Exodus 15:1-3 This is a song of praise to the Lord that goes through v 21 and is most instructional. It’s a celebration of the triumph over Pharaoh’s army giving thanks for God’s power and sovereignty. It’s similar to songs in Psalms that celebrate and reveal God’s character such as Deborah and Barak’s song in response to their victory over Sisera (Judg. 5:1–31) and Hannah’s song at the birth of Samuel (1 Sam. 2:1–10). My father’s God is a reference to the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6) and now the God of Israel. There are 4 major themes 1. Praise for victory over the Egyptians. 2. Joy over their defeat. 3. Warning to the nations. 4. An expectation of the Lord fulfilling His promises to Israel.
Exodus 15:4-5 The overwhelming enemy forces were defeated by the Lord as proof of his power to protect his people. The song describes the defeat of the Egyptian troops, and that they were not just a few reservists. Note the reference to “deep waters” in v. 5, that “covered them” so that “they sank into the depths.” This is evidence that what happened to the Egyptians was not a bogging down in shallow water or mud but drowning in a large body of deep water. The bodies sank “like a stone” when they drowned; later, they floated to the shore.
Exodus 15:6-7 The hand of God speaks of His power and we find this expression throughout scripture. An important theological truth is stated here; God’s destruction of those who oppose him and his anger against evil are aspects God’s majesty and glory. Man, wants God to be tolerant, and softhearted, and as a result defines God’s justice as something other than how the Bible defines it. God in Scripture does not tolerate evil (though he is patient in waiting for repentance, as he was with Egypt and wit us). Evil will be eliminated; God does get angry; and judges his foes and is glorified when he does. Stubble was reminiscent of what they gathered to make bricks for the Pyramids and the singers knew all about how easily it burned up and disappeared. It is compared to what the sea did to the Egyptians, suggesting God’s judgment by fire.
Exodus 15:8-10 Concentrates on the parting of the waters of the sea, which “stood up in a heap.” The Hebrew word used could be translated “dam” or “dyke,” another indication of the deep waters. The Lord’s “nostrils” suggest that he is a person and not merely a force, this was not just a wind that happened along. Further the song describes the attitude of the Egyptians; they expected the usual reward of plunder from those they captured. Plunder was typical of armies boasting of certain victory (Isa 53:12). The Egyptians expected to catch up easily with the Israelites, which in fact happened until the Lord intervened in the pillar of cloud when He fought on their behalf.
Exodus 15:11-12 The emphasis of this verse is God’s uniqueness. The mention of the gods should not be understood to suggest polytheism. “Gods” refers to the angels, heavenly as well as fallen. Moses is declaring that God is infinitely superior to all real and false superhuman beings, including heavenly and fallen angels, and the gods of the nations. “The earth swallowed them” is a reference to the “underworld” or “hell.” They not only failed to catch or conquer Israel but lost their lives in the process and experienced everlasting judgment. Moses stretched out his hand with the staff of God to initiate the miracle at the sea (Exodus 14:21), but it is attributed to the Lord. To God be the glory.
Exodus 15:13 The story of Scripture describes God’s plan to lead His people to join him where he lives. God called them out from where they were born and living (Egypt), redeemed them to enter into covenant with them (both at Sinai and later in Deut.), and then led them to his holy dwelling, which incorporates Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple. They rejoiced that they were on the road to the land of rest. They expected to get there soon but failed because of their lack of faith in God (Num 13–14; Heb. 4:1-11). Though Israel was delayed by forty years, it remained the great hope that the Lord would lead them to his dwelling place. In Deut. and much of the Old Testament, the dwelling of God was his “sanctuary” among his people (the tabernacle/temple), Where he caused his name to dwell. Here the writing or song is in the “prophetic perfect,” where the future is seen prophetically as “having happened” because a prophet saw (past tense) what had happened (past tense) in the future—even though it had not yet occurred. The Hebrew translated “steafast love” is “hesed” a word that denotes “loyalty” or “faithfulness” and could be translated, “You have led/will lead faithfully the people you have redeemed.” This is part of Holy Day rituals especially Passover and recalls Exodus 6:6 (“I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment”). Redeem (gāʿal) means to “reacquire” or “get back for oneself” or “buy back.” When something is redeemed, its ownership changes. Israel had been the property of Egypt and Pharaoh; they now belong to God. Israel’s obedience flows out of gratitude from having been redeemed (Deut 15:15) by Him who “will lead” his “people” to his “holy dwelling,” their redemption qualifies them to dwell with Him.
Exodus 15:14-18 The nations occupying God’s Land are put on notice that if they like Egypt stand in the way of God’s people they will suffer the same fate as Egypt. The Philistines were closest and likely the first to be encountered and would become Israel’s most stubborn enemy until King David’s reign. They were stronger both technologically and in their army. Edom, Moab, and Canaan are mentioned also as they too would stand in Israel’s way (Num 20–21; Josh 1–10). God would put His terror on any who would come against Israel. They are “still as a stone”. Three biblical themes end this song: 1) God’s creation of a people (v. 16b), God’s dwelling place as their home (v. 17), and the eternal reign of God over all things (v. 18). God is still at work creating His people, there is nothing in Scripture that says God is finished with His work of transformation of the people set apart for Him. This is just as true today in that God is continually at work in us transforming us into the image of His Son. This song speaks of God planting Israel in the Land (Ps. 80:8-9) with the root being upon Zion the place where the Temple would dwell. Zion is the place of God’s inheritance. It was not Israel who chose Zion but God. It is from here that God will advance His reign on His creation (Dan 7:18).
Exodus 15:19-21 This verse provides evidence it was Pharaoh’s elite chariot forces that came after Israel, Pharaoh’s “horses, chariots and horsemen,” are mentioned but not foot soldiers. They were likely stopped at the edge and only the chariots came after Israel into the sea. These verses are the only mention of Miriam by name in Exodus. She is alluded to but not named as the older sister who followed Moses when he was in the ark that his mother had placed him in. She deftly suggested to Pharaoh’s daughter that a slave (his mother) could nurse him. She is called “Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron. Miriam’s gifting was established in Egypt, perhaps because of her part in preserving Moses. Here again she is expressing the Word of God in song. Other godly women bear the same title “prophetess” in the Tenach; Deborah (Judg 4:4), Huldah (2 Kgs 22:14), and Isaiah’s wife (Isa 8:3). God raised up the children of Amram and Jochebed to lead the nation in their transition from Egypt to Israel. Miriam led the women in worship and praise, and they followed her example. Her song has come down through history so that we all can sing the song of praise about God’s deliverance of His people at the sea.
Exodus 15:22-24 Once across the Red Sea, they went into the wilderness to Shur. They traveled for three days without finding water. It is natural that the people began to worry after going three days without finding water. They approached Marah with the expectation of being able to drink all they wanted, many of them drank their last water and/or gave it to the animals. The foul or bitter water they found was a great test for them. Their question to Moses, “What are we to drink?” was not unreasonable. Their sin was in their attitude, which is suggested in v. 24, “So the people grumbled against Moses.” Moses was God’s human representative among them and the target for their blame. But the people were following the pillar of cloud and therefore knew perfectly well that it was the Lord who had led them here not Moses.
Exodus 15:25-27 Yet another miraculous sign is described here in a new and different way. God told Moses what to do, and when he did it, God provided. How a piece of wood or a tree would remove the bitterness is impossible to explain. It was simply miraculous. While there is nothing in the text to suggest that the tree symbolized anything in particular (such as the tree of life or as some suggest the cross). It was instead Moses acting in doing what God commanded him, without understanding why or how it would work. The decree, law and test speak of what had just happened and what would be coming. It is through trials that God transforms His people. Flowing from loyalty and obedience would come God’s divine protection v. 26, “I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” The promise here was not that the Lord would never allow those who place their faith in him to get sick. It was that God’s people would be free from having to worry about the plagues. God anger would not come on them as it did the Egyptians in the plagues if they were loyal and obedient. His promise is that He would be their doctor/healer not a promise that if anyone ever got sick, he would immediately heal that person. It was a call to turn to him for healing if they were afflicted as a result of sin. The story of the healing from snakebites in Num 21:1–9 is an example. Marah was a place to drink but not camp they camped at Elim, which is described as having abundant water (“twelve springs”) and shaded (“seventy palm trees”). The precise location is uncertain.