In Exodus 15:1-12, it is written:

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.

The Eternal's strength and His vengeance were my salvation; this is my God, and I will make Him a habitation, the God of my father, and I will ascribe to Him exaltation.

The Lord is a Master of war; the Lord is His Name.

Pharaoh's chariots and his army He cast into the sea, and the elite of his officers sank in the Red Sea.

The depths covered them; they descended into the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O Lord, is most powerful; Your right hand, O Lord, crushes the foe.

And with Your great pride You tear down those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning wrath; it devours them like straw.

And with the breath of Your nostrils the waters were heaped up; the running water stood erect like a wall; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea.

[Because] the enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will share the booty; my desire will be filled from them; I will draw my sword, my hand will impoverish them.

You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the powerful waters.

Who is like You among the powerful, O Lord? Who is like You, powerful in the holy place? Too awesome for praises, performing wonders!

You inclined Your right hand; the earth swallowed them up.

In verse 12, why is the word "earth" introduced to replace "water"?

  • 1
    Well, there is water on the earth :P
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 13:19
  • @Daи: Yeah. What is underneath the water? Earth. Hebrew poetry often repeats basic concepts in slightly different words. IOW, at the heart of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. What appears to us to be inconsistent is in fact very consistent given the medium of communication used. As Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message"! Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


The Hebrew word for "earth" here is the same used for "earth" in Genesis 1:1-2

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

In Genesis 1:1-2 we find two things pertinent to your question.

I. Earth is the sphere that was created as opposed to heaven and is not merely dirt/land.

II. The earth includes the water the waters were part of that earth before the waters were gathered together into one place and before the dry land appeared. Thus the waters are considered part of the earth. What part has done may be attributed to the whole.

Moreover, this is clearly poetic anthropomorphism, attributing to inanimate objects animate traits--the earth has a mouth and it swallows. This we see in numbers 16:31-35. This is imagery and reflects what it looked like from the perspective of the observers. So here, the sea is seen as the mouth of the earth; in Numbers, the ground is seen as the mouth of the earth.

Both the ground and the waters are part of the earth.

  • I considered Revelation 12:16 when I answered this question.
    – user2027
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 17:58

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