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15 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. 2 The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3 The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. 4 “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea; his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea. 5 The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. 6 Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power— your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. 7 In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble. 8 At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’ 10 You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. 11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13 “In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode. 14 The peoples heard, they trembled; pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia. 15 Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; trembling seized the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away. 16 Terror and dread fell upon them; by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone until your people, O Lord, passed by, until the people whom you acquired passed by. 17 You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession, the place, O Lord, that you made your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established. 18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.” 19 When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.” 22 Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. 24And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
The Song of Moses
The Song of Miriam
Bitter Water Made Sweet
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my might,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;
his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power—
your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;
you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in splendor, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand,
the earth swallowed them.
“In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed;
you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples heard, they trembled;
pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;
trembling seized the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away.
Terror and dread fell upon them;
by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone
until your people, O Lord, passed by,
until the people whom you acquired passed by.
You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession,
the place, O Lord, that you made your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
19 When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.
20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21And Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”
22 Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. 24And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. 26He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.
1. Then sang Moses. Moses introduced this song not only in testimony of his gratitude, but also in confirmation of the history; for the song which he dictated to the Israelites was not concerning an unknown event, but he brought them forward as eye-witnesses, that all ages might know that nothing thus far had been written which had not openly been declared by 600,000 men, besides their wives and children. Moses, therefore, set the example in accordance with his office, whilst the people, by singing with him, testified their approbation in a manner which admits of no contradiction. For’ to whom could they have lied, since they were each other’s witnesses, and the song was listened to by no strangers? Moses seems to mark their confidence by the repetition in the Hebrew, they “spoke, saying.” On this account, too, their confession, pronounced by all their mouths, deserves more credit, because the greater part of them soon after yielded to ingratitude: from whence we gather that it was only on compulsion that they gave God glory. But, although Moses was the author of the song, yet he does not say “I will sing” in his own person, but prescribes to all what each individual ought heartily to do.
2. The Lord is my strength. In this expression they acknowledge that they have a sufficient defense in God; and afterwards they add, that His grace furnishes them with just ground for praise. The sum is, that they were strong in God, and had not conquered their enemies by their own bravery; and that, therefore, it is not lawful to glory save in God alone. But we must observe that the help of God is conjoined with His praise, because this is the end of all His benefits, that we should hold our salvation as received from Him, which is here mentioned in the third place, for to say that God had “become their salvation,” was as much as to say that the people were saved by His grace. In the second clause there is an antithesis between the true God and all false ones; for there is much emphasis in the declaration, “he is my God,” as by it Moses excludes all that multitude of gods which then were everywhere worshipped in the world. To the same effect he adds, “my father’s God,” thus distinguishing the faith of Abraham from all the superstitions of the Gentiles. The faithful then declare that it is safe for them to repose in this One God, and that His praises are worthy of celebration. Isaiah imitates this figure. Isaiah 25:9,
“Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him.”
What follows in the next verse — “The Lord is a man of war,” is to the same purpose, for although at first sight the phrase may seem a harsh one, still it is not without beauty: that God is armed in military attire, to contend with all the forces of His foes. Therefore, says Moses, the name of the Lord belongs to Him alone, because His hand awaits to destroy whatever lifts itself up against Him.
4. Pharaoh’s chariots. Moses in these words only meant to assert, that the drowning of Pharaoh was manifestly God’s work. Therefore, he now illustrates in more glowing terms the transaction which he had before simply narrated; as also when he compares the Egyptians to stones and lead, as if he had said that they were hurled by God’s mighty hand into the deep, so that they had no power to swim out. On this score, he repeats twice the mention of God’s “right hand;” as much as to say that such a miracle could not be ascribed either to fortune or to the efforts of man. We must take notice of what he soon after says, that the Egyptians “rose up against” God; because they had treated His people with injustice and cruelty. Thence we gather, that God’s majesty is violated by the wicked, whenever His Church, whose safety He has undertaken to preserve by His faithful patronage, is assailed by them. “Thou sentest forth thy wrath,” and “with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together,” are to be read in conjunction; for their meaning is that God, without any instrumentality, but by His simple volition, and in manifestation of His wrath, had brought the enemy to. destruction.
9. The enemy said. He relates the boast of Pharaoh not merely in exultation over him, but to magnify the miracle, whereby God gives over to destruction this wolf intent upon his prey. But there is more force in the language when he introduces the Egyptians as speakers, than as if he had described their plans; for thus does the marvelous catastrophe more strikingly affect our minds, when the Egyptians, brought as it were on the stage, not only trumpet forth their victory, but insolently give vent to their arrogance and cruelty. But, presently, the Lord is introduced on the other side, dissipating by a single blast their terrible audacity. For whence came this great confidence to the Egyptians, promising themselves that they should be satisfied with the spoils, and that they should have nothing more to do in order to put the people to death than to draw their swords, but from the fact of their being very well armed against this unwarlike multitude? Hence, then, God’s power shone forth more brightly, when He put them out of the way by “blowing with His wind.”
11. Who is like unto thee? Moses concludes this song of praise with an ejaculation, because the grandeur of the subject transcends the power of words. The interrogation expresses more than as if he had simply asserted that none can be compared with God; because it marks both admiration and assured confidence in the truth of what he says; for he exclaims, as if overwhelmed with astonishment, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord?” The notion of some that by the word “gods” he means the angels, is more suitable to other passages; for instance, (Psalm 89:6,) “Who in heaven can be compared unto the Lord; who among the sons162162 Filios Dei. — V. of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?” for it immediately follows, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.” (Ver. 7, etc.) The meaning then is,163163 “Or le Sainct Esprit veut dire;” now the Holy Spirit means to say. — Fr. that, although there be excellence in the angels, still God is exalted far above them all; but here it may be more properly referred to idols, for Moses (as has been said) is professedly contrasting’ the one true God, whose religion and worship existed among the children of Abraham, with the delusions of the Gentiles. The word “sanctitas,” holiness, expresses that glory which separates God from all His creatures; and therefore, in a manner, it degrades all the other deities which the world has invented for itself; since the majesty of the one only God is thus eminent and honorable. He adds, “fearful in praises;” because He cannot be duly praised, without ravishing us with astonishment. Moses afterwards explains himself, by saying that God’s works are wonderful. In my opinion, their explanation is a poor one, who think that He is said to be “fearful in praises,” because He is to be praised with fear; and theirs is farfetched, who say that he is terrible, even when he is praised.
13. Thou in thy mercy hast led them forth.164164 Wilt lead them forth. — Lat. The verb in Hebrew is indeed in the past tense; but, since it is plain from the context that their hope for what was to come was founded on God’s former mercies, I have preferred making the meaning clearer by translating it in the future.165165 “Selon l’usage commun de la langue;” according to the common usage of the language. — Fr. Moses, therefore, exhorts the people to proceed to their promised land boldly and joyfully; because God will not forsake His work in the midst of it. And on this account he expressly mentions their redemption; as though he had said, that the people were not in vain delivered from impending death, but that God, as He had begun, would be their constant guide. David uses the same argument, (Psalm 31:5,)
“Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me,
O Lord God of truth.”
For, as the beginning of their redemption has proceeded from God’s mere mercy, so he says that for this same reason He will lead them even to their promised inheritance. But, since the many obstacles might impress them with alarm, he at the same time sets before them the “strength” of God; for the whole praise is given to God, who had both been freely gracious to His people, and, asking assistance from no other source, but contented with His own power, had supplied what would have been otherwise incredible.
14. The people shall hear. Again in this place I have not scrupled to change the tenses; for it is plain that Moses is speaking of things future; although I do not deny, that by verbs of the past tense he confirms the certainty of the matter; which is a common figure with the Prophets. This boast depends on the mention of God’s “strength;” for it was impossible for the Israelites to make their way through so many adverse nations into the land of Canaan, unless God had, as it were, put forth His hand from heaven and fought for them. Lest, then, their numerous difficulties should dishearten them, Moses declares that, although many powerful enemies should endeavor to oppose them, terror shall possess them all from heaven, so that, in their confusion and astonishment, they shall have no power of resistance.
16. Fear and dread shall fall upon them. Some read this in the optative mood, but with little probability, as it seems to me; for Moses is not so much expressing wishes or prayers, as animating the Israelites to have a good hope, and to be firmly convinced that God would not make an end until He had finished the course of His grace. And this we may fairly apply to ourselves at this time, viz., that God will continue His calling in the elect, until they are brought on to the goal. For the heavenly inheritance, (to which we are called,) answers to “the mountain” of His holiness.166166 Sion. — Fr. The same reason, which was just before advanced, is again repeated, viz., that God would not fail His people until the end, because He had “purchased” them to Himself. For the translation “which thou hast possessed” is not so suitable; because although Moses signifies that they are God’s peculiar people, yet is their deliverance undoubtedly alleged as the cause of their full redemption; as if he had said, that the people whom God had once undertaken to protect would always be dear to Him.
17. Thou shalt bring them in. The metaphor of planting denotes a firm habitation; as also in Psalm 44:2, “Thou didst drive out the heathen with thine hand, and plantedst” our fathers, and causedst them to take root. Moreover, by his commendatory allusion to the temple, Moses excites in the people’s hearts a desire for the land, which was to be God’s “Sanctuary;” and by this secret thought attracts them, indifferent as they were, to seek the enjoyment of this great blessing. He also prophesies of Mount Sion many ages before the temple was erected there; from whence we gather that it was not chosen by man’s will, but consecrated by the eternal counsel and predestination of God. For it behooved that the gratuitous favor of God should manifest itself as to this place, as well as to men’s persons. Thus, in Psalm 78:67, it is said,
“He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim; but chose the of Judah,” etc.
Elsewhere also, (Psalm 132:13, 14,)
“For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation: this is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.”
But the stability of the temple is also foretold; as in another passage,167167 It will be seen that the sense, and not the words, of the citation are given. “Thy hand hath founded Zion.” (Psalm 87:1.) And God himself declares by Isaiah that He will not suffer Jerusalem to be laid waste, (Isaiah 37:26,) because of ancient times He had formed it. But although the whole land of Canaan is elsewhere called God’s rest, and the people was never collected into one city, yet, because God blessed the whole nation and land out c f His sanctuary, therefore is special mention made of His holy mountain. But this prophecy was very needful for the support of their minds, because Jerusalem only came into their power at a late period; and doubtless their posterity would have been still more slow to take possession of it had not their hearts been stimulated by this promise. A short sentence follows concerning God’s eternal reign, on which the perpetuity of the Church is founded. Thus David, (Psalm 102:27,) after having said that God would always be the, same, and His years would have no end, thus concludes, “The children of thy servants shall continue, and their deed shall be established before thee.” (Ver. 28.) Moses, then, would extend the hope of the people to all ages, because of God’s kingdom there is no end.
19. For the horse of Pharaoh went in. This verse does not; seem to be suited to the song, and therefore I am rather of opinion that Moses returns here to the history, and assigns the reason why the Israelites so magnificently celebrated the praises of God. For the sake of avoiding ambiguity, it would perhaps be better thus to render it, — “For the horse of Pharaoh had gone in, and the Lord had brought again the waters of the sea upon them, but; the children of Israel had gone on dry land.”168168 There is the following addition in the Fr.: — ‘Voyla pourquoy j’ai mis les verbes en temps plus que parfait;” you see why I have put the words in the pluperfect tense.
20. And Miriam the prophetess. Moses here introduces in his song the ἀντιστροφὴ, such as were constantly used by the lyric poets. For God would have not only men to be the proclaimers of this great miracle, but associated the women with them. When, therefore, the men had finished their song, the women followed in order. Although it is not certain whether the first verse was intercalary, (as the sacred history testifies the following sentence to have been in a solemn hymn: — “For his mercy endureth for ever,” 1 Chronicles 16:34, which is also intercalated in Psalm 136), or whether the women repeated alternately what the men had sung. It little matters which opinion you prefer, except that the former is more probable. But although Moses honors his sister by the title of “prophetess,” he does not say that she assumed to herself the office of public teaching, but only that she was the leader and directress of the others in praising God. The beating of timbrels may indeed appear absurd to some, but the custom of the nation excuses it, which David witnesses to have existed also in his time, where he enumerates, together with the singers, “the damsels playing with timbrels,” (Psalm 68:25,) evidently in accordance with common and received custom. Yet must it be observed, at the same time, that musical instruments were among the legal ceremonies which Christ at His coming abolished; and therefore we, under the Gospel, must maintain a greater simplicity.169169 C.’s opinion on this subject will be found at greater length in his Commetary on the Psalms, (Calvin Society’s Translation,) vol. 1:539; 3:98, 312, 495; 4:72, 73; 5:312, 320. Perhaps the following note on Psalm 81:2, may most conveniently embody his sentiments: — “With respect to the tabret, harp, and psaltery, we have formerly observed, and shall find it necessary afterwards to repeat the same remark, that the Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God; it having been His will to train His people, while they were as yet tender and like children, by such rudiments, until the coming of Christ. But now, when the clear light of the Gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law, and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the Prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time. From this it is apparent that the Papists have shown themselves to be very apes in transferring it to themselves.” — Vol 3, p. 312. Elsewhere he says, “Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints only in a known tongue. (1 Corinthians 14:16.) The voice of man, although not understood by the generality, assuredly excels all inanimate instruments of music; and yet we see what St. Paul determines concerning speaking in an unknown tongue.” — Commentary on Psalm 33:2, vol. 1:539.
22. So Moses brought. Moses now relates that, from the time, of their passage through the sea, they had been suffering for three days from the want of water, that the first they discovered was bitter, and that thence the name was given to the place. This was indeed no light temptation, to suffer thirst for three days in a dry land, and nowhere to meet with relief or remedy. No wonder, then, that they should have groaned with anxiety; but grief, when it is full of contumacy, deserves no pardon. In such an emergency, they should have directed their prayers to God; whereas they not only neglected to pray, but violently assailed Moses, and demanded of him the drink which they knew could only be given them by God. But because they had not yet learnt to trust in Him, they fly not to Him for aid, except by imperiously commanding Him, in the person of His servant, to obey their wishes; for this interrogation, “What shall we drink?” is as much as to say, “Arrange with God to supply us with drink.” But they do not directly address God, of whose assistance they feel that they have need, because unbelief is ever proud.
25. And he cried. Hence we gather that Moses alone duly prayed when the people tumultuously rose against him, and that they who were not worthy of the common air itself were abundantly supplied with sweet water. Herein shone forth the inestimable mercy of God, who deigned to change the nature of the water for the purpose of supplying such wicked, and rebellious, and ungrateful men. He might have given them sweet water to drink at first, but He wished by the bitter to make prominent the bitterness which lurked in their hearts. He might, too, have corrected by His mere will the evil in the waters, so that they should have grown sweet spontaneously. It is not certain why He preferred to apply the tree, except to reprove their foolish impiety by showing that He has many remedies in His power for every evil. A question also arises as to the tree, whether it inherently possessed the property which it there exercised. But although probable arguments may be adduced on both sides, I rather incline to the opinion that there was indeed a natural power concealed in the tree, and yet that the taste of the water was miraculously corrected; because it would have been difficult so speedily to collect a sufficient quantity of the tree for purifying a river; for 600,000 men, together with their wives and children and cattle, would not have been contented with a little streamlet. But I am led by no trifling reason to think that this property was previously existing in the tree; because it is plain that a particular species was pointed out to Moses, yet does not that prevent us from believing that a greater efficacy than usual was imparted to it, so that the waters should be immediately sweetened by its being put into them. What follows in the second part of the verse admits of a double signification, viz., either that, whereas God had there ordained a statute, yet that He was tempted by the people; or, because God was tempted by the people, therefore He had ordained the statute. If the first sense be preferred, their crime will be augmented by the comparison; for the impiety of the people was all the worse because, being taught by the voice of God, yet in the very same place they gave the reins to their rebellious spirit. But I rather embrace the latter sense, viz., that God chastised the sin of the people by whom He had been tempted. It was in fact a kind of tempting of God, because they not only doubtingly inquired who should give them water, but in these words manifested their despair. But because in the same context it is said, “there he made for them a statute, and there he tempted (or proved) them,” the name of God appears to be the subject in both clauses, and it is predicated of the people that they received the ordinance and were proved. Thus the meaning will be, that after God had tried His people, by the want of water, He at the same time admonished them by His word, that hereafter they should submit themselves more teachably and obediently to His commands.
26. If thou wilt diligently hearken. Moses now unfolds what was the statute or ordinance which God promulgated. For here the reference is not to the whole law which was afterwards given on mount Sinai, but to the special admonition which served to chastise the wickedness of the people. The sum of it is, that if the Israelites were tractable and, obedient to God, He on the other hand would be kind and. bountiful to them. And it is an implied rebuke, that they might know whatever troubles they experienced to be, brought upon them by their sins. He proposes the Egyptians to them as an example, whose rebellion they had seen punished by God with such severe and heavy calamities. “I am the Lord that healeth thee,” is immediately added in confirmation, as if he had said, that the Israelites were liable to the same plagues which had been inflicted on the Egyptians, and were only exempt from them because God performed the office of a healer. And truly whatsoever diseases afflict the human race, we may see in them, as in so many mirrors, our own, miseries, that, we may perceive that there is no health in us, except in so far as God spares us. We are also taught in this verse that this is the rule of a good life, when we obey God’s voice and study to please Him. But because the will of God was soon after to be proclaimed in the law, He expressly commands them to “give ear to His commandments, and to keep His statutes.”170170 “Je ne m’arreste point aux mots Hebrieux, pource que je ne voy pas qu’il en soit besoin pour les gens de nostre langue;” I do not stay to speak of the Hebrew words, because I do not see that it is necessary for those of our language. — Fr. I know not whether there is any force in the opinion of some who distinguish the word חקים, chokim, (which it is usual to translate “statutes,”) from precepts, as if they were mere declarations of His pleasure to which no reason is attached. Let it suffice that God’s law is commended under many names, to take away all pretext of ignorance.
27. And they came to Elim. Moses here relates that a more pleasant station was granted to the people, when they were led to a well-watered spot, even planted with palm-trees, which do not usually grow in a dry soil. But we learn from what precedes, that this was a concession to their infirmity, because they had borne their thirst so impatiently.