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Exodus 15:19-21

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Exodus 15:19
  • Exodus 15:20
  • Exodus 15:21

The book of Exodus is the second book of the Torah (“law”). It continues the story of Genesis concerning the migration of the family of Jacob (the Israelites) to Egypt (Genesis 50). It describes the commissioning of Moses and Aaron as God’s representatives on earth to accomplish God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land (the land of Canaan). It also relates the miraculous deliverance from Egypt beginning with the plagues on Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. It then describes the journey to Mount Sinai and the establishment of the Mosaic covenant with the Israelites. The last part of the book involves the specifications and building of the tabernacle – the place where the Lord Himself dwelt amongst His people.

In the book of Exodus, the focus shifts to the deliverance of God’s people.


Chapter 15 contains the Song of the Sea that was sung by Moses and the men of Israel after the LORD had just delivered the Israelites and decimated the Egyptian forces. As they were singing verses 1 – 18, Miriam and the women contributed to the LORD’s praise by singing (v. 21).

Starting in verse 22, the people of Israel begin their journey to the land that the LORD promised to them. They travelled to Marah in search for drinkable water, and when they found none, they rebelled against Him. In His grace, the LORD miraculously provided all the water the people needed. This showed the people that He was not only their Deliverer, He was their Provider as well.

Chapter 15 can be outlined as follows:

  • The Song of the Sea (15:1 – 21)
    • The Men Sang (15:1 – 18)
    • The Women Sang (15:19 – 21)
  • The Journey to Marah (15:22 – 27)

The song that was sung by the men in verses 1 – 18 is followed by a reminder of the reason for the song (v. 19) and the celebration by Miriam and the women (vv. 20-21).

Verse 19 seems out of place at first glance. It is, however, a fitting interlude between the song sung by Moses and the men of Israel and the song and celebration by Miriam and the women of Israel. The reason they celebrated was that the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea in pursuit of the Israelites to punish them and bring them back into slavery. But the Lord brought back the waters of the sea on them, resulting in their deaths by drowning.

In stark contrast to what the Egyptian army had just experienced, the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea. The fact that they “walked on dry land” was important because it meant that they crossed the Red Sea as fast as possible, not hindered by muddy ground. It also showed that the LORD’s deliverance was a sovereign act of manipulating nature and was truly miraculous.

Like the men of Israel, the women joined in the celebration of the LORD’s victory. The women were led by Miriam the prophetess. Miriam is the first woman in Scripture to be called a “prophetess.” This suggests that she had a significant role both in the leadership and the worship of Israel. There were other women called “prophetess” in the Bible. Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14, 2 Chronicles 34:22), Noahdiah (Nehemiah 6:14), Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36) were called “prophetess.”

Miriam is also identified as Aaron’s sister, which would also make her Moses’ older sister. Since Moses was around 80 years old at this time, Miriam his older sister (Exodus 2:4) could have been close to 90 years old. To participate in the song, she took the timbrel in her hand. A “timbrel” was a musical instrument similar to a tambourine. Miriam apparently led the procession of women because all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.

She also led them in the singing which accompanied the playing of the timbrel and the dancing Along with the singing and the dancing, Miriam answered them. The word “answered” implies that the women sang to “them,” i.e. the men and what they were singing.

The lyrics contain both descriptive and declarative praise. The first line is the descriptive praise. After the resolve to sing to the Lord, the song declared that He is highly exalted. The phrase is exactly the same intensive expression seen in verse 2 and means that the LORD is “gloriously glorious.” The declarative praise described what the LORD has done – the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea. This is almost identical to what is in verse 1 and has identical meaning.

Biblical Text

19 For the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea on them, but the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea.

20 Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.21 Miriam answered them,

“Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”

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