New English Translation
The Law of the Firstborn
3 Moses said to the people, “Remember[f] this day on which you came out from Egypt, from the place where you were enslaved,[g] for the Lord brought you out of there[h] with a mighty hand—and no bread made with yeast may be eaten.[i] 4 On this day,[j] in the month of Abib,[k] you are going out.[l]
5 “When[m] the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey,[n] then you will keep[o] this ceremony[p] in this month. 6 For seven days[q] you must eat[r] bread made without yeast, and on the seventh day there is to be[s] a festival to the Lord. 7 Bread made without yeast must be eaten[t] for seven days;[u] no bread made with yeast shall be seen[v] among you, and you must have no yeast among you within any of your borders.
8 “You are to tell your son[w] on that day,[x] ‘It is[y] because of what[z] the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 [aa] It[ab] will be a sign[ac] for you on your hand and a memorial[ad] on your forehead,[ae] so that the law of the Lord may be[af] in your mouth,[ag] for[ah] with a mighty hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 10 So you must keep[ai] this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.[aj]
11 “When the Lord brings you[ak] into the land of the Canaanites,[al] as he swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it[am] to you, 12 then you must give over[an] to the Lord the first offspring of every womb.[ao] Every firstling[ap] of a beast that you have[aq]—the males will be the Lord’s.[ar] 13 Every firstling[as] of a donkey you must redeem[at] with a lamb, and if you do not redeem it, then you must break its neck.[au] Every firstborn of[av] your sons you must redeem.
14 [aw] “In the future,[ax] when your son asks you[ay] ‘What is this?’[az] you are to tell him, ‘With a mighty hand[ba] the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the land of slavery.[bb] 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused[bc] to release us, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of people to the firstborn of animals.[bd] That is why I am sacrificing[be] to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb, but all my firstborn sons I redeem.’ 16 It will be for a sign on your hand and for frontlets[bf] on your forehead, for with a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”[bg]
The Leading of God
17 [bh] When Pharaoh released[bi] the people, God did not lead them[bj] by the way to the land[bk] of the Philistines,[bl] although[bm] that was nearby, for God said,[bn] “Lest[bo] the people change their minds[bp] and return to Egypt when they experience[bq] war.” 18 So God brought the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea,[br] and the Israelites went up from the land of Egypt prepared for battle.[bs]
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph[bt] had made the Israelites solemnly swear,[bu] “God will surely attend to[bv] you, and you will carry[bw] my bones up from this place with you.”
20 They journeyed from Sukkoth and camped in Etham, on the edge of the desert. 21 Now the Lord was going before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them in the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light,[bx] so that they could[by] travel day or night.[bz] 22 He did not remove the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night from before the people.[ca]
The Victory at the Red Sea
14 [cb] The Lord spoke to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites that they must turn and camp[cc] before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you are to camp by the sea before Baal Zephon opposite it.[cd] 3 Pharaoh will think[ce] regarding the Israelites, ‘They are wandering around confused[cf] in the land—the desert has closed in on them.’[cg] 4 I will harden[ch] Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them. I will gain honor[ci] because of Pharaoh and because of all his army, and the Egyptians will know[cj] that I am the Lord.” So this is what they did.[ck]
5 When it was reported[cl] to the king of Egypt that the people had fled,[cm] the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people, and the king and his servants said,[cn] “What in the world have we done?[co] For we have released the people of Israel[cp] from serving us!” 6 Then he prepared[cq] his chariots and took his army[cr] with him. 7 He took 600 select[cs] chariots, and all the rest of the chariots of Egypt,[ct] and officers[cu] on all of them.
8 But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he chased after the Israelites. Now the Israelites were going out defiantly.[cv] 9 The Egyptians chased after them, and all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh and his horsemen and his army overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon. 10 When[cw] Pharaoh got closer,[cx] the Israelites looked up,[cy] and there were the Egyptians marching after them,[cz] and they were terrified.[da] The Israelites cried out to the Lord,[db] 11 and they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the desert?[dc] What in the world[dd] have you done to us by bringing[de] us out of Egypt? 12 Isn’t this what we told you[df] in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians,[dg] because it is better for us to serve[dh] the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’”[di]
13 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear![dj] Stand firm[dk] and see[dl] the salvation[dm] of the Lord that he will provide[dn] for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today you will never, ever see again.[do] 14 The Lord[dp] will fight for you, and you can be still.”[dq]
15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.[dr] 16 And as for you,[ds] lift up your staff and extend your hand toward the sea and divide it, so that[dt] the Israelites may go through the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17 And as for me, I am going to harden[du] the hearts of the Egyptians so that[dv] they will come after them, that I may be honored[dw] because[dx] of Pharaoh and his army and his chariots and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians will know[dy] that I am the Lord when I have gained my honor[dz] because of Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
19 The angel of God, who was going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them, and the pillar[ea] of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. 20 It came between the Egyptian camp and the Israelite camp; it was a dark cloud[eb] and it lit up the night so that one camp did not come near the other[ec] the whole night.[ed] 21 Moses stretched out his hand toward the sea, and the Lord drove the sea apart[ee] by a strong east wind all that night, and he made the sea into dry land, and the water was divided. 22 So the Israelites went through the middle of the sea on dry ground, the water forming a wall[ef] for them on their right and on their left.
23 The Egyptians chased them and followed them into the middle of the sea—all the horses of Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 In the morning watch[eg] the Lord looked down[eh] on the Egyptian army[ei] through the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw the Egyptian army[ej] into a panic.[ek] 25 He jammed[el] the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving,[em] and the Egyptians said, “Let’s flee[en] from Israel, for the Lord fights[eo] for them against Egypt!”
26 The Lord said to Moses, “Extend your hand toward the sea, so that the waters may flow back[ep] on the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen!” 27 So Moses extended his hand toward the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state[eq] when the sun began to rise.[er] Now the Egyptians were fleeing[es] before it, but the Lord overthrew[et] the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. 28 The water returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen and all the army of Pharaoh that was coming after the Israelites into the sea[eu]—not so much as one of them survived![ev] 29 But the Israelites walked on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the water forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 30 So the Lord saved[ew] Israel on that day from the power[ex] of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead[ey] on the shore of the sea. 31 When Israel saw[ez] the great power[fa] that the Lord had exercised[fb] over the Egyptians, they[fc] feared the Lord, and they believed in[fd] the Lord and in his servant Moses.[fe]
The Song of Triumph
“I will sing[fi] to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously,[fj]
the horse and its rider[fk] he has thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord[fl] is my strength and my song,[fm]
and he has become my salvation.
This is my God, and I will praise him,[fn]
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a warrior[fo]—
the Lord is his name.[fp]
4 The chariots of Pharaoh[fq] and his army he has thrown into the sea,
and his chosen[fr] officers were drowned[fs] in the Red Sea.
5 The depths have covered them;[ft]
they went down to the bottom[fu] like a stone.
6 Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic[fv] in power;
your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
7 In the abundance of your majesty[fw] you have overthrown[fx]
those who rise up against you.[fy]
You sent forth[fz] your wrath;[ga]
it consumed them[gb] like stubble.
8 By the blast of your nostrils[gc] the waters were piled up,
the flowing water stood upright like a heap,[gd]
and the deep waters were solidified in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy said, ‘I will chase,[ge] I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil;
my desire[gf] will be satisfied on them.
I will draw[gg] my sword, my hand will destroy them.’[gh]
10 But[gi] you blew with your breath, and[gj] the sea covered them.
They sank[gk] like lead in the mighty waters.
11 Who is like you,[gl] O Lord, among the gods?[gm]
Who is like you—majestic in holiness, fearful in praises,[gn] working wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand,
the earth swallowed them.[go]
13 By your loyal love you will lead[gp] the people whom[gq] you have redeemed;
you will guide[gr] them by your strength to your holy dwelling place.
14 The nations will hear[gs] and tremble;
anguish[gt] will seize[gu] the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be terrified,[gv]
trembling will seize[gw] the leaders of Moab,
and the inhabitants of Canaan will shake.
16 Fear and dread[gx] will fall[gy] on them;
by the greatness[gz] of your arm they will be as still as stone[ha]
until[hb] your people pass by, O Lord,
until the people whom you have bought[hc] pass by.
17 You will bring them in[hd] and plant them in the mountain[he] of your inheritance,
in the place you made[hf] for your residence, O Lord,
the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever!
19 For the horses of Pharaoh came with his chariots and his footmen into the sea,
and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea on them,
but the Israelites walked on dry land in the middle of the sea.”
“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea.”[hi]
The Bitter Water
22 [hj] Then Moses led Israel to journey away[hk] from the Red Sea. They went out to the wilderness of Shur, walked for three days[hl] into the wilderness, and found no water. 23 Then they came to Marah,[hm] but they were not able to drink[hn] the waters of Marah, because[ho] they were bitter.[hp] (That is[hq] why its name was[hr] Marah.)
24 So the people murmured[hs] against Moses, saying, “What can[ht] we drink?” 25 He cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him[hu] a tree.[hv] When Moses[hw] threw it into the water, the water became safe to drink. There the Lord[hx] made for them[hy] a binding ordinance,[hz] and there he tested[ia] them. 26 He said, “If you will diligently obey[ib] the Lord your God, and do what is right[ic] in his sight, and pay attention[id] to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, then all[ie] the diseases[if] that I brought on the Egyptians I will not bring on you, for I, the Lord, am your healer.”[ig]
27 Then they came to Elim,[ih] where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there by the water.
- Exodus 13:1 sn This next section seems a little confusing at first glance: vv. 1 and 2 call for the dedication of the firstborn, then vv. 3-10 instruct concerning the ritual of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and then vv. 11-16 return to the firstborn. B. Jacob (Exodus, 360) explains that vv. 3-16 contain a sermon, in which Moses “began his speech by reminding the people of the events which had just occurred and how they would be recalled by them in the future,” and then he explained the rulings that went along with it. So the first two verses state the core of the sermon, a new command calling for the redeemed (firstborn) to be sanctified. The second portion stresses that God requires the redeemed to remember their redemption by purifying themselves (3-10). The third section (11-16) develops the theme of dedication to Yahweh. The point is that in view of God’s mighty redemption, the redeemed (represented by the firstborn) must be set apart for Yahweh’s service.
- Exodus 13:1 tn Heb “and Yahweh spoke.”
- Exodus 13:2 tn The verb “sanctify” is the Piel imperative of קָדַשׁ (qadash). In the Qal stem it means “be holy, be set apart, be distinct,” and in this stem “sanctify, set apart.” sn Here is the central principle of the chapter—the firstborn were sacred to God and must be “set apart” (the meaning of the verb “sanctify”) for his use.
- Exodus 13:2 tn The word פֶּטֶּר (petter) means “that which opens”; this construction literally says, “that which opens every womb,” which means “the first offspring of every womb.” Verses 12 and 15 further indicate male offspring.
- Exodus 13:2 tn Heb “to me it.” The preposition here expresses possession; the construction is simply “it [is, belongs] to me.”
- Exodus 13:3 tn The form is the infinitive absolute of זָכַר (zakhar, “remember”). The use of this form in place of the imperative (also found in the Decalogue with the Sabbath instruction) stresses the basic meaning of the root word, everything involved with remembering (emphatic imperative, according to GKC 346 §113.bb). The verb usually implies that there will be proper action based on what was remembered.sn There is a pattern in the arrangement of vv. 3-10 and 11-16. Both sections contain commands based on the mighty deliverance as reminders of the deliverance. “With a mighty hand” occurs in vv. 3, 9, 14, 16. An explanation to the son is found in vv. 8 and 14. The emphases “sign on your hand” and “between your eyes” are part of the conclusions to both halves (vv. 9, 16).
- Exodus 13:3 tn Heb “from a house of slaves.” “House” is obviously not meant to be literal; it indicates a location characterized by slavery, a land of slaves, as if they were in a slave house. Egypt is also called an “iron-smelting furnace” (Deut 4:20).
- Exodus 13:3 tn Heb “from this” [place].
- Exodus 13:3 tn The verb is a Niphal imperfect; it could be rendered “must not be eaten” in the nuance of the instruction or injunction category, but permission fits this sermonic presentation very well—nothing with yeast may be eaten.
- Exodus 13:4 tn The word הַיּוֹם (hayyom) means literally “the day, today, this day.” In this sentence it functions as an adverbial accusative explaining when the event took place.
- Exodus 13:4 sn Abib appears to be an old name for the month, meaning something like “[month of] fresh young ears” (Lev 2:14 [Heb]) (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 106). B. Jacob (Exodus, 364) explains that these names were not precise designations, but general seasons based on the lunar year in the agricultural setting.
- Exodus 13:4 tn The form is the active participle, functioning verbally.
- Exodus 13:5 tn Heb “and it will be when.”
- Exodus 13:5 tn See notes on Exod 3:8.
- Exodus 13:5 tn The verb is וְעָבַדְתָּ (veʿavadta), the Qal perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive. It is the equivalent of the imperfect tense of instruction or injunction; it forms the main point after the temporal clause—“when Yahweh brings you out…then you will serve.”
- Exodus 13:5 tn The object is a cognate accusative for emphasis on the meaning of the service—“you will serve this service.” W. C. Kaiser notes how this noun was translated “slavery” and “work” in the book, but “service” or “ceremony” for Yahweh. Israel was saved from slavery to Egypt into service for God as remembered by this ceremony (“Exodus,” EBC 2:383).
- Exodus 13:6 tn Heb “Seven days.”
- Exodus 13:6 tn The imperfect tense functions with the nuance of instruction or injunction. It could also be given an obligatory nuance: “you must eat” or “you are to eat.” Some versions have simply made it an imperative.
- Exodus 13:6 tn The phrase “there is to be” has been supplied.
- Exodus 13:7 tn The imperfect has the nuance of instruction or injunction again, but it could also be given an obligatory nuance.
- Exodus 13:7 tn The construction is an adverbial accusative of time, answering how long the routine should be followed (see GKC 374 §118.k).
- Exodus 13:7 tn Or “visible to you” (B. Jacob, Exodus, 366).
- Exodus 13:8 tn The form is the Hiphil perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive, carrying the sequence forward: “and you will declare to your son.”sn A very important part of the teaching here is the manner in which the memory of the deliverance will be retained in Israel—they were to teach their children the reasons for the feast, as a binding law forever. This will remind the nation of its duties to Yahweh in gratitude for the great deliverance.
- Exodus 13:8 tn Heb “day, saying.” “Tell…saying” is redundant, so “saying” has not been included in the translation here.
- Exodus 13:8 tn “it is” has been supplied.
- Exodus 13:8 tn The text uses זֶה (zeh), which Gesenius classifies as the use of the pronoun to introduce a relative clause after the preposition (GKC 447 §138.h)—but he thinks the form is corrupt. B. S. Childs, however, sees no reason to posit a corruption in this form (Exodus [OTL], 184).
- Exodus 13:9 sn This passage has, of course, been taken literally by many devout Jews, and portions of the text have been encased in phylacteries and bound on the arm and forehead. B. Jacob (Exodus, 368), weighing the pros and cons of the literal or the figurative meaning, says that those who took it literally should not be looked down on for their symbolic work. In many cases, he continues, it is the spirit that kills and the letter makes alive—because people who argue against a literal usage do so to excuse lack of action. This is a rather interesting twist in the discussion. The point of the teaching was obviously meant to keep the Law of Yahweh in the minds of the people, to remind them of their duties.
- Exodus 13:9 tn That is, this ceremony.
- Exodus 13:9 tn Heb “for a sign.”
- Exodus 13:9 tn Heb “for a memorial.”
- Exodus 13:9 tn Heb “between your eyes” (KJV and ASV both similar); the same expression occurs in v. 16.sn That these festivals and consecrations were to be signs and memorials is akin to the expressions used in the book of Proverbs (Prov 3:3, “bind them around your neck…write them on your heart”). The people were to use the festivals as outward and visible tokens to remind them to obey what the Law required.
- Exodus 13:9 tn The purpose of using this ceremony as a sign and a memorial is that the Law might be in their mouth. The imperfect tense, then, receives the classification of final imperfect in the purpose clause.
- Exodus 13:9 sn “Mouth” is a metonymy of cause; the point is that they should be ever talking about the Law as their guide as they go about their duties (see Deut 6:7; 11:19; Josh 1:8).
- Exodus 13:9 tn This causal clause gives the reason for what has just been instructed. Because Yahweh delivered them from bondage, he has the strongest claims on their life.
- Exodus 13:10 tn The form is a perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive, functioning as the equivalent of an imperfect of instruction or injunction.
- Exodus 13:10 tn Or “every year,” or “year after year.”
- Exodus 13:11 tn Heb “and it will be when Yahweh brings (will bring) you.”
- Exodus 13:11 sn The name “the Canaanite” (and so collective for “Canaanites”) is occasionally used to summarize all the list of Canaanitish tribes that lived in the land.
- Exodus 13:11 tn The verb וּנְתָנָהּ (unetanah) is the Qal perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive; this is in sequence to the preceding verb, and forms part of the protasis, the temporal clause. The main clause is the instruction in the next verse.
- Exodus 13:12 tn The unusual choice of words in this passage reflects the connection with the deliverance of the firstborn in the exodus when the Lord passed over the Israelites (12:12, 23). Here the Law said, “you will cause to pass over (וְהַעֲבַרְתָּ, vehaʿavarta) to Yahweh.” The Hiphil perfect with the vav (ו) provides the main clause after the temporal clauses. Yahweh here claimed the firstborn as his own. The remarkable thing about this is that Yahweh did not keep the firstborn that was dedicated to him, but allowed the child to be redeemed by his father. It was an acknowledgment that the life of the child belonged to God as the one redeemed from death, and that the child represented the family. Thus, the observance referred to the dedication of all the redeemed to God.sn It was once assumed by some scholars that child sacrifice lay behind this text in the earlier days, but that the priests and prophets removed those themes. Apart from the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for anything like that, the Law forbade child sacrifice, and always used child sacrifice as the sample of what not to do in conformity with the pagans (e.g., Deut 12:31). Besides, how absurd would it be for Yahweh to redeem the firstborn from death and then ask Israel to kill them. See further B. Jacob, Exodus, 371.
- Exodus 13:12 tn Heb “every opener of a womb,” that is, the firstborn from every womb.
- Exodus 13:12 tn The descriptive noun שֶׁגֶר (sheger) is related to the verb “drop, cast”; it refers to a newly born animal that is dropped or cast from the womb. The expression then reads, “and all that first open [the womb], the casting of a beast.”
- Exodus 13:12 tn Heb “that is to you.” The preposition expresses possession.
- Exodus 13:12 tn The Hebrew text simply has “the males to Yahweh.” It indicates that the Lord must have them, or they belong to the Lord.
- Exodus 13:13 tn Heb “and every opener [of a womb].”
- Exodus 13:13 tn The verb תִּפְדֶּה (tifdeh), the instructional imperfect, refers to the idea of redemption by paying a cost. This word is used regularly of redeeming a person, or an animal, from death or servitude (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 109).
- Exodus 13:13 tn The conditional clause uses an imperfect tense; this is followed by a perfect tense with the vav consecutive providing the obligation or instruction. The owner might not redeem the donkey, but if he did not, he could not keep it, he had to kill it by breaking its neck (so either a lamb for it, or the donkey itself). The donkey could not be killed by shedding blood because that would make it a sacrifice, and that was not possible with this kind of animal. See G. Brin, “The Firstling of Unclean Animals,” JQR 68 (1977): 1-15.
- Exodus 13:13 tn Heb “and every firstborn of man among your sons.” The addition of “man” is clearly meant to distinguish firstborn humans from animals.sn One was to sacrifice the firstborn animals to Yahweh, but the children were to be redeemed by their fathers. The redemption price was five shekels (Num 18:15-16).
- Exodus 13:14 sn As with v. 8, the Law now requires that the children be instructed on the meaning of this observance. It is a memorial of the deliverance from bondage and the killing of the firstborn in Egypt.
- Exodus 13:14 tn Heb “tomorrow.”
- Exodus 13:14 tn Heb “and it will be when your son will ask you.”
- Exodus 13:14 tn The question is cryptic; it simply says, “What is this?” but certainly refers to the custom just mentioned. It asks, “What does this mean?” or “Why do we do this?”
- Exodus 13:14 tn The expression is “with strength of hand,” making “hand” the genitive of specification. In translation “strength” becomes the modifier, because “hand” specifies where the strength was. But of course the whole expression is anthropomorphic for the power of God.
- Exodus 13:14 tn Heb “house of slaves.”
- Exodus 13:15 tn Heb “dealt hardly in letting us go” or “made it hard to let us go” (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 110). The verb is the simple Hiphil perfect הִקְשָׁה (hiqshah, “he made hard”); the infinitive construct לְשַׁלְּחֵנוּ (leshallekhenu, “to release us”) could be taken epexegetically, meaning “he made releasing us hard.” But the infinitive more likely gives the purpose or the result after the verb “hardened himself.” The verb is figurative for “be stubborn” or “stubbornly refuse.”
- Exodus 13:15 tn The text uses “man” and “beast.”
- Exodus 13:15 tn The form is the active participle.
- Exodus 13:16 tn The word is טוֹטָפֹת (totafot, “frontlets”). The etymology is uncertain, but the word denotes a sign or an object placed on the forehead (see m. Shabbat 6:1). The Gemara interprets it as a band that goes from ear to ear. In the Targum to 2 Sam 1:10 it is an armlet worn by Saul (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 110). These bands may have resembled the Egyptian practice of wearing as amulets “forms of words written on folds of papyrus tightly rolled up and sewn in linen” (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:384).
- Exodus 13:16 sn The pattern of the passage now emerges more clearly; it concerns the grateful debt of the redeemed. In the first part eating the unleavened bread recalls the night of deliverance in Egypt, and it calls for purity. In the second part the dedication of the firstborn was an acknowledgment of the deliverance of the firstborn from bondage. They were to remember the deliverance and choose purity; they were to remember the deliverance and choose dedication. The NT will also say, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price, therefore, glorify God” (1 Cor 6:20). Here too the truths of God’s great redemption must be learned well and retained well from generation to generation.
- Exodus 13:17 sn This short section (vv. 17-22) marks the beginning of the journey of the Israelites toward the sea and Sinai. The emphasis here is on the leading of Yahweh—but this leading is manifested in a unique, supernatural way—unlikely to be repeated with these phenomena. Although a primary application of such a passage would be difficult, the general principle is clear: God, by his clear revelation, leads his people to the fulfillment of the promise. This section has three short parts: the leading to the sea (17-18), the bones of Joseph (19), and the leading by the cloud and pillar (20-22).
- Exodus 13:17 tn The construction for this temporal clause is the temporal indicator with the vav (ו) consecutive, the Piel infinitive construct with a preposition, and then the subjective genitive “Pharaoh.”
- Exodus 13:17 sn The verb נָחָה (nakhah, “to lead”) is a fairly common word in the Bible for God’s leading of his people (as in Ps 23:3 for leading in the paths of righteousness). This passage illustrates what others affirm, that God leads his people in a way that is for their own good. There were shorter routes to take, but the people were not ready for them.
- Exodus 13:17 tn The word “way” is an adverbial accusative, providing the location for the verb “lead”; it is in construct so that “land of the Philistines” is a genitive of either indirect object (“to the land”) or location (“in” or “through” the land).
- Exodus 13:17 sn The term Philistines has been viewed by modern scholarship as an anachronism, since the Philistines were not believed to have settled in the region until the reign of Rameses III (in which case the term would not fit either the early or the late view of the exodus). But the OT clearly refers to Philistines in the days of the patriarchs. The people there in the earlier period may have been Semites, judging from their names, or they may have been migrants from Crete in the early time. The Philistines after the exodus were of Greek origin. The danger of warfare at this time was clearly with Canaanitish tribes. For further details, see K. A. Kitchen, “The Philistines,” Peoples of Old Testament Times, 53-54; J. M. Grintz, “The Immigration of the First Philistines in the Inscriptions,” Tarbiz 17 (1945): 32-42, and Tarbiz 19 (1947): 64; and E. Hindson, The Philistines and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), 39-59.
- Exodus 13:17 tn The particle כִּי (ki) introduces a concessive clause here (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 73, §448).
- Exodus 13:17 tn Or “thought.”
- Exodus 13:17 tn Before a clause this conjunction פֶּן (pen) expresses fear or precaution (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 75-76, §461). It may be translated “lest, else,” or “what if.”
- Exodus 13:17 tn יִנָּחֵם (yinnakhem) is the Niphal imperfect of נָחַם (nakham); it would normally be translated “repent” or “relent.” This nontheological usage gives a good illustration of the basic meaning of having a change of mind or having regrets.
- Exodus 13:17 tn Heb “see.”
- Exodus 13:18 tn The Hebrew term יַם־סוּף (Yam Suf) is understood as an adverbial accusative “to, toward” (NASB, NIV, ESV) or “by” (ASV) the Red Sea. To translate as a genitive, “wilderness of the Red Sea” (KJV, Young’s) requires emending מִדְבָּר (midbar, “wilderness”) to the construct form מִדְבַּר (midbar, “wilderness of”).sn The translation of this name as “Red Sea” comes from the sea’s Greek name in the LXX and elsewhere. The Red Sea on today’s maps is farther south, below the Sinai Peninsula. But the title Red Sea in ancient times may very well have covered both the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba (see Deut 1:1; 1 Kgs 9:26). The name “Sea of Reeds” in various English versions (usually in the form of a marginal note) and commentaries reflects the meaning of the Hebrew word סוּף (suf) a word for reedy water plants (Exod 2:3, 5; Isa 19:6; Jonah 2:6 [Eng. v. 5]) that may have a connection with an Egyptian word used for papyrus and other marsh plants. On this basis some have taken the term Yam Suf as perhaps referring to Lake Menzaleh or Lake Ballah, which have abundant reeds, north of the extension of the Red Sea on the western side of Sinai. Whatever exact body of water is meant, it was not merely a marshy swamp that the people waded through, but a body of water large enough to make passage impossible without divine intervention, and deep enough to drown the Egyptian army. Lake Menzaleh has always been deep enough to preclude passage on foot (E. H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, 66). Among the many sources dealing with the geography, see B. F. Batto, “The Reed Sea: Requiescat in Pace,” JBL 102 (1983): 27-35; M. Waxman, “I Miss the Red Sea,” Conservative Judaism 18 (1963): 35-44; G. Coats, “The Sea Tradition in the Wilderness Theme: A Review,” JSOT 12 (1979): 2-8; and K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 261-63.
- Exodus 13:18 tn The term חֲמֻשִׁים (khamushim) is placed first for emphasis; it forms a circumstantial clause, explaining how they went up. Unfortunately, it is a rare word with uncertain meaning. Most translations have something to do with “in battle array” or “prepared to fight” if need be (cf. Josh 1:14; 4:12). The Targum took it as “armed with weapons.” The LXX had “in the fifth generation.” Some have opted for “in five divisions.”
- Exodus 13:19 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 13:19 tn Heb “solemnly swear, saying” (so NASB). The construction uses the Hiphil infinitive absolute with the Hiphil perfect to stress that Joseph had made them take a solemn oath to carry his bones out of Egypt. “Saying” introduces the content of what Joseph said.
- Exodus 13:19 sn This verb appears also in 3:16 and 4:31. The repetition here is a reminder that God was doing what he had said he would do and what Joseph had expected.
- Exodus 13:19 tn The form is a Hiphil perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive; it follows in the sequence of the imperfect tense before it, and so is equal to an imperfect of injunction (because of the solemn oath). Israel took Joseph’s bones with them as a sign of piety toward the past and as a symbol of their previous bond with Canaan (B. Jacob, Exodus, 380).
- Exodus 13:21 sn God chose to guide the people with a pillar of cloud in the day and one of fire at night, or, as a pillar of cloud and fire, since they represented his presence. God had already appeared to Moses in the fire of the bush, and so here again is revelation with fire. Whatever the exact nature of these things, they formed direct, visible revelations from God, who was guiding the people in a clear and unambiguous way. Both clouds and fire would again and again represent the presence of God in his power and majesty, guiding and protecting his people, by judging their enemies.
- Exodus 13:21 tn The infinitive construct here indicates the result of these manifestations—“so that they went” or “could go.”
- Exodus 13:21 tn These are adverbial accusatives of time.
- Exodus 13:22 sn See T. W. Mann, “The Pillar of Cloud in the Reed Sea Narrative,” JBL 90 (1971): 15-30.
- Exodus 14:1 sn The account recorded in this chapter is one of the best known events in all of Scripture. In the argument of the book it marks the division between the bondage in Egypt and the establishment of the people as a nation. Here is the deliverance from Egypt. The chapter divides simply in two, vv. 1-14 giving the instructions, and vv. 15-31 reporting the victory. See among others, G. Coats, “History and Theology in the Sea Tradition,” ST 29 (1975): 53-62); A. J. Ehlen, “Deliverance at the Sea: Diversity and Unity in a Biblical Theme,” CTM 44 (1973): 168-91; J. B. Scott, “God’s Saving Acts,” The Presbyterian Journal 38 (1979): 12-14; W. Wifall, “The Sea of Reeds as Sheol,” ZAW 92 (1980): 325-32.
- Exodus 14:2 tn The two imperfects follow the imperative and therefore express purpose. The point in the verses is that Yahweh was giving the orders for the direction of the march and the encampment by the sea.
- Exodus 14:2 sn The places have been tentatively identified. W. C. Kaiser summarizes the suggestions that Pi Hahiroth, as an Egyptian word, may mean “temple of the [Syrian god] Hrt” or “The Hir waters of the canal” or “The Dwelling of Hator” (“Exodus,” EBC 2:387; see the literature on these names, including C. DeWit, The Date and Route of the Exodus, 17).
- Exodus 14:3 tn Heb “and Pharaoh will say.”
- Exodus 14:3 sn The word translated “wandering around confused” indicates that Pharaoh thought the Israelites would be so perplexed and confused that they would not know which way to turn in order to escape—and they would never dream of crossing the sea (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 115).
- Exodus 14:3 tn The expression has also been translated “the desert has shut [the way] for them,” and more freely “[the Israelites are] hemmed in by the desert.”
- Exodus 14:4 tn In this place the verb חָזַק (hazaq) is used; it indicates that God would make Pharaoh’s will strong or firm.
- Exodus 14:4 tn The form is וְאִכָּבְדָה (veʾikkavedah), the Niphal cohortative. Coming after the perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutives expressing the future, this cohortative indicates the purpose of the hardening and chasing. Yahweh intended to gain glory by this final and great victory over the strength of Pharaoh. There is irony in this expression since a different form of the word was used frequently to describe Pharaoh’s hard heart. So judgment will not only destroy the wicked—it will reveal the glory and majesty of the sovereignty of God.
- Exodus 14:4 tn This is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive. But it announces the fulfillment of a long standing purpose—that they might know.
- Exodus 14:4 tn Heb “and they did so.”
- Exodus 14:5 tn Heb “and it was told.” The present translation uses “reported,” since this involves information given to a superior.
- Exodus 14:5 tn The verb must be given a past perfect translation because the fleeing occurred before the telling.
- Exodus 14:5 tn Heb “and they said.” The referent (the king and his servants) is supplied for clarity.
- Exodus 14:5 tn The question literally is “What is this we have done?” The demonstrative pronoun is used as an enclitic particle for emphasis (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118).
- Exodus 14:5 tn Heb “released Israel.” By metonymy the name of the nation is used collectively for the people who constitute it (the Israelites).
- Exodus 14:6 tn Heb “bound.”
- Exodus 14:6 tn Heb “his people.”
- Exodus 14:7 tn The passive participle of the verb “to choose” means that these were “choice” or superb chariots.
- Exodus 14:7 tn Heb “every chariot of Egypt.” After the mention of the best chariots, the meaning of this description is “all the other chariots.”
- Exodus 14:7 tn The word שָׁלִשִׁם (shalishim) means “officers” or some special kind of military personnel. At one time it was taken to mean a “three man chariot,” but the pictures of Egyptian chariots only show two in a chariot. It may mean officers near the king, “men of the third rank” (B. Jacob, Exodus, 394). So the chariots and the crew represented the elite. See the old view by A. E. Cowley that linked it to a Hittite word (“A Hittite Word in Hebrew,” JTS 21 : 326), and the more recent work by P. C. Craigie connecting it to Egyptian “commander” (“An Egyptian Expression in the Song of the Sea: Exodus XV.4, ” VT 20 : 85).
- Exodus 14:8 tn Heb “with a high hand”; the expression means “defiantly,” “boldly,” or “with confidence.” The phrase is usually used for arrogant sin and pride, the defiant fist, as it were. The image of the high hand can also mean the hand raised to deliver a blow (Job 38:15). So the narrative here builds tension between these two resolute forces.
- Exodus 14:10 tn The disjunctive vav introduces a circumstantial clause here.
- Exodus 14:10 tn Heb “drew near.”
- Exodus 14:10 tn Heb “lifted up their eyes,” an expression that indicates an intentional and careful looking—they looked up and fixed their sights on the distance.
- Exodus 14:10 tn The construction uses הִנֵּה (hinneh) with the participle, traditionally rendered “and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them.” The deictic particle calls attention in a dramatic way to what was being seen. It captures the surprise and the sudden realization of the people.
- Exodus 14:10 tn The verb “feared” is intensified by the adverb מְאֹד (meʾod): “they feared greatly” or “were terrified.” In one look their defiant boldness seems to have evaporated.
- Exodus 14:10 sn Their cry to the Lord was proper and necessary. But their words to Moses were a rebuke and disloyal, showing a lack of faith and understanding. Their arrogance failed them in the crisis because it was built on the arm of flesh. Moses would have to get used to this murmuring, but here he takes it in stride and gives them the proper instructions. They had cried to the Lord, and now the Lord would deliver.
- Exodus 14:11 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 396-97) notes how the speech is overly dramatic and came from a people given to using such exaggerations (Num 16:14), even using a double negative. The challenge to Moses brings a double irony. To die in the desert would be without proper burial, but in Egypt there were graves—it was a land of tombs and graves! Gesenius notes that two negatives in the sentence do not nullify each other but make the sentence all the more emphatic: “Is it because there were no graves…?” (GKC 483 §152.y).
- Exodus 14:11 tn The demonstrative pronoun has the enclitic use again, giving a special emphasis to the question (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118).
- Exodus 14:11 tn The Hebrew term לְהוֹצִּיאָנוּ (lehotsiʾanu) is the Hiphil infinitive construct with a suffix, “to bring us out.” It is used epexegetically here, explaining the previous question.
- Exodus 14:12 tn Heb “Is not this the word that we spoke to you.”
- Exodus 14:12 sn U. Cassuto (Exodus, 164) explains this statement by the people as follows: “The question appears surprising at first, for we have not read previously that such words were spoken to Moses. Nor is the purport of the protest of the Israelite foremen (v 21 [5:21]) identical with that of the words uttered now. However, from a psychological standpoint the matter can be easily explained. In the hour of peril the children of Israel remember that remonstrance, and now it seems to them that it was of a sharper character and flowed from their foresight, and that the present situation justifies it, for death awaits them at this moment in the desert.” This declaration that “we told you so,” born of fright, need not have been strictly accurate or logical.
- Exodus 14:12 tn Heb “better for us to serve.”
- Exodus 14:12 tn Since Hebrew does not use quotation marks to indicate the boundaries of quotations, there is uncertainty about whether the Israelites’ statement in Egypt includes the end of v. 12 or consists solely of “leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians.” In either case, the command to Moses to leave them alone rested on the assumption, spoken or unspoken, that serving Egypt would be less risky than what Moses was proposing. Now with the Egyptian army on the horizon, the Israelites are sure that their worst predictions are about to take place.
- Exodus 14:13 tn The use of אַל (ʾal) with the jussive has the force of “stop fearing.” It is a more immediate negative command than לֹא (loʾ) with the imperfect (as in the Decalogue).
- Exodus 14:13 tn The force of this verb in the Hitpael is “to station oneself” or “stand firm” without fleeing.
- Exodus 14:13 tn The form is an imperative with a vav (ו). It could also be rendered “stand firm and you will see” meaning the result, or “stand firm that you may see” meaning the purpose.
- Exodus 14:13 tn Or “victory” (NAB) or “deliverance” (NIV, NRSV).
- Exodus 14:13 tn Heb “do,” i.e., perform or accomplish.
- Exodus 14:13 tn The construction uses a verbal hendiadys consisting of a Hiphil imperfect (“you will not add”) and a Qal infinitive construct with a suffix (“to see them”)—“you will no longer see them.” Then the clause adds “again, for ever.”sn U. Cassuto (Exodus, 164) notes that the antithetical parallelism between seeing salvation and seeing the Egyptians, as well as the threefold repetition of the word “see” cannot be accidental; so too the alliteration of the last three words beginning with ʿayin (ע).
- Exodus 14:14 tn The word order places emphasis on “the Lord” (Heb “Yahweh”).
- Exodus 14:14 tn The imperfect tense needs to be interpreted in contrast to all that Yahweh will be doing. It may be given a potential imperfect nuance (as here), or it may be obligatory to follow the command to stand firm: “you must be still.”
- Exodus 14:15 tn The text literally says, “speak to the Israelites that they may journey.” The intent of the line, using the imperative with the subordinate jussive or imperfect expressing purpose is that the speaking is the command to move.
- Exodus 14:16 tn The conjunction plus pronoun (“and you”) is emphatic—“and as for you”—before the imperative “lift up.” In contrast, v. 17 begins with “and as for me, I….”
- Exodus 14:16 tn The imperfect (or jussive) with the vav (ו) is sequential, coming after the series of imperatives instructing Moses to divide the sea; the form then gives the purpose (or result) of the activity—“that they may go.”
- Exodus 14:17 tn הִנְנִי (hineni) before the participle gives it the force of a futur instans participle, meaning “I am about to harden” or “I am going to harden” their heart.
- Exodus 14:17 tn The form again is the imperfect tense with vav (ו) to express the purpose or the result of the hardening. The repetition of the verb translated “come” is interesting: Moses is to divide the sea in order that the people may cross, but God will harden the Egyptians’ hearts in order that they may follow.
- Exodus 14:17 tn For the comments on this verb see the discussion in v. 4. God would get glory by defeating Egypt.
- Exodus 14:17 tn Or “I will get glory over.”
- Exodus 14:18 tn The construction is unusual in that it says, “And Egypt will know.” The verb is plural, and so “Egypt” must mean “the Egyptians.” The verb is the perfect tense with the vav consecutive, showing that this recognition or acknowledgment by Egypt will be the result or purpose of the defeat of them by God.
- Exodus 14:18 tn The form is בְּהִכָּבְדִי (behikkavedi), the Niphal infinitive construct with a preposition and a suffix. For the suffix on a Niphal, see GKC 162-63 §61.c. The word forms a temporal clause in the line.
- Exodus 14:19 sn B. Jacob (Exodus, 400-401) makes a good case that there may have been only one pillar, one cloud; it would have been a dark cloud behind it, but in front of it, shining the way, a pillar of fire. He compares the manifestation on Sinai, when the mountain was on fire but veiled by a dark cloud (Deut 4:11; 5:22). See also Exod 13:21; Num 14:14; Deut 1:33; Neh 9:12, 19; Josh 24:7; Pss 78:14; 105:39.
- Exodus 14:20 tn The two nouns “cloud” and “darkness” form a nominal hendiadys: “and it was the cloud and the darkness” means “and it was the dark cloud.” Perhaps this is what the Egyptians saw, preventing them from observing Moses and the Israelites.
- Exodus 14:20 tn Heb “this to this”; for the use of the pronouns in this reciprocal sense of “the one to the other,” see GKC 448 §139.e, n. 3.
- Exodus 14:20 tc The LXX reads very differently at the end of this verse: “and there was darkness and blackness and the night passed.” B. S. Childs (Exodus [OTL], 218) summarizes three proposals: (1) One takes the MT as it stands and explains it along the lines of the Targum and Jewish exegesis, that there was one cloud that was dark to one group and light to the other. (2) Another tries to reconstruct a verb from the noun “darkness” or make some use of the Greek verb. (3) A third seeks a different meaning for the verb “lit,” “gave light” by comparative philology, but no consensus has been reached. Given that there is no easy solution apart from reconstructing the text, and given that the MT can be interpreted as it is, the present translation follows the MT.
- Exodus 14:21 tn Or “drove the sea back” (NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV). The verb is simply the Hiphil of הָלַךְ (halakh, “to walk, go”). The context requires that it be interpreted along the lines of “go back, go apart.”
- Exodus 14:22 tn The clause literally reads, “and the waters [were] for them a wall.” The word order in Hebrew is disjunctive, with the vav (ו) on the noun introducing a circumstantial clause.sn S. R. Driver (Exodus, 119), still trying to explain things with natural explanations, suggests that a northeast wind is to be thought of (an east wind would be directly in their face he says), such as a shallow ford might cooperate with an ebb tide in keeping a passage clear. He then quotes Dillmann about the “wall” of water: “A very summary poetical and hyperbolical (xv. 8) description of the occurrence, which at most can be pictured as the drying up of a shallow ford, on both sides of which the basin of the sea was much deeper, and remained filled with water.” There is no way to “water down” the text to fit natural explanations; the report clearly shows a miraculous work of God making a path through the sea—a path that had to be as wide as half a mile in order for the many people and their animals to cross between about 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:389). The text does not say that they actually only started across in the morning watch, however.
- Exodus 14:24 tn The night was divided into three watches of about four hours each, making the morning watch about 2:00-6:00 a.m. The text has this as “the watch of the morning,” the genitive qualifying which of the night watches was meant.
- Exodus 14:24 tn This particular verb, שָׁקַף (shaqaf), is a bold anthropomorphism: Yahweh looked down. But its usage is always with some demonstration of mercy or wrath. S. R. Driver (Exodus, 120) suggests that the look might be with fiery flashes to startle the Egyptians, throwing them into a panic. Ps 77:17-19 pictures torrents of rain with lightning and thunder.
- Exodus 14:24 tn Heb “camp.” The same Hebrew word is used in Exod 14:20. Unlike the English word “camp,” it can be used of a body of people at rest (encamped) or on the move.
- Exodus 14:24 tn Heb “camp.”
- Exodus 14:24 tn The verb הָמַם (hamam) means “throw into confusion.” It is used in the Bible for the panic and disarray of an army before a superior force (Josh 10:10; Judg 4:15).
- Exodus 14:25 tn The word in the text is וַיָּסַר (vayyasar), which would be translated “and he turned aside” with the sense perhaps of removing the wheels. The reading in the LXX, Smr, and Syriac suggests a root אָסַר (ʾasar, “to bind”). The sense here might be “clogged—presumably by their sinking in the wet sand” (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 120).
- Exodus 14:25 tn The clause is וַיְנַהֲגֵהוּ בִּכְבֵדֻת (vayenahagehu bikhevedut). The verb means “to drive a chariot”; here in the Piel it means “cause to drive.” The suffix is collective, and so the verbal form can be translated “and caused them to drive.” The idea of the next word is “heaviness” or “hardship”; it recalls the previous uses of related words to describe Pharaoh’s heart. Here it indicates that the driving of the crippled chariots was with difficulty.
- Exodus 14:25 tn The cohortative has the hortatory use here, “Let’s flee.” Although the form is singular, the sense of it is plural and so hortatory can be used. The form is singular to agree with the singular subject, “Egypt,” which obviously means the Egyptian army. The word for “flee” is used when someone runs from fear of imminent danger and is a different word than the one used in 14:5.
- Exodus 14:25 tn The form is the Niphal participle; it is used as the predicate here, that is, the verbal use: “the Lord is fighting.” This corresponds to the announcement in v. 14.
- Exodus 14:26 tn The verb, “and they will return,” is here subordinated to the imperative preceding it, showing the purpose of that act.
- Exodus 14:27 tn The Hebrew term לְאֵיתָנוֹ (leʾetano) means “to its place,” or better, “to its perennial state.” The point is that the sea here had a normal level, and now when the Egyptians were in the sea on the dry ground the water would return to that level.
- Exodus 14:27 tn Heb “at the turning of the morning”; NASB, NIV, TEV, CEV “at daybreak.”
- Exodus 14:27 tn The clause begins with the disjunctive vav (ו) on the noun, signaling either a circumstantial clause or a new beginning. It could be rendered, “Although the Egyptians…Yahweh…” or “as the Egyptians….”
- Exodus 14:27 tn The verb means “shake out” or “shaking off.” It has the significance of “throw downward.” See Neh 5:13 or Job 38:13.
- Exodus 14:28 tn Heb “that was coming after them into the sea.” The referent of “them” (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 14:28 tn Heb “not was left among them as much as one.”
- Exodus 14:30 tn The Hebrew term וַיּוֹשַׁע (vayyoshaʿ) is the key summation of the chapter, and this part of the book: “So Yahweh saved Israel.” This is the culmination of all the powerful works of God through these chapters.
- Exodus 14:30 tn Heb “the hand,” with “hand” being a metonymy for power.
- Exodus 14:30 tn The participle “dead” is singular, agreeing in form with “Egypt.”
- Exodus 14:31 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive introduces a clause that is subordinate to the main points that the verse is making.
- Exodus 14:31 tn Heb “the great hand,” with “hand” being a metonymy for work or power. The word play using “hand” contrasts the Lord’s hand/power at work on behalf of the Israelites with the hand/power of Egypt that would have killed them.
- Exodus 14:31 tn Heb “did, made.”
- Exodus 14:31 tn Heb “and the people feared.”
- Exodus 14:31 tn The verb is the Hiphil preterite of אָמַן (ʾaman). sn S. R. Driver says that the belief intended here is not simply a crediting of a testimony concerning a person or a thing, but a laying firm hold morally on a person or a thing (Exodus, 122). Others take the Hiphil sense to be declarative, and that would indicate a considering of the object of faith trustworthy or dependable, and therefore to be acted on. In this passage it does not mean that here they came to faith, but that they became convinced that he would save them in the future.
- Exodus 14:31 sn Here the title of “servant” is given to Moses. This is the highest title a mortal can have in the OT—the “servant of Yahweh.” It signifies more than a believer; it describes the individual as acting on behalf of God. For example, when Moses stretched out his hand, God used it as his own (Isa 63:12). Moses was God’s personal representative. The chapter records both a message of salvation and of judgment. Like the earlier account of deliverance at the Passover, this chapter can be a lesson on deliverance from present troubles—if God could do this for Israel, there is no trouble too great for him to overcome. The passage can also be understood as a picture (at least) of the deliverance at the final judgment on the world. But the Israelites used this account for a paradigm of the power of God: namely, God is able to deliver his people from danger because he is the sovereign Lord of creation. His people must learn to trust him, even in desperate situations; they must fear him and not the situation. God can bring any threat to an end by bringing his power to bear in judgment on the wicked.
- Exodus 15:1 sn This chapter is a song of praise sung by Moses and the people right after the deliverance from the Sea. The song itself is vv. 1b-18; it falls into three sections—praise to God (1b-3), the cause for the praise (4-13), and the conclusion (14-18). The point of the first section is that God’s saving acts inspire praise from his people; the second is that God’s powerful acts deliver his people from the forces of evil; and the third section is that God’s demonstrations of his sovereignty inspire confidence in him by his people. So the Victory Song is very much like the other declarative praise psalms—the resolve to praise, the power of God, the victory over the enemies, the incomparability of God in his redemption, and the fear of the people. See also C. Cohen, “Studies in Early Israelite Poetry I: An Unrecognized Case of Three Line Staircase Parallelism in the Song of the Sea,” JANESCU 7 (1975): 13-17; D. N. Freedman, “Strophe and Meter in Exodus 15, ” A Light unto My Path, 163-203; E. Levine, “Neofiti I: A Study of Exodus 15, ” Bib 54 (1973): 301-30; T. C. Butler, “‘The Song of the Sea’: Exodus 15:1-18: A Study in the Exegesis of Hebrew Poetry,” DissAb 32 (1971): 2782-A.
- Exodus 15:1 tn The verb is יָשִׁיר (yashir), a normal imperfect tense form. But after the adverb “then” this form is to be treated as a preterite (see GKC 314-15 §107.c).
- Exodus 15:1 tn Heb “and they said, saying.” This has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons.
- Exodus 15:1 tn The form is the singular cohortative, expressing the resolution of Moses to sing the song of praise (“I will” being stronger than “I shall”).
- Exodus 15:1 tn This causal clause gives the reason for and summary of the praise. The Hebrew expression has כִּי־גָּאֹה גָּאָה (ki gaʾoh gaʾah). The basic idea of the verb is “rise up loftily” or “proudly.” But derivatives of the root carry the nuance of majesty or pride (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 132). So the idea of the perfect tense with its infinitive absolute may mean “he is highly exalted” or “he has done majestically” or “he is gloriously glorious.”
- Exodus 15:1 sn The common understanding is that Egypt did not have people riding horses at this time, and so the phrase the horse and its rider is either viewed as an anachronism or is interpreted to mean charioteers. The word “to ride” can mean on a horse or in a chariot. Some have suggested changing “rider” to “chariot” (re-vocalization) to read “the horse and its chariot.”
- Exodus 15:2 tn Heb “Yah.” Moses’ poem here uses a short form of the name Yahweh, traditionally rendered in English by “the LORD.”
- Exodus 15:2 tn The word וְזִמְרָת (vezimrat) is problematic. It probably had a suffix yod (י) that was accidentally dropped because of the yod (י) on the divine name following. Most scholars posit another meaning for the word. A meaning of “power” fits the line fairly well, forming a hendiadys with strength—“strength and power” becoming “strong power.” Similar lines are in Isa 12:2 and Ps 118:14. Others suggest “protection” or “glory.” However, there is nothing substantially wrong with “my song” in the line—only that it would be a nicer match if it had something to do with strength.
- Exodus 15:2 tn The word נָוָה (navah) occurs only here. It may mean “beautify, adorn” with praises (see BDB 627 s.v.). See also M. Dahood, “Exodus 15:2: ‘anwehu and Ugaritic snwt,” Bib 59 (1979): 260-61; and M. Klein, “The Targumic Tosefta to Exodus 15:2, ” JJS 26 (1975): 61-67; and S. B. Parker, “Exodus 15:2 Again,” VT 21 (1971): 373-79.
- Exodus 15:3 tn Heb “man of war” (so KJV, ASV). “Warrior” is now the preferred translation since “man of war” is more commonly known today as a warship. The expression indicates that Yahweh is one who understands how to fight and defeat the enemy. The word “war” modifies “man” to reveal that Yahweh is a warrior. Other passages use similar descriptions: Isa 42:13 has “man of wars”; Ps 24:8 has “mighty man of battle.” See F. Cross, “The Divine Warrior in Israel’s Early Cult,” Biblical Motifs, 11-30.
- Exodus 15:3 tn Heb “Yahweh is his name.” As throughout, the name “Yahweh” is rendered as “the Lord” in the translation, as is typically done in English translations.
- Exodus 15:4 tn Gesenius notes that the sign of the accusative, often omitted in poetry, is not found in this entire song (GKC 363 §117.b).
- Exodus 15:4 tn The word is a substantive, “choice, selection”; it is here used in the construct state to convey an attribute before a partitive genitive—“the choice of his officers” means his “choice officers” (see GKC 417 §128.r).
- Exodus 15:4 tn The form is a Qal passive rather than a Pual, for there is not Piel form or meaning.
- Exodus 15:5 tn The verb form is יְכַסְיֻמוּ (yekhaseyumu) is the Piel preterite. Normally a vav (ו) consecutive is used with the preterite, but in some ancient poems the form without the vav appears, as is the case frequently in this poem. That such an archaic form is used should come as no surprise, because the word also uses the yod (י) of the root (GKC 214 §75.dd), and the archaic suffix form (GKC 258 §91.l). These all indicate the antiquity of the poem.
- Exodus 15:5 tn The parasynonyms here are תְּהֹמֹת (tehomot, “deep, ocean depths, deep waters”) and מְצוֹלֹת (metsolot, “the depths”); S. R. Driver says properly the “gurgling places” (Exodus, 134).
- Exodus 15:6 tn The form נֶאְדָּרִי (neʾdari) may be an archaic infinitive with the old ending i, used in place of the verb and meaning “awesome.” Gesenius says that the vowel ending may be an old case ending, especially when a preposition is inserted between the word and its genitive (GKC 253 §90.l), but he suggests a reconstruction of the form.
- Exodus 15:7 sn This expression is cognate with words in v. 1. Here that same greatness or majesty is extolled as in abundance.
- Exodus 15:7 tn Here, and throughout the song, these verbs are the prefixed conjugation that may look like the imperfect but are actually historic preterites. This verb is to “overthrow” or “throw down”—like a wall, leaving it in shattered pieces.
- Exodus 15:7 tn The form קָמֶיךָ (qamekha) is the active participle with a pronominal suffix. The participle is accusative, the object of the verb, but the suffix is the genitive of nearer definition (see GKC 358 §116.i).
- Exodus 15:7 sn The verb is the Piel of שָׁלַח (shalakh), the same verb used throughout for the demand on Pharaoh to release Israel. Here, in some irony, God released his wrath on them.
- Exodus 15:7 sn The word wrath is a metonymy of cause; the effect—the judgment—is what is meant.
- Exodus 15:7 tn The verb is the prefixed conjugation, the preterite, without the consecutive vav (ו).
- Exodus 15:8 sn The phrase “the blast of your nostrils” is a bold anthropomorphic expression for the wind that came in and dried up the water.
- Exodus 15:8 tn The word “heap” describes the walls of water. The waters, which are naturally fluid, stood up as though they were a heap, a mound of earth. Likewise, the flowing waters deep in the ocean solidified—as though they were turned to ice (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 175).
- Exodus 15:9 sn W. C. Kaiser observes the staccato phrases that almost imitate the heavy, breathless heaving of the Egyptians as, with what reserve of strength they have left, they vow, “I will…, I will…, I will…” (“Exodus,” EBC 2:395).
- Exodus 15:9 tn The form is נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”). But this word refers to the whole person, the body and the soul, or better, a bundle of appetites in a body. It therefore can figuratively refer to the desires or appetites (Deut 12:15; 14:26; 23:24). Here, with the verb “to be full” means “to be satisfied”; the whole expression might indicate “I will be sated with them” or “I will gorge myself.” The greedy appetite was to destroy.
- Exodus 15:9 tn The verb רִיק (riq) means “to be empty” in the Qal, and in the Hiphil “to empty.” Here the idea is to unsheathe a sword.
- Exodus 15:9 tn The verb is יָרַשׁ (yarash), which in the Hiphil means “to dispossess” or “root out.” The meaning “destroy” is a general interpretation.
- Exodus 15:10 tn “But” has been supplied here.
- Exodus 15:10 tn Here “and” has been supplied.
- Exodus 15:10 tn The verb may have the idea of sinking with a gurgling sound, like water going into a whirlpool (R. A. Cole, Exodus [TOTC], 124; S. R. Driver, Exodus, 136). See F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, “The Song of Miriam,” JNES 14 (1955): 243-47.
- Exodus 15:11 tn The question is of course rhetorical; it is a way of affirming that no one is comparable to God. See C. J. Labuschagne, The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testament, 22, 66-67, and 94-97.
- Exodus 15:11 sn Verses 11-17 will now focus on Yahweh as the incomparable one who was able to save Israel from their foes and afterward lead them to the promised land.
- Exodus 15:11 tn S. R. Driver suggests “praiseworthy acts” as the translation (Exodus, 137).
- Exodus 15:12 tn The verb is the prefixed conjugation, the preterite without the vav consecutive. The subject, the “earth,” must be inclusive of the sea, or it may indicate the grave or Sheol; the sea drowned them. Some scholars wish to see this as a reference to Dathan and Abiram, and therefore evidence of a later addition or compilation. It fits this passage well, however.
- Exodus 15:13 tn The verbs in the next two verses are perfect tenses, but can be interpreted as a prophetic perfect, looking to the future.
- Exodus 15:13 tn The particle זוּ (zu) is a relative pronoun, subordinating the next verb to the preceding.
- Exodus 15:13 tn This verb seems to mean “to guide to a watering-place” (See Ps 23:2).
- Exodus 15:14 tn This verb is a prophetic perfect, assuming that the text means what it said and this song was sung at the Sea. So all these countries were yet to hear of the victory.
- Exodus 15:14 tn The word properly refers to “pangs” of childbirth. When the nations hear, they will be terrified.
- Exodus 15:14 tn The verb is again a prophetic perfect.
- Exodus 15:15 tn This is a prophetic perfect.
- Exodus 15:15 tn This verb is imperfect tense.
- Exodus 15:16 tn The two words can form a nominal hendiadys, “a dreadful fear,” though most English versions retain the two separate terms.
- Exodus 15:16 tn The form is an imperfect.
- Exodus 15:16 tn The adjective is in construct form and governs the noun “arm” (“arm” being the anthropomorphic expression for what God did). See GKC 428 §132.c.
- Exodus 15:16 sn For a study of the words for fear, see N. Waldman, “A Comparative Note on Exodus 15:14-16, ” JQR 66 (1976): 189-92.
- Exodus 15:16 tn Clauses beginning with עַד (ʿad) express a limit that is not absolute, but only relative, beyond which the action continues (GKC 446-47 §138.g).
- Exodus 15:16 tn The verb קָנָה (qanah) here is the verb “acquire, purchase,” and probably not the homonym “to create, make” (see Gen 4:1; Deut 32:6; Prov 8:22).
- Exodus 15:17 tn The verb is imperfect.
- Exodus 15:17 sn The “mountain” and the “place” would be wherever Yahweh met with his people. It here refers to Canaan, the land promised to the patriarchs.
- Exodus 15:17 tn The verb is perfect tense, referring to Yahweh’s previous choice of the holy place.
- Exodus 15:20 sn See J. N. Eaton, “Dancing in the Old Testament,” ExpTim 86 (1975): 136-40.
- Exodus 15:21 tn The verb עָנָה (ʿanah) normally means “to answer,” but it can be used more technically to describe antiphonal singing in Hebrew and in Ugaritic.
- Exodus 15:21 sn This song of the sea is, then, a great song of praise for Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel at the Sea, and his preparation to lead them to the promised land, much to the (anticipated) dread of the nations. The principle here, and elsewhere in Scripture, is that the people of God naturally respond to God in praise for his great acts of deliverance. Few will match the powerful acts that were exhibited in Egypt, but these nonetheless set the tone. The song is certainly typological of the song of the saints in heaven who praise God for delivering them from the bondage of this world by judging the world. The focus of the praise, though, still is on the person (attributes) and works of God.
- Exodus 15:22 sn The first event of the Israelites’ desert experience is a failure, for they murmur against Yahweh and are given a stern warning—and the provision of sweet water. The event teaches that God is able to turn bitter water into sweet water for his people, and he promises to do such things if they obey. He can provide for them in the desert—he did not bring them into the desert to let them die. But there is a deeper level to this story—the healing of the water is incidental to the healing of the people, their lack of trust. The passage is arranged in a neat chiasm, starting with a journey (A), ending with the culmination of the journey (A'); developing to bitter water (B), resolving to sweet water (B'); complaints by the people (C), leading to the instructions for the people (C'); and the central turning point is the wonder miracle (D).
- Exodus 15:22 tn The verb form is unusual; the normal expression is with the Qal, which expresses that they journeyed. But here the Hiphil is used to underscore that Moses caused them to journey—and he is following God. So the point is that God was leading Israel to the bitter water.
- Exodus 15:22 sn The mention that they travelled for three days into the desert is deliberately intended to recall Moses’ demand that they go three days into the wilderness to worship. Here, three days in, they find bitter water and complain—not worship.
- Exodus 15:23 sn The Hebrew word “Marah” means “bitter.” This motif will be repeated four times in this passage to mark the central problem. Earlier in the book the word had been used for the “bitter herbs” in the Passover, recalling the bitter labor in bondage. So there may be a double reference here—to the bitter waters and to Egypt itself—God can deliver from either.
- Exodus 15:23 tn The infinitive construct here provides the direct object for the verb “to be able,” answering the question of what they were not able to do.
- Exodus 15:23 tn The causal clause here provides the reason for their being unable to drink the water, as well as a clear motivation for the name.
- Exodus 15:23 sn Many scholars have attempted to explain these things with natural phenomena. Here Marah is identified with Ain Hawarah. It is said that the waters of this well are notoriously salty and brackish; Robinson said it was six to eight feet in diameter and the water about two feet deep; the water is unpleasant, salty, and somewhat bitter. As a result the Arabs say it is the worst tasting water in the area (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:398). But that would not be a sufficient amount of water for the number of Israelites in the first place, and in the second, they could not drink it at all. But third, how did Moses change it?
- Exodus 15:23 tn The עַל־כֵּן (ʿal ken) formula in the Pentateuch serves to explain to the reader the reason for the way things were. It does not necessarily mean here that Israel named the place—but they certainly could have.
- Exodus 15:23 tn Heb “one called its name,” the expression can be translated as a passive verb if the subject is not expressed.
- Exodus 15:24 tn The verb וַיִּלֹּנוּ (vayyillonu) from לוּן (lun) is a much stronger word than “to grumble” or “to complain.” It is used almost exclusively in the wilderness wandering stories, to describe the rebellion of the Israelites against God (see also Ps 59:14-15). They were not merely complaining—they were questioning God’s abilities and motives. The action is something like a parliamentary vote of no confidence.
- Exodus 15:24 tn The imperfect tense here should be given a potential nuance: “What can we drink?” since the previous verse reports that they were not able to drink the water.sn It is likely that Moses used words very much like this when he prayed. The difference seems to lie in the prepositions—he cried “to” Yahweh, but the people murmured “against” Moses.
- Exodus 15:25 tn The verb is וַיּוֹרֵהוּ (vayyorehu, “and he showed him”). It is the Hiphil preterite from יָרָה (yarah), which has a basic meaning of “to point, show, direct.” It then came to mean “to teach”; it is the verb behind the noun “Law” (תּוֹרָה, torah).sn U. Cassuto notes that here is the clue to the direction of the narrative: Israel needed God’s instruction, the Law, if they were going to enjoy his provisions (Exodus, 184).
- Exodus 15:25 tn Or “a [piece of] wood” (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, CEV); NLT “a branch.”sn S. R. Driver (Exodus, 143) follows some local legends in identifying this tree as one that is supposed to have—even to this day—the properties necessary for making bitter water sweet. B. Jacob (Exodus, 436) reports that no such tree has ever been found, but then he adds that this does not mean there was not such a bush in the earlier days. He believes that here God used a natural means (“showed, instructed”) to sweeten the water. He quotes Ben Sira as saying God had created these things with healing properties in them.
- Exodus 15:25 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Exodus 15:25 tn Heb “there he”; the referent (the Lord) is supplied for clarity.
- Exodus 15:25 tn Heb “for him” (referring to Israel as a whole).
- Exodus 15:25 tn This translation interprets the two nouns as a hendiadys: “a statute and an ordinance” becomes “a binding ordinance.”
- Exodus 15:25 tn The verb נִסָּהוּ (nissahu, “and he tested him [them]”) is from the root נָסָה (nasah). The use of this word in the Bible indicates that there is question, doubt, or uncertainty about the object being tested.sn The whole episode was a test from God. He led them there through Moses and let them go hungry and thirsty. He wanted to see how great their faith was.
- Exodus 15:26 tn The construction uses the infinitive absolute and the imperfect tense of שָׁמַע (shamaʿ). The meaning of the verb is idiomatic here because it is followed by “to the voice of Yahweh your God.” When this is present, the verb is translated “obey.” The construction is in a causal clause. It reads, “If you will diligently obey.” Gesenius points out that the infinitive absolute in a conditional clause also emphasizes the importance of the condition on which the consequence depends (GKC 342-43 §113.o).
- Exodus 15:26 tn The word order is reversed in the text: “and the right in his eyes you do,” or, “[if] you do what is right in his eyes.” The conditional idea in the first clause is continued in this clause.
- Exodus 15:26 tn Heb “give ear.” This verb and the next are both perfect tenses with the vav (ו) consecutive; they continue the sequence of the original conditional clause.
- Exodus 15:26 tn The substantive כָּל (kol, “all of”) in a negative clause can be translated “none of.”
- Exodus 15:26 sn The reference is no doubt to the plagues that Yahweh has just put on them. These will not come on God’s true people. But the interesting thing about a conditional clause like this is that the opposite is also true—“if you do not obey, then I will bring these diseases.”
- Exodus 15:26 tn The form is רֹפְאֶךָ (rofeʾekha), a participle with a pronominal suffix. The word is the predicate after the pronoun “I”: “I [am] your healer.” The suffix is an objective genitive—the Lord heals them.sn The name I Yahweh am your healer comes as a bit of a surprise. One might expect, “I am Yahweh who heals your water,” but it was the people he came to heal because their faith was weak. God lets Israel know here that he can control the elements of nature to bring about a spiritual response in Israel (see Deut 8).
- Exodus 15:27 sn Judging from the way the story is told they were not far from the oasis. But God had other plans for them, to see if they would trust him wholeheartedly and obey. They did not do very well this first time, and they will have to learn how to obey. The lesson is clear: God uses adversity to test his people’s loyalty. The response to adversity must be prayer to God, for he can turn the bitter into the sweet, the bad into the good, and the prospect of death into life.