Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Canticle. Origen reckons this to be the most ancient piece of poetry. It is truly sublime, and calculated to fill the souls of those, who saw their late cruel masters, now prostrate at their feet in death, with sentiments of the greatest gratitude and piety towards their almighty benefactor. (Haydock) — God miraculously gave utterance to the dumb on this occasion, (Widsom x. 21.) and taught the whole congregation of Israel to join in harmonious concert. (De Mirab. S. S. inter. op. St. Augustine) This mode of perpetuating the memory of past benefits by canticles, is very common in Scripture. (Calmet) — Let us sing. So the Septuagint The Hebrew has “I will sing…for he hath triumphed gloriously.” This canticle was composed by Moses, about 1491 years before Christ. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Praise. The printed Hebrew is here irregular, but some manuscripts agree with the Vulgate, Chaldean, and Arabic. (Kennicott, i. p. 400.) — To him my praise is due on all titles. (Haydock) — God. Hebrew el, “the strong one.” (Menochius)
Ver. 3. The Lord. Septuagint, “breaking wars in pieces,” a man of war, a conqueror. (Calmet) — Almighty. Jehova, I am. This is the most awful and incommunicable name. (Haydock)
Ver. 4. Captains. Literally, Princes. Hebrew shalishim, chiefs. The three great officers, chap. xiv. 7. We find three were entrusted with the highest power in the empire of Chaldea, (Ezechiel xxiii. 15; Daniel v. 7.) as well as at the court of David. (2 Kings xxiii. 8; 1 Paralipomenon xi. 10.) Hadino, Eleazar, and Semma, had various other princes under them. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Wrath. A tempest of lightning. See Isaias lxiii. 11; Habacuc iii. 15.
Ver. 8. Together. “Congealed on either side,” as the Chaldean and Septuagint express it. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. Enemy. Miracles make but small impression upon the wicked. They pursue their schemes of destruction, which end in their own ruin! — Slay. Hebrew, “despoil.” Septuagint, “bring them into subjection.” (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Wind. Septuagint, “spirit,” which St. Ambrose and St. Augustine understand as the Holy Ghost. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Who…Lord. The initials of these four Hebrew letters, which the Maccabees placed on their banners, (m c b i) probably gave that title, to those stout heroes, who rose up in defence of their religion. (Haydock) — Strong, may be applied either to men, or to the pretended gods of the Gentiles, which seems to agree best with the sequel. Septuagint, “among the gods…wonderful in praises.” — Terrible and. Hebrew, “terrible to praise,” requiring that we should perform that duty with awe. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Earth. When their carcasses were corrupted, such as were not eaten by fishes, mixed with the earth at the bottom, or on the shore of the sea.
Ver. 13. Hast been. This is a prophecy of what should happen to the Hebrews till they should be put in quiet possession of Chanaan, (Calmet) of which they had an earnest, in the protection which they had already experienced. (Haydock) — Holy, on account of the temple, and of the patriarchs, and Jesus Christ, who dwelt there. (Menochius)
Ver. 15. Stiff, with consternation. See Josue ix. 9. The nations of Chanaan found auxiliaries even among the near relations of the Hebrews, the children of Esau, (who were not governed by princes, Alphim, as in Genesis xxxvi.) and of Lot. We easily forget our relations, when our interest is at stake! Hebrew, instead of being stiff, says, they “melted away.” Both words insinuate, that their heart was under such a violent struggle, that they could perform no duty.
Ver. 16. In the, &c. When they shall behold thy wonders, wrought in our defence. — Let them cease to make opposition. Hebrew, “let them be silent as a stone.” (Haydock)
Ver. 17. Mountain. Chanaan was very mountainous, and different from Egypt. (Calmet) — Sion was the peculiar mountain of God, consecrated to his worship. (Menochius)
Ver. 18. And ever. Literally, et ultra, “and beyond;” holam, which denotes a long duration, is often used to mean a time that will have an end. To add the greater emphasis to it, the latter term is sometimes used when eternity is meant. The Septuagint, “The Lord shall reign over this generation, or age of the Mosaic law, and over an age lasting from Christ to the end, and still.” His kingdom shall extend over all eternity. (Calmet)
Ver. 19. For, &c. He is not tired with repeating this wonderful judgment, which gave him reason to hope that God would complete his work; and at the same time, give a sanction to his mission. If the most potent of the monarchs of the earth could so little withstand his power, what had he to fear from a few jarring clans of barbarians and shepherds? (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Mary, or Mariam, as it was formerly pronounced, though the Masorets now read Miriam: may signify one “exalted, lady, star, bitterness of the sea.” — Prophetess; having revelations from God, (Numbers xii. 1,) and singing his praises. — Of Aaron. Moses passes over himself out of modesty. She is known by this title, whence it is supposed she never married. (St. Ambrose) (Calmet) — Timbrels, which were already used in solemn worship. — And dances. Choris may mean companies of women, singing and dancing in honour of God. The men repeated what Moses had entoned, and the women did the same after Mary; unless, perhaps, the multitude of both sexes, respectively, repeated only the first verse by way of chorus; or Mary and her band took up each verse “in answer” to the men, as the Hebrew insinuates. This divine canticle will afford joy even to the elect, Apocalypse xv. 3.
Ver. 22. Sur, which is called Etham, “Pough,” (Numbers xxxiii. 7,) on which account both sides of the Red Sea are described by the same name; hence some have groundlessly asserted, that the Hebrews came out of the Red Sea by the same way they entered it. (Haydock)
Ver. 23. Mara, about half-way between Suez and Mount Sinai. The waters are said to be still potable, though of a disagreeable nitrous taste. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. A tree, (lignum,) or piece of wood, which had the natural property here ascribed to it, Ecclesiasticus xxxviii. 4. (Calmet) — Though we can hardly suppose, that all that collection of waters would be thus rendered sweet, unless God had given it a miraculous efficacy. (Haydock) — It foreshewed the virtue of the cross. (Theodoret, ix. 26.) — Him, Moses, and the people of Israel, of which he was now the sole head or king. (Haydock) — God proved on this occasion the disposition of the Hebrews to enter into the alliance, of which he proposes to them the heads, ver. seq.[following: ver. 26.?] Josue xxiv. 25, makes use of nearly the same words. God begins to take upon himself the administration of the republic, appointing the forms of judicature, Jeremias vii. 22. What regarded sacrifices, was given upon occasion of their idolatry. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 26. Healer. God delivered his people from every infirmity, which might prevent any one from joining the rest of their tribes on the night of the exit, Psalm civ. 37.
Ver. 27. Elim, to the north-west of Sinai. Shaw says there are now only nine fountains. (Haydock) — Strabo mentions a place of this description, five days’ journey from Jericho, which was consecrated to the gods. (B. xvi. p. 511.) (Calmet) — We might here, (at the conclusion of the third age, according to those who call the deluge the first, and Abraham’s call, the second,) pause, with Dr. Worthington, to take a view of the progress of the Church, and of the true doctrine, which has at all times been believed. But the attentive reader of the sacred text, and of these notes, will find this done to his hand almost in every page. Meditate upon these things…Take heed to thyself and to doctrine, be earnest in them, 1 Timothy iv. 15. The holy Job probably lived about this time, so that his book may serve to corroborate those truths, which were the objects of faith to some good men living among the Gentiles, as well as to the more favoured nation of the Jews. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The canticle of Moses. The bitter waters of Mara are made sweet.
1 Then *Moses and the children of Israel sung this canticle to the Lord, and said: Let us sing to the Lord: for he is gloriously magnified, the horse and the rider he hath thrown into the sea.
2 *The Lord is my strength and my praise, and he is become salvation to me: he is my God, and I will glorify him: the God of my father, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is as a man of war, Almighty is his name.
4 Pharao’s chariots and his army he hath cast into the sea: his chosen captains are drowned in the Red Sea.
5 The depths have covered them, they are sunk to the bottom like a stone.
6 Thy right-hand, O Lord, is magnified in strength: thy right-hand, O Lord, hath slain the enemy.
7 And in the multitude of thy glory thou hast put down thy adversaries: thou hast sent thy wrath, which hath devoured them like stubble.
8 And with the blast of thy anger the waters were gathered together: the flowing water stood, the depths were gathered together in the midst of the sea.
9 The enemy said: I will pursue and overtake, I will divide the spoils, my soul shall have its fill: I will draw my sword, my hand shall slay them.
10 Thy wind blew and the sea covered them: they sunk as lead in the mighty waters.
11 Who is like to thee, among the strong, O Lord? who is like to thee, glorious in holiness, terrible and praise-worthy, doing wonders?
12 Thou stretchedst forth thy hand, and the earth swallowed them.
13 In thy mercy thou hast been a leader to the people which thou hast redeemed: and in thy strength thou hast carried them to thy holy habitation.
14 Nations rose up, and were angry: sorrows took hold on the inhabitants of Philisthiim.
15 Then were the princes of Edom troubled, trembling seized on the stout men of Moab: all the inhabitants of Chanaan became stiff.
16 Let fear and dread fall upon them, in the greatness of thy arm: let them become immoveable as a stone, until thy people, O Lord, pass by: until this thy people pass by, which thou hast possessed.
17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thy inheritance, in thy most firm habitation, which thou hast made, O Lord; thy sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.
18 The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.
19 For Pharao went in on horseback with his chariots and horsemen into the sea: and the Lord brought back upon them the waters of the sea: but the children of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst thereof.
20 So Mary the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand: and all the women went forth after her with timbrels and with dances.
21 And she began the song to them, saying: Let us sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously magnified, the horse and his rider he hath thrown into the sea.
22 And Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went forth into the wilderness of Sur: and they marched three days through the wilderness, and found no water.
23 And they came into Mara, and they could not drink the waters of Mara, because they were bitter: whereupon he gave a name also agreeable to the place, calling it Mara, that is, bitterness.
24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying: What shall we drink?
25 But he cried to the Lord, and he shewed him a tree, *which when he had cast into the waters, they were turned into sweetness. There he appointed him ordinances, and judgments, and there he proved him,
26 Saying: If thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and do what is right before him, and obey his commandments, and keep all his precepts, none of the evils that I laid upon Egypt, will I bring upon thee: for I am the Lord thy healer.
27 *And the children of Israel came into Elim, where there were twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm trees: and they encamped by the waters.
1: Wisdom x. 20.
2: Psalm cxvii. 14.; Isaias xii. 2.
25: Judith v. 15.; Ecclesiasticus xxxviii. 5.
27: Numbers xxxiii. 9.