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this single chapter ! What powerful evidence it furnishes of the truth and accuracy of holy writ! What beauties it unfolds to the eye of faith! What harmony for him that hath ears to hear the words of life !
THE DAY OF DEPARTURE OUT OF EGYPT.
We give the name of “ Genesis” to the first book of Moses from a Greek word, signifying creation, and of “ Exodus,” to the second from a Greek word signifying “a departure, or going out.” I propose now to fix the day of the week on which the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt took place. As to the day of the month there can be no doubt; and the transaction in the Wilderness of Sin, and the dates there determined will enable us to ascertain this day also.
With regard to this departure, authors have fallen into two errors. The first and most palpable is, that the passage of the Red Sea is to be considered as the day of departure out of Egypt; the second, and most general is, that the Israelites came out of Egypt on the day of the week which was afterwards observed by them as their sabbath, and that they observed that particular day of the week in commemoration of that event.
As to the first error, the day of their leaving Rameses. The first day of their setting out, the 15th day of the month, is the day of their departure out of Egypt.” They sacrificed the passover in the evening of the 14th (at the close of the 14th inter duas vesperas). At midnight, the beginning of the 15th, they commenced their march, and
halted that night at Succoth. In Exod. xii. 17, speaking of that day, the sacred historian says, speaking for God, 6. In this self-same day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt.” (verse 41.) « Even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. (42.) It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord, for bringing them out from the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations." (Verse 51.) “And it came to pass the self-same day, the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.” And in Numb. xxxii. 3, it is expressly said, that the children of Israel “ went out on the 15th day of the first month, on the morrow after the passover.” This day, then, is the day of their departure, and not the day of the passage of the Red Sea, which did not take place until several days afterwards. This corrects the first error.
We are now to determine on what day of the week the departure took place. This will appear by inspection of the table in the note.* The months mentioned in this
chapter, and in the 16th, consisted of thirty days. We have proved that the sabbath after the six days of manna was on the 23rd, and by reckoning back we find that the 15th day of the first month, the day of the departure, was the fourth day of the week. Even supposing the authors above quoted to have been as right as they were wrong in fixing the manna sabbath on the 22nd of the second month, that would fix the departure on the third day of the week. And therefore it is inconceivable how any person, who had taken the trouble of reckoning, could suppose that the departure was on what would have been the first day of the week, if it had been previously and regularly observed ; or, in other words, that the sabbath of the Israelites was fixed on that day, and observed afterwards in commemoration of their going out of Egypt. How authors, who did not take the trouble of calculating, fell into that error, I will show presently. I am bound in candour to say thus much in their defence, that it was very natural that they should suppose, that the day had been fixed in commemoration of so great and so near an event, in which they were so vitally interested. But I must expect reciprocal candour from them, and that they will acknowledge, that inasmuch as it has been proved, that the day was not fixed on the day of the week corresponding to that great, and near, and interesting event, it must either have been fixed before, or connected with a day answering to some other event, which, as being more distant, must have been proportionably greater.
Many well-meaning people, who acknowledge the original institution of the sabbath, and the coëval commandment for its observance at the time of the creation, and that it was obeyed through the patriarchal ages, yet suppose that the knowledge of it was lost during the slavery in Egypt. But I cannot subscribe to this opinion. There was only about a hundred years from the death of Joseph until the departure, and they were not reduced to slavery until some time after his death : surely this was not a sufficient lapse of time to obliterate all memory of so essential a part of their religion, when we know that the viva voce command of Joseph once given to bring out his bones with them, was so well remembered. Nay, I should think that their very slavery would have riveted their affection to their religion, and particularly to the sabbath, on which day, above all others, they must have looked for some communication of their deliverance, which they must have expected, as it was foretold to them by Joseph, at the same time that he gave them that injunction about his bones, which they did not forget. It is certain that they kept up the knowledge of the true God, and can we suppose that they forgot the day dedicated to his worship? We are told, Exod. i. 17-21, that the midwives “feared God,” more than they did the king. See also ii. 23, 24, 25; iii. 7, 9, 15, 16. That they should have forgotten that there was a sabbath, I think incredible; that they might have forgotten the precise day, is possible. But had they not the pillar of a cloud, the divine glory, constantly with them from the day of their departure, not only to guide their movements, but to instruct them in everything they ought to know or do?
We have reason to think that they rested on the very first sabbath after their departure. God did not lead them by the direct road towards the promised land by the north coast of the isthmus of Suez, next to the Mediterranean Sea, (Exod. xii. 17,) because it led through the land of the Philistines, but by the south coast by the head of the Red Sea, on the eastern side of which lay the Wilderness of Etham, stretching up to the point where Suez now stands. This point is a hundred English miles from Rameses or Cairo. They marched on the first day, the fourth of the week,—having set out at midnight, - and encamped at Succoth,—exactly one-third part of the way; and we may conclude that the other two-thirds took two days' march; and accordingly we know that they marched by day and by night until they reached it; for we read, (xiii. 21, 22,) that 6 the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light: to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night from before the people.”
It is plain, therefore, that they reached their destination 6 at Etham in the edge of the wilderness,” (20) on the very northern point of the Red Sea, in two days, that is, on the sixth day, and there they encamped and rested on the seventh day. How long they remained there I cannot determine. Pharaoh and his people must have waited at least until the first part of the process of embalming their firstborn, and mourning for them, was over : the whole process took forty days. Gen. l. 2, 3. The Israelites encamped on the sixth day of the week, at the distance of a hundred miles. Some days must have elapsed before the news of their being encamped there reached Pharaoh ; and some days after before he could reach them. When he did approach them, they moved a part of a day's journey down the west side of the sea; and when they crossed they came to the same Wilderness of Etham at the other side, on the edge of which they had previously been encamped. I have been particular in describing this journey, to show the impossibility of fixing the day of the passage, to show that it is impossible for those, who supposed that they passed on the seventh day, to prove it by calculation.
The error that they came out of Egypt on the seventh day,—corresponding with the subsequent sabbaths,--is very