Monday

16 July 2018

Exodus 15:1-21 (The Song of Moses)

“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendour, doing wonders?” (v. 11)

Psalm: Psalm 104:1-23


Background

Call it what you will, a poem, song or hymn, this is a wonderful proclamation of the power and glory of God, for the rescue of a people from slavery and a miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), or the Sea of Reeds as it is more correctly known. (The alternative title is ‘The Song of the Sea’.) If you want to get a flavour of how this song may have been sung, look at verses 20-21 as Miriam and the other women lead the worship and dance, in a similar style to that following David’s famous killing of Goliath (1 Samuel 18:6).

We don’t know who wrote the song, but it may well have been composed by a woman’s hand. The rhythm of the words are a big feature, and clay figures from ancient Israel depicting musicians all seem to show the percussionists as women. Whether or not it was Aaron’s sister Miriam who wrote this is not made clear but it is a possibility.

The song is one of praise for the power of God displayed through the forces of nature, allowing for the safe passage of the Israelites and the destruction of the Egyptian forces pursuing them. In part, the anger of the Egyptians might have been due to the loss of such a sizeable workforce, and there is no doubt that they were far better armed with chariots and weapons than the Israelites – except the Israelites had God on their side, and so the outcome was not the natural one (verse 4). The description of the earth swallowing the enemy (verse 12) may refer to the Egyptians’ belief that those marked as wrongdoers in the afterlife would be punished by being eaten by a beast known as the ‘Devouress’ or ‘Swallower’!

The song is one of two parts, as the first twelve verses celebrate the killing of the Egyptian forces in the sea, and the next five (verses 13-17) express the hope that God will lead them out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, led of course by the sound of tambourines and women singing!


To Ponder

  • How important is song in your journey of faith?
  • Where can you see God at work within nature today?
  • What are your favourite instruments of praise, and why?

Bible notes author

John Birch

John Birch is a Methodist local preacher and writer living in South West Wales. He writes prayer and Bible study resources for churches and runs the website www.faithandworship.com.