For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

15:1.  “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.”


This, the first biblical reference to singing, reminds us of the important place singing has in the worship of the Church, though it is to be noted that it was David who instituted the use of  instrumental music in connection with Israel’s worship, see 2 Chronicles 7:6; 29:27; 35:15.  There is no scriptural authority for the use of instrumental music in connection with the worship of the Church, see Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16.  We are to express our worship in prayers and singing, but not to play instruments.  The silence of God relative to instrumental music in the Church may not be construed as His permission to use it.


Jehovah’s utter defeat of the Egyptians foreshadows the greater victory accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, where by His death and resurrection He annulled Satan’s power, and dealt him a mortal wound, the arch fiend’s activity today being but his death throes.  Nor should we overlook the fact that it was by submitting himself on our behalf to the overwhelming waters of Divine wrath, that the Lord won that great victory, and delivered us from the power of death, the hymnist having described that victory in the words, “In weakness and defeat, He won the meed and crown; trod all our foes beneath His feet by being trodden down.”


15:2.  “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”


When Moses penned these words he was writing as the spokesman of the redeemed of every age.  When Christ won that great victory at Calvary He did what we lacked the power to do; and inherent in the words “he is my God” is the implication that our gratitude is to be expressed in the presentation of obedient lives.  As God He has the right to command our worship, but He has chosen to be also our Redeemer so that our worship might be the spontaneous gratitude of redeemed hearts expressed in obedient lives, rather than the compelled obedience of slaves.


Relative to the preparation of “an habitation,” the literal reference is to the preparation of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple which replaced it; but in the case of believers of this present Church age Paul reminds us that we are the habitation of God through the Holy Spirit who indwells us, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16, see also 1 Corinthians 6:19, and 2 Corinthians 6:16.


“... I will exalt him” is also rendered I will set Him on high: I will give Him glory: I will extol Him.


15:3.  “The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.”


Implicit in the Lord’s being a man of war is the fact of His fighting against some one or some thing, i.e., Satan and his infernal hosts, and all men who reject Christ as Savior; but there is also the refutation of the false teaching of those who present Him as being too loving to consign anyone to hell and the lake of fire, in spite of the clear teaching of Scripture to the contrary.


“... the Lord is his name” is simply another way of saying that He is omnipotent.”


15:4.  “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.”


15:5.  “The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.”


In the eyes of men that Egyptian army was the epitome of power, but when confronted with God’s omnipotence it might as well have been composed of ants.  It was powerless.  Horses, chariots, captains, soldiers: all were swept to perdition by the waters under God’s control.  Their destruction may well be a foreshadowing of the casting of the unconverted into the dreadful lake of fire following the judgment of the great white throne.


15:6.  “Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.”


As God was glorified in His destruction of Pharaoh’s hosts that day, so will He also be in His ultimate consignment to the eternal torment of the lake of fire of everyone who dies in unbelief.  What folly then for men to glorify Him by unrepentant rebellion, when they could more easily, and to their own everlasting blessing, glorify Him by confessing their sinfulness, and by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior!


15:7.  “And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.”


“... excellency” is also translated glory, triumph, splendor.  Just by virtue of what He is inherently, and by His effortless control of all things, He destroyed Egypt’s armies as fire consumes dry grass.  If rebel humanity could but grasp the power inherently resident in Deity they would tremble to transgress even in thought, much less in word and deed.


15:8.  “And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.”


The blast or breath of God’s nostrils is a type of the Holy Spirit, see e.g., John 20:22, “... he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” and Acts 2:2-4, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”


This is also translated the waters were piled up: were massed together: were parted: stood erect like a bank: upreared like a mound: stood upright like a dyke: were compacted like a wall; while the latter part of the verse is rendered deep waters became solid.


God can just as easily liquefy solids as He can solidify liquid. Water and rock alike are subject to His control, not only as to what they do, but as to what they are.  By the use of cold He makes the waters of the sea as solid rock, and by the use of heat He melts the rock so that molten mountains flow like water at His command.  Consider, for example, His destruction of Pompeii.


And this is the Almighty God against Whom puny man dares to shake his little fist in ignorant and impotent defiance!


15:9.  “The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.”


A partial variant rendering of this is, I will apportion the spoil; I will divide the plunder; I will glut my vengeance.  And this has been the arrogant shout of every tyrant against the Jews, from that day to this, the most recent attempt to destroy them being that of Nazi Germany during World War II. 


In the impending Great Tribulation the Beast will also seek to annihilate them, but every such attempt is doomed to failure, for they are God’s chosen people, and He will not permit them to be destroyed.


15:10.  “Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.”


Wind is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit, see John 3:8, “The wind blows where it listeth (chooses, pleases) .... so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” and Acts 2:2-4, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind .... And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost ....”  The sea was divided by the power of the Holy Spirit, represented here by the wind.  It was He Who destroyed the Egyptian host.


15:11.  “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders (miracles)?”


“... gods” may not be taken to mean that there are other gods besides Jehovah.  The word is more correctly rendered the celestials: the mighty: the angelic hosts.


“... glorious in holiness” is also rendered in holy glory: majestic in holiness: honorable in holiness: gloriously supreme.


“... fearful in praises” is also translated revered and praised: awful: terrible in glorious deeds: awe-inspiring in renown: awesome in splendor.


15:12.  “Thou stretchest out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.”


The right hand is the scriptural symbol of strength or power; and the Egyptians are described as having been swallowed by the earth because the sea is a constituent part of the earth.


15:13.  “Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.”


“... thy holy habitation” as used here is clearly not descriptive of heaven, but rather, of the land of Canaan as the special earthly dwelling place He had chosen for redeemed Israel.  Their dwelling in it was to be marked by holiness as an expression of their gratitude for His having provided it for them.  Our gratitude for His having given us heaven as our eternal dwelling place ought to be expressed by holy living during our sojourn here on earth.


15:14.  “The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.”


In the present context “the people” were the Philistines, the name of the land Palestina or Palestine being a derivitive of Philistine, the name of both place and people meaning wallowing; and the name was fitting, for the Philistines were a people who wallowed or reveled in sin.


15:15.  “Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; and the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.”


Edom means red; Moab, means from father: what father? from her [the mother’s] father; and Canaan means a trafficker.  Edom is another name for Esau, the elder and twin brother of Jacob/Israel; and Moab was the son incestuously begotten by Jacob through his firstborn daughter, see Genesis 19:32-37, for comments on which see the author’s commentary on Genesis, also available on this web site.


The Canaanites represent the evil associated with the flesh, and in God’s saying that “Canaan shall melt away” we are being informed that everything pertaining to the flesh is doomed to destruction.


15:16.  “Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till the people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.”


This was the assurance that the Canaanites would be petrified with fear when the Israelites marched out of Egypt through a divided Red Sea, and into Canaan through a divided Jordan, their passage through the Red Sea speaking typologically of the believer’s separation from this present evil world which occurs at the moment of conversion; and their crossing Jordan representing the beginning of the believer’s lifelong conflict with the powers of darkness which would seek to oppose his taking possession of the spiritual riches made available to him by God the moment he trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The two crossings are indicated in the twice repeated “till the people pass over.”


The word purchased may also be translated redeemed.  The Israelites had become God’s redeemed people through the blood of the Passover lamb.  We have become His redeemed people through the infinitely more precious blood of the true Passover Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ.  How very far short we fall of comprehending how precious, how priceless we are to God!  He was willing to redeem us to Himself by the blood of the One of Whom He has declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Matthew 3:17.


15:17.  “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 mountain of thine inheritance” is Jerusalem.  This is a poetical description of the Tabernacle which was yet to be built, and in which they would assemble to worship the Lord, that tent of meeting being itself not only a type of the Church, but also of His heavenly dwelling place, into which every believer of every age will ultimately be brought to dwell with Him eternally.


Since a mountain is used metaphorically to denote a kingdom and the authority of its king, the reference here goes beyond the earthly Tabernacle, and points to the throne of God in heaven.


15:18.  “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.”


The eternal existence and dominion of God are emphatically declared in this brief sentence.


15:19.  “For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children off Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.”


Scholars are disagreed as to whether this means that Pharaoh himself perished with his army, and the matter is immaterial, for the horse is a biblical symbol of strength, see Psalm 147:10, “He delighteth not in the strength of the horse,” so that the statement may mean simply that all the strength of Egypt was destroyed in the sea; but the very element which God used to destroy the Egyptians He divided to provide safe passage for His people Israel.


Since however, the sea represents earth’s unconverted masses, see Psalm 57:20 “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt,” Israel’s safe passage through the sea may be the symbolic announcement of the truth that God brings His own safely to heaven through the sea of earth’s troubled human masses.


15:20.  “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.”


Miriam means their rebellion, the evil significance of her name, and the contrast between its meaning and her present conduct here, teaching us that God by grace is able to subdue human rebellion, and make the believer an instrument for His glory.


Since she was the sister of Aaron the High Priest, and since the male symbolizes the activity of the will; and the female, its passivity, this linking together of prophecy and priesthood may be the symbolic reminder that our passivity under God’s hand is to be balanced by a corresponding activity under that same hand. The knowledge God gives us is to be declared to others for His glory, their blessing, and our eternal profit.


As has been noted already, the expression of worship by instrumental music, singing and dancing, was legitimate in the OT age, but not in this present age of grace.


15:21.  “And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.”


Miriam “answered them” is also rendered responded to the men: led them in the refrain: sang unto them: chanted for them: taught them to sing.


15:22.  “So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.”


Shur means beheld: rampart (as a point of observation), the wilderness of Shur being in the extreme northwest corner of the Arabian (Sinai) Peninsula. 


The meaning of the name reminds us that however much our present state on earth may resemble that of being in a barren wilderness, it is spiritually a rampart, a high place far above that of the unconverted, where we are constantly under God’s watchful eye and protecting care.  And since three is the biblical number of resurrection, their having gone three day’s journey speaks of their being on resurrection ground.  Their position and state is a symbolic picture of our own.  The world has become a wilderness for those who through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ find that world incapable of furnishing anything that would nurture our new spiritual life.  We have become dead to that world, as it is written, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” Galatians 2:20.


“... and found no water.”  He who shortly after conversion hasn’t found himself spiritually in the same situation, is a rare individual.  Water is a scriptural symbol of the written Word, see Ephesians 5:26, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it (the Church) with the washing of water by the word.”  The new believer however, hasn’t had time to know more of the Word than that which has to do with his receiving salvation.  The deeper truths of Scripture are as yet a mystery to him.  He has still to learn to read and study the Word so that it becomes milk to cause his new spiritual life to grow, as it is written, “As newborn babes, desire the sincre milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby,” 1 Peter 2:2.  He has also to learn that it is also  water to refresh and cleanse him, see Psalm 119:9, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”  All of this is unknown to the new convert.  These are things he has to learn from his personal study of the Word, and from teaching; and until he does begin to learn them he is spiritually in the same place as was Israel literally when they stood on the edge of the desert “and found no water.”


15:23.  “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.”


15:24.  “And the people murmured (complained) against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?”


15:25.  “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.”


Marah means he rebelled: bitterness, and as the sequel reveals, those waters are a type of the written Word, which is the presentation of Christ the living Word provided by God for the cleansing and refreshment of men in the midst of the rebellion and bitterness of this evil world which is a spiritual desert.


The tree, cut down and cast into the waters, is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ “cut down” at Calvary as man’s Substitute, and cast into the bitter waters of God’s fierce anger against sin as announced in the Scriptures.  Note, for example, that in Psalms 69:1,2,14,15; 88:6,7,16-17 the Lord’s death is presented under the figure of His being cast - like the tree we are here considering - into the bitter waters of God’s righteous wrath against sin; and it is only when men see Christ, as their Substitute, “cast into the (bitter) waters” of Divine wrath at Calvary, that Scripture, which is bitter water condemning the unbeliever, becomes the sweet water  justifying and comforting the believer.


Statute and ordinance are almost the same, statute meaning a thing appointed: custom: manner; and ordinance meaning verdict: sentence: charge.  The two together embrace virtually all that God has appointed for the regulation of man’s life; and as the men of the OT age were tested or proved by the written Word, so does that same standard measure men today.


15:26.  “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.”


The Israelites’ obedience would preserve them from chastisement, and secure God’s blessing; and the same principle governs man’s relationship with God today.


15:27.  “And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.”


Elim means mighty ones; and twelve is the number of those under God’s government, e.g., the twelve tribes of Israel; and the Church which is built upon the foundation of the doctrine taught by the twelve Apostles.


The meaning of mighty ones declares the truth that because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit there is resident within the believer’s body all the mighty power of God, so that we can say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13. 


Elim may speak also of God’s protecting care of His own, exercised through the angels whom He has appointed to guard them; and the twelve wells of water may portray the cleansing and refreshment of the written Word enjoyed by those who obey it.


Since seven is the number of perfection or completeness seventy simply amplifies that meaning.  The palm tree speaks of righteousness, see e.g., “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree,” Psalm 92:12, so that the truth being declared here in the seventy palm trees is that God sees Israel, not as she has been and still is, but as she will be in the Millennium, manifesting the perfect righteousness of her redeemed state in corresponding righteous living.  Her camping at Elim appears to be the typological foreshadowing of that coming glorious millennial day.


As has been noted already however, Israel is the OT type of the NT Church, so that her encampment at Elim foreshadows the millennial and also the eternal glory of the believers of this present Church age.

[Lord willing, next week, Exodus 16]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough