Bible Commentaries
Exodus 15

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-22


Exodus 15:1. This Song.]—In order fully to appreciate the exquisite beauties of this Song, several conditions must be observed; among them we may name the following:—

(1.) The existence of parallelisms should be made evident to the eye:—

(Exodus 15:6.)


has become famous in vigour:
dashes in pieces the foe.

(2.) The vivid sequence of the two Hebrew tenses, the Perfect and the Imperfect, should be noticed:—

(Exodus 15:5.)

ROARING DEEPS cover1 them.

They have gone down2 into the raging depths like a stone.

(1Imp. the act of covering passes before the eye.)

(2Perfect: result, they are not to be found.)

(Exodus 15:12.)

Thou hast stretched forth thine hand.
Earth swallows them up.

(Completed act.)
(Sequel: abruptly thrown in, as next following.)

(Exodus 15:14.)

Peoples have heard,—they tremble.

(How much vividness in a single line.)

(3.) Rapid changes of arrangement, adding immensely to the life and movement of the poem, should be observed:—

(Exodus 15:15.)

| Then have been amazed || the chiefs of Edom.
| The mighty ones of Moab || there has seized them—a quaking!
| They have melted away || all the dwellers in Canaan.

(Verb first: then nominative.
(Object first, abruptly set alone, with great boldness; then verb, with objective pronoun; then subject last.
(Same as first line.)

(4.) The force of particular terms, giving a poetical colouring to the composition, should be noted; as, Exodus 15:5. תהמת, “roaring deeps;” מצולת, “raging depths;” Exodus 15:10, “they sank,” rather, צללו, “they rolled, like lead,” they were bowled in from the Egyptian side, clean down into the sea, the verb tzalal strikes the ear with the roll.

(5.) Special beauties remain, too numerous to be named. Conspicuous among them is the breathless haste with which stroke follows stroke in Exodus 15:9.

Said the foe: I will pursue! overtake! divide spoil!

(6.) The prophetic element of the poem fitly crowns the whole. “It has always appeared to me,” says Dr. Margoliouth, on Exodus 15:17 (“Poetry of the Hebrew Pentateuch,” p. 72), “that this is the verse from which we may most clearly discover the inspiration of the ode. Very splendid and very striking is the description of the past scene, but this vision of the future it is which stamps the composition as Divine. I know of nothing equal to it in the whole range of poetry. The contrast is so beautiful and yet so natural. Amidst the outpouring of gratitude and triumph, hope and faith are kept in view. And from the consideration of what had been achieved, the poet feels assured that the Holy One would not ‘suffer his truth to fail.’ ” No wonder that determined rationalism should stumble against this prophetic rock. “The language implies,” says Dr. S. Davidson (“On a Fresh Revision of the English Old Testament,” pp. 120–1), “that the passage across the Jordan had taken place, that Jerusalem was occupied by the Israelites, and Solomon’s Temple built. The verbs refer to things done; and the poem, Jehovistic in its present form, is much later than Moses.” Alas! that “weak faith” should “choose the harder side!” With sad satisfaction we leave our English scholar to the German-Jewish scholar Kalisch, who says—“We must call attention to the prophetic instinct, with which the poet, just at this moment, when the Israelitish nation happened to be between Egypt and Palestine, both as regards time and place, when they left the land of their ignominy with mixed feelings of joy and apprehension, and impatiently longed to reach the promised abode of their future glory, that he just then described that double relation with so firm a hand and such characteristic traits. And thus has that which many critics consider as a historical anticipation, carrying us into the times of David and Solomon, been enobled into a poetic beauty by the sanctity of prophetic inspiration.”



We can almost realise the scene which this chapter brings before us. There are warriors and their horses struggling in the midst of the returning waters. But soon all is over. The dead are washed by the swelling tide to the feet of the rejoicing Israelites. God is victorious. His people are free. They sing His praise. The mercy of God should always awaken the soul to jubilant song.

I. The Deliverance of Israel. The Israelites had been in great and alarming danger. They were encamped against Pi-hahiroth. Mountains were on each side of them. The Egyptians were pursuing behind them. The sea was before them. They had, humanly speaking, no method of escape. The foe was proud and determined. They had not courage or the means of war. God came to their aid in this extremity, and delivered them in wondrous fashion. He is the best Helper of the good in the hour of perplexity. His mercy is rich. His power is great. It is not the way of God to leave His people to their fate when they are exposed to terrible dangers. He might have told the Israelites to give battle to their enemies. He might have intimated that they should help themselves out of their difficulty. He had brought them out of Egypt, and was it not right that henceforth they should protect themselves? It is ever the way of Heaven to help the defenceless out of the hand of their fierce foe. This deliverance was wondrous. The Israelites were brought on dry land through the midst of the sea. This was the last way of escape they would have expected. They would as soon have expected to see the mountains levelled to a plain, to have seen the hosts of Pharaoh vanish into air. God is never at a loss for a method whereby to deliver the good out of the hand of their enemies. He can do it in the most unexpected manner. All the agencies of nature are ready to aid His Divine purpose. Has He not many times in your life made a way for your feet through the sea? This deliverance was joyous. Who can imagine the feelings of the Israelites as they went down into the path opened for them in the waters. Their first steps would probably be taken in fear, but they would soon gain courage, and each heart would feel the presence of God. And when they saw their enemies dead on the banks of the river a sense of glad relief would rise in each heart. We all know the joy of deliverance from a great danger. This deliverance was effective. “Pharaoh’s chariots and his hosts hath He cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank into the bottom as a stone.” God never works for His people a questionable deliverance. Their foes shall never trouble them again if He takes them in hand. This deliverance was awe-inspiring. When the Israelites reflected on their march through the sea, and on the scene of panic and death which they had witnessed, we can conceive how reverent would be their feeling; they would fear that God who had wrought all this destruction. They would feel that if He had been merciful to them He had likewise treated His enemies with terrible justice. Surely Israel would learn a lesson here never to be forgotten. And all our deliverances from danger should tend to give us clear views of the character of God, and should lead us to reverence the Divine name.

II. The Song of Israel. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song.” This song was dictated by the Infinite Spirit. It was not only sung to the Lord, but it was composed by the Lord. The grandeur and beauty of its construction exceed beyond comparison the greatest intellect of man. The song is descriptive. It is historic. It is prophetic. It will never die away from human lips; the Song of Moses and the Lamb will continue in heaven. It is the first of inspired celebrations, and it will be the last. How sweet will be the heavenly song when all the foes of the soul are for ever defeated! This song is composed of many parts; it combines vengeance and grace, destruction and deliverance. It sets forth God’s final victory over all enemies. His power shall triumph over the pride and presumption of man. This victory shall be celebrated by all the redeemed. The world sings not hymns like these It is well to express gratitude in song. The Israelites did not thanklessly or indolently receive the deliverance which God had wronght out for them. They gave thanks for it (Genesis 14:18; Judges 5:2). The healed cripple praised God (Acts 3:8). It is well for the soul to sing the praises of God. It is well to celebrate His name in verse. Verse is more expressive. It is more inspiring. It embodies deeper pathos. It is better remembered. It is more tuneful. The mercy of God fills the soul with poetic emotion. It renders song spontaneous. The Israelites sang this hymn immediately after their deliverance. They permitted no delay. In this they acted wisely. There should be no delay in praising God. The song should go up to Him while the deliverance is had in lively remembrance, and when the heart is hot with gratitude. We should sing quickly after mercy. Delay will render the music of the soul less sweet. The individuality of the song, “I will sing unto the Lord.” Each Israelite sang this hymn, he did not loose his sense of individuality in the great congregation. Each heart uttered its own gratitude. Others cannot give thanks to God for me. The reality of the song. The Israelites did not merely utter the words here recorded, but intensely felt them. They sang with the spirit. They felt the gratitude they expressed. This song ascribes all the praise to God for the wondrous deliverance wrought for Israel. “I will sing unto the Lord.” This is the chief feature of the hymn. God is the best theme of spiritual song. The Israelites did not praise Moses their noble leader; they did not celebrate their own energy or fortune; but God alone. All our praise is due to the Divine name. They celebrated the holiness, power, glory, mercy, and supremacy of God. This song is expressive of love to God. “The Lord is my strength,” “my salvation,” “my God,” “my father’s God.” Here is faith, relationship, hope, love, pathos; these elements should be found in all the songs of the soul. This song recognises the duties of the soul. “I will prepare him a habitation.” “I will exalt him.” Song is not enough; it must be followed by activity and by a holy life. We must exalt God in the life as well as in the hymn. LESSONS:—

1. Let no deliverance pass without praise.

2. Let all the praise of the soul be directed to God.

3. The Divine character should be celebrated by the Church.

4. Make life a constant hymn.


Exodus 15:1. The ministers of God should lead the praise of the Church.

Permanent resolutions of praising Jehovah are becoming His Church.
The exceeding excellency of God in Himself is the true subject of praise.
The judgment of God on persecuting powers must be celebrated by the Church.

Exodus 15:2-3. The Living God.

My Father’s God, and I will exalt Him.”

I. Who was the God of our Fathers?

1. A pure Being—not the “chance” of the atheist.
2. A conscious Being, not the “mere law” of the deist.
3. A personal Being, not “the all” of the pantheist.
4. A perfect Being, as revealed in the Bible.
5. An emotional

Being, as manifested in Christ.

6. A communicative Being, as imparted by the Holy Spirit.

II. What is it to exalt Him?

1. Not by tall spires.
2. Not by gorgeous ritual.
3. To adore Him as the object of our worship.
4. To give Him the chief place in our affections.

(W. W. Wythe.)


My Father’s God.”

I. “My Father’s God.”—Then religion was no new thing to them. They were not surprised when they heard the name of God associated with their victory. Religion should not be an originality to us; it should not be a novel sensation; it should be the common breath of our daily life, and the mention of the name of God ought to excite no amazement.

II. “My Father’s God.”—Then their fathers’ religion was not concealed from them. They knew that their fathers had a God. We know nothing of the religion of some men until we are informed of it by public advertisement. We cannot read this book without being impressed with the fact that the men who made the world’s history were men who lived in communion with the Unseen. Is it possible that your child is unaware that you have a God?

III. “My Father’s God.”—Yet it does not follow that the father and the child must have the same God. Religion is not hereditary. You have the power to sever the connection between yourself and the God of your fathers. You may shut God out from your heart.

IV. “My Father’s God.”—Then we are debtors to the religion past. There are some results of goodness we inherit independently of our own will. The age inherits the civilisation of the past. The child is the better for his father’s temperance. To-day we are inheriting the results of martyrdoms, which stretch far back into the grey past of history. (City Temple.)

Jehovah’s relation to the good:—

1. Near.
2. Sweet.
3. Joyful.
4. Saving.
5. Faithful.

Praise to God:—

1. Cheerful.
2. Grateful.
3. Mighty.
4. United.

The best answer of Israel’s relation to God is to make a habitation for Him.
High praises from the Church to Jehovah are suitable to His exalted mercies.
Jehovah alone is the mighty warrior for His Church in the world.

Exodus 15:4-8. The right hand of Jehovah is glorious in saving Israel.

The same enemies that rise against Israel rise against God.
Wicked persecutors are as stubble, God’s wrath as fire.
Such great things hath God done and will do for Israel’s deliverance.

Exodus 15:9-10. The pride of persecutors makes them utter their boastings in defiance of God.

Madness and folly makes wicked enemies to threaten what they cannot do.
The blast of God’s mouth defeats all the boastings of enemies.
Irrecoverably can God destroy all enemies that seek to destroy His Israel.

Exodus 15:11-13. God’s future providence as well as past deliverance is matter of praise.

Mercy is the rule of all God’s conduct to His Church here below.
God has saved and will redeem His Israel out of all their troubles.
God’s holy habitation is the destiny of all providential guidance.
God’s strength secures the conduct of the Church to His holy habitation.

Exodus 15:14-16. Tidings of God’s appearance for His Church against enemies will make nations fear.

Princes and powers shall be astonished at God’s vindicating His Israel.
Trembling shall hold fast mighty enemies when God sends word of vengeance.
God’s possession of His Church is the ground of all His appearance against enemies for them.

Exodus 15:17. Israel’s Lord alone makes and establishes their place of rest for them.

Israel’s last rest is God’s mountain of inheritance, His own sanctuary.
God’s mercy is to make His dwelling with Israel.

Exodus 15:18-19. The eternity of Jehovah’s kingdom in Christ is a most undoubted truth.

The everlastingness of Christ’s Government must be the burden of the song of the Church.
God, by His judgments, makes known His kinghood.

Exodus 15:20. Women also have their place and work in the spiritual worship of God.

The Old Testament had its peculiar rites in service not to be followed now.

Exodus 15:21-22. After worship done in memory of mercies, the Church must go on in its pilgrimage.

From Red Sea deliverances to wilderness travels is Israel’s motion.
Hard travels and piercing thirst is sometimes the lot of the Church.



Red Sea! Exodus 15:1-22. One dark and stormy night, a vessel was wrecked on a rocky island off the coast of Scotland. The crew had watched with terror the white waves as they dashed on the stately cliffs, and felt that to be driven upon those rocks was to seal their doom. The cabin was filled with water, and the captain’s wife was drowned. The sailors climbed into the rigging and prayed as they never had before, that God would have mercy upon them. But the cruel waves drove the vessel on and on, till the very foot of the awful cliff was reached. Oh! if they could only reach its top! There would be safety, and, no doubt, friendly hands to help them. But how was the top to be gained. Alas! there they were—fated and doomed to perish. Despair had fastened hard upon them—their escape was hopeless. See! their attention has been aroused to something on the face of the cliff. It is a slender rope ladder, up which they climbed in succession as rapidly as their benumbed fingers would permit. Israel’s escape seemed as hopeless: when the Lord showed them the path through a crystal gallery with a blood-red gate.

“With limbs that falter, and with hearts that swell,
Down, down they pass, a steep and slippery dell.”

Pathway! Exodus 15:19. Israel’s way through the Red Sea has been called a crystal gallery with a blood-red gate. The gate was the Paschal Feast. It is through the gateway of the Lamb of God’s bleeding sacrifice that believers pass ere they can enter upon the crystal pathway of spiritual baptism. Both are supernatural—Divine. Some have supposed that Israel crossed the fords near the head waters of the sea at low tide, and that Pharaoh and his hosts were overwhelmed by the returning tide. But this is untrue. An English gentleman and author who had committed himself publicly to the defence of this theory, on examining the ground, abandoned it as utterly untenable and absurd. Dr. Aiton says that Napoleon at Suez attempted to establish this by crossing the waters at ebb tide. In regard to his effort in this way, it has been remarked by the author of “Eothen” that Napoleon and his horsemen managed the matter more after the failure of the Egyptians than the success of the Israelites. It is said that Napoleon fell from his horse into the sea, and was only dragged out by the assistance of the natives on shore. True or untrue, it is clear that Napoleon was wrong. No ebb tide was this “dividing of the waters;” but, as in 15:31, “the power of the Great Hand.” It was the Great Hand of God which had done this; as the dukes of Edom and the mighty men of Moab, and all the inhabitants of Canaan realised, as—

“Far over the sea,
In its melody,
The shout of the free
Sounded merrily!”

Freedom! Exodus 15:2. I have seen the caged eagle boating violently against the iron bare of his prison—his plumes soiled and torn, his strong wings drooping, the light of his glorious eye dammed, the pulse of his proud heart panting in vain for conflict with the careering clouds and mountain blasts. At first Israel demurred to freedom when Jehovah proffered it by Moses, but gradually longings for freedom sprang up, and they struggled hard to be free. And as the eagle when the bars are broken, or the links are shivered, springs into the air, rejoicing in the freedom of his mountain home, so Israel was glad when their hosts marched forth from Egyptian bondage,—like the proud denizen of the air

“Clasping the crag with hooked hands,
Close to the sun in lonely lands.”

Sea! Exodus 15:10. Some idea—faint, we admit—may be formed of the effect of the sea suddenly plunging back into a channel ten or twelve miles broad, by comparing it with that of the stupendous Falls of Niagara,—one of the wonders of the world. This cataract, whose name signifies “the thunder of the waters,” is divided by an island into two distinct falls; and more than 113,000,000 of gallons of water are precipitated down these falls in one minute. Little in comparison with this mighty waterfall upon Pharaoh. Never had such a scene been witnessed since that awful time when all the fountains of the great deep were broken up at the Deluge! Down on the warriors of Egypt—down upon chariots and horsemen—fell the accumulated heaps of crushing waters, foaming, roaring, sweeping away the pomp and pride of the mighty, as straws are swept whirling down the rushing cascade. The magnificent display of power more than justifies Exodus 15:10-11.

“Lord! list to the voice
Of those that rejoice,
Ascribing to Thee
All the victory!”

Chariots! Exodus 15:9-10. What a contrast between the gilded car of Pharaoh and the golden chariot of Elijah. Its circling wheels woke no echos amongst the rocks, and left no impression on the sands. It came from heaven, and heaven was its bourne. Not a drop of the chilly waters of the grave dimmed its brilliant surface. It was the chariot of devotion, as was Pharaoh’s that of ambition. The spirit of devotion descends from heaven; it is sent by our God to bear His servants upwards towards Him. Not all the waters of death shall quench or dim its glory. His people are safe.

“They onward tread; the circling waves retreat,
In hoarse deep murmurs from their holy feet.”

Deliverance—Joy! Exodus 15:11-13. On the last day of April 1687, ten thousand French and twelve thousand Sardinian troops pursued the Vaudois of the Valleys until they had hemmed them, to all appearances hopelessly, in the Balsille. The French General De Catinat burned to revenge previous defeats of his troops, and vowed complete extermination of the fugitives:—“Every one of them shall be hanged in the evening.” So burned Pharaoh as he pursued after Israel, and hemmed their host in upon the sea. But by and by came to Pignerol the tidings that twenty thousand of the choicest chivalry of France and Sardinia, with their destructive artillery, had been unable to injure as much as one of the Vandois fugitives. Whilst the broken and shattered columns fled,—their labours frustrated, their schemes disconcerted, their valour mocked and insulted; the little band of Waldensians, with heads uncovered and hands clasped towards heaven, chaunted in strains of deep and thrilling melody their triumph of praise. Every rock and mountain echoed back the wild glad chorus—

“Supported by our living Head,
And by the God of battles led

To life and victory!”

Timbrels! Exodus 15:20. These were a kind of tambourine, called by Kalisch, “hand-drums.” It consists of a hoop of wood or metal, of about one handsbreadth, and covered over with leather. It is still a very favourite instrument in the East on festive and sacred occasions. Dancing invariably accompanied their use. Miriam seems to have been the leader; as appears to have been the case with David hundreds of years afterwards. M‘Cheyne mentions that this is done in Poland to this day; and he himself witnessed, on one occasion, a venerable Jewish Rabbi lead off a whole company of Jewish devotees in this fashion in the “procession of the law.” He began his dance with the words, “Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” Lady Montague, in her letters, mentions the same of Jewish females, stating that the great lady leads the dance, and is followed by a troop of young girls who imitate her steps. If she sings, they make up the chorus. And, as Hamilton remarks, perhaps there never was a gush of purer gratitude than poured from the lips of all as Miriam’s timbrel led the dance. As one after another the swell bore helpless to their feet the steed in gorgeous hausings, or his stiff and stalwart panoplied rider, the exultation leaped up a-new, “Shout, Israel! for the Lord hath triumphed.”

“How solemn and sweet,
As the waters meet,
Was pealing along
The triumphing song!”

Music-influences! Exodus 15:21. Despondent soldiers on the march have been known to stop and listen to music stealing far over the waters. and to be aroused to vigorous effort in the march. Travellers, hearing strains floating from the windows of some palace or mansion, have been cheered to increase their pace homeward. So, saints, as they war or journey, listen to the exultant symphonies poured over the walls and battlements of heaven, and, setting their feet to the measure of the eternal hymn, press onwards towards the city, within whose fadeless palace halls shall be sung the everlasting jubilee.

“Hark! how th’ adoring hosts above

With songs surround the throne,

Ten thousand thousand are their tongues,

But all their hearts are one.”

Verses 23-26


Exodus 15:27. Elim.]—Probably = “palms,” Ges. Fü. Dav. By many identified with Wadi Gharendel, “situated 2½ miles S. of Howarah, and 2 miles N. of Tor, in a very beautiful valley of almost one English mile in length, and abounding in good water. Even according to the most recent travellers, excellent fountains, and a great number of trees, especially tamerisks and palm-trees, are still found in that valley, so that it is generally chosen as one of chief stations on the journey to Sinai.”—Kalisch.



The children of Israel are now in joyful mood. God has won for them a great, and, as it would appear, a final victory over their inveterate enemy. They appreciate the deliverance, and have celebrated it in song. The last notes of the hymn have died away. The Israelites are now travelling onwards. But new needs arise. They require water to quench their thirst. Life is not a long-continued song of triumph, it soon turns to want again. The experiences of life are varied and changeful, and soon pass from joy to sorrow.

I. That the disappointments which men experience frequently occur in connection with the apparently trivial things of life. “They could not drink of the waters of Marah.” The Israelites had passed three days in the wilderness without finding water. The march long. The climate hot. The fatigue great. And so men have frequently to pursue life for a time in the absence of needful things. This shows them their dependence upon God. If man never lacked any good thing, he would imagine that life was self-supporting, and that he could do without the aid of heaven. The absence of needful good teaches men to value its return. In this country we have plenty of water, it comes to us through unnumbered channels. If we were called to journey without it we should prize it more. The common gifts of God are beyond price. Israel, no doubt, watched eagerly for water. Men soon become anxious when the temporal supplies of life fail. Now it is found. What joy in the camp, as the news is conveyed from one rank to another. But the water is bitter! We cannot judge of earthly things according to their appearance. The water looked all right. It tasted bitter. Many things in the world look well, but experience proves them bitter to the taste. The world itself appears as though it would quench the moral thirst of man, he welcomes it with song, but soon finds it bitter to his soul. It is well that some things are bitter, or men would take them in poisonous draughts. All the waters of life are embittered by sin. They look well, but are vanity and vexation of spirit. Thus we see that men are disappointed in reference to the ordinary things of daily life. We are not often disappointed in great things. Life has not many great occasions in it. Little things fret and perplex us. We are disappointed by the appearance of things; the business, the friendship, and the pleasure looked well, but taste badly. Sin looks well; but tastes bitter. Men are deceived in the commonest things of life. Israel did not expect trial, they had only just finished singing their hymn of praise. Disappointment comes soon upon joy. It is the way of God thus to exercise the faith and patience of His people. At Marah the cloud was before Israel. God is with the good in their sorrows.

II. That the disappointments of life seem far more frequently to lead men to murmuring than to prayer. “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” Thus the Israelites gave way to murmuring; only one man amongst them prayed. And in the disappointments of life only one man in a crowd will seek communion with Heaven. Grumbling is more natural than prayer. The former is folly. The latter is healing. Man likes to have all his own way. He ought to submit to the will of God. The best servants of God are complained against. The healing ministries of life are revealed to the praying spirit. When men murmur they are deaf to the voice of God; they are blind to the remedy He would disclose to them. Prayer will sweeten bitter waters more quickly than aught else. Men murmur at the disappointments of life, recall not the desponding memories of past help. Men soon murmur when they are displeased. Would it not have been wiser if these Israelites had called to mind the deliverance which God had wrought out for them in the past? Had He not brought them out of Egypt, and through the waters of the Red Sea as on dry land, and saved them from life-long enemies? Had He done this that He might destroy them with thirst a few days afterwards? Certainly not. But unbelief views things on the dark side. It only looks at the bitter waters it cannot sweeten. And shall we murmur at the disappointments of life, when we remember the Divine mercies of the past? Men often murmur about the disappointments of life to those who are the least to blame for them, and who perhaps are likewise suffering from them. The Israelites murmured at Moses. He was a good man. He was their best friend. He had not made the waters bitter. He was as thirsty as any of them. How cowardly. How cruel. How discouraging. But Moses was a true man, and found his refuge in prayer. Ministers should imitate his example. Crowds are fickle in their moods.

III. That the disappointments of life are often removed and made a blessing to them by the kindly aid of Heaven. “And the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into “the waters, the waters were made sweet.” Moses prayed when the people murmured. He did not hold an altercation with them. In answer to prayer the remedy was revealed, and the waters became all the sweeter for having been bitter. The tree had no healing virtue in it. It was the means used by God, and shows His rule over all the things of His universe. We must not abuse a single tree in God’s universe, it contains sacred possibilities. Men must employ secondary causes to heal their disappointments. Prayer shows where they are to be found. God can make a way out of the greatest trial. We must do as Heaven tells us in the hour of grief, for if we refuse to cast the tree into the bitter waters they will not be sweetened.

IV. That when the disappointments of life are removed, then God admonishes men in reference to their future conduct. “And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and will do that which is right in His sight, and will 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.”


Exodus 15:23-24. After worship done in memory of mercies, the Church must go on its pilgrimage.

Monuments of trial God sometimes sets up in the names of places for posterity.
Carnal Israelites soon exchange worship for discontent.
Foolish unbelieving creatures are running to creatures for drink rather than to God.

Exodus 15:25-27. When unbelievers are murmuring under trial, God’s servants are praying.

God’s faithful ones shall never seek His face in vain.
God will show His servants how to turn bitter into sweet, when they truly seek Him.
Obedience must use the appointed means to receive the desired issue.
Where God gives mercies to His people, He also gives laws and judgments.

Marah and Elim. The alternating experiences of human life.



Marah-waters! Exodus 15:23. Captain Palmer says that for three days’ journey southward along the coast, the desert plain is, practically speaking, waterless, there being only a few wretched brackish springs, about one in every hundred square miles, of which the water is unfit for use. It was after three days that the minstrels became murmurers for water. The sensation which we call thirst is no more like the mad and raging fever-thirst of the desert, than our cool and verdant plains are like the baked and blistering rocks of that burning wilderness. So that Israel might well be bitter in their spirit when they came upon a bitter spring. There is still a salt and bitter fountain here. The “Speaker’s Commentary” says that Wellstead tasted the waters and muttered the word “Marah!” whereon his Bedawin guide exclaimed, “You speak the word of truth; they are indeed marah.” The early Christian Church met with their marah as they first entered on the pilgrim-way. That marah is still in the wilderness-life of the Church, so that her successive members taste and cry, “Marah!” But there is a tree whose leaves drop sweetness, and whose taste is balm. Bedawin had no tree to cast into Wellstead’s marah, but the Christian has. Jesus, the Tree of Life, extends His bending branches to the anxious touch, making each stagnant marsh a rivulet of health, turning the bitterest brook into a fountain of living waters—

“The Cross on which the Saviour died

And conquer’d for His saints,

This is the tree, by faith applied,

Which sweetens all complaints.”

Marah-bitterness! Exodus 15:25. Pure, cool, and pellucid Water is the gift of God. As it comes from heaven, it is always clear and uncontaminated. It is only in earth’s reservoirs that it sometimes gets muddied. There are salts of copper in the soil through which the current percolates—the smoke and soot of city-life defile its excellence—the manchineel sheds its deadly fruits into the fountain. Adam’s life was a pure gift from God; but he defiled it. Man sullies the purity of God’s blessing—turns them into Marah-bitterness. The blessing was good enough till once it came to man; but the bitter soil made the fountain bitter. If the cup which catches the morning shower was clear as crystal, and if the atmosphere were not already contaminated by the smoke and soot of human desires, the blessings would remain pure. But man makes them marah.

“Yet there’s a wonder-working wood,

I’ve heard believers say,

Can make those bitter waters good,

And take the curse away.”

Elim—Symbolism! Exodus 15:27. This is now called “Gharandel.” It is still a pleasant place, having water in abundance, grass, and palm-trees. Kalisch beautifully applies Elim to the Lord’s-day. The traveller, on a rough and dusty road, when from time to time he finds by the wayside a quiet green resting-place, from which he may look back on the way he has come, and also forward to the end of his journey, will surely stop at it for a little with thankfulness. And what are Thy Sabbaths, O Lord, with their sweet services and their solemn hours, but fresh and peaceful oases such as these, inviting me to put away for a moment the troubles and the fatigues of the highway of life, that I may breathe awhile and gather new strength for my journey. Ye giddy crowd, who run and run on, without looking round, until ye slide into the grave, Oh! look at these oases provided for you by God, who pities you more than you do yourselves: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning!” says the Psalmist. And “let my right hand forget its cunning, and let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I ever forget you, ye solemn, holy hours prepared for me by God in the place where His glory dwells, and where He invites me to enjoy His own rest!

“Elim I sweet foretaste of rest and of blessing,
Soon must be left for the lengthening way;
But it is well that Thy pilgrims should gather
Courage and strength for the wearisome day.”

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 15". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.