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Exodus 15:4-13 meaning

In the second part of the song (verses 4 – 13), the singers proclaim why they needed to lift up praises to the LORD for His great deliverance.

The first reason the singers need to praise (in verses 4-5) is what the LORD did to defeat the Egyptians. Pharaoh's chariots and his army He has cast into the sea. The Hebrew word for "cast" (yarah) is often translated "to throw" or "to shoot." The picture is that the LORD grabbed Pharaoh's army and threw them into the Red Sea without any struggle. Even the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The best troops that Pharaoh had were no match for the LORD. Their demise is pictured as the deeps cover them. They could not swim to safety, for they went down into the depths like a stone. The LORD's victory was complete. His power cannot be matched.

The Egyptians ran straight into a pillar of fire that was the LORD without knowing it, and perished. It is interesting that a similar thing happens at the Battle of Armageddon when Christ takes hold of the Beast and the False Prophet and "throws" them directly into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

Verses 6 - 10 contain the next section of praise. Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. The "right hand" was a picture of the LORD's sovereign power over His creation. His power was "majestic," meaning that His power was superior to everything else. For Him to "shatter" (cause to crumble into pieces) the enemy was effortless.

Furthermore, the singers acknowledged to the LORD that in the greatness of Your excellence (or "by Your exalted majesty") You overthrow those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning anger, and it consumes them as chaff. The LORD's "burning anger" is associated with His judgment of sin (Exodus 3:12, Deuteronomy 13:17, 2 Chronicles 28:11, 13, Psalms 38:1, Jonah 3:9), and here His anger was directed at Pharaoh and the Egyptians. There is no power on earth that can prevail against His "excellence" or survive His "burning anger."

The singers then celebrated their deliverance by using an anthropomorphism (use of human characteristics to that which is not human) at the blast of Your nostrils. The word "blast" (Heb. ruah) can also be translated "breath" or "spirit." This is a picture of the parting of the Red Sea. The results of His exhaling through His nostrils was a picturesque way to describe the "east wind" (14:21). The result of this "blast" is described using three synonymous phrases:

  • The waters were piled up, meaning they were made to stand erect.
  • The flowing waters stood up like a heap. In other words, the waters of the Red Sea were collected into what looked like a mound of earth.
  • The deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea. The word for "the deeps" is found in the singular in Genesis 1:2 to describe that chaos that existed before the days of creation. Here, the LORD caused even the deep, normally uncontrollable, waters to stop flowing so a way could be made for Israel's escape.

Verses 9 and 10 poetically describe the pursuit of the Egyptians into the Red Sea and the LORD's causing it to cover them (14:23-28). Seeing the dry land through the sea, the enemy said six things - I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be gratified against them; I will draw out my sword, my hand will destroy them. Notice the repetition of the phrase "I will." It speaks of their intense resolve to capture the fleeing Israelites. Instead, the singers recounted back to the LORD - You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them. The word "wind" is the same as for "blast" in verse 8. But in verse 8, the wind caused the sea to be gathered up. Here, it caused the sea to fall upon the Egyptians. The result was that they sank like lead in the mighty waters. They did not float back to shore and survive. The LORD's victory was complete.

In light of the LORD's magnificent works, verses 11 - 13 declares that the LORD is incomparable. This is done in the form of questions. Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? The implied answer is "no one!" This statement of the incomparability of the LORD is seen in many places in Scripture to emphasize the fact that there is nothing that comes close to the sovereign power of the LORD (Deuteronomy 33:29, Psalms 35:10, 71:19, Isaiah 44:7). In another picture of the LORD's power, the singers state that You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them. The reference to the "earth" probably included the sea, but it might refer to the grave as well.

In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed. The word translated "lovingkindness" has been translated "loyal love" and "mercy," and it often has loyalty to the covenant in view. It is used for kindness and loyalty of a person to another person (2 Samuel 2:5, 9:7) and the LORD to His covenant people (Genesis 24:12, Deuteronomy 5:9f, Psalms 18:51, 32:10, 33:5, Jeremiah 9:24). The word "redeemed" refers to the LORD's work on behalf of His people to retrieve them from danger or some kind of difficulty. The human version can be seen in the book of Ruth, where Boaz was Ruth's redeemer (Ruth 4:14). The word also implies that the one who is redeemed belongs to the redeemer (1 Corinthians 6:20).

The last line in verse 13 reads In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation. It probably referred to the LORD leading His people to the Promised Land.


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