IS IT GOD'S WORD?
THE WONDERS OF THE EXODUS
R RTHE WONDERS OF THE EXODUS R R "IN THE FOURTH GENERATION" R R THE HOSTS OF THE LORD OF HOSTS
R RSOME PREGNANT FIGURES R R THE AMAZING PASSOVER R R THE MARCHING ORDERS R R THE HOSTS ON THE MARCH
R RTHE HOSTS AFRAID OF WAR R R THE RED SEA MASSACRE R R THE CHILDREN WAIL FOR WATER
R RSMITING THE ROCK FOR WATER R R FOOD RIOTS -- HEAVENLY MANNA AND QUAILS R R MIRACLE AND MATHEMATICS
R RTHE MOSES FAMILY R R WHO PROPOSED THE JUDGES OF ISRAEL? R R THE TENTS OF ISRAEL R R THE GREAT ENCAMPMENTS
R RSOME FEATURES OF CAMP-LIFE R R THE "BURNING QUESTION" OF FUEL
R RRETURN TO THE INDEX OF CHAPTERS
The exodus is so wonderful, and so humanly impossible that its accomplishment by Providence deserves our especial attention. We will therefore attentively review its wonders, which are superlative if one Bible wonder may excel another; they differ rather in wonder as one star differeth from another star in glory.
"IN THE FOURTH GENERATION"
The exodus took place in the "fourth generation" from the time of the original migration into Egypt. We have seen the four degrees from Jacob: Le6: Kohath, Amram, Moses. Making extreme allowance for length of life, we have been able to sum up only 350 years for the "sojourn in Egypt," though the inspired text says 430 years; at all events, the exodus was "in the fourth generation" (Gen. 15: 16 ).
Watch the Chosen People grow and multiply: "Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now Yahveh thy God hath made thee as the stars of the heaven for multitude" (Deut. 10: 22 ). The seventy Jacobites who migrated into Egypt were the slow increase of the 215 years since Abraham. According to the schedule in the text (Gen. 46: 8-27 ), of these 70 there were 68 males and two females: Jacob and his twelve sons; their 51 sons (grandsons of Jacob); four sons of two of the grandsons (great-grandsons of Jacob); and two females, Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and Serah, daughter of Asher and grand-daughter of Jacob. Joseph and his two sons by his heathen Egyptian wife were already in Egypt, but are included in the seventy; two of the sons of Judah, Er and Onan, were killed by Yahveh in Canaan before the migration (Gen. 38: 3, 7, 10; 46: 12 ). These 51 living sons of the twelve sons of Jacob who came into Egypt give an average of 4 1/4 male children to each of the sons of Jacob; none of the twelve is recorded to have had any children, sons or daughters, after their arrival in Egypt, except the one daughter to Le6: Jochebed, who married her nephew Amrarn, father of Moses (Ex. 6: 20 ), and was thus the mother of Moses and his great-aunt. Adding the four great-grandsons of Jacob to the 51 grandsons makes 55 male descendants of Jacob; these, together with Jacob and his twelve sons and the two women, make up the total of seventy, though this does not include the wives of the twelve. But it is stated: "all the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt ... besides Jacob's sons' wives ... all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten (Gen. 46: 26, 27 ).
Assuming that all the 55 male descendants of Jacob who came into Egypt married and had only sons for children, or sons to the average of 4 1/4, and that this average held through the four generations, the Hebrew population in Egypt would naturally augment in about the following manner: The first generation (offspring of the twelve) that came into Egypt was 55 males; liberally allowing five male children each, the second generation, sprung from these, would number 275; the third generation, offspring of the second, would number 1375; the fateful "fourth generation," that of Moses and the exodus, would reach the sum total of 6875 male persons. This liberally estimated natural increase is obviously exaggerated;
it allows five male children to each male of the four generations, and takes no account of females, who would naturally be quite half of each generation, to furnish wives for the contemporary generation and mothers for the next. Moreover, it errs in discounting mortality and assuming that each male of each generation would live at least until he was married and had his five male children. Thus the actual total of males must be less than the 6875 above allowed. Even on the impossible hypothesis that not one died throughout the four generations of 215, or 350, or 430 years, so that all would be living at the time of the exodus, the grand total would be but 8580 persons. But we know, of course, that this assumed immunity from death is not true, for "Joseph died, and an his brethren, and all that [first] generation" (Ex. 1: 6 ); and it is a safe assumption that most of the first three generations died before the exodus.
Any rational rearrangement of these obvious vital statistics, allowing anything short of fabulous increase, could make no appreciable increase in the totals stated. Even if we begin the count of the "four generations" with that succeeding the original 51 sons and four grandsons of the 12 sons of Jacob, and count their 275 assumed offspring as the first generation, we should then have: first, 275; second, 1375; third, 6875; fourth, 34,375 altogether. But this would be a fifth generation to "sojourn in Egypt," and therefore unscriptural.
THE HOSTS OF THE LORD OF HOSTS
Hear now what "holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" to tell us about the numbers of this exodus. The inspired record, after relating the "spoiling of the Egyptians" by the Chosen says: "And the Children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle" (Ex. 12: 37, 38 )!
Only about a year later (Num. 1: 1 ), at Sinai, the formal census of this warrior host was taken, of every male "from 20 years old and upwards, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel; even all that were numbered were 603,550" (Num. 1: 45, 46 )! Even in this host the Levites were not numbered (1: 47 ); when afterwards they were separately numbered, "all the males from a month old and upward were 22,000" (Num. 3: 39 ). On the very conservative, and quite inadequate, basis of estimating these warrior-males to be but one out of every four of the old men, women, and children, we should have a Hebrew population of 2,414,200 souls, not counting in the 22,000 Levites and the great mixed multitude of slaves and camp-followers who accompanied the hosts of Yahveh. The Jewish Encyclopedia and most accepted authorities estimate the total numbers of the exodus to be about 3,000,000!
SOME PREGNANT FIGURES
If the sacred historian had taken his stylus and a scrap of papyrus and calculated a bit, be would have figured out that in order to accomplish this prodigy, each of the 55 males of the first generation in Egypt must have had 40-odd children each, about equally divided between males and females; each of these 20-odd males must have had again 40-odd children, male and female, and so on to the fourth generation, in order to have produced 603,550 soldier-men twenty years of age and over, or the total of 2,414,200 (or more) children of Israel who set out from Egypt.
But the inspired history nowhere indicates any such prodigious prolificness among the Chosen People in Egyptian slavery. The highest number of children in one family anywhere noted during the "sojourn" is the five daughters of Zelophebad; Amram had only three children, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam; Aaron had four sons (two of them killed by Yahveh) and no daughter.
The mothers of Israel were also evidently of the Hebrew race; it is hardly probable that the Hebrew slaves were permitted to marry the free native women; if this had been customary, the Syrian "seed of Abraham" would have been sadly mixed in 430 years. Indeed, that the fact was otherwise is implied by the inspired statement (Ex. 1: 19 ): "the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women" in child-birth, which clearly indicates that the wives of the Chosen were also of the Chosen. it follows that it is out of the seventy only that the 2,414,200 and more of the exodus could have sprung, and it is evident that they could not. At best, 8000 is a liberal calculation, if not one of them had died in the 430 years; and Yahveh himself, immediately after the exodus, says that his Chosen were "the fewest of all people" (Deut. 7: 7 ).
But we will not discount the inspired arithmetic, and will accept its figures, which lead to some highly interesting considerations. Where and how did these children live, and move, and have their being in Egypt-at that time (1491 B.C.) the mightiest and most splendid empire of the world? This is the first puzzle. Already, shortly after the death of Joseph, the "new king which knew not Joseph" is found complaining to his people: "Behold, the children of Israel are more and mightier than we" (Ex. 1: 9 ); and he therefore made slaves of this more numerous and more mighty race, and set them to building his treasure cities and to other construction jobs, for which Egypt had long been famous, as witness the Great Pyramid, built (3933 B.C.) but a few years after the celebrated garden of Eden was closed down in the fall. All this host of Israel could hardly have lived in the cities along with their masters, as there were probably no cities large enough to contain them. They were necessarily scattered in the country, and for the curious reason that these poor slaves at the time of the exodus owned several millions of sheep, horses, and cattle, "even very much cattle, and great areas of land would be required to pasture them all.
Let us look the sheep in the face. Moses told the children, in instituting the passover, on the eve of the Exodus: "Take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover" (Ex. 12: 21 ). These lambs were to be without blemish, a male of the first year," and were to be taken, every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house" (Ex. 12: 3 ); though if a household were too little to eat a whole lamb, the next-door neighbors might be invited to share it. Very liberally allowing ten persons to one lamb, 2,414,200 persons would require 241,420 male lambs of the first year for this one day's passover sacrifice. There would probably be as many female lambs of the same year, which would make 482,840 first-year lambs, to say nothing of the sheep and goats. Sheep-raising statistics show that, in average flocks of all ages, the total number is about five times that of the increase of one season's births; this would give us exactly the same number of sheep as of Hebrews, 2,414,200. Modern sheep-raisers seldom have grazing lands which will support more than two sheep to the acre. Allowing five to the acre for biblical Egypt, 482,840 acres of land, or 754 square miles, nearly two-thirds the area of the state of Rhode Island, would be required merely for pasturing the sheep of the slave Israelites, not allowing for their other cattle and horses, none of which had been killed in the plagues, and of which the children of Israel had large "flocks and herds, even very much cattle." So the children must have been scattered through the land and have considerably overflowed the bounds of their original ghetto of Goshen in order to tend their herds-if slaves could be allowed to own property and to attend to their own affairs.
THE AMAZING PASSOVER
All Scripture, besides being "given by inspiration of God," is said to be "profitable for instruction"; we find other curiously instructive features of this exodus passover. In Exodus 12 we have the tangled and marvelous story. Yahveh tells Moses that "in the tenth day of this month" the people should "take every man a lamb, ... and ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening"-of the fourteenth day; and "of the blood, strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses wherein they shall eat it." For the ceremony he gives particular directions: "And thus shall ye eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste" (12: 11 ). It is here ordered that there should be a four-day interval between the "taking" on the tenth day of the month, and the killing on the fourteenth day; but Yahveh overlooks this, or changes his mind, for be says: "For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt. ... And this day shall be unto you for a memorial" (12: 12, 14 ). "Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel," and told them to take "a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover," and strike the blood on the door posts (12: 21 ). "And it came to pass that at midnight Yahveh smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt" (12: 28 ). This clearly proves that the entire passover transaction, from the first commands of Yahveh about the lambs to the massacre of the first-born at midnight took place all on one day, and at latest on the tenth day the four-day interval is forgotten and eliminated. But how was such a thing possible? We see the two and a half million people scattered over an indefinitely large territory; Yahveh appears sometime during the day (the tenth), and tells Moses and Aaron: "Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel," giving them life-and-death orders and minute passover cooking instructions, which they must perform that same day "in the evening" in order to escape the massacre of the first-born. Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and repeated the instructions to them. There were no telephones or radio broadcasting plants in those days to help disseminate this order in all its details to the head of every family of Israel, scattered throughout Egypt, or Goshen, or the Delta, or wherever they were, so that they might pick out 241,420 first-year male lambs without blemish, kill and cook them, according to entirely new recipes (12: 8-10 ), and strike the blood, in this novel way, on the door posts, so that, says Yahveh, "when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt." How these fateful orders were ever delivered "unto all the congregation of Israel" in that fraction of a day Yahveh only knows, as it is not revealed unto us in his Holy Word.
THE MARCHING ORDERS
But this is not all of this bit of Scripture, given for our instruction. That same night "at midnight Yahveh smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, and the firstborn of the cattle," of the Egyptians (Ex. 12: 29 ), though these same cattle had already been killed by each of several prior plagues: "all the cattle of Egypt died" of the murrain (Ex, 9: 6 ); then these dead cattle had boils (9: 9 ); then they were all killed over again by the hail (9: 25 ). As soon as this fatal decree of Yahveh was executed, that midnight, "Pharaoh rose up in the night [that same night] ... and he called for Moses and Aaron by night [that same night, after midnight], and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve Yahveh as ye have said; and be gone" (12: 31 ) -- "and bless me also" (12: 32 ), he added, maybe ironically. As "the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men" (12: 33 ), haste became the order of the day, or rather of that same night.
As soon as the royal leave was thus granted to Moses, after midnight, he must at once get the marching orders to the scattered millions of Israel. These were in their respective homes throughout the land, dressed and ready, in "watchful waiting" for they knew not what as yet, since it could not be known what effect the massacre of the first-born would have upon the Pharaoh; and the people were under strict command: "And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning." But in some strange and unrevealed way, whether by miracle or telepathy, the divine command through Moses to all the millions of Israel went broadcast (the second time in one day) to borrow" all the clothes and jewellery they could, and to "spoil the Egyptians" (12: 36 ); after which they should all mobilize immediately at the great city Rameses. So that self-same day, somehow, all the hosts of Israel, 2,414,200 of them, with "their dough before it was leavened, their kneading- troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders" (12: 34 ), their plunder, their old and decrepit, their babes and sucklings, their sick and infirm, their women in confinement and childbirth (for in such a population there are scores of births every hour, and the inspired word tells us that "the Hebrew women are lively" in this) -- the whole mixed multitude, driving with them their "flocks and herds, even very much cattle, there was not an hoof left behind," at the divine command, began the world's greatest one-day feat.
First, from all Egypt, east, west, north, south, "the hosts of Yahveh" gathered at Rameses. Such a mobilization is without a single parallel in history, sacred or profane, since Noah's animals flocked from the four corners of the earth into his famous ark, for which they had a whole week. Arrived at Rameses somehow, behold, "even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of Yahveh went out from the land of Egypt" (12: 41 ). That there may be no doubt about it, the divine assurance is vouchsafed a second time in the same chapter: "And it came to pass the selfsame day, that Yahveh did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies" (12: 51 ); and they marched from Rameses across the desert sands to Succoth, which, according to the Bible maps, seems to be about thirty miles. But apparently this was not "out of the land of Egypt"; it was evidently yet in Egypt, on the western border of the Red Sea. For when Pharaoh and his army "pursued after the children of Israel" (Ex. 14: 8 ), the children were still on the Egyptian side, and the miracle of the "parting of the waters" of the Red Sea had to be performed to enable the hosts of Yahveh to cross to the eastern or Arabian side of the Red Sea.
THE HOSTS ON THE MARCH
The hosts of Yahveh went not like a straggling rabble of fugitive slaves, hastening to escape, but proud in formal marching array, as armies march. If they marched in close order, as many as fifty abreast, with an interval of only one yard between their serried ranks, there would have been 48,284 ranks, which would form a column twenty-eight miles long! But the truth is even more remarkable, if the Bible is accurate on the point; for the Hebrew text says: "And the children of Israel went up by five in a rank out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 13: 18; see marginal note) -- which would make the column 280 miles long! Such a multitude, with all its encumbrances, could not possibly march through the desert sands very many miles a day-say ten, fifteen, or twenty at the most. (The American army of chosen foot-troops marches only twelve to fifteen miles a day under average conditions.) Moreover, the front ranks must march the whole 28 (or 280 ) miles before the rear ranks could even start. So hardly half of the "hosts of Yahveh" could even get away that first day, even if they had started early. But they had first to gather at Rameses from all over Egypt- several hundreds of miles in length-and we know not how much of that wonderful day they occupied in the rendezvous; the whole host could not possibly reach Succoth, somewhere, according to the text, "Out of the land of Egypt," till the second or third day, or the next week, or the next month, even if they could all have mobilized at Rameses on that "selfsame day," as they are said to have done. How many interminable miles the column was stretched out by the millions of sheep and cattle, not marching in close battle array, of course, unless divinely herded, we have no revelation, nor adequate data to compute.
What the millions of cattle fed upon in the prolonged hike to the Red Sea, across the desert sands, with scant vegetation, divine revelation does not tell. Nor were the children much better provided for; they had only a little unleavened dough on their shoulders, "because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual" (Ex. 12: 39 ).
A remarkable circumstance may be noted here: these fugitive slaves are represented as having slaves of their own which they carried away with them. Their provident Yahveh, in his ordinance of the passover, the very first law he ever gave them, as they fled from slavery in Egypt, made provision for the observance of that pious ceremony by "every man's servant that is bought for money," after the bloody violence of circumcision had been perpetrated upon him (Ex. 12: 44 ).
THE HOSTS AFRAID OF WAR
Wonders such as these never cease in the providence of Yahveh to his Chosen People Israel; the relation of such wonders by the sacred writers is incessant. When the "hosts of Yahveh" got to Succoth, Yahveh was afraid for them, and "led them not through the way of the Philistines, although that was near; for Elohim said, Lest peradventure, the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt" (Ex. 13: 17 ); although they were 603,550 armed warriors, and were being led expressly to the armed conquest and extermination of "seven nations greater and mightier" than all Israel! So "Elohim led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea: and the Children of Israel went up harnessed [armed] out of the land of Egypt (13: 18 ).
Where did these fleeing slaves get their arms-swords, spears, shields, bows and arrows, armor, for 603,550 soldiers? Slaves are not usually allowed to keep arms, nor to be so trained that on one day's sudden notice they can, presto, change from a horde of slaves to soldiers who march out "by their armies" full panoplied for war. And if they were armed soldiers going forth to conquest, under the personal command of their God, a notable "Man of war," why should they "repent if they see war," between other peoples, and wish in fright to return to slavery? Revelation is silent on these mysteries. And despite of all Yahveh's concern for his warriors "lest they see war," they had not been three months out of Egypt before they had war with the Amalekites at Rephidim, when Aaron and Hur had to hold up the hands of Moses all day before the Israelites could finally win the battle (Ex. 17: 8-13 ).
THE RED SEA MASSACRE
Yahveh was not yet satisfied with plaguing the Egyptians and with showing off his terrible and holy wonders upon them. He had bloodily baited Pharaoh into letting his slaves go; half a dozen times Pharaoh in terror had "inclined to let the people go," but Yahveh had interfered and "hardened Pharaoh's heart that he should not let them go." And when the Israelites finally got away and Pharaoh was happily rid of them, Yahveh devised another wholesale destruction, to his own honor, and said: "I will harden Pharaoh's heart that he shall follow after them, and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, that the Egyptians may know that I am Yahveh" (Ex. 14: 4 ). The tragedy of the Red Sea and the death by drowning of the hosts of Pharaoh do not concern us now; but it is interesting to note that as soon as the valiant warriors, 603,550 strong, saw the hosts of Pharaoh, also very suddenly mustered, appear in pursuit, "they were sore afraid; and the children of Israel cried out unto Yahveh," and they cravenly said:
"Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians; for it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness" (Ex. 14: 10, 12 ) -- a different cry, this of 603,550 armed warriors of Yahveh, from that of one later patriot who fired his country's heart with the words: "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" And through their whole sacred history the people of Yahveh blubbered and wailed at every trial and in every time of danger, real or fancied.
THE CHILDREN WAIL FOR WATER
Only three days after this Red Sea massacre Yahveh's Chosen People got further into the wilderness of Shur, and "found no water" (Ex. 15: 22 ); whereupon they wailed again and started an insurrection; then moved on to Marah, the waters of which were so bitter they could not drink, and they wailed again, and cried:
"What shall we drink?" (15: 24 ). So Yahveh made the bitter waters sweet for his crying children, and brought them on to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water, and seventy palm trees; and the whole 2,414,200 Israelites, all their camp-followers, and their millions of cattle encamped there by the twelve wells under the seventy palm trees (15: 27 ). This is the last natural water supply they saw until thirty-eight years later they happily encountered a well of Beer! (Num. 21: 16 ). They were supplied miraculously with water only twice, or once with the phenomena recorded in two ways. The want of water is no metaphor in that "desert land," in that "waste howling wilderness," as it is often described, "that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water" (Deut. 8: 15 ); the Children of Israel wail and cry: "Why have ye brought up the congregation of Yahveh into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die [in] this evil place? ... neither is there any water to drink" (Num. 20: 4, 5 ).
SMITING THE ROCK FOR WATER
After leaving the twelve wells of Elim, the Israelites came into the wilderness of Sin, in the middle of the second month after the passover, and started a bread riot, which was quieted by the miracle of quails and daily manna (Ex. 16 ). Then they marched on to Rephidim, and at once rioted because "there was no water for the people to drink," and they were about to stone Moses to death.
Yahveh here came to the rescue, and told Moses to take his wondrous rod and "smite the rock in Horeb" and bring water from it; and Yahveh stood upon the rock to watch the performance. Moses smote the rock, the waters gushed out, and the people drank; and Moses "called the name of the place Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel." This is related in Exodus 17:and is said to have occurred in or near the wilderness of Sin, some three months (Ex. 16: 1 ) after leaving Egypt, in 1491 B.C.
But in Numbers 20: under the marginal date 1453 B.C. (that is, 38 years later), the same or a very similar story is told again, but differently. For "then came the children of Israel into the desert of Zin [instead of Sin], in the first month," and stopped at Kadesh; and "there was no water for the congregation"; so they wailed and rioted again, because they and their cattle were like to die. This time Yahveh told Moses to take his rod and go with Aaron to a certain rock, and "speak ye to the rock"-instead of using the rod to smite it. But Moses was annoyed this time, and he meekly yelled at the Israelites: "Hear now, ye rebels" (20: 10 ), and instead of gently speaking to the rock, as Yahveh had commanded, he "lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice," and the waters gushed forth abundantly.
But now Yahveh was angry with Moses and Aaron, and he said to them: "Because ye have not believed me, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them"; and the sacred writer informs us: "This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with Yahveh" (20: 13 ). Here we have the desert of Sin and the desert of Zin, and two waters Meribah, but thirty-eight years apart, and each with entirely different circumstances; which was which? Let him unravel who is curious. In either event, so far as revealed, this is about all the water that the millions of Chosen and their millions of cattle had to drink in the terrible wilderness for almost forty years.
FOOD RIOTS-HEAVENLY MANNA AND QUAILS
As for human food and cattle-feed, this mystery of the ages has never been satisfactorily solved by revelation or speculation.
The children of Israel started out, as we have seen, with only a little unleavened dough, "neither had they prepared for themselves any victual" (Ex. 12: 39 ); and of course they carried no cattle- feed. One naturally wonders what they and their cattle had to eat until "on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of Egypt" they reached the wilderness of Sin (Ex. 16 ), Here was their first recorded food riot; the whole congregation rebelled, crying: "Would to God we had died by the hand of Yahveh in Egypt, when we did sit by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (16: 3 )! It is curious that they should die with hunger when they had at least 2,414,200 sheep and "very much cattle" along with them. That the sheep alone, with nothing at all to eat or drink, throve and produced at least 241,420 male lambs every year of the forty years in the wilderness for the annual passover feast is another divine mystery. And it is truly a marvel, when the Chosen had started out with only a little dough on their shoulders, quickly consumed raw, and then for forty years were complaining and rioting because they had no bread to eat, where they ever got the tons of "fine flour" with which to make the famous "shewbread" for the altar of Yahveh, and the untold amounts of "unleavened bread" which they must eat in their feasts, and the "fine flour" they were required to offer with their countless sacrifices; to say nothing of the great quantities of oil accompanying them, or of the millions of animals and birds for the manifold and interminable sacrifices which they are said to have made all through the forty years in the wilderness. Amos questions (5: 25 ) and Jeremiah denies (v2: 22 ) flesh sacrifices in the wilderness. And as we shall soon see, the Aaron family were simply gorged with meat from these sacrifices, which they were under dire obligation to eat at all hazards.
However, when the Israelites started their food riot, Yahveh was merciful, and said he would "rain bread from heaven" (Ex. 16: 4 ) for his children; but Moses misinterpreted or exaggerated the message, and reported to them: "Yahveh shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full" (16: 8 ). Yahveh graciously amended his promise to conform to the version which Moses had reported. And this is the way that Yahveh fulfilled his bounteous promises: that evening "quails came up, and covered the camp" (Ex. 16: 13 ), and in the morning heavenly manna, which had very peculiar qualities, and tasted "like wafers made with honey" (Ex. 16: 31 ) or else "the taste thereof was like the taste of fresh oil" (Num. 11: 8 ), but whether olive oil, castor oil, kerosene oil, hair oil, or oil of saints is not revealed. Anyhow the children of Israel didn't like it at all as a steady diet. This is all they had to eat however for forty years, as the quails were a special treat for one day only; we hear them at their next food riot longing for the leeks and onions and garlic of Egypt, and saying: "There is nothing at all, besides this manna" (Num. 11: 6 ); and again they said: "Our souls do loathe this light bread" (Num. 21: 5 ); and, odd as it is, "they wept in the ears of Yahveh, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat?" (Num. 11: 4 ).
Passing strange was this danger of starvation in the presence of several million sheep and cattle, unless, indeed, the poor beasts were so starved themselves as to be not fit to eat. And Moses explicitly had these cattle in mind; for when Yahveh promised him flesh for the children of Israel to eat, he reasoned thus with Yahveh: "The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?" (Num. 11: 21, 22 ) To starve to death under such circumstances! And "the anger of Yahveh was kindled greatly"; and he graciously promised: "Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you" (Sum. 11: 19, 20 )!
So, in his loving-kindness and bounteous providence, Yahveh provided a quail feast on prodigious scale; for "there went forth a wind from Yahveh, and brought quails from the sea" (perhaps flying-fish, for sea-quail are not known on the market, at least in these days); and note this: those quails fell and were stacked up on the face of the earth "as it were a day's journey round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth" (Num. 11: 31 )! This simple inspired narrative, related in one Bible verse, and about which I never beard a single sermon in my life, is the most stupendous miracle of Divine bounty in all sacred history, and peremptorily challenges our admiring attention.
MIRACLE AND MATHEMATICS
Let us figure a bit on this astonishing fall of quails, and see how far figures, which do not lie, may be an aid, or a handicap, to faith. The quails were stacked up "two cubits high" for a distance of "a day's journey round the camp." A Bible cubit is 22 inches; two cubits are therefore 44 inches. A biblical "day's journey," according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, is 44,815 meters (1 meter is 39.37 inches, or 1.1 yards), which equals 49,010 yards, 27.8 miles. Now, the camp of Israel (laid out as indicated in Numbers 2: and glowingly described by Balaam in Numbers 2iv) was, according to accepted calculations, twelve miles square. It would be crowded, with about 16,800 persons to the square mile; the densest population in the worst slums of any modern city is only some 25,000 to the square mile, in many-storied tenement houses. And this doesn't allow a square foot for the millions of cattle.
Around this camp, twelve miles square, on all its four sides, lay heaped these miraculous quails, piled 44 inches high. Assuming, for the sake of a minimum of miracle, and therefore of strain on faith, that this stack of quails began close to the four sides of the camp and extended for 27.8 miles in every direction, we have a solid square of quails measuring from one outer edge to another 67.6 miles, deducting of course the twelve-mile square occupied by the camp in the center. The solid mass therefore covered 4569.76 square miles, from which deducting the 144 square miles of the central camp leaves us 4425.76 square miles of quails piled 44 inches high. This stack of quails thus covered an area by 500 square miles larger than the whole states of Delaware and Rhode Island, plus the city of Greater New York! Such is the bounty of Yahveh, or such the boundlessness of inspiration. As to the space occupied, one quail, packed tight by the weight of the mass, might be compressed into about 3 inches of space each way, which would amount to 27 cubic inches of space per quail, or 64 quails to the cubic foot of space throughout the mass. Now, a surface of 4425.76 square miles, heaped 44 inches high with objects each occupying 27 cubic inches would make a considerable mass, which we must reduce to terms.
One linear mile contains 5280 feet; one square mile therefore contains 27,878,400 square feet. The whole area of 4425.76 square miles would equal 123,383,107,584 square feet. Each square foot being covered 44 inches, or 3.66 feet, high with quails, each quail occupying 27 cubic inches of space, with 64 quails to the cubic foot, the total would be 452,404,727,808 cubic feet of quails. A bit of ready reckoning, on this conservative basis, gives us just 28,953,902,579,712 quails in this divine prodigy of a pot-hunt! Ever soul of the 2,414,200 of the "hosts of Yahveh" therefore had the liberal allowance of 11,993,167 quails. We can well believe, if the Children of Israel had to eat so many quails, even in "a whole month," that, as Yahveh promised or threatened, they would "come out at your nostrils and be loathsome to-you!"
It was a prodigious task to harvest all those quails; indeed, inspiration tells us, "the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: ... and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp" (Num. 11: 32 ). This must mean all around within the camp; for the quails were already spread abroad for 67.6 miles "round about the camp" outside. Indeed, as these wonderful quails stretched for nearly 28 miles, a whole day's journey, on every hand around the camp, an ordinary uninspired mind cannot grasp the process by which the millions of Chosen ever accomplished the incessant going back and forth, out and in, the hundreds of thousands of times necessary to harvest their marvelous crop of quails. And how quails covering compactly an area of 4425 square miles could be "spread abroad," when garnered in, in the 144 square miles of the camp, already crowded with tents and people, or where they ever put the feathers and "cleanings," is another holy wonder-if the whole affair were not simply a matter of simple faith. And it is curious where the 2,414,200 Israelites stood to be able to get at the quail-picking; and how each person could gather up 11,993,167 quails in 36 hours, which would require them to gather up, each one, 335,366 quails per hour, or 5589 quails ever minute, or nearly 94 quails per second of uninterrupted time, leaving them no time to carry the quails the average 28-miles into camp to spread them abroad, and no time to eat, or sleep, or sacrifice, or die, which over 1700 a day did, or to bury their dead, or to be born, as the comparison of the two censuses shows 1700 a day were, or for any other of the daily necessities of camp-life.
Devoutly conjuring away all these trifling speculations, let us behold the climax of tragedy which capped this miracle of divine bounty. Yahveh had promised his flesh-famishing Children flesh to eat for "even a whole month," until they should be so gorged with eating quail that it should come out loathsomely at their nostrils; and Yahveh's divine word would seem to be inviolable. But when each of the children of Israel had gathered up his ration of twelve-million quails, and started with great joy and hunger, as we may imagine, after thirty-six hours' hungry wait, to eat them, lo! "while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of Yahveh was kindled against the people, and Yahveh smote the people with a very great plague" (Num. 11: 33 ), and untold numbers of the Israelites were slain by their bounteous loving heavenly Father! And this simply because they "lusted" for something to eat besides that loathed, oily-honey manna. Whether the miraculous quails were divinely instilled with miraculous venom and gave Yahveh's Chosen wholesale ptomaine poisoning, or whether it was simply another case of Jahvistic slaying, so abundant in his sacred record, the divine revelation leaves us unadvised. In either event, Yahveh seems to have violated his sacred word, or at best "kept the word of promise to the ear, but broke it to the hope," as his children did not get their promised "flesh to eat for even a whole month," nor at all.
THE MOSES FAMILY
When Moses started on his divine mission extraordinary to the Pharaoh of Egypt, and of course before the exodus, he took along "his wife and sons" (Ex. 4: 20 ), whose names are not there given.
A very few months later, when Moses had led the children of Israel into camp at Rephidim, his father-in-law (Jethro or however named), who lived somewhere near Rephidim, "took Zipporah and her two sons" and went to pay a visit to Moses at the camp. The two sons are now named, according to the Hebrew, American Indian, and other savage usage of naming children in commemoration of some notable event:
"the name of the one was Gershom; for, he said, I have been an alien in a strange land: and the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh" (Ex. 18: 3, 4 ). The name of the first son thus commemorated the sojourn of Moses in the land of Midian, whither he fled after he murdered the Egyptian, and where he married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, heathen priest of Midian. The name of the second son commemorated the exodus from Egypt and deliverance "from the sword of Pharaoh." But as the exodus had taken place only a couple of months before, it is curious how this son of Moses, born we know not how long before Moses left Midian "to go unto Pharaoh," could have a name commemorative of an event which had just, in the providence of Yahveh, come to pass.
WHO PROPOSED THE JUDGES OF ISRAEL?
Another incident of inspired narrative is also connected with this visit of Jethro, as related in Exodus 18. Moses was very much over-worked with the strenuous task of trying to run the whole encampment alone and to hold in the "stiff-necked and rebellious people," and be "sat to judge the people from the morning unto the evening"; for Moses said: "I judge between one and the other, and I do make them know the statutes of Yahveh and his laws." But this was at Rephidim, before the "hosts of Yahveh" came to Sinai, where the "statutes and laws of Yahveh" are said to have originated; so Moses is mistaken in talking about making known such statutes and laws even before he knew them himself, which, as we shall see, he never did. Moreover he admits that he was very unsuccessful in his teaching, for forty years later he complains to his followers: "Yet in this thing ye did not believe Yahveh your God" (Deut. 1: 32 ).
However, his good pagan father-in-law felt sorry for Moses, and said to him: "The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away. ... for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone." And Jethro further said:
"Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel"; and this was his advice to Moses: "Provide out of all the people able men. ... and place such over them, to be rulers" over different sections, "and let them judge the people at all seasons. ... So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men, ... and they judged the people" (Ex. 18: 17-26 ). Certainly Jethro is entitled to the credit for this plan, which he originated. We might therefore be surprised, if all sense of surprise had not been paralyzed in this search of the Scripture, to find Moses in his harangue to the people by Jordan (Deut. 1: 9-19 ) bragging about the institution of judges as a device all his own and begun at Horeb, at a later date. Moses there says: "I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone. How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Take you wise men, and I will make them rulers over you. And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do. So I took the chiefs of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you." Both of these inspired stories cannot be accurate, whatever one may think as to the historicity of either.
THE TENTS OF ISRAEL
In Egypt the Chosen, though slaves, lived in houses: they escaped the passover massacre by smearing blood on the "door posts of their houses"; the Egyptians, being highly civilized, with great cities, lived also in houses, not in tents. Yet we find the 2,414,200 Chosen, from Succoth on through the forty years' journey, encamped in tents; scores of times these tents are mentioned in the sacred texts. We will inspect these tents with the eyes of faith.
The encampment of spreading tents must have presented a beautiful and impressive spectacle, for, when he saw it, "Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of Elohim [Gods; Balaam was a pagan] came upon him. And he took up his parable," and said:
"How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes, ... and as cedar trees beside the waters" (Num. 24: 2-6 ). But this glowing record of the encampment of tents flatly contradicts another inspired text, which is the foundation of one of the great sacred festivals of the Chosen even to this day, the Feast of Tabernacles, a little later instituted (Lev. 23: 40-43 ) by Yahveh himself. Here Moses commands the Chosen to take, every year at harvest time, "boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brooks," wherewith to construct "booths"; and, says Yahveh, "ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am Yahveh your God." The waste howling wilderness "where no water is," could not, of course, afford trees such as these "goodly" ones, nor any trees at all, and certainly not trees enough to build "booths" for forty years for 2,414,200 Chosen People. However this may be, they never observed the dwelling in booths till after the "discovery" of the Book of the Law, and the return from the captivity-"since the days of Joshua unto that day had not the children of Israel done so" (Neh. 8: 17 ). This is an indication that the law of Moses had never existed through all those ages.
If the Israelites were in the wilderness at all, and lived in anything, it was in tents. So for a moment we will consider these tents, and the holy camp, and several curious features connected with their encampments. Where did the Chosen get their tents, and how did they manage to lug them along on their flight out of Egypt?
The inspired history tells us that they fled in such haste that they carried only unleavened dough and their kneading troughs bound up in their clothes on their shoulders, without even any victuals (Ex. 12: 39 ); there is not a word about heavy and cumbersome tents. Tents are heavy, with canvas or hair-cloth, ropes, poles, and pegs; in the U.S. Army a little "dog-tent" merely to shelter two soldiers lying down, is divided between its two occupants as luggage. But these tents of the Israelites must have been big family affairs, for men, women, and children to live in with decency and some degree of comfort, and they must have been very heavy. How did the Israelites carry them? But first, how did they get them? As they lived in houses in Egypt, it would be remarkable if each family, awaiting marching orders for the promised land, which until a single day previously they had no premonition of, should have had a tent in the garret.
And how many tents must they have had? To crowd indecently ten persons, male and female, old and young, sick and dying, into each tent would have required at least 241,420 large and heavy tents, to be lugged in their first flight, and for forty years wandering in the wilderness. We are nowhere told that the children of Israel had horses, or knew how to ride; it seems that 750 years later the Chosen could not ride horses even if they had had them, for Rab-shakeh offered them, on behalf of the King of Assyria, "two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them" (2 Kings 19: 23 ). And while it is said (Deut. 29: 5 ) that in the whole forty years "your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot," yet we are not told that tents were thus providentially preserved. How the clothes and shoes of the little children who started on the forty-year tramp sufficed for them as they grew larger, unless the clothes and shoes expanded along with their skins from year to year, has become an old joke. No such Providence is recorded as to the tents of Israel.
THE GREAT ENCAMPMENTS
As for their encampments, who shall justly estimate their size and extent, for a host of two and a half million people, with all their slaves and camp-followers, and with more than that number of sheep and cattle? The question would be of no concern if it did not involve some further strains on faith. Every one of the forty-two times the camp was pitched (Num. 33 ), there must be suitable space found for some 250,000 tents, laid out (Num. 2 ) regularly four-square around the holy tabernacle, after that was constructed, and with the necessary streets and passages, and proper spaces between the tents. A man in a coffin occupies about twelve square feet, six feet by two. Living people would not be packed in their tents like corpses or sardines; they must have at least, say, three times that space, thirty-six square feet or four square yards each. A tent to house ten persons with minimum decency must occupy therefore an average of forty square yards.
If the 241,420 such tents were set one against another, with no intervening space or separating streets, they would occupy 9,656,800 square yards, or over 1995 acres of ground; a little more than three square miles. But the desert was vast, there was no need for such impossible crowding; ample room was available for seemly spacing of tents, for streets and areas, for the great central tabernacle and its court, and for the 22,000 Levites, not counted in the soldier-census, who must "pitch round about the tabernacle," as well as space for the rounding up of the millions of cattle.
These allowances for order, decency, and comfort would much extend the circuit of the camp, and make more reasonable the accepted estimate that "this encampment is computed to have formed a movable city of twelve miles square," or an area of 144 square miles, which is certainly modest for a population equal to that of Chicago, which covers 198 square miles. The tabernacle stood in the center, thus six miles from the outskirts of the camp in either direction.
SOME FEATURES OF CAMP-LIFE
So much for the lay-out of the sacred encampment. What is the point of faith involved? Whenever a sacrifice of sin-offering was made by the priest, a daily and constant service, "the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, ... even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire" (Lev. 4: 11, 12 ). This was the personal chore of the priest himself, of whom there were oddly three, Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar. And there were thousands upon thousands of sacrifices, for every imaginable thing and occasion; and the carcasses and offal of the slaughtered cattle must always be taken "without the camp" and burned, by these three poor priests, and Father Aaron was over 80 years old. So these chores would keep them going, time after time, six miles out and six miles back, lugging heavy and bloody carcasses and offal through the main streets of the camp, incessantly, and leave them no time for their holy, bloody sacrifices of myriads of animals, as described in Exodus 29, and all through Leviticus. Moreover, the entire garbage, refuse, ashes, and filth of every kind of two and a half million people and millions of cattle must be constantly and with extreme care carried outside the camp, practically under the awful threat of annihilation; for "Yahveh. thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee" (Deut. 23: 12-14 ); and everybody who reads the Bible knows what the Chosen's enemies used to do to them whenever their Yahveh wasn't looking closely after them.
These inspired verses enshrine, too, for our admiration, material details: even the ordinary personal necessities of nature must be relieved "without the camp," and covered up by digging with a paddle (Deut. 23: 13 ); the 603,500-odd valiant soldiers of Yahveh were commanded by Yahveh: "Thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon" for this digging operation! There must have been an advance revelation of the peculiar pattern of these funny weapons, with a spear-point on one end and a scavenger-paddle on the other, for the Chosen to have got them manufactured to special order by the arinourers of Egypt. And it is to be wondered how the non-combatants, women-folk and little children, did their digging on these occasions, unless they borrowed some warrior-paddle not then in use, or had a paddle-armed soldier for an escort when they went perforce "without the camp." Just think for a moment, and then admire the strange providence of Yahveh: two and a half millions of his Chosen People, old and young, sick and infirm, men, women, and children, trotting at all hours of day and night, from the more central parts of the encampment some twelve miles out and back, to find a suitable spot "without the camp" to respond to their several calls; and often even before they got back home, having to turn and trek all over again! And every mother's son and daughter of the "hosts of Yahveh" must make an average of six miles, both ways, several times daily.
Moreover, as Yahveh got angry with his Chosen, whom he had repeatedly promised to bring into Canaan, and as he caused every one of them, except Joshua and Caleb, to die in the wilderness, there were on the average 1700 deaths and funerals per day for forty years, at the rate of 72 per hour, more than one for very minute of every day and all the corpses must also be carried "without the camp" for burial, an average of six miles going and returning. And as the census taken at the end of the forty years shows but a slight decrease in numbers from that taken at the beginning, the entire host was renewed by a birth-rate of over one a minute for forty years; and all the debris must be lugged without the camp and disposed of. Verily the Chosen had their troubles.
THE "BURNING QUESTION" OF FUEL
There is also the question of fires and fuel. The myriads of sacrifices and burnt offerings at the tabernacle, besides the wasteful burning "without the camp" of practically entire animals, and that too when the children of Israel were straying and rioting for "flesh to eat," required many fires and hence much firewood. Where, there in the "waste howling wilderness," did they get so much fuel? -- a burning question nowhere answered by revelation. In the Arabian wilderness at certain seasons, and always at night, when the fiery sun had set, the cold was fearfully intense; the Chosen must have been grievously beset to find firewood to keep themselves from freezing, and it is never once recorded that stove-wood was miraculously provided either to keep them warm or to cook manna, to say nothing of the big quail feast. The inspired Word tells us much of the fires and of the ashes, but vouchsafes nothing about the immense forests which must have been required to supply a population like that of modern Chicago with firewood for heating, cooking, and burning hecatombs every day for forty years.
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