Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

Exodus Ch.15 / 40 Ch.s


* The song of Moses for the deliverance of Israel. (1-21) The
bitter waters at Marah, The Israelites come to Elim. (22-27)

#1-21 This song is the most ancient we know of. It is a holy
song, to the honour of God, to exalt his name, and celebrate his
praise, and his only, not in the least to magnify any man.
Holiness to the Lord is in every part of it. It may be
considered as typical, and prophetical of the final destruction
of the enemies of the church. Happy the people whose God is the
Lord. They have work to do, temptations to grapple with, and
afflictions to bear, and are weak in themselves; but his grace
is their strength. They are often in sorrow, but in him they
have comfort; he is their song. Sin, and death, and hell
threaten them, but he is, and will be their salvation. The Lord
is a God of almighty power, and woe to those that strive with
their Maker! He is a God of matchless perfection; he is glorious
in holiness; his holiness is his glory. His holiness appears in
the hatred of sin, and his wrath against obstinate sinners. It
appears in the deliverance of Israel, and his faithfulness to
his own promise. He is fearful in praises; that which is matter
of praise to the servants of God, is very dreadful to his
enemies. He is doing wonders, things out of the common course of
nature; wondrous to those in whose favour they are wrought, who
are so unworthy, that they had no reason to expect them. There
were wonders of power and wonders of grace; in both, God was to
be humbly adored.

#22-27 In the wilderness of Shur the Israelites had no water. At
Marah they had water, but it was bitter; so that they could not
drink it. God can make bitter to us that from which we promise
ourselves most, and often does so in the wilderness of this
world, that our wants, and disappointments in the creature, may
drive us to the Creator, in whose favour alone true comfort is
to be had. In this distress the people fretted, and quarrelled
with Moses. Hypocrites may show high affections, and appear
earnest in religious exercises, but in the time of temptation
they fall away. Even true believers, in seasons of sharp trial,
will be tempted to fret, distrust, and murmur. But in every
trial we should cast our care upon the Lord, and pour out our
hearts before him. We shall then find that a submissive will, a
peaceful conscience, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost, will
render the bitterest trial tolerable, yea, pleasant. Moses did
what the people had neglected to do; he cried unto the Lord. And
God provided graciously for them. He directed Moses to a tree
which he cast into the waters, when, at once, they were made
sweet. Some make this tree typical of the cross of Christ, which
sweetens the bitter waters of affliction to all the faithful,
and enables them to rejoice in tribulation. But a rebellious
Israelite shall fare no better than a rebellious Egyptian. The
threatening is implied only, the promise is expressed. God is
the great Physician. If we are kept well, it is he that keeps
us; if we are made well, it is he that recovers us. He is our
life and the length of our days. Let us not forget that we are
kept from destruction, and delivered from our enemies, to be the
Lord's servants. At Elim they had good water, and enough of it.
Though God may, for a time, order his people to encamp by the
bitter waters of Marah, that shall not always be their lot. Let
us not faint at tribulations.