Page images
PDF
EPUB

חַמְשִׁים from Egypt

חמשים

in

The Septuagint rendering is réuTTY δε γενέα ανέβησαν.

. Clericus explains it in the same manner, with special reference to Gen. xv. 16, and Ex. vi. 16 sqq. (Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses). Fuller adheres firmly to the derivation of the word from won five (Miscell. ss. 5. 2). He renders it by Teuttades, and supposes it to mean that they were drawn up in five columns. But neither of these renderings corresponds to the sense, in which the word is used in other places (Josh. i. 14; vi. 12; Judg. vii. 11). In Num. xxii. 30, 32, and Deut. iii. 18, the men who are called Josh. i. 14, and vi. 12, are described as a boy (=accincti, expediti ad iter s. ad proelium). The Vulgate translates it αrmati; Aquila, ενωπλισμένοι ; Symmachus, καθωπλισμένοι. A more suitable rendering of the passages cited would be “equipped for battle, in battle array,” which certainly includes the notion of being armed. The etymology is doubtful. Gesenius refers to the cognate roots on = acer fuit, don = violenter egit, oppressit, and to the Arabic umos = acer, strenuus fuit in proelio. It has been objected to our explanation, that the Israelites went away unarmed. But this is nowhere stated; and the panic, which seized them afterwards (chap. xiv. 10 sqq.), does not prove that they were not armed. On the other hand, we read shortly afterwards of their fighting a regular battle at Rephidim with the Amalekites (xvii. 10 sqq.). There could have been no reason whatever for dividing the people into five companies. The Septuagint rendering has still less to commend it; were it only because there is no ground for the assumption, that Moses was the fifth in order of descent from Jacob (vol. i. 86.1). But the rendering “equipped for battle” or “ in battle array” furnishes a good, appropriate, and very significant meaning. This was a necessary part of the triumphant and jubilant attitude, in which Israel was to depart from Egypt.

(7). The Egyptians, who attached themselves to the Israelites on their departure, are called

(

to mix) in chap. xü. 38, and in Num. xi. 4

(from to collect). Luther renders both words Pöbelvolk (a mob); the Septuagint, &Tripiktos; the Vulgate, vulgus promiscuum. The Hebrew expressions describe them as a people that had flocked together

ערב from)

עֶרֶב
אַסַפְסֶף

אסף

(the formation and meaning of the words correspond to the German Mischmasch), and lead to the conclusion that they formed the lowest stratum of Egyptian society, like the Pariah in India, and did not belong to any of the recognised castes (cf. § 45. 4). Even among the Israelites they occupied a very subordinate position; for there can be no doubt that they were the hewers of wood and drawers of water mentioned in Deut. xxix. 10, 11. At the same time we perceive from this passage, that in spite of their subordinate position, and their performance of the lowest kinds of service, they were regarded as an integral part of the Israelitish community.

PASSAGE THROUGH THE RED SEA, AND DESTRUCTION OF PHARAOH.

§ 36. (Ex. xiii. 17—xv. 21 ; Num. xxxiii. 3–8).— The nearest route to Canaan, the ultimate destination of the children of Israel (chap. iii. 17), would have been in a north-easterly direction, along the coast of the Mediterranean; and by this route their pilgrimage would not have lasted more than a very few days. But Jehovah had his own good reasons (1) for not leading them straight to Canaan, but causing them to take a circuitous route across the desert of Sinai (2). The regular road from Egypt to Sinai goes round the northern point of the Heroopolitan Gulf (the Red Sea), and then follows a south-easterly direction along its eastern shore. In this direction the Israelitish procession started, under the guidance of Moses. The point from which they set out was Raemses, the chief city of the land of Goshen. The main body, which started from this city, was no doubt joined on the road by detachments from the more distant provinces. Their first place of encampment was Succoth, the second Etham, “at the end of the desert.” But instead of going completely round the northern extremity of the Red Sea, so as to get as quickly as possible beyond the borders of the Egyptian territory, and out of the reach of Egyptian weapons ; as soon as they reached this point, they received orders from Jehovah to

the sea.

turn round and continue their march upon the western side of

Thus they still remained on Egyptian soil, and took a route, which apparently exposed them to inevitable destruction, if Pharaoh should make up his mind to pursue them. For they were completely shut in by the sea on the one hand, and by high mountains and narrow defiles on the other, without any method of escape which human sagacity could possibly discover. In such a position no prudence, or skill, or power, that any human leader, even though he were a Moses, might possess, could be of the least avail. But it was the will of God; and God never demands more than he gives. When He required that Israel should take this route, He had also provided the means of escape. In his own person he undertook the direction of their march, and that in an outward and visible form, and by a phenomenon of so magnificent a character, that every individual in the immense procession could see it, and that all might be convinced that they were under the guidance of God. Jehovah went before them, by day in a pillar of cloud, that he might lead them by the right way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to enlighten the darkness of the night. This pillar of cloud never left the people during the day, nor the pillar of fire during the night (3). Tidings were quickly brought to Pharaoh from Etham of the unexpected, and, as it seemed, inconceivably infatuated change which the Israelites had made in their course. And Pharaoh said, “they have lost their way in the land ; the desert has shut them in.” The old pride of Egypt, which the last plague had broken down, lifted up its head once more. “Why have we done this, they said, to let Israel go from serving us ?" Pharaoh collected an army with the greatest possible speed, and pursued the Israelites, overtaking them when they were encamped within sight of the sea, between Pihahiroth, Migdol, and Baalzephon. Shut in between mountains, the sea, and Pharaoh's cavalry, and neither prepared nor able to fight; enveloped, moreover, in the darkness of night, and without the least human prospect of victory, deliverance, or flight; the people now began to despair. “Were there no graves in Egypt,” they cried out to Moses, " that thou shouldest lead us away to die in the wilderness ?" Nor did Moses see any human way of escape. But he expected deliverance from Jehovah, and from Jehovah it came.

• Fear not,” said he to the desponding people, “ stand firm, and see the salvation which Jehovah will effect for you to-day. Jehovah will fight for you, and ye shall be still.” It was now to be clearly shown, that the ways of God, though they may appear to be foolish by the side of the wisdom of men, ensure the result in the safest, quickest, and most glorious way. “Forward!" sounded the command of the leader of Israel, “straight through the midst of the deep sea,” through which the omnipotence of Jehovah was about to open a pathway on dry ground. The angel of God, who went before the army of Israel in the pillar of cloud and fire, passed over their heads and placed himself as a rampart between the Egyptians and the Israelites. To the former he appeared as a dark cloud, deepening still further the darkness of the night; to the latter as a brilliant light, illuminating the nocturnal gloom. Moses did as Jehovah commanded him ; he raised his staff and stretched his hand over the sea. Jehovah then caused an east wind to blow, which continued the whole night, until it had laid bare the bottom of the sea, and divided the waters asunder. The children of Israel passed through the midst of the sea on dry ground, and the waters were as walls unto them on the right hand and on the left.

The foe, bewildered, driven forward by the vehement determination to prevent a second escape of those whom they had regarded as so sure a prey, and unable, from the darkness that surrounded them, to discover the extent of the danger to which their attempt exposed them, rushed on with thoughtless haste in pursuit of the fugitives. As soon as the morning began

to dawn, Israel had reached the opposite shore, and the Egyptians found themselves in the midst of the sea. Then Jehovah looked out from the pillar of cloud and fire, upon the army of the Egyptians; terror came upon them; wild confusion and thoughtless uproar impeded their march, and they shouted to turn back and fly. But Moses had already stretched out his hand over the sea again ; and the waters, which had hitherto been standing like walls on either side, began to give way at the western end. The Egyptians rushed back and met the torrent ; and Pharaoh, with all his horses, his chariots, and horsemen (5), was swallowed up by the sea. When morning came, the bodies of the Egyptians were washed up by the current upon the shore. Then Israel saw that it was the hand of Jehovah, which had been lifted up and had saved them; and they feared the Lord, and believed on him and on his servant Moses. The strong emotions of gratitude which filled the heart of Moses, burst forth in a lofty song of praise to their exalted deliverer. The anthem was sung by Moses and the chorus of men, whilst Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron's sister, at the head of a chorus of women, accompanied the choral-anthem of the men with timbrels, dances, and songs (6). This was the farewell to the first passover, which ended as it had begun, with deliverance and salvation.

(1). With regard to the circuitous route by Sinai, it is said in chap. xiii. 17: “God led them not by the road through the land of the Philistines (along the shore of the Mediterranean), which was the nearest way; for God said lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and return to Egypt.” It is necessary, first of all, to do away with a misapprehension, which has crept in here, to the effect that reference is already made in this passage to the forty years' sojourn in the desert, and that it was necessary that a new generation should grow up, before the conquest of Canaan could be thought of. The removal of the difficulty spoken of here could have been effecter

« PreviousContinue »