Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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could only have alluded to the wonderful spring of Firan, as
has been already supposed long before my time.J It may
still further be deduced, that Moses really found repose here
in Eaphidim, because now, by the advice of Jethro, he orga-
nises the hitherto disorderly mass of people to enable him
to govern them.§ He selects tlie best qualified men, and
places them over a thousand, over a hundred, over fifty, and
over ten ; these are appointed judges of smaller matters while
he only retains the most important for himself.

All this evidently indicates that the journey was past, and the
period of repose had commenced.

The beginning of the following chapter (Exodus xix. 1 — 3)
certainly seems to contradict this, for it is said, " In the
third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out
of the land of Egypt, the same day|| came they into the
wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Eaphi-
dim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched

* Exodus xviii. 5. — Tr.
t Exodus xvii. 6.— Tr.

I See below, the complete passage by Cosmas. See Appendix G.

§ Even the name itself, Raphidim, /. e. the places of repose, indicate
that the place was adapted for rest of some duration.

II See Appendix B.


in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the
MouyT, and Closes went up unto God, and the Lord called
unto him out of the Mountain," &c.

According to this, they decamped between Eaphidim and
Sinai. This favoured the tradition whicli believed that the
Mount of the Law might be re-discovered in Gebel Miisa be-
yond Firan. At the same time, however, it was not con-
sidered that by admitting this we encounter much greater
contradictions with the text. In the first place, the words
mention no more than one day's journey,* not even in the
Book of Xumbers,t where, nevertheless, between Elim and
Kaphidim, not only Alus and Daphka, but the Eed Sea
(though tliis last was near Elim) are particularly men-
tioned. Erom Eiran to Gebel INIusa tliere were, however,
at least two long days' journeys, if not more. The '• ]Mount
OK God" has likewise been already mentioned in Eaphi-
dim, it was there called a rock in Ciioeeb ; and it is there-
fore impossible to understand by the Mount of God any
other than " the !Mount of God" to which Moses drives
the sheep of Jethro.

AVe should, thus, be obliged to admit that there were two
" ^founts of God ;" one, the " Mount of God, Choeeb," in
Kaphidim, which would be Sebbal, and a " Mount of God,
Sinai," on whicli the law was given, which woul'd be Gebel

To admit this would, however, in itself not only be scarcely

* For that reason Robinson and others, vho do not allow that any
positions of tlio encampments were omitted, place Kaphidim beyond
FruAN; and although they make the march through the latter place,
tliey leave it either totally unmentioned, or place Alus there. We
have already mentioned above the objections to this opinion, which
have been partly proved by Ritter. On the other hand, Ritter, to re-
move the difficuitv, distinctly admits of an omission in our present text.
(P. 742.)

t Numbers xxxiii. 10 — 14. — ^Tr.

X Ritter (see Appendix B) is consequently compelled to draw this
conclusion ; which, in lact, seems to me the most doubtful of all. The
present tradition diffl-rs from this in holding Horeb and Sinai to be two
mounts, situated immediately beside each other but yet apart.


conceivable, but most distinctly self-contradictory, inasmuch
as it maintains that the Mount of God, Choeeb, where
God first appears to Moses, is even in anticipation desig-
nated as the Mount of the Law (Exodus iii. 1 — 12) ; that
further, the general designation, the " Mount of God," which
appears so frequently without a name being appended (Exodus
iv. 27, xviii. 5, xxiv. 13 ; Numbers x. 33), could only have been
employed if there were no more than one such Mount ; and,
finally, because the name of Sinai, or Mount Sinai, and
Choeeb, or Mount Choeeb, are continually mentioned with
exactly the same meaning as Mount of the Law-giving.

This evident difficulty has indeed been felt strongly at all
times.* Josephus (xint. iii. 2, 3) forwarded his view by
transposing the doubtful commencement of the xix chapter
from its present position after the visit of Jethro, to hefore
it, so that Moses does not receive his family in Eaphidim,
but in Sinai. By this means certainly the double difficulty
is avoided ; on the one hand, because two Mounts of God do
not appear, on the other, that the organisation of the people
does not occur during the journey. He also deliberately
omits the statement that in Choeeb was situated the rock
which Moses strikes for the spring of water.

Modern scholars have, on the contrary, proposed either
to make Sinai the general name for the whole of the range,
and Choreb the individual Mount of the Law-giving, or vice
versa, Choreb for the more extended, and Sinai for the
limited designation,t while the tradition of the monks

* The three possible ■ways of removing this diflBculty have been
tried by Robinson, Ritter, and Josephus. The first, places Raphi-
dim. near Gebel Musa; the second, assumes there is an omission
between Raphidim and Sinai, and retains two Mounts of God; the
third, transposes the separating passage, and does not mention Horeb
at all, only Sinai.

^ t See the manner in which Robinson combines, and weighs both
views, i., p. 197, &.C. All those passages where precisely the same is
said concerning Horeb, as about Sinai, are opposed to the more recent
opinion that Horeb was the general designation for the mountain
range, or for the district, and that Sinai was the individual Mount,

M0U2?T SINAI. 317

refer both names to diflerent mountams situated immediately
beside each other.* It seems to me that the comparison
of the individual passages admits of none of these \'iews ; in
my opinion it is rather clearly proved, by the names of
Choreb and Sinai being used alternately, but with perfect
equality, that loth designated one and the same mountain
together with the district immediately surrounding it,t so

while not a single passage requires us to think of a large extent of
ground. No mention is ever made of a " Wilderness of Horeb," as
of the Wildernesses of Slr, Sin, Paran, and otliers. We might
also cite in favour of the opposite opinion Acts vii. 30 compared
with Exodus iii. 1.

* This view is found already in the above-mentioned (note, p. 313)
Itineraricm of Antoninus, who places the convent between Sinai and
Horeb. The monks' tradition of the present day, that the rock pro-
jecting into the plain of liaha was Horeb, is well known. The arbitrary
character of such assumptions is evident; nevertheless, the latter
opinion is maintained by Gesenius (Thesaur, p. 517, Wiener, and

t St. Jerome expressly says the same thing, since he adds to the
words of Eusebius s. v. Choreb : Mihi autem videtur quod duplici
nomine idem mons nunc ^AI.

wMcli regards the present Gebel Musa as Sinai can be re-
ferred to a time prior to Justinian.* The remoteness of that
district, and its distance from frequented roads of communi-
cation, though from its position in the lofty range offering
sufficient subsistence for the trifling necessities of the single,
scattered monks, rendered it peculiarly applicable for indivi-
dual hermits, but for the same reason inapplicable for a large
people, ruling the laud for a certain period of time, and ex-
hausting all its resources. The gradually increasing hermit
population might have drawn the attention of the Byzantine
emperors to that particular district, and, as it appears, have
fixed the previously wavering tradition to that spot for future
times, t

I have, indeed, been in need of a learned foundation for what
I have here said about the position of Elim, Eaphidim, and
Mount Choreb or Sinai, but this I shall not be able to sup-
ply even in Thebes ; it would, however, chiefly refer to the
history of the earliest tradition before Justinian, which, even
were it to agree in all its parts with tlie tradition of the pre-
sent day, would still hardly suffice to decide anything con-
clusively. It seems to me that these questions will always
remain unsolved, if the elements which were at my com-
mand — namely, the Mosaic account, a personal view of the
locality, and acquaintance with the history of that period —
should not be considered sufficient to explain tliem. "We
shall only obtain a correct idea of the whole of the external
character of the event, by simultaneously observing these

* See Appendix G.

t Ritter (p. 31), Avhen he mentions tliat Sinai was almost simul-
taneously regarded by tlie Egyptian, Cosmas, to be Serbal ; and by the
Byzantine, Procopius to be Gebel Musa; adds another supposition,
which I will mention here. " Might there not," he says, " hare, per-
haps, existed a different tradition or party-view on this matter in con-
vents, and among the monks at Constantixople and Alexandria,
Avhich might proceed from a jealous feeling to vindicate the superior
sanctity of one or the other locality ? It is remarkable that such
different views of the matter should be held simultaneously by the most
learned theologians of their day."









three most essential sides of the investigation, while, on the
other hand, an endeavour to obtain an indifferent and equal
confirmation of each individual feature in the account now
under our consideration, must necessarily lead to the wide
road of false criticism, which always sacrifices the compre-
hension of the wliole, to the comprehension of the individual


Thebes, Karnak, the Ath of May.

On the 6th of April we quitted Tor, where we had only
spent one night. During our farther voyage we landed
every evening on the shelly and coralline coast of
Africa, till, on the 10th, we arrived at Kosser, where ex-
cellent Se'id Mohammed of Qeneh was waiting to furnish us
with camels for our return to Thebes. In four days we
passed over the broad Eossafa road, crossing the mountain
range, passed Hamamat, and on the 14th of April once more
reached our Theban head-quarters.

AVe found ever>'thing in the most desirable order and
activity ; but our old and faithful castellan, 'Auad, met me
with a bandaged head, and saluted me in a feeble voice. A
short time previously he had a narrow escape from death. I
mentioned in a former letter that many years ago he, together
with tlie whole house of the Sheikh of Qurna, burdened
themselves with a crime of blood, which had not yet been
expiated. The family of the man who had been killed in
Kom el Birat, had, soon after our departure, seized an
opportunity when 'Auad was returning home from Luqsor
one evening with a relation, to fall upon the two unsus-
picious wanderers. The attack was more aimed at the com-
panion of 'Auad than at himself, they therefore called out
to him to go away; however, as he did not do this, but
vigorously defended his relation, he received an almost deadly
blow on his head from a sharp weapon, which stretched him



insensible on tlie ground ; the other man was murdered and
thrown into the Nile, sacrificed to the revenge for bloodshed,
which had remained unsatisfied seven years. Since that time
there has been peace between the families.

A longer account of our Sinai journey will be despatched
to-day, to which I have also added two maps of the Penin-
sula, by Erbkam, drawn from my notes. I now contemplate
the difficult task of finishing my account with Thebes, which,
however, I hope to accomplish in about ten or twelve days.


Cairo, the lOth of July, 1845.

The first place we halted at after we left Thebes on the
16th of May, was Dendeea, whose magnificent temple is the
last towards the North, and although of later date, almost
confined to the Eoman period, it yet presented an unusual
amount of subjects for our portfolios and note-books. We
then spent nine additional whole days upon the remarkable
rock-tombs of AMAE^'■A, from the time of the fourth Ameno-
phis, that royal Puritan who persecuted all the gods of
Egypt, and would only permit the worship of the sun's disc.

As we approached Beni-suef, we saw a magnificent
steamer of Ibrahim Pascha's hastening towards us. We
hoisted our flag, and immediately the red Turkish flag, with
the Crescent, appeared on board the steam-boat in return
for our salute. It then altered its course, steered directly
towards us, and stopped.

We were eager for the news which we were about to
hear : a boat pushed off", and pulled to beside our ship. It
was, indeed, a joyful surprise when I recognised my old
imiversity friend. Dr. Bethmann, in the fair Frank who
came on board, and who had come hither from Italy to
accompany me on my journey back by Palestine and Con-
stantinople. Ali Bey, the right hand of Ibrahim Pascha,


who was steaming to l^pper Eg)-pt, had kindly taken him
into his vessel, and told me he unwillingly parted with his
agreeable travelling eompaDion, to whom he had become
much attached even in their short acquaintance.

His presence, and the assistance he affords me, have be-
come still more valuable since my other travelling com-
panions have left me beliind alone. They started from hence
yesterday. "Willingly indeed I would have accompanied
them, as to-day is the third anniversary of my depai'tiu-e
from Berlin, but the taking to pieces of the P}Tamid tombs
still detains us. The four workmen, able young men, who
were sent to assist me from Berlin, have arrived, and I im-
mediately took them with me to the Pyramids. We made
ourselves a lodging in a tomb which was in a convenient
situation. A travelling blacksmith's forge was constructed,
some scaffolding was raised for the windlass, and we set to
work vigorously.

The difficulties of the whole affair, however, rest still more
in the petty jealousies, by which we are here surrounded on
every side, and in the different diplomatic influences, which are
not unfrequently rendered abortive by Mohammed Ali's dis-
tinct orders. Herr von AVagner therefore considered it abso-
lutely necessary that I should by no means quit Egypt be-
fore the transport and embarkation of the monuments was
completed, and I therefore sliall be obliged to wait here
patiently for several weeks longer.


Cairo, the l\tk July, 1845.
Will you permit me to communicate briefly some ideas
which have of late considerably occupied my attention.*

* This letter, which I have had printed here verbatim, was addressed
to the General Director of the Royal Trussian Museum, Privy Coun-
sellor of Legation von Olfers. This communication may perhaps
serve to spread a correct estimation of the fundamental principles

A- o


I have never lost sight of your wish to decorate the New
Museum in harmony with the monuments which it contains,
and I hope that you continue to entertain these views. I
liave had great pleasure in the account Herr Hertel has given
me respecting the arrangement of the Egyptian saloons, and
■have heard from him that the facing of the columns is still
ill suspenso. It is very improbable that such a favourable
opportunity will ever recur of having such means at our
disposal on the first formation of a museum as we have in the
arrangement of this Egyptian one, when we shall be able to
furnish a complete whole, and at the same time offer to
■the public so much that is new and important in plan,
materials, and arrangement. If I remember rightly, you
have expressed a desire to form an historical museum, such,
in fact, as all such museums should be, in conformity with
their purpose and idea, and yet such as nowhere exists.
This view, however, in an Egyptian museum, is at all events
attainable in a degree which, even under the most favourable
circumstances, can be but remotely approached in all other
museums, because in no other nation can the date of each
individual monument be so precisely and surely presented
as in this, and because no other collection is distributed
throughout so long a period of time (above 3000 years). I
therefore presume that, as a whole, you wish to arrange the
principal saloons historically, so far as this can be accom-
plished, and by some method to combine what belongs to the
Old, what to the iSew, and what to the Greek-Eoman
Monarchy, in such a manner at least, that each chamber of
any size should have a definite historical character. I have
always borne this in view in forming the collection, although
I by no means believe that this principle should be carried
out pedantically in details. With respect to the plaster
casts which you will probably wish to incorporate as a whole
with the existing collection of casts, it would be very de-

which has guided the arrangement and decoration of the Egyptian
Museum, one of the grandest and latest works that have been executed
in Berlin, and which has just been rendered accessible to the public.


sirable to bave a lew duplicates made of these for the Egyp-
tian saloons, for the sake of rendering them complete.

But what especially induces me to write from hence on
such matters, is the notion that even now, or perhaps very
soon, you may have made such progress in the edifice as to be
desirous of coming to a decision with reference to the archi-
tectonic and pictorial decoration of the saloons, and in that case
a few observations may not perhaps be unacceptable from me.

You will, no doubt, select Egyptian architecture for the
Egyptian saloons ; this sliould by all means be carried out
in every part, and by what I hear from Hertel, there is still
ample time for this. I think, for instance, that to produce a
general harmonious impression the architectural style of
ranges of columns, which is characteristic of difi'erent periods,
should be retained in their historical succession of series,
as well as with all their rich decoration of colouring.

The coloured paintings on the walls are, however, tlien in-
dispensable. Every temple, every tomb, every wall in the
palaces of the Egyptians was decorated from top to bottom
with painted sculptures or paintings. The first inquiry must
be, in what style these paintings should be executed. They
might either be free compositions in the Greek style, or
strictly Egyptian representations, avoiding, however, Egyp-
tian perspective, therefore a kind of translation, some-
what in the manner of the frieze on the wall in the

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 28 of 54)