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and the hitter waters which the Israelites found at Marah, may easily be conceived to be the same. Th« city Arsinoe, agreeably to both Strabo's and ~ Dio« dor us' position of it, was situate near the place of the present Suez; and not far from the neighbourhood of this place reached Trajan's river, which was carried on to the bitter lakes, whither the Israelites may be conceived to have wandered. They went from the Red Sea into the wilderness of Shur, through which they could not pass towards Canaan, for want of water; then they turned about towards Egypt where they hoped to find plenty, and came to Marah upon the coast of Suez.
Josephus gives a very idle account of the change of the taste of the waters of Marah.• He supposes that the country they were now in, afforded no water naturally; that the Israelites sunk wells, but could not find springs to supply enough for their occasions; and that what they did find was so bitter, that they could not drink it; that they sent out every way to search, but could hear of no water; that there was indeed a well at Marah, which afforded some water, but not a quantity sufficient for them; and that what it supplied them with was so bitter, that even their cattle could not drink it; that upon the Israelites uneasiness with Moses, he prayed to God, and took hit rod, and split it down in the middle, and persuaded the people that God had heard his prayers, and would
n Diodor. & Strabo ubi mp.
mnke the water fit for them to drink, if they would do as he should order them. Upon their asking what he would have them do, he directed them to draw out of the well, aud pour away the greatest part of the water; the doing this, he says, stirring and dashing about the waters by the buckets they drew with, pnrged, and by degrees made them potable. But 1, This account of Josephus differs from what the profane writers, as well as Moses, relate concerning the country where the Israelites now were. Josephus represents it as a place where no water was to be had; but according to Moses, the people were in extremity at Marah, not for want of water, but of good water. To this Strabo agrees, who supposes water enough in this place, many large lakes and fosses," though he tells us they were in ancient days bitter, until by a communication f of the river, the late inhabitants of the country found out the way to meliorate their taste. 2. Had the Israelites found a well, as Josephus •upposcs; if the supply of water it afforded was too icanty for their occasions; what relief would it have been to them to draw off and throw away the greatest part of their defective supply, in order to sweeten a small remainder? Or S. How could the dashing water about at the bottom of a well, sufficiently purify
* iiv/vytt nKuvt xai X//x>«i 'B'k-DrioiXjHTxt xvrxu. Strabo lib. 17. p. 80 J.
* Tit ■Bixfuf xak*t*.ttu> *;//.»«», xi wpoTifir p.tr wxt mxf*it tfuAuent' St rvt liufvyot lAinCaKKotro rn fmtnarn r« w»T«/*«f Id. ibid.
it from its mineral taste; which most probably was given it from the very earth, against which they must thus dash it? Hut it is needless to refute at large this fancy of Joscphus.
The writer of the Book of Ecclos'asticus hints a different reason for the cure of those bitter waters; who suggests, that the wood which Moses was directed to use, had naturally a medicinal virtue to correct the taste of the waters at Marah. Was not, says he, the water made sweet with wood, that the virtue thereof might be known?"1 But I cannot think, that the opinion of this writer can be admitted: for 1. It does not seem probable, that Moses here used a whole and large tree; rather he took a little bough, ■uch as he himself put into the water, and immediately the taste of the waters changed. 2. If it could be thought, that Moses employed the people to takedown a very large tree, and convey it into the water; can we suppose, that even the largest tree, steeped in a lake, should immediately communicate a sufficient quantity of its natural sweetness, to correct the taste of water, enough for the occasions of so many hundred thousands of people? But S. We have great reason to think, that there was no tree in these parts of this virtue. Had there been such a one, after the virtue of it was thus known, especially Moses having recorded this his use of it; it would certaiidy have been much used by others, and as much enquired after by the
naturalist*. Hut though Strnbo, Diodorns Hiculus, and Pliny have all remarked, that, (hero wore bitter wn(er* in (iiono parts of the world; yet (hey know of no trees of a medicinal quality to correct their tnste. Pliny tell* us of a method afterwards invented to meliorate the taste of such water* j' but though he lias treated largely of the powers and virtues of trees and plnnts,' and particularly the trees in these parti of the world;' yet ho never heard of any of this sort, snd therefore undoubtedly there wero not any. The author of Kcdesiaslicus Whs a very learned man, and bad given himself much to reading the writings of his* fathers; and had carefully collected their seh» timents, to which he added some observations of his own;" and this seems to have been his own. Had it been a received opinion of the Jewish writers; I think Josephus would have had it; or had (hero really been a tree of this nature, the heathen naturalist* would have observed it. Hut from (heir entire silence, 1 imagine that the author of Kccleslasticus, •peculating in the chapter where we find thin hint, n|>i»ii the medicines which (ion had created out of tho earth," suggested this hint purely from his own fancy, without any authority for it. The Hook of
Ecclesiasticus is but a modern composition, in comparison of Moses' writings, being first published in Egypt about one hundred and thirty-two years before Christ ;y and beiug published in Egypt was much read by the Jews of Alexandria. Accordingly Philo, who lived there about our Saviour's time, was acquainted with the opinion of this author; but he very justly doubts the truth of it, and queries whether the wood here used, had naturally, (or whether God was pleased to give it) its virtue for this particular occasion.*
From Ma rah the Israelites removed to a place, where they found twelve fountains of water, and threescore and ten palm trees. A place not unlike this, is described by Strabo,* winch the Israelites called Elim. From hence after some days' rest, they marched first to the Red Sea ;b perhaps to the very place where they came over out of Egypt, and from thence they went into the wilderness of Sin, on the fifteenth day of the second month, after their departing out of the land of Egypt,' i. e. exactly a month after their leaving Egypt; for they left Egypt soon after midnight of the fourteenth day of the first month.d The wilderness of Sin was a barren desart,