« PreviousContinue »
Verse 4. “ Pharaoh...and his host."— As this is the first mention of an organized military force, a few considerations on the general subject and the military state of Egypt will not be misplaced. When societies were first established and men began to act in common, the first warlike operations do not appear to have been for purposes of conquest, but were mere incursions to acquire spoil and do as much mischief as possible. Such was the first military operation which the Scripture records (Gen. xiv.), and we have there traced its essential identity with the warlike undertakings of the barbarians of Asia at the present day. Yet wars of conquest would seem to have been known previously to that period, for Chedorlaomer had before that rendered the kings of the plain tributary, and it was to punish their rebellion that his expedition was undertaken. But when a considerable number of families became associated under one sovereign, views of ambition and schemes for extending dominion began to be entertained ; and, in warlike enterprises, more permanent advantages than those which result from a successful incursion were desired. This certainly tended to mitigate the horrors of war, as the object was not to exterminate or ruin, but to subdue. The conquest was the more valuable in proportion as it remained uninjured in the act of acquisition. How troops were raised in the earliest ages for military undertakings, there is no precise evidence to show. But Goguet, whom we are chiefly following in this part, thinks, with good reason, that every one went to the wars without distinction, except aged men, children, and women. Subsequently, as the population increased, a selection was made of such men as were more robust and best able to endure fatigue: and ultimately the plan was devised of allotting a certain number of men wholly to the profession of arms. This scheme of having a certain number of men always disciplined to prevent surprise, and to be in readiness for any urgent enterprise, must have been the invention of some civilized and settled nation ; and if it was not invented by the Egyptians, it is certainly among that extraordinary people that we first discover its existence. The most ancient Greek authors describe a certain proportion of land as having from time immemorial been set apart for the subsistence of the military; and the sacred narrative so far agrees with this, as to show that Egypt possessed in the most ancient times an organized military force. The narrative before us is, however, sufficiently explicit on this subject. The king no sooner heard of the march of the Israelites from Etham, than he pursued with a large army of both horse and foot. The quickness with which this was done, necessarily implies that a large force was constantly maintained, ready to march wherever occasion called. This leads us to state a few particulars concerning the military arrangements of the ancient Egyptians, as known to us through the Greek writers.
Their warlike force consisted of a numerous militia, which formed a tribe or caste by itself, in which the military occupation was hereditary, and which, although far below, was next to the priestly tribe in authority and privileges. This militia was divided into two bodies, the Hermotyhi and the Calasari : the former, at the time of their greatest power, consisted of 160,000 men, and the latter of 250,000. For their subsistence, they had possession of certain nomes or districts, which Herodotus mentions by name. No soldier had any pay, but every man had an estate of about twelve acres. The landed property of the soldiers, like that of the king and priests, was generally let out to farmers, who paid the proprietors a certain rent. The military were not allowed to carry on any business; but it does not seem that they were precluded from cultivating their own grounds if they thought proper. Each of the great military divisions furnished a thousand men to compose the king's personal guard. The men were changed every year, and during their period of service they were allowed good rations of bread, meat, and wine. We know very little concerning the internal organization, the tactics, and discipline of the Egyptian army. It seems that the king held the privilege of commanding the army; that the right was the post of honour, and that those soldiers who quitted their post, or were disobedient, were marked with infamy, but were enabled by good conduct to recover the standing they had lost. The equipments of the foot soldiers will be seen from the cut, after a plate in the great work on Egypt. The cavalry and war-chariots have been separately noticed. The Egyptian infantry, in all paintings of battles, are readily distinguished from the adverse.party by their want of beards and short dresses, as well as by their arms. They are represented with shields, square at one end and round at the other, and their offensive arms are generally a bow and arrow, and sometimes swords and spears.
Verse 10. " Leud.”—The specific gravity of lead being somewhat more than 11, that is, eleven times heavier than water, its rapid descent when thrown into that fluid is pointed at in this sublime poem as representing the unchecked impetus with which the host of Pharaoh sank at the return of the waters. It is probable that a piece of lead was fastened to the end of the sounding-line in the time of Moses, as it is at this day, whence the comparison becomes more striking and natural.
22. “ They went out into the wilderness of Shur.”—The term “ desert of Shur” was, as we have seen, applied to the western portion, and, in a large sense, to the whole, of the desert between Palestine and Egypt, therefore extending across the peninsula of Sinai on the north. Here the denomination is applied so as to show that it was extended into the peninsula, at least to some distance down on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. It is possible, however, that the denomination “wilderness of Shur," as applied here, was an independent designation for this part of the eastern shore, being perhaps the district near a town or village of that name. To this day there is, nearly opposite the bay of Badea, the bed of a winter-torrent which is called Wady Sdur, and the coast to some distance northward also bears the name of Sdur. It is fair therefore to infer that the Hebrews emerged from the bed of the gulf somewhere between Wady Sdur and Ras Mousa. Indeed the necessary breadth of the opening made for their passage would have obliged them to have spread over a considerable part of the extent between the two points, which are distant about fifteen miles from each other. It should be observed that the coast hereabouts is as low and sandy as that which they had left is rugged and mountainous.
23. “ Marah,”—The Israelites wandered three days in the wilderness before they came to Marah ; but as we do not know that there were three complete days' journey, nor what distance made a day's journey for such a numerous and encumbered host, and are also not quite assured of the point from which to begin the computation, we are allowed a considerable latitude in looking for Marah. Proceeding, then, along the coast south by east, over a plain alternately gravelly, stony, and sandy, we find the country begins to be hilly, with sand-hills near the coast, and at last come to the barren bed of a winter-torrent, called Wady Amarah (just the same in sound and meaning as Marah), a few miles south of which there is a well called Howara, which both Niebuhr and Burckhardt concur in considering to be the Marah of Scripture. It is true that these travellers agree in fixing the passage of the Red Sea at Suez, from which this spot is fifty miles distant, and forty miles from Ain Mousa. The distance from either point would be a good three-days? journey for such a body as the Hebrew host, nor would the distance be too short, if we suppose them to have started from some point between Ain Mousa and Wady Sdur. Even Dr. Shaw, who places the starting point at or below Wady Sdur, does not fix Marah more than a few miles below Howara. We may therefore consider the evidence for Howara as good as for any place that has yet been indicated. The well there lies among rocks about a hundred paces out of the road, and its water is so bitter that men cannot drink it, and even camels, unless very thirsty, refuse to taste
it. It occurs on the customary road along the coast from Suez to Sinai, and Burckhardt observes that there is no other well absolutely bitter on the whole coast so far as Ras Mohammed at the extremity of the peninsula. He adds: “The complaints of the bitterness of the water by the children of Israel, who had been accustomed to the sweet water of the Nile, are such as may be daily heard from the Egyptian peasants and servants who travel in Arabia. Accustomed from their youth to the excellent water of the Nèle, there is nothing they so much regret in countries distant from Egypt; nor is there any eastern people who feel so keenly the want of good water as the present natives of Egypt.” (* Tour in the Peninsula of Mount Sinai.')
25. “ The LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet."— The use of certain plants and vegetable juices, in correcting the had qualities of water, admits of ample illustration. It is understood that the original inducement of the Chinese to the use of tea was for the purpose of correcting the bad qualities of their water; and our early colonists in America infused in the water, for the same purpose, the branches of sassafras. (Burder's Oriental Literature,' vol. i., p. 146.) Niebuhr also, speaking of the Nile, observes, “The water is always somewhat muddy ; but by rubbing with bitter almonds, prepared in a particular manner, the earthen jars in which it is kept, this water is rendered clear, light, and salutary.” Mr. Roberts, in his Oriental Illustrations,' has some interesting observations concerning the practices of the Hindoos with reference to this subject. He informs us that the brackish water in the neighbourhood of the salt pans or of the sea, is often corrected by the natives throwing into it the wood called Perru-Nelli (Phylanthus emblica); and should the water be very bad, the well is lined with planks cut out of this tree. He adds: “In swampy grounds, or where there has not been rain for a long time, the water is often muddy and very unwholesome. But Providence has again been bountiful by giving to the people the Teatta Maram (Strychnos potatorum). All who live in the neighbourhood of such water, or who have to travel where it is, always carry a supply of the nuts of this tree. They grind one or two of them on the side of an earthen vessel: the water is then poured in and the impurities soon subside." (* Oriental Illustrations.')
With particular reference to Marah, Burckhardt observes that he had frequently inquired among the Bedouins in different parts of Arabia, whether they possessed any means of effecting such a change by throwing wood into it, or by any other process: but he could never learn that such an art was known. This is important, because such a tree and process of rectification being locally unknown, the necessity for the divine indication of such a tree, and, possibly, of giving to it curative qualities for the occasion, becomes apparent. It shows that such trees do not exist as a common or obvious resource, or else surely their useful properties would be known to the Arabs, to whom they would be of incalculable value. These considerations neutralize the subsequent observations of Burckhardt, who, when he comes a few miles further down to the Wady Gharendel, observes that it (the Wady) contains among other trees and shrubs the thorny shrub Gharkad, the Peganum retusum of Forskal, which is extremely common in this peninsula, and is also met with in the sands of the Delta, on the coasts of the Mediterranean. “ Its small red berry, of the size of the grain of the pomegranate, is very juicy and refreshing, much resembling a ripe gooseberry in taste, but not so sweet. The Arabs are very fond of it, and I was told that when the shrub produces large crops they make a conserve of the berries. The gharkad delights in a sandy soil, and reaches its maturity in the height of summer when the ground is parched up,
exciting an agreeable surprise in the traveller, at finding so juicy a berry produced in the driest soil and season.” In a note to this, he asks, “ Might not the berries of this shrub have been used to sweeten the waters of Marah ?" After quoting our version of the text, he proceeds :-" The Arabic translation of this passage gives a different, and perhaps more correct reading, “And the Lord guided him to a tree, of which he threw something into the water, which then became sweet.' I do not remember to have seen any gharkad in the neighbourhood of Howara, but Wady Gharendel is full of this shrub. As these conjectures did not occur to me when I was on the spot, I did not inquire of the Bedouins whether they ever sweetened water with the juice of the berries, which would probably effect this change, in the same manner as the juice of pomegranate grains expressed into it.” This is scarcely consistent with what he says before, that he had asked them whether they had any means for effecting such a change, and they answered in the negative. We have no hesitation in rejecting his supposition ; because it would not have been necessary for the Lord to have shown Moses so common a plant; nor, being so common, is it likely that Moses, who had lived so long in the desert, would be unacquainted with the curative property of the berries, if they had any such property at all; but, above all, the Israelites were at Marah in April, when the gharkad could have had no berries, as, according to Burckhardt's own account, the fruit does not attain maturity till the middle of summer.
27. “ And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and three-score and ten palm trees."— About seven miles south by east from Howara occurs Wady Gharendel, the largest of all the torrent beds on the west side of the peninsula. It is about a mile in breadth and stretches away to the north-east: the Arabs say it may be traced throughout the desert, and that it begins at no great distance from El Arish, on the Mediterranean. But this is doubtful. The valley is full of date-trees, tamarisks, acacias of different species, and the gharkad mentioned in the preceding note. Here there is a copious spring with a small rivulet, which renders the valley one of the principal stations on the route to Sinai. The water is disagreeable, and if kept for a night in the water-skins, it turns bitter and spoils. Burckhardt says: “ If we admit Bir Howara to be the Marah of Exodus, then Wady Gharendel is probably Elim with its wells and date trees, an opinion entertained by Niebuhr, who however did not see the bitter well of Howara on the road to Gharendel. The non-existence at present of twelve wells at Gharendel must not be considered as evidence against the just stated conjecture; for Niebuhr says that his companions obtained water here by digging to a very small depth, and there was a great plenty of it when I passed ; water, in fact, is readily found by digging in every fertile valley in Arabia, and wells are thus easily formed, which are quickly filled up again by the sands.
This however is the place where ·Dr. Shaw-who has been very extensively followed in this and his other opinions about the journey of the Israelites—fixes Marah. The objections to this are the fact which he admits-that the water here is not “ bitter," but brackish; and the difficulty of determining the situation of Elim, if this be Marah. A more cogent illustration of this difficulty could not be given than that which Dr. Shaw himself has afforded in his attempt to fix Elim. He places it at El Waadi, near the port of Tor, and neurly a hundred miles from Wady Gharendel. This is nearly forty miles out of the way in a journey to Mount Sinai, and by a road which is never taken in proceeding thither by land. It is true that the journey of the Israe ites, as a whole, was very devious, but the sacred text does not furnish the least intimation that, after crossing the Red Sea, any deviation took place from the nearest route to Sinai, or from thence to the borders of Palestine, where, at Kadesh Barnea, the rebellion of the Israelites was punished by their being sentenced to forty years wandering in the desert. On the contrary, it seems that, after passing the gulf, the direct road to Sinai was taken by the Hebrew host. However, Dr. Shaw found at the place he indicates nine wells and 2000 palm-trees, three of the original twelve wells being stopped up, he conjectures, and the palm-trees having increased from the seventy which Moses found there. The strongest point of the learned traveller's hypothesis is, that under the shade of the palm-trees is the (a well, we conclude) Hummum Muusa, or bath of Moses, which the inhabitants of Tor hold in great veneration, from a tradition that the tent of Moses was pitched near it. Now Dr. Shaw himself knew well that local traditions in the East are of no weight whatever, unless supported by strong and independent corroborations. Thus the local nomenclature in Mesopotamia is crowded with the name of Nimrod ; in Egypt with that of Joseph ; and with that of Moses in the peninsula of Sinai. If we trusted to the local traditions and the names given by the natives, we might fix the passage through the Red Sea almost any where in the 140 miles between Tor and Suez. It is another unfortunate circumstance for this theory, that some of these wells are supplied from hot springs, and that the water of all of them is brackish and unwholesome. It may be well to recollect that Tor is the port at which those pilgrims, who prefer to perform the priucipal part of their pilgrimage by water, down the gulf from Suez, debark and proceed north-east to Sinai; and we have no doubt in our minds that the people of Tor invented and keep up this place as one of the Hebrew stations, in order duly to edify and attract such profitable visiters-not choosing to recollect that a station which would be in the way from Tor to Sinai would be out of the way in the journey to Sinai by land. Indeed, this station seems connected with the theory which places the passage of the Red Sea at Tor. But Dr. Shaw's own arguments against the latter theory are irrefragable, and in rejecting it, he was equally bound to reject this as the station of Elim, since its probability wholly depends upon the hypothesis which he so properly rejects. We dwell on this point the more strongly, because, while every body now agrees that the passage did not take place below Wady Gharendel, however much higher it may have been, many respectable writers and travellers still adhere to Dr. Shaw's palpable error with regard to Elim.
“ Palm-trers.”—The Date-palm (Phænix dactylifera) is one of the noblest trees that adorn the solitary waste, and the most useful that man has converted to the purposes of nutriment and comfort. In the forest the eye recognizes the lofty palm, while the remainder of the vegetable creation lose their individuality in the confusion of varie tints and fornis
. The presence of the palm is an unerring sign of water ; hence the weary Israelites found water where they found palm-trees.
us forth into this wilderness, to kill this
whole assembly with hunger. 1 The Israelites come to Sin. 2 They murmur for
4 . Then said the LORD unto Moses, want of bread. 4 God promiseth them bread from heaven. 11 Quails are sent, 14 and manna.
Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for The ordering of manna. 25 It was not to be
you; and the people shall go out and found on the sabbath. 32 An omer of it is pre- gather 'a certain rate every day, that I may served.
law, or all the congregation of the children of Israel 5 And it shall come to pass, that on the came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is sixth day they shall prepare that which between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth | they bring in; and it shall be twice as much day of the second month after their depart- as they gather daily. ing out of the land of Egypt.
6 And Moses and Aaron said unto all 2 And the whole congregation of the the children of Israel, At even, then ye children of Israel murmured against Moses shall know that the Lord hath brought you and Aaron in the wilderness :
out from the land of Egypt: 3 And the children of Israel said unto 7 And in the morning, then ye shall see them, Would to God we had died by the the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when your murmurings against the LORD; and we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did what are we, that ye murmur against us? eat bread to the full; for ye have brought 8 And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening 21 And they gathered it every morning, flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to every man according to his eating: and the full ; for that the Lord heareth your when the sun waxed hot, it melted. murmurings which ye murmur against ħim: 22 | And it came to pass, that on the and what are ye? your murmurings are not sixth day they gathered twice as much against us, but against the LORD.
1 Heb. the portion of a day in his day.
bread, two omers for one man : and all the 9 And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say rulers of the congregation came and told unto all the congregation of the children of Moses. Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he 23 And he said unto them, This is that hath heard your murmurings.
which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the 10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: unto the whole congregation of the children bake that which ye will bake to day, and of Israel, that they looked toward the wil- seethe that ye will seethe; and that which derness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord remaineth over lay up for you to be kept 'appeared in the cloud.
until the morning 11 | And the LORD spake unto Moses, 24 And they laid it
laid it up till the morning, saying,
as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither 12 I have heard the murmurings of the was there any worm therein. children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, 25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morn- to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ing ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall ye shall not find it in the field. know that I am the LORD your God.
26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on 13 And it came to pass, that at even 'the the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it quails came up, and covered the camp: and there shall be none. in the morning the dew lay round about the 27 | And it came to pass, that there host.
went out some of the people on the seventh 14 And when the dew that lay was gone day for to gather, and they found none. up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness 28 And the LORD said unto Moses, How there lay a small round thing, as small as long refuse ye to keep my commandments the hoarfrost on the ground.
laws ? 15 And when the children of Israel saw 29 Šee, for that the Lord hath given it, they said one to another, 'It is manna : you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you for they wist not what it was. And Moses on the sixth day the bread of two days ; said unto them, "This is the bread which abide ye every man in his place, let no the LORD hath given you to eat.
man go out of his place on the seventh 16 | This is the thing which the LORD day. hath commanded, Gather of it every man 30 So the people rested on the seventh according to his eating, an omer "for every day. man, according to the number of your Sper- 31 And the house of Israel called the sons; take ye every man for them which are name thereof Manna : and it was like coin his tents.
riander seed, white; and the taste of it was 17 And the children of Israel did so, and like wafers made with honey. gathered, some more, some less.
32 And Moses said, I'his is the thing 18 And when they did mete it with an which the Lord commandeth, Fill an omer omer, he that gathered much had nothing of it to be kept for your generations; that over, and he that gathered little had no they may see the bread wherewith I have lack; they gathered every man according to fed you in the wilderness, when I brought his eating
you forth from the land of Egypt. 19 And Moses said, Let no man leave of 33 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a it till the morning
pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, 20 Notwithstanding they hearkened not and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept unto Moses; but some of them left of for your generations. it until the morning, and it bred worms,
34 As the LORD commanded Moses, so and stank: and Moses was wroth with Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to them.
John 6. 31. 1 Cor. 10.30
* Chap 13. 91. Num. 11.31. Num. 11. 7. Psal. 78. 24. Wisd. 16. 20. $ Or, What is this / or, It is a portion,
7 Heb. by the poll, or head. 8 Heb, souls. 99 Cor. 8. 15,