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their ancestor. This bold desert race lived among the mountains of Arabia Petræa, and chiefly between Philistia, Egypt, Edom, and the deserts of Mount Sinai. Their assault was directed against the rear of the Hebrew was exhausted and weary.
Moses at once appointed Joshua, the son of Nun, a fearless and devoted young hero, general of the Hebrew hosts, and bade him fight with Amalek. The following morning Moses, Aaron, and Hur ascended one of the hills, and from thence gazed down upon the plain where the two armies were to meet. Moses held his miraculous staff in his hand, and as the Israelites advanced to encounter the foe, he raised it in the air. Possibly that venerable figure standing on the heights with uplifted hands inspired the hearts of the soldiers with hope and courage; for they fought and prevailed. But when the hands of Moses dropped with fatigue, the Israelites retreated and the Amalekites were victorious. All through the long day the fierce combat lasted, until Moses, faint and worn, seated himself upon a stone, while Aaron and Hur supported his hands. As the sun set in the heavens, the victory of the Israelites was decided : they had won their first great battle; they who had but lately been an enslaved nation, had defeated an ancient warrior-race. That extraordinary achievement was by Moses inscribed in a book as a memorial for future ages; for the very remembrance of the Amalekites was to be blotted out from under heaven. And wishing to perpetuate the memory of the scene, Moses built an altar, and called it the Lord is my banner,' for he said, 'Because the hand of Amalek was against the throne of God, therefore the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.'
It will be remembered that Jethro, the priest of Midian, had remained in Arabia, when Moses departed into Egypt on his great mission. His daughter Zipporah with her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, had returned to her old Arabian home after accompanying the prophet on the first stages of his journey. The story of the wonderful deliverance of the Hebrews and of their journey through the wilderness to the peaks of Horeb, had naturally spread through all surrounding countries, and had thus become known to Jethro, who saw, with gratitude and gladness, that his son-in-law Moses was the favoured servant of the Most High. He felt a desire to behold again this chosen messenger of the Lord, and to bring to him, now that the greatest dangers had been surmounted, his wife and children. He soon advanced to the region of Mount Sinai. When Moses was told that his father-inlaw had arrived from Midian, he arose and went out from his tent, and welcomed the aged priest with reverence and affection. What a glorious and wondrous tale did Jethro hear from the lips of Moses ! More fully and more accurately than he could have learnt by vague reports, he was told of the Lord's mercy and lovingkindness to His enslaved people, of the terrors of the Egyptian plagues, of the miraculous passage through the Red Sea, of the utter destruction of Pharaoh's hosts, and finally of the ever-recurring wonders in the desert, which were strengthening the minds of the Israelites in courage and faith, and without which they must long since have perished in their trackless wanderings. Jethro listened to all this with delight and rejoicing; he believed in the God of the Hebrews, and testified his belief by a
holocaust and a thank-offering. When Aaron and the elders of the people witnessed this act of faith, they assembled around Jethro, shared his sacrificial meal, and thereby expressed their spiritual relationship with the Midianite chief.
On the morrow, Moses prepared as usual to judge the people. For it must be recollected that he, their leader and deliverer, was also their ruler, their lawgiver, and their judge. All disputes and contentions were decided by him; all commands and all precepts of the Lord were conveyed to the Israelites through his lips. From early dawn till sunset the people gathered around him. Jethro, beholding the scene, felt that no one man could undertake such an arduous and exhausting task. So, when the people had once more returned to their tents, the wise priest of Midian said to Moses: “The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou and this people that is with thee; for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now to my voice; I will give thee counsel and God may be with thee.' And judicious and good was the advice given by Jethro. Moses should choose from among the whole nation men of trust and faith, and should make them chiefs of thousands, chiefs of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. To these officers should be confided the duty of judging the people. Every small matter they should settle entirely according to their own judgment, while they were to bring every greater and more difficult dispute to Moses. Thus the main weight of the burden, almost crushing for the strength even of Moses, would in a great measure be taken from him. Moses followed the counsel of Jethro, who then departed, well satisfied, to his own land.
39. THE REVELATION ON MOUNT SINAI.
[Exod. XIX. XX.]
The Israelites, leaving Rephidim, entered the desert of Sinai, and encamped in the plains which surround the mountain of that name.
We now approach the crowning point of the history of the Israelites in the desert. In the valley of Horeb they were to be raised from a mere horde of wandering shepherds to a nation ruled over by the Almighty God of Heaven and Earth, to a nation chosen among all others to receive the law of God.
Let us imagine this vast host spreading round the foot of the rugged mountain, awaiting in trembling awe the first accents of the voice of the Lord. That voice was heard at last addressing these solemn words to Moses: • Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: You have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. Now, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to Me above all nations ; for all the earth is Mine, and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak to the children of Israel. Moses faithfully delivered his great charge; and the people, awed and deeply moved, answered as if with one voice, All that the Lord has spoken we will do.' Then they were commanded by Moses, on God's behest, to purify and hallow themselves, and to be ready to receive the Divine revelation on the third day. They carried out these injunctions with alacrity and pious obedience. Round the mountain on which a mysterious dread seemed to hang, boundaries were placed, which the people were forbidden to pass on penalty of death. And now followed a scene
so grand and majestic, so wonderful and unfathomable, that it can only be told in the words of the Bible.
• And it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a heavy cloud upon the mountain, and the voice of the trumpet exceedingly strong, so that all who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp towards God, and they placed themselves at the nether part of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was entirely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded louder and louder very much, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the Lord said to Moses, Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to see, and many of them perish. And let the priests also, who come near the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them. And Moses said to the Lord, The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for Thou hast warned us, saying, Set bounds about the mountain, and sanctify it. And the Lord said to him, Go, descend and come up again, thou and Aaron with thee; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest He break forth upon them. So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.'
And then the Lord proclaimed the Ten Commandments as follows: '1. I am the Lord thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods besides Me. 2. Thou shalt not make to thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor be induced to serve