Pristine Grace

Ex 15:22-27, (GILL)
22  So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea,.... Or "caused them to journey" [a], which some think was done with difficulty, they being so eager and intent upon the spoil and plunder of the Egyptians cast upon the sea shore, the harness of their horses being, as Jarchi observes, ornamented with gold and silver, and precious stones; or as others, they had some inclination to return to Egypt, and take possession of the country for themselves; the inhabitants of it, at least its military force, being destroyed, and their armour in their possession; but the truer meaning of the word is, that Moses, as their general, gave them the word of command to march, and till they had it they stayed at the Red sea refreshing themselves, taking the spoils of the enemy, and singing the praises of God; but when Moses gave them orders to set forward, they proceeded on their journey:

and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; the same with the wilderness of Etham, as appears from Nu 33:8 there might be, as Aben Ezra conjectures, two cities in or near this wilderness, of those two names, from whence it might be called: for, as Doctor Shaw says [b], Shur was a particular district of the wilderness of Etham, fronting the valley (of Baideah), from which, he supposes, the children of Israel departed: and Doctor Pocock says [c] that the wilderness of Shur might be the fourth part of the wilderness of Etham, for about six hours from the springs of Moses (where, according to the tradition of the country, the children of Israel landed, being directly over against Clysma or Pihahiroth) is a winter torrent, called Sedur (or Sdur), and there is a hill higher than the rest, called Kala Sedur (the fortress of Sedur), and from which this wilderness might have its name: and by another traveller [d] this wilderness is called the wilderness of Sedur: and now it was the wilderness of Etham they were in before they went into the Red sea, which has induced some to believe that they came out on the same shore again; for the solution of which difficultySee Gill on "Ex 14:22",

and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water; which must be very distressing to such a vast number of people and cattle, in a hot, sandy, desert: this doubtless gave occasion to the stories told by Heathen authors, as Tacitus [e], and others, that the people of the Jews, under the conduct of Moses, were near perishing for want of water, when, following a flock of wild asses, which led them to a rock covered with a grove of trees, they found large fountains of water: the three days they travelled here were the twenty second, third and fourth, of Nisan, in the beginning of April.

[a] eoyw "et fecit proficisci", Pagninus & Montanus, Drusius; "jussit proficisci", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. [b] Travels. p. 312. [c] Travels, p. 156. [d] Journal from Cairo, &c. p. 13. [e] Hist. l. 5. c. 3.

23  And when they came to Marah,.... A place in the wilderness, afterwards so called from the quality of the waters found here; wherefore this name is by anticipation:

they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; and they must be very bitter for people in such circumstances, having been without water for three days, not to be able to drink of them: some have thought these to be the bitter fountains Pliny [f] speaks of, somewhere between the Nile and the Red sea, but these were in the desert of Arabia; more probably they were near, and of the same kind with those that Diodorus Siculus [g] makes mention of, who, speaking of the Troglodytes that inhabited near the Red sea, and in the wilderness, observes, that from the city Arsinoe, as you go along the shores of the continent on the right hand, there are several rivers that gush out of the rocks into the sea, of a bitter taste: and so Strabo [h] speaks of a foss or ditch, which runs out into the Red sea and Arabian gulf, and by the city Arsinoe, and flows through those lakes which are called bitter; and that those which were of old time bitter, being made a foss and mixed with the river, are changed, and now produce good fish, and abound with water fowl: but what some late travellers have discovered seems to be nearer the truth: Doctor Shaw [i] thinks these waters may be properly fixed at Corondel, where there is a small rill, which, unless it be diluted by the dews and rain, still continues to be brackish: another traveller [k] tells us that, at the foot of the mountain of Hamam-El-Faron, a small but most delightful valley, a place called Garondu, in the bottom of the vale, is a rivulet that comes from the afore mentioned mountain, the water of which is tolerably good, and in sufficient plenty, but is however not free from being somewhat bitter, though it is very clear: Doctor Pocock says there is a mountain known to this day by the name of Le-Marah; and toward the sea is a salt well called Bithammer, which is probably the same here called Marah: this Le-Marah, he says, is sixteen hours south of the springs of Moses; that is, forty miles from the landing place of the children of Israel; from whence to the end of the wilderness were six hours' travelling, or about fifteen miles; which were their three days' travel in the wilderness, and from thence two hours' travel, which were five miles, to a winter torrent called Ouarden; where, it may be supposed, Moses encamped and refreshed his people, and from thence went on to Marsh, about the distance of eight hours, or twenty miles southward from the torrent of Ouarden:

therefore the name of it is called Marah; from the bitterness of the waters, which the word Marah signifies; see Ru 1:20.

[f] Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 29. [g] Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 172. [h] Geograph. l. 17. p. 553. [i] Travels, p. 314. [k] A Journal from Grand Cairo to Mount Sinai, A. D. 1722, p. 14, 15.

24  And the people murmured against Moses,.... For bringing them into a wilderness where they could find no water fit to drink; saying:

what shall we drink? what shall we do for drink? where can we drink? this water is not drinkable, and, unless we have something to drink, we, and our wives, and children, and servants, and cattle, must all perish.

25  And he cried unto the Lord,.... Or prayed, as all the Targums, that God would appear for them, and relieve them in their distress, or, humanly speaking, they must all perish: happy it is to have a God to go to in time of trouble, whose hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that he cannot hear! Moses knew the power of God, and trusted in his faithfulness to make good the promises to him, and the people, that he would bring them to the land he had swore to give them:

and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet; what this tree was is not known; if it was in its own nature sweet, as the author of Ecclesiasticus seems to intimate, when he says, in chapter 38:5 "was not the water made sweet with the wood, that its virtue might be known?" Yet a single tree could never of itself sweeten a flow of water, and such a quantity as was sufficient for so large a number of men and cattle; and therefore, be it what it will, it must be owing to a miraculous operation that the waters were made sweet by it: but the Hebrew writers say the tree was bitter itself, and therefore the miracle was the greater: Gorionides [l] says it was wormwood; and both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call it the bitter tree, Ardiphne, which Cohen de Lara [m] makes to be the same which botanists call Rhododaphne or rose laurel, and which, he says, bears flowers like lilies, which are exceeding bitter, and are poison to cattle; and so says Baal Aruch [n]; and much the same has Elias Levita [o]: and this agrees well enough with the mystical and spiritual application that may be made of this; whether these bitter waters are considered as an emblem of the bitter curses of the law, for that bitter thing sin, which makes work for bitter repentance; and for which the law writes bitter things against the sinner, which, if not prevented, would issue in the bitterness of death; so that a sensible sinner can have nothing to do with it, nor can it yield him any peace or comfort: but Christ, the tree of life, being made under the law, and immersed in sufferings, the penalty of it, and made a curse, the law is fulfilled, the curse and wrath of God removed, the sinner can look upon it with pleasure and obey it with delight: or whether these may be thought to represent the afflictions of God's people, comparable to water for their multitude, and for their overflowing and overwhelming nature, and to bitter ones, being grievous to the flesh; especially when God hides his face and they are thought to be in wrath: but these are sweetened through the presence of Christ, the shedding abroad of his love in the heart, the gracious promises he makes and applies, and especially through his bitter sufferings and death, and the fruits and effects thereof, which support, refresh, and cheer, see Heb 12:2,

there he made a statute and an ordinance: not that he gave them at this time any particular law or precept, whether moral or ceremonial, such as the laws of keeping the sabbath and honouring of parents, which the Targum of Jonathan mentions [p]; and to which Jarchi adds that concerning the red heifer: but he gave them a general instruction and order concerning their future behaviour; that if they hearkened to his commandments, and yielded obedience to them, it would be well with them, if not they must expect to be chastised and afflicted by him, as is observed in the following verse, to which this refers:

and there he proved them; the people of Israel; by these waters being first bitter and then sweetened, whereby he gave them a proof and specimen how it would be with them hereafter; that if they behaved ill they must expect the bitter waters of affliction, but, if otherwise, pleasant and good things: or, "there he proved him" [q]; Moses, his obedience and faith, by ordering him to cast in the tree he showed him; but the former sense seems best to agree with what follows.

[l] Heb. Hist l. 6. c. 38. p. 742. [m] Ir. David, p. 21. [n] Fol. 51. 3. [o] In Methurgeman, fol. 9. 2. [p] So T. Bab. Sanhedrin. fol. 56. 2. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 5. p. 17. [q] whon "tentavit eum", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius, V. L. Tigurine version; "prebavit eum", Vatablus; "tentavit ipsum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

26  And said, if thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God,.... By this and the following words, they are prepared to expect a body of laws to be given unto them, as the rule of their future conduct; and though they were delivered from the rigorous laws, bondage, and oppression of the Egyptians, yet they were not to be without law to God, their King, Lord, and Governor, whose voice they were to hearken to in all things he should direct them in:

and wilt do that which is right in his sight; which he shall see and order as fit to be done, and which was not to be disputed and contradicted by them:

and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes; whether moral, ceremonial, or judicial, even all that either had been made known to them, or should be hereafter enjoined them; and this at Mount Sinai, where they received a body of laws, they promised to do; namely, both to hear and to obey, Ex 24:3.

I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians; in any of the plagues inflicted on them, which they were witnesses of; from these they should be preserved, if obedient, but if not they must expect them, or what was similar to them, see De 28:27,

for I am the Lord that healeth thee; both in body and soul; in body, by preserving from diseases, and by curing them when afflicted with them; and in soul, by pardoning their iniquities, which, in Scripture, is sometimes signified by healing, see Ps 103:3.

27  And they came to Elim,.... On the twenty fifth of Nisan; for, according to Aben Ezra, they stayed but one day at Marah. Elim, as a late traveller [r] says, was upon the northern skirts of the desert of Sin, two leagues from Tor, and near thirty from Corondel; according to Bunting [s] it was eight miles from Marah:

where were twelve wells of water, and seventy palm trees; and so a very convenient, commodious, and comfortable place to abide at for a time, since here was plenty of water for themselves and cattle, and shady trees to sit under by turns; for as for the fruit of them, that was not ripe at this time of the year, as Aben Ezra observes. Thevenot [t] seems to confound the waters here with the waters of Marah; for he says, the garden of the monks of Tor is the place which in holy Scripture is called Elim, where were sventy palm trees and twelve wells of bitter water; these wells, adds he, are still in being, being near one another, and most of them within the precinct of the garden, the rest are pretty near; they are all hot, and are returned again to their first bitterness; for I tasted says he, of one of them, where people bathe themselves, which by the Arabs is called Hammam Mouse, i.e. the "bath of Moses"; it is in a little dark cave: there is nothing in that garden but abundance of palm trees, which yield some rent to the monks, but the seventy old palm trees are not there now. This does not agree with an observation of the afore mentioned Jewish writer, that palm trees will not flourish in the ground where the waters are bitter; though they delight in watery places, as Pliny [u] says; and yet Leo Africanus [w] asserts, that in Numidia the dates (the fruit of palm trees) are best in a time of drought. A later traveller [x] tells us, he saw no more than nine of the twelve wells that are mentioned by Moses, the other three being filled up by those drifts of sand which are common in Arabia; yet this loss is amply made up by the great increase in the palm trees, the seventy having propagated themselves into more than 2000; under the shade of these trees is the Hammam Mouse, or "bath of Moses", particularly so called, which the inhabitants of Tor have in great veneration, acquainting us that it was here where the household of Moses was encamped. Dr. Pocock takes Elim to be the same with Corondel; about four hours or ten miles south of Marah, he says, is the winter torrent of Corondel in a very narrow valley, full of tamarisk trees, where there is tolerable water about half a mile west of the road; beyond this, he says, about half an hour, or little more than a mile, is a winter torrent called Dieh-Salmeh; and about an hour or two further, i.e. about three or four miles, is the valley or torrent of Wousset, where there are several springs of water that are a little salt; and he thinks that one of them, but rather Corondel, is Elim, because it is said afterwards,

they removed from Elim, and encamped at the Red sea; and the way to Corondel, to go to the valley of Baharum, is part of it near the sea, where he was informed there was good water, and so probably the Israelites encamped there; and Dr. Clayton [y] is of the same mind, induced by the argument he uses: a certain traveller [z], in the beginning of the sixteenth century, tells us, that indeed the wells remain unto this day, but that there is not one palm tree, only some few low shrubs; but he could never have been at the right place, or must say a falsehood, since later travellers, who are to be depended upon, say the reverse, as the above quotations show. As to the mystical application of this passage, the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem make the twelve fountains answerable to the twelve tribes of Israel, and seventy palm trees to the seventy elders of the sanhedrim; and so Jarchi: and more evangelically the twelve fountains of water may denote the abundance of grace in Christ, in whom are the wells of salvation, and the sufficiency of it for all his people; and which the doctrine of the Gospel, delivered by his twelve apostles, discovers and reveals, and leads and directs souls unto; and the seventy palm trees may lead us to think of the seventy disciples sent out by Christ, and all other ministers of the word, who for their uprightness, fruitfulness, and usefulness, may be compared to palm trees, as good men in Scripture are, see Ps 92:12,

and they encamped there by the waters; where they stayed, as Aben Ezra thinks, twenty days, since, in the first verse of the following chapter, they are said to come to the wilderness of Sin on the fifteenth day of the second month; here being everything agreeable to them for the refreshment of themselves and cattle, they pitched their tents and abode a while; as it is right in a spiritual sense for the people of God to abide by his word and ordinances.

[r] Shaw, ut supra. (Travels, p. 314.) [s] Travels, p. 82. [t] Travels into the Levant, B. 2. ch. 26. p. 166. [u] Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 4. [w] Descriptio Africae, l. 1. p. 82. [x] Dr. Shaw, ut supra. ([r]) [y] Chronolgy of the Hebrew Bible, p. 296, 297. [z] Baumgarten. Peregrinatio, l. 1. c. 21. p. 44.

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