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Victory at Sea: Prose and Poetry in Exodus 14-15


THE POETIC ACCOUNT The poetic account of chapter 15 includes the Song of Moses and the Israelites (vv. 1-18)17 and the song of Miriam and the women (v. 21), which is introduced by a short narrative (vv. 19-20). The longer account has received a great deal of study with varying re- sults as to genre type (hymn, hymn and thanksgiving psalm, en- thronement psalm, liturgy, and victory song), number of stanzas

(whether two, three, or four),18

its date, and the issue of whether it

is dependent on the prose account or vice versa. The tenor of the composition argues strongly for viewing this poem as a victory


composed of three stanzas, each marked by the strategic

placement of staircase parallelism (vv. 6, 11, 16b)20 that forms a refrain and a hinge device. The opening spontaneous praise (v. 1)

17 Interestingly in the Septuagint the Song of Moses occurs in the Pentateuch and also as the first of the odes appended to the Psalter. In the latter case verse 19 is included with verses 1-18 and is written in poetic form.

18 See, for example, J. J. Burden, "A Stylistic Analysis of Exodus 15:1-21: Theory and Practice," Ou Testamentiese werkgemeenskap in Suid-Afrika 29 (1986): 34-72; U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967), 172-82; Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974), 240-53; George W. Coats, "The Traditio-Historical Character of the Reed Sea Motif," Vetus Testamentum 17 (1967): 253-65; idem, "The Song of the Sea," Catholic Bibli- cal Quarterly 31 (1969): 1-17; F. M. Cross, Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (Bal- timore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1950), 83-127; idem, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), 112-44; David Noel Freedman, Pottery, Poetry, and Prophecy: Studies in Early Hebrew Poetry (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1980), 179-227; Maribeth Howell, "Exodus 1.5, lb-18: A Poetic Analysis," Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses 65 (1989): 5-42; James Muilenburg, "A Liturgy on the Triumphs of Yahweh," in Studia Biblica et Semitica, ed. Th. C. Vriezen (Wageningen: H. Veenman, 1966), 233-51; Richard D. Patterson, "The Song of Redemption," Westminster Theological Journal 57 (1995): 453-61; Hans Strauss, "Das Meerlied des Mose-ein 'Siegeslied' Israels?" Zeitschrift ftir die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 97 (1985): 103-9; James W. Watts, Psalm and Story: Inset Hymns in Hebrew Narrative (Sheffield: JSOT, 1992), 41-62; and J. P. van der Westhuizen, "Literary Device in Exodus 15:1-18 and Deut 32:1-43 as a Criterion for Determining Their Literary Standards," Ou Testamentiese werkgemeenskap in Suid- Afrika 17/18 (1984): 57-73.

19 For the genre victory song see James H. Breasted, ed., Ancient Records of Egypt (New York: Russell and Russell, 1962), 13:94; Peter C. Craigie, "The Song of Debo- rah and the Epic of Tukulti-Ninurta," Journal of Biblical Literature 88 (1969): 253-65; William F. Edgerton and John A. Wilson, Historical Records of Ramses III (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936), 111-12; Alan J. Hauser, "Two Songs of Victory: A Comparison of Exodus 15 and Judges 5," in Directions in Biblical Hebrew Poetry, ed. Elaine R. Follis (Sheffield: JSOT, 1987), 265-84; Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:35-39, 43-48; and Richard D. Patterson, "The Song of Debo- rah," in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, ed. John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 142.

20 So also Wilfred G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry (Sheffield: JSOT, 1986), 153-54.

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