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Milman's “ History of the Jews” (Murray's Family Library, 3 vols.), as placing freshly and vividly before the mind those things which, amid the tedious history of the Mosaic ceremonial institutions, are found sadly uninteresting to the determined reader of “the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible.” They stand out in new life and truthfulness in the perusal of that thoughtful and reasoning little book.
On the history of the Jewish bondage in Egypt and the deliverance thence, recent researches in Egypt and travels in the desert have thrown most welcome light. For instance: the employment of the Israelites in brickmaking under severe taskmasters, there can be no doubt, is the subject of pictorial representation in one of the tombs at Thebes, as thus described in Kenrick's “ Egypt under the Pharaohs :"
“Besides erecting monuments of stone, Thothmes III. appears to have been the author of extensive constructions of bricks. Egypt affords abundant material for this manufacture, and a few days' exposure to the sun hardens them sufficiently, unless they are to be subject to the action of water. Bricks bearing his titular shield, the scarabæus, the crenellated parallelogram and the disk of the sun, are more common than those of any other sovereign. There is a tomb in Thebes, the inscriptions of which show that its occupant, Roschere, was superintendent of the great buildings' in the reign of Thothmes III. : on its walls the operation of brickmaking is represented. Men are employed, some in working up the clay with an instrument resembling the Egyptian hoe, others in carrying loads of it on their shoulders, moulding it into bricks, and transporting them, by means of a yoke laid across the shoulders, to the place where they are to be laid out for drying in the sun. The physiognomy and colour of most of those who are thus engaged show them to be foreigners, and their aquiline nose and yellow complexion suggest the idea that they are Jews. Their labour is evidently compulsory; Egyptian taskmasters stand by with sticks in their hands; and though one or two native Egyptians appear among them, we may easily suppose that they have been condemned to hard labour for their crimes. As the foreigners do not resemble any of the nations with whom Thothmes carried on war, and who are well known from the paintings and reliefs of subsequent monarchs, it is not probable that they are captives taken in war. They can therefore hardly be any other than the Israelites, whom we know from their history to have been employed in this drudgery. Their oppression began with the accession of the 18th dynasty and the expulsion of their kindred Hyksos. It was a natural fear, that when any war fell out they should join themselves to the enemies of Egypt and fight against her. The kings of Egypt, therefore, while they endeavoured by a cruel expedient to prevent their increase, and by hard labour to break their spirit, employed that labour to strengthen the frontier on the side ‘of Arabia and Palestine whence their danger came. The valley of Goshen, which was their place of settlement, was the direct road from Palestine to Memphis. By employing them to build the two fortresses, Raameses at the Eastern and Pithom at the Western extremities of this valley, the Pharaohs provided at once a barrier against future invasions, and the means of keeping the children of Israel in subjection. Both these objects were important to a sovereign like Thothmes, who, during his Mesopotamian expeditions, must have left his country exposed to his neighbours, and whose long absences might tempt revolt. If Roschere were the general superintendent of the great architectural undertakings of Thothmes, and the first who employed the Israelites upon them, it is very natural that we should find a record of it in his tomb, although they may not have laboured in the brickfields of Thebes.” (Egypt under the Pharaohs, Vol. II. pp. 229-232.)
The perplexing account of the passing of the Red Sea has been made wonderfully clear and intelligible by a communication from Mr. Samuel Sharpe, in Mr. Bartlett's charming book, intitled, “ Forty Days in the Desert on the track of the Israelites.” A map is there inserted, from which the accompanying sketch is copied; but any ancient map which (like that of the Society for Diffusion of Useful Knowledge) lays down the course of Necho's and Trajan's canals, will sufficiently answer the purpose.
North of the gulf of Suez, and connected with it formerly by a short canal, were the Bitter lakes, now salt marshes below the level of the sea, through which the old canal of Necho, running almost due east from the Nile, joined the Red Sea, as did also the more recent canal of Trajan from the Nile near Memphis. Goshen lay along the valleys of these canals, north-east from Memphis, and on the Syrian side of the easternmost branch of the Nile. Mr. Sharpe's description of the route is as follows:
“We will now follow Moses and the Israelites in their march out of Egypt; and though the names given to the cities in the Scriptures are not the same as those used in the Roman Itinerary or Greek historians, and though in the case of any single town we might be uncertain, yet, when comparing with the map a series of five towns, we have no difficulty in recognizing them.
“On comparing the book of Exodus with the book of Numbers, we see that Moses, after leaving the presence of Pharaoh, whom he had been to, perhaps in Memphis, returned to the Israelites at Rameses, one of the towns in which they were allowed to dwell, in which we recognize Heliopolis, from the two names having the same meaning, The City of the Sun. From Rameses the Israelites hastily departed, and marched to Succoth, which we clearly recognize in Scænæ, from these two names again having the same meaning, The Tents. This is a distance of about fourteen miles. At Succoth they spent their first night; and no doubt their countrymen who dwelt there joined them in their flight.
From Succoth they next day marched twenty-four miles, passing through a village which we only know by its Latin name, Vicus Judæorum, and encamped at Etham or Boutham, at the edge of the Desert, which can only be the Thoum of the Itinerary. Thoum was a place of some size, named after the Egyptian god Athom; and though some Jews may have dwelt there, we must suppose that this large body of now hostile people rather encamped in the neighbourhood than entered the gates. At Etham the Israelites took the righthand road [leading due east, while the more northern road led to Pelusium or Tanis, and thence to Philistia and the Land of Promise] and turned towards Hahiroth, which is certainly Heroopolis, because each has given its name to the Gulf of Suez, which, by the Greek geographers, is called the Bay of Heroopolis, and by the Hebrew writers, Pi-hahiroth, or the Bay of Hahiroth. They did not go to the city of Hahiroth, which stands on rising ground on the left side of the valley; nor did they go straight forward to Baal-zephon, or Serapium, which stands between the Upper and Lower Lakes, and was the natural way out of Egypt; but they turned to the right and encamped by the water-side, between Migdol, The Tower, and the sea, over against Baal-zephon. It was the march in this direction which seemed the fatal move-which made the Egyptians say, They are entangled in the land; the Desert hath shut them in. It was at this encampment, also, that they were overtaken by the Egyptian chariots in advance of the rest of the army.
“From this encampment, which may have been fifteen miles to the south of Hahiroth, and twenty-five to the north of Clysma (where the old canal from the Bitter Lake joined the Gulf of Suez], the Israelites were forced hastily to retreat; and they marched southward, murmuring against their leader and against their God, because they had not been left to serve the Egyptians rather than be brought out to die in the Desert. Had the Bitter Lake been separated from the Bay of Heroopolis as it is now, they would have been in no such fear; they might have marched near where Ptolemy's town of Arsinoe was afterwards built, or where the Roman town of Clysma stood, or where Suez now stands, each of which, in its turn, has been left by the waters of the Red Sea. But they saw no way
of escape, and they marched all the fourth day southward, having the sea on one side and the low desert hills on the other. By night they reached the place where Clysma was afterwards built, and there, to their surprise, they saw a deliverance opened to them. Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.' For an hour or two the waters had the same boundaries as they have now
The Israelites walked over the bed of the sea on dry ground, with water on their right hand and on their left.