BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 2004
The seeming redundancy of 15:19, troublesome to many,34 serves as a stitching device that threads the two subsections (14:26-29,
30-31; 15:19-21) together.35
Exodus 15:1-18 would then be seen as
an independent poem (whatever its time of composition) inserted into the final narrative.
Second, the literary constraints attendant to the genres of prose and poetry inevitably require that each be evaluated on its own terms. The victory song of 15:1-18 should not be pressed with a literalistic hermeneutic and the prose narrative should not be expected to contain all the sensational features of the poem. 36
Third, the combination of the prose and poetic accounts sketches a far richer portrait of what took place at the Re(e)d Sea. Houston astutely concludes that "the use of different kinds of ma- terial enables the same event to be seen in two different and equally essential ways."37
Fourth, theologically the union of the two accounts under- scores the sovereign and awesome power of Israel's miracle- working God and its effect in the lives of God's people. The events at the sea constitute "an instantaneous and astounding victory, utterly confounding all human expectation, worked by the mighty arm of the Lord who with his own breath heaps up the wave and with his own breath looses it upon the enemy." 38
Fifth, a further word needs to be said about the function of the poetry that is set into the prose narrative. Taking its theme from the song of Miriam (15:21), Moses' song is designed to underscore
34 See, for example, Janzen, "Song of Moses," 213-15; and Phyllis Trible, "Bringing Miriam Out of the Shadows," Bible Review 5 (1989): 18-20. The much-debated "to them" (masculine plural) in 15:21 is easily explained as the women's response to the implied exclamations of renewed trust in Yahweh and Moses made by the Israelite people (masculine nouns, 14:30-31).
35 For the varied uses of repetition as a literary device see Alter, The Art of Bibli- cal Narrative, 88-113; and Jacob Licht, Storytelling in the Bible, 2d ed. (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1986), 51-95. Licht views 15:19 as a poetic tricolon, which, though not part of the psalm (15:1-18), serves as "a marking device of the prose account that quotes the Song" (ibid., 92).
36 For the distinction between "literalistic" and "literal" exegesis see Kevin J. Van- hoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 310-12.
37 Walter J. Houston, "Misunderstanding or Midrash? The Prose Appropriation of Poetic Material in the Hebrew Bible," Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissen- schaft 109 (1997): 342-55.
38 Ibid., 354. "The effect of these psalms on their narrative contexts is to point out to readers God's underlying knowledge and control of events, thus turning the sto- ries into examples of how God cares for God's people" (Watts, Psalm and Story, 190).