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the summit, I should have flinched and gone back again. We were exposed to the fierce sunbeams of an Arabian noon; there were no steps to assist us, and hardly the faintest trace of a path, though one had evidently formerly existed; we had besides to climb up on our hands and knees great part of the way, in imminent peril of slipping down the polished surface of the fallen crags which we were surmounting, and of being dashed to pieces among those below. The fatigue of thus trailing like serpents up the face of the ascent was excessive; the higher we mounted, the more terrifically the mountain seemed to rear itself above, and if getting up seemed barely possible, descending again seemed perfectly hopeless. At length, after spending about three hours in this manner, we reached the summit, consisting of round, smooth masses of granite, which it required the greatest attention to get over without slipping. Trembling in every nerve with the violent exertion, we sat down under a huge block surmounting one of those conical peaks, which at a distance had seemed to me utterly inaccessible to all but the eagle and the gazelle.”
The descent occupied "nearly as long as the climb;" Lepsius was two hours and a half descending ;—“the path,” he says, “the most difficult and most fatiguing I ever trod in the whole course of my life.”
The reader will scarcely feel that it is necessary, after this, to place before him any argument in refutation of the claims of this mountain to be the Sinai of the Scriptures, one so far off, and reached with such difficulty from the general encampment, at which its summit would be only here and there visible, especially as the precincts of the other mountain, to which we shall soon conduct the reader, correspond to all the requisites of the Bible narrative in the delivery of the Law. It is true that the Wady Feiran is a most attractive spot, and the neighborhood of its rival is bare and dreary ; but the transactions at Sinai had a simple and stern and solemn grandeur better suited to a place where nature, in the same stern simplicity, could leave the mind, unembarrassed by other thoughts, free to appreciate the majesty of the presence of God.
THE great hosts of Israel probably remained a consider
able time in this beautiful Wady Feiran; for they were more than two months in getting from Egypt to Sinai,' and the journey up to the time when they had received the manna, near to Feiran, had been a rapid one. Consequently after that event, onward to Sinai, their journey was marked by considerable delays. It is likely that their protracted occupancy of this spot, so choice amid the general dreariness, gave that offence to the Amalekites which brought on the fight with this people, which we shall presently detail.
There are only three stations mentioned in the Bible as occurring between the “Wilderness of Sin” and Sinai; but critics appear to be agreed that these are only the principal stopping-places, and do not designate the full number of encampments on the way.
After leaving Feiran, the road might lead by a succession of wadys, and then finally across a narrow and very difficult pass to the front of Sinai, or it might conduct them to the same spot by the large wady Sheikh (No. 17 on the map), which curves round by the northward, and after nearly a semi-circular course, finally opens out on the large
plain in front of Sinai. It is probable that they took the latter more easy route; and Robinson supposes that it was in this wady, at a place where, after having for a while left the granite for the sandstone region, it again enters among the gloomy, granitic precipices, that Rephidim (18 ?) is to be sought.
Rephidim is a spot made famous in this journey by the murmurings of the people for water, and their insolence to Moses, toward whom they were, indeed, near offering personal violence. It is probable that they left with great reluctance the full stream and the verdure at Feiran ; and by their indulgence there, found the hardship all the greater now when, at their encampment at Rephidim, no water was to be had. The cloud had moved, and they had followed its moving: but the journey was with a predisposition to censoriousness and angry complaint. Indeed, they were beginning to have obdurate hearts even with regard to Jehovah himself. Night after night, the manna had descended and they had received bread “to the full :” but this supply had continued now a month, and had got to be almost like what we call “a law of nature ;" for it was as regular and seemingly as natural as the fall of dew. What comes regularly even as a free gift, we soon begin to regard as our right, forgetting the giver; and so the manna was itself ceasing to bring forth expressions of gratitude. A spirit of insolence was beginning to grow up in the people. Only two months had elapsed since they had been slaves; and in that short period they had advanced, first through the joy of deliverance, then through triumph over their enemies, then into a miraculous sustenance; and now they were already becoming proud and presumptuous. Water was wanting in Rephidim. At Marah, under similar suffering, even after three days' deprivation, they had simply asked of Moses, “What shall we drink?" but here at Rephidim. they came boldly up to him and said, “Give us water that we may drink," using other insolent words. His patience is admirable : “Why chide ye with me ?” he said ; "wherefore do ye tempt the Lord ?” “Wherefore,” cried some of them, “is this, that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst ?” And they were near stoning him. He cried to God; and his cry was now almost one of despair with regard to his countrymen; for it was not for help, which he knew would come, but, “ What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.” Indeed, they were insolent toward heaven, for they were saying to each other, “Is the Lord among us or not?''
He was directed by the divine authority to call the elders of the people, and then taking these, to go with them before the angry, scowling multitudes; and with the rod which he had stretched over the Red Sea for their deliverance, he was to strike a rock, and was assured that water should flow out. He did so: water burst forth in such abundance as to satisfy their thirst. Ile named the place Massah, “ Temptation," and Meribah, “ Chiding.” The names were to be a memorial, while they remained there, of their insolence.
But a lesson was to be given them in order to repress their presumption and to show them how necessary their great leader-greatest always in his patience—was to their safety. Word was here brought in that the stragglers in the rear, the faint and weary and feeble and the careless laggards, were set upon by an enemy, the Amalekites, who were putting them to death. These Amalekites were a nomadic tribe, occupying this part of Arabia and the region lying northwardly toward Canaan; and they now looked with the keenest alarm on the invasion of their territory by such an immense multitude, of whose purposes they could not form any surmise. Probably they had retired before the great host from their favorite valley of Feiran ; but they now hung upon their outskirts, as they were retiring, and with results of which Moses was at once informed. He sent for Joshua,' the leader elect of the Israelitish fighting men, and told him to choose out soldiers and to take them on the morrow to give battle with the Amalekites, while he himself would stand in a conspicuous place with the rod in his hand. Accordingly the next day, Moses and Aaron and Hur (another chosen friend), repaired to the top of an adjoining hill, while Joshua and his band made an attack on the enemy. It was felt by all the Israelites to be a time decisive of their future position in this country, perhaps of their safety and lives : and they gazed on the three men on the eminence—the rod aplifted, and heard the sounds of battle, and soon were informed also that, while the rod was held up, their soldiers were victorious, but when from fatigue it was lowered, the enemy were prevailing. Aaron and Hur lent their assistance in sustaining the arms of Moses;
and so through the rest of the day success was with the Israelite combatants, till at its close the enemy were thoroughly routed and put to flight.
Moses was afterward directed from heaven to make a written? record of this attack by the Amalekites, which record was to be afterward brought to the notice of Joshua, who was
to take vengeance on this people in future times. An altar was built here, and called Jehovah-nissi, "Jehovah my banner,” metaphorically my sign,' for it was to
1 This is the first notice of this general, who finally was so conspicuous in the biblical record. His character, as it becomes afterward developed, shows him to have been worthy of the important trusts committed to him by the great leader. His name was at first Oshea and Jehoshua (Num. xiii. 8, 16): then Joshua; all of them signifying saviour, deliverer. In the New Testament he is called Jesus (Acts vii. 45; Heb. iv. 8). This is his name also in the Septuagint.
2 This is the first time that writing is distinctly noticed in the Scriptures, but the passage shows that such mode of communicating thought was well known among the people.
3 This is the meaning of the word in Num. xxvi. 10.