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and then the cloud lifted again, no longer filling the sacred chamber. But when they came to look on Miriam, to their horror they saw that she was “leprous, white as snow.” Aaron now interceded with Moses, and then Moses with God. She was promised restoration from heaven, but it was directed that she should be shut out from communion with the camp for seven days. The camp remained at Hazeroth till her exile from it and her mourning were completed.
AT KADESH-BARNEA-SPIES SENT OUT.
E are now about to follow these multitudes into a new
region, and as their present advent to it resulted in making it their home for thirty-eight years, and it was to be the burial-place by doom of a large part of the host, we will endeavor to get a clear idea of the country.'
From the north-eastern gulf of the Red Sea,—the gulf of Akabah—there extends up quite to the Dead Sea a broad valley called Wady Arabah, from seven to ten miles wide and one hundred and twenty miles in length. It is generally pretty smooth, but ascends gradually as it proceeds northwardly from Akabah,—the present town at the head of the gulf,—till within fifteen miles of the Dead Sea, when there is a sudden descent of one hundred and fifty feet at a spot where a range of cliffs passes quite across the valley. Formerly the opinion was common that the waters of the Jordan, after flowing over the basin at the Dead Sea, had discharged themselves originally by this valley into the gulf
1 The reader will do well to refer again to the general map, p. 316.
of Akabah, but geological facts are now supposed to be decisive against such belief. Dr. Olin speaks of Wady Arabah as “a broad and fertile plain ;" but the appearance of fertility we may believe to arise chiefly from its contrast with the utterly bare mountains and the desert bordering it on the west. At the eastern side of this valley rise the very picturesque and sometimes beautiful mountains of Edom. On its west is a region which we must notice more in detail, for it has an important place in the history of the Israelites. In that direction is what is now called the Desert et-Tih, formerly doubtless “ The Wilderness of Paran."
The whole desert region extending from Wady Arabah to the Mediterranean, although irregular in its outline, may be said to be one hundred and fifty statute miles from north to south, and the same from east to west. The rock is, universally, limestone, but the surface of the ground, except in the few places where mountains or precipices break in on its uniformity, is a coarse, hard gravel, covered with black flints and drift. The whole of this large region, of twentytwo thousand five hundred square miles, is with slight exceptions a nearly even and barren waste. It is drained by two wadys and their confluents, one (the larger) being the Wady el-Arish, anciently “ The river of Egypt,” opening into the Mediterranean in lat. 31° 5' north : the other, the Wady el-Jerâfeh opening into the valley of el-Arabah. These wadys, however, it must be remembered are only very shallow and broad depressions in the ground, just sufficient to collect and carry off the waters in rainy seasons, and at all other times entirely dry.
If the reader will suppose himself to start at Beersheba, and go south, he will pass over a country in general declining very gently, covered at first with grass and shrubs, which soon, however, cease, leaving only the bare, hard earth sprinkled over thickly with black pebbles, the whole surface scorched by the fiery sun. Thus onward for about fifty miles, the ground still all the while slightly declining; and then he will come to Wady el-Arish, beyond which there is an easy upward slope with a surface similar to the other, and extending on for about one hundred miles. In this long distance the ascent has become considerable, and finally it reaches an elevation of four thousand three hundred and twenty-two feet above the sea. Then, there is a sudden, walllike descent, forming the apparent ridge or hill showing itself eastwardly from Suez, and from the line of travel taken by the Israelites, from the crossing of the Red Sea to Sinai. Below this wall of descent is a belt of sandstone, and then succeeds the mountainous granite region of the peninsula.
Such are the general features of this great desert between Wady Arabah and the Mediterranean; but they are varied occasionally by bare hills, where the limestone crops out, and with its garish whiteness blinds still more the pained and wearied eyes. Another exception exists in successions of cliffs or rapid descents at the eastern edge of the desert, where it sinks down to the level of Wady Arabah. One of these cliffs was soon to have a terrible distinction in the history of the Israelites. We will only add now that the sudden wall-like descent from the desert, looking like a ridge as seen from below, is, while continuing parallel to the Gulf of Suez, called Jebel Rahah; then it curves round more to the eastward under the name of Jebel et-Tih; then it divides, and a part, branching off, goes under the name of Jebel Ojmeh more to the north.
We now try to follow the great hosts led on by their pillar of cloud, but we do it amid many perplexities ; for the region in which they travelled for some time has few distinctive marks by which we may have a clue to their course. The scenes at the close of the last chapter were ‘at Hazeroth, and the present name of the fountain el-Hidhera, with its position, seems to be a guide to us from Sinai eastwardly as far as that place. “Then,” we are told,“ the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran." Sixteen miles northward from elHŭdhera is now a remarkable fountain called simply el-Ain (the fountain), the water of which is abundant and pure, and its neighborhood is so green and beautiful as to be likened, though in an inferior degree, to the “gem of the desert" in Feiran. In the map published by Lepsius a deep valley leads from el-Hŭdhera to this fountain, and the distance to it, sixteen miles or a day's journey, seems to point it out as their next camping-spot. Eastward from this and also from el-Hŭdhera, and quite along the border of the Gulf of Akabah, the whole region is a succession of irregular granite mountains full of difficult passes: but north ward of el-Ain and twenty miles distant is the ascent of Et-Tih, having climbed which, the Israelites would find themselves in the more open country at the commencement of the desert which we have just described. There they would very soon strike the Wady Jerâfeh ; and as this journey was in May, we may suppose that by following this valley they would have grass, and by slight digging might also procure water. Robinson crossed Wady Jerâfeh, in his journey from Akabah to Beersheba, and says “it exhibits traces of a large volume of water in the rainy season; and is full of herbs and shrubs, with many Seyal and Turfe trees.”
We may believe therefore, that the region drained by the Jerâfeh is the “ wilderness of Paran” to which the Israelites resorted after leaving Hazeroth, and that we have thus traced them well on toward their clearly-designated stoppingplace, Kadesh-barnea, in a region which soon became to them so eventful. Wady Jerâfeh conducts by long and easy descents to the Wady Arabah ; and soon after reaching the latter brings us to the most celebrated fountain in all the Arabah, the Ain el-Weibeh, still eagerly resorted to by the Arabs in all their journeyings in this region. This spot is universally conceded to be the Kadesh-barnea of the Scriptures.
Here the Israelites rested. It was, indeed, highly necessary that they should rest and enter into mature deliberations about the immediate future: for they were now but a few miles from the borders of Canaan. Beersheba was only fifty-two miles distant from them toward the northwest, and Hebron sixty miles to the north. Of the people in Canaan, and of the country, little could be known to these numerous invading hosts. Abraham had lived there four hundred and thirty years previously, and God had then promised the country to his descendants. The same promises, they knew, had been repeated to Isaac and Jacob: but any traditions that had come down from Jacob's emigration, two hundred and fifteen years in the past, had grown faint, and these, his descendants, were now full of earnest curiosity respecting this their destined home. Coming as they did in such large numbers, they could not be considered as any other than a race of invaders before whom the inhabitants of the country would have either to retire in a body, or set themselves up in determined resistance: for the land would not be able to contain both. Which would it be? What was the nature of those people,-fierce or gentle ?
Had they cities and were those cities fortified? What was the country itself, destined, they were told, to be their future habitation? These were questions which were pressing
the vast multitudes now encamped about Kadesh, and were filling them with very deep solicitude. True it was that God had promised the land to their forefathers, and also that the mysterious power which had delivered themselves from Egypt and had given them bread from heaven, and had led them on by the cloud and fiery pillar, could now afford them any needed help; but this power had also shown itself to them in retributive forms, and they knew how greatly, from their rebellions against God, they were