in the breath of God! We should never naturally associate breath with power, but what appears to be of little significance is tremendously great where God is involved.

"The depths congealed in the heart of the sea." The water of the Red Sea was certainly not changed to ice, but for the time being the liquid congealed, or became a solid by miraculous power.

In verse 9 the enemy is quoted in his proud boast of what he will do, saying he will overtake, divide the spoil and satisfy his vengeful lust, destroying them by the sword. How simply was this arrogant defiance met! God merely blew with His wind, the sea covered them and they sank as lead in the mighty waters (v.10). The noise of the horses and chariots, the shouting and the rattle of arms was suddenly and utterly silences. What a sight for Israel to behold!



This third section of the song is the Leviticus section, which emphasizes the sublime holiness of God. Who can possibly be like Him? His holiness involves His love of what is good and His hatred of evil. He acts from the purity of His sanctuary on this basis of holiness, not in any mere selfish use of superior power, but using power in perfect truth, so that He does amazing wonders.

On the one hand, He stretched out His hand in holy judgment, for He hates evil: the earth swallowed the enemy (v.12). On the other hand, in tender mercy He led forth the people He had redeemed (v.13), for He loves to do good. More than this, the song looks forward to the end in view with fullest confidence, as though it were already accomplished: "Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation." He has desired His own to be identified with Him in sharing His own habitation. Of course unbelievers would not want the blessing of residing in His presence, but to a believer nothing can be sweeter than this.




This fourth section does not speak only of Egypt being vanquished, but of other nations also destined to being subdued by the greatness of the power of the Lord. Hearing of Israel's deliverance, they would be afraid (v.14). The inhabitants of Palestine would experience anguish, for this was the land that God had promised to Israel. The dukes of Edom (men of self-importance) would be dismayed, and Moab's rulers would tremble for fear. Edom speaks of the self-importance of the flesh. Moab rather illustrates the self-indulgence and self-satisfaction of easy-going religion. Both of these will be disturbed by the true testimony of God. All the inhabitants of Canaan would "melt away," finding no strength to resist God's army. Canaan means "trader," symbolizing those who make merchandise of the things of God. The greatness of God's arm would render all these enemies "as still as a stone" through fear and dread, so that God's people would have no difficulty in passing over to take possession of their land. Thy were God's special people whom He had purchased.



The fifth section assures us that there was no doubt of the accomplishment of God's ends. He would plant them in the mountain of His inheritance, which would be a virtual "sanctuary" of refuge and peace, established by God for His purchased people. But this looks on prophetically to the coming day of Israel's eventually being unchangeably blessed in the millennium in their own land, when in truth "the Lord shall reign for ever and ever."



The sixth section celebrates God's great victory over all the united power of the enemy, on behalf of His people Israel, whom, we are specially reminded, went on dry land in the midst of the sea.



The women too join in the praise of the Lord as fully as the rest of Israel. Miriam, the sister of Moses, leads them in this, taking a timbrel, as did others, dancing before the Lord with overflowing adoration. She echoes the song of Moses, "Sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea." This is the seventh section, which completes the chorus of praise to the Lord.



Having been so wonderfully redeemed, would Israel ever again have reason to complain? No more than Christians have, who possess eternal redemption by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ. But in only three days the murmuring begins because at Marah they find the waters to be bitter. Similarly, Christians soon after being redeemed, find experiences of bitterness. Everything is not as pleasant as they expected. But this is designed by God as a test of faith. Since the Lord has proven Himself faithful in the past, can they not therefore endure the test by bringing these trying matter to Him in confident prayer that He will answer in the right way? How much more sensible is this than complaining!

When the people complained against Moses, he did what they ought to have done. He cried to the Lord. Without delay the Lord showed him the remedy that was near at hand, a certain tree that needed only to be thrown into the water, by which the water was made sweet (v.25). For us too every bitter experience has a remedy very near to be found. We need only to apply the truth concerning the cross of Christ (the tree) to our present circumstances, and we shall find our trials turned to sweetness. In comparison to the bitter agony of the cross of Christ in His bearing our sins, surely the most bitter experience of a Christian is sweet. Just to think of His sufferings there will make a wonderful difference in our own attitude toward our trials.

"There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them." The test had found them sadly lacking in faith, but their testing of Him had proven Him abundantly faithful and gracious.

In showing such grace, however, He rightly put them under responsibility, making a statute to the effect that they should listen to His voice and do what was right in God's estimation. This was accompanied by a definite condition: if they were obedient to His commandments, He would preserve them from the diseases that He inflicted upon Egypt. For the government of God must always be observed, and certainly specially so by those whom He has blessed with the knowledge of redemption. Israel would have been preserved from suffering such physical diseases if they were simply obedient to the Lord, for He is the Lord who heals. In our present dispensation of grace we are not promised exemption from physical diseases on the ground of obedience, but obedience will certainly preserve us from spiritual diseases, and give us spiritual health and strength.

As an encouragement from God, Israel is now brought to Elim (meaning "trees") where were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees. Here was abundant supply of refreshment for the twelve tribes of Israel, with the palm trees furnishing shade from the desert sun. They may have been fruit palms, but we are not told this. But it was a place of rest and refreshment which was intended by God to give them fresh incentive to continue their journey. Believers today too are given such occasions for the stimulating of faith in the path of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 15". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.