THE SONGS OF MOSES by Herschel
Moshe Rabenu sang three songs to HaShem. The first when Israel crossed the sea on dry land and the pursuing Egyptian army drowned. On three distinct occasions in scripture, Moses, overflowing with emotional and spiritual fervor, sings a song of praise to HaShem. You will find these 3 instances recorded in Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 32 and Revelations 15 and they are known as The Songs of Moses or in Hebrew ‘Shirat Moshe’.
Now, according to the Torah’s definition, a ‘shirah’ or ‘song’ is a profound and unusual spiritual phenomenon. According to the Talmud (oral tradition) – and I’m quoting from Mechilta 15:1 – there were only 10 songs from the beginning of creation to the end of the scriptural period. Even the sublime poetry of David and Isaiah, as well as that of the other prophets is not included as that which constitutes the Torah’s definition of a ‘song’. So then, what constitutes Torah’s concept of a song?
The Chazal – the Sages of old - suggest that most of us are often unaware of G-d’s hand at work in our immediate world. We struggle to comprehend how the seemingly unrelated phenomena surrounding us by could part of a coherent divine plan. We see suffering and evil proliferating without apparent judgment. We see good people experiencing terrible things and like King David, we wonder ‘is G-d at all interested in us? Does He really care?”
In Exodus 33, Moses made a special request to the Almighty; :18-23
18 And he said, "Please, show me Your glory."
19 Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to
whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
20 But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."
21 And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.
22 "So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.
23 "Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My `face shall not be seen."
This is how it is with us today. When we find ourselves struggling in the midst of a crisis, we are seldom aware of G-d’s presence. It is only afterward on reflection when the pressure is off, that we realize that He was there with us all the time and that in fact, it was He carried us through the difficulty. We see only His back after the situation has passed!
But, there are those rare occasions where the mists of darkness seem to melt away and we become aware of the One who sits enthroned in glory and we have a flash of insight and revelation into HaShem’s supreme authority over all of creation and especially, over our own lives.
In such moments, it is as if we see G-d as the divine director, sitting in the wings of the great stage of life unseen by the audience, and yet, every scene in every act, plays out precisely as he has ordained!
The inevitable result is that when the players on the stage of life become aware of G-d’s nearness, that they break out into a song of adoration and praise. In that brief moment in time, we see the Creator of time and space and who is always in total control, bringing all the apparent unrelated and contradictory phenomena together and combining them into a coherent, merciful and comprehensible whole!
This understanding of a shirah or song, has its equivalent in the New covenant. As any one of the new covenant writers became aware of the Father’s marvelous plans and purposes, they frequently burst forth into what is called a doxology. A doxology is a short hymn of praise to God often added to the end of psalms or a hymn. It is derived from the Greek doxa, glory + logos, word or speaking.
Illustrations of this abound throughout Paul’s letters and often, I suspect that Rav Sha’ul was living in a state of stagerring from one revelation to the next. And, as the eyes of his understanding was ‘enlightened in the knowledge of Yeshua, Paul burst out into a doxology. A perfection example occurs in Romans 11, where after explaining G-d’s eternal purposes with Israel, it is as if Rav Sha’ul simply cannot contain himself:
33 he depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments! How unsearchable are his ways!
34 or, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been his
35 or, ‘Who has given him anything and made him pay it back?’d
36 or from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom 11:33-36)
This doxology may be likened to Torah’s definition of a ‘song’. By the way, this tradition derives from a similar practice in the Jewish synagogue, where some versions of the Kaddish serve to terminate each section of the service and where the Kaddish functions as a hymn of praise to the Lord, a song or shirah. Now, if you were to mention the word Kaddish to a Jew, they will immediately link it to Kaddish Yatom,
known as the Mourner’s Kaddish.
There is also the Chatzi or Half Kaddish which recited before one of the oldest prayers in Judaism, called the Amidah prayer. This Amidah or Standing prayer concludes with the Kaddish Shaleym, the full Kaddish. Kaddish is the קדיש Aramaic word for "holy" and has little to do with death and mourning. In fact, its central theme is the magnification and sanctification of God's holy name. Many commentators go even further and suggest that the Lord’s Prayer taught in Matt 6, is derived from the opening stanza of the Kaddish;
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thine name…”. “Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei rabba, amen.” – “Hallowed, sanctified and magnified is Your great Name…”. I mention this just in passing for this is not the moment to do a study on the Jewish background of the Lord’s Prayer.
Having established that a song is the human response to the dawning awareness of G-d’s greatness and majesty, we can proceed to examine The Songs of Moses.
The 1st Song of Moses
The most famous occurrence occurs in Exodus 15 after the pursuing Egyptian army drowns in the Red Sea. This glorious event is recorded in Parashat Beshalach (Exo 13 to Exo 17) and is known as The Song at the Sea:-
1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: "I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed
gloriously! The horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea!
2 The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; he is my God, and I will praise Him; my father's God, and I will
After their deliverance from Egypt and after their passing through the sea on dry land, it is no wonder that they burst out into a song of praise after seeing the pursuing Egyptian army drown as the waters closed over them! This event brought to a conclusion their physical exodus from Egypt. Here, at the sea, Moses and all of Israel understood their situation as never before. They had witnessed all of G-d’s great signs and wonders in Egypt and had been delivered from slavery, carrying with them the wealth of Egypt. Then, they witnessed the seas parting and they crossed over on dry land. Now, the pursuing Egyptian army was also chasing after them UNTIL…
THE FEAR OF G-D AND BELIEF IN ADON HAOLAM – THE MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE – IS A FERTILE FIELD FOR THE SINGING OF WHAT TORAH DEFINES AS A SONG!
After doubting Thomas’ great confession of faith recorded in John 20, Yeshua said "Thomas, because you have seen Me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). Faith comes, Rav Sha’ul taught in Rom 10:17, “by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. But faith also comes by seeing G-d’s supernatural signs and wonders, as was the case with doubting Thomas. When we witness these signs with the eyes of the spirit and not only of the flesh, we are often in a state of reverential awe (if you will) and the kingdom of G-d breaks through as we stand in His Presence.
The only possible human response in such moments is to burst out in a song of praise. Today, in modern terms, we may well sing out in our heavenly language.
In Exo 10: 1- 3, HaShem states that He deliberately hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order that He might show ‘these signs of mine’. G-d supernaturally intervened in the lives of his people in order that we might ‘know’ or ‘yada’ Him. This is the purpose behind G-d’s miracles.
We ‘know’ or ‘yada’ the Lord in several ways but chief among them is ‘spiritual knowing’, an inner conviction of the heart and the spirit that G-d reigns right now, even when we are conflicted by what we see before us. We peer into eternity through the eyes of the spirit rather than seeing our circumstance through the eyes of the flesh. According to the sages, such knowing is also conducive to the expression of what Torah defines as a shirah or song!
The language of Exodus 15 is quite specific; “and kol B’nei Yisrael CHOSE to sing this song to HaShem” (Exo 15:1). This is precisely what HaShem requires of us; a heart’s response to His presence in our midst. Today, as I said earlier, in moments of the dawning awareness of His presence, we might well burst out singing in our heavenly language.
The sages teach that only when creation becomes one harmonious whole in the minds and hearts of the people, is it possible for people to express this in a human song. Ohr Chayim further notes that Exo 15:1 begins with ‘az’ – ‘then’ – and this indicates that it was the miracle at the sea enabled Moses, Miriam and all kol Adat B’nei Yisrael to sing this song. ‘Az yashir Moshe uv’nei Yisrael et hashirah hazot’ – “then Moses and the children of Israel chose to sing this song”. In other words, man’s response to the miraculous parting of the sea and the destruction of the pursuing Egyptian army, was to sing The Song of the Sea.
But, Ohr Chayim further notes that Torah uses the future tense “they will continue to sing”. From this, he interprets that the awareness of G-d’s Presence at the sea was not to be limited just to that generation that came out of Egypt. He derives midrashically the understanding that all future generations of Jews can raise the level of their spiritual understanding to the level of this same song.
All future generations can be encouraged because they too can experience G-d’s supernatural interventions and there awaits a great song that remains to be sung at some time in the future! What a glorious prospect! We serve a G-d who does not disappoint!
The uniqueness of the Song of the Sea is that all of Israel sang together with one voice and were empowered by G-d’s Spirit to rise to such a state of sublime prophecy!
The 2nd Song of Moses
Let’s move on to reflect on the 2nd Song of Moses which is found in Devarim chapter 32 . Immediately we notice that the events surrounding this 2nd song are very different. Whereas the song by the Sea was sung by all of Israel, the song in Deut 32 is sung only by Moses. Only his voice rang out before the Lord! It falls in the Torah portion called Ha’azinu. The song at the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea was the response to an unparalleled Divine action and it is an understandable human response after witnessing such a wondrous sight!
However, the greatness of King David was his ability to sing songs of praise despite personal tragedy which would have broken the spirits of a lesser mortals. Moses and all of Israel sang the Song at the Sea in a moment of relief and in all likelihood, religious ecstasy. But, this was not the case in Deut 32.
Here, Moses like David sings even when things are not going his way. Moses sand this second song moments before his death. This is the 2nd distinction between this song and the one recorded in Exo 15. Moses did not sing this song in a state of religious ecstacy after witnessing a great triumph; When we contemplate the words which Moses used, we are all the more amazed:
Give ear, O you heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. Because I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. (Deut 32:1-4)
Of all the ways of describing God at the time of his approaching demise, Moses refers to God as THE "Rock." The Term, of course, signifies the power of God. But when we recall that Moses’ down fall occurred when he attempted to extract water from a rock by striking it instead of speaking to it, it is all the more touching that this particular designation is used. Here, Moses completely accepts Divine justice: “Ascribe greatness to the Lord our Rock, his work is perfect and all his ways are just; a God of faithfulness and truth, without iniquity, just and right is he”. Denied entry into the ultimate goal of the exodus event – the Promised Land – Moses humbly accepts G-d judgment as just! This is yet another indication of the spiritual level which Moses achieved. Moses goes to his death, with dignity, praising God and leaving a legacy of faith and trust in HaShem, to inspire his people. Moses was an extraordinary servant of the Most High who knew the Lord face-to-face;
10 But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
11 in all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his
12 and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
To me, it is astonishing to consider the even his imminent demise can be a fertile field for what Torah defines as a song. In Judaism, it can be likened to Rabbi Akiva who, while be brutally tortured, died with the words of the Shema on his lips!
The 3rd Song of Moses
And then, with the final song found in Rev 15, we come face-to-face with the prophet who is greater than Moses, with the Lord Yeshua Himself!
So, to summarize thus far:-
In Exodus 15, Moses taught the people the triumphal words of the song and they all sang it together.
In Deut 32, Moses sang unaccompanied a song of trusting faithfulness in the midst of adversity.
Now, we can to Rev 15, to the 3rd Song of Moses. And immediately, we notice that this final song is in a league of its own, for it is the Lord Himself who teaches the words of this song!
2 I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire. Those defeating the beast, its image and the number of its name were
standing by the sea of glass, holding harps which God had given them.
3 They were singing the song of Moshe, the servant of God, and the song of the
Lamb: “Great and wonderful are the things you have done, Adonai, God of heaven’s armies!y Just and true are your ways, king of
4 Adonai, who will not fear and glorify your name? because you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your
righteous deeds have been revealed.”
Here, in Rev 15, it is not only Israel who sings this magnificent song but ALL BELIEVERS! And, our victory is assured because the words are words of life, direct from the mouth of the Lord Himself!
Like the Song of Moses, the Song of the Lamb exults in God’s just ways, using the language of the Tanakh. But unlike the Song of Moses, it also brings out that in the final judgment, God will be revealed as King of all the nations and King of the whole world, as prophesied in Zechariah 14:9, so that all nations will come and worship him;
16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to
worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on
them there will be no rain.
20 In that day "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the
bowls before the altar.
Although triumphal in nature, this song is not sung at a moment of great victory. Here, in Rev 15, the ultimate victory lies in the future and is preceded by terrible judgments. Revelation 15:5 onwards reveals that immediately after this song is sung, the sanctuary will be opened and out of it will proceed 7 angels or messengers (m’lachim) bearing the final 7 plagues that must take place before the Marriage Supper of the Lamb which occurs in Rev 19.
This ‘tent of witness’ that is opened is the Holy of Holies which contained what is called in the Book of Exodus, the Ark of the Testimony. It contained the two tablets of Law, Aaron’s rod which budded and a jar of manna, recounting G-d’s supernatural deeds, in preserving his people for a destiny that they are yet to fulfill!
8 Then the sanctuary was filled with smoke from God’s Sh’khinah, that is, from his power; and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels had accomplished their purpose.[i]
In Revelation chapter 13, the beast insulted God’s “name and his Shichinah, and those living in heaven” and “was allowed to make war on God’s holy people and to defeat them.” Now, after this victorious song, the tables are turned, and God’s fury is about to be poured out on those who follow the beast. After this judgment, we read in Rev 18:1 –
“After these things, I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, the earth was lit up by his splendor”. [ii]
And then, in Rev 19:1, we read
“and after these things, I heard what sounded like the roar of a huge crowd in heaven, shouting, “Halleluyah! The victory, the glory, the power of our God!2 For his judgments are true and just. He has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her whoring. He has taken vengeance on her who has the blood of his servants on her hands.”
This final Song of Moses and the Lamb expresses that in that moment of ultimate triumph, where judgment has been accomplished and all things are drawn together at the consummation of the age , will be the dawning of olam ba-ah, the Age to Come, when Yeshua will reign on earth for 1000 years and every knee will bow and confess his Lordship!
In Romans chapter 8, Paul taught that all of creation groans waiting for this ultimate relief (Romans 8:18-22).
Here, in Rev 15 and onwards, after the defeat of the adversary, it is as if all of creation joins together to worship our great G-d! Instead of groaning in frustration because of the birth pangs, creation now breaks out into a victorious song of praise, adoration and worship, welcoming the Lamb who is about take his rightful place as King over all!
Now, in Rev 19:6, we see proclaimed the ultimate reign of G-d on earth.;
”…and I heard what sounded like the roar of a huge crowd, like the sound of rushing waters, like loud peals of thunder, saying, “Halleluyah! Adonai, God of heaven’s armies,b has begun his reign!
The 1st song in Exo 15 was sung after witnessing a great triumph. The 2nd song in Deut 32 was sung alone by Moses, bearing testimony and acceptance of G-d’s judgments. The third son will be together with Messiah on His return! May it come soon, speedily, even in our time!
This final song in Rev 15 is truly prophetic in nature, proclaiming and in fact, initiating, that which will yet come to pass. The fact that it is the Lamb Himself who speaks the words of this song is the assurance that all these things will come to pass!
HaShem proclaimed through the prophet Isaiah that “My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11).
Yeshua, the creator of all things - “for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col 1:16-17) – Yeshua will have the final victory and be crowned Lord of all!
This final song of faith assures a positive and redemptive outcome for we serve the unchanging G-d whose word remains eternally, yes and amen!