Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. Chapter 15 pertains to the Jew’s jubilation after experiencing the miracle at the Red Sea.
Abravanel takes the opportunity to digress from his verse-to-verse commentary and discuss song or
poetry, from a Jewish retrospective. The Hebrew essay is lengthy. Please see Abravanel’s World.

“Then sang Moses and the Children of Israel this song unto God, and
spoke saying: I will sing unto God, for He is highly exalted. The horse
and his rider has He thrown into the sea.”

Here is a shorthand summary of Abravanel’s discourse. One type of song/poem is characterized by its
form. It’s written with melody in mind, though this type does not have musical accompaniment. It is
marked by meter and rhythm. Thus, these poems adhere to a style whereby the ends of the stanzas will
share two or three common letters. Holy Writ does not contain poems of this sort, rather they came into
usage at a later historical period. This literary style flourished when the Jews resided in the Arab or
Muslim countries (circa 8 th -15 th centuries), attesting to the host culture’s influence upon those Jewish
literati. Still, those authors penned their poems in the Hebrew language. Sweet songs, common themes
praised God, the intellect, and wisdom.

Type 2 song or poem did have musical instrumentation, but not necessarily strict, poetic form. It offered
high praise to the One Above. Men of renown uttered these incantations, as David the psalmist writes:
“The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; the right hand of God does
valiantly.” These poems utilized pleasant melody, vocals, and instrumentation to resonate with listeners,
inspiring greater religious awareness. Examples of type 2 can be found in the Five Books of Moses, the
Book of Job, as well as Proverbs. Emphasis was on mnemonic device, aiding listeners to commit those
songs to memory.

Type 3 relied on hyperbole, turn of phrase, and allegory. The purpose was to laud the subject at hand, or
conversely, to demean it. It sought to bring joy or pain to the audience, an emotive experience. In a
word, type 3 set out to influence man, to profoundly move him. Owing to its potency, it has been
likened to medicine; healthy people need not take it. A tonic for a hurting heart and melancholy soul.

In which category type does the song in our chapter belong? Abravanel’s World gives the answer.