Exodus

Exodus 15:1-21

The Song of Moses and Miriam

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.

2 "The Lord is my strength and my defense[a];
he has become my salvation.
He 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 has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh's officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.[b]
5 The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.
6 Your right hand, Lord,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
shattered the enemy.

7 "In the greatness of your majesty
you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
it consumed them like stubble.
8 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.
9 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.'
10 But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.
11 Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?

12 "You stretch out your right hand,
and the earth swallows your enemies.
13 In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.
14 The nations will hear and tremble;
anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people[c] of Canaan will melt away;
16 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[d] pass by.
17 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.

18 "The Lord reigns
for ever and ever."

19 When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen[e] 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. 20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:

"Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea."

Reflection

The Song of the Sea or the Song of Moses and Miriam acts as a summary and conclusion to the first section of Exodus. Centuries of slavery and oppression have finally ended because God has led his people to freedom. I can imagine 1000s of people stood on the banks of the sea looking back at what was their past and singing their hearts out praising the God who saves. The song also looks ahead to the future blessing of when God will guide them and plant them in a new land (17). Moses looks forward to a time when the dwelling place of God can be established in the land where he will reign forever (15-18).

The Lord is a warrior

Other translations describe God as a 'Man of war'. This is fairly uncomfortable language for modern readers. This sounds like the sort of stuff that can be used as a religious justification for one people group slaughtering another. While is is clearly military language, this needs to be read in the context of the last 14 chapters. Man of war is a poetic way of conveying God's deliverance from Pharaoh's armies. He fights for Israel. In Exodus Israel are not a people of war, but a slave class - and this God fights on their behalf. This God sides with the little guy. This God upholds the underdog. He fights for a people and calls them not to be a people of war, but a 'kingdom of priests'. He will plant them in a land where they will flourish and bring glory to his name.

God also is not a warrior in the sense of a human soldier going into battle. He does not use weapons of war, but he invokes his authority over creation, bringing order out of chaos. He fights to restore justice in creation.

So we are back where we started. In the first of these reflections I pointed out that the first book of the Bible, Genesis, begins with divine creation, blessing, multiplication and growth.

The second book of the Bible, Exodus, begins with oppression and suppression. The beauty of creation has been distorted. The writers of this ancient song connect their passing through the waters, or 'the deep' (8) as the same as the deep/waters in creation (Gen 1:2). This song celebrates a movement from chaos to order. As the people leave the past behind a new creation is taking place. And so too is a new paradigm for how redemption might be achieved.


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