In this chapter,
I. Israel looks back upon Egypt with a song of praise for their
deliverance. Here is,
1. The song itself,
2. The solemn singing of it,
II. Israel marches forward in the wilderness
1. Their discontent at the waters of Marah
and the relief granted them,
2. Their satisfaction in the waters of Elim,
|Triumphant Song of the Israelites.
||B. C. 1491.|
1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the
LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath
triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into
2 The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my
salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation;
my father's God, and I will exalt him.
3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.
4 Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea:
his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.
5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a
6 Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy
right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown
them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath,
which consumed them as stubble.
8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered
together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths
were congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide
the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my
sword, my hand shall destroy them.
10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they
sank as lead in the mighty waters.
11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is
like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing
12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed
13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou
hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy
14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take
hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of
Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of
Canaan shall melt away.
16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of
thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people
pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast
17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of
thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made
for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy
hands have established.
18 The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.
19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with
his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters
of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry
land in the midst of the sea.
20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a
timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with
timbrels and with dances.
21 And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath
triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into
Having read how that complete victory of Israel over the Egyptians was
obtained, here we are told how it was celebrated; those that were to
hold their peace while the deliverance was in working
must not hold their peace now that it was wrought; the less they had to
do then the more they had to do now. If God accomplishes deliverance by
his own immediate power, it redounds so much the more to his glory.
Moses, no doubt by divine inspiration, indited this song, and delivered
it to the children of Israel, to be sung before they stirred from the
place where they saw the Egyptians dead upon the shore. Observe,
1. They expressed their joy in God, and thankfulness to him, by
singing; it is almost natural to us thus to give vent to our joy and
the exultations of our spirit. By this instance it appears that the
singing of psalms, as an act of religious worship, was used in the
church of Christ before the giving of the ceremonial law, and therefore
was no part of it, nor abolished with it. Singing is as much the
language of holy joy as praying is of holy desire.
2. Moses, who had gone before them through the sea, goes before them in
the song, and composes it for them. Note, Those that are active in
public services should not be neuters in public praises.
3. When the mercy was fresh, and they were much affected with it, then
they sang this song. Note, When we have received special mercy from
God, we ought to be quick and speedy in our returns of praise to him,
before time and the deceitfulness of our own hearts efface the good
impressions that have been made. David sang his triumphant song in the
day that the Lord delivered him,
2 Samuel 22:1.
Bis dat qui cito dat--He gives twice who gives quickly.
4. When they believed the Lord
then they sang this song: it was a song of faith; this connection is
Then believed they his words, they sang his praise. If with the
heart man believes, thus confession must be made. Here is,
I. The song itself; and,
1. We may observe respecting this song, that it is,
(1.) An ancient song, the most ancient that we know of.
(2.) A most admirable composition, the style lofty and magnificent, the
images lively and proper, and the whole very moving.
(3.) It is a holy song, consecrated to the honour of God, and intended
to exalt his name and celebrate his praise, and his only, not in the
least to magnify any man: holiness to the Lord is engraven in it, and
to him they made melody in the singing of it.
(4.) It is a typical song. The triumphs of the gospel church, in the
downfall of its enemies, are expressed in the song of Moses and the
song of the Lamb put together, which are said to be sung upon a sea of
glass, as this was upon the Red Sea,
2. Let us observe what Moses chiefly aims at in this song.
(1.) He gives glory to God, and triumphs in him; this is first in his
I will sing unto the Lord. Note, All our joy must terminate in
God, and all our praises be offered up to him, the Father of lights and
Father of mercies, for he hath triumphed. Note, All that love
God triumph in his triumphs; what is his honour should be our joy.
Israel rejoiced in God,
[1.] As their own God, and therefore their strength, song, and
Happy therefore the people whose God is the Lord; they need no more to
make them happy. They have work to do, temptations to grapple with,
and afflictions to bear, and are weak in themselves; but he strengthens
them: his grace is their strength. They are often in sorrow, upon many
accounts, but in him they have comfort, he is their song; sin,
and death, and hell, threaten them, but he is, and will be, their
[2.] As their fathers' God. This they take notice of, because,
being conscious to themselves of their own unworthiness and
provocations, they had reason to think that what God had now done for
them was for their fathers' sake,
Note, The children of the covenant ought to improve their fathers'
relation to God as their God for comfort, for caution, and for
[3.] As a God of infinite power
The Lord is a man of war, that is, well able to deal with all
those that strive with their Maker, and will certainly be too hard for
[4.] As a God of matchless and incomparable perfection,
This is expressed, First, More generally: Who is like unto
thee, O Lord, among the gods! This is pure praise, and a high
expression of humble adoration.--It is a challenge to all other gods to
compare with him: "Let them stand forth, and pretend their utmost; none
of them dare make the comparison." Egypt was notorious for the
multitude of its gods, but the God of the Hebrews was too hard
for them and baffled them all,
The princes and potentates of the world are called gods, but
they are feeble and mortal, none of them all comparable to Jehovah, the
almighty and eternal God.--It is confession of his infinite perfection,
as transcendent and unparalleled. Note, God is to be worshipped and
adored as a being of such infinite perfection that there is none like
him, nor any to be compared with him, as one that in all things has and
must have the pre-eminence,
Secondly, More particularly,
1. He is glorious in holiness; his holiness is his glory. It is
that attribute which angels adore,
His holiness appeared in the destruction of Pharaoh, his hatred of sin,
and his wrath against obstinate sinners. It appeared in the deliverance
of Israel, his delight in the holy seed, and his faithfulness to his
own promise. God is rich in mercy--this is his treasure,
glorious in holiness--this is his honour. Let us always give
thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
2. He is fearful in praises. That which is the matter of our
praise, though it is joyful to the servants of God, is dreadful and
very terrible to his enemies,
Or it directs us in the manner of our praising God; we should praise
him with a humble holy awe, and serve the Lord with fear. Even
our spiritual joy and triumph must be balanced with a religious fear.
3. He is doing wonders, wondrous to all, being above the power
and out of the common course of nature; especially wondrous to us, in
whose favour they are wrought, who are so unworthy that we had little
reason to expect them. They were wonders of power and wonders of grace;
in both God was to be humbly adored.
(2.) He describes the deliverance they were now triumphing in, because
the song was intended, not only to express and excite their
thankfulness for the present, but to preserve and perpetuate the
remembrance of this work of wonder to after-ages. Two things were to be
taken notice of:--
[1.] The destruction of the enemy; the waters were divided,
The floods stood upright as a heap. Pharaoh and all his hosts
were buried in the waters. The horse and his rider could not
the chariots, and the chosen captains
they themselves went into the sea, and they were overwhelmed,
The depths, the sea, covered them, and the proud waters went
over the proud sinners; they sank like a stone, like lead
under the weight of their own guilt and God's wrath. Their sin had made
them hard like a stone, and now they justly sink like a stone. Nay,
the earth itself swallowed them
their dead bodies sank into the sands upon which they were thrown up,
which sucked them in. Those whom the Creator fights against the whole
creation is at war with. All this was the Lord's doing, and his only.
It was an act of his power: Thy right hand, O Lord, not ours,
has dashed in pieces the enemy,
It was with the blast of thy nostrils
and thy wind
and the stretching out of thy right hand,
It was an instance of his transcendent power--in the greatness of
thy excellency; and it was the execution of his justice: Thou
sentest forth thy wrath,
This destruction of the Egyptians was made the more remarkable by their
pride and insolence, and their strange assurance of success: The
enemy said, I will pursue,
Here is, First, Great confidence. When they pursue, they do not
question but they shall overtake; and, when they overtake, they do not
question but they shall overcome, and obtain so decisive a victory as
to divide the spoil. Note, It is common for men to be most
elevated with the hope of success when they are upon the brink of ruin,
which makes their ruin so much the sorer. See
Secondly, Great cruelty--nothing but killing, and slaying, and
destroying, and this will satisfy his lust; and a barbarous lust that
is which so much blood must be the satisfaction of. Note, It is a
cruel hatred with which the church is hated; its enemies are bloody
men. This is taken notice of here to show,
1. That God resists the proud, and delights to humble those who lift up
themselves; he that says, "I will, and I will, whether God will or no,"
shall be made to know that wherein he deals proudly God is above him.
2. That those who thirst for blood shall have enough of it. Those who
love to be destroying shall be destroyed; for we know who has said,
Vengeance is mine, I will repay.
[2.] The protection and guidance of Israel
Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people, led them forth out
of the bondage Egypt, led them forth out of the perils of the Red Sea,
But the children of Israel went on dry land. Note, The
destruction of the wicked serves for a foil to set off the salvation of
Israel, and to make it the more illustrious,
(3.) He sets himself to improve this wonderful appearance of God for
[1.] In order to quicken them to serve God: in consideration of this,
I will prepare him habitation,
God having preserved them, and prepared a covert for them under which
they had been safe and easy, they resolve to spare no cost nor pains
for the erecting of a tabernacle to his honour, and there they will
exalt him, and mention, to his praise, the honour he had got upon
Pharaoh. God had now exalted them, making them great and high, and
therefore they will exalt him, by speaking of his infinite height and
grandeur. Note, Our constant endeavour should be, by praising his name
and serving his interests, to exalt God; and it is an advancement to us
to be so employed.
[2.] In order to encourage them to trust in God. So confident is this
Psalmist of the happy issue of the salvation which was so gloriously
begun that he looks upon it as in effect finished already: "Thou
hast guided them to thy holy habitation,
Thou hast thus put them into the way to it, and wilt in due time bring
them to the end of that way," for God's work is perfect; or, "Thou
hast guided them to attend thy holy habitation in heaven with their
praises." Note, Those whom God takes under his direction he will guide
to his holy habitation in faith now, and in fruition shortly. Two ways
this great deliverance was encouraging:--First, It was such an
instance of God's power as would terrify their enemies, and quite
The very report of the overthrow of the Egyptians would be more than
half the over throw of all their other enemies; it would sink their
spirits, which would go far towards the sinking of their powers and
interests; he Philistines, Moabites, Edomites, and Canaanites (with
each of which nations Israel was to grapple), would be alarmed by it,
would be quite dispirited, and would conclude it was in vain to fight
against Israel, when a God of such power fought for them. It had this
effect; the Edomites were afraid of them
so were the Moabites
and the Canaanites,
Thus God sent his fear before them
and cut off the spirit of princes. Secondly, It was such a
beginning of God's favour to them as gave them an earnest of he
perfection of his kindness. This was but in order to something further:
Thou shalt bring them in,
If he thus bring them out of Egypt, notwithstanding their
unworthiness, and the difficulties that lay in the way of their escape,
doubtless he will bring them into Canaan; for has he begun (so
begun), and will he not make an end? Note, Our experiences of God's
power and favour should be improved for the support of our
expectations. "Thou hast, therefore, not only thou canst,
but we trust thou wilt," is good arguing. Thou wilt plant
them in the place which thou has made for thee to dwell in. Note,
It is good dwelling where God dwells, in his church on earth
in his church in heaven,
Where he says, "This is my rest for ever," we should say, "Let it be
ours." Lastly, The great ground of the encouragement which they
draw from this work of wonder is, The Lord shall reign for ever and
They had now seen an end of Pharaoh's reign; but time itself shall not
put a period to Jehovah's reign, which, like himself, is eternal, and
not subject to change. Note, It is the unspeakable comfort of all God's
faithful subjects, not only that he does reign universally and with an
incontestable sovereignty, but that he will reign eternally, and there
shall be no end of his dominion.
II. The solemn singing of this song,
Miriam (or Mary, it is the same name) presided in an assembly of the
women, who (according to the softness of their sex, and the common
usage of those times for expressing joy, with timbrels and dances) sang
this song. Moses led the psalm, and gave it out for the men, and then
Miriam for the women. Famous victories were wont to be applauded by
the daughters of Israel
(1 Samuel 18:6,7);
so was this. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, it is said
He sent before them Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, though we read not
of any thing memorable that Miriam did but this. But those are to be
reckoned great blessings to a people who assist them, and go before
them, in praising God.
|The Waters of Marah.
||B. C. 1491.|
22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out
into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the
wilderness, and found no water.
23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the
waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it
was called Marah.
24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we
25 And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree,
which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made
sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and
there he proved them,
26 And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of
the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight,
and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes,
I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought
upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.
27 And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water,
and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the
It should seem, it was with some difficulty that Moses prevailed with
Israel to leave that triumphant shore on which they sang the foregoing
song. They were so taken up with the sight, or with the song, or with
the spoiling of the dead bodies, that they cared not to go forward, but
Moses with much ado brought them from the Red Sea into a wilderness.
The pleasures of our way to Canaan must not retard our progress, but
quicken it, though we have a wilderness before us. Now here we are
I. That in the wilderness of Shur they had no water,
This was a sore trial to the young travellers, and a diminution to
their joy; thus God would train them up to difficulties. David, in a
dry and thirsty land where no water is, reaches forth towards God,
II. That at Marah they had water, but it was bitter, so that though
they had been three days without water they could not drink it, because
it was extremely unpleasant to the taste or was likely to be
prejudicial to their health, or was so brackish that it rather
increased their thirst than quenched it,
Note, God can embitter that to us from which we promise ourselves most
satisfaction, and often does so in the wilderness of this world, that
our wants and disappointments in the creature may drive us to the
Creator, in whose favour alone true comfort is to be had. Now in this
1. The people fretted and quarrelled with Moses, as if he had done ill
by them. What shall we drink? is all their clamour,
Note, The greatest joys and hopes are soon turned into the greatest
griefs and fears with those that live by sense only, and not by faith.
2. Moses prayed: He cried unto the Lord,
The complaints which they brought to him he brought to God, on whom,
notwithstanding his elevation, Moses owned a constant dependence. Note,
It is the greatest relief of the cares of magistrates and ministers,
when those under their charge make them uneasy, that they may have
recourse to God by prayer: he is the guide of the church's guides and
to him, as the Chief Shepherd, the under-shepherds must upon all
3. God provided graciously for them. He directed Moses to a tree, which
he cast into the waters, in consequence of which, all of a sudden, they
were made sweet. Some think this wood had a peculiar virtue in it for
this purpose, because it is said, God showed him the tree. God
is to be acknowledged, not only in the creating of things useful for
man, but in discovering their usefulness. Or perhaps this was only a
sign, and not at all a means, of the cure, any more than the brazen
serpent, or Elisha's casting one cruse full of salt into the waters of
Jericho. Some make this tree typical of the cross of Christ, which
sweetens the bitter waters of affliction to all the faithful, and
enables them to rejoice in tribulation. The Jews' tradition is that the
wood of this tree was itself bitter, yet it sweetened the waters of
Marah; the bitterness of Christ's sufferings and death alters the
property of ours.
4. Upon this occasion, God came upon terms with them, and plainly told
them, now that they had got clear of the Egyptians, and had entered
into the wilderness, that they were upon their good behaviour, and that
according as they carried themselves so it would be well or ill with
them: There he made a statute and an ordinance, and settled
matters with them. There he proved them, that is, there he put
them upon the trial, admitted them as probationers for his favour. In
short, he tells them,
(1.) What he expected from them, and that was, in one word, obedience.
They must diligently hearken to his voice, and give ear to his
commandments, that they might know their duty, and not transgress
through ignorance; and they must take care in every thing to do that
which was right in God's sight, and to keep all his statutes.
They must not think, now that they were delivered from their bondage in
Egypt, that they had no lord over them, but were their own masters; no,
therefore they must look upon themselves as God's servants, because he
had loosed their bonds,
(2.) What they might then expect from him: I will put none of these
diseases upon thee, that is, "I will not bring upon thee any of the
plagues of Egypt." This intimates that, if they were rebellious and
disobedient, the very plagues which they had seen inflicted upon their
enemies should be brought upon them; so it is threatened,
God's judgments upon Egypt, as they were mercies to Israel, opening the
way to their deliverance, so they were warnings to Israel, and designed
to awe them into obedience. Let not the Israelites think, because God
had thus highly honoured them in the great things he had done for them,
and had proclaimed them to all the world his favourites, that therefore
he would connive at their sins and let them do as they would. No, God
is no respecter of persons; a rebellious Israelite shall fare no better
than a rebellious Egyptian; and so they found, to their cost, before
the got to Canaan. "But, if thou wilt be obedient, thou shalt be safe
and happy;" the threatening is implied only, but the promise is
expressed: "I am the Lord that healeth thee, and will take care
of thy comfort wherever thou goest." Note, God is the great physician.
If we be kept well, it is he that keeps us; if we be made well, it is
he that restores us; he is our life, and the length of our days.
III. That at Elim they had good water, and enough of it,
Though God may, for a time, order his people to encamp by the waters of
Marah, yet that shall not always be their lot. See how changeable our
condition is in this world, from better to worse, from worse to better.
Let us therefore learn both how to be abased and how to abound, to
rejoice as though we rejoiced not when we are full, and to weep as
though we wept not when we are emptied. Here were twelve wells for
their supply, one for every tribe, that they might not strive for
water, as their fathers had sometimes done; and, for their pleasure,
there were seventy palm-trees, under the shadow of which their great
men might repose themselves. Note, God can find places of refreshment
for his people even in the wilderness of this world, wells in the
valley of Baca, lest they should faint in their mind with perpetual
fatigue: yet, whatever our delights may be in the land of our
pilgrimage, we must remember that we do but encamp by them for a time,
that here we have no continuing city.