As well as being one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry in the Hebrew Bible, scholars agree that Exodus 15, the Song of the Sea, is one of the oldest passages in the Hebrew Bible. The Song of the Sea describes Yahweh’s deliverance of his people Israel from Egyptian slavery. While the Israelites crossed the Red Sea safely, the Egyptians who pursued them were drowned—as Exodus 15:4 says, “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he [Yahweh] cast into the sea.”

Written in a pattern resembling brickwork, the Song of the Sea is set apart from the surrounding text. The only other poem in the Hebrew Bible that is given such special formatting is the Song of Deborah in Judges 5.

The earliest appearance of the Song of the Sea with this special brickwork formatting is in the Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript. It also appears in the well-preserved Leningrad Codex and became the standardized way of copying the poem. To this very day, Torah scrolls are written using the brickwork pattern.