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


land of their inheritance and the Lord's dwelling (vv. 12-17). A tes- timony to God's eternal reign closes the poem (v. 18).

This is a piece of carefully crafted literature. The individual units of the poem are well constructed with identifiable stanzas and strophes, while observable themes, phrases, and vocabulary blend the parts together. Thus the emphasis on the waters of the sea is featured in the first two stanzas (vv. 1, 4-5, 8, 10), and the motif of the right hand or arm of God occurs in the second and third stanzas (vv. 6, 12, 16a), together with the triumphant excla- mation that Pharaoh's horses and chariots have been hurled into the sea (vv. 1, 4; cf. v. 21).25


The prose and the longer of the two poetic accounts share an essen- tial unity in several matters of theme and vocabulary. Both em- phasize the sea and its waters (Exod. 14:2, 9, 16, 21-23, 26-28, 29; 15:4-5, 8, 10) in which the Egyptians perished (14:23, 26-28; 15:1, 4-5, 10).26 Both mention that the waters were piled up on either side of the path by the breath or wind of God (14:21-22; 15:8). The theme of pursuit also appears in both accounts (14:4, 8, 17, 23; 15:9). Also the two accounts agree on several features: the waters congealed and stood fast like a wall so that the Egyptians unhesi- tatingly pursued the Israelites into the path that had been estab- lished, only to realize too late that Yahweh was returning the wa- ters on them so that they perished in the midst of the sea (14:21-29; 15:8-10).

Nevertheless there are marked differences between the two. The prose narrative provides a setting for the core miracle, for it gives details of the arrival of both the Israelites and the Egyptians at the sea. Further, the prose narrative includes such matters as the Israelites' fear because of the Egyptian presence, the divine assurances to Moses and the angelic intervention, the role played by Moses and his outstretched hand, the Egyptians' fright at the prospect of impending doom, and the Israelites' renewed reverence

25 See also Mark S. Smith, "The Poetics of Exodus 15 and Its Position in the Book," in Imagery and Imagination in Biblical Literature, ed. Lawrence Boadt and Mark S. Smith (Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association, 2001), 26-29. Smith, how- ever, opts for a bipartite division of the poem (vv. 1-12, 13-18) reflecting the priestly redaction of the book. Thus "vv. 1-12 refer generally to the events leading up to and including the victory at the Sea rendered in the first half of the book, while vv. 13-18 anticipate the events following the victory at the sea, as described in the second half of the book" (ibid., 34).


This is also found in 15:19 and 21.

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