Poetry, Dancing, and the Wondrous Fear of God

July 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Exodus | 3 Comments
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And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

Exodus 14:21

Neither Moses’s hand, nor the staff it held, had any intrinsic power. They were visible symbols of the power of God. The word translated as “sea” is used to describe a vast body of water, such as an ocean, not a marshy swamp or a shallow pool.

And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

Exodus 14:22

The word translated as “wall” is the same word normally used in the Bible to describe city walls, which were typically about 20 feet high.

For centuries God’s people had heard all about all sorts of gods in Egypt who were supposedly powerful and mighty, but none of those so-called gods had ever done anything like this!

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Exodus 15:11

This was a rhetorical question – which in Hebrew (especially Hebrew poetry) – was used for emphasis. It was a way of extolling the true “holiness” of God. The answer was and is, “No one – and no thing – is like unto God in the slightest.” It is a rhetorical question which inspired the names “Micah” and “Michael.” The little g “gods” were a reference to the figuratively just-defeated Egyptian gods. They were nothing compared to the real God, Who is glorious in holiness. Possibly the greatest foundation of God’s glory is His holiness. It is so great that it forces all who consider Him to fear Him. Even His praises are fearful! The real God is not your buddy, your pal, your “co-pilot,” or “the man upstairs,” and what He does is “wonders.”

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.

Exodus 15:20

Miriam, Moses’s sister, is revealed here to be a prophetess – meaning she spoke for God or revealed God’s truth or at least proclaimed God’s truth. She is referred to as the sister of Aaron rather than the sister of Moses in this context possibly because of Moses’s humility, or possibly in deference to Aaron as the older brother. It could also be because, as a singer, she is involved in a type of worship which would later be part of Temple worship, and which was to be the province of Aaron the high priest.

The timbrels were similar to what we would call tambourines, and there was definitely dancing involved, as uncomfortable as that may make some of us. The word translated as “dances” could include choreographed moves, rhythmic moves, or even spastic moves. (We can safely assume it was not “twerking,” however!) This was a celebration, but it was also meant to be “didactic” – teaching something about God – as well as glorifying Him for His character – Who He is and what He had done.

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  1. […] quickly the freedom of celebration and worship can come to a halt at the first sign of […]

  2. […] and are afraid of damaging their testimony and the effectiveness of their Gospel witness. They also fear the Lord Whom they love for saving them. Fools “rage.” They go on a tirade against the idea that they […]

  3. […] A Parted Sea and a Hardened Heart (Exodus 14) 21. Delaying Dutifully During Deliverance (Exodus 14) 22. Poetry, Dancing, and the Wondrous Fear of God (Exodus 15) 23. When the Lord Becomes Your Song (Exodus 15) 24. Omniscience, Obstacles, […]


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