Exodus 15

Dear Reader,

We did something a little different with our psalm study this week. We looked at Exodus 15 which is obviously not from the book of Psalms. It is, however, a poem or song sung by the Israelites just after they have crossed through the Red Sea and seen Pharaoh’s army drowned behind them.

Here is the translation I worked from:

1 “I will sing to the LORD

2 for he is indeed majestic;

3 the horse and his rider he cast in the sea.

4 My strength and song [is] the LORD,

5 And he will be my salvation.

6 This [is] my God and I will praise him,

7 the God of my father and I will exalt him.

8 The LORD [is] a man of war;

9 The LORD [is] his name.

10 The chariots of Pharaoh and his army he threw in the sea;

11 and the choicest of his officers were sunk in the Reed Sea.

12 Depths covered them;

13 They went down in the deeps like a stone.

14 Your right hand, LORD, is glorious in strength;

15 Your right hand, LORD, will crush the enemy.

16 And in the greatness of your majesty you destroy your enemies;

17 You send your burning anger;

18 it consumes them like stubble.

19 And by the wind of your nostrils the waters are heaped up;

20 They stand like a dam of waves.

21 The deeps are congealed in the heart of the sea.

22 The enemy said, “I will pursue; I will overtake; I will plunder booty;

23 I will have my fill; I will draw my sword; My hand will dispossess.”

24 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;

25 They were submerged like lead in the mighty waters.

26 Who is like you among the gods, LORD?

27 Who is like you, glorious in holiness, demander of praise, doer of wonders?

28 You stretched out your right hand;

29 earth swallowed them.

30 You lead in your loving-kindness the people whom you redeemed;

31 You guide by your strength to your holy habitation.

32 The peoples heard;

33 they trembled;

34 Panic seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

35 Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed,

36 the leaders of Moab tremors seized them.

37 All the inhabitants of Canaan shook.

38 Dread and terror fell upon them

39 At you great arm they were silent like a stone

40 Until your people will cross over, LORD;

41 Until they will cross over the people whom you acquired.

42 You will bring them and plant them on the mount of your inheritance,

43 the place you made for your dwelling, LORD;

44 The sanctuary, LORD, [which] your hand established.

45 The LORD will reign forever and ever.”

A few notes on the translation:

-The Red Sea is called the Reed Sea in Hebrew (see line 11).

-“Burning anger” in one word in Hebrew (see lines 17-18). It means anger but comes from the root “to burn.” In Hebrew anger always burns. Hence its ability to consume stubble. Usually I try not to use two words when the Hebrew uses one, but I wanted to make sure both ideas came across here.

-Words in brackets are not in the Hebrew but are needed in English.

-The numbers are merely line numbers in this translation so we can talk about the psalm more easily. They are not verse numbers.

My first direction to the children this time was just to go through the psalm and to put brackets by sets of lines that go together. This is usually two but sometimes three lines. Some instances were obvious enough for my six-year-old to get, for example the lines that begin “Your right hand . . . ” and “The LORD [is] . . .” (lines 14 and 15; 8 and 9). I had the older children also look for words that were repeated that they thought were significant (no marking “the” and “and”).

The first three lines posed somewhat of a problem for us as there is not a clear parallel structure, but I explained that they serve as a kind of introduction, setting the stage for what the psalmist is doing. Lines 4 and 5 make a nice parallel and have what we call a chiastic structure (after the Greek letter chi which looks like an X). That is, the first element in the first line is paralleled by the second element in the second line and vice-versa. Thus, “my strength and my song” corresponds to “my salvation” and “LORD” to “he.” There is a change between the lines in that the first is present tense and the second looks forward to future salvation.

Lines 6 through 15 all line up in pairs of parallels–6 and 7, 8 and 9, etc.

The next six lines, as I have them laid out here, really form two triplets–lines 16,17, and 18 and then lines 1,20, and 21. The parallel structure is not as blatant here but there is a lot more action.

Lines 22 and 23 could have been laid out as 6 lines (or 7 with the first just being “The enemy said”). I pointed out to the children how most of these are just one in Hebrew or maybe two. They are brief, staccato utterances that serve to paint the enemy as a rough, down to business (where the business is plundering) sort of fellow. We could translate: “The enemy said, ‘I pursue! I overtake! I plunder booty! I be filled! I draw sword! My hand dispossess!”

Lines 24 through 31 return to the pairs of parallel lines structure (24 and 25, 26 and 27, etc.). Line 27 uses not just one epithet of the LORD in line 26 but adds a couple more. It is as if the psalmist cannot restrain himself. The phrase “demander of praise” is not quite what I would like. The sense is not that God demands praise like a toddler demanding juice but that He, by His very nature, elicits praise from His creations.

Lines 28 and 29 are perhaps not the most obvious parallels but I pointed out how the exhibit another kind of parallel, an action and a reaction– “You stretched out your right hand” leads to “earth swallowed them.” My eight-year-old asked why the right hand is mentioned so often. We talked about how the right hand is the position of power. We still use this today when we say somebody is the boss’ “right-hand-man.” We also pointed out that Jesus, when risen and ascended, sat down at the right hand of God. The right hand here is the powerful one, it is the one you do things with (sorry, lefties).

Lines 32 through 39 describe the reaction of the peoples to this display of God’s power. I really like what ym eleven-year-old did with lines 34 through 37. He saw them as a unit of four in which the middle two, lines 35 and 36 parallel each other and are nested within lines 34 and 37 which also parallel each other. The outer set speaks of the “inhabitants of” some place while the inner two lines speak of the leaders or chiefs of a place.

The sets of two parallel lines continue until line 42. Then we get another triad–lines 42, 43, and 44. Finally line 45 stands alone as a fitting conclusion to the song: “The LORD will reign forever and ever.”

We only talked briefly about other aspects of the Psalm. My ten-year-old daughter observed that “LORD” occurs eleven times in this song. We discussed the fact that God’s personal name (which is what “LORD” here translates) has only recently been revealed to the Israelites. Furthermore, they are living among polytheistic peoples and it is important to them that their god is the powerful one who is able to work miracles for His people (see lines 26 and 27: “Who is like you among the gods, LORD?”).

We looked briefly at words that name or describe God in this psalm. “Loving-kindness” is mentioned but the majority of the words show God’s power and might. He is a warrior in this psalm, even a “man of war” in line 8 which seems like an odd way to describe God to us.

And that’s what I’ve got for Exodus 15. As always, if you have other observations, I’d love to hear them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s