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may be farther perceived their attachment to Egypt, and their degeneracy in preferring bondage to liberty; and we may be farther assured of the propriety, in not suffering them to be carried the direct way northward to Canaan; but appointing them to be led at a greater distance, and in a different direction, through the wilderness. For even here they would, in all probability, have turned back, had the enemy made the least overtures, instead of pursuing them with terror, and driving them through the sea. If we consider this as the operation of the Deity, who is su perior to every difficulty, and can save out of the greatest distress, the whole will appear consonant to divine wisdom as well as justice; as it tended to promote the great end which God had proposed. This was, to manifest his power by punishing the Egyptians; and to make use of their perfidy and baseness, to cure his people of their prejudices, and to break off all connections with Egypt.
Their preservation, as we are informed by the sacred writer, was owing to a miraculous passage through the sea. Some have thought
Of this we may be assured from their behaviour. more than once afterwards. See Exod. xvi. 3.
that there was nothing preternatural in this occurrence; though it is said, that the waters, contrary to the law of fluids, rose up perpendicular, so that they were a wall to the people on their right hand, and on their left. Let us then for a while set aside the miracle, and consider the conduct of Moses. He has, after many difficulties and alarms, conducted his people, by some favourable means, to the other side of the sea; where he might have been some days before without any perplexity or distress. And what is his object now? undoubtedly, after this signal deliverance, to take the shortest course to Canaan. No, he sets out again in a quite contrary direction, south ward towards Paran; and having led the people through one barren wild, he brings them into another, still more barren and horrid. And, what is very strange, they reside in this desert near forty years, where a caravan could not subsist for a month. There must therefore have been an over-ruling power from above, which directed these operations; for no strength or sagacity of man could have accomplished what was done. Neither the mode nor the means were according to human pru
Exod. xiv. 22.
dence. It is moreover said, that in this state of travel for so many years their apparel lasted to the very conclusion of their journeying. The prophet accordingly tells them to their face, Deut. xxix. 5. I have led you forty years
in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old
upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. It is farther said, that when they were afflicted with thirst, the solid rocks afforded them streams of water; and that for a long season they were fed with a peculiar food from heaven. And this must necessarily have been the case; for there was not subsistence in the desert for one hundredth part of their number. It is plain, therefore, that Moses was not the chief agent, but was directed throughout by the God of Israel.
He brought streams also out of the rock: and caused waters, to run down like rivers. Psalm lxxviii. 16.
* Moses speaks to Israel collectively, Deut. viii. 3. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna; which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.
V. 4. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did the foot swell these forty years.
Of their Arrival at Sinai,
In the third month from their departure they came into the wilderness of Sinai; and approached the mountain, of which God had apprized Moses, that, when he brought forth the people out of Egypt, they should serve God upon that mountain, Here the law was given with all the magnificence and terror that the human mind can conceive, Exod. xix. 16. And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that were in the camp trembled-V. 18. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. -Ch. xx. ver. 18. And all the people saw (were witnesses to) the thunderings, and lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it they removed, and stood afar off.-V. 21. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. Such was the splendid and
terrific appearance in which it pleased God to manifest himself to the people. The whole was calculated to produce a proper reverence and fear, and make the people more ready to receive the law, and to obey it, when delivered. For the law was of such a nature, and contained such painful rites and ceremonies, and injunctions seemingly so unnecessary, and without meaning, that no people would have conformed to it, or even permitted it to take place, if there had not been these terrors and this sanction to enforce it. A meaning certainly there was in every rite and ordinance; yet as it was a secret to them, there was nothing which could have made them submit but the immediate hand of heaven. A shepherd of Midian could never have brought about so great a work, though he had been joined by Aaron, his brother, and all the elders of Israel. But Aaron was so far from co-operating, that, even while the law was giving, while the cloud was still upon Sinai, he yielded to the importunities of the people, and made a golden calf, and suffered them to lapse into the idolatry of Egypt. Moses there
Wherefore I gave them also statutes, that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live. Ezekiel xx. 25.