« PreviousContinue »
acting here upon the ebb-tide, would necessarily have the effect to drive out the waters from the small arm of the sea which runs up by Suez, and also from the end of the Gulf itself, leaving the shallower portions dry; while the more northern part of the arm, which was anciently broader and deeper than at present, would still remain covered with wa
Thus the waters would be divided, and be a wall (or defence) to the Israelites on the right hand and on the left. Nor will it be less obvious from a similar inspection, that in no other part of the whole Gulf, would a N. E. wind act in the same manner to drive out the waters.
On this ground, then, the hypothesis of a passage through the sea opposite to Wady Tawârik, would be untenable.
The second main point has respect to the interval of time during which the passage was effected. It was night; for the Lord caused the sea to go (out) all night ; and when the morning appeared, it had already returned in its strength; for the Egyptians were overwhelmed in the morning watch. If, then, as is most probable, the wind thus miraculously sent acted upon the ebb-tide to drive out the waters during the night to a far greater extent than usual, we still cannot assume that this extraordinary ebb, thus brought about by natural means, would continue more than three or four hours at the most. The Israelites were probably on the alert, and entered upon the passage as soon as the way was practicable; but as the wind must have acted for some time before the required effect would be produced, we cannot well assume that they set off before the middle watch, or towards midnight. Before the morning watch, or two o'clock, they had probably completed the passage ; for the Egyptians entered after them, and were destroyed before the morning appeared. As the Israelites numbered more than two millions of persons, besides flocks and herds, they would of course be able to pass but slowly. If the part left dry were broad enough to enable them to cross in a body one thousand abreast, which would require a space of more than half a mile in breadth, (and is perhaps the largest supposition admissible,) still the column would be more than two thousand persons in depth ; and in all probability could not have extended less than two miles. It would then have occupied at least an hour in passing over its own length, or in entering the sea; and deducting this from the largest time intervening before the Egyptians must also have entered the sea, there will remain only time enough, under the circumstances, for the body of the Israelites to have passed at the most over a space of three or four miles. This circumstance is fatal to the hypothesis of their having crossed from Wady Tawârik ; since the breadth of the sea at that point, according to Niebuhr's measurement, is three German or twelve geogr. miles, equal to a whole day's journey.*
All the preceding considerations tend conclusively to limit the place of passage to the neighborhood of Suez. The part left dry might have been within the arm which sets up from the gulf, which is now two thirds of a mile wide in its narrowest part, and was probably once wider ; or it might have been to the southward of this arm, where the broad shoals are still left bare at the ebb, and the channel is sometimes forded. If similar shoals might be supposed to have anciently existed in this part, the latter supposition would be the most probable. The Israelites would then naturally have crossed from the shore west of Suez in an oblique direction, a distance of three or four miles from shore to shore. In this case there is room for all the conditions of the miracle to be amply satisfied.
To the former supposition, that the passage took place through the arm of the gulf above Suez, it is sometimes objected, that there could not be in that part space and depth enough of water, to cause the destruction of the Egyptians in the manner related. It must however be remembered, that this arm was anciently both wider and deeper; and also, that the sea in its reflux would not only return with the usual power of the flood-tide, but with a far greater force and depth, in consequence of having been thus extraordinarily driven out by a N. E. wind. It would seem moreover to be implied in the triumphal song of Moses on this occasion, that on the return of the sea, the wind was also changed, and acted to drive in the flood upon the Egyptians. Even now caravans never cross the ford above Suez; and it is considered dangerous, except at quite low water. I
* Neibuhr's Reisebeschr. I. p. 251. + Ex. xv. 10; comp. verse 8.
# In 1799, Gen. Bonaparte in returning from ’Ayûn Mûsa attempted the ford. It was already late and grew dark; the Our own observation on the spot led both my companion and myself to incline to the other supposition, viz. that the passage took place across shoals adjacent to Suez on the south. But among the many charges which have taken place here in the lapse of ages, it is of course impossible to decide with certainty as to the precise spot; nor is this necessary. Either of the above suppositions satisfies the conditions of the case ; on either, the deliverance of the Israelites was equally great, and the arm of Jehovah alike gloriously revealed.
ON THE GEOLOGY OF PALESTINE, AND THE DESTRUCTION OF
SODOM AND GOMORRAH.
By Charles A. Lee, M. D. Late Prof. of Mat. Med. and Medical Jurisprudence in the Uni
versity of New York.
To the Editor of the Biblical Repository: SIR:
I was much interested in the article of Prof. Robinson, in the last No. of the Biblical Repository, “On the Dead Sea, and the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah." The facts therein detailed, serving as they do, to throw addi. tional light both on Scripture history, and the geological features of the most interesting country on the face of the globe, must be considered as of the highest importance, and cannot fail to arrest the attention, not only of the naturalist and philosopher, but also of the Biblical student. It is a legitimate object of inquiry, what were the means employed by the Almighty in the destruction of the guilty cities of the plain ; and since this catastrophe is represented in Scripture, tide rose, and flowed with greater rapidity than had been expected; so that the general and his suite were exposed to the greatest danger; although they had guides well acquainted with the ground. See Note of Du Bois-Aymé, Descr. de l'Egypte, Antiq. Mem. I. p. 127, sq.
as the result of a combination of Divine agency and natural and secondary causes, I propose, in the present essay, to inquire what these causes were. While I do this, however, I wish to be understood as admitting, to the fullest extent, the special agency and interposition of the Deity in the event.
In your notice of the late excellent geological work of the Rev. J. Pye Smith, D. D.; (page 243), you have justly remarked, that " it is the usage of the sacred writers to speak of the operations of the Deity in the natural world, in language adapted to the opinions which were generally prevalent among the people to whom the revelation was made," and hence infer, that Scripture references to natural objects would be in such style as comported with the knowledge of the age in which they were delivered. Believing this rule to be a correct one, 1 shall endeavor, in the remarks I am about to offer, to shape my views and suggestions in consonance with it, and in no case, to propose theories, which cannot be reconciled with this principle of exegesis.
Before proceeding however to a consideration of the main object of our inquiry, it will be necessary to examine at some length the geological features of Palestine, in order to a correct understanding and appreciation of the views which will afterwards be presented.
GEOLOGY OF PALESTINE.
Palestine, it is well known, is a hilly and in many places a mountainous country; extending about 150 miles in length from north to south, having Syria and the lofty ridges of Lebanon on the north, the Mediterranean on the west, and the Arabian desert on the east and south.* Judea, which is chiefly situated between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean, is a high country, rising by successive terraces from a shore that is in many places bold and lofty. Its principal eminences are Carmel, Bashan, and Tabor, which are not bleak and rugged heights, but covered with luxuriant woods, pastures, and vineyards. In the neighborhood of the Dead Sea, however, south-east from Jerusalem, there are extensive, high and desolate tracts; the surface being broken by deep and dreary glens, and hemmed in by lofty precipices,
Enoyelopedia of Geography, Vol. II. p. 254,
which exclude the sun. Between the Jordan and Jerusalem, extend the flat plains of Jericho, 20 miles in length and 10 in breadth ; walled in on every side by the high mountains of Judea and Arabia. The shores of the Dead Sea and the valley to the north of it, consist of an expanse of salt, dry mud, and moving sand.
Limestone rocks are the most abundant formation in Palestine. They form the chief mountain ranges in Syria, and are of a whitish color, and very hard, and sonorous when struck with a hammer. Extending south, they surround Jerusalem, stretching to the river Jordan on the one side, and to the plain of Acre and Jaffa on the other. Numerous caverns abound in this rock, as they do in every country; to which we find frequent allusions in Scripture. One, near Damascus, is said to be large enough to contain ten thousand men. Mt. Seir is composed of limestone, though detached masses of basalt and large quantities of brecciæ, formed of sand and flint, abound in its vicinity. The valley of Asphaltites is underlaid by fetid limestone, i. e. limestone impreg. nated with sulphurous and bituminous particles ; which is extensively manufactured in the east into amulets, and worn as a specific against the plague. That a similar superstition respecting this stone existed, in very early ages, appears from the circumstance, that charms made from it, have lately been found in the subterranean chambers under the pyramids of Sakhara, in Upper* Egypt. The fetid properties of this rock are ascertained to be owing to the presence of sulphuretted hydrogen ; as all bituminous limestone does not possess this property. The hills along the Mediterra, nean coast, extending several miles back, are composed of a soft chalky substance, (carbonate of lime,) containing a great variety of shells, corals, and other marine organic remains. Near Beyrout, upon the Castravan Mountains, extensive deposits of the fossil remains of fishes are found, in a state of the most perfect preservation ; so that the minutest portions of the fins and scales are clearly distinguished.t Chalk beds occur on the heights of Carmel, containing numerous flint nodules, embodying petrifactions of different kinds. Some specimens bear a close resemblance to the olive, and are
* Palestine, by Rev. Michael Russel, D. D. p. 306. + Shaw's Travels.