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monuments and sculptures which are carved out of the sandstone rocks were already there, as the Israelites passed by-memorials at once of their servitude and of their deliverance. But a difficulty has often been stated that renders it necessary somewhat to modify this assumption of absolute identity between the ancient and modern Desert. The question is asked—“How could a tribe, so numerous and powerful as,
on any hypothesis, the Israelites must have been', be maintained in this inhospitable desert ?” It is no answer to say that they were sustained by miracles; for except the manna, the quails, and the three interventions in regard to water, none such are mentioned in the Mosaic history; and if we have no warrant to take away, we have no warrant to add. Nor is it any answer to say that this difficulty is a proof of the impossibility, and therefore of the unhistorical character of the narrative. For, as Ewald has well shown, the general truth of the wanderings in the wilderness is an essential preliminary to the whole of the subsequent history of Israel. Much may be allowed for the spread of the tribes of Israel far and wide through the whole Peninsula, and also for the constant means of support from their own flocks and herds. Something, too, might be elicited from the undoubted fact that a population nearly if not quite equal to the whole permanent population of the Peninsula does actually pass through the Desert, in the caravan of the five thousand African Pilgrims on their way to Mecca. . But amongst these considerations, it is important to observe what indications there may be of the mountains of Sinai having ever been able to furnish greater resources than at present. These indications are well summed up by Rittero. There is no doubt that the vegetation of the wâdys has considerably decreased. In part, this would be an inevitable effect of the violence of the winter torrents. The trunks of palm-trees washed up on the shore of the Dead Sea, from which the living tree has now for many centuries disappeared, show what may have been the devastation produced amongst those mountains, where the floods, especially in earlier times, must have been violent to a degree unknown in Palestine ; whilst the peculiar canse—the impregnation of salt-which has preserved the vestiges of the older vegetation there, has here, of course, no existence. The traces of such a destruction were pointed out to Burckhardt on the eastern side of Mount Sinai', as having occurred within half a century before his visit; also to Wellsted', as having occurred near Tûr, in 1832. In part, the same result has followed from the reckless waste of the Bedouin tribes-reckless in destroying, and careless in replenishing. A fire, a pipe, lit under a grove of Desert trees, may clear away the vegetation of a whole valley.
1 In spite of the difficulties attending upon the statement of the 600,000 armed men, as given in the Pentateuch, and the uncertainty always attached to attaining exact statements of numbers in any ancient text, or in any calculation of this kind, yet the most recent and the most
critical investigation of this history inclines to adopt the numbers of 600,000 as authentic. Ewald, Geschichte, (2nd edit.) ii. 61, 253, 359.
? Ritter, Sinai, pp. 926, 927. See also Captain Allen's “ Dead Sea," vol. ij. 290-298.
The acacia trees have been of late years ruthlessly destroyed by the Bedouins for the sake of charcoal; especially since they have been compelled by the Pasha of Egypt to pay a tribute in charcoal for an assault committed on the Mecca caravan in the
1823'. Charcoal from the acacia is, in fact, the chief, perhaps it might be said the only, traffic of the Peninsula. Camels are constantly met, loaded with this wood, on the way between Cairo and Suez. And as this probably has been carried on in great degree by the monks of the convent, it may account for the fact, that whereas in the valleys of the western and the eastern clusters this tree abounds more or less, yet in the central cluster itself, to which modern tradition certainly, and geographical considerations probably, point as the mountain of the burning 'thorn,' and the scene of the building of the Ark and all the utensils of the Tabernacle from this very wood, there is now not a single acacia to be seen. If this be so, the yreater abundance of vegetation would, as is well known, have furnished a greater abundance of water, and this again would re-act on the vegetation, from which the means of subsistence would be procured. How much may be done by a careful use Burckhardt,
3 Rüppell, p. 190. 2 Wellsted, ii. 15.
of such water and such soil as the Desert supplies, may be seen by the only two spots to which, now, a diligent and provident attention is paid ; namely, the gardens at the Wells of Moses, under the care of the French and English agents from Suez, and the gardens in the valleys of Jebel Mûsa, under the care of the Greek monks of the convent of St. Catherine. Even as late as the seventeenth century, if we may trust the expression of Monconys', the Wady er-Rahah in front of the convent, now entirely bare, was "a vast green plain,”—“ une grande champagne verte.” And that there was in ancient times a greater population than at present—which would, again, by thus furnishing heads and hands to consider and to cultivate these spots of vegetation, tend to increase and to preserve them—may be inferred from several indications. The Amalekites, who contested the passage of the Desert with Israel were, -if
any inferences from this very fact, as well as from their wide-spread name and power even to the time of Saul and David, and from the allusion to them in Balaam's prophecy as “the first of the nations,”—something more than a mere handful of Bedouins. The Egyptian copper-mines and monuments and hieroglyphics, in Sŭrâbit el-Khadîm and the
1 Journal des Voyages, p. 420.
“small round thing, small as the hoar. . In the question of the maintenance frost on the ground; like coriander seed, of the Israelites, it is impossible to avoid white, its taste like wafers made with considering the question of the identity honey ; gathered and ground in mills, of the present manna with that described and beat in a mortar, baked in pans and in the Mosaic history. The hypothesis of made into cakes, and its taste as the their identity, it must be remembered, is taste of fresh oil ;” and spoken of as no modern fancy ; but was believed by forming at least a considerable part of Josephus (Ant. III. i. 6) and has always the sustenance of a vast caravan like that been maintained by the Greek Church in of the Israelites. All the arguments in its representatives at the Convent of St. favour of the ancient view of the identity Catherine ; and portions of it have been may be seen in Ritter (pp. 665—695), by them deliberately sold as such to all those in favour of the modern view of pilgrims and travellers for many centu- the diversity of the two kinds of manna, ries. It must be acknowledged, with in Robinson (vol. i. p. 170) and Laborde all deference to so ancient a tradition, (Commentary on Exodus and Numbers, that the only arguments in its favour are
So far as the argument against the name and the locality in which it is its identity depends on its insufficiency, found. An exudation like honey, pro- the greater abundance of vegetation, and duced by insects from the leaves of the therefore of tarfa trees, should be taken tamarisk, used only for medicinal pur- into account. And it should be observed, poses, and falling on the ground only from that the manna found in Kurdistan and accident or neglect, and at present pro- Persia far more nearly corresponds to the duced in sufficient quantities only to sup- Mosaic account, and also is asserted by port one man for six months, has obviously the Bedouins and others to fall fresh from but few points of similarity with the heaven (Wellsted, ii. 48).
Wâdy Mughareh, imply a degree of intercourse between Egypt and the Peninsula in the earliest days of Egypt, of which all other traces have long ceased. The ruined cities of Edom in the mountains east of the 'Arabah, and the remains and history of Petra itself, indicate a traffic and a population in these remote regions which now seems to us almost inconceivable. And even much later times, extending to the sixth and seventh centuries of our era, exhibit signs both of movements and habitations which have long ago ceased; such as the writings of Christian pilgrims on the rocks, whether in the Sinaitic characters, in Greek, or in Arabic ; as well as the numerous remains of cells, gardens, houses, chapels, and churches, now deserted and ruined, both in the neighbourhood of Jebel Mûsa and of Serbâl. It must be confessed that none of these changes solve the difficulty, though they may mitigate its force; but they at least help to meet it, and they must under any circumstances be borne in mind, to modify the image which we form to ourselves of what must always have been-as it is even thus early described to be—“ a great and terrible wilderness."
III. And now, is it possible to descend into details, and to ascertain the route by which the Israelites passed
Local traover the Red Sea, and then through the Desert to ditions of
the history. Palestine ? First, can we be guided by tradition? In other words, has the recollection of those great events formed part of the historical consciousness and tradition of the Desert, or has it been merely devised in later times from conjectures either of the Greek monks and hermits of Sinai speculating on the words of the Old Testament, or of the Bedouin
1. Arab chiefs applying here and there a fragment of their tradition. knowledge of the Koran ? Such a question can only be authoritatively answered by a traveller who, with a complete knowledge of Arabic, has sifted and compared the various legends and stories of the several tribes of the Peninsula. But any one, by combining his own experience, however slight, with the accounts of previous travellers, especially of Burckhardt, may form an approximation to the truth. From whatever source it be derived, there is unquestionably a general atmosphere of Mosaic tradition everywhere. From Petra to Cairo-from the northern platform of the peninsula to its Traditions
southern extremity, the name and the story of Moses of Moses. are still predominant. There are the two groups of “ Wells of Moses," one on each side the Gulf of Suez—there are the “ Baths of Pharaoh ”-and the “Baths of Moses” further down the coast; there is the “ Seat of Moses," near Besâtîn, and in the Wady es-Sheykh ; there is the “Mountain of Moses” in the cluster of Sinai; the "Cleft of Moses "in Mount St. Catherine; the “ Valley” and the “ Cleft of Moses” at Petra; the “ Island of Pharaoh," or of “Moses,” in the Gulf of 'Akaba. There is the romantic story told to Burckhardt', that the soughing of wind down the Pass of Nuweibi'a, on that gulf, is the wailing of Moses as he leaves his loved mountains; there is the “Hill of Aaron," at the base of the traditional Horeb; the “Tomb of Aaron," at the summit of the “Mountain of Aaron," overhanging Petra. It is possible, too, that the plateau of the Tîh, or the Wanderings, on the north of the Peninsula—the valley of the Tîh, with the Mountain of Gharbûn (Doubt), on the southern road from Cairo to Suez —and the Jebel ’Atâkah, or Mountain of Deliverance, between that valley and Suez, have reference to the wanderings and the escape of Israel. But these latter names may perhaps have originated in the dangers and deliverances of the Mecca pilgrimage.
Two circumstances throw doubt on the continuity of this tradition. The first is, that hardly in one instance do the actual localities bear the names preserved in the Old TestaLoss of the
ment. These names are frequent and precise. The ancient different regions of the Desert which are indicated by
their natural features, as above described, all seem to have had their special nomenclatures. All these as general names have perished. One name only, that of Paran, has lingered in the valley and city of that name—apparently the same as that corrupted into Feirán. The names of the particular stations which are given both in the general narrative, and in the special enumeration in the 33rd chapter of the Book of Numbers, have also disappeared. There are
· Burckhardt, p. 517.