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over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and THE SEA RETURNED to his strength WHEN THE MORNING APPEARED; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them: there remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore."*
I have no doubt that every thing here stated was effected by purely natural means. You will observe that the account does not represent that the sea was divided instantaneously, or even by miraculous power; but we are expressly informed that a natural agency was employed, viz. "a strong east wind." And we may infer from the expression, "all that night," that several hours elapsed after Moses and the ignorant slaves who followed him arrived at the bank of the sea, before they were enabled to pass over. Every seemingly miraculous feature of the account has been fairly explained in perfect accordance with natural laws. Critics of the most pro* Exodus, xiv. 21-30.
found learning and ability have left no stone unturned in the path of their inquiries, and so have succeeded in giving us a rational and consistent solution of this whole matter. I will linger no more with remarks of my own upon this topic; but proceed to the introduction of historic and geographical testimony, of the highest character, to sustain the proposition advanced :
"The tides in the Red Sea are considerable from its entrance facing the east, and there being no rivers to counteract the stream. The winds considerably affect these tides; and it is not uncommon, in strong northwesters, for the bottom to be left entirely dry on the ebb, between Suez and the opposite shore.”*
Mr. James Bruce, (the celebrated Englishman, who journeyed to the source of the river Nile,) in speaking of a place which some have supposed to be the locality where Moses crossed, and where the sea is less than three leagues broad and the water when the tide is highest but fifty feet deep, and which is about seven miles from Suez, makes the following statement:
"Diodorus Siculus says, the Troglodytes, the indigenous inhabitants of that very spot, had a tradition from father to son, from their very earliest and remotest ages, that once this division of the sea did happen there; and that, after leaving the bottom some time dry, the sea again came back and covered it with great fury."t
* London Encyclopedia. vel. xviii. Art. Red Sea.
+ Bruce's Travels. Ed. published in Edinburg, in 1760, vol. i. p. 236.
The natives referred to do not, however, mention that any persons went across the sea, when its waters were parted. On that point, their tradition is silent.
One form of expression used in the Biblical account, which is commonly supposed to imply a contravention of natural laws, is thus explained by the learned Dr. Geddes, in his translation of the Bible:
It is not ne
"The waters being, as it were, a wall. cessary to suppose that they stood upright, like real walls; but only that they were deep enough, on each side of the shoal, to prevent the Israelites being flanked, or attacked, from any quarter, but from behind."*
In another work of his, Dr. Geddes presents the following lucid exposition of this whole subject. To me, his remarks have yielded great satisfaction; and I here introduce them without further comment:
"The passage of the Red Sea, recorded in this chapter, [Exod. xiv.] has been the subject of much controversy and criticism.
Where and how it happened are the two principal points to be discussed. Till of late years, it was generally believed that the passage was at Bedea; which,
*The Holy Bible, &c. faithfully translated from corrected texts of the originals, with Various Readings. Explanatory Notes, and Critical Remarks. By the Rev. ALEXANDER GEDDES, LL. D. Quarto ed. London:
Dr. Geddes was born in 1737, and educated a Roman Catholic; and from all that I can learn of him, it appears that he was an estimable man. But the avowal of his opinions in relation to some parts of the Bible aroused a storm of violent abuse and persecution from both Catholics and Protestants. Alas! Bigotry is willing to forgive and forget almost every thing but an honest difference of opinion.j
according to Niebuhr, is about six German miles from Suez; and where the sea (says Bruce) is something less than four leagues broad, by fifty feet deep. To have dried a passage through such a mass of water would have been a prodigy indeed. But this hypothesis has been fairly given up by our best modern critics; and the Sinus Heroopolitanus, or Gulph of Suez, pitched upon as the scene of action. The idea was first suggested by Le Clerc, and since adopted and defended by Michaelis, Niebuhr, and almost all the German commentators. But these Germans are only for half-miracles: and Mr. Bryant still contends for Bedea, and calls the arguments of Niebuhr prejudice and misconceptions.
For my part, who believe there was nothing miraculous in the event, I am positively for the pass at Suez; or not far from Suez; where at this day there are shallows fordable at low water; and which might, in former times, have been frequently dry. We all know what changes happen in the bed of seas as well as rivers, especially where that bed is sand, which that of the Gulph of Suez certainly is. The occurrence I conceive then to have happened thus. When Moses saw that the Egyptians had found out, that the Israelites meant not to return, and were about to pursue him with a force which he could not resist, he wisely took the only course that was most likely to afford him an escape. Acquainted as he must have been, during his long stay in Midian, with the nature of the Red Sea, and its ebbs and flows, he deemed it better to take his chance of passing over some shal
low which he knew to be fordable at low-water, than to expose himself to be overtaken in a desert where no stratagem could save him. If he got the start of the Egyptians for but a single day, he would have time to watch the tide, and begin his march as soon as the passage was fordable; and in the space of a few hours might be safe on the other side. The width of the sea at Suez is at present, according to Niebuhr's measurement, 757 double paces, or 3450 feet. It is common for the Arabs to pass on foot over this passage, although not always without danger, as the sea sometimes flows back unexpectedly." At Suez, according to Niebuhr, it is low water, at the full of the moon, at half past six ; but as the passage of the Israelites must have happened some days after the full of the moon, the ebb and flow must have been considerably later, and the former fallen in the night time, during which the Israelites are said to have passed. Michaelis was of opinion, that, as a strong wind is said to have accompanied this event, it might have caused a double ebb, as it sometimes does on the coast of Holland and North Germany: but Niebuhr thinks that no such thing is likely to happen in the Red Sea. Be that as it will, the wind might certainly have prolonged the ebb; and, if it happened at the time of the passage, might well be considered as a providential interference, and readily construed into a miracle.*
*In the year 1762, when the English fleet attempted to make a descent on Holland, they were prevented by a singular occurrence. When they arrived at the Dutch coast it was low water; so they were obliged to wait for the tide. The tide came, but lasted only two or three hours, when it stood still until a new ebb supervened; in the mean time the