Page images
PDF
EPUB

much safer, as well as a much nearer way. When Pharaoh heard that the people had taken this rout, he immediately concluded that he could easily destroy them; for he said, they were entangled in the land, shut up in the rocky and impassable parts of a wild and uncultivated country. I cannot possibly see, why Moses should lead them so much out of their way, and into such a disadvantageous country; but upon the view of the miraculous deliverance which God designed them at the Red Sea. 3. But it is evident that from Succoth to the Red Sea the Is. raelites travelled under the especial guidance of heaven; for the pillar of the cloud, and of fire, which went before them, directed them where to go. Moses had no room left to chuse the way; for the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them in the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light : to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor. the pillar of fire by night, from before the people." Moses had only to observe the guidance of this glorious and miraculous direction ; and to follow as that led him from Succoth to Etham, to Pihahiroth between Migdol and Baalzephon, and to the sea.

After the Israelites were gone out of Egypt, Pharaoh repented of his having given them leave to depart, especially upon its being remonstrated to him that the people were fled ;o that they were not

Chap. xiii. 21, 22.

m Exod. xiv, 3. • Chap. xiv. 5.

6

gone a few days journey merely to serve the Loro their God, but that they designed never to return to him any more.

The loss of so many slaves was a very sensible diminution of his grandeur as well as wealth, and the manner in which they were extorted from him, inglorious both to him and his kingdom; and the hearing that Moses had led them into a part of the country, where he thought it would be easy to distress them, made him resolve to follow them, and try if possible to redress his losses, or revenge himself upon them. He therefore immediately summoned together his forces, and with a numerons army pursued the Israelites, and overtook them at their encamping near the Red Sea. At the approach of Pharaoh, the Israelites were afraid ; they gave over their lives for lost, and were ready to mutiny against Moses for bringing them out of Egypt." But Moses exhorted the people to fear nothing, assuring them, that they should not be exposed to the difficulty of a battle, but that they should see the salvation of God; that God would give them a miraculous de liverance, and destroy all the Egyptians who pursued them. It was night when Moses thus spake to them, and soon after he had done speaking, the wonderful

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

P Josephus says, that Pharaoh's army, with which he pursued the Israelites, consisted of six hundred chariots, 50,000 horse, and 200,000 foot soldiers. Antiq. lib. 2.

Exod. xiv. r Ver. 11.

• Ver. 13.

c. 15.

appearance of the pillar of fire, and of the cloud,

which went before them to direct their journey, removed and placed itself between them and the Egyptians, with its shining or bright side towards the Israelites, and with its dark or cloudy side towards the Bryptians; so that the Israelites had light to be moving forward towards the sea, and the Egyptians not ·being able so well to see their way, could not follow so fast as to get up with them. When the Israelites were come to the sea, they made a stop for some hours." Moses held up his hand over the sea, and

God was pleased by a mighty wind to divide the waters, and to make a space of dry ground from one

side of the sea to the other, for the Israelites to pass : over. Hereu pon Moses and Aaron led the way,' and

Exod. xiv. 19, 20.

Some of the Hebrew writers represont, that when Moses had divided the sea, the Jews were afraid to attempt to.go.over it, but that the head of the tribe of Judah led the way; and that as a reward for the courage of this tribe in this attempt, they were appointed to march foremost in :all the future journeyings of the Israelites; but the Psalmist seems to hint that Moses and Aaron went before the Is. saelites into the sea; Psalm lxxvii., and this fiction about the tribe of Judah has no better foundation than the numerous other fancies of these writers, one of which relating to this passage over the Red Sea is wonderfully ,'extravagant. They say, that God in dividing the waters, made twelve different paths, that each tribe might have a path to : itself; but conceits of this sort want no refutation.

510

SACRED AND PROFANE

BOOK IX

the Israelites followed them into the midst of the sea; and the waters stood on heaps on each side of them, and were as a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left, all the way they passed. The Egyptians came on after them, and it being night, and they not having the light of the pillar, which guided the Israelites, finding themselves upon dry ground, all the way they pursued, might, perhaps, not at all suspect that they were off the shore; for I imagine, that if they had seen the miraculous heaps of waters. on each side the Israelites, they would not so eagerly have ventured still to prcss after a people saved by so great a miracle. When the Israelites were got safe on the land over the sea, towards morning, the Lord looked from the pillar of fire and of the cloud upon the Egyptians, and troubled their host, and took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily.* The Egyptians began to find their

passage not so easy; the waters began to come upon them, and their chariot wheels to sink and stick fast in the muddy bottom of the sea, so that they could get no further, and Moses at the command of God stretched forth his hand over the sea. The Egyptians began now at dạy-break to see where they were, and to fear their ruin, they turned back as fast as they could, and endeavoured to get to shore; but the waters came upon them in their full strength, and overwhelmed them. Thus Pharaoh and his whole army were lost in the Red Sea.

1

* Exod. xiv, 25.

Some writers have imagined, that there might be no real miracle in this passage of the Israelites over the Red Sea. Moses was a great master of all science and learning, and had lived in Midian, a country near the borders of this sea, forty years. He had had time and abilities, whilst the kept the flocks of Jethro in this country, to observe with great accuracy the ebb and flow of it. The Red Sea at its northern end divides itself into two branches, one of which, namely that over which Moses led the Israelites, from Toro, where the two arms divide, 'up to the shore, upon

the wilderness of Etham, is about thirty leagues or ninety miles in length. At Toro this sea is about three leagues or nine miles over, and it continues of much about the same breadth for twenty-six leagues or seventy-eight miles upwards ; from thence for about two leagues it is three miles over, and so it continues up to the land's end, for about six miles, three or four miles over all the way. The adjacent places, Migdol, Pihahiroth and Baalzephon, direct us whereabout the Israelites passed over this sea, namely over this narrow arm, and not above six miles from the land's end; and it may be said, that the flux and reflux of the sea may perhaps cover, and leave dry every tide a tract of land, from the place where Moses passed over the Israelites, up to the wilderness of Etham, as the ebb and flow of the sea does all the wash, on the borders of Lincolnshire in our country; and if so, Moses might easily by his knowlege of the tides, contrive to lead the people round about among the mountains, so as to bring them to the sea, and

« PreviousContinue »