Imágenes de páginas


contrary, have nearly instantaneously followed the stretching out of the hand of Moses over the sea, and the miraculous rising of the “strong east wind," diagonally cutting the waters, and not merely rolling them down the gulf as a retiring tide—as was the case with the Jordan, the moment that the soles of the feet of the priests that bore the ark of the Lord, touched its impetuous floods. The Israelites might have been three or four hours in the bed of the sea before midnight. There is no authority even for alleging that they had “completed their passage before two o'clock," and that the Egyptians were “ destroyed before the morning appeared.” What is stated by Moses is, that in (or during) the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily.” This seems to have been done as if to prevent their overtaking the Israelites still in the bed of the sea. The Egyptians were destroyed only when the morning actually appeared. “Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians filed against it, and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the

The time of the miracle is obviously the whole night, at the season of the year, too, when the night would be about its average length. There was thus ample time afforded for the passage of the Israelites from any part of the Wádi Tawárik, the exact measurement of which I have already given, and which in its northern part, as we have already seen, is not twelve geographical miles in breadth, but only six and a half. Extending the line of the Israelites along the shores of that Wádí, where the gulf widens, and making even the deduction of a few hours from the night, we do not assign them anything like an impossibility, when we suppose that they could perform a journey before the morning, of twelve or fifteen miles, especially when we advert to their probable excitement and animation, by the gracious and wonderful interposition of Providence which had been made in their behalf.

• Connected with the “main points” of “ means" and "time" which Robinson brings to our notice, there is one of space to which he does not sufficiently advert. The arm of the sea at Suez, including the shallows which are left bare at ebb-tide, varies from a half-mile to two miles in breadth. Even supposing that it was somewhat wider in the days of old, it scarcely seems sufficient for the line of the Israelites, and that of the Egyptians, marching across, and the intervention of the angel of God, and of the pillar of the cloud which was light by night to the former people, and darkness to the latter, so that “the one came not near the other all the night.” Dr. Robinson, we have seen, ascribes to the line of the Israelites alone, a length not “less than two miles,” being the whole distance from shore to shore at the widest part, and leaving no room for the army of the Egyptians, and their chariots, and the interval which the narrative requires.'— Vol. i. pp. 149–154.

The judgment, not only of Dr. Wilson, but of his companions


in travel, was decided, for these, and for other reasons, which we cannot find space to state, that the passage of the Israelites did not take place near Suez, and that it did take place at the front of the Ras Atakah. The next stage of our travellers was from Ayun Musa, or the Wells of Moses, to Mount Sinai—the place to which the name of the Hebrew prophet is thus given being the landing point in those parts on the Asiatic side of the Red Sea. Entering on this portion of his pilgrimage, the author supplies the following picture of what is called travel in the desert:

'I have now become quite in love with our desert life, notwithstanding the exposure and fatigue which are inseparable from our

We are generally awoke in the morning, about daybreak, by the cheerful and melodious voice of Mr. Waters, the African servant of Mr. Smith, whose extraordinary musical powers charm not only ourselves, but the wildest Arabs of our Kafilah, who remain in the silence of enchantment till he has finished his performance. This faithful attendant, whose duties are principally confined to the morning watch, is sure to have a cup of coffee ready for us, before we can leave our sandy couch. Anon, recovering from the entrancement into which they affect to be thrown, the Arabs begin to stir, and chatter, around us. Their first concern is their camels, which they recall from their wanderings, if, as is most commonly the case, they have not collected them together before committing themselves to sleep at night. A piece of bread generally serves these simple and hardy people for their morning meal; and they make all due haste in its mastication, that they may have a little time to luxuriate among the fumes of the pipe, which they consider indispensable to their existence. On sallying forth from our tents, we seek to enjoy the “cool,” if not the fragrant and the “ silent hour,” to “meditation due,” and take a general survey of the scene around us, visiting all the spots of interest in our neighbourhood, and examining, as far as possible, the geological structure of the country; a work comparatively easy in these barren regions, where rock, and hill, and mountain, are everywhere laid bare to the student. The picture stretched out before us, is but rude and sombre; and in all “the melancholy bounds, rude ruins glitter.". While my friends are occupied in taking down the tents, and superintending the loading of the camels, I am generally busy with my note-book. Our breakfast we soon discuss, either seated on our camp-stools, or standing around the humble board on which it is spread. It consists of bread or biscuit, hard as the stones of the desert, of the best tea which the Bombay bázár could afford,—some of us having received due warning against the collection of bitter and narcotic leaves which passes under the name in Egypt,—and of preserved meats, the fragments of our dinner on the preceding evening. Our commissary of stores furnishes us, in addition, with certain provender for the day, of eatables and drinkables, including water, the most valued of all, to be slung over our camels,


and to be ready at hand to meet the demands of the keen appetite and fiery thirst which fresh air and copious exercise, and a scorching sun, fail' not to encourage and produce. When our camels get in motion, we generally follow them for a mile or two on foot, before we mount them; and we often give them a similar relief at noon, and just before the conclusion of our march for the day. We

e go very quietly on our way, averaging about two geographical miles in the hour, except when we make digressions from the main body of our company, when we contrive to trot along at about double this speed. We have become quite reconciled to our rolling and pitching on our lofty conveyancers; and we can dispose ourselves so conveniently upon them, that we can write, and even rudely sketch with our pencils. The conversation among ourselves consists of demonstrations and commentaries connected with the objects which pass under our notice. I have very often our sheikh as my companion; and my own Badawi attendant, Ibrahim of the Kareishí—from whom our sheikh has hired a number of our camels -is a perfect model of care and politeness, not only in tending the animal on which I ride, but in handing up to me stones and plants, and whatever else I may choose to inspect. Both these persons are fond of being examined about the notabilities of the road, and the man

ners and customs of the tribes to which they belong. When I am at a · loss to understand them, Mordecai, the Jew from Bombay, or Deirí from

Cairo, proves my interpreter. Many a joke is cracked over the head of our Hebrew friend; but the regard which we express for him, prevents this from passing into derision. Mr. Waters is often assailed by the witlings of the Nile, who can converse with him in English; but he is quite able to maintain his ground with them, except when his camel takes the pet, and sets upon playing its pranks, by first shaking its head from side to side, then roaring most unmercifully, as if about to be crushed to death by its burden, and last of all, dropping down on its front-knees and refusing to rise. This camel is the only naughty one of our herd; though one or two have the custom, disagreeable to us, of protruding something like a bladder from their mouths, and emitting and tossing the saliva with which it is covered, right in our faces. To the respective animals on which we ourselves ride, whose meekness, tractableness, patience, perseverance, and utility, we greatly admire, we have formed quite an attachment; and we have all had occasion to notice the wonderful adaptation, by the God of creation, of the camel to the purposes for which it is designed.'-Vol. i. pp. 165 - 168.

The first object of interest in the route now taken was what is called the well of destruction, the Marah of Scripture.

'It occupies a small basin about five feet in diameter, and eighteen inches deep, and to some extent it oozes through the sands, leaving, like the wells of Moses, a deposit of lime. I believe that I was the first of our party to essay to drink of its water; but the Arabs, on observing me about to take a potation of it, exclaimed, “ Murrah, mur

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

rah, murrah,"_" It is bitter, bitter, bitter.” This fountain has been almost universally admitted by travellers, since the days of Burckhardt, who first precisely indicates its situation to be the true Marah of Scripture, as it is found in a situation about thirty miles from the place where the Israelites must have landed on the eastern shore of the Red Sea-a space sufficient for their march, when they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. No other constant spring is found in the intermediate space. It retains its ancient character, and has a bad name among the Arabs, who seldom allow their camels to partake of it. Only one or two of our animals tasted it; and the Arabs left us to experiment upon its qualities alone, without even applying it to their lips. Though the murmurings of the Israelites, involving as they did a complaint against Providence, were sinful, it is not to be wondered at that Moses, considering the quality of the water which they here had to drink, cried unto the Lord for their relief. “ The Lord showed him a tree which, when he cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” The healing virtue of this tree probably flowed directly from God, who sometimes works by means, which, like the rod of Moses stretched over the sea, are merely the symbols of his power, or the indices of the commencement of its action. The Badawîn of these deserts know of no process now of sweetening bitter water; but the credulity of rationalism can find one sufficiently potent for the purpose of effecting a change in a supply of the element required for the two million and a half of souls comprising the hosts of Israel. Burckhardt has directed our attention to a plant, delighting, like the palm, in a saline soil, and growing near this and similar fountains. It is called Gharkad by the Arabs. The juice of its berries might be adequate, it is alleged, to qualify the nauseous liquid. But where, it may be asked, could a sufficient quantity of these berries be found to make a million or two of gallons of drinkable syrup?'*-Vol. i. pp. 170 -172.

Nothing can be more pitiable than has been the result of this method of dealing with the Scripture miracles-admitting the substantial genuineness of the narrative, but endeavouring to reduce the apparently supernatural to the level of the natural. This earlier school of rationalism has been utterly destroyed by the later one, of which Strauss may be taken as the type-a school which treats the miracles of the sacred history as so much mythic invention introduced by a subsequent age. This is


* The Gharkad is the Peganum Retusum of Forskal, Flor. Ægypt. p. 66. Dr. Robinson, who makes better fight against the dubious traditions of the monks, than the absurd inventions and shifts of the rationalists, thus gravely potices the notion of Burckhardt:-"The process would be a very simple one, and, doubtless, effectual; and the presence of this shrub around all brackish fountains would cause the remedy to be always at hand. But as the Israelites broke up from Egypt on the morrow of Easter, and reached Marah apparently not more than two or three weeks later, the season for these berries would hardly have arrived."'-Biblical Researches, vol. i. p. 98.

bringing the controversy within narrower and much more intelligible limits; and we are well content that the claims of revelation should be placed upon this issue.

Most of our readers must have heard of the valley in the district of Sinai, called the written valley.' The extract below contains our latest report concerning it.

• When we got beyond the entrance of the Magárah, our Arabs made to us the welcome announcement, that we had entered the Wádí Mukatteb, or the “written valley.” We had not far to look for the mysterious inscriptions, which we had so much desired to see. In the first or western division of the valley, however, which, like the second, continues for about an hour and a half, they are not numerous. We dismounted at the broad expansion of the Wádí, which marks its division, and where it strikes to the south; and here we had them in abundance, to the fullest gratification of our curiosity. They are found on both sides of the valley, on the perpendicular and smooth cliffs of the new Red or variegated Sandstone, the strata of which are of enormous thickness, and on the large masses of this rock which have fallen from above. The surface of these stony tablets seems to have been naturally prepared for the “graving of an iron pen;" and the words which are written upon them, though not very deeply cut, if we may judge from the small injury which the hand of time has committed upon them, during the many ages they have existed, may probably “last for ever,” in the sense of Job the tried patriarch of Arabia Petræa, who wished such a commemoration of the language of his deepest sorrow. The inscriptions are both literal and hieroglyphical, or I should rather say, pictorial, for they do not seem the symbols of thought conventionally expressed. The letters vary in size, from half an inch to six inches in depth, and they are generally arranged in single lines, as if representing a name and date, and preceded by a distinctive group of letters representing the word obw, or “ peace.” A few of them are in Greek, but most of them are in the ancient Nebathean character. The figures occurring at several places are very rude. They are those of men with shields, and swords and bows and arrows; of camels and horses, both with and without their riders, seated or standing by their sides; of goats and ibexes with large curved horns; of antelopes pursued by greyhounds; of ostriches and geese, and unknown birds indistinctly represented; of lizards, tortoises, and other creeping things; and of diverse quaint fantasies which cannot be characterized. The prefect of the Franciscan missionaries of Egypt, who visited them in 1722, and who was among the first in modern times to give precise information respecting them, says in his account of them, which we had with us on our journey, “ They are cut into the hard marble (sandstone) rock, so high as to be at some places at twelve or fourteen feet distance from the ground; and though we had in our company persons who were acquainted with the Arabic, Greek,

ebrew, Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Armenian, Turkish, English, Illyrican,

« AnteriorContinuar »