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was broken. Meanwhile the Hebrews were preparing for their hasty departure. With beating hearts, they assembled in groups to eat the paschal lamb. They stood at the midnight meal, arrayed as they had been commanded. The women had taken from the ovens the unleavened cakes, which were eaten with the meat of the roasted lamb. The preparations were at last concluded, and all was ready: the tents were slung on poles; the animals bore on their backs women and children, or were laden with the possessions of the Hebrews, with the common necessaries of life, with the gold and silver treasures furnished by the Egyptians. At the word of command, the whole nation of the Hebrews poured forth in the cool still Eastern night. But not even amidst their trepidation and danger did they forget the pledge given by their ancestors to Joseph, and they carried his remains with them, to inter them later in the land of promise. They safely escaped out of the province of Goshen, where their race had dwelt for four hundred and thirty years; and led by Moses and Aaron, they wandered forth, a host of six hundred thousand armed men with their wives and children--a free nation.
34. PHARAOH'S PURSUIT AND DESTRUCTION.
[Exod. XIII. XIV.] It will be remembered that in the history of the patriarchs, the journey from Canaan to Egypt has repeatedly been mentioned. It was accomplished, in a comparatively short time, by Abraham and Joseph, then by Jacob's other sons, and finally by Jacob himself and his whole family. But then the travellers defiled along the narrow mountain passes of Engadi, and keeping in sight of the waters of the Mediterranean, proceeded along the northern
coast of Egypt. Not so did Moses and the enormous host which followed his guidance. The land of promise was farther distant for them than it had been for Abraham, and no safe and straight caravan road was to lead them to the groves of Hebron and to the beautiful valley of the Jordan. They were, as yet, unable to stand against the powerful and warlike tribes, such as the Philistines, through whose territory they would have been obliged to pass. By forty long and weary years of wandering in the desert, they were to be trained, to become a brave and independent nation, and to deserve their distinction as the people of God.
During that fearful night when terror seized all Egyptians, the Israelites marched, or rather fled, from Rameses, their place of assembly, in a south-easterly direction, to Succoth, their first resting-place. One day's march more southward brought them to Etham on the edge of the wilderness; thence they had to turn back northward, in order to arrive nearer the northern extremity of the gulf of Suez, where the passage was practicable; and they encamped before Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea against Baal-Zephon, probably at the place of the later town Kolsoum, where subsequently Suez was built, surrounded on the north, west, and south by the desert, and on the east bordering on the Red Sea. This backward movement of the Hebrews appeared to the Egyptians like helpless perplexity, and suggested to them the idea -they are entangled in the land; the wilderness has shut them in. But though the host was led by Moses, the Lord Himself guided them in a pillar of smoke by day, in a pillar of fire by night.
Meanwhile Pharaoh had recovered from the consternation of the tenth plague, and great was his dismay at the flight of the Israelites. There seemed but one course opened to him--to pursue the fugitives, and to force them
back, slaves for evermore. The will of a despot is law; six hundred chosen war-chariots, all equipped with the fleet Egyptian horse, driven by skilful charioteers, and bearing the flower of the Egyptian army, were instantly assembled. Headed by the king himself, they hastened on and overtook the Israelites at Pi-hahiroth. When these beheld in the distance the chariots and the warriors of their enemies, their fear was boundless. They turned to Moses, upbraiding him: · Because there were no graves in Egypt, they exclaimed, “hast thou taken us away
to die in the wilderness ? Wherefore hast thou done this to us, to lead us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we spoke to thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it is better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. They were ready to lay down their arms, and to take back their chains. But Moses, calm and firm in one of the most trying moments of his eventful life, said: “Fear ye not, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you to-day: for as you have seen the Egyptians to-day, you shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall keep yourselves quiet.'
Then Moses led the Israelites onwards until they came to the very borders of the Red Sea. The pillar of the Lord now changed its position; for retreating from the front to the rear of the Hebrew hosts, it floated between the two armies; over the Israelites it shed a brilliant light, while it spread a veil of darkness over the Egyptians. But the Israelites seemed now hopelessly hemmed in between overwhelming dangers: the Egyptians were close behind them, and the waves of the Red Sea were breaking at their feet; the steep mountain passes were threatening on the right, the wilderness on the left. But glorious was their deliverance. Moses, commanded by the Lord, raised
his staff, and stretched his hand over the sea ; a strong east wind rose and blew the whole night. By that storm, the waters of the Red Sea were divided, and gathered into a wall on either side, leaving a dry passage in the midst. The Israelites, awed by the miracle, marched at once along that dry path which extended from shore to shore. They gained the opposite side in safety. The Egyptians continued their pursuit without hesitation in the same track. They were doomed to discomfiture and destruction : the wheels of their chariots became clogged in the bed of the Sea, and glided off. They were unable to proceed ; and they felt that they were once more vainly struggling against the Lord. They turned to flee, but it was too late; for at the command of God, Moses stretched forth his staff, the waters resumed their usual course, and closed over the chariots and horses and warriors, over the whole host of Pharaoh; “there remained not so much as one of them.'
35. THE SONG OF MOSES AND THE HEBREWS
AT THE RED SEA.
[Exop. XV. 1--21.] In the dim light of the early dawn, the Israelites, gathered in trembling groups on the eastern borders of the Red Sea, witnessed the sudden and complete annihilation of their terrible foes: then they turned in happiness and gratitude towards Moses, and they trusted and believed their great leader, the servant and messenger of the Lord. Their faith, so weak, so easily shaken, now grew stronger, and they began to fear the God of their ancestors. A transport of joy and of triumph filled the heart of Moses, and it burst forth in the following glorious hymn:
'I will sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously exalted :
the horse and its rider has He thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my praise and song, for He has become my salvation : He is my God, and I will glorify Him; my father's God, and I will exalt Him. The Lord is a man of war; the Eternal is His name. Pharaoh's hosts and his chariots has He thrown into the sea; his choicest warriors are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank into the bottom as a stone. Thy right hand, O Lord, glorified in power, Thy right hand, O Lord, dashes in pieces the enemy.
And in the greatness of Thy sublimity Thou overthrowest those who rise up against Thee: Thou sendest forth Thy wrath, it consumes them as stubble. And with the blast of Thy nostrils the waters were piled up, the floods stood upright like a mound, and the depths congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, I will pursue ; overtake; divide the spoil; my lust be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword ; my hand shall destroy them : Thou didst blow with Thy wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like Thee, O Lord, among the gods ? Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, awful in praises, doing wonders ? Thou stretchedst out Thy right hand—the earth swallowed them.
• Thou in Thy mercy leadest forth the people which Thou hast redeemed ; Thou guidest them in Thy strength to Thy holy habitation. The nations will hear it, and will be afraid; terror will seize the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling will seize them; all the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away with fear. Fear and dread will fall upon them; by the greatness of Thy arm they will be dumb as stone; till they pass, O Lord, till the people pass, which Thou hast acquired. Thou wilt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thy inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thy abode, in