Page images
PDF
EPUB

seems to be the palm-grove of El-Wâdy at Tûr',—the sea-port half-way down the Gulf of Suez,—which receives all the waters which flow down from the higher range of Sinai to the sea. The other, and the more important, is the Wâdy Feirân, high up in the table-land of Sinai itself; but apparently receiving all the waters which, from the springs and torrents of the central cluster of Mount Sinai, flow through the Wâdy es-Sheykh into this basin, where their further exit is forbidden by the rising ground in the Wâdy Feirân". These two green spots are the oases of Sinai, and with the nucleus of springs in Jebel Mûsa, form the three chief centres of vegetation in the Peninsula.

II. This is the general conformation of the scenery through which the Israelites passed. Even if their precise General route were unknown, yet the peculiar features of the adaptation

to the hiscountry have so much in common that the history tory. would still receive many illustrations. They were brought into contact with a desolation, to them the more remarkable by its contrast with the green valley of the Nile. They The were enclosed within a sanctuary of temples and Scenery. pyramids not made with hands,-the more awful from its total dissimilarity to anything which they or their fathers could have remembered in Egypt or in Palestine. They were wrapt in a silence which gave full effect to the morning and the evening shout with which the encampment rose and pitched; and still more to the “thunders, and the voice exceeding loud” on the top of Horeb. The Prophet and his people were thus secluded from all former thoughts and associations, that

Separate from the world, his breast

Might duly take and strongly keep
The print of Heaven, to be exprest

Ere long on Sion's steep 3.” Not less illustrative, though perhaps less explanatory, of the more special incidents recorded, are some of the more local peculiarities of the Desert. The occasional springs, and wells, and brooks, are in accordance with the notices of the “waters of Marah; the springs' (mistranslated “ wells") of Elim; the “brook" of Horeb; the "well" of Jethro's daughters, with its "troughs" or tanks, in Midian'. The vegetation is still that which we should infer from the Mosaic history. The wild Acacia (Mimosa Nilotica), under the name of “súnt,” everywhere represents the "seneh " or "senna" of the Burning Bush'. A slightly different form of the tree, equally common under the name of "sayal,” is the ancient “Shittah'," or, as more usually expressed in the plural form (from the tangled thickets into which its stem expands), the “Shittim",” of which the taber

Burckhardt (Arabia, ii. 362) de. scribes the palm-grove as so thick that he could hardly find his way through it. It is two miles from the village of Tùr, in a valley called emphatically, El-W'ůdy, The Wady.” (Wellsted, ü. 9.)

See Part II. vi. Tur I did not see. 3 Keble's Christian Ycar, 15th Sunday after Trinity. I have everywhere

quoted from this work the illustrations it contains of Scripture scenery, not only because of its wide circulation, but because the careful attention of its learned author to all local allusions renders it almost a duty to test these allusions, whenever opportunity occurs, by reference to the localities themselves.

“ ” nacle was made,-an incidental proof, it may be observed, of the antiquity of the institution, inasmuch as the acacia, though the chief growth of the Desert, is very rare in Palestine'. The “Retem,” or wild broom, with its high canopy and white blossoms, gives its name to one of the stations of the Israelites (Rithmaho), and is the very shrub under which—in the only subsequent passage which connects the Desert with the history of Israel-Elijah slept in his wanderings. The “palms"—not the graceful trees of Egypt, but the hardly less picturesque wild palms of uncultivated regions, with their dwarf trunks and shaggy branches,-vindicate by their appearance the title of being emphatically the "trees" of the Desert; and therefore, whether in the cluster of the seventy palm-trees of the second station of the wanderings', or in the grove, which still exists at the head of the Gulf of ’Akaba', were known by the generic name of “Elim," “ Elath,” or “Eloth","—“the trees.” The "tarfa,” or tamarisk, is not mentioned by name in the history of the Exodus; yet, if the tradition of the Greek Church and of the Arabs be adopted, it is inseparably connected with the wanderings by the “manna” which distils from it, as gumarabic from the acacia. It is also brought within the limit of their earlier history by the grove of "tamarisks,'" which Abraham planted round the wells of Beersheba, as soon as he had exchanged the vegetation of Palestine—the oaks of Moreh and of Mamre,- for the wild and scanty shrubs of the desert frontier. The lasaf or asaf, the caper plant, the bright green creeper which climbs out of the fissures of the rocks in the Sinaitic valleys, has been identified on grounds of great probability with the “hyssop " orezob of Scripture, and thus explains whence came the green branches used, even in the Desert, for sprinkling the water over the tents of the Israelites.

Edom when driven into the desert. The word is also used in Ps. cxx. 4. See Part II. iv. xii.

8 The palms in the palm-groves at Tur are all registered. Property in them is capital ; marriage portions are given in dates, like tulips in Holland. (Henniker,

1 Ex. xv. 23, 27 ; Deut. ix. 21 ; Ex. ii. 16.

? Ex. iii. 2; Deut. xxxiii. 16. See Part II. iv.

3 Isa, xli. 19.

4 Exod. xxv. 5, 10, 13; xxvi. 26; xxvii. 1, 6, &c.

5 The gum which exudes from it is said to be the old Arabian frankincense, and is brought from Sinai by Tur. See Clarke's Travels, vol. v. 75.

6 Numb. xxxiii. 18, 19.

11 Kings xix. 4, mistranslated "juniper.” It is the “spartium juncum” of Linneus. In Job xxx. 4, it is described as the food of the wild inhabitants of

p. 217.)

9 Exod. xv. 27; xvi. 1; Num. xxxii. 9.

1 Deut. ii. 8; 1 Kings ix. 26; 2 Kings xiv. 22 ; xvi. 6; 2 Chr. viii. 17 ; xxvi. 2.

? It is the same word which in Palestine is used habitually for the ilex or terebinth ; an instructive change, because the terebinth is as emphatically the distinguished tree (if one may co say) of

Again, it has often been asked whether there are any natural phenomena by which the wonders of the giving of the

The physiLaw can be explained or illustrated. There are at cal phenofirst sight many appearances which, to an unpractised eye, seem indications of volcanic agency. But they are all, it is believed, illusory. The vast heaps, as of calcined mountains, are only the detritus of iron in the sandstone formation". The traces of igneous action on the granite rocks belong to their

mena.

66

Palestine, as the palm is of the Desert. favour of the identification are thus See Chapter II.

summed up by Professor Royle. “It is 1 The “Eshel" of Gen. xxi. 33. It found in Lower Egypt, in the Deserts of is also used in 1 Sam. xxii. 6, for a tree Sinai. . . . Its habit is to grow on the most at Ramah; and in 1 Sam. xxxi. 13, for barren soil, or rocky precipice, or the side a tree at Jabesh, which in 1 Chron. x. 12, of a wall.... It has, moreover, always is called an “oak” (Elah). This last ex- been supposed to possess cleansing proample perhaps throws doubt on the pre- perties, (especially in cutaneous disorders. vious usage. But it can hardly be doubted Pliny, H. N., xx. 15). It is capable that the Tamarisk is intended in Gen. of yielding a stick, to which the sponge xxi. 33. See Part II. iv., and Appendix. might be affixed.” (Journal of R. Asiat.

? Ritter, Sinai, 345, 761. I remember Soc., No. xv. p. 202.) The word voowTOS it especially in the Wady Shellal, the Wady seems to have been used by the LXX el-'Ain, and the Sîk at Petra. (See Part as the Greek name most nearly resembII. pp. 70, 80, 89.) To us, as to Lepsius ling the Hebrew esob in sound, though and Forskal, the Bedouin name seemed to differing in sense. Thus Bapıs is used for be Lasaf or Lasef. But it is the same as Bireh," and Bwuos for Bamah.Burckhardt, Freytag, and Richardson give 3 Num, xix. 18. under the name of Aszef and Asaf; and + See Part II. vi. I ought perhaps to the other form is probably only a corrup- notice the “hot springs" of the Peninsula, tion of al-asaf (See Journal of R. Asiat. which however are, I believe, all on the doc., No. xv. 203). The arguments in coast.

first upheaving, not to any subsequent convulsions. Everywhere there are signs of the action of water, nowhere of fire. On the other hand, the tremendous thunderstorms reverberated amongst the mountains have greatly impressed on those who have heard them the likeness to "the voice of the trumpet," the “trembling of the earth," the “blackness and thick darkness'.” The mysterious sounds which have been mentioned on Um Shaumer and Jebel Mûsa, may also be in some way connected with the terrors described in the Mosaic narrative. If there is such a connection, additional proof is furnished of the historical truth of the narrative. If not, it must rest, as heretofore, on its own internal evidence.

Finally, the relation of the Desert to its modern inhabitants The present is still illustrative of its ancient history. The general inhabitants. name' by which the Hebrews called “the wilderness," including always that of Sinai, was “the pasture." Bare as the surface of the Desert is, yet the thin clothing of vegetation which is seldom entirely withdrawn, especially the aromatic shrubs on the high hill sides, furnishes sufficient sustenance for the herds of the six thousand Bedouins who constitute the present population of the Peninsula.

3

“Along the mountain ledges green,

The scattered sheep at will may glean
The Desert's spicy stores 3.”

So were they seen following the daughters or the shepherdslaves of Jethro. So may they be seen climbing the rocks, or gathered round the pools and springs of the valleys, under the charge of the black-veiled Bedouin women of the present day. And in the Tiyâhah, Tawarah, or 'Alawîn tribes, with. their chiefs and followers, their dress, and manners, and habitations, we probably see the likeness of the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the Israelites themselves in this their earliest stage of existence. The long straight lines of black tents which cluster round the Desert springs, present to us on a small scale the image of the vast encampment

Į Stewart, Tent and Khan, 139.

“Midbar.” See Appendix, sub voce.

* Christian Year, 5th Sunday in Lent.

[ocr errors]

gathered round the one Sacred Tent which, with its coverings of dyed skins, stood conspicuous in the midst, and which recalled the period of their nomadic life long after their settlement in Palestine'. The deserted villages-marked by rude enclosures of stone-are doubtless such as those to which the Hebrew wanderers gave the name of “Hazeroth,” and which afterwards furnished the type of the primitive sanctuary at Shiloh'. The rude burial-grounds, with the many nameless head-stones, far away from human habitation, are such as the host of Israel must have left behind them at the different stages of their progress-at Massah, at Sinai, at Kibroth-hattaavah, “the graves of desire.” The salutations of the chiefs, in their bright scarlet robes, the one "going out to meet the other," the “obeisance," the "kiss on each side the head, the silent entrance into the tent for consultation, are all graphically described in the encounter between Moses and Jethro'. The constitution of the tribes, with the subordinate degrees of sheykhs, recommended by Jethro to Moses, is the very same which still exists amongst those who are possibly his lineal descendants—the gentle race of the Tawarah.

As we pass from the Desert to its inhabitants, a question naturally arises—How far can we be sure that we

Change in have the same outlines, and colours, and forms, the features that were presented to those who wandered through of the

Desert. these mountains and valleys three thousand years ago ? It might at first sight seem, that in this, as in other respects, the interest of the Desert of Sinai would be unique ; that here, more than in any other great stage of historical events, the outward scene must remain precisely as it was; that the convent of Justinian with its gardens, the ruins of Paran, with the remains of hermits' cells long since desolate, are the only alterations which human hands have introduced into these wild solitudes. Even the Egyptian

1 1 Chron. xxi. 29; 2 Chron. i. 3.
? See p. 81, and Appendix, Chat-

zer.

called by the Arabs Turbet es Yahoud
(graves of the Jews), near the Wady Feiran,
and Wady Berah.

5 Exodus xviii. 7.
* Ritter, Sinai, pp. 936, 937.

3 See Chapter V.

• Dr. Stewart, Tent and Khan, pp. 96, 159, mentions circular cairns, as

« EelmineJätka »