Exodus 15


‘Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. ‘The LORD is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation. He 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 has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.’ Exodus 15:1-5

The Song Of Moses And Miriam

In the first stanza, we read that the Lord is a man of war. This remarkable song is assumed to have come spontaneously, as Moses led the nation into the wilderness on the other side of the Red Sea.

God prizes these spontaneous expressions of praise and worship, this is a new song sung unto the Lord, Psalm 40:3. One of the greatest principles of worship is that it is unto the Lord, not unto man, when we worship God in song, our audience is the Lord Himself, not the people around us. God is praised because He did what Israel could not do. The horse and its rider, He has thrown into the sea!

When we let God be our strength, He will also be our song, we will have a ‘singing joy’ in our lives because His strength will not let us down. He has become my salvation is a glorious phrase, we cannot save ourselves, but God must become our salvation.

‘Your right hand, LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, LORD, shattered the enemy. ‘In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble. By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood up like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’ But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.’ Exodus 15:6-10

In the second stanza, we read that You have overthrown those who rose against you. Here, Moses and the people describe what God did to the Egyptians, and they glory in the defeat of God’s enemies.

If we really love the Lord, we should glory in the defeat of God’s enemies. Especially when those ‘enemies’ are areas of sin in our life, too often, we have a sense of regret when we see them being defeated!

The right hand was thought to be the hand of skill and power; when God does a work with His right hand, it is a work of skill and power. Obviously, this is the use of anthropomorphism, understanding something about God by using a human figure of speech, even though it does not literally apply, John 4:24.

This idea of the right hand is used in the Scriptures more than fifty times, Psalm 45:4 / Psalm 48:10 / Psalm 77:10 / Psalm 110:1 / Habakkuk 2:16 / Ephesians l:20.

‘Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? ‘You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies. In your unfailing love, you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength, you will guide them to your holy dwelling.’ Exodus 15:11-13

In the third stanza, we read, Who is like You. O Lord, among the gods? If the people of Egypt still did not know who the Lord was, the people of Israel did, they knew the Lord was not like any of the false gods of Egypt or Canaan.

In our worship, we should proclaim the superiority of the Lord God over anything else that would claim to be god, but we must not be like Israel, who soon forgot this.

‘The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone—until your people pass by, LORD, until the people you bought pass by. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established. ‘The LORD reigns for ever and ever.’ Exodus 15:14-18

In the fourth and fifth stanzas, we read, that the people will hear and be afraid. Moses and the children of Israel know that the victory will also say something to the enemies of Israel, they will become afraid when they hear of the great things God has done for them.

Some forty years later, Rahab the Jericho prostitute could tell the Israeli spies. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt. Joshua 2:10.

God wants to build victory upon victory in our lives, to use one victory as a platform for the next. Some foes will be paralysed by fear when they hear of the great things God has done for us, others will fight all the more out of fear.

The Lord shall reign forever and ever. A gloriously true statement, but how long will Israel recognize the reign of God among them?

‘When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.’ Exodus 15:19-21

Here we read that Miriam, Moses’ sister, Exodus 4:14, leads the women in worship. Notice she is called ‘the prophet’ or ‘the prophetess’, Miriam obviously had some kind of prophetic gift, although this could simply be referring to the fourth speech, rather than telling of future vents. Later she used her position in an unwise and ungodly way to challenge the authority of Moses, Numbers 12.

This is the first mention of Miriam by name. Numbers 26:59 seems to indicate that Moses had only one sister. We do know that it was his sister who supervised the launching of the basket onto the Nile River to preserve his life, Exodus 2:14, and arranged the hiring of Moses’ mother as his nurse.

It appears that all the women followed her with timbrels and with dances. In their joy for their deliverance, these women broke forth with tambourines and dances for their deliverance from the Egyptians and their new freedom from the taskmasters of their former existence.

‘Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days, they travelled in the desert without finding water.’ Exodus 15:22

Three days is time enough to forget the victory, now Israel is faced with a long trip through a difficult, dry desert.

Buckingham, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Three days is the maximum time the human body can go without water in the desert’.

It would have been easy for them to question God’s leading, after all, why didn’t He take them the easy way, along the major trade route along the sea? But God knew what was best!

The Waters Of Marah And Elim

‘When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’ Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.’ Exodus 15:23-25

It must have seemed like a cruel joke, after three waterless days, to finally come upon water, and then to find that water undrinkable! Once again they grumbled against Moses, Philippians 2:14 / Jude 16.

The word, ‘Marah’ means ‘bitter’. By God’s direction, Moses makes the waters drinkable and provides for the nation. How did the piece of wood work?

Buckingham, in his commentary, suggests the following.

‘The chemicals in the sap of the broken limb drew the mineral content down to the bottom of the pools and left only good water on top.’

Even though the waters were now drinkable, there was undoubtedly still a significant magnesium and calcium content in the water. The laxative effect of this would have effectively cleaned out the systems of the children of Israel of common Egyptian ailments such as amoebic dysentery and bilharzia, a weakening disease common among Egyptian peasants.

In addition, calcium and magnesium together form the basis of a drug called dolomite, used by some athletes as a performance enhancer in hot weather conditions. At Marah, God was providing the right medicine to both clean out their systems and prepare them for a long, hot march to Sinai.

God was not only interested in getting the children of Israel out of Egypt, He also wanted to get Egypt out of the children of Israel, both physically and spiritually.

‘There the LORD issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.’ Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.’ Exodus 15:25-27

How did God test Israel? By giving them a command to obey. He wanted the Israelites to discover their own lack of faith. When God tells us what to do, He is really giving us a test, and our obedience determines if we will pass the test or not. Were the children of Israel worshipping people who occasionally murmured or mumbling people who occasionally worshipped?

Our true nature is revealed in times of testing. If Israel would obey God He would put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. In many ways, their physical health was directly connected to their obedience.

Dr S. I. McMillen, in ‘None of These Diseases’, notes that so ‘many of God’s laws had a direct impact of hygiene and health, practices such as circumcision, quarantine, washing in running water, and eating kosher made a real medical difference in keeping the children of Israel free from disease.’

Beyond the direct medical implications, obedience also means we are at peace with God, and free from a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety in life.

As they came to the waters of Elim, the Israelites surely remembered their complaints at Marah. If they would have only endured past Marah, they would have made it to Elim.

When they came to Elim, after the time of testing, God had a time of refreshing for the people of Israel. He knew exactly what they needed!

Go To Exodus 16