Page images
PDF
EPUB

show, that the Israelites, when in Egypt, lived much as the Egyptians do now; and that Goshen probably extended further west and more into the Delta than has usually been supposed. They would seem to have lived interspersed among the Egyptians of that district, perhaps in separate villages, much as the Copts of the present day are mingled with the Mohammedans. This appears from the circumstance of their borrowing " jewels of gold and silver" from their Egyptian neighbors; and also from the fact, that their houses were to be marked with blood in order that they might be spared in the last dread plague of the Egyptians. *

The immediate descendants of Jacob were doubtless nomadic shepherds like their forefathers, dwelling in tents; and probably drove their flocks for pasture far up in the Wadys of the desert, like the present inhabitants of the same region. But in process of time they became also tillers of the soil, and exchanged their tents for more fixed habitations. Even now there is a colony of the Tamarah Arabs, about fifty families, living near Abu Za’bel, who cultivate the soil and yet dwell in tents. They came thither from Mt. Sinai about four years before the French invasion. This drove them back for a time to the mountains of the Terâbîn E. of Suez; but they had acquired such a taste for the good things of Egypt, that like the Israelites they could not live in the desert, and soon returned after the French were gone. Now, said our Arabs, though we acknowledge them as cousins, they have no right to dwell among us: nor could they live in our barren mountains after enjoying so long the luxuries of Egypt.

The Land of Goshen was “the best of the land ;”+ and such too the province of the Shắrkîyeh has ever been, down to the present time. In the remarkable Arabic document

fish we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the mel. ons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.” Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, I. p. 242. “ Their food consists of bread made of millet or of maize, milk, new cheese, eggs, small salted fish, cucumbers and melons, gourds of a great variety of kinds, onions and leeks, beans, chickpeas, lupins,” etc. etc.

* Ex. xi. 2, xii. 12, 13, 22, 23, etc.
+ Gen. xlvii. 6.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. III. NO. II. 6

translated by De Sacy,* containing a valuation of all the provinces and villages of Egypt in the year 1376, the province of the Shůrkîyeh comprises 383 towns and villages, and is estimated at 1,411,875 dinarsa larger sum than is put upon any other province, with one exception. During my stay in Cairo, I made many inquiries respecting this district; to which the uniform reply was, that it was considered as the best province in Egypt. Wishing to obtain more definite information, I ventured to request of Lord Prudhoe, with whom the Pasha was understood to be on a very friendly footing, to obtain for me, if possible, a statement of the valu. ation of the provinces of Egypt. This, as he afterwards informed me, could not well be done ; but he had ascertained that the province of the Shŭrkîyeh bears the highest valuation and yields the largest revenue. He had himself just returned from an excursion to the lower parts of this province, and confirmed from his own observation the reports of its fertility. This arises from the fact that it is intersected by canals; while the surface of the land is less elevated above the level of the Nile, than in other parts of Egypt; so that it is more easily irrigated. There are here more flocks and herds than any where else in Egypt; and also more fishermen. The population is half migratory, composed partly of Fellahs and partly of Arabs from the adjacent deserts and even from Syria; who retain in part their nomadic habits, and frequently remove from one village to another. Yet there are very many villages wholly deserted, where some fifty thousand people might at once find a habitation. Even now another million at least might be sustained in the district; and the soil is capable of higher tillage to an indefinite extent. So too the adjacent desert, so far as water could be applied for irrigation, might be rendered fertile ; for wherever water is, there is fertility.

ROUTE OF THE ISRAELITES TO THE RED SEA. From the land of Goshen, as thus defined, to the Red Sea, the direct and only route was along the valley of the ancient canal. The Israelites broke up from their rendezvous at Rameses “ on the fifteenth day of the first month, on the mor

* Abdallatif's Relation de l’Egypte, par De Sacy, p. 583, sq. row after the passover ;* and proceeded by Succoth and Etham to the sea. Without stopping to inquire as to the identity of Rameses with Herộopolis, or the position of the latter place, it is enough for our purpose, that the former town (as is generally admitted) lay probably on the valley of the canal in the middle part, not far from the western extremity of the basin of the Bitter Lakes. Nor is it necessary to discuss the point, whether this basin anciently formed a prolongation of this arm of the Red Sea, as is supposed by some; or, as is more probable, was covered with brackish water, separated from the Red Sea, as now, by a tract of higher ground. Nothing more is needed for our present pur. pose, even admitting that a communication existed from this basin to the sea, than to suppose that the inlet, if any, was already so small, as to present no important obstacle to the advance of the Israelites.

From Rameses to the head of the Gulf, according to the preceding data, would be a distance of some thirty or thirtyfive miles, which might easily have been passed over by the Israelites in three days. A large portion of the people were apparently already collected at Rameses, waiting for permission to depart, when the last great plague took place. From the time when Pharaoh dismissed Moses and Aaron in the night of the fourteenth day of the month (according to the Jewish reckoning) until the morning of the fifteenth day, when the people set off, there was an interval of some thirty hours, during which these leaders could easily reach Rameses from the court of Pharaoh, whether this were at Memphis, or as is more probable, at Zoan or Tanis.t

The first day's march brought them to Succoth, a name signifying “ booths,” which might be applied to any temporary station or encampment. Whether there was water here is not mentioned; and the position of the place cannot be determined. On the second day they reached Etham, " in the edge of the wilderness.”I What wilderness ? The Israelites after passing the Red Sea are said in Exodus to have gone three days' march into the desert of Shur; but in Numbers

* Ex. xii. 37; Num. xxxiii. 3.

+ The Psalmist places the scene of the miracles of Moses in the region of Zoan; Ps. lxxviii. 12, 43.

I Ex. xiii. 20; Num. xxxiii. 6.

the same tract is called the desert of Etham.* It hence follows, that Etham probably lay on the edge of this eastern desert, perhaps not far from the present head of the Gulf, and on the eastern side of the line of the Gulf or canal. May it not have stood upon or near the strip of land between the Gulf and the basin of the bitter Lakes ?t At any rate, it would seem to have been the point from which the direct course of the Israelites to Sinai would have led them around the present head of the Gulf and along its eastern side. From Etham they “turned” more to the right; and instead of passing along the eastern side, they marched down the western side of the arm of the Gulf, to the vicinity of Suez. This moveinent, apparently so directly out of their course, might well give Pharaoh occasion to say, " they are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in;" and lead

him to pursue them with his horsemen and chariots, in the · hope of speedily overtaking and forcing them to return. I .. The position of Migdol, Pi-haheroth, and Baal-Zephon, ..cannot of course be determined, except that they probably

were on or near the great plain back of Suez. If ihe wells of ’Ajrûd and Bîr Suez were then in existence, they would naturally mark the sites of towns; but there is no direct evidence either for or against such an hypothesis. That this point, so important for the navigation of the Red Sea, was already occupied by a town, perhaps Baal-Zephon, is not improbable. A few centuries later several cities lay in the vicinity ; and these must have had wells, or there were more fountains than at present. In the plain, the Israelites would have abundant space for their encampment.

PASSAGE OF THE RED SEA. The question here has respect to the part of the sea where the passage took place, which many writers and travellers have assumed to be the point at the mouth of Wady Tawârik, south of Râs ’Atâkah, principally perhaps because it was

* Ex. xv. 22; Num. xxxiii. 8.

+ This view would be supported by the Egyptian etymology which Jablonski assigns to the name Etam, viz. ATIOM, bor. e der of the sea.

I Ex. xiv. 2, 3, sq.

supposed that the Israelites passed down that valley. But according to the preceding views, this could not well have taken place; and therefore, if they crossed at that point, they must first have passed down around Râs 'Atâkah and encamped in the plain at the mouth of the valley.

The discussion of this question has often been embarrassed, by not sufficiently attending to the circumstances narrated by the sacred historian; which are, in the main points, the following. The Israelites, hemmed in on all sides, on their left and in front the sea, on their right Jebel ’Atâkah, and behind them the Egyptians,—began to despair of escape, and to murmur against Moses. The Lord now directed Moses to stretch out his rod over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to flow (Heb. go) by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry (ground); and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them; and in the morning watch, the Lord troubled the host of the Egyptians. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared, and the Egyptians fled against it ; and the waters returned and covered all the host of Pharaoh.*

In this narration there are two main points, on which the whole question may be said to turn. The first is, the means or instrument with which the miracle was wrought. The Lord, it is said, caused the sea to go (or flow out) by a strong east wind. The miracle therefore is represented as mediate ; not a direct suspension or interference with the laws of nature; but a miraculous adaptation of those laws to produce a required result. It was wrought by natural means supernaturally applied. For this reason, we are here entitled to look only for the natural effects arising from the operation of such a cause. In the somewhat indefinite phraseology of the Hebrew, an east wind means any wind from the eastern quarter; and would include the N. E, wind, which often pre. vails in this region. Now it will be obvious, from the inspection of any good map of the Gulfit that a strong N. E. wind,

* Ex. xiv. 11, 12, 21–28. † Especially Neibuhr's Tab. xxiv. inhis Reschr. von Arabieni

« PreviousContinue »