Page images

rearmost crowds were safe now, the cattle also secure; and the eye, now looking backward, saw only an empty space, the waters of the sea still kept back.

But that space was not empty long. The enemy's scouts had, even in the thick darkness around them, become aware at length that the Israelites were escaping; and the Egyptian hosts had been roused up and put in order for warlike pursuit. They came rushing on; perceived the open way across the channel, and entered upon it with all the fierceness of men determined not to be robbed of success which they had just deemed so certain. It was the morning watch (two o'clock) when the chariots and horsemen and foot-soldiers reached the mid-channel, where the chariots in front soon began to impede the way, their wheels dragging heavily, sinking and loosened in this strange road already rendered heavy by the many thousand feet preceding them. A supernatural power seemed presently to be at work there. They felt it; they turned to retreat, for the cry of alarm was spreading among them,

“Let us flee from the face of Israel ; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.”

So they were crying to each other and the whole host turned to fly. It was too late. Moses, whose rod, when stretched out over the sea, on the previous evening, had caused the waters to divide as we have seen, was now on the Arabian shore looking down, in the earliest morning light, on this confused scene of chariots and soldiers; and was supernaturally directed to stretch out the rod again. He did so. The waters rushed together and the whole Egyptian host was swallowed up in their depths: “there remained not so much as one of them."

The day broke fully at last and shone upon the usual scene of a far outstretched waste of waters,—now the silent tomb of that vast host, all buried there except some corpses which floated up and were cast, unsightly masses, on either shore. On the Arabian side were scattered widely the rescued Israelites, looking with curiosity over the new scenes about them, and with feelings of gratitude up toward Jehovah, who had come so wonderfully to their deliverance. Moses called them together for a hymn of thanksgiving; and we have the triumphant words chanted by him and the multitudes :

“I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously,” etc., the whole of it a grand hymn of praise and terminating as with a chorus, “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.”

His sister Miriam then took a timbrel;' and other women with similar musical imstruments following, they showed their joy with music, and with dances such as were used in their solemn feasts. Their tones, as they rose up in the bright morning air, took that rich and full gladness and tenderness which are known only in the female voice; and all nature around seemed to respond as they chanted in her brother's words, “Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously,” words which are so happily represented in a modern lyric that we may properly quote it here:

“Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea !

Jehovah has triumphed, -his people are free.
“Sing-for the pride of the tyrant is broken,

His chariots, his horsemen, all splendid and brave-
How vain was their boasting - The Lord hath but spoken,

And chariots and horsemen are sunk in the wave.
Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea !

Jehovah has triumphed,—his people are free. The timbrel was doubtless such as we still see on the Egyptian monuments. It resembled the tambourine of modern times, except that it was without the hollowed pieces of metal now attached to the frame. It was circular or oblong; in the latter case was sometimes in two parts, separated by a cross-bar. “It was," says Wilkinson, respecting the Egyptians, "a favorite instrument in religious ceremonies and at private banquets. It was played by men and women, more usually by the latter, who often sang and danced to its sound.”


“Praise to the Conqueror, praise to the Lord !
His word was our arrow,-his breath was our sword !

“Who shall return to tell Egypt the story

Of those she sent forth in the hour of her pride ?
For the Lord hath looked out from his pillar of glory,

And all her brave thousands are dash'd in the tide.
Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea!
Jehovah has triumphed, -his people are free."

The place of this crossing cannot now be ascertained with full certainty; and the subject has given rise to much discussion among travellers and critics. The accompanying map will show the present outline of the water ; but there is reason to suppose that the drifting of the desert sands has made changes to the northward of Suez (No. 3 on the map), nearly or quite filling up spaces that were covered with water in those ancient times. Some travellers have selected this place now filled up as that of the crossing : some, on the other hand, have decided in favor of the Wady Tawarik (No. 1 on map), fifteen miles south of Suez, as the spot for that evening's encampment and the one whence they made their transit across the gulf, which is here, at the least, twelve miles wide, and could not then have been less. Robinson supposes that the encampment was adjoining the present city of Suez, and that the crossing was just below this city, the water here being three or four miles in width, according to the state of the tide. The difference between high and low tide is six or seven feet. At the projecting point below the city commences a sand-bar which stretches to the other side, and in low tides makes a fording place, not considered, however, a safe one. In 1799, Bonaparte attempted it in the gathering twilight, but the rising tide coming with greater rapidity than was expected, he and his suite were exposed to great danger, although they had guides well acquainted with the spot. The circumstance of the bar is, however, now mentioned merely as one of the geographical facts of the place; for such a bar was not needed in the crossing by the Israelites; nor, any more, was it necessary

that the united influence of the east wind and an ebb tide should have laid all the channel bare,—the hypothesis of some writers on this subject. On the contrary, we are informed that the water“ was a wall unto them on their right hand and on the left."

As respects the place of crossing there are two circumstances which must govern our conclusions, and which appear to decide pretty clearly in favor of this spot immediately adjoining Suez on the south : 1. The width must have been so restricted that the whole of the Israelite host, two and a half million or more in number, with their flocks could cross between the beginning of darkness and two o'clock A. M. (Ex. xiv. 24): and 2. It must have been wide enough to contain at once all the Egyptain host,—the six hundred chariots, &c. For this latter, the narrow space of water supposed formerly to exist north of the present head of the gulf would not have sufficed ; and for the former, the wide space of ten or twelve miles, opposite Wady Tawarik would have been quite too great,-a day's journey indeed for such a confused host even with the aid of sunlight. The last of the Israelites to enter would be more than an hour after the first, and would require nearly two hours to cross a distance of four miles, which with their flocks in addition, would occupy the full time to two o'clock. The spot selected by Dr. Robinson appears therefore to answer, and to be the only one that will answer, to all the requisites in the case.



[ocr errors]


HE minds of the Israelites had risen with a great

rebound from the pressure upon them during recent events. Their first utterances had been in lofty hymns, in great rejoicings and general congratulations, and in deep gratitude to God: then the people turned to a deliberate contemplation of the scene around them and of the future.

The scene in all its natural aspects was sufficiently dreary. On the west was the gloomy Mount Atakah' (No. 2 on map), which, naked and burnt by the sun, bounded on the south the level plain they had on the previous day been traversing. Still nearer, in that direction, was the sea bordered by no vegetation, but only by dead bodies already swollen and festering in the intense heat. Northwardly, was an open gloomy desert, over which, far off and separated in the whole distance by a barren desert, was Canaan. Eastwardly, was first a bare and gravelly plain, and then, at the distance of fifteen miles, the wall-like ridge of erRahah, 4000 feet high, broken in its level sky-line by only a single peak at the south-east,—the peak and ridge alike bare and desolate-looking. On the south was a succession of low, barren sandhills bordered by the sea, which stretched off as far as their sight could extend.

But their hearts were joyous notwithstanding the gloomy sights all around them ; for they were free and were safe. The cloud also was still resting above them, giving them assurance of the continued Divine presence: it added also its friendly shelter from the burning heat of the sun. After a while, it began to move, exciting hopes in them that they

· We adopt the modern names through want of other designations.

« PreviousContinue »