Containing The Interval Of Two Years.
From The Exodus Out Of Egypt, To The Rejection Of That Generation.
How Moses When He Had Brought The People Out Of Egypt Led Them To Mount Sinai; But Not Till They Had Suffered Much In Their Journey.
1. WHEN the Hebrews had obtained such a wonderful deliverance, the country was a great trouble to them, for it was entirely a desert, and without sustenance for them; and also had exceeding little water, so that it not only was not at all sufficient for the men, but not enough to feed any of the cattle, for it was parched up, and had no moisture that might afford nutriment to the vegetables; so they were forced to travel over this country, as having no other country but this to travel in. They had indeed carried water along with them from the land over which they had traveled before, as their conductor had bidden them; but when that was spent, they were obliged to draw water out of wells, with pain, by reason of the hardness of the soil.
Moreover, what water they found was bitter, and not fit for drinking, and this in small quantities also; and as they thus traveled, they came late in the evening to a place called Marah, (1) which had that name from the badness of its water, for Mar denotes bitterness. Thither they came afflicted both by the tediousness of their journey, and by their want of food, for it entirely failed them at that time. Now here was a well, which made them choose to stay in the place, which, although it were not sufficient to satisfy so great an army, did yet afford them some comfort, as found in such desert places; for they heard from those who had been to search, that there was nothing to be found, if they traveled on farther. Yet was this water bitter, and not fit for men to drink; and not only so, but it was intolerable even to the cattle themselves.
2. When Moses saw how much the people were cast down, and that the occasion of it could not be contradicted, for the people were not in the nature of a complete army of men, who might oppose a manly fortitude to the necessity that distressed them; the multitude of the children, and of the women also, being of too weak capacities to be persuaded by reason, blunted the courage of the men themselves, - he was therefore in great difficulties, and made everybody's calamity his own; for they ran all of them to him, and begged of him; the women begged for their infants, and the men for the women, that he would not overlook them, but procure some way or other for their deliverance.
He therefore betook himself to prayer to God, that he would change the water from its present badness, and make it fit for drinking. And when God had granted him that favor, he took the top of a stick that lay down at his feet, and divided it in the middle, and made the section lengthways. He then let it down into the well, and persuaded the Hebrews that God had hearkened to his prayers, and had promised to render the water such as they desired it to be, in case they would be subservient to him in what he should enjoin them to do, and this not after a remiss or negligent manner. And when they asked what they were to do in order to have the water changed for the better, he bid the strongest men among them that stood there, to draw up water (2) and told them, that when the greatest part was drawn up, the remainder would be fit to drink. So they labored at it till the water was so agitated and purged as to be fit to drink.
3. And now removing from thence they came to Elim; which place looked well at a distance, for there was a grove of palm-trees; but when they came near to it, it appeared to be a bad place, for the palm-trees were no more than seventy; and they were ill-grown and creeping trees, by the want of water, for the country about was all parched, and no moisture sufficient to water them, and make them hopeful and useful, was derived to them from the fountains, which were in number twelve: they were rather a few moist places than springs, which not breaking out of the ground, nor running over, could not sufficiently water the trees.
And when they dug into the sand, they met with no water; and if they took a few drops of it into their hands, they found it to be useless, on account of its mud. The trees were too weak to bear fruit, for want of being sufficiently cherished and enlivened by the water. So they laid the blame on their conductor, and made heavy complaints against him; and said that this their miserable state, and the experience they had of adversity, were owing to him; for that they had then journeyed an entire thirty days, and had spent all the provisions they had brought with them; and meeting with no relief, they were in a very desponding condition. And by fixing their attention upon nothing but their present misfortunes, they were hindered from remembering what deliverances they had received from God, and those by the virtue and wisdom of Moses also; so they were very angry at their conductor, and were zealous in their attempt to stone him, as the direct occasion of their present miseries.
4. But as for Moses himself, while the multitude were irritated and bitterly set against him, he cheerfully relied upon God, and upon his consciousness of the care he had taken of these his own people; and he came into the midst of them, even while they clamored against him, and had stones in their hands in order to despatch him. Now he was of an agreeable presence, and very able to persuade the people by his speeches; accordingly he began to mitigate their anger, and exhorted them not to be over-mindful of their present adversities, lest they should thereby suffer the benefits that had formerly been bestowed on them to slip out of their memories; and he desired them by no means, on account of their present uneasiness, to cast those great and wonderful favors and gifts, which they had obtained of God, out of their minds, but to expect deliverance out of those their present troubles which they could not free themselves from, and this by the means of that Divine Providence which watched over them.
Seeing it is probable that God tries their virtue, and exercises their patience by these adversities, that it may appear what fortitude they have, and what memory they retain of his former wonderful works in their favor, and whether they will not think of them upon occasion of the miseries they now feel. He told them, it appeared they were not really good men, either in patience, or in remembering what had been successfully done for them, sometimes by contemning God and his commands, when by those commands they left the land of Egypt; and sometimes by behaving themselves ill towards him who was the servant of God, and this when he had never deceived them, either in what he said, or had ordered them to do by God's command.
He also put them in mind of all that had passed; how the Egyptians were destroyed when they attempted to detain them, contrary to the command of God; and after what manner the very same river was to the others bloody, and not fit for drinking, but was to them sweet, and fit for drinking; and how they went a new road through the sea, which fled a long way from them, by which very means they were themselves preserved, but saw their enemies destroyed; and that when they were in want of weapons, God gave them plenty of them; - and so he recounted all the particular instances, how when they were, in appearance, just going to be destroyed, God had saved them in a surprising manner; and that he had still the same power; and that they ought not even now to despair of his providence over them; and accordingly he exhorted them to continue quiet, and to consider that help would not come too late, though it come not immediately, if it be present with them before they suffer any great misfortune; that they ought to reason thus: that God delays to assist them, not because he has no regard to them, but because he will first try their fortitude, and the pleasure they take in their freedom, that he may learn whether you have souls great enough to bear want of food, and scarcity of water, on its account; or whether you rather love to be slaves, as cattle are slaves to such as own them, and feed them liberally, but only in order to make them more useful in their service.
That as for himself, he shall not be so much concerned for his own preservation; for if he die unjustly, he shall not reckon it any affliction, but that he is concerned for them, lest, by casting stones at him, they should be thought to condemn God himself.
5. By this means Moses pacified the people, and restrained them from stoning him, and brought them to repent of what they were going to do. And because he thought the necessity they were under made their passion less unjustifiable, he thought he ought to apply himself to God by prayer and supplication; and going up to an eminence, he requested of God for some succor for the people, and some way of deliverance from the want they were in, because in him, and in him alone, was their hope of salvation; and he desired that he would forgive what necessity had forced the people to do, since such was the nature of mankind, hard to please, and very complaining under adversities. Accordingly God promised he would take care of them, and afford them the succor they were desirous of. Now when Moses had heard this from God, he came down to the multitude.
But as soon as they saw him joyful at the promises he had received from God, they changed their sad countenances into gladness. So he placed himself in the midst of them, and told them he came to bring them from God a deliverance from their present distresses. Accordingly a little after came a vast number of quails, which is a bird more plentiful in this Arabian Gulf than any where else, flying over the sea, and hovered over them, till wearied with their laborious flight, and, indeed, as usual, flying very near to the earth, they fell down upon the Hebrews, who caught them, and satisfied their hunger with them, and supposed that this was the method whereby God meant to supply them with food. Upon which Moses returned thanks to God for affording them his assistance so suddenly, and sooner than he had promised them.
6. But presently after this first supply of food, he sent them a second; for as Moses was lifting up his hands in prayer, a dew fell down; and Moses, when he found it stick to his hands, supposed this was also come for food from God to them. He tasted it; and perceiving that the people knew not what it was, and thought it snowed, and that it was what usually fell at that time of the year, he informed them that this dew did not fall from heaven after the manner they imagined, but came for their preservation and sustenance. So he tasted it, and gave them some of it, that they might be satisfied about what he told them.
They also imitated their conductor, and were pleased with the food, for it was like honey in sweetness and pleasant taste, but like in its body to bdellium, one of the sweet spices, and in bigness equal to coriander seed. And very earnest they were in gathering it; but they were enjoined to gather it equally (3) - the measure of an omer for each one every day, because this food should not come in too small a quantity, lest the weaker might not be able to get their share, by reason of the overbearing of the strong in collecting it. However, these strong men, when they had gathered more than the measure appointed for them, had no more than others, but only tired themselves more in gathering it, for they found no more than an omer apiece; and the advantage they got by what was superfluous was none at all, it corrupting, both by the worms breeding in it, and by its bitterness.
So divine and wonderful a food was this! It also supplied the want of other sorts of food to those that fed on it. And even now, in all that place, this manna comes down in rain, (4) according to what Moses then obtained of God, to send it to the people for their sustenance. Now the Hebrews call this food manna: for the particle man, in our language, is the asking of a question. What is this ? So the Hebrews were very joyful at what was sent them from heaven. Now they made use of this food for forty years, or as long as they were in the wilderness.
7. As soon as they were removed thence, they came to Rephidim, being distressed to the last degree by thirst; and while in the foregoing days they had lit on a few small fountains, but now found the earth entirely destitute of water, they were in an evil case. They again turned their anger against Moses; but he at first avoided the fury of the multitude, and then betook himself to prayer to God, beseeching him, that as he had given them food when they were in the greatest want of it, so he would give them drink, since the favor of giving them food was of no value to them while they had nothing to drink. And God did not long delay to give it them, but promised Moses that he would procure them a fountain, and plenty of water, from a place they did not expect any.
So he commanded him to smite the rock which they saw lying there, (5) with his rod, and out of it to receive plenty of what they wanted; for he had taken care that drink should come to them without any labor or pains-taking. When Moses had received this command from God, he came to the people, who waited for him, and looked upon him, for they saw already that he was coming apace from his eminence. As soon as he was come, he told them that God would deliver them from their present distress,and had granted them an unexpected favor; and informed them, that a river should run for their sakes out of the rock.
But they were amazed at that hearing, supposing they were of necessity to cut the rock in pieces, now they were distressed by their thirst and by their journey; while Moses only smiting the rock with his rod, opened a passage, and out of it burst water, and that in great abundance, and very clear. But they were astonished at this wonderful effect; and, as it were, quenched their thirst by the very sight of it. So they drank this pleasant, this sweet water; and such it seemed to be, as might well be expected where God was the donor. They were also in admiration how Moses was honored by God; and they made grateful returns of sacrifices to God for his providence towards them. Now that Scripture, which is laid up in the temple, (6) informs us, how God foretold to Moses, that water timid in this manner be derived out of the rock.'
(1) Dr. Bernard takes notice here, that this place Mar, where the waters were bitter, is called by the Syrians and Arabians Mariri, and by the Syrians sometimes Morath, all derived from the Hebrew Mar. He also takes notice, that it is called The Bitter Fountain by Pliny himself; which waters remain there to this day, and are still bitter, as Thevenot assures us and that there are also abundance of palm-trees. See his Travels, Part I. Ch. 26. p. 166.
(2)The additions here to Moses's account of the sweetening of the waters at Marah, seem derived from some ancient profane author, and he such an author also as looks less authentic than are usually followed by Josephus. Philo has not a syllable of these additions, nor any other ancient writer that we know of. Had Josephus written these his Antiquities for the use of Jews, he would hardly have given them these very improbable circumstances; but writing to Gentiles, that they might not complain of his omission of any accounts of such miracles derived from Gentiles, he did not think proper to conceal what he had met with there about this matter.
Which procedure is perfectly agreeable to the character and usage of Josephus upon many occasions. This note is, I confess, barely conjectural; and since Josephus never tells us when his own copy, taken out of the temple, had such additions, or when any ancient notes supplied them; or indeed when they are derived from Jewish, and when from Gentile antiquity, we can go no further than bare conjectures in such cases; only the notions of Jews were generally so different from those of Gentiles, that we may sometimes make no improbable conjectures to which sort such additions belong. See also somewhat like these additions in Josephus's account of Elisha's making sweet the bitter and barren spring near Jericho, War, B. IV. Ch. 8. Sect. 3.
(3) It seems to me, from what Moses, Exodus 16:18, St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 8:15, and Josephus here say, compared together, that the quantity of manna that fell daily, and did not putrefy, was just so much as came to an omer apiece, through the whole host of Israel, and no more.
(4) This supposal, that the sweet honey-dew or manna, so celebrated in ancient and modern authors, as falling usually in Arabia, was of the very same sort with this manna sent to the Israelites, savors more of Gentilism than of Judaism or Christianity. It is not improbable that some ancient Gentile author, read by Josephus, so thought; nor would he here contradict him; though just before, and Antiq. B. IV. Ch. 3. Sect. 2, he seems directly to allow that it had not been seen before. However, this food from heaven is here described to be like snow; and in Artapanus, a heathen writer, it is compared to meal, color like to snow, rained down by God, Essay on the Old Test. Append. p. 239. But as to the derivation of the word manna, whether from man, which Josephus says then signified What is it or from mannah, to divide, i.e. a dividend or portion allotted to every one, it is uncertain: I incline to the latter derivation. This manna is called angels' food, Psalm 78:26, and by our Sacior, John 6:31, etc., as well as by Josephus here and elsewhere, Antiq. B. III. Ch. 5. Sect. 3, said to be sent the Jews from heaven.
(5) This rock is there at this day, as the travelers agree; and must be the same that was there in the days of Moses, as being too large to be brought thither by our modern carriages.
(6) Note here, that the small book of the principal laws of Moses is ever said to be laid up in the holy house itself; but the larger Pentateuch, as here, some where within the limits of the temple and its courts only. See Antiq. B. V. Ch. 1. Sect. 17.