CHAPTER VI. THE EXODUS FROM EGYPT, AND PASSAGE THROUGH THE RED SEA
Moses, Unto, Lord, Israel, Children, Land
The children of Israel, who were in bondage in Egypt, making bricks, and working in the field, were looked upon with compassion by the Lord. He heard their groaning, and remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. He, therefore, chose Moses (an Israelite, who had murdered an Egyptian, and who, therefore, was obliged to flee from Egypt, as Pharaoh sought to punish him), as his servant, to carry out his plans.
Moses was at this time keeping the flock of Jeruth, his father-in-law, in the land of Midian. The angel of the Lord, or the Lord himself, appeared to him there, and said unto him:
"I am the God of thy Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. . . . I have seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their tormentors; for I know their sorrows. And I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land into a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."
Then Moses said unto the Lord:
"Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say unto me: What is his name? What shall I say unto them?"
Then God said unto Moses:
"I am that I am." "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you."
And God said, moreover, unto Moses:
"Go and gather the Elders of Israel together, and say unto them: the Lord God of your fathers . . . appeared unto me, saying: 'I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt. And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt . . . unto a land flowing with milk and honey.' And they shall hearken to thy voice, and thou shall come, thou and the Elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him: 'the Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us, and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days journey in the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.'
"I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders, which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. And I will give this people (the Hebrews) favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and it shall come to pass, that when ye go, ye shall not go empty. But every woman shall borrow of her neighbor, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and raiment. And ye shall put them upon your sons and upon your daughters, and ye shall spoil the Egyptians."
The Lord again appeared unto Moses, in Midian, and said:
"Go, return into Egypt, for all the men are dead which sought thy life. And Moses took his wife, and his son, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God (which the Lord had given him) in his hand."
Upon arriving in Egypt, Moses tells his brother Aaron, "all the words of the Lord," and Aaron tells all the children of Israel. Moses, who was not eloquent, but had a slow speech, uses Aaron as his spokesman. They then appear unto Pharaoh, and falsify, "according to the commands of the Lord," saying: "Let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey in the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God."
The Lord hardens Pharaoh's heart, so that he does not let the children of Israel go to sacrifice unto their God, in the desert.
Moses and Aaron continue interceding with him, however, and, for the purpose of showing their miraculous powers, they change their rods into serpents, the river into blood, cause a plague of frogs and lice, and a swarm of flies, &c., &c., to appear. Most of these feats were imitated by the magicians of Egypt. Finally, the first-born of Egypt are slain, when Pharaoh, after having had his heart hardened, by the Lord, over and over again, consents to let Moses and the children of Israel go to serve their God, as they had said, that is, for three days.
The Lord having given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, they borrowed of them jewels of silver, jewels of gold, and raiment, "according to the commands of the Lord." And they journeyed toward Succoth, there being six hundred thousand, besides children.
"And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day, in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light to go by day and night."
"And it was told the king of Egypt, that the people fled. . . . And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him. And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, . . . and he pursued after the children of Israel, and overtook them encamping beside the sea. . . . And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel . . . were sore afraid, and . . . (they) cried out unto the Lord. . . . And the Lord said unto Moses, . . . speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the Red Sea, and divide it, and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. . . . And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them upon the right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, and his chariots, and his horse-men."
After the children of Israel had landed on the other side of the sea, the Lord said unto Moses:
"Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horse-men. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength. . . . And the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horse-men, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. . . . And Israel saw the great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and his servant Moses."
The writer of this story, whoever he may have been, was evidently familiar with the legends related of the Sun-god, Bacchus, as he has given Moses the credit of performing some of the miracles which were attributed to that god.
It is related in the hymns of Orpheus, that Bacchus had a rod with which he performed miracles, and which he could change into a serpent at pleasure. He passed the Red Sea, dry shod, at the head of his army. He divided the waters of the rivers Orontes and Hydaspus, by the touch of his rod, and passed through them dry-shod. By the same mighty wand, he drew water from the rock, and wherever they marched, the land flowed with wine, milk and honey.
Professor Steinthal, speaking of Dionysus (Bacchus), says:
Like Moses, he strikes fountains of wine and water out of the rock. Almost all the acts of Moses correspond to those of the Sun-gods.
Mons. Dupuis says:
"Among the different miracles of Bacchus and his Bacchantes, there are prodigies very similar to those which are attributed to Moses; for instance, such as the sources of water which the former caused to sprout from the innermost of the rocks."
In Bell's Pantheon of the Gods and Heroes of Antiquity, an account of the prodigies attributed to Bacchus is given; among these, are mentioned his striking water from the rock, with his magic wand, his turning a twig of ivy into a snake, his passing through the Red Sea and the rivers Orontes and Hydaspus, and of his enjoying the light of the Sun (while marching with his army in India), when the day was spent, and it was dark to others. All these are parallels too striking to be accidental.
We might also mention the fact, that Bacchus, as well as Moses was called the "Law-giver," and that it was said of Bacchus, as well as of Moses, that his laws were written on two tables of stone. Bacchus was represented horned, and so was Moses. Bacchus "was picked up in a box, that floated on the water," and so was Moses. Bacchus had two mothers, one by nature, and one by adoption, and so had Moses. And, as we have already seen, Bacchus and his army enjoyed the light of the Sun, during the night time, and Moses and his army enjoyed the light of "a pillar of fire, by night."
In regard to the children of Israel going out from the land of Egypt, we have no doubt that such an occurrence took place, although not in the manner, and not for such reasons, as is recorded by the sacred historian. We find, from other sources, what is evidently nearer the truth.
It is related by the historian Choeremon, that, at one time, the land of Egypt was infested with disease, and through the advice of the sacred scribe Phritiphantes, the king caused the infected people (who were none other than the brick-making slaves, known as the children of Israel), to be collected, and driven out of the country.
Lysimachus relates that:
"A filthy disease broke out in Egypt, and the Oracle of Ammon, being consulted on the occasion, commanded the king to purify the land by driving out the Jews (who were infected with leprosy, &c.), a race of men who were hateful to the Gods." "The whole multitude of the people were accordingly collected and driven out into the wilderness."
Diodorus Siculus, referring to this event, says:
"In ancient times Egypt was afflicted with a great plague, which was attributed to the anger of God, on account of the multitude of foreigners in Egypt: by whom the rites of the native religion were neglected. The Egyptians accordingly drove them out. The most noble of them went under Cadmus and Danaus to Greece, but the greater number followed Moses, a wise and valiant leader, to Palestine."
After giving the different opinions concerning the origin of the Jewish nation, Tacitus, the Roman historian, says:
"In this clash of opinions, one point seems to be universally admitted. A pestilential disease, disfiguring the race of man, and making the body an object of loathsome deformity, spread all over Egypt. Bocchoris, at that time the reigning monarch, consulted the oracle of Jupiter Hammon, and received for answer, that the kingdom must be purified, by exterminating the infected multitude, as a race of men detested by the gods. After diligent search, the wretched sufferers were collected together, and in a wild and barren desert abandoned to their misery. In that distress, while the vulgar herd was sunk in deep despair, Moses, one of their number, reminded them, that, by the wisdom of his councils, they had been already rescued out of impending danger. Deserted as they were by men and gods, he told them, that if they did not repose their confidence in him, as their chief by divine commission, they had no resource left. His offer was accepted. Their march began, they knew not whither. Want of water was their chief distress. Worn out with fatigue, they lay stretched on the bare earth, heart broken, ready to expire, when a troop of wild asses, returning from pasture, went up the steep ascent of a rock covered with a grove of trees. The verdure of the herbage round the place suggested the idea of springs near at hand. Moses traced the steps of the animals, and discovered a plentiful vein of water. By this relief the fainting multitude was raised from despair. They pursued their journey for six days without intermission. On the seventh day they made halt, and, having expelled the natives, took possession of the country, where they built their city, and dedicated their temple."
Other accounts, similar to these, might be added, among which may be mentioned that given by Manetho, an Egyptian priest, which is referred to by Josephus, the Jewish historian.
Although the accounts quoted above are not exactly alike, yet the main points are the same, which are to the effect that Egypt was infected with disease owing to the foreigners (among whom were those who were afterwards styled "the children of Israel") that were in the country, and who were an unclean people, and that they were accordingly driven out into the wilderness.
When we compare this statement with that recorded in Genesis, it does not take long to decide which of the two is nearest the truth.
Everything putrid, or that had a tendency to putridity, was carefully avoided by the ancient Egyptians, and so strict were the Egyptian priests on this point, that they wore no garments made of any animal substance, circumcised themselves, and shaved their whole bodies, even to their eyebrows, lest they should unknowingly harbor any filth, excrement or vermin, supposed to be bred from putrefaction. We know from the laws set down in Leviticus, that the Hebrews were not a remarkably clean race.
Jewish priests, in making a history for their race, have given us but a shadow of truth here and there; it is almost wholly mythical. The author of "The Religion of Israel," speaking on this subject, says:
"The history of the religion of Israel must start from the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. Formerly it was usual to take a much earlier starting-point, and to begin with a religious discussion of the religious ideas of the Patriarchs. And this was perfectly right, so long as the accounts of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were considered historical. But now that a strict investigation has shown us that all these stories are entirely unhistorical, of course we have to begin the history later on."
The author of "The Spirit History of Man," says:
"The Hebrews came out of Egypt and settled among the Canaanites. They need not be traced beyond the Exodus. That is their historical beginning. It was very easy to cover up this remote event by the recital of mythical traditions, and to prefix to it an account of their origin in which the gods (Patriarchs), should figure as their ancestors."
Professor Goldzhier says:
"The residence of the Hebrews in Egypt, and their exodus thence under the guidance and training of an enthusiast for the freedom of his tribe, form a series of strictly historical facts, which find confirmation even in the documents of ancient Egypt (which we have just shown). But the traditional narratives of these events (were) elaborated by the Hebrew people."
Count de Volney also observes that:
"What Exodus says of their (the Israelites) servitude under the king of Heliopolis, and of the oppression of their hosts, the Egyptians, is extremely probable. It is here their history begins. All that precedes . . . is nothing but mythology and cosmogony."
In speaking of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, Dr. Knappert says:
"According to the tradition preserved in Genesis, it was the promotion of Jacob's son, Joseph, to be viceroy of Egypt, that brought about the migration of the sons of Israel from Canaan to Goshen. The story goes that this Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers, and after many changes of fortune received the vice-regal office at Pharaoh's hands through his skill in interpreting dreams. Famine drives his brothers—and afterwards his father—to him, and the Egyptian prince gives them the land of Goshen to live in. It is by imagining all this that the legend tries to account for the fact that Israel passed some time in Egypt. But we must look for the real explanation in a migration of certain tribes which could not establish or maintain themselves in Canaan, and were forced to move further on.
"We find a passage in Flavius Josephus, from which it appears that in Egypt, too, a recollection survived of the sojourn of some foreign tribes in the north-eastern district of the country. For this writer gives us two fragments out of a lost work by Manetho, a priest, who lived about 250 B. C. In one of these we have a statement that pretty nearly agrees with the Israelitish tradition about a sojourn in Goshen. But the Israelites were looked down on by the Egyptians as foreigners, and they are represented as lepers and unclean. Moses himself is mentioned by name, and we are told that he was a priest and joined himself to these lepers and gave them laws."
To return now to the story of the Red Sea being divided to let Moses and his followers pass through—of which we have already seen one counterpart in the legend related of Bacchus and his army passing through the same sea dry-shod—there is another similar story concerning Alexander the Great.
The histories of Alexander relate that the Pamphylian Sea was divided to let him and his army pass through. Josephus, after speaking of the Red Sea being divided for the passage of the Israelites, says:
"For the sake of those who accompanied Alexander, king of Macedonia, who yet lived comparatively but a little while ago, the Pamphylian Sea retired and offered them a passage through itself, when they had no other way to go . . . and this is confessed to be true by all who have written about the actions of Alexander."
He seems to consider both legends of the same authority, quoting the latter to substantiate the former.
"Callisthenes, who himself accompanied Alexander in the expedition," "wrote, how the Pamphylian Sea did not only open a passage for Alexander, but, rising and elevating its waters, did pay him homage as its king."
It is related in Egyptian mythology that Isis was at one time on a journey with the eldest child of the king of Byblos, when coming to the river Phœdrus, which was in a "rough air," and wishing to cross, she commanded the stream to be dried up. This being done she crossed without trouble.
There is a Hindoo fable to the effect that when the infant Crishna was being sought by the reigning tyrant of Madura (King Kansa) his foster-father took him and departed out of the country. Coming to the river Yumna, and wishing to cross, it was divided for them by the Lord, and they passed through.
The story is related by Thomas Maurice, in his "History of Hindostan," who has taken it from the Bhagavat Pooraun. It is as follows:
"Yasodha took the child Crishna, and carried him off (from where he was born), but, coming to the river Yumna, directly opposite to Gokul, Crishna's father perceiving the current to be very strong, it being in the midst of the rainy season, and not knowing which way to pass it, Crishna commanded the water to give way on both sides to his father, who accordingly passed dry-footed, across the river."
This incident is illustrated in Plate 58 of Moore's "Hindu Pantheon."
There is another Hindoo legend, recorded in the Rig Veda, and quoted by Viscount Amberly, from whose work we take it, to the effect that an Indian sage called Visvimati, having arrived at a river which he wished to cross, that holy man said to it: "Listen to the Bard who has come to you from afar with wagon and chariot. Sink down, become fordable, and reach not up to our chariot axles." The river answers: "I will bow down to thee like a woman with full breast (suckling her child), as a maid to a man, will I throw myself open to thee."
This is accordingly done, and the sage passes through.
We have also an Indian legend which relates that a courtesan named Bindumati, turned back the streams of the river Ganges.
We see then, that the idea of seas and rivers being divided for the purpose of letting some chosen one of God pass through is an old one peculiar to other peoples beside the Hebrews, and the probability is that many nations had legends of this kind.
That Pharaoh and his host should have been drowned in the Red Sea, and the fact not mentioned by any historian, is simply impossible, especially when they have, as we have seen, noticed the fact of the Israelites being driven out of Egypt. Dr. Inman, speaking of this, says:
"We seek in vain amongst the Egyptian hieroglyphs for scenes which recall such cruelties as those we read of in the Hebrew records; and in the writings which have hitherto been translated, we find nothing resembling the wholesale destructions described and applauded by the Jewish historians, as perpetrated by their own people."
That Pharaoh should have pursued a tribe of diseased slaves, whom he had driven out of his country, is altogether improbable. In the words of Dr. Knappert, we may conclude, by saying that:
"This story, which was not written until more than five hundred years after the exodus itself, can lay no claim to be considered historical."
|Written By Thomas William Doane|
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