Song of the Sea

The Song of the Sea (Hebrew: שירת הים‎, Shirat HaYam, also known as Az Yashir Moshe and Song of Moses, or Mi Chamocha) is a poem that appears in the Book of Exodus of the Hebrew Bible, at Exodus 15:1–18. It is followed in verses 20 and 21 by a much shorter song sung by Miriam and the other women. The Song of the Sea was reputedly sung by the Israelites after their crossing the Red Sea in safety, and celebrates the destruction of the Egyptian army during the crossing, and looks forward to the future conquest of Canaan.

The Songs of Joy (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)
Song of the Sea from a Sefer Torah

The poem is included in Jewish prayer books, and recited daily in the morning shacharit services. The poem also comprises the first ode or hymn of the Eastern Orthodox canon, where it is known as the Song or Ode of Moses.[1] It is also used in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other Christian liturgies[2] at the Easter Vigil when the history of salvation is recounted. These traditions follow Revelation 15:3 by calling it the "Song of Moses" (not to be confused with the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy).

The poem forms part of the sixteenth weekly Torah portion, or parshat Beshalach. The Sabbath on which it is read is known as Sabbath of the Song (שבת שירה). It is one of only two sections of the Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) that is written with a different layout from the normal simple columns. The other section written differently is the Song of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy, in the 53rd weekly portion, or parshat Ha'azinu.

OriginEdit

 
An engraving of a Torah scroll showing Exodus 15:1–19. British Library Add. MS. 4,707 (1896).

The Song of the Sea is noted for its archaic language. It is written in a style of Hebrew much older than that of the rest of Exodus. A number of scholars consider it the oldest surviving text describing the Exodus, dating to the pre-monarchic period. An alternative is that it was deliberately written in an archaic style, a known literary device.[3] Proposed dates range from the 13th to the 5th century BCE.[4]

Page layoutEdit

The Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript is a fragment of a 7th or 8th century Torah scroll that contains the Song of the Sea. Some scholars have argued that the "brickwork" pattern of the Ashkar-Gilson version shows that the Masoretes accurately copied earlier manuscripts. This pattern was not used in the Dead Sea Scrolls.[5] A similar pattern is used in modern Torah scrolls.[6]

TextEdit

Masoretic Text Transliteration English translation (New International Version)
אָ֣ז יָשִֽׁיר־מֹשֶׁה֩ וּבְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה
וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ לֵאמֹ֑ר אָשִׁ֤ירָה לַֽיהוָה֙ כִּֽי־גָאֹ֣ה גָּאָ֔ה,
ס֥וּס וְרֹכְבֹ֖ו רָמָ֥ה בַיָּֽם
ʾāz yāšīr Mōše ūḆənē Yīsrāʾēl ʾeṯ-haššīrā hazzōʾṯ laYHWH
wayyōʾmrū lēʾmōr ʾāšīrā laYHWH kī-gāʾō gāʾā,
sūs wərōḵəḇō rāmā ḇayyām
1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:

"I will sing to the Lord,
    for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
    he has hurled into the sea.

עָזִּ֤י וְזִמְרָת֙ יָ֔הּ וַֽיְהִי־לִ֖י לִֽישׁוּעָ֑ה
זֶ֤ה אֵלִי֙ וְאַנְוֵ֔הוּ אֱלֹהֵ֥י אָבִ֖י וַאֲרֹמְמֶֽנְהוּ

ʿāzzī wəzimrāṯ Yāh wayəhī-lī līšūʿā
ze ʾēlī wəʾanwēhī ʾĕlōhē ʾāḇī waʾărōməmenhū

2 "The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

יְהוָ֖ה אִ֣ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֑ה יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֹֽו

YHWH ʾīš mīlḥāmā YHWH šəmō

3 The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.

מַרְכְּבֹ֥ת פַּרְעֹ֛ה וְחֵילֹ֖ו יָרָ֣ה בַיָּ֑ם
וּמִבְחַ֥ר שָֽׁלִשָׁ֖יו טֻבְּע֥וּ בְיַם־סֽוּף

markəḇōṯ Parʿō wəḥēlō yārā ḇayyām
ūmīḇḥar šālīšāyw ṭubəʿū ḇəYam-Sūp̄

4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
    he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
    are drowned in the Red Sea.

תְּהֹמֹ֖ת יְכַסְיֻ֑מוּ יָרְד֥וּ בִמְצֹולֹ֖ת כְּמֹו־אָֽבֶן

təhōmōṯ yəḵasyumū yārəḏū ḇīmṣōlōṯ kəmō-ʾāḇen

5 The deep waters have covered them;
    they sank to the depths like a stone.

יְמִֽינְךָ֣ יְהוָ֔ה נֶאְדָּרִ֖י בַּכֹּ֑חַ
יְמִֽינְךָ֥ יְהוָ֖ה תִּרְעַ֥ץ אֹויֵֽב

yəmīnḵā YHWH neʾdārī bakkōaḥ
yəmīnḵā YHWH tīrʿaṣ ʾōyēḇ

6 Your right hand, Lord,
    was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
    shattered the enemy.

וּבְרֹ֥ב גְּאֹונְךָ֖ תַּהֲרֹ֣ס קָמֶ֑יךָ
תְּשַׁלַּח֙ חֲרֹ֣נְךָ֔ יֹאכְלֵ֖מֹו כַּקַּֽשׁ

ūḇərōḇ gəʾōnḵā tahărōs qāmēḵā
təšallaḥ ḥărōnəḵā yōʾḵlēmō kaqqaš

7 "In the greatness of your majesty
    you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
    it consumed them like stubble.

וּבְר֤וּחַ אַפֶּ֙יךָ֙ נֶ֣עֶרְמוּ מַ֔יִם
נִצְּב֥וּ כְמֹו־נֵ֖ד נֹזְלִ֑ים קָֽפְא֥וּ תְהֹמֹ֖ת בְּלֶב־יָֽם

ūḇərūaḥ ʾappēḵā neʿermū mayīm
nīṣṣəḇū ḵəmō-nēḏ nōzəlīm qāp̄əʾū ṯəhōmōṯ bəleḇ-yām

8 By the blast of your nostrils
    the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
    the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.

אָמַ֥ר אֹויֵ֛ב אֶרְדֹּ֥ף אַשִּׂ֖יג
אֲחַלֵּ֣ק שָׁלָ֑ל תִּמְלָאֵ֣מֹו נַפְשִׁ֔י
אָרִ֣יק חַרְבִּ֔י תֹּורִישֵׁ֖מֹו יָדִֽי

ʾāmar ʾōyēḇ ʾerdōp̄ ʾassīg
ʾăḥallēq šālāl tīmlāʾēmō nap̄šī
ʾārīq ḥarbī tōrīšēmō yāḏī‎

9 The enemy boasted,
    ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
    I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
    and my hand will destroy them.’

נָשַׁ֥פְתָּ בְרוּחֲךָ֖ כִּסָּ֣מֹו יָ֑ם
צָֽלֲלוּ֙ כַּֽעֹופֶ֔רֶת בְּמַ֖יִם אַדִּירִֽים

nā šap̄tā ḇərūḥăḵā kīssāmō yām
ṣālălū kaʿōp̄ereṯ bəmayīm ʾaddīrīm

10 But you blew with your breath,
    and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
    in the mighty waters.

מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהוָ֔ה
מִ֥י כָּמֹ֖כָה נֶאְדָּ֣ר בַּקֹּ֑דֶשׁ
נֹורָ֥א תְהִלֹּ֖ת עֹ֥שֵׂה פֶֽלֶא

mī-ḵāmōḵā bāʾēlīm YHWH
mī kāmōḵā neʾdār baqqōḏeš
nōrāʾ ṯəhīllōṯ ʿōsē p̄eleʾ‎

11 Who among the gods
    is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
    majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
    working wonders?

נָטִ֙יתָ֙ יְמִ֣ינְךָ֔ תִּבְלָעֵ֖מֹו אָֽרֶץ

nāṭīṯā yəmīnḵā tiḇlāʿēmō ʾāreṣ

12 "You stretch out your right hand,
    and the earth swallows your enemies.

נָחִ֥יתָ בְחַסְדְּךָ֖ עַם־ז֣וּ גָּאָ֑לְתָּ
נֵהַ֥לְתָּ בְעָזְּךָ֖ אֶל־נְוֵ֥ה קָדְשֶֽׁךָ

nāḥīṯā ḇəḥasdəḵā ʿam-zū gāʾālətā
nēhaltā ḇəʿāzzəḵā ʾel-nəwē qoḏšeḵā‎

13 In your unfailing love you will lead
    the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
    to your holy dwelling.

שָֽׁמְע֥וּ עַמִּ֖ים יִרְגָּז֑וּן חִ֣יל אָחַ֔ז יֹשְׁבֵ֖י פְּלָֽשֶׁת

šāməʿū ʿammīm yīrgāzūn ḥīl ʾāḥaz yōšəḇē Pəlāšeṯ

14 The nations will hear and tremble;
    anguish will grip the people of Philistia.

אָ֤ז נִבְהֲלוּ֙ אַלּוּפֵ֣י אֱדֹ֔ום אֵילֵ֣י מֹואָ֔ב יֹֽאחֲזֵ֖מֹו רָ֑עַד
נָמֹ֕גוּ כֹּ֖ל יֹשְׁבֵ֥י כְנָֽעַן

ʾāz nīḇhălū ʾallūp̄ē ʾĔḏōm ʾēlē Mōʾāḇ yōʾḥăzēmō rāʿaḏ
nāmōgū kōl yōšəḇē Ḵənāʿan

15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
    the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away;

תִּפֹּ֨ל עֲלֵיהֶ֤ם אֵימָ֙תָה֙ וָפַ֔חַד
בִּגְדֹ֥ל זְרֹועֲךָ֖ יִדְּמ֣וּ כָּאָ֑בֶן
עַד־יַעֲבֹ֤ר עַמְּךָ֙ יְהוָ֔ה עַֽד־יַעֲבֹ֖ר עַם־ז֥וּ קָנִֽיתָ

tīppōl ʿălēhem ʾēmāṯā wāp̄aḥaḏ
bigḏōl zərōʿăḵā yīddəmū kāʾāḇen
ʿaḏ-yaʿăḇōr ʿamməḵā YHWH ʿaḏ-yaʿăḇōr ʿam-zū qānīṯā

16 terror and dread will fall on them.
By the power of your arm
    they will be as still as a stone—
until your people pass by, Lord,
    until the people you bought pass by.

תְּבִאֵ֗מֹו וְתִטָּעֵ֙מֹו֙ בְּהַ֣ר נַחֲלָֽתְךָ֔
מָכֹ֧ון לְשִׁבְתְּךָ֛ פָּעַ֖לְתָּ יְהוָ֑ה מִקְּדָ֕שׁ אֲדֹנָ֖י כֹּונְנ֥וּ יָדֶֽיךָ

təḇīʾēmō wəṯīṭṭāʿēmō bəhar naḥălāṯəḵā
māḵōn ləšīḇtəḵā pāʿaltā YHWH mīqqəḏāš ʾăḏōnāy kōnnū yāḏēḵā

17 You will bring them in and plant them
    on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,
    the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.

יְהוָ֥ה ׀ יִמְלֹ֖ךְ לְעֹלָ֥ם וָעֶֽד YHWH yīmlōḵ ləʿōlām wāʿeḏ

18 "The Lord reigns
    for ever and ever."

כִּ֣י בָא֩ ס֨וּס פַּרְעֹ֜ה בְּרִכְבֹּ֤ו וּבְפָרָשָׁיו֙ בַּיָּ֔ם וַיָּ֧שֶׁב יְהוָ֛ה עֲלֵהֶ֖ם אֶת־מֵ֣י הַיָּ֑ם וּבְנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל הָלְכ֥וּ בַיַּבָּשָׁ֖ה בְּתֹ֥וךְ הַיָּֽם

kī ḇāʾ sūs Parʿō bəriḵbō ūḇəp̄ārāšāyw bayyām wayyāšeḇ YHWH ʿălēhem ʾeṯ-mē hayyām ūḆənē Yīsrāʾēl hāləḵū ḇayyabbāšā bəṯōḵ hayyām 19 When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.

וַתִּקַּח֩ מִרְיָ֨ם הַנְּבִיאָ֜ה אֲחֹ֧ות אַהֲרֹ֛ן אֶת־הַתֹּ֖ף בְּיָדָ֑הּ וַתֵּצֶ֤אןָ כָֽל־הַנָּשִׁים֙ אַחֲרֶ֔יהָ בְּתֻפִּ֖ים וּבִמְחֹלֹֽת

wattīqqaḥ Mīrəyām hannəḇīʾā ʾăḥōṯ ʾAhărōn ʾeṯ-hattōp̄ bəyāḏā wattēṣeʾnā ḵāl-hannāšīm ʾaḥărēhā bəṯuppīm ūḇīmḥōlōṯ 20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.

וַתַּ֥עַן לָהֶ֖ם מִרְיָ֑ם
שִׁ֤ירוּ לַֽיהוָה֙ כִּֽי־גָאֹ֣ה גָּאָ֔ה
ס֥וּס וְרֹכְבֹ֖ו רָמָ֥ה בַיָּֽם

wattaʿan lāhem Mīrəyām
šīrū laYHWH kī-gāʾō gāʾā
sūs wərōḵəḇō rāmā ḇayyām
21 Miriam sang to them:

Sing to the Lord,
    for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
    he has hurled into the sea.

Ketuba of the Seventh Day of PesahEdit

The Ketubá del Seten Dia de Pesah (or כתובה ליום השביעי של פסח – Ketuba Le-yom Ha-shebi`i shel Pesah) is a liturgical poem in Ladino, describing Pharaoh's defeat in the Sea of Reeds. Most Jewish communities sing this poem on 21 Nisan, the seventh day of Passover.[citation needed] According to Jewish tradition, this is the day on which Pharaoh's army was drowned in the Sea of Reeds, and the Israelite people sang the Song of the Sea in gratitude for this victory.

Presumably, this text is called a ketuba ("marriage contract") because the relationship between God and the Jewish people is traditionally described as a marriage, and the splitting of the sea is considered to be an important event leading to that marriage, which ultimately took place 42 days later, at Mt. Sinai.

A tune for the Ladino poem along with the entire text itself can be found in Isaac Levy's Anthology of Sepharadic Hazzanut.[7]

Musical settingsEdit

In Hebrew Cantillation, the Song is given a unique, festive tune, not bound to the ordinary trope marks.[8]

The following settings exist for the Song of the Sea:

Some of the song features in the 1998 animated film The Prince of Egypt. The text consists of a few selected lines and paraphrases from the Hebrew text inserted in the bridge of the song When You Believe.

Portions of the song are paraphrased in both of the melodic and textual variations of the popular African-American gospel music song, "O Mary Don't You Weep".

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ The Psalter According to the Seventy (1987). Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery. ISBN 0-943405-00-9.
  2. ^ e.g. Methodist Worship Book
  3. ^ Thomas B. Dozeman (2009). Exodus. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 331. ISBN 978-0-8028-2617-6.
  4. ^ Wong, Gregory T.K. (2007). "Song of Deborah as Polemic." Biblica, vol. 88, no. 1 p. 1.
  5. ^ Hess, Richard (2016). The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction. Baker. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  6. ^ The World's Greatest Book: The Story of How the Bible Came to Be. Museum of the Bible. p. 152. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  7. ^ Levy, Isaac (1965). Antologiya shel Hazzanut Sefaradit [Anthology of Sepharadic Hazzanut]. Three Pilgrimage Festivals. p. 409, #335.
  8. ^ "YUTorah Online - The Shirah Melody in the Ashkenazic and Sephardic Traditions (Cantor Macy Nulman)". www.yutorah.org. Retrieved 2021-03-15.

External linksEdit