Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
Finally! After hundreds of years of slavery, weeks of tense negotiations with Pharaoh, and days of pursuit, it finally seems all worth it. I find several aspects noteworthy:
a) they sing (shiyr), which testifies to both the strength of the emotion, and perhaps a desire to make this memorable
b) they sing to Yahweh (Y@hovah) — no questions about who gets the credit
c) God is exalted exceedingly (ga’ah ga’ah) — this is an overwhelming victory
d) The proof is the tangible fact of their enemies being overthrown (ramah)
These themes appear to be elaborated upon in the rest of the song. I was particularly struck by the characterization of God. God is:
The LORD [is] my strength and song,
and he is become my salvation:
ii) My savior (y@shuw`ah, that is, Joshua or Jesus)
he [is] my God, and I will prepare him an habitation;
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The LORD [is] a man of war:
the LORD [is] his name .
vi) The One who is, and has revealed (shem) Himself to us.
Whew! Pretty heady stuff. It might seem like exuberant exaggeration, except that all of these are pretty well-justified by the previous dozen chapters:
Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
God has in fact done what He said He would do, and revealed His glory (‘adar) by His power (koach) over His foes (‘oyeb). Its one thing to keep your own worshippers living in fear; quite another to defeat a hostile force!
Who [is] like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who [is] like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful [in] praises, doing wonders?
Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people [which] thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided [them] in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.
Not just in the past, but also in the future:
Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, [in] the place, O LORD, [which] thou hast made for thee to dwell in, [in] the Sanctuary, O Lord, [which] thy hands have established.
The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.
Woo-hoo! That calls for a party:
And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
So with such a God, who has revealed Himself so convincingly, they all live happily ever after, right?
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they [were] bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
Sigh. Isn’t that the way they say it goes* We get so excited by the dramatic things God does, but as soon as things dry up we become bitter (mar) and start murmuring (luwm) against God’s messenger. Instead of just honestly crying (tsa`aq) for help:
And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, [which] when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,
Fascinating. The solution to the problem is right there in front of us, but in our bitterness we fail to see it. God appears to anticipate that Moses will face more of these kinds of problems, so He tries to establish (suwm) a general rule (choq):
And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I [am] the LORD that healeth thee.
I read this as: Pay attention! You’ve just finished celebrating how powerful I am. You’ve seen me toast the Egyptians. So trust me already!
O God, forgive me for my short-lived memories, and the ways I grumble against your messengers. Sweeten the bitterness that poisons the springs of my soul, by the casting of your Holy Tree. Teach me to cry out to you in my distress. Better yet, help me to live with a song in my heart, to dance with my feet, to dwell in the memory of your power, justice, and mercy. Be my champion, my pride, and my joyous praise. Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is another weak pun (Water == What are), alluding to both the Red Sea and Marah.