“The Song of the Sea”​—A Manuscript That Bridges a Gap

ON May 22, 2007, a Hebrew scroll fragment dating from the seventh or eighth century C.E. went on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. This is a manuscript of Exodus 13:19–16:1. It includes what is known as “the Song of the Sea”​—the victory song that the Israelites sang after their miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea. Why is the unveiling of this scroll fragment noteworthy?

The answer has to do with the date of the manuscript. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E. Prior to their discovery some 60 years ago, the earliest Hebrew manuscript was the Aleppo Codex, dating back to 930 C.E. With the exception of a few fragments, no other Hebrew manuscripts have been found that date to the intervening period of several hundred years.

“The Song of the Sea manuscript,” says James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, “bridges the gap in the period of history between the Dead Sea Scrolls . . . and the Aleppo Codex.” According to him, this manuscript along with other ancient Biblical texts “provides a unique example of textual continuity.”

The scroll fragment is believed to be one of the many manuscripts discovered in the late 19th century in a synagogue in Cairo, Egypt. However, a private collector of Hebrew manuscripts was not aware of its significance until he consulted a professional in the late 1970’s. The fragment was carbon-dated at that time and then archived until it went on display in the Israel Museum.

Commenting on the relevance of the scroll fragment, Adolfo Roitman, head of the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, and curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls, states: “The Song of the Sea manuscript demonstrates the tremendous fidelity with which the Masoretic version of the Bible was transmitted over the centuries. It is incredible how the distinctive prosody of the Song of Sea is the same today as it was in the 7th-8th centuries.”

The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and Jehovah is primarily responsible for its preservation. Moreover, the Scriptures were meticulously copied by scribes. Therefore, the Bible text we use today is unquestionably reliable.

[Picture Credit Line on page 32]

Courtesy of Israel Museum, Jerusalem