Exodus [15:1-18] "Song of the Sea" (From Biblical Hebrew)

Today's poem is one of the oldest surviving pieces of Hebrew poetry of any length: the Song of the Sea, composed either during the early Iron Age or late Bronze Age. In the context of the Bible (where a much later redactor was kind enough to preserve the poem by shoehorning it into the Exodus-myth) it is the song sung by the Israelites after God drowned Pharaoh's armies in the Red Sea, and after parting the waters to allow them to pass through. Needless to say, this likely has as little to do with the actual circumstances of the original composition as Arthurian legend does with the history of the British Crown. 

Song of the Sea
Exodus [15:1-18]
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in an archaized Hebrew pronunciation.

I sing for Yahweh,  victorious in glory:
The horse and the horseman  He hurled to the sea.
Yahweh my salvation,  my strength and my song.
This is my God,  this God I exalt. 
My father's God,  this God I extol:
Yahweh the war-hero,
Yahweh is His name.

Pharaoh's charioted army He thrust to the sea
Pharaoh's choice captains  plunged in the reeded sea.
The abyss whelmed them under  
And they sank to its depth like stone.

Your right hand, Yahweh  is majestic in might.
Your right hand, Yahweh,  shattered the foe.
In ultimate splendor  You felled those who faced You.
You fired forth Your fury to combust them like straw.
At the gust of Your nostrils the waters were stacked,
The waves like risen dams stood solid.
The abyss congealed in the heart of the waters.

The foe yelled out "I'll pursue, I'll subdue
I will share out the spoils,  my bloodlust will glut on them
I will bear my sword and my hand will maraud them."

But You blew Your great gusts  and sea whelmed them under.
They plummeted like lead subdued by the waters.
Who is as You among the gods, Yahweh?
Who is as You highest among holies?
Awe-bringer, hymn-hearer 
Wreaker of wonders!

You stretched Your right hand and earth gulped them under,
You guided in Your faith the people You redeemed,
Guarding their road
To Your holy abode.

Then nations heard and quaked: 
The Philistines throttled with anguish.
The chieftains of Edom panicked.
The tribes of Moab were in tremors
And terror melted the men of all Canaan.
Down upon them fell terror and horror;
By Your awesome brawn  they were dumbed as stone
While Your people passed through, O Yahweh,
While Your created people passed through.

You brought them to plant them on the mount You bequeathed,
This ground You deemed Your dwelling, O Yahweh
Your sanctum, O Lord which Your own hand founded.
All hail Lord Yahweh
Now and evermore.

The Original:

אשירה ליהוה   כי־גאה גאה
סוס ורכבו  רמה בים׃
עזי וזמרת יה  ויהי־לי לישועה
זה אלי ואנוהו  אלהי אבי וארממנהו׃
יהוה איש מלחמה  יהוה שמו

מרכבת פרעה וחילו  ירה בים
ומבחר שלשיו  טבעו בים־סוף׃
תהמת יכסימו  ירדו במצולת כמו־אבן׃

ימינך יהוה  נאדרי בכח
ימינך יהוה  תרעץ אויב׃
וברב גאונך  תהרס קמיך
תשלח חרנך  יאכלמו כקש׃
וברוח אפיך  נערמו מים
נצבו כמו־נד נזלים  קפאו תהמת בלב־ים׃

אמר אויב  ארדף אשיג
אחלק שלל תמלאמו נפשי
אריק חרבי  תורישמו ידי׃
נשפת ברוחך  כסמו ים
צללו כעופרת  במים אדירים׃
מי־כמכה  באלם יהוה
מי כמכה  נאדר בקדש
נורא תהלת  עשה פלא׃

נטית ימינך  תבלעמו ארץ׃
נחית בחסדך  עם־זו גאלת
נהלת בעזך  אל־נוה קדשך׃

שמעו עמים ירגזון
חיל אחז ישבי פלשת׃
אז נבהלו אלופי אדום
אילי מואב יאחזמו רעד
נמגו כל ישבי כנען׃

תפל עליהם  אימתה ופחד
בגדל זרועך  ידמו כאבן
עד־יעבר עמך יהוה  עד־יעבר עם־זו קנית׃

תבאמו ותטעמו  בהר נחלתך
מכון לשבתך  פעלת יהוה
מקדש אדני  כוננו ידיך׃
יהוה ימלך  לעלם ועד׃


  1. It is beautiful and I always love to hear your readings. The wealth of background information you offer here is simply marvelous. You are one of my favorite teachers!

  2. You're very welcome. I am always glad when my obsessions prove useful to others

  3. I much prefer "wreaker of wonders" to "performing miracles" or whatever they usually use in siddurim.


There was an error in this gadget