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called, the rod taken, and Moses and Aaron stood before the rock; and now, alas ! was a great offence committed on the part of these leaders themselves. They said,
Hear, now, ye rebels; must we fetch water out of this rock ?"
Moses struck the rock and the waters gushed out, in quantities sufficient to afford a continuous supply to man and beast.
But a great mischief had been done. Must we? The two men had put themselves forward in place of God. They had put themselves prominently as the workers of the miracle. They had not put God before the people, but themselves. The whole tone of their address was peevish, and showed an irritated state of feeling not suited to them, who should have been examples of forbearance and patience to the multitudes. But worst of all, they had arrogated to themselves the place of God. It was a terrible offence, coming from men in their position; and we may believe that immediately afterward the awfulness of the sin flashed upon their convictions, and that they stood abashed and self-condemned. It was a strange sight,—this man, hitherto so blameless and so great, yet now fallen! Moses himself, weak and sinful, and Aaron, also a partaker in the sin !
Might it not be overlooked, for the sake of such long fidelity ? No, it could not be. In addition to the fact that it was a sin, and no past fidelity could make it otherwise than sinful, was the other fact that they, and indeed the whole nation, especially at this time, were living for history, as well as for the present. The history was to be a transparent one, through which all future time might draw intelligence and see God as the firm ruler over the world.
So an example was made, even of Moses and Aaron, an example adapted to their high position before the people.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” They also were now doomed men, in a doom similar to that which had come upon most of their countrymen at this place and had scattered their graves so widely over the great wilderness.
They bowed their necks in meekness, though in deepest * grief; they saw the offence and the justice of the penalty;
they went on in the performance of duty, but from this time forth with a great load upon their hearts. Their fealty to God, however, was not shaken.
This journey to Kadesh, and the halt there seem to have once more alarmed the inhabitants of the country just to the northward, and to have brought on a desultory attack upon the Israelites, some of whom were taken prisoners. But there was no great battle; for if Moses had again intended an invasion on this side, he was diverted from it by finding the people on the alert, and by remembrances of the former difficulties in the pass at es-Sufah. He therefore gave his attention at once to another route.
Almost directly opposite to the spot where travellers agree in placing Kadesh, and only ten miles distant, is the largest of all the openings—Wady Ghuweir—ascending up into the mountains of Edom;' and if the Israelites could pass through this, and so around the Dead Sea on the eastward, they might then penetrate at once into the heart of the Promised Land.
Burckhardt, who travelled in a south course through that region of Edom in 1812, thus speaks of Wady Ghuweir. “Proceeding a little further, we came to the high borders of the broad valley called El Ghoeyr (diminutive of elGhor). We skirted for about an hour the eastern borders of Wady Ghoeyr, when we descended into the valley, and reached its bottom at the end of three and a half hours, travelling at a slow pace.”
1 The reader will do well to refer to the map on p. 316, No. 20.
* The great valley of Arabah is called by the Arabs el-Ghor, or the depression.
It is “
a large, rocky and uneven basin, considerably lower than the eastern [high] plane, upward of twelve hours across, at its eastern extremity, but narrowing toward the west. It is intersected by numerous wadys of winter torrents, and by three or four valleys, watered by rivulets, which unite below and flow into the ghor. The Ghoeyr is famous for its excellent pasturages, produced by its numerous springs, and it has in consequence become the favorite place of encampment for all the Bedouins [of extensive districts north and south]. The borders of the rivulets are overgrown with Defle, and the shrub Rhetem. The rock is principally calcareous. We ascended on foot through many wadys of winter torrents up the southern mountains of the Ghoeyr; we passed several springs, and at the end of three hours' walk arrived near the summit of the basin of the Ghoeyr.” It will be remembered by the reader, that Edom was the region to which Esau retired after the loss of his birth-right; his hunting excursions having made him familiar with this fertile country abounding in game: a tribe of followers had gathered around him, and with their aid he had driven out the former inhabitants, the Horites, and had here securely established himself. The present inhabitants, the Edomites, were descendants from him and his people; and the Israelites were now directed to remember the old relationship, and not to molest these people, though it was desirable to pass through their land.
The Wady Ghuweir, so famous even to this day, was doubtless the route referred to by Moses in a message which he sent now to the king of Edom : “Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us. How our forefathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt for a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us and our fathers; and when we cried unto the Lord he heard our voice, and sent an angel and hath brought us forth out of Egypt; and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's highway, we will not turn to the right hand, nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.”
1 “Travels in Syria and the Holy Land."
To this friendly and courteous message a curt refusal was returned :
“ Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.”
Another message was sent to their king, and an appeal with it, and a promise as strong as could be made:
“We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet.”
“Thou shalt not go through,” was the reply. More than this, vast armed hordes of the Edomites were now out guarding the difficult passes along the way.
It was, indeed, a dilemma. The direct effort made on the left up toward Hebron had been most disastrous as already described; the high road on their right was full of armed men, and the Israelites were forbidden to use violence; the Dead Sea shut up their way on the north ;—they turned of necessity and with much sadness down toward the south, along that wide, sterile, oven-like Wady Arabah, where, as they went, the hot sun was reflected from rocks on either side, as well as from the scorched sands at their feet. Their feelings were even more gloomy than any of the scenery around.
Mount Hor, twenty-five miles distant from Kadesh in a southeasterly direction, is a very conspicuous object as seen from that place. The mountain range of Edom, to which this belongs, has been noticed in this work as rising from the eastern edge of Wady Arabah by successive offsets, which finally attain a great elevation ; but Mount Hor rises at once among the lower ranges, and thus stands prominently out, distinct and isolated ; its highest portions four thousand feet above Arabah and four thousand eight hundred above the level of the sea.
It presents, at a distance, the appearance of a cone irregularly truncated, having for the summits three ragged