Imatges de pàgina

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 Hercopolitanus, 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 pey ebb supervened ; in the mean time the

Josephus, in recording this transaction, puts a formal speech in the mouth of Moses to his terrified and dis contented people, and a prayer to God before he strikes the sea with his rod: yet he tells us that all this he has related as he found it in the sacred books. But he seems not sure, whether to consider it as a miracle or a natural effect. “Let no one,' says he, 'wonder at this account of a way of safety being opened to those old. world innocent folks, even through the sea, whether by the will of God or naturally ; since, of latter days, the Pamphylian-seà opened a way for Alexander's army, when God through him had decreed to overturn the Persian empire. For this he appeals to all Alexander's historians: and, indeed, both Arrian and Appian, who relate the event, seem to have considered it as a sort of divine interposition : but honest Strabo tells us that Alexander only took the advantage of low-water; and, trusting to his good fortune, passed through the streight with his army: but not on dry land; for the water came up to the navel. The same was the case with Scipio's soldiers, who surprised New Carthage by taking the advantage of an ebb; although they waded sometimes up to the knee, at other times up to the navel, in water. Here the same two natural causes, the tide and a strong wind, concurred to make a passage through the water, as concurred at the passage of the Red Sea; and in both cases they were converted into a miracle. appearance of Admiral Ruyter with the Dutch fleet obliged the English to abandon their enterprise : and thus Holland was saved from impending ruin. And this, says Burnet, was considered as a miracle.

I cannot better conclude than with the modest reference of Josephus : 'Of such things, let every one think as he pleases.'

Verse 28. For the waters returning covered both chariots and horsemen, &c. This may be easily conceived by those who have passed the Washes between Norfolk and Lincolnshire, or the Milnthorp and Cartmel sands, in the great estuary between Lancaster and Hookborough; where if there were not a guide, with a salary from government, to direct and escort the passengers, they would often be swallowed up by the returning tide, and both the horse and his rider be cast into the sea.

'I am sure,' says a friend of mine, from whom I had an accurate account of those sands, that Pharaoh and his host would have perished in many such tides as I have seen on Lancaster Sands, and the Bristol Channel; on both which I have seen tides come in a breast of water two feet perpendicular, and roll rather faster than a horse could trot." A few such successive tides, or billows, would soon overthrow an army, if they had no means to escape; as was the case with the Egyptians, on a shoal between two masses of water, a deep stagnation on the left hand, and the sea on the right, both agitated with a vehement wind, which blew almost directly in their face. Then, if thunder and lightning attended the tempest, it would be terrible indeed; and they might naturally enough exclaim, 'Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord fighteth for them against us:' although how the Hebrew writer came to know that they so ex

pressed themselves it is hard to say, as none of them escared to tell the dismal tale. But the Hebrew historian was a poet, if not a prophet; and often gives us what might have been for what really was. For the rest, extraordinary tides of the sea have in all ages been attended with danger and death. When the emperor Valens was at Marcinopolis, in his way to Syria, such a tempest happened, and such agitation of the sea, that in some places small ships were driven over the walls of houses, and in others the largest vessels were left dry on the sand. The inhabitants of the city, going out to plunder, were overtaken by the returning tide and buried in the waves. Those great commotions were not unfrequently accompanied by earthquakes. In the year 1034, there happened a dreadful one in Egypt and Palestine, which obliged the inhabitants to live in the open air during eight days. The sea on this occasion receded three parasangs,* and on its return destroyed the people who had gone out to pick up fishes and shells. In the very next year

there were uncommon exundations of the sea and of the rivers, by which many persons lost their lives. But the most singular phenomenon of this kind is said to have recently happened in South America. The waters of the river Plata were, in the month of April, 1793, forced by a most impetuous storm of wind to the distance of ten leagues; so that the neighboring plains were entirely inundated, and the

* The length of a parasang is not sufficiently ascertained; but the shortest estimation is thirty furlongs.

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