Page images

identity of Pithom with the Tohum of the Itinerary of Antonine, whose position must have been at modern Abbaseh. This opinion was based principally on the hypothesis that the P is the Egyptian article. The form of the Hebrew word, however, seems to conflict with this supposition. The Hebrew Scriptures generally (if not always) indicate the presence of the Egyptian article by writing it separate from the nomen, and as a prefix; for example, nonno Pi-hahiroth, and no-'o Pi-Beseth ; whereas Pithom is written Dro. Champollion also placed the Patumos of Herodotus here; evidently an erroneous position ; considering the two names identical

, as do all authorities. Hengstenberg falls into a series of errors in arguing this site ; saying, (Egypt and the Books of Moses,) “ Thum (Thou) was 12 Roman miles distant from Heroöpolis,”-rather 23 Roman miles; and again, “ If

, with the scholars who accompanied the French expedition, we place Pithom on the site of the present Abbaseh,”—whereas they place Pithom at Abou Kesħeid. There is however this difficulty, perhaps not an insuperable one, that the Greek translators of the Pentateuch, although they mention Heroöpolis twice, yet do not make it identical with. Pithom, but rather transfer that name thus, “ laido.” Still another objection is that the Patumos of Herodotus was at the extremity of the canal by the sea. Why may we not suppose that the Coptic version alluded to, states the approximate position of Jacob's encampment; the Greek translators intending to do no more? Pithom or Patumos then may have been at Mouqfar, or even the more eastern site which the French engineers regarded as ancient Thaubastum. At any rate, everything seems to conspire to fix its position somewhere on the canal near the bed of the Bitter Lakes.

The inquiry as to the position of Rameses is a more difficult, as well as more important one. Common opinion has lately placed it at Abou Kesheid or Heroöpolis. The chief

, if not the only ground for this hypothesis seems to have been the mistaken idea that the Greek translators make them the same; while, as we have seen, they ever make them different. It is a just if not a necessary inference therefore that they were different cities. Still more, it is evident that no large city like Heroöpolis could have grown up in the Desert valley until the canal was cut; and the Sesostris (or Remeses the Great) who did this, as Wilkinson, the best authority on this point, has shown, ascended the throne 1335 B. C., or 136 years after the Exodus. It is a confirmation alike of Wilkinson's chronology and of the argument here urged, that the sole remaining monument of that interesting ruin now bears the name of Remeses the Great. It is yet farther worthy of note, that the whole circumstances of Jacob's approach to Egypt and halt at this point indicate that the valley was at his day unpeopled; the Greek translators merely intending to say that Jacob encamped near where Heroöpolis afterwards was built. Another consideration of even more weight arises. If Rameses is at Heroöpolis, where can Succoth have been? and, still more, where Etham ? This is a question that will press itself with peculiar force on one passing through this valley. A few miles east of Abou Kesheid the traveller issues from the bushy vale into the waste howling wilderness where no vestige of human structure can be or could ever have been found. And yet the Israelites in their hasty journey came at the end of the first day to “ Succoth,” the place of booths, and at the end of the second day to the "edge of the wilderness."

Long and careful consideration, commenced on the spot, has convinced the writer that the position of Rameses must have been at or near the modern village of Abbaseh. The facts which have led to this conclusion are in the main the following: First, the site is one of the most ancient in the whole region. Its position indicates this ; this being the outlet through which all travel and trade from this rich section of Egypt must have gone out eastward,-a point where from the earliest period of the settlement of the country a city was needed. The mound itself speaks of its antiquity; for while at every other one of the line of ancient canal towns granite remains are found, on the large Tell at Abbaseh alone not a vestige of stone is seen above the surface. The peculiar tradition also of its very great antiquity (see p. 155) is not without its importance. Second, this is the only ancient site near this natural focus of strength. Tell Soft on the west and Tell el-Tarbee on the east are each several miles from the natural head of the valley, while at the same time they are much less ancient than the mound near Abbaseh. Third, in all the region there is not so appropriate a location for a treasure city.From the country farther south the route of commerce is through Belbeis by Wady Agrood to Suez. But (as I was assured by many of the people of the district, as well as by Tûaileb and other sheiks of the Desert) the whole of the rich products of the richest province of Egypt (the Shurkîyeh district) go out to the Red Sea and thence to the far East by Abbaseh, and thence along the valley of the canal. The present town Ras el-Wady has been made the artificial head of the valley from the accidental fact that Mohammed Ali's reopening of the canal terminated at that point. Fourth, this was the most natural gathering point (Exod. xii


. 37, and Num. xxxiii. 3, 5) for the Israelites in commencing their journey to Sinai. Dwelling as the mass of them evidently did westward and northward and southward of the head of the valley, the valley itself was as now the only practicable outlet for them in leaving the country, and the head of the valley at Abbaseh was the natural, the safe and convenient rally point. To have collected farther east (and Josephus intimates that they were gathering some time before their departure) must have awakened the suspicions of the king ; but this point was within (west of) Zoan, Pharaoh's capital. (Ps. lxxviii

. 12, 43.) To have gathered farther east, also, they must have passed the outlet at Abbaseh ; and to have rendezvoused in the Desert would have placed them beyond the reach of the supplies which the market at the head of the valley has ever richly furnished. Fifth, this position and this alone comports with subsequent statements as to the Israelites' journey. Moses's message from God to Pharaoh was that he should allow the people to go “ three days' journey into the wilderness” and worship, (Exod. iii. 18, and viii. 27.) In accordance with this we read, that at the end of the second day they reached and encamped in “the edge of the wilderness,” (Exod. xii. 20; Num. xxxiii. 6.) Now along the whole line of the Delta the wilderness comes up quite to the very edge of the cultivatable land, with this single exception. About 25 miles north of On, and near the centre of the eastern border of ancient Goshen, there is a fissure in the limestone cliffs that everywhere skirt the land of Egypt, forming a narrow gorge running eastward to the bed of the Bitter Lakes. In this valley, about 30 or 40 miles long and 11 miles wide, the rains of winter collect, and into it the inundation of the Nile occasionally extends, causing it to be covered with bushes and scanty herbage. At its eastern border the desert waste skirts it, as it does all Egypt. There is no other position for Rameses except Abbaseh on the whole eastern border of Egypt which can be made to accord with Moses's account of the journey from Rameses to Etham.

The position of Succoth has not been fixed, and cannot be on any other supposition than that Rameses was at Abbaseh. The unanimous testimony of the Arabs is that nowhere along the whole border of Egypt is there any green spot east of the Delta, except in the valley of the canal. Near the centre of this is a fine lake of sweet water, surrounded by a cultivated border called “ Wady el-Heesh," the Bushy Vale; and about it the Arabs live in “booths,” called éshah or hệshah, (see pp. 158–9.) The Arabs universally say, that the route always followed from the Shurkiyeh district of Egypt to Suez runs just south of this lake. The name of the place also, and its character, correspond well with the “ Succoth. (booths) of Moses. The French engineers found a bushy place on the canal, not half a mile south of this lake, called Terebasseh elYehood, (from 337 rebets, both Hebrew and Arabic,) the encamping place of the Jews. The distance to the lake, by the writer's somewhat winding route from Abbaseh, was 10 hours by the camel, or about 23 miles; and the direct measurement by the French engineers was 38,402 pas, or about 185 miles; a natural day's journey for a caravan travelling hastily.

The position of Etham may perhaps now be approximately fixed. The name Etham is generally allowed to be composed of two words, (alike in the Egyptian and Hebrew ; see Gese-nius's Lexicon,) meaning the border of the sea. The supposition is a natural one that the bed of the Bitter Lakes was called the Sea by the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews, as it was when filled with water by the Greeks and Romans, and as it is, though now dry, by the Arabs. Moses also twice mentions that their encampment at Etham was on “the edge of the wilderness.” There is no position which can answer these two conditions except the eastern extremity of the valley of the canal. In rendering Exod. xiii. 20, the Greek translators transfer the word Etham, “ įv 'Oswu napà anu špnuov; but in Numb. xxxii. 6 and 7 they write, “eis Bovsår, dori uépos to ans épruov"; and again, “ įx Bovdar.” It would hence appear that in the times of the Ptolemies, a town had grown up (or a province been formed) in the region of the Bitter Lakes called Bouthan. Though no particular site may be fixed on perhaps for Bouthan, yet the encampment of the Jews is thus limited to the end of the valley, about which all the ruins in that region are found. To the eminence called Sheikh Henady, a little north of where the ancient canal entered the bed of the Bitter Lakes, and the extreme eastern point of the valley, the distance from Terebasseh el-Yehood was by the French measurements 16,808 pas and 16,280 metres, (about 18 miles ;) a natural day's journey. The only objection to supposing an encampment here is that there is now no fountain of water in the vicinity, without which the flocks and herds could hardly pass a night. But as before suggested the eastern extremity of this valley must from the earliest times have been a natural position for one or more

· fortresses, Pithom probably being somewhere in the region;

and as the Egyptians seem not to have engaged in hostilities against the Israelites until they afterwards lay encamped by the sea, from such an Egyptian fortress needed water might be procured.

The position of Pi-Hahiroth and Migdol and Baal-Zephon, between which the Israelites next encamped by the sea, is a yet more interesting question. A view of the nature of the country before them may aid, however, in arriving at a probable conclusion. The natural and nearest route from the eastern end of the valley, where the Israelites pitched their second camp, to Mount Sinai, is to cross the bed of the Bitter Lakes in a direction a little south of east, and then proceed over the plain along the foot of Mount Mükhshābe. An easy day's journey would have brought the Israelites, following their direct route, to the foot of this range of mountains, which extends south to er-Rahah, and so on east of the Red Sea; and the third night they might have encamped by any one of the many fountains along the foot of those rocky heights, (see p. 163.) Information gathered on the spot and afterwards from Sheikh Tủaileb by the writer confirms this view. At their second encampment, however, the direction came from God to Moses, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-Hahiroth,” &c., (Exodus xiv. 2.) The common opinion, that the Israelites in this turn came down through Wady Agrood to the sea, never for a moment could be entertained by any one favored to view the ground. The western point of Ğebel Gennafe (or Hamed Tâher as the French found it called, and as Tûaileb says it is yet also called) runs so far westward that two or three days would be required, without any object gained too, to make the circuit; and even from Abbaseh, as the Arabs declare, it would be a circuitous route to cross the Desert to the Belbeis road through Wady Agrood. The universal business route from the Shûrkîyeh district to Suez runs along the western edge of the bed of the Bitter Lakes, and between this bed and the eastern point of Gebel Gennāfe, (see p. 165.) The flocks and herds of the Israelites must have perished for want of water in making the circuit supposed; and it is worthy of note that the trial of their faith proposed is not a long roundabout journey through the Desert, but an encampment between three Egyptian fortresses. The approach then to the sea was evidently by the present Suez route.

Where now “by the sea" are the three Egyptian for

« PreviousContinue »