Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

PASSAGE OF THE RED SEA.

119

rather to be explained as Arch geta or Leaderl. The inventive legends of a later period have industriously supplied their embellishing additions ; Moses, according to them, led an army into Æthiopia, took ibises with him in order to clear the desert, conquered Meroe, married an Æthiopian princess, and was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Of all this the ancient text knows nothing, but merely adds, with an obvious purpose, that the founder of the Hebrew theocracy was a son of the tribe of Levi'.

The immense multitude of the Israelites, with all their flocks and herds4, next marches in regular arrays, under their leader Moses, through the Red Sea in a night; a feat which, even admitting the full extent of the miraculous drying up of the passage, appears to be utterly impossible. The Red Sea divides, about 28° N. lat., into two branches, which include that part of Arabia in which Mount Sinai is situated, or the Arabian desert (Arabia Petrea): with the eastern or Ælanitic gulf we have here no concern, às the Israelites never came into contact with it; but the western branch, which is the proper continuation of the Red Sea, anciently known as the Gulf of Heroopolis, and at present as the Gulf of Suez, extended at an early period much further towards the north ; for, according to ancient authors, the city of Heroopolis was situated at its northern extremity; while, at the present

| Hüllmann, p. 68.
2 See Josephus, Arch. ii. 9, 10. Acts vii. 22.

3 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.”—Exod. ii. 1.

4 “Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone...... And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.”—Exod. xii. 32, 38.

5 chămushim. Exod. xiii. 18.

[blocks in formation]

day, the heap of rubbish which marks the ancient site of that town is actually further from the Red Sea than the Mediterranean". From Suez to the neighbourhood of the ancient Heroopolis, where the passage of the Israelites must have taken place, there is now a succession of deep salt-lakes; traces of a former canal are also visible; but it is clear, from the appearance of the ancient bed, that this distant prolongation of the Red Sea must have been here of very trifling width ; even at the present day the waves, which are constantly carrying away the sand from the western shore, deposit it as constantly on the east?. Even supposing the passage were made further to the south, and through the Gulf in the form it now presents (a supposition to which the situation of Rameses, the place of rendezvous, and the steepness of the mountains on the south, would appear to be strongly opposed), still even here it is only about 1400 paces wide, and so full of reeds, coral-reefs and sand-banks, that an older traveller», as well as Niebuhr and Buonaparte, were able to wade through it during the ebb of the tide. Even Herodotus 4 remarked the influence of the tide on the Red Sea, and the biblical narrative itself suggests the idea of an ebb, as the waters are said to have been driven back by a strong east wind. Other

* See Hoffmann, Geschichte der Veränderungen der Erdoberfläche (History of the Changes on the Surface of the Earth), i. 388.

9 Hoffmann, i. 391.

3 See Vater on Exod. xiv. 22. (“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.”]

4 Herod. ii. 11. Compare Niebuhr, Arab. p. 412.

5 “And 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.”—Exod. xiv. 21. Here the wind should be south. Compare Gen. xli. 6 : “ Behold, seven thin

EBBING OF THE TIDE.

121

leaders, it appears, in ancient times have repeatedly taken advantage of this ebb on similar occasions, and in their case also subsequent generations have sometimes ascribed the success of the attempt to miraculous interposition. So Scipio, we find, is said to have referred it to the gods?. Ammon has well observed that “this opinion, which a century ago was condemned as heretical, has now become a matter of absolute certainty 2.” The fact itself may therefore be allowed to stand ; but we must not attempt to transfer these poetical embellishments into the realms of history, on account of the graphic details they may chance to present, still less may we venture to ascribe them to the pen of Moses himself.

The same remarks apply to the chronology of the Pentateuch, which, even in its leading features, is not consistent throughout, and is full of minor contradictions ; and they apply with still greater force to its proper names and genealogies, though even these are supposed to be absolutely free from error4. To invent names is an easy matter, and they are in general more difficult of detection than the fictitious narratives appended to them; this is seen in the absurd nomenclature of the Arabian pedigrees, reaching from Ishmael to Mahommed', and even mixed ears, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them.”—[The east wind may have been adopted into the text, in order to divide the waters across, with a wall of water on each side of the passage.]

Livy, xxvi. 45, “in prodigium vertens." Compare Strabo, xiv. 2. with Josephus, Archaiol. ii. 16, 5.

Ammon, Fortbildung des Christenthums, i. 102. 3 See observations on Gen. xxvi. xxvii. xxxiv. xxxv. 26, xxxviii. xliii. xlvi. [in this work.]

4 See observations on Gen. xxvi. 34. xxxvi. xlvi. [in this work.]

5 See Hottinger, Hist. Or. 17, &c. A second and different pedigree is given by Reiske on the Tharafa.

[blocks in formation]

up with the names of the kings of Persia, or in the string of names in the first chapter of the first book of Chronicles. Moreover those who take all these parts of the Pentateuch on trust, would prove on the other hand too much, and consequently nothing, since even the pedigree of the patriarchs before the flood is given therein with the most minute particulars. Bleek? lays considerable stress on the laws which relate to the camp, but the Israelites were frequently obliged to have recourse to encampments even after they were settled in Palestine; and much which appears to be historical, -the conquest, for instance, of the Amalekites,-may have been derived from tradition, or, which is perhaps as probable, referred back to ancient times from the existing circumstances of the day.

i Stud. und Kritik, 1831, p. 488, &c.

CHAPTER XI.

INTERPOLATIONS IN THE PENTATEUCH.

It has been said that, admitting the Pentateuch to be the work of Moses, it is still conceivable that the text may have been disfigured by subsequent interpolations. The first thing which strikes us on the very threshold of this question, is the strange diversity in the opinions that have been formed of Moses' style of composition. The Rabbins believe him to have made thirteen copies of the Pentateuch, that the twelve tribes and the Levites might each possess one; Fritzsche and Rosenmüller tell us that the abruptness of the language arose from the multiplicity of his engagements, and that the tone of the aged legislator may be distinctly recognized in the diffuse and admonitory style of Deuteronomy; while Eckermann', on the contrary, would allow him a very large share of leisure and repose. Moses is certainly said to have been eighty years old when he first spoke unto Pharaoh?, and afterwards, according to the expression of the Pentateuch, he is described as “a harassed man3" ; but, notwithstanding this, the contradictions and repetitions are too numerous to find a sufficient apology

1 Beiträge (Contributions), p. 79.

2 “And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.”—Exod. vii. 7.

3 [The English received version has “meek.” Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” -Num. xii. 3.]

« ZurückWeiter »