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Bishop Colenso's examination of the Pentateuch examined ; with an appendix online

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this proves decisively that, in prospect of their de-
parture, the Hebrews had been urging their demands
for some time before the last plague was inflicted upon
Egypt. They might well urge them, for the obvious
reason that, to leave the country as they had the
prospect of doing, would otherwise entail upon them
considerable loss. All their immoveable property
would then have fallen into the hands of the
Egyptians without any equivalent being received by
them. They had, therefore, long before their de-
parture, insisted upon what was plainly an equitable
claim, though it was not satisfied, until, through the
consternation occasioned by the last plague, constraint
was laid on their oppressors, and, (as the passage,
Exod. xii. 36, literally means), the Egyptians comphed
with, or satisfied, their (just) requirements.

Thus does the narrative again vindicate its con-
sistency when it really is '^ examined/^ — But, says Dr.
Colenso, and this is the last of his difficulties which
needs to be considered at this point — "here we have
this vast body of people of all ages summoned to



44

start, according to the story, at a moment^s notice,
and actually starting, together with all their multi-
tudinous flocks and herds, which must have spread
out over a district as large as a good-sized English
county,^^ p. 61. How could this be ? he asks us.
And then he relates an incident in his Natal ex-
perience, '^ remembering which,^^ he does not " hesitate
to declare this statement to be utterly incredible and
impossible." But whose statement is it? Certainly
not that of the inspired writer. We have already
seen that, instead of representing them as starting " at
a moment^s notice,'^ he manifestly intimates the very
contrary, and in various ways suggests the fact, that
they were for some time, probably for weeks, engaged
in preparations for their journey. Moreover, he tells
us not less expressly, and in more ways than one, that
when the journey began it was in the outset deliberately
prosecuted. For he first distinctly intimates that they
remained for a while at Rameses, to collect the neces-
saries likely to be required by them, and to receive the
valuables which they had justly claimed in compensation
for the property they had left behind. And afterwards,
reviewing their progress as far as Elim, he states (comp.
Numb, xxxiii. 3, and Exod. xvi. 1), that, when they
arrived there, an entire month had elapsed since they
started. We here find that " reference to the ' days
of rest,' '' as well as to the ^^ marching days,^^ of which
Dr. Colenso denies the existence in the history.
"There would surely have been some reference to



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 45

them/^ lie says (p. 63), " if they really occurred."
No ; not " surely : " any reference to them might have
been omitted. Here, however, we actually find it, in
the express statement, that the journey as far as Elim
had occupied an entire month. Of this period, one
week at most was needed for their marchings and en-
campments on the east side of the Red Sea ; so that, on
the most unfavourable computation, we have no less than
three weeks assigned by the historian, instead of the
three days or thereabouts insisted on by his '' examiner "
for the prosecution of this part of their journey.

Now, I think we may at length proceed undis-
turbed by any, at all events, of these difficulties, in our
conviction that the history thus far is trustworthy, and
that it does — Dr. Colenso notwithstanding — give us
" true narratives of actual historical matters of fact.^^
And here I will ask you to indulge me with your at-
tention to the following extracts from my Scripture
Lands in connexion with their history, which may give
us some further help in our examination of this part
ofit? —



" The Hebrew people were spread over Egypt to positions
considerably south of their main settlement in Goshen, and
some of them may have been located on those broad plains
opposite Memphis, where there are still so many traditionary
memorials of them. Rameses, identified with Hieropolis, was
their rendezvous ; and to this point the labourers on the above
ground, and those toiling further to the south, may have gone
through the Wady Ramlieh, direct east of Memphis, and then
turned off" north-east by Jebel Reibun, or have still continued



46 COLENSO^S EXAMINATION OF

in an easterly direction by Wady Tawarik to the Ked Sea.
Or Jebel Reibun may have been the point of meeting, both
for the companies in Goshen and those nearer Memphis. In
the outset, and before the passage of the Red Sea, the separate
companies must, at all events, have marched along different
roads to their point of rendezvous ; and hence may be reconciled
traditions and arguments which fix on so many distinct paths as
those which were taken by the emancipated captives. . . . After
attentively considering the various theories that have been
formed respecting the passage of the Red Sea, my own conclu-
sion is, that it was made somewhere opposite the opening of
the Wady Tarawik, where the sea is now about seven miles
broad. This position perfectly satisfies all the conditions of
this stupendous miracle, for such — ^judging from the impressions
left by it (Josh. ii. 9, 10; Ps. cvi. 9) — it must have been, and
something very different from passing over a ford, as it has
sometimes been represented. Nothing, however, can be more
f utile than to judge of the circumstances of the miracle from the
present appearance of the coast and of the gulf : the shore-line
has changed ; still more, the bed of the sea, which is plainly
seen through the clear, translucent water, is covered with a
jagged coral surface, over which, at any point, it is inconceiv-
able that any company can have passed. Changes must have
occurred since the passage, which have obliterated all traces of
the state and aspect of the scene of it at that time. ' On our left,
at the mouth of the Wady Tawarik, was ' Migdol ' (Atakah) ;
before us 'the sea;' on the right, in the defiles between the
ranges of ' Jebel Deraj, ' Pihahiroth' (openings of the caverns);
and probably somewhere near here was ' Baal Zephon,' in the

form of a temple dedicated to Typhon We ascended the

foremost projection of Ras Atakah. There we had the two
conjectured scenes of the passage in view at once, and just
underneath is the eight-fathom passage which Laborde speaks
of. .... It is true, as Stanley says, that ' the framework' of
the miracle wrought here is not majestic, but it accords with
the narrative, and perfectly satisfies all its conditions.'" —
Scripture Lands, etc., pp. 49, 53, 54.



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 47

We now follow the emancipated people in their
journey through the wilderness. The account of their
progress during the first thirty or thirty-five days, is
given in such detail, that every stage of it can be
marked and followed, until they reached the plain of
Sinai, and encamped before the sacred mount, which
there rose in its lonely majesty, grandly towering before
them. There is greater difficulty in tracing the order of
their marchings after their departure from this place.
But, comparing the account in Num. xxxiii. of their
'' goings out, which Moses wrote by the commandment
of Jehovah," with the details elsewhere given— it can be
very nearly, if not exactly, ascertained. And taking the
result of this comparison, and following them by means
of it to the end of their " wanderings,'' we find a
coincidence which is absolutely perfect between the
details of the narrative, and the respective localities
in the peninsula to which they are assigned. Those
stages of their journey, where the people are repre-
sented as suff'ering and exhausted in their enterprise,
and consequently as desirous to abandon it, are even
now recognised as just the distressing stages in a route
which, through a considerable part of it, would not
entail upon them excessive fatigue, or involve them in
unbearable privations. When the history alludes to
supernatural help, it represents the people as being
then in a position where such help would evidently
be required for such a multitude. As, again, it was
not less evidently unneeded, in those stages where
the historian's silence on the subject impHes it was



48 COLENSO'S EXAMINATION OF

not given. You know that I am here speaking from
personal knowledge of the ground in question. With
the sacred narrative in constant view at each stage
through which the people are conducted in it^ I have
traversed the whole of the peninsula^ and my purpose
requires me to ask for your attention at this point to
the results of this detailed comparison of the history
itself with the nature and peculiarities of the ground
on which it was transacted.

Their journey began in the desert portion of their
settlement, which must already have been familiar to
many among them, the shepherds and hunters of the
company, in their wanderings and adventures.

" Further on, however, and for three days after passing the
wells in the spot where they emerged upon the Asian shore, they
came on one of the most tedious and depressing stages of their
journey through the peninsula. Here they had a glimpse of
the arid desert regions, in the line of which the peninsula is
situated. Sand-storms were of common occurrence ; nor was
there any water, though on the frequent mounds which they
here met with they found a considerable amount of vegetation,
on which their flocks and herds found sufficient, if not
abundant, pasture.^ This ' three days in the wilderness,'

^ " From Ayoun Mousa to Wady Sudr we had, fortunately,
a northerly wind, or we should have been troubled with sand,
as nearly all travellers say they were in this part of the journey.
We were surprised at the large amount of vegetation in this
most unpromising part of the desert. For more than two
miles our course lay through mounds, about nine feet high,
which were almost covered with rich green tufts. . . . Next day
we had disagreeable experience of a sand-storm, through which
we saw a large flock of gazelles. We passed numerous mounds
of the same character, and rested near a sanded-up fountain,
which our Sheikh said is called Howara, and over which
stand two luxuriant clumps of palms." — Extract from Journal.



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 49

even as far as the ' Bitter ¥/"aters,* soon and very naturally
exhausted the strength and spirits with which the people
had started from their first encampment and landing-place.
At Marah, however, they were encouraged by seeing the
familiar palm; and soon, in a few hours more, they turned
into a broad refreshing wady, with clear, sweet water flowing
beneath the roots of its numerous trees. The high, massive
promontory, just in front of them on the south, forbade their
continued advance along the shore; nor would they be re-
luctant to ascend the broad and shady path, with its even rich
pasturage, that lay before them. Now, for two days, their
journey lay in a wooded, and well-watered, and even romantic
country. In most impressive contrast with the dreary flatness
of Egypt, the mountain scenery of the peninsula here burst
on them, until, advancing along a broad pathway, as in a
wide street, of which the house-doors and windows had been
suddenly removed, they found themselves at its entrance upon
that broad open space, stretching a mile and a half in front of
them, which is identified as the place of their ' encampment by
the Ked Sea.'

"Here, in this grand and beautiful scene, the ignoble
and degraded masses of the people began to experience
some of that influence of the scenery, so strongly contrasted
as it is with the flat monotony of the Delta plains, which
appears to have been one of the most important agencies in
their mental culture and elevation. This influence continued,
surrounding and impressing them during their journey through
their next stage from this station; but they now lost the re-
freshment, the shade and water which for the last two days had
supported them in their severe fatigues. In thus leading them
forward Moses disclosed his firmness, and the fidelity with
which he discharged the office he had been called to undertake.
He knew the country, the dangers of the pass by the double
headland which was lying before them on the south, and then
the sufferings they would encounter on the wide plain of
Murkhah, across which they must accomplish a shadeless
march of twelve miles, on to the great rocks of the southern



50 COLENSO^S EXAMINATION OF

side of that weary land, where only, in that dreary, desolate
region, they would find any shadow from the heat. He led
them on, however ; and here in this scene of special emergency,
the hand of their Divine Guide was specially outstretched to
supply them with those necessaries, which, on the two previous
days, they found among the natural resources of the com-
paratively pleasant, refreshing country through which their
road then had led them. When they emerged from this plain,
they went forward through rugged and narrow passes, with
high walls of dark, basaltic rock, towering over them on either
side. Sometimes their road led them up through intricate,
abrupt, and steep ascents, where they found no verdure, and
only here and there, in the recesses of the rocky openings and
passages, ehrub-tufts and thin vegetation, which would hardly
furnish their cattle with the scantiest supplies of nourishment.
Somewhere, in this dreary and barren, and yet sternly sublime,
region, Dophkah and Alush are situated; and, on a forced
march, there are just two days' journeys intervening between
their late * encampment by the Red Sea,' and the position with
which, as we shall see, Rephidim must be identified.

" No mention is made by the historian of any special assist-
ance aff'orded to them in this place ; nor, in fact, notwithstanding
its iron ruggedness and arid destitution, was any miraculous
help needed by them at this stage of their progress ; for now,
at length, they had reached the neighbourhood of large Egyptian
settlements. Here they would meet caravans of traders carry-
ing provisions to the workmen and settlers in the colony near
the copper-mines of Surabit el KhMim. Almost midway in
their progress is Wady Magh^rah, where they Avould see on
tablets high up on the rocky faces of the mountain, and which
were even then ancient witnesses of the tyrannical superstition
of the people from whom they had just separated. Within a
few hours thence were the mines, having a considerable
Egyptian population around them, where foraging parties,
detached from the main body, could obtain supplies, that might
also be abundantly famished by the travelling caravans of
traders and Bedouins, whom they could hardly fail to meet



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 51

with in the neighbourhood of such an important settle-
ment. '


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Online LibraryGeorge Smith DrewBishop Colenso's examination of the Pentateuch examined ; with an appendix → online text (page 4 of 12)