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mischievous men still lurked in the congregation. Such sentiments as they had been inculcating are not eradicated by one exhibition of retributive power, but keep their hold still and rankle; and, indeed, will sometimes only take growth by the stirring up they receive from punishment. The feeling of the people so corrupted was now rather for vengeance on Moses and Aaron than one of conviction and humility. “Ye have killed the people of the Lord,” they cried on the morrow, when their first sentiment of horror was succeeded by a mourning for the dead. “Ye have killed the people of the Lord,” was repeated on every side; and the cry was raised in the face of Moses and Aaron, till anger among the multitudes and a thirst for vengeance was beginning to drown all other sentiment. This evil, so rife and general, threatened to be worse than the former one.
The “glory of the Lord” again filled the Tabernacle; and the two men were directed, “ Get ye up from
among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment.” but they fell on their faces in entreaty and in appeal for mercy to the offenders. A plague had, however, already broken out among the multitudes and was spreading fast. Moses directed his brother to take a censer and fire from the altar and to run in among the people; and, on the edge of the spreading infection, to “make an atonement for the people.” “He stood between the dead and the living ;" and as he did so, the plague was stayed. In this short period, however, fourteen thousand seven hundred persons had perished under this divine visitation.
God sometimes writes before the world the record of his retributive power in characters of fire. That record in the Bible is for men to read; and by it we can now look broadly over history and into the minute events of nations, and in them may see his hand. And yet, through all, he is a God of love. We know it; for the love that brought Christ to earth to seek and to save that which was lost, and led him to die for us, was no new feeling in heaven. But justice and law over the universe also have their place; and most sadly in this Jewish history we are called to contemplate continuously-repeated offences, and consequently continuously-repeated sufferings. But had those people cherished love and lived in love to God, how different the record would have been ! Surely God had deserved such love from them.
One other remark we make here, and it is to be in connection with an event which followed closely on the one just recorded. In this divine record, there are events which sometimes appear small in our
when we consider them as exercised by a Being so great and supreme as is God. But in effecting good purposes nothing is small, and so with the means which are used for such purposes : if it be a warning, or a remembrancer, or a plain, simple act, or even the suggestion of a common thought, nothing is small which can produce good. All good is great, all that promotes good is great: and without such result there is no greatness at all.
The event now referred to, as seemingly a small matter for the interference of miraculous power, is the budding of Aaron's rod. There was to be a permanent proof of Aaron's right to the High Priesthood, to be preserved in the ark. Each of the tribes was to prepare a rod, and write on it the name of the tribe. Aaron's was to be on that of the tribe of Levi. They were to be laid together in the Tabernacle, and the blossoming of any one rod was to be a sign of the divine choice for the priesthood. It was done: and, on the morrow, “behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds."
The late dreadful visitations, and now after them this proof, seem to have been sufficient to quiet the people, for we have no further record of rebellions : indeed, a feeling of tenderness, with dread, appears to have supervened in their hearts. When Aaron's rod was exhibited to them, they said, simply, “ Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. Whosoever cometh anything near unto the Tabernacle of the Lord shall die: shall be consumed with dying !"
Consumed with dying ! indeed, so it was to be, not immediately, as they intimated it might be at the Tabernacle, but in that wilderness, on which they had entered, and on which they were now encamped. There the congregation remained for nearly thirty-eight years,' wandering about, encamping for as long a time as was most expedient; and changing gradually, from the rude, ungovernable multitude that had come out of Egypt, into a more enlightened and more tractable and better organized race of people. The former could not have conquered Canaan; and even if led into full possession without difficulty, would have become speedily disintegrated into minute parts that would have made them an easy prey to their enemies. They were not worthy of such a possession : of the better qualities of the new generation we may see proofs in the future history of this people.
Through these thirty-eight years the manna still came at night, quietly as the dew, and in the morning they found the necessary food lying by their doors. Respecting the supply of water on that wide desert, many surmises have been formed. Some idea respecting a supply, not only of water, but also of food for their flocks, may be, however, suggested, perhaps without any great danger of mistake. The writer of the present book has been twice at Payta in Peru, and in both visits ascended to the wide table-land above the city, stretching from it for many miles back toward the Cordilleras. The ground is level and perfectly bare, and not a green thing is to be seen on it; the surface is a gravelly indurated earth, covered with small, black, rounded
Compare Num. xxxiii. 38 and Deut. i. 3, with Num. i. 1.
pebbles, and the whole stretch of country corresponds as exactly as possible with what the wilderness at et-Tih(Shur)and at Paran in their worst condition are described to be. Not only did it seem to the author as if no vegetation had ever been there, but as if, supposing there had once been, every root and seed must have utterly perished in this baked ground, not visited by any moisture except perhaps a light rain once in five or six years. Yet the inhabitants of Payta said that after a rain the whole surface is in a few days covered with grass. Now, Robinson, when quite out on this great desert, stretching from Wady Arabah to the Mediterranean, one-third of the way from the former, makes this record : “In some spots we found very small tufts of grass springing up among the pebbles, the effect of recent rains. Our guides said that, in those years when there is plenty of rain, grass springs up in this way all over the desert. In such seasons, they said, the Arabs are kings.” He had just crossed a wady of which he says, “ It is full of shrubs," and he saw a number of similar wadys on this plateau of the desert. We have already quoted his remark about Wady Jerâfeh, that 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." His journey, notwithstanding the rain-fall just noticed, was in a year when the whole country from Sinai to Beersheba was subjected to drought in a very unusual degree. It is impossible to form an exact judgment of that region in the ancient times from what it is now; for the Arabs cut down the acacia trees to turn them into charcoal, and anything that could attract or retain moisture is ruthlessly destroyed. The distinguished traveller, Seetzen, in 1807, crossed et-Tih in a direct road from Hebron to Sinai, that is, across the centre of this desert; and when in the most desolate part, he asked his guide to mention all the neighboring places which he knew. The man named sixty-three in the neighborhood of Madurah, Petra and Akabah, and twelve more in the Ghor es-Saphia. Of these seventy-five, all except twelve are now abandoned to the desert and have retained nothing but their names. The wadys all over this desert space are so broad and shallow, that water flows slowly in them or scarcely flows at all, and in some of them, even in the dryest weather, it can be obtained by digging down only a few feet.
We need only suppose, then, respecting the Israelites in their wanderings or temporary settlements, that with the manna there might be also a copious supply of moisture, and even in this region they would not only have water, but supplies of esculents from the earth for man and beast. We know that in all those countries vegetation of all kinds flourishes to a remarkable degree, even among the pure sands, whenever moisture can be supplied. It is true that such a supply of rain to the Israelites would be no less a miracle than if springs were to break out at every stoppingplace: nor is it the object of these remarks to lessen the character of miraculous supplies to them: admitting the manna, we admit also the nature of any other supply of their wants.
We have in the Bible no record of these thirty-eight years, doubtless because there was nothing in them instructive for the future, as respects our duty toward God or man. The record is silent, but we know that one by one the adult population of these two and a half millions of people dropped away, and that in this desert were their graves. A million or more were buried there, and its wide, dreary, gloomy wastes may be called the fitting memento of such men. Death crept through the crowds of the doomed host; and one after another fell with the mark of God upon him for the bitter sin of the people.
At last all were gone; and the camp might go forward again toward the Promised Land.
When we next open the record made by their leader, it