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CHAPTER IX.

The Israelites, having acknowledged their thankfulness to God for his beneficent protection in delivering them out of Egyptian bondage, Moses conducted them from the Red sea into the desert of Shur or Etham. Here they travelled three days without finding any water, which, to so great a number of people, and in so hot a country, must have been very afflicting. At length, they came to a place called Marah, where they found some water; but, on tasting it, they could not drink it, on account of its being so exceeding bitter. This disappointment inflamed their thirst, and increased their dissatisfaction, insomuch that they began to murmur against Moses, asking him what they should drink? Moses was sensible of the calamity under which they labored; and, fearful lest they should, by their future murmurings, provoke the Almighty to punish them, he addressed himself to God in their behalf, who no sooner heard the complaint, than he was pleased to remove it. He ordered Moses to make use of the wood of a certain tree, which, as soon as it was thrown into the water, changed its offensive quality and became sweet.

From Marah the Israelites proceeded to Elim, where they found not only plenty of water, but also great numbers of palm or date trees, * the fruit of which being ripe supplied them with food. Here it may be supposed they made some stay; for when they left the place it was the fifteenth day of the second month, which was just a month from the day of their departure from Egypt.

On their removal from Elim they proceeded to the wildernesst of Sin, situated between Elim and Mount Sinai. Here again they fell into a general murmur against Moses and Aaron, on account of the barrenness of the place, and the scarcity of provisions. “Would to God,” cried they, “we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, where we had plenty of bread and meat; for now ye have brought us into this desert, where we must perish with famine."

The Almighty, to convince these murmuring people of his divine power and protection, was pleased to inform them by the mouth of Moses, that he would take care to supply them with food from heaven, and it was not long before his beneficent prom. ise was fulfilled. On that very evening he caused such a number of quails to fall among them, as almost covered their camp, by which they were plentifully supplied with the article of flesh. The next morning, as soon as the dew was gone, they found the surface of the earth covered with little white round things, resembling, in shape, the coriander seed. The Israelites, astonished at so singular a circumstance, said one to another, “What is this ?” Upon which Moses answered, “It is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.” And thence they gave it the name of Manna.

As this was the bread designed by the Almighty for the Israelites during their stay in the wilderness, and as they were strangers to its qualities, he was pleased to give them the following directions in what manner they were to manage it for the intended purposes.

That it was to be gathered by measure, an omer for every head, according to the number of each family; but this direction some persons slighting, and gathering above the portion allowed, found their quantity miraculously lessened, while the more moderate had theirs increased.

That it was to be gathered fresh every morning, all of which should be consumed the same day. This precept was likewise not observed by some, who, keeping a part till the next morning, found, upon examination, that it stunk, and was so putrefied as to be totally useless.

• PALM-TREE (see Engraving), a tall, fruit-bearing, shadowy tree, whose fruit is the date: it arrives at perfection in about thirty years, and thus continues about seventy years, bearing fifteen or twenty clusters of dates, each cluster weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds. Exod. xv. 27. The palm-tree is held in great estimation by the inhabitants of Arabia, Egypt, and Persia, on account of its adaptation to various valuable purposes. The Arabs celebrate its three hundred and sixty uses to which the different parts may be applied : they used the leaves for making ropes, sacks, mats, hats, sandals, and other things; and many people subsist almost entirely on its fruit. Palm-branches were carried as tokens of victory or joy (Lev. iii. 40, John xii. 13); and the beauty of this tree is made an emblem of the active virtues of a Christian. Ps. xcii. 12.

+ WILDERNESS, a desert, or uncultivated tract of land. Exod. xiv. 3, 1 Kings xix. 15, Acts wxi. 38. The northwestern part of Arabia was almost wholly uncultivated ; and hence Moses calls it “a terrible and a waste-howling wilderness." Deut. i. 19, xxxii. 10. Paran, Sin, and Sinai, were deserts in that dangerous country. Several wildernesses or small deserts existed in Canaan; as "the wilderness of Judea,” famous for the ministry of John the Baptist. Matt. u. 1

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That, on the seventh day (which was the Sabbath) there could not be any found; and therefore, on the sixth, they should gather a double portion, which being laid up against the ensuing day, should be perfecily sweet and wholesome.

Such were the directions given by God to the Israelites for the use of this miraculous bread, on which they were chiefly supported for forty years. And in order to perpetuate the remembrance of it, and that their posterity might see on what God had fed them while in the wilderness, he appointed an omer of it to be put into a pot, and to be carefully preserved for that purpose.

Thus did the Almighty supply the wants of the discontented Israelites in the most ample manner; and farther to convince them of his peculiar favor and regard, directed their marches from place to place, and appointed their respective encampments.

Leaving the desert of Sin, and proceeding on their journey, they came to a place called Rephidim, where they struck their tents and encamped. Here they were again distressed for water, upon which they fell into their old way of distrusting God's providence, and murmuring against Moses; but on this occasion they were much more mutinous and desperate than ever. It was in vain for Moses to endeavor to persuade them to be patient, and wait the will of God: this only inflamed them the more, and at length their rage arose to such a height, that they threatened to stone him.

Moses, not knowing what to do in order to appease the rage of the people, addressed himself to God, who was pleased to dissipate his fear, by promising to signalize that place by a miraculous supply of water, as he had lately done another by a miraculous supply of food. “Go,” said he, “on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel: and thy rod wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand and go. Behold I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shall smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, and the people shall drink.” Moses did as he was commanded, and no sooner had he smitten the rock with his rod, than water in abundance gushed out from several places at the same time, which joining in one common stream ran down to the camp at Rephidim, by which the people were immediately supplied, and their thirst being quenched, their rage against Moses instantly ceased.* This station, however, on account of the infamous mutiny of the people, and their distrust of God, Moses (as a caution and remembrance to them in future) called Massah and Meribah, which in the Hebrew language, signifies temptation and contention.

A short time after this singular circumstance happened, and while the Israelites were yet encamped at Rephidim, they were one day suddenly alarmed at the approach of an army of the Amalekites. Moses reflecting a little on this unexpected circumstance, ordered Joshuat (a valiant young man who was always about him) to draw out a party of the choicest men in the camp, and early the next morning, to give the enemy battle.

Joshua obeyed the command of Moses, who the next morning, accompanied by Aaron and Hur, went to the top of an eminence, whence they might have a view of the engagement. Moses took with him his rod, and while he held it up during the battle, the Israelites prevailed; but when, through weariness, his hand began to drop, the Amalekites had the better. Aaron and Hur, observing this, took a stone, on which they sat Moses, and, placing themselves on each side, supported his hands, in one of which was the rod, and the other uplifted to God. This they continued to do till the going down of the sun, in which time the Amalekites were routed, and every man put to the sword.

* PRETENDED Rock or Moses.-We are indebted to Professor Robinson's invaluable work (" Biblical Researches in Palestine") for the following interesting extract: “We came to the rock which they say Moses smote, and the water gushed out. As to this rock, one is at a loss whether most to admire the credulity of the monks or the legendary and discrepant reports of travellers. It is hardly necessary to remark, that there is not the slightest ground for assuming any connexion between this narrow valley and Rephidim; but on the contrary, there is everything against it. The rock itself is a large isolated cube of coarse red granite, which has fallen frorn the eastern mountain. Down its front, in an oblique line from top to bottom, runs a seam of a firer texture, from twelve to fifteen inches broad, having in it several irregular horizontal crevices, somewhat resembling the human mouth, one above another. These are said to be twelve in number ; but I could make out only ten. The seam extends quite through the rock, and is visible on the opposite or back side ; where also are similar crevices, though not so large. The holes did not appear to us to be artificial, as is usually reported, although we examined them particularly. They belong rather to the nature of the seam; yet it is possible that some of them may have been enlarged by artificial means. The rock is a singular one; and doubtless was selected, on account of this very singularity, as the scene of the miracle."

+ This is the first mention made of Joshua, who makes so distinguished a figure in the subsequent part of the sacred history; in which he is frequently styled the servant of Moses.

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