Page images

tain which projected close up to the water, leaving no place for their vast host to pass in its front;—on the east by the waters of the gulf; and on the west and north by their enemy.

The cloud rested now as they drew near to the water, and the divine admonition instructed Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea :" to which was added the information that they would be pursued, and that here a final and signal deliverance would be wrought.

So they encamped, the great multitude glad of the rest to their bodies, and yet in their minds uneasy: for to all it was obvious that there was at least embarassment in their present position; and so there were many doubts and many fears. Thus the approaching gloom of evening was not needed to bring what was already there-gloom upon the heart. Yet in the midst of all this, and in strong contrast with it, was the enjoyment of the young and thoughtless in this novelty of the place ;—the long stretch of water gleaming in the setting sun, the bright pebbles and shells on the beach, and the coral for which the shores of the Red Sea are celebrated to this day. So the scene at this evening's encampment was one made up of striking opposites; enjoyment of rest by the old, and of activity and excitement by the young; hopes,—for beyond this sea there would be greater safety; and fears,- for its waters were a seemingly impassable obstacle before them ; in some, despondency; trust in


All were suddenly roused by a cry that the Egyptians were coming! and presently, in the far distance, flashing the rays of the now setting sun, bright armor was to be seen, with moving objects on the dim horizon ; and then more distinct marks of a large host; and then a great array of chariots such as were used in battle, and before which kind of armament, on a level country like this, resistance must be hopeless.

The gloomy fears which had settled on the hearts of the thoughtful among the Israelites were seen to be only too well founded. People were filled with despair. The vast array of war-chariots—six hundred they actually were in number; and the armed horsemen and the foot-soldiers stretching far over the plain, showed fully and clearly the meaning of this pursuit. It was the whole Egyptian army, with Pharaoh at its head. He had roused up at the cry from his subjects, "Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” while, with their selfish feeling of interest, was mingled an intense wish for vengeance upon those for whom their first-born had been slain.

Over all the encampment of Israel arose a tumultuous sound: from some it was a prayer to God; from far the greater part it consisted of objurgations against Moses. To him they hastened

“Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness ? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians ? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness."

He stood calmly amid this storm of reproaches and indignation, and replied

“Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show you to-day: for the Egyptians whom

ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”

They gazed wonderingly at him, so calm, so confident in his manner, so assuring in his words. They had often heard his declarations that the divine power would help, and had witnessed its help. They tried now to trust his word, but felt that it required a powerful exercise of faith. All knew that the crisis in their life had certainly come.



THE Egyptians thought it best not to make an attack

that evening. The Israelites were hemmed in and there seemed to be no possibility of escape. Resistance might be expected from them, for they were desperate men, and could muster a force, which, if not well armed, was still formidable by its numbers : in the morning, the war-chariots, the steel-clad horsemen, and the vast array of infantry would bear down and would carry dismay among them, and have an easy victory over such a rabble. Yet there were many among the Egyptians whose hearts misgave them; for what were chariots and embattled armies against such a mysterious Power as had been fighting for the Hebrews? Moses alone, with such support as that, seemed to be more than all Egyptian hosts. Therefore the Egyptians themselves were ill at ease.—The morning would decide.

Night came down, enveloping both the multitudes. It was not a night of darkness, however, to the Israelites, for to their great surprise the pillar of cloud which had rested before them, moved to their rear, and cast a brightness upon them, while, as their scouts on the edge of their encampment might perceive, it cast a thick darkness over the encampment of their enemy. The Egyptians, too, saw that the sky was shut out from them—the unusual blackness above and around reminding them of the thick night of

Map from the Crossing of the Red Sea to Sinai.

1. Wady Tawarik.
2. Jebel Atakah.
3. Suez.
4. Ain Naba.
5. Ain Musa.
6. Ain Hawarah, supposed to

be “Marah.”
7. Supposed to be “Elim."
8. Wady Useit.
9. Jebel Hūmmâm.
10. Wady Shubeikeh.
11. Wady Taiyibeh and En-

campment by the Sea. 12. Encampment where man

na was given. 13. Wady Shellal. 14. Wady Mukatteb. 15. Wady Feiran, the black

line showing the present

flow of water. 16. Mount Serbal. 17. Wady Sheikh. 18. Supposed by Robinson to

be Rephidim. 19 Sinai. 20. Easier way to Sinai from

the Sands. A. A. Sandy shore, supposed

by Robinson to be the Wilderness of Sin, Ex. xvi. 1. Of these wadys,

only Feiran has a conA 13

stant stream; the others are dry except after heavy rains.

[ocr errors]


three days preceding the destruction of their first-born. The blackness seemed to creep through their whole system, and they rested in fear.

No rest among the Israelites. They had been forewarned to be ready for moving; and then when the night had fully set in, they were put in motion directly toward the water. An east wind like a hurricane had arisen and was blowing directly against them and upon the sea, as they struggled down to the shore; but no wind, even with the violence with which this came sweeping down over the head of the gulf, could make such a change as they saw now in descending to what in the evening had been that broad space of water. The strong light from the mysterious cloud showed that what had, on their arrival, been covered by the sea, had become a bare and waterless bed! On their right hand and on their left, the water was piled up like a wall; before them was an open highway of dry land for their passage ; and the cloud-light gleamed over it all and on the shores on the opposite side, inviting them over to what seemed to be a place of safety.

On they went, the vast multitudes, wondering, thankful, joyful, hastening with certainty of footstep; for the cloudlight showed every inequality in the ground: onward, till they ascended on the Arabian side, and spread along the shores; the foremost looking back over the crowds of men and women and children and cattle still pouring over, along that safe, dry way, with the water still piled up like a wall on the right hand and on the left. More like a dream it seemed than a reality ; and people cleared their eyes and felt each other, and talked, to assure themselves that it was, indeed, a reality.

The last one of the vast multitude had at length passed over. An agitating time it had been, even to the foremost, who had soon been able to gain the opposite shore; more agitating still to those who were in the rear. But even the

« PreviousContinue »