SONG OF THE SEA Ex 15:1-21
CONTEXT: The thriller narrative of narrow escape, with its tension, its drama, its action, its magic, (and its documentary sources) breaks for an ode to Yahh, triumphal warrior on our side. The song is about violence and victory, about Israel finding its place in relation to other nations. A possible reference to the Jerusalem Holy Temple, v. 17, locates the poem to the 10th century or later, though the final stich in 17 strikes me as interpolation.
Two addenda follow the poem. First, v. 19, a prosaic editor added a one line gloss telling how it is that Yahh reigns forever, in case we did not get the point of the poem. Second, vs.21f, a near repeat of the opening line, put into the mouth of Miryam and the women as they dance with their drums in celebration. I want to think that the women’s song came first and was later developed and expanded.
GLOSSARY: “Man of war,” v.3, has nothing to do with the British Royal Navy of old. It is simply an unabashed, anthropomorphic, definitive metaphor. Rather than using a word like "warrior," or "hero," the poet picked this vivid two word appellation. Without limiting Yahh to a Hebrew concept of Mars, his boast was that Yahh could lick other gods.
“Charioteers,” v.4, is as close as I could get to the Hebrew “third men,” sh’lishav, שלשיו. A war chariot was manned by three, one to drive, one to shoot arrows, one to defend.
“Hot wrath,” v. 7, attempts to render the vivid Hebrew idiom, “burning nose,” which does not appear here. Instead, the idiom is split into two separate words each of which can mean anger, charon, חַרון, “burning,” and af, v.8, אַף, “nose.” Picture fierce dragon’s breath, destroying by snorts, consuming an opponent like straw, curdling water like turning milk into cheese.
Kodesh means “special, set apart, sacred,” as in v.13. “Mighty in sacredness,” v.11, is close to “wow!”
“P’leshet,” v. 14, is the land of the P’lishtim, the Philistines.
“Acquired,” v.16, kanah, קנה, denotes either acquisition by purchase or by making. King James Version has 'purchase' which I think strange. “Koneh,” is more comfortable as “Creator of sky and earth.”(Genesis 14:19) In this Song, Yisrael is Yahh’s people by whatever connotation.
1Then Mosheh sang, with B’neyYisrael, this song to Yahh:
I sing to Yahh for he soared high,
Horse and rider he threw into the sea.
2Yahh, my strength and my song,
And he was for me, salvation!
This is my god and I adorn him,
My father’s god, and I exalt him.
3Yahh is a man of war! Yahh is his name.
4Paroh’s chariots and his army he shot into the sea.
The select of his charioteers sank in the Sea of Reeds.
5Depths covered them.
They went down into abyss like stone.
6Your right hand, Yahh, magnificent with strength,
Your right hand, Yahh, crushes an enemy.
7With your great height you tear down your opponents.
You send your hot wrath–it consumes them like straw.
8By the wind of your nose water heaps up,
Currents stand like a mountain,
Curdled, the depths in the heart of the sea.
9An enemy said, “I’ll pursue, I’ll overtake, I’ll divide spoil,
My lust will be filled. I’ll draw my sword, my hand will dispossess them.”
10You blow with your wind–sea covers them,
They sank like lead in the mighty water.
11Who is like you, Yahh, among the gods!
Who is like you, mighty in kodesh!
Awesome of praise, wonder worker.
12You extended your right hand–earth swallowed them.
13By your steadfast love you guided this people you redeemed,
Whom you led in power to your sacred homestead.
14Peoples who heard were disturbed.
Shudder held those who dwell in P’leshet.
15Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed.
Trembling holds the strongmen of Moav.
Those who dwell in K’na’an have gone soft.
16Terror and fear fall on them,
By the greatness of your arm, they are silent as stone,
Till your people pass by, Yahh,
Till this people you acquired pass by.
17You bring them and plant them in your mountain property,
Foundation for your dwelling you have done, Yahh,
The sanctuary of my Lord your hands have founded.
18Yahh reigns forever and ever!
(19For Paroh’s horse and chariot, along with his horsemen, came into the sea. Yahh returned the sea water over them while B’neyYisrael walked on dry land in the middle of the sea.)
20Miryam the prophetess, sister of Aharon took drum in hand, and all the women went out after her with drums and dances. 21She responded to them:
Sing to Yahh for he soared high! Horse and rider he threw in the sea.
© Rabbi David L. Kline http://good-to-be-a-jew.blogspot.com/