« EdellinenJatka »
Observations upon the Route taken by Moses and the Israelites upon their Departure:
The Exodus now ensues, and the Israelites are delivered from the Egyptians. Let us again consider Moses at this crisis, as acting merely by his own authority, and not under the control, and direction of heaven. We shall find the whole process of his operations not only to be strange and unaccountable, but impossible to have been carried on. The Israelites are assembled in the land of Goshen, thoroughly prepared to depart whenever the commission is given. At last it comes, and the wished-for deliverance ensues. They accordingly set out under the direction of their leader, and are to be conducted to the promised land, the country of the Amorites and Perizzites, of the Jebusites and Hittites, a land flowing with milk and honey, and the road is short and plain. We may then imagine, that Moses carried them to the place appointed, which had been of old promised to their forefathers. Not in the least. He led them a quite different route. He carried them from one wilderness to another; where, instead of milk
and honey, they encountered hunger and thirst; and, for many years, saw neither city nor town, nor had a roof to shelter them.
It may be asked, as this disappointment must have been great, how could the people put up with it? They did by no means acquiesce. They vented their rage in upbraiding towards Moses, and were at times ready to stone him. Moses therefore, if he proceeded upon his own authority, acted most unaccountably, and contrary to justice as well as prudence; for he deceived the people. But, if the hand of heaven was concerned in this operation, the case is very different. The God of wisdom, who is the searcher of all hearts, can both foresee and remedy every difficulty that may occur. The dispositions of people are open to him, and he can anticipate the workings of their hearts, and provide accordingly. But all this is past the apprehension and power of man. When therefore the affair is attributed to the Deity, we see throughout both his wisdom and justice. We are accordingly told, Exodus xiii. 17. when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest per
adventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.
V. 18. But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red-sea. The regular route was towards Gaza and the other cities of Palestine, which were a portion of Canaan, and at no great distance from the borders of Lower Egypt. But God would not permit them to take this course, though com pendious and easy. For he knew their refractory spirit, and how prone they were to disobey; and the proximity of this country to Egypt would lead them, upon the first difficulty, to return. Of this we may be assured from what did happen, when, upon some disappointment, they gave vent to their evil wishes. Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full. Exodus, ch. xvi. ver. 3. Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt, or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. Numb. ch. xiv. ver. 2, &c.
The Encampment upon the extreme Point of the Red-sea.
We are told, that the children of Israel pursued their journey, from Rameses and Succoth, till they came to the border of Etham, a wilderness at the top of the Red-sea. This wilderness extended from this border to the west of that sea towards Midian and Edom eastward, and southward towards Paran; and upon the edge of it they encamped. Pharaoh had ordered his chariots and his horses to be got ready, and was now pursuing after them. But they would have escaped, for they had full time to have got into the wilderness of Etham, and secured themselves in its fastnesses. They would never have been pursued in such a region, when they had so far got the start. But Moses gave up this advantage; and, stopping short, led them out of the way into a defile, through which there was no outlet. Pharaoh therefore might well say---They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. Exod. xiv. 3. When the enemy's army came at last upon them behind, they were every way inclosed, without possibility of escape.
Moses acted for himself, as a man, how can we reconcile this proceeding with human prudence? It is contrary to common sense, and incompatible with the knowledge and experience which he had acquired. The necessary consequence of this ill conduct must have been the immediate resentment of the people; who, left to themselves, would not have scrupled to have stoned him: they accordingly upbraided him in bitter terms: ch. xiv. ver. 11. Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou, say they, taken us away to die in the wilderness ? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us? V. 12. Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? for it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. This would have been very justly urged to Moses, as a man, if he had acted upon his own authority, and if these difficulties had been owing to his conduct. But as the people had been witnesses to the repeated interposition of the Deity in their favour, and knew by whose direction their leader proceeded, they shewed a shameful diffidence; and betrayed that rebellious spirit, which marked their character throughout. Hence