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but necessary, which such a people as the Israelites greatly needed, and which their journeyings in the wilderness were destined to enforce.
At length, the rising cloud gave the signal for their departure. The trumpets sounded. The standards were raised. The tabernacle was taken down. The tribes were marshalled ; and as the vast body began to set forward, what mingled emotions must have pervaded the breasts of such a multitude!
The hurried recollections of what they had witnessed and done, of what they had suffered and enjoyed, at Sinai; of its amazing prodigies ; its natural scenes of awful grandeur; its lofty mountains and sequeștered valleys; its scattered spots of delightful pasturage and repose; the refreshing streams which the smitten rock of Horeb had furnished; and the heavenly food which had supplied their wants, crowded thick upon their memory. The place where they had resided for nearly a year, surrounded with so many affecting and hallowed associations, was to be left for ever. The cloud continued slowly to advance. They followed its path. Sinai and its environs began, at length, to grow dim in the distance; and the Israelites looking back upon it with a mournful regret, wondered what new scenes were about to open before them.
To follow them with any thing like geographical accuracy, from one station to another, will be often difficult, and sometimes impossible. The
most learned and laborious in their investigations, are not agreed on many points connected with this subject; and but a partial light is thrown upon it by the researches of travellers.
We know, indeed, the general features of the regions which the Israelites traversed, while pass. ing from Mount Sinai to Canaan; features greatly diversified, and the grouping of which it may be interesting, for a moment, to contemplate. They consist of chains of mountains, and often single ones, interspersed with narrow and long valleys, traversing which are sometimes sandy cliffs, sixty and eighty feet in height; extensive, sandy plains, unfruitful and destitute of water, the surface of which is, in some parts, broken by innumerable undulations and low hills ; here and there spots shaded by bushes, and covered with pasturage, and valleys where water is to be found, and the tamarisks and lalh-trees grow; vast deserts, barren, horrid, and frightful; while the traveller sometimes meets with a mass of the bones of camels, horses, and asses that have perished on their way, and with heaps of stones, rudely thrown together, the tombs of pilgrims who have died of thirst or fatigue.
Parts of these regions are spoken of in the Scrip tures, as "a desert land, a waste howling wilderness," a great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water,"_" a land of deserts,
and of pits, a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt."
It was to give them the moral discipline which they needed; it was to train up the children and youth in such a school of hardihood and enterprise ; it was to prepare for himself a nation suited in their habits and character to the condition in which they would be placed in the land of Canaan; it was to show forth his own power and wisdom, his justice, his goodness, and his truth; it was to leave on record, for the instruction of their descendants to the latest posterity, and of all mankind, the manner of his dealing with such a stiff-necked and rebellious people,—the history of his great long-suffering towards them, and the reasons of the deep and lasting obligations of gratitude under which they were placed to their Heavenly Guide and Protector: it was for these important ends that God saw fit, in his wise and holy Providence, to lead the Israelites, during a space of forty years, through such dreary regions, and to subject them to the various difficulties and trials which we shall see they were called to endure. In noticing what transpired on their course, we should bear these things in mind, as accounting often for what might otherwise appear to us dark and mysterious.
The more we study the Bible with a right spirit, that we may become the better acquainted with the character and will of God, and our own character and duty; the more shall we find it to be, in all its parts,-in its histories and biographies, as well as its doctrines and precepts,- -a rich treasure of instruction. Its minute details of events; its very particular descriptions of what God commanded to be done, and of his conduct towards individuals and whole communities, especially the Jewish, are given by the inspired writers, not merely to fill up the narrative, or to be passed over in the perusal as of little moment, but to enlighten the mind, to. affect the conscience, and to purify the heart.
Look to God, my young friend, for the influences of his Holy Spirit, that such may be the happy result in your case, while
the Israelites in their subsequent journeyings to the promised land.
Taberah. Murmurings. Seventy elders chosen to assist
Moses. Quails sent. Plague at Kibroth-hattavah.
It was on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year after their departure out of
Egypt, that the Israelites left Sinai, and directed their course to the great desert of Paran. It lies in Arabia Petræa, south of Palestine, and northwest of the gulf of Akaba.
They had not been long on their way, before new murmurings and complaints were heard among them. Of the cause of this we are not informed. But it was so displeasing to God, that his anger was kindled against them, on account of their wicked perverseness and ingratitude, and he sent fire among them, which immediately consumed those who were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
The consternation was terrible. The judgments of the Lord had begun in one of their most awful forms, and might continue till the destruction of the Israelites was complete. They cried to Moses to interpose. He did so. His prayers prevailed, and the fire ceased. He called the place Taberah, that is, a burning, as commemorative of the event.
But they had scarcely recovered from the terror of this scene, before the mixed multitude, which was among them, began to long after what they conceived to be the greater comforts of the country that they had left. They broke out in lamentations of regret, and the Israelites joined them. "Who shall give us flesh to eat ?" said they. "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. But now our soul is dried