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  • JOSEPHUS' WRITINGS - BOOK 2, CH. 16
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    HOW THE SEA WAS DIVIDED ASUNDER FOR THE HEBREWS, WHEN THEY WERE PURSUED BY THE EGYPTIANS, AND SO GAVE THEM AN OPPORTUNITY OF ESCAPING FROM THEM.

    1. WHEN Moses had said this, he led them to the sea, while the Egyptians looked on; for they were within sight. Now these were so distressed by the toil of their pursuit, that they thought proper to put off fighting till the next day. But when Moses was come to the sea-shore, he took his rod, and made supplication to God, and called upon him to be their helper and assistant; and said "Thou art not ignorant, O Lord, that it is beyond human strength and human contrivance to avoid the difficulties we are now under; but it must be thy work altogether to procure deliverance to this army, which has left Egypt at thy appointment. We despair of any other assistance or contrivance, and have recourse only to that hope we have in thee; and if there be any method that can promise us an escape by thy providence, we look up to thee for it. And let it come quickly, and manifest thy power to us; and do thou raise up this people unto good courage and hope of deliverance, who are deeply sunk into a disconsolate state of mind. We are in a helpless place, but still it is a place that thou possessest; still the sea is thine, the mountains also that enclose us are thine; so that these mountains will open themselves if thou commandest them, and the sea also, if thou commandest it, will become dry land. Nay, we might escape by a flight through the air, if thou shouldst determine we should have that way of salvation."

    2. When Moses had thus addressed himself to God, he smote the sea with his rod, which parted asunder at the stroke, and receiving those waters into itself, left the ground dry, as a road and a place of flight for the Hebrews. Now when Moses saw this appearance of God, and that the sea went out of its own place, and left dry land, he went first of all into it, and bid the Hebrews to follow him along that divine road, and to rejoice at the danger their enemies that followed them were in; and gave thanks to God for this so surprising a deliverance which appeared from him.

    3. Now, while these Hebrews made no stay, but went on earnestly, as led by God's presence with them, the Egyptians supposed first that they were distracted, and were going rashly upon manifest destruction. But when they saw that they were going a great way without any harm, and that no obstacle or difficulty fell in their journey, they made haste to pursue them, hoping that the sea would be calm for them also. They put their horse foremost, and went down themselves into the sea. Now the Hebrews, while these were putting on their armor, and therein spending their time, were beforehand with them, and escaped them, and got first over to the land on the other side without any hurt. Whence the others were encouraged, and more courageously pursued them, as hoping no harm would come to them neither: but the Egyptians were not aware that they went into a road made for the Hebrews, and not for others; that this road was made for the deliverance of those in danger, but not for those that were earnest to make use of it for the others' destruction. As soon, therefore, as ever the whole Egyptian army was within it, the sea flowed to its own place, and came down with a torrent raised by storms of wind, (30) and encompassed the Egyptians. Showers of rain also came down from the sky, and dreadful thunders and lightning, with flashes of fire. Thunderbolts also were darted upon them. Nor was there any thing which used to be sent by God upon men, as indications of his wrath, which did not happen at this time, for a dark and dismal night oppressed them. And thus did all these men perish, so that there was not one man left to be a messenger of this calamity to the rest of the Egyptians.

    4. But the Hebrews were not able to contain themselves for joy at their wonderful deliverance, and destruction of their enemies; now indeed supposing themselves firmly delivered, when those that would have forced them into slavery were destroyed, and when they found they had God so evidently for their protector. And now these Hebrews having escaped the danger they were in, after this manner, and besides that, seeing their enemies punished in such a way as is never recorded of any other men whomsoever, were all the night employed in singing of hymns, and in mirth. (31) Moses also composed a song unto God, containing his praises, and a thanksgiving for his kindness, in hexameter verse. (32)

    5. As for myself, I have delivered every part of this history as I found it in the sacred books; nor let any one wonder at the strangeness of the narration if a way were discovered to those men of old time, who were free from the wickedness of the modern ages, whether it happened by the will of God or whether it happened of its own accord; - while, for the sake of those that accompanied Alexander, king of Macedonia, who yet lived, comparatively but a little while ago, the Pamphylian Sea retired and afforded them a passage (33) through itself, had no other way to go; I mean, when it was the will of God to destroy the monarchy of the Persians: and this is confessed to be true by all that have written about the actions of Alexander. But as to these events, let every one determine as he pleases.

    6. On the next day Moses gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians, which were brought to the camp of the Hebrews by the current of the sea, and the force of the winds resisting it; and he conjectured that this also happened by Divine Providence, that so they might not be destitute of weapons. So when he had ordered the Hebrews to arm themselves with them, he led them to Mount Sinai, in order to offer sacrifice to God, and to render oblations for the salvation of the multitude, as he was charged to do beforehand.

    ENDNOTES

    (1) We may here observe, that in correspondence to Joseph's second dream, which implied that his mother, who was then alive, as well as his father, should come and bow down to him, Josephus represents her here as still alive after she was dead, for the decorum of the dream that foretold it, as the interpretation of the dream does also in all our copies, Genesis 37:10. (2) The Septuagint have twenty pieces of gold; the Testament of Gad thirty; the Hebrew and Samaritan twenty of silver; and the vulgar Latin thirty. What was the true number and true sum cannot therefore now be known. (3) That is, bought it for Pharaoh at a very low price. (4) This Potiphar, or, as Josephus, Petephres, who was now a priest of On, or Heliopolis, is the same name in Josephus, and perhaps in Moses also, with him who is before called head cook or captain of the guard, and to whom Joseph was sold. See Genesis 37:36; 39:1, with 41:50. They are also affirmed to be one and the same person in the Testament of Joseph, sect. 18, for he is there said to have married the daughter of his master and mistress. Nor is this a notion peculiar to that Testament, but, as Dr. Bernard confesses, note on Antiq. B. II. ch. 4. sect. 1, common to Josephus, to the Septuagint interpreters, and to other learned Jews of old time. (5) This entire ignorance of the Egyptians of these years of famine before they came, told us before, as well as here, ch. 5. sect. 7, by Josephus, seems to me almost incredible. It is in no other copy that I know of. (6) The reason why Symeon might be selected out of the rest for Joseph's prisoner, is plain in the Testament of Symeon, viz. that he was one of the bitterest of all Joseph's brethren against him, sect. 2; which appears also in part by the Testament of Zabulon, sect. 3. (7) The coherence seems to me to show that the negative particle is here wanting, which I have supplied in brackets, and I wonder none have hitherto suspected that it ought to be supplied. (8) Of the precious balsam of Judea, and the turpentine, see the note on Antiq. B. VIII. ch. 6. sect. 6. (9) This oration seems to me too large, and too unusual a digression, to have been composed by Judas on this occasion. It seems to me a speech or declamation composed formerly, in the person of Judas, and in the way of oratory, that lay by him. and which he thought fit to insert on this occasion. See two more such speeches or declamations, Antiq. B. VI. ch. 14. sect. 4 (10) In all this speech of Judas we may observe, that Josephus still supposed that death was the punishment of theft in Egypt, in the days of Joseph, though it never was so among the Jews, by the law of Moses. (11) All the Greek copies of Josephus have the negative particle here, that Jacob himself was not reckoned one of the 70 souls that came into Egypt; but the old Latin copies want it, and directly assure us he was one of them. It is therefore hardly certain which of these was Josephus's true reading, since the number 70 is made up without him, if we reckon Leah for one; but if she be not reckoned, Jacob must himself be one, to complete the number. (12) Josephus thought that the Egyptians hated or despised the employment of a shepherd in the days of Joseph; whereas Bishop Cumberland has shown that they rather hated such Poehnician or Canaanite shepherds that had long enslaved the Egyptians of old time. See his Sanchoniatho, p. 361, 362. (13) Reland here puts the question, how Josephus could complain of its not raining in Egypt during this famine, while the ancients affirm that it never does naturally rain there. His answer is, that when the ancients deny that it rains in Egypt, they only mean the Upper Egypt above the Delta, which is called Egypt in the strictest sense; but that in the Delta [and by consequence in the Lower Egypt adjoining to it] it did of old, and still does, rain sometimes. See the note on Antiq. B. III. ch. 1. sect. 6. (14) Josephus supposes that Joseph now restored the Egyptians their lands again. upon the payment of a fifth part as tribute. It seems to me rather that the land was now considered as Pharaoh's land, and this fifth part as its rent, to be paid to him, as he was their landlord, and they his tenants; and that the lands were not properly restored, and this fifth part reserved as tribute only, till the days of Sesostris. See Essay on the Old Testament, Append. 148, 149. (15) As to this encomium upon Joseph, as preparatory to Jacob's adopting Ephraim and Manasses into his own family, and to be admitted for two tribes, which Josephus here mentions, all our copies of Genesis omit it, ch. 48.; nor do we know whence he took it, or whether it be not his own embellishment only. (16) As to the affliction of Abraham's posterity for 400 years, see Antiq. B. I. ch. 10. sect. 3; and as to what cities they built in Egypt, under Pharaoh Sesostris. and of Pharaoh Sesostris's drowning in the Red Sea, see Essay on the Old Testament, Append. p. 132-162. (17) Of this building of the pyramids of Egypt by the Israelites, see Perizonius Orig. Aegyptiac, ch. 21. It is not impossible they might build one or more of the small ones; but the larger ones seem much later. Only, if they be all built of stone, this does not so well agree with the Israelites' labors, which are said to have been in brick, and not in stone, as Mr. Sandys observes in his Travels. p. 127, 128. (18) Dr. Bernard informs us here, that instead of this single priest or prophet of the Egyptians, without a name in Josephus, the Targum of Jonathan names the two famous antagonists of Moses, Jannes and Jambres. Nor is it at all unlikely that it might be one of these who foreboded so much misery to the Egyptians, and so much happiness to the Israelites, from the rearing of Moses. (19) Josephus is clear that these midwives were Egyptians, and not Israelites, as in our other copies: which is very probable, it being not easily to be supposed that Pharaoh could trust the Israelite midwives to execute so barbarous a command against their own nation. (Consult, therefore, and correct hence our ordinary copies, Exodus 1:15, 22. And, indeed, Josephus seems to have had much completer copies of the Pentateuch, or other authentic records now lost, about the birth and actions of Moses, than either our Hebrew, Samaritan, or Greek Bibles afford us, which enabled him to be so large and particular about him. (20) Of this grandfather of Sesostris, Ramestes the Great, who slew the Israelite infants, and of the inscription on his obelisk, containing, in my opinion, one of the oldest records of mankind, see Essay on the Old Test. Append. p. 139, 145, 147, 217-220. (21) What Josephus here says of the beauty of Moses, that he was of a divine form, is very like what St. Stephen says of the same beauty; that Moses was beautiful in the sight of Acts 7:20. (22) This history of Moses, as general of the Egyptians against the Ethiopians, is wholly omitted in our Bibles; but is thus by Irenaeus, from Josephus, and that soon after his own age: - "Josephus says, that when Moses was nourished in the palace, he was appointed general of the army against the Ethiopians, and conquered them, when he married that king's daughter; because, out of her affection for him, she delivered the city up to him." See the Fragments of Irenaeus. ap. edit. Grab. p. 472. Nor perhaps did St. Stephen refer to any thing else when he said of Moses, before he was sent by God to the Israelites, that he was not only learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, but was also mighty in words and in deeds, Acts 7:22. (23) Pliny speaks of these birds called ibes; and says, "The Egyptians invoked them against the serpents," Hist. Nat. B. X. ch. 28. Strabo speaks of this island Meroe, and these rivers Astapus and Astaboras, B. XVI. p. 771, 786; and B XVII. p. 82]. (24) This superstitious fear of discovering the name with four letters, which of late we have been used falsely to pronounce Jehovah, but seems to have been originally pronounced Jahoh, or Jao, is never, I think, heard of till this passage of Josephus; and this superstition, in not pronouncing that name, has continued among the Rabbinical Jews to this day (though whether the Samaritans and Caraites observed it so early, does not appear). Josephus also dare not set down the very words of the ten commandments, as we shall see hereafter, Antiq. B. III. ch. 5. sect. 4, which superstitious silence I think has yet not been continued even by the Rabbins. It is, however, no doubt but both these cautious concealments were taught Josephus by the Pharisees, a body of men at once very wicked and very superstitious. (25) Of this judicial hardening the hearts and blinding the eyes of wicked men, or infatuating them, as a just punishment for their other willful sins, to their own destruction, see the note on Antiq. B. VII. ch. 9. sect. 6. (26) As to this winter or spring hail near Egypt and Judea, see the like on thunder and lightning there, in the note on Antiq. B. VI. ch. 5. sect. 6. (27) These large presents made to the Israelites, of vessels of and vessels of gold, and raiment, were, as Josephus truly calls them, gifts really given them; not lent them, as our English falsely renders them. They were spoils required, not of them, Genesis 15:14; Exodus 3:22; 11:2; Psalm 105:37,) as the same version falsely renders the Hebrew word Exodus 12:35, 36. God had ordered the Jews to demand these as their pay and reward, during their long and bitter slavery in Egypt, as atonements for the lives of the Egyptians, and as the condition of the Jews' departure, and of the Egyptians' deliverance from these terrible judgments, which, had they not now ceased, they had soon been all dead men, as they themselves confess, ch. 12. 33. Nor was there any sense in borrowing or lending, when the Israelites were finally departing out of the land for ever. (28) Why our Masorete copy so groundlessly abridges this account in Exodus 12:40, as to ascribe 430 years to the sole peregrination of the Israelites in Egypt, when it is clear even by that Masorete chronology elsewhere, as well as from the express text itself, in the Samaritan, Septuagint, and Josephus, that they sojourned in Egypt but half that time, - and that by consequence, the other half of their peregrination was in the land of Canaan, before they came into Egypt, - is hard to say. See Essay on the Old Testament, p. 62, 63. (29) Take the main part of Reland's excellent note here, which greatly illustrates Josephus, and the Scripture, in this history, as follows: "[A traveller, says Reland, whose name was] Eneman, when he returned out of Egypt, told me that he went the same way from Egypt to Mount Sinai, which he supposed the Israelites of old traveled; and that he found several mountainous tracts, that ran down towards the Red Sea. He thought the Israelites had proceeded as far as the desert of Etham, Exodus 13:20, when they were commanded by God to return back, Exodus 14:2, and to pitch their camp between Migdol and the sea; and that when they were not able to fly, unless by sea, they were shut in on each side by mountains. He also thought we might evidently learn hence, how it might be said that the Israelites were in Etham before they went over the sea, and yet might be said to have come into Etham after they had passed over the sea also. Besides, he gave me an account how he passed over a river in a boat near the city Suez, which he says must needs be the Heroopolia of the ancients, since that city could not be situate any where else in that neighborhood." As to the famous passage produced here by Dr. Bernard, out of Herodotus, as the most ancient heathen testimony of the Israelites coming from the Red Sea into Palestine, Bishop Cumberland has shown that it belongs to the old Canaanite or Phoenician shepherds, and their retiring out of Egypt into Canaan or Phoenicia, long before the days of Moses. Sanchoniatho, p. 374, etc.. (30) Of these storms of wind, thunder, and lightning, at this drowning of Pharaoh's army, almost wanting in our copies of Exodus, but fully extant in that of David, Psalm 77:16-18, and in that of Josephus here, see Essay on the Old Test. Append. p. 15,1, 155. (31) What some have here objected against this passage of the Israelites over the Red Sea, in this one night, from the common maps, viz. that this sea being here about thirty miles broad, so great an army conld not pass over it in so short a time, is a great mistake. Mons. Thevenot, an authentic eye-witness, informs us, that this sea, for about five days' journey, is no where more than about eight or nine miles over-cross, and in one place but four or five miles, according to De Lisle's map, which is made from the best travelers themselves, and not copied from others. What has been further objected against this passage of the Israelites, and drowning of the Egyptians, being miraculous also, viz. that Moses might carry the Israelites over at a low tide without any miracle, while yet the Egyptians, not knowing the tide so well as he, might be drowned upon the return of the tide, is a strange story indeed ! That Moses, who never had lived here, should know the quantity and time of the flux and reflux of the Red Sea better than the Egyptians themselves in its neighborhood! Yet does Artapanus, an ancient heathen historian, inform us, that this was what the more ignorant Memphites, who lived at a great distance, pretended, though he confesses, that the more learned Heliopolitans, who lived much nearer, owned the destruction of the Egyptians, and the deliverance of the Israelites, to have been miraculous: and De Castro, a mathematician, who surveyed this sea with great exactness, informs us, that there is no great flux or reflux in this part of the Red Sea, to give a color to this hypothesis; nay, that at the elevation of the tide there is little above half the height of a man. See Essay on the Old Test. Append. p. 239, 240. So vain and groundless are these and the like evasions and subterfuges of our modern sceptics and unbelievers, and so certainly do thorough inquiries and authentic evidence disprove and confute such evasions and subterfuges upon all occasions. (32) What that hexameter verse, in which Moses's triumphant song is here said to be written, distinctly means, our present ignorance of the old Hebrew metre or measure will not let us determine. Nor does it appear to me certain that even Josephus himself had a distinct notion of it, though he speaks of several sort of that metre or measure, both here and elsewhere. Antiq. B. IV. ch. 8. sect. 44; and B. VII. ch. 12. sect. 3. (33) Take here the original passages of the four old authors that still remain, as to this transit of Alexander the Great over the Pamphylian Sea: I mean, of Callisthenes, Strabu, Arrian, and Appian. As to Callisthenes, who himself accompanied Alexander in this expedition, Eustathius, in his Notes on the third Iliad of Homer, (as Dr. Bernard here informs us,) says, That "this Callisthenes wrote how the Pamphylian Sea did not only open a passage for Alexander, but, by rising and did pay him homage as its king." Strabo's is this (Geog. B. XIV. p. 666): "Now about Phaselis is that narrow passage, by the sea-side, through which his army. There is a mountain called Climax, adjoins to the Sea of Pamphylia, leaving a narrow passage on the shore, which, in calm weather, is bare, so as to be passable by travelers, but when the sea overflows, it is covered to a great degree by the waves. Now then, the ascent by the mountains being round about and steep, in still weather they make use of the road along the coast. But Alexander fell into the winter season, and committing himself chiefly to fortune, he marched on before the waves retired; and so it happened that were a whole day in journeying over it, and were under water up to the navel." Arrian's account is this (B. I. p. 72, 73): Alexander removed from Phaselis, he sent some part his army over the mountains to Perga; which road the Thracians showed him. A difficult way it was, but short. he himself conducted those that were with him by the sea-shore. This road is impassable at any other time than when the north wind blows; but if the south wind prevail, there is no passing by the shore. Now at this time, after strong south winds, a north wind blew, and that not without the Divine Providence, (as both he and they that were with him supposed,) and afforded him an easy and quick passage." Appian, when he compares Caesar and Alexander together, (De Bel. Civil. B. II. p. 522,) says, "That they both depended on their boldness and fortune, as much as on their skill in war. As an instance of which, Alexander journeyed over a country without water, in the heat of summer, to the oracle of [Jupiter] Hammon, and quickly passed over the Bay of Pamphylia, when, by Divine Providence, the sea was cut off - thus Providence restraining the sea on his account, as it had sent him rain when he traveled [over the desert]."

    N. B. - Since, in the days of Josephus, as he assures us, all the more numerous original historians of Alexander gave the account he has here set down, as to the providential going back of the waters of the Pamphylian Sea, when he was going with his army to destroy the Persian monarchy, which the fore-named authors now remaining fully confirm, it is without all just foundation that Josephus is here blamed by some late writers for quoting those ancient authors upon the present occasion; nor can the reflections of Plutarch, or any other author later than Josephus, be in the least here alleged to contradict him. Josephus went by all the evidence he then had, and that evidence of the most authentic sort also. So that whatever the moderns may think of the thing itself, there is hence not the least color for finding fault with Josephus: he would rather have been much to blame had he omitted these quotations.

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