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a pillar of cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire, &c. In trackless, and often sandy deserts, it is sometimes as difficult to find one's way as over a trackless ocean.* Beacons are therefore necessary to direct the march. Among those beacons, smoke and fire were commonly used by the Persians, Arabians, and other nations. It was usual among the Arabs, as we learn from Frontinus, to announce the appearance of an enemy by smoke in the day-time, and by fire at night: and I have seen the same signals used on the coast of Scotland for similar purposes. To raise the smoke, a wet bundle of straw was used. Toland and Von-der-Hardt imagined that the pillar of cloud, and fire, of Exolus, was, in reality, a fire similar to that above-mentioned ; a sacred fire carried about on a portable altar, of which the smoke by day, and light by night, directed the marches of the Israelites : and this, for aught we know, may have actually been the case: but the Hebrew historian, who could not be ignorant of such a custom, makes a miraculous cloud of it, in which cloudt he places Jehovah, or his angel, to direct the journeys and encampments of his chosen people. Moses, however, seems not to have put much faith in its direction, since he was so solicitous to have Hobab to be a guide. (See Num. X. 31.) But to return to the text: Michaelis and some others would have
* The coinpass is now sometimes actually used in traversing those deserts.
+ This same cloud covered the Convention-tent, or Tabernacle, imme. diately after it was reared ; and continued to direct the encaipments as before.
the original to be translated a standing, or constant cloud: but I see no cause for departing from the ancient versions, which are more agreeable to the Hebrew construction. It is not necessary to suppose that the cloud was in the form of a pillar. We still, in common talk, call clouds and volumes of smoke pillars, when they have little or no resemblance to real ones.'
The Passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea,
and the Destruction of Pharaoh and his host. The details of this occurrence are as follows:
“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back BY A STRONG EAST WIND ALL THAT NIGHT, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them, to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot-wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel : for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians. And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thy hand
*Geddes' "Critical Remarks upon the Hebrew Scriptures," London Quarto ed. vol. i. pp. 224, 225.
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 profound 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 :
* Exodus, xiv. 21—30.
“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.”+
* London Encyclopedia. vol. xviii. Art. Red Sea. + Bruce's Travels. Ed. published in Edinburg, in 1760, rol. 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:
“The waters being, as it were, a wall. It is not necessary 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 tbe Rev. ALEXANDER GEDDES, LL. D. Quarto ed. London: 1797.
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 inan. 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.,