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wilderness, is to be regarded as a memorial result, not of the personal greatness of the Hebrew Legislator, but of the great work of the Lord God Almighty through the servant, who brought laws from heaven to His Israel for mankind.
We now shall endeavour to obtain some such view of that region of Israel's consecration to God as may be serviceable for introduction to the history in Exodus ; and we will accompany that history in its order of time.1
NOTE (1).—Passage of the Red Sea. It is remarkable how completely for israel the Egyptian power ceased at once to be. For generations there had been Egyptian settlements on that west of Sinai, for mining purposes, with no doubt some military occupation for protection of the mines and miners. Traces of the miners of the Great Rameses have been seen there within the last two years. And the African continent, from which Israel passed into Sinai through the Red Sea, was separated from the Egyptian empire of that mainland only by a step ; whether the step across the Sea, or by the way around the head of it, along the Isthmus of Suez, between it and the Mediterranean,
,-a route which no doubt was taken by the Ethiopian Eunuch in his chariot (Act. viii.), as well as by Joseph and Mary (Mat. ii. 15), when the ancient word was coming true a second time, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son."
The distinguished Egyptologist Brugsch has proposed to take Israel that way, past the head of the Red Sea to Sinai ; and to place the waters they passed through, “which (He, xi. 29) the Egyptians essaying to do were drowned,” in that district, to the north-east of Egypt, between Etham and the Mediterranean ; where at present there is brackish water of an inland lake, and where anciently there was much more of lake, and bog, and quagmire than there now is. No doubt it was physically possible for Israel to go round that way to Sinai, skirting Palestine on the southern border of it; so that Moses might have touched the land of promise many centuries before he appeared in glory (Lu. ix. 30), to speak of another exodus (“decease," ver. 31) on the mountain of Transfiguration. And the Egyptians pursuing, might on that way have overtaken swift destruction, as another army perished in “Serbonian bog." But though, under Herr Brugsch's guidance, we might thus get round the Red Sea, we cannot get round the history in this Book. Under the leadership of Moses it compels us to go not through lakes, or bogs, or marshes, round the sea, but straight through the sea. There might be plenty of water on that other way, as there was in the neighbourhood when the Eunuch was ready for baptism. But in historical fact (1 Co. x. 2) it was in the cloud and in the sea ” that the fathers were “all baptized unto Moses," passing “through the sea, No doubt the thing was impossible, as if an army had been ferried
1 A most valuable sketch, with illustrations, is in the Century Magazine for July, 1888. In this and the Pharaoh article in the May preceding, the publishers have conferred great favour on the students of Exodus.
on eagles' wings” (Ex. xix. 4). Nevertheless it is a fact of this history. And it is our part, not to undertake the thankless task of making things easy for God, but simply to learn what is said about Him in this Book : remembering, that it was not by easy things of God that, in that Passage, there was “a nation, born at once": the Mosaic works were samples, not of sleight of hand, but of Omnipotence (Ge. xvii. 1).
From the history it appears that Herr Brugsch's roundabout way would not have been in all respects easy for man. Israel's commander-in-chief (Ex. xiii. 17 cp. xv. 3), who sees the end from the beginning, saw, at the further extremity of the Isthmus, in the south-west corner of Palestine, as if guarding the gate of it against assault from Egypt, those Philistines after whom Canaan afterwards was named Palestine, They were not among the nations expressly doomed to destruction at the outset. They were allowed to remain there long, as a thorn in Israel's side : witness the long after histories of Samson and of David. It was in the Plan of the Campaign of " Jehovah of the armies” (the Lord of Hosts), that Israel, before coming to the final tug of war with them, should first be trained and indurated, by residence in the wilderness, and war-practice in their journeying to Canaan, and in the conquest of the territories of the doomed Canaanitish peoples; whom Jehovah's army approached from the east side by passage of the Jordan. Through that side, thrown open by the downfall of Jericho, they found an open way into the very heart of the land, so that, with the heart of heathenism split in twain, it required but two powerful strokes of Joshua's campaigning, to the right and to the left, in order that heathenism should be shattered into impotency, and Israel should obtain its promised rest, in “the land subdued before them” (Josh. xviii. 1). This was in view of the Lord, who “is a man of war," when Israel was on the wing of departure from Egypt. The Philistines were a martial race, with strong fenced cities. Jehovah did not choose to begin His campaigning with setting that frowning face of war against His Israelites, accustomed for generations to blench at the frowning face of man, and to tremble under the lash. So, instead of leading them straight north along the Isthmus way to Canaan, He led them east and south, along the Egyptian (or African) side of the Red Sea ; whereby it was impossible for them to escape into that Sinai so near in sight of them without taking the fateful step, of passing the sea that lay between them and that refuge.
The Red Sea is narrow like a Scottish Highland sea loch, as if it had only been a salt-water Nile. But the Passage of it was no more possible for an array like Israel “harnessed" (Ex. xiii. 18), than would be, a Passage of the Atlantic Ocean by bisons from the Rocky Mountains. And here, again, men have been labouring at the thankless task of making things easy for the Almighty-as if bent upon His having no credit for the work, or “glory" in it. There has been difference of opinion as to the place of the Passage of the sea (Commentary, under Chap. xiv.). There is room on the ground of Scripture for a difference of opinion. For the now remaining topographical marks for identification, by means of names, or other indications of place, in the Exodus history, are not clear beyond a doubt. And some, in the inquiry on the Scripture ground, are apparently biassed by a disposition to make the Passage, either not miraculous, or as little wonderful as
possible. Now that bias is forbidden by the history, and by all the commentaries on the history that were afterwards given in the course of the further intimations recorded in Scripture, of the mind of God about that matter. According to the Scripture history and commentary, the Passage of the Red Sea was a miracle-of "eagles' wings” (Ex. xix. 4). And the miracle was intended to be, not a small one, as if God had here been half ashamed of Himself and His workings, but a singularly great one; such that in this work both Israel, and Egypt, and all following generations of mankind might see, in light of clearness unmistakable, that “ Jehovah is God Almighty,” and “that Jehovah God Omnipotent reigneth.”
In looking, then, for the site of the famous Passage, we are not to select one where it would be easy, or somehow possible for man; but rather, to prefer one where it would be difficult, so as to be possible only for God. But in making a selection, we are confronted with a difficulty created by changes that have been going on, all through the historic period of man's acquaintance with the Red Sea. That narrow tongue or horn of the Arabian Sea, pushing itself north and west in the direction of the Mediterranean, has continually been encroached upon by sands, moving from the west, and pushing the Red Sea farther and farther back toward the east; as if the Arabian Sea were drawing in its horn or tongue. Hence there are some geographers of high reputel who would place the Passage where now there is no sea, but sand, where the land has so far encroached from the north and west upon the sea-tongue. Others ? place it where the sea is only about a mile broad. And there appears to be a curiously confused impression, that their view is countenanced by the circumstance, that at that place the sea is (now) fordable in certain states of the tide: as if the conditions there at present would facilitate a passage three thousand years ago, when the conditions were different from the present! The prevalent weight of expert opinion is in favour of a place nearer to the main sea, where the Red Sea is six miles broad. The Scripture fact of history for us is, that the Passage, which must have been somewhere, was wonderful or miraculous: “He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and He made the waters to stand as an heap" (Ps. lxxviii. 13).
NOTE (2). — On to Sinai:-The sustentation of Israel. Though there were n) Gilgal Pillars as memorial of this Passage, but a more durable monument in immortal song (Ex. xv.), Ayun Mousa (“ Wells of Moses") is not without some appearance of having right to its name, through being an actual resting-place of Moses and his now emancipated Israel. There, too, on the east side of the Red Sea, between it and the central Sinaitic nucleus of unchanging mountains, is evidently the region of the commencement of the wandering ever memorable. Marah, with its bitter waters, and Elim, with its wells and palm trees, have been identified with some reasonable confidence. But beyond that, as regards the Sin resting-place, and as regards the sites of movement during the fortnight between Elim and the Sinai mount of legislation, opinions are seriously divided between
i Ritter : Erdkunde,-the Biblical part in Translation; Clark, Edinburgh. ? Robinson : Biblical Researches.
two routes. One leads straight into the centre of the group of mountains of which that Sinai is one; namely, by Wadys or dry river courses which lead straight inland from a Sin point of departure somewhat inland; the other, by a deflection to the right until the Red Sea is reached at Sin, and a departure thence is made for the concluding four marches on to Sinai. Both ways are declared practicable for the Israelitish host by the military skill of Queen Victoria's engineers (above, p. 43). And speculative reasons are given for and against both by Biblical scholars. These, no doubt, would have been very valuable if the route were being fixed beforehand by a council of war, as of course all the scholars are good strategists. But they are not of the same weight for determining the route which was actually taken in the historical past; when considerations not known to the scholars may have influenced the commander. We will provisionally, and for convenience, assume the second of the routes ; namely, that which deflects to the seaside before striking inland toward Sinai mount. Then “the wilderness of Sin” will be, the narrow plain of El Markha, stretching southward for several miles along the Red Sea side, in the direction of Rås Mohammed, the promontory which pushes into the sea at the southern extremity of the Peninsula. Here, where the people rested for some days, there occurred the wonders of the manna and the quails. In order to reach the Sinai mount from this place, they had to press through a long gorge, in which the military officers have found a spot for “Rephidim,” where hostile Amalek might make a stand for their pastures and their springs of water. But Massah and Meribah, names of “temptation" and of “chiding," are memorials of the fact, that there were not waters there, that would have sufficed to keep invading Israel from perishing of thirst. Hence the first miracle of bringing water from the rock, Jethro's visit (Ex. xviii.) may have extended into the repose of Sinai.
This is not the place for commentation on “. the Rock was Christ." But even a historical glance has to take in the spiritual significance of that physical wonder, in which was the Redeemer who appeared at Jacob's well (Jn. iv. 10).
The manna, too, as a proof of revelation, and (John vi. 30-59) a type of the salvation which has come in Christ, had an abiding supernatural purpose. But the ordinance (Ex. xvi.) for the collection and the distribution of it evidently contemplates a permanency in the use of it for the temporal support of Israel in the wilderness. Accordingly (Josh. v. 12), it did not cease until the people had come to have ripe corn in Canaan. It was in itself a supernatural provision; as is shown by the fact that it could be baked into bread, which the natural manna cannot. But evidently it was not intended to come in the place of a diligent use of what natural means of living there may have been available. A distinguished agriculturist, Mr. Wilson of Edington Mains, in a tract on The Manna from a Farmer's Point of View, has shown in what manner skilled agriculturists and cattle-feeders from Goshen might administer the supply that was given to them (directly) from heaven. But the present question is, What, apart from the supernatural manna, that supply might be?
As the question is not directly answered in the history, it cannot be of much importance. We need no revelation to show us, that Israel must have been sustained somehow in the wilderness. For plainly that Israel which conquered Canaan was not a company of ghosts, but a nation of vigorous alumni of the desert. On the other hand, any food supply they may have carried from Egypt must have soon been spent; in fact, before the end of the third month we find them at Sin on the brink of starvation (see Commentary, xvi. 3). Windfalls of quails, as they were directed by Him whom winds obey, were fitted to prove the Israelites rather than to feed them chronically. The wealth of Egypt would enable them, after they had settled down in occupation of the Peninsula, to purchase provisions from surrounding peoples of the plains, as we find them doing at the close of the forty years (De. ii. 6, 7). Like other pastoral peoples, they had a resource of wealth additional to that godsend in the produce of their flocks and herds. Besides, their living would in large measure be on the milk and the flesh. And for a supply of bread, there was the resource of cropping the land, which was much more fruitfully available for that purpose then than it now is, when trees are neglected or cut down; as always the grass withers where the land is under domination of "the unspeakable 'Turk.” But with all the supply, there was want enough to try :-"He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" (De. viii. 3).
NOTE (3).-- General Aspects.—Notwithstanding all the lapse of ages, and the changes in religion, language, even blood, the people of that Peninsula must, in their general manner of living, be very much what they were three thousand years ago. For the outward conditions, which mould the way and manner of a people's life, are in that region substantially unchanged, as they are seemingly unchange. able. For instance, as illustrating one of the ways in which Israel may have obtained means of life in that wilderness, it may be mentioned that Professor Palmer found, in et Tih, the great wilderness between Sinai and Palestine, one man who in three years had not tasted either bread or water, but had lived entirely on his camel's milk. Perhaps there is no other region on the face of the earth where the population so nearly resembles in its present manner of living what it must have been in the Mosaic Age.
Exodus, however, has very little to do with the native population of Sinai. What we have to see is, the general aspect of the region itself. The Red Sea is one of two Arms of the Arabian Sea, which divide at the promontory of Râs Mohammed, the southern extremity of the Sinaitic Peninsula. The other arm, stretching northward from that promontory, is the Gulf of Akabah or Ailanitic Gulf, another narrow sea “loch,” across which may have been ferried, from Midian, the flocks which Moses tended at the back side of the desert,” when he “came to the mountain of God, even Horeb." Akabah bounds and fences the east side of the Sinaitic Peninsula, and the Red Sea the west side ; respectively like the forefinger and the thumb of the right hand laid flat on the table, palm downward at an angle of about two-thirds of a right angle. Though the Akabah gorge (forefinger) into which the Red Sea runs up, is longer than the Red Sea (thumb), the Akabah Gulf does not go so far as the Gorge. The Gorge, in the direction of the Gulf, really reaches over a "saddle" of dry land, into the