Ephrem the Syrian’s hymns were celebrated East and West, and Robert Wilken notes ( The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity , 148 ) that one of his contributions was to compose “hymns especially for women to sing.” Describing this, the Syrian Christian Jacob of Sarug pointed to Exodus 15 and called Ephrem a “second moses” because he taught women “to sing praise with the sweetest of songs.”

Wilken quotes a longer passage from Jacob: “The blessed Ephrem saw that women were silent from praise, and in his wisdom he decided it was right that they should sing out; as Moses gave timbrel to the young girls, so did this discerning man compose hymns for virgins. As he stood among the sisters it was his delight to stir these chaste women into songs of praise. He was like an eagle perched among the doves as he taught them to sing new songs of praise with pure utterance. Flocks of meek partridge surrounded him, learning how to sing a sweeter song in purity of voice; He taught the swallows to warble. And the church resounded with the lovely sound of chaste women’s voices.”