Exodus 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.
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(21) Miriam answered them.—Miriam and her maidens at the close of each portion of the “Song”—i.e., at the end of Exodus 15:5; Exodus 15:10; Exodus 15:12; Exodus 15:18—sang the refrain which is here given—a refrain very slightly altered from the opening verse of the “Song” itself, marking, no doubt, the time with their timbrels, and moving gracefully through a stately and solemn dance.

15:1-21 This song is the most ancient we know of. It is a holy song, to the honour of God, to exalt his name, and celebrate his praise, and his only, not in the least to magnify any man. Holiness to the Lord is in every part of it. It may be considered as typical, and prophetical of the final destruction of the enemies of the church. Happy the people whose God is the Lord. They have work to do, temptations to grapple with, and afflictions to bear, and are weak in themselves; but his grace is their strength. They are often in sorrow, but in him they have comfort; he is their song. Sin, and death, and hell threaten them, but he is, and will be their salvation. The Lord is a God of almighty power, and woe to those that strive with their Maker! He is a God of matchless perfection; he is glorious in holiness; his holiness is his glory. His holiness appears in the hatred of sin, and his wrath against obstinate sinners. It appears in the deliverance of Israel, and his faithfulness to his own promise. He is fearful in praises; that which is matter of praise to the servants of God, is very dreadful to his enemies. He is doing wonders, things out of the common course of nature; wondrous to those in whose favour they are wrought, who are so unworthy, that they had no reason to expect them. There were wonders of power and wonders of grace; in both, God was to be humbly adored.And Miriam the prophetess - The part here assigned to Miriam and the women of Israel is in accordance both with Egyptian and Hebrew customs. The men are represented as singing the hymn in chorus, under the guidance of Moses; at each interval Miriam and the women sang the refrain, marking the time with the timbrel, and with the measured rhythmical movements always associated with solemn festivities. Compare Judges 11:34; 2 Samuel 6:5, and marginal references. The word used in this passage for the timbrel is Egyptian, and judging from its etymology and the figures which are joined with it in the inscriptions, it was probably the round instrument.

Miriam is called a prophetess, evidently Numbers 12:2 because she and Aaron had received divine communications. The word is used here in its proper sense of uttering words suggested by the Spirit of God. See Genesis 20:7. She is called the sister of Aaron, most probably to indicate her special position as coordinate, not with Moses the leader of the nation, but with his chief aid and instrument.

21. Miriam answered them—"them" in the Hebrew is masculine, so that Moses probably led the men and Miriam the women—the two bands responding alternately, and singing the first verse as a chorus. Miriam addressed either,

1. The women, last spoken of, and then it is an enallage of the gender. Or,

2. The men spoken of before. They sung by turns, or by parts, either the same words being repeated, or some other words of a like nature added. See 1 Chronicles 16:41 2 Chronicles 5:13 Ezra 3:11.

And Miriam answered them,.... The men, for the word is masculine; that is, repeated, and sung the same song word for word after them, as they had done, of which a specimen is given by reciting the first clause of the song:

sing ye to the Lord; which is by way of exhortation to the women to sing with her, as Moses begins the song thus: "I will sing unto the Lord":

for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea; See Gill on Exodus 15:1, the manner of their singing, according to the Jews (z), was, Moses first said, "I will sing", and they said it after him.

(z) T. Hieros. Sotah, fol. 20. 3. T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 30. 2.

And Miriam {l} answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

(l) By singing the same song of thanksgiving.

21. answered] The word means (note the ל), answered antiphonally in song, even if,—as some think, connecting it with the Arab. ghanâ (Lex. 777a),—it does not mean simply sang (comp. Numbers 21:17 b; and esp. 1 Samuel 18:7; 1 Samuel 21:11; 1 Samuel 24:5 [where the same word is rendered, ‘sing one to another’]).

them] The pron. is masc., so the reference might seem to be to the men (v. 1a), after they had sung v. 1b. But this antecedent is rather remote: and as in the 2nd and 3rd plur. the masc. form is often used with reference to women (G.-K. § 135o), it is probably better (with Bä.) to suppose the women in v. 20b to be referred to; cf. 1 Samuel 18:7.

Verse 21. - Miriam answered them. Miriam, with her chorus of women, answered the chorus of men, responding at the termination of each stanza or separate part of the ode with the refrain, "Sing ye to the Lord," etc. (See the "Introduction" to this chapter.) While responding, the female chorus both danced and struck their tambourines. This use of dancing in a religious ceremonial, so contrary to Western ideas of decorum, is quite consonant with Oriental practice, both ancient and modern. Other examples of it in Scripture are David's dancing before the ark (2 Samuel 6:16), the dancing of Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11:34), and that of the virgins of Shiloh (Judges 21:21). It is also mentioned with approval in the Psalms (Psalm 149:3; el. 4). Dancing was practised as a religious ceremony in Egypt, in Phrygia, in Thrace, by the Phoenicians, by the Syrians, by the Romans, and others. In the nature of things there is clearly nothing unfitting or indecorous in a dedication to religion of what has been called "the poetry of gesture." But human infirmity has connected such terrible abuses with the practice that the purer religions have either discarded it or else denied it admission into their ceremonial. It still however lingers in Mohammedanism among those who are called "dancing dervishes," whose extraordinary performances are regarded as acts of devotion.

CHAPTER 15:22-27 Exodus 15:21In the words "Pharaoh's horse, with his chariots and horsemen," Pharaoh, riding upon his horse as the leader of the army, is placed at the head of the enemies destroyed by Jehovah. In Exodus 15:20, Miriam is called "the prophetess," not ob poeticam et musicam facultatem (Ros.), but because of her prophetic gift, which may serve to explain her subsequent opposition to Moses (Numbers 11:1, Numbers 11:6); and "the sister of Aaron," though she was Moses' sister as well, and had been his deliverer in his infancy, not "because Aaron had his own independent spiritual standing by the side of Moses" (Baumg.), but to point out the position which she was afterwards to occupy in the congregation of Israel, namely, as ranking, not with Moses, but with Aaron, and like him subordinate to Moses, who had been placed at the head of Israel as the mediator of the Old Covenant, and as such was Aaron's god (Exodus 4:16, Kurtz). As prophetess and sister of Aaron she led the chorus of women, who replied to the male chorus with timbrels and dancing, and by taking up the first strophe of the song, and in this way took part in the festival; a custom that was kept up in after times in the celebration of victories (Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6-7; 1 Samuel 21:12; 1 Samuel 29:5), possibly in imitation of an Egyptian model (see my Archologie, 137, note 8).
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