Moses leads music
Song of “Thank you, God”1 Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD:
I’m singing to the LORD to celebrate his victory.
He threw the cavalry into the sea.
2 When I need strength, the LORD is my strength.
When I need rescuing, the LORD is my savior.
He’s my God, and I worship him.
He’s the God of my ancestors, and I honor him.
3 The LORD knows how to win a war.
“LORD” is his name. 4 He threw Pharaoh’s chariots and charioteers into the sea.
His elite warriors, best of the best, drowned in the Reed Sea.
5 Water shrouds their bodies,
For they sank like rocks to the bottom of the sea.
6 Your hands pack a powerful punch, LORD.
A single blow will decimate your enemy.
7 You break the enemy and take the victory.
Your holy anger destroyed them like fire on straw.
8 One exhaling blast of your breath
And the water stands straight as a wall.
Like something solid, the liquid stands at attention,
Deep in the middle of the sea.
Enemies brag, then drown9 The enemy bragged,
“I’ll hunt them, catch them, and take all they’ve got.
I’ll take everything I want, then introduce them to my sword.
The power in my hand will take them down.”
10 But you, LORD, sent the wind that blew the water down.
Enemies sank like soldiers made of lead.
11 There’s no other god like you, LORD.
You are wonderful holiness at its best.
You do incredible, extraordinary miracles.
12 You lift your hand,
And the earth opens to swallow your enemies whole.
13 The love you have for the people you saved
Is a love that never surrenders.
Your strength paves their way
To the sacred home you have waiting for them.
Warn the nations, it’s trembling time14 Nations of the world will hear what you’ve done, and tremble.
Philistine people are going to worry themselves to death.
15 Terror will latch onto the leaders of Edom.
In Moab, the people are going to shake with fear.
In Canaan, the people will lose all hope.
16 Dread will descend on them and terror will eat them alive.
Your displays of power will paralyze them with fear,
And stun them motionless as stone.
They’ll stay that way until your people get there, LORD.
The people you rescued will cross over their lands.
17 You’ll plant your people on your own personal mountain.
The home on earth you’ve chosen.
This will become a place of worship you created.
18 The LORD is king now, and the LORD is king forever.”
19 Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers charged into the sea.
But the LORD released the standing walls of water onto them
After the people of Israel passed through safely.
Miriam grabs a tambourine20 Miriam, a prophet and Aaron’s sister, grabbed her tambourine and started dancing. All the women took their own tambourines and joined her.
21 Miriam sang:
“Sing a song to honor the LORD for the victory he has won.
Horse and charioteer, no problem for him.
He threw them both into the sea.”
Bitter water in the desert22 Moses then told the people it was time to go, and leave the Reed Sea behind. They went into the barren Shur Desert. They traveled three days without finding water. 23 They came to a place called Marah. The found water but couldn’t drink it because it was too bitter. That’s why people called it “Marah.” 24 People got mad about it. They went to Moses and said, “Hey, what are we supposed to drink?” 25 Moses prayed to the LORD and the LORD pointed him to a tree. Moses took a piece of the wood and threw it into the water. The water became tasty and sweet. It was there that the LORD challenged the people to commit themselves to obeying him. 26 He told them, “I want you to listen to my voice and do what you know I want you to do. Obey my laws. If you do this, I won’t have to punish you with the diseases I made the Egyptians suffer. I’m the LORD who keeps you healthy.” 27 The people traveled on to Elim, an oasis with seventy palm trees and a dozen springs of water. They set up camp beside the water.
“LORD,” usually printed in all capital letters, is a name of God that appears around 7,000 times in the Christian Bible, which makes it the most common way of referring to God. The lower-case “Lord” is a translation of the Hebrew word Adonai. It refers to God as our master, our life coach, or the boss. He’s in charge of us, and we try to obey him. “LORD” is the spelling most Bibles use when the writer refers to the name of God. Moses asked God what his name was, and God said Moses should tell the Israelite ancestors of the Jews that his name is “I AM” (3:14). In the original Hebrew language, the name is spelled with only consonants—no vowels. It’s an ancient shorthand, to save hides used to make scrolls. The name is YHWH. Without knowing which vowels, most scholars have settled on YAHWEH, pronounced YAH-way. God’s name is so sacred to many Jews that they refuse to speak it. Instead, they’ll use names that describe the character of God, such as Adonai, which means “my Lord.” They won’t even write the name. In English, they’ll spell the name G-d.
Many Bibles say “Red Sea.” But the Hebrew words are yam suph, “sea reeds.” In the previous chapter of Exodus, Moses and the Hebrew refugees escaped through a path God made in this body of water. Scholars usually track Moses and the Hebrews escaping Egypt by walking southeast, out of the Nile Delta fields and toward the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. They would have passed through lake regions along what is now the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. These lakes and ponds reportedly had reeds growing along the banks, like the ones the Bible says grew along the Nile River and helped anchor Baby Moses in a basket (Exodus 2:3).
Earlier, it was the raised hand of Moses that did great things. This song, however, says nothing about that. It’s God who gets the credit for everything Moses did.
Philistines settled on the southwest coast of what is now Israel and the Palestinian Territory called the Gaza Strip. They had superior iron weapons when Israelites were using softer bronze. It took the Israelites several centuries to overpower the Philistines, which they finally did in the time of King David. Earlier, the Philistine’s had overwhelmed King Saul’s army, killing him and most of his sons. Before that, Philistines had crushed the Israelite army and captured the Ark of the Covenant, Israel’s most sacred object, a gold-covered wooden box that held the Ten Commandments.
Miriam’s “Song of the Sea,” as some scholars call it, is written in a very ancient style of Hebrew—a style much older than the rest of Exodus. Some say it’s the oldest surviving version of the story of the Hebrews leaving Egypt on their famous exodus home to what is now Israel and Palestinian Territories. Some date the Hebrew style of writing as far back as the 1200s BC, when some say was about the time Moses lived and led the exodus out of Egypt. Others put Moses 200 years earlier, in the 1400s BC.
Location of Shur is unsure. Some place it just east of the lush Nile Delta, known as Goshen, along the Wadi Tumilat, a dry riverbed that leads toward the Sinai Peninsula. Others place it further east, along the Mediterranean coast at the northern end of the Sinai.
Marah is the Hebrew word for “bitter.”
Possibly an oasis called Springs of Moses, Uyun Musa, where a geologist in 1907 reported there were 12 springs and a grove of palm trees. Some springs and trees remain. The oasis is about 10 miles (16 km) down the Gulf of Suez, on the Sinai Peninsula. Another possibility is about 50 miles (80 km) further south: an oasis at Wadi Gharandel, one of the best watering holes in the western Sinai. A “wadi” is a dry riverbed that can turn into a stream when it rains.
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
Moses leads his people in a song that basically retells the story of the crossing of the Reed Sea. Why do you think the author placed this second version of the tale here?
In verses 14–17 Moses’ song tells us that the peoples of the lands surrounding the Promised Land will quake with fear when they hear of the approach of the Israelites. Do you think this is a prophecy of some kind or perhaps a poetic way of presenting the LORD as fearsome and all powerful?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or rather, which came first, Miriam’s song or Moses’ Song of the Sea. The words of Miriam’s song are found embedded in Moses’ song, but some scholars think that Miriam sang them first and that Moses expanded them at a later date. These scholars point out that women in the Bible often came to sing of victories in battle as the battle ended and Miriam was doing no less, singing of the victory over the Egyptians almost immediately after it had been won. Which song sounds to you like it came first?
After leading them out of Egypt into freedom, God places the Israelites in a tough spot. They are in a desert, and they have no water to drink. Not a cheerful prospect. How will they react? Will they still praise God for leading them through the split waters of the Reed Sea to freedom or will they blame God—or Moses—for leading them into a place where they will die of thirst? What do you think this short incident is meant to convey?
LIFE APPLICATION. God is shown in Moses’ song as militaristic and violent. What are your reactions to a militaristic God as opposed to the gentle, loving Jesus who told us to love our enemies? Should we counter violence with violence or turn the other cheek?