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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 15

Verses 1-21

Exodus 15:1-21 . The Song of Triumph ( Exodus 15:1 J, Exodus 15:2-18 ( psalm), Exodus 15:19 R, Exodus 15:20 f. E).— The oldest undoubtedly genuine fragments of Heb. song are short (p. 44). And Miriam’ s brief burst of unpremeditated song ( Exodus 15:21) ranks with the surest and greatest of these. “ Sing to Yahweh, for He rose in His might, horse and chariot (reading recheb) He flung into the sea.” Gressmann claims this song as confirming his volcanic theory of the crossing. At least it is complete in itself, and has double attestation, being found as Exodus 15:1 b in J. But the rest of the poem ( Exodus 15:2-18), like Hannah’ s song, which is also imbedded in a definite historical contest, is a much later addition— in fact, an exilic or post-exilic psalm implying the settlement in Canaan ( Exodus 15:13) and the building of the Temple ( Exodus 15:17), and breathing throughout the spirit of D and II. Isaiah. For its close connexion with the Psalms and later literature, see RV references. Driver and Gressmann still assign the psalm to the time of David or Solomon. Freshness and fire, however, are not the monopoly of any period. But, whenever written, the song is grand poetry and fits its place magnificently. As it stands, its metrical scheme is not regular throughout. P. Haupt, who adds abundant courage to patience and ingenuity, has, by adding, altering, omitting, and transposing words, got rid of all exceptions, and reduced it to the formula: 2 accented syllables or “ beats” = 1 clause; 2 clauses = 1 line; 2 lines = 1 couplet; 2 couplets =1 stanza; 3 stanzas = 1 strophe; 3 strophes = 1 psalm. But it is safer, with Driver, to recognise the above as the normal clause and couplet construction ( cf. the basal couplet of Miriam’ s Song above), and to mark three paragraphs, each beginning with praise of Yahweh, followed by the evidence of His acts. In Exodus 15:2-7 Yahweh, the ancestral God, is praised as a warrior, and His exploit sung in the drowning of the foe; in Exodus 15:6-10 Yahweh’ s “ right hand” or His energy in action, is honoured, constraining the elements to confound the enemy; and in Exodus 15:11-18 the unique Deity of Yahweh, His guidance of Israel, His conquest of Canaan, and His home-coming to Mount (Zion) are crowned by His perpetual reign.

Exodus 15:2 . Yah for “ Yahweh,” as Exodus 17:6 *, Is. (late passages), and Pss. (mostly in Hallelu-yah).

Exodus 15:5 . cover: better “ did cover.”

Exodus 15:6 . dasheth: “ did dash.”

Exodus 15:7 . Render “ didst break down them that usurp, . . . sentest forth . . . devoured” (for “ consumeth” ).

Exodus 15:9 b. My lust: “ my soul shall take her fill of them” ; destroy: “ dispossess.”

Exodus 15:12 . holiness: in such passages as these rather of the grandeur than the goodness of Godhead.

Exodus 15:13 . hast led: “ didst lead,” “ didst guide.”

Exodus 15:14 . “ The peoples heard, they trembled: pangs took hold.”

Exodus 15:15 . “ took hold,” “ melted.”

Exodus 15:16 . “ fell,” “ were,” “ passed through” (twice).

Exodus 15:17 . “ Thou didst bring them in, and plantedst,” “ hadst made.”

Exodus 15:19 . This link verse would not have been left to be supplied by Rp ( see references) if the whole song were already in J.

Exodus 15:20 E. Women Singing and Dancing.— Miriam is significantly called “ the sister of Aaron” ( Exodus 2:1 *, cf. Numbers 12:1 f.), as well as “ the prophetess” ( Numbers 12:1; cf. Numbers 4:4). At her lead the women celebrate the victory with a choral dance, beating the time with the “ timbrel” (a hand drum or tambourine). In the absence of set liturgical forms of words the dance has everywhere, and especially in the East, furnished “ the language of religion” (K. J. Freeman), cf. Judges 11:34, 1 Samuel 18:6 f., Wundt, Elements of Folk Psychology, pp. 94– 97, 249, 262– 264. Only the briefest snatch of improvised song could win remembrance, because caught up and preserved by many and fixed by incessant repetition ( see Exodus 15:1-21 * at beginning). The same form was sung as solo and chorus, “ Miriam answered them.”

Verses 22-27

Exodus 15:22-27 . Bitter Waters made Sweet ( Exodus 15:22-25 a J, Exodus 15:25 b E, Exodus 15:26 Rje, Exodus 15:27 J).— The wilderness of Shur stretched E. of the present Suez Canal. No very plausible site for Marah, three days’ journey E., can be suggested on the ordinary theory; but Gressmann finds Mara, along with Massa and Meriba, among the high ground near Petra, beyond the Gulf of Akaba, which he takes for the “ Reed-sea.” There are three springs, the spring of Kadesh and two others. The brackish water was undrinkable, and set the people murmuring. This constant feature, so unflattering yet so true to the experience of a big caravan over desert ground, and so testing to the capacity of the leader, is one that illustrates the faithfulness of the tradition. “ Yahweh showed Moses a tree,” or “ taught him (the healing properties of) wood.” No tree has been found with this power; but a later compiler ( Exodus 15:26) has based on the story the beautiful conception of Yahweh as the Physician of His people.

Exodus 15:25 b E seems to belong to E’ s story of Massah (“ proving” ), cf. Exodus 17:2-7. Its proximity to the Marah story here favours Gressmann’ s view.— Some delightful oasis is denoted by Elim (“ sacred trees” ), but its locality is uncertain.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 15". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.