Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
With the deliverance of Israel is associated the development of the national poetry, which finds its first and perfect expression in this magnificent hymn. It was sung by Moses and the people, an expression which evidently points to him as the author. That it was written at the time is an assertion expressly made in the text, and it is supported by the strongest internal evidence. In every age this song gave the tone to the poetry of Israel; especially at great critical epochs of deliverance: and in the book of Revelation Exo 15:3 it is associated with the final triumph of the Church.
The division of the song into three parts is distinctly marked: Exo 15:1-5; Exo 15:6-10; Exo 15:11-18 : each begins with an ascription of praise to God; each increases in length and varied imagery unto the triumphant close.
He hath triumphed gloriously - Literally, He is gloriously glorious.
The horse and his rider - The word "rider" may include horseman, but applies properly to the charioteer.
The Lord is my strength and song - My strength and song is Jah. See Psa 68:4. The name was chosen here by Moses to draw attention to the promise ratified by the name "I am."
I will prepare Him an habitation - I will glorify Him. Our Authorized Version is open to serious objection, as suggesting a thought (namely, of erecting a temple) which could hardly have been in the mind of Moses at that time, and unsuited to the occasion.
A man of war - Compare Psa 24:8. The name has on this occasion a special fitness: man had no part in the victory; the battle was the Lord's.
The Lord is his name - "Jah is His name." See Exo 15:2.
Hath He cast - "Hurled," as from a sling. See Exo 14:27.
His chosen captains - See Exo 14:7 note.
As a stone - The warriors in chariots are always represented on the monuments with heavy coats of mail; the corslets of "chosen captains" consisted of plates of highly tempered bronze, with sleeves reaching nearly to the elbow, covering the whole body and the thighs nearly to the knee. The wearers must have sunk at once like a stone, or as we read in Exo 5:10, like lumps of lead.
Thy wrath - Literally, Thy burning, i. e. the fire of Thy wrath, a word chosen expressly with reference to the effect.
The blast of God's nostrils corresponds to the natural agency, the east wind Exo 14:21, which drove the waters back: on the north the waters rose high, overhanging the sands, but kept back by the strongwind: on the south they laid in massive rollers, kept down by the same agency in the deep bed of the Red Sea.
The enemy said - The abrupt, gasping utterances; the haste, cupidity and ferocity of the Egyptians; the confusion and disorder of their thoughts, belong to the highest order of poetry. They enable us to realize the feelings which induced Pharaoh and his host to pursue the Israelites over the treacherous sandbanks.
Thou didst blow with thy wind - Notice the solemn majesty of these few words, in immediate contrast with the tumult and confusion of the preceding verse. In Exo 14:28, we read only, "the waters returned," here we are told that it was because the wind blew. A sudden change in the direction of the wind would bring back at once the masses of water heaped up on the north.
They sank as lead - See the note at Exo 15:5.
Among the gods - Compare Psa 86:8; Deu 32:16-17. A Hebrew just leaving the land in which polytheism attained its highest development, with gigantic statues and temples of incomparable grandeur, might well on such an occasion dwell upon this consummation of the long series of triumphs by which the "greatness beyond compare" of Yahweh was once for all established.
Thy holy habitation - Either Palestine, regarded as the land of promise, sanctified by manifestations of God to the Patriarchs, and destined to be both the home of God's people, and the place where His glory and purposes were to be perfectly revealed: or Mount Moriah.
The inhabitants of Palestina - i. e. the country of the Philistines. They were the first who would expect an invasion, and the first whose district would have been invaded but for the faintheartedness of the Israelites.
The dukes of Edom - See Gen 36:15. It denotes the chieftains, not the kings of Edom.
The mighty men of Moab - The physical strength and great stature of the Moabites are noted in other passages: see Jer 48:29, Jer 48:41.
Canaan - The name in this, as in many passages of Genesis, designates the whole of Palestine: and is used of course with reference to the promise to Abraham. It was known to the Egyptians, and occurs frequently on the monuments as Pa-kanana, which applies, if not to the whole of Palestine, yet to the northern district under Lebanon, which the Phoenicians occupied and called "Canaan."
In the mountain of thine inheritance - See Exo 15:13.
For the horse ... - This verse does not belong to the hymn, but marks the transition from it to the narrative.
And Miriam the prophetess - The part here assigned to Miriam and the women of Israel is in accordance both with Egyptian and Hebrew customs. The men are represented as singing the hymn in chorus, under the guidance of Moses; at each interval Miriam and the women sang the refrain, marking the time with the timbrel, and with the measured rhythmical movements always associated with solemn festivities. Compare Jdg 11:34; Sa2 6:5, and marginal references. The word used in this passage for the timbrel is Egyptian, and judging from its etymology and the figures which are joined with it in the inscriptions, it was probably the round instrument.
Miriam is called a prophetess, evidently Num 12:2 because she and Aaron had received divine communications. The word is used here in its proper sense of uttering words suggested by the Spirit of God. See Gen 20:7. She is called the sister of Aaron, most probably to indicate her special position as coordinate, not with Moses the leader of the nation, but with his chief aid and instrument.
So Moses - Literally, And Moses. The history of the journey from the Red Sea to Sinai begins in fact with this verse, which would more conveniently have been the commencement of another chapter.
From the Red sea - The station where Moses and his people halted to celebrate their deliverance is generally admitted to be the Ayoun Musa, i. e. the fountains of Moses. It is the only green spot near the passage over the Red Sea. There are several wells there, which in the time of Moses were probably enclosed and kept with great care by the Egyptians, for the use of the frequent convoys to and from their ancient settlements at Sarbutel Khadem and the Wady Mughara.
The wilderness of Shur - This name belongs to the whole district between the northeastern frontier of Egypt and Palestine. The word is undoubtedly Egyptian, and is derived probably from the word Khar which designated all the country between Egypt and Syria proper.
Three days - The distance between Ayoun Musa and Huwara, the first spot where any water is found on the route, is 33 geographical miles. The whole district is a tract of sand, or rough gravel.
Marah - Now identified with the fount of Huwara. The fountain rises from a large mound, a whitish petrifaction, deposited by the water, and is considered by the Arabians to be the worst in the whole district.
A tree ... - The statement points to a natural agency, but the result was manifestly supernatural.
He made ... - The Lord then set before them the fundamental principle of implicit trust, to be shown by obedience. The healing of the water was a symbol of deliverance from physical and spiritual evils.
Elim - The valley of Gharandel, two hours' journey south of Huwara.
Twelve wells - Read springs; the Hebrew denotes natural sources. These springs may have been perennial when a richer vegetation clothed the adjacent heights.