Exodus 16:1
And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.
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(1) They took their journey from Elim. The stay at Elim was probably for some days. “Sin” was reached exactly one month after the departure from Egypt, yet there had been only five camping-places between Sin and Rameses, and one journey of three days through a wilderness (Exodus 15:22). Long rests are thus clearly indicated, and probably occurred at Ayun Musa, at Marah, and at Elim. The places named were the head-quarters of the camp on each occasion, but the entire host must have always covered a vast tract, and the flocks and herds must have been driven into all the neighbouring valleys where there was pasture. Wadys Useit, Ethal, and Tayibeh are likely to have been occupied at the same time with Wady Ghurundel.

All the congregation . . . came unto the wilderness of Sin.—“All the congregation” could only be united in certain favourable positions, where there happened to be a large open space. Such an open space is offered by the tract now called El Markha, which extends from north to south a distance of twenty miles, and is from three to four miles wide in its more northern half. To reach this tract, the Israelites must have descended by Wady Useit or Wady Tayibeh to the coast near Ras Abu Zenimeh, and have then continued along the coast until they crossed the twenty-ninth parallel. This line of march is indicated in Numbers 33:10-11, where we are told that “they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red Sea; and they removed from the Red Sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin.”

Exodus 16:1. Came into the wilderness of Sin — Not immediately, for there is another stage of their journey by the Red sea, mentioned Numbers 33:10, (in which chapter, it appears, Moses designedly set down all their stations,) but omitted here, because nothing remarkable happened in it.

This was a great wilderness between the Red sea and mount Sinai, different and far distant from that Zin mentioned Numbers 20:1, which was near the land of Edom.16:1-12 The provisions of Israel, brought from Egypt, were spent by the middle of the second month, and they murmured. It is no new thing for the greatest kindness to be basely represented as the greatest injuries. They so far undervalue their deliverance, that they wished they had died in Egypt; and by the hand of the Lord, that is, by the plagues which cut off the Egyptians. We cannot suppose they had plenty in Egypt, nor could they fear dying for want in the wilderness, while they had flocks and herds: none talk more absurdly than murmurers. When we begin to fret, we ought to consider, that God hears all our murmurings. God promises a speedy and constant supply. He tried whether they would trust him, and rest satisfied with the bread of the day in its day. Thus he tried if they would serve him, and it appeared how ungrateful they were. When God plagued the Egyptians, it was to make them know he was their Lord; when he provided for the Israelites, it was to make them know he was their God.The the wilderness of Sin - The desert tract, called Debbet er Ramleh, extend nearly across the peninsula from the Wady Nasb in a south-easterly direction, between the limestone district of Et Tih and the granite of Sinai. The journey from the station at Elim, or even from that on the Red Sea, could be performed in a day: at that time the route was kept in good condition by the Egyptians. CHAPTER 16

Ex 16:1-36. Murmurs for Want of Bread.

1. they took their journey from Elim—where they had remained several days.

came unto the wilderness of Sin—It appears from Nu 32:1-42, that several stations are omitted in this historical notice of the journey. This passage represents the Israelites as advanced into the great plain, which, beginning near El-Murkah, extends with a greater or less breadth to almost the extremity of the peninsula. In its broadest part northward of Tur it is called El-Kaa, which is probably the desert of Sin [Robinson].The children of Israel sojourn in the wilderness of Sin, Exodus 16:1; murmur against Moses, Exodus 16:2,3. God promises to supply their wants with bread from heaven, Exodus 16:4; and directs about preparing this bread, Exodus 16:5. Moses reproves the people for murmuring, Exodus 16:7,8; appoints them to come before the Lord, Exodus 16:9. God’s glory appeareth in the cloud, Exodus 16:10. He sendeth quails, Exodus 16:13, and manna, Exodus 16:14,15. Every one gather a quantity, Exodus 16:16-18. The command about keeping it, Exodus 16:19, is disobeyed, Exodus 16:20. The time of gathering, Exodus 16:21. Their increasing the quantity on the sixth day, Exodus 16:22-24. The command concerning the sabbath, Exodus 16:25,26, disobeyed, Exodus 16:27; for which God is angry, Exodus 16:28. Moses’ s counsel, Exodus 16:29. They rest, Exodus 16:30. The name of the bread, Exodus 16:31. The command concerning the preservation of the manna, Exodus 16:32,33. The time of the manna’s continuance, Exodus 16:35.

BC 1491

They came not immediately

to the wilderness of Sin; for there is another stage of theirs by the Red Sea, mentioned Numbers 33:10, (in which chapter Moses designed exactly to set down all their stations,) but omitted here, because nothing remarkable happened in it; and Moses in this place designed to record only the memorable passages. The wilderness of Sin was a great wilderness between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai, but differing from that Zin mentioned Numbers 20:1.

And they took their journey from Elim,.... And came again to the Red sea, as appears from Numbers 33:10 perhaps to some bay or creek of it, which ran up from it, and lay in their way, and where for a short time they encamped to look at it, and recollect what had been done for them in bringing them through it; but as their stay here was short, and nothing of any importance or consequence happened, it is here omitted, and their next station is only observed:

and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which still bears the same name, as a late traveller (a) informs us, who passed through it, and says, we traversed these plains in nine hours, being all the way diverted with the sight of a variety of lizards and vipers, that are here in great numbers; and elsewhere (b) he says, that vipers, especially in the wilderness of Sin which might very properly be called "the inheritance of dragons", were very dangerous and troublesome, not only our camels, but the Arabs who attended them, running every moment the risk of being bitten. The Red sea, or the bay of it, they came to from Elim, according to Bunting (c) was six miles, and from thence to the wilderness of Sin, sixteen more. This is a different wilderness from that of Zin, which is written with a different letter, Numbers 20:1 and was on the other side of Mount Sinai, as this was the way to it, as follows:

which is between Elim and Sinai according to the above writer (d), it was twenty miles from Elim the Israelites travelled, and forty more ere they came to Sinai. Dr. Shaw (e) says, after traversing the plains in nine hours, we were near twelve hours in passing the many windings and difficult ways which lie beteen those deserts and these of Sinai; the latter consists of a beautiful plain more than a league in breadth, and nearly three in length:

on the fifteenth day of the second month, after their departing out of the land of Egypt; the month Ijar, as the Targum of Jonathan, which answers to part of April and part of May, and has its name from the beauty of the flowers, which appear at this time of the year: the Israelites were now come from thence a month or thirty days; for they came out the fifteenth of Abib or Nisan, and now it was the fifteenth of Ijar; and as the first day of this month, as Jarchi says, was on the first day of the week, this day must be so likewise; and yet sometimes the Jews say (f) this was a sabbath day.

(a) Shaw, p. 314. (b) lb p. 444. (c) Travels, p. 82. (d) Ib. (e) Travels, p. 314. (f) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 87. 2.

And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of {a} Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

(a) This is the eighth place in which they had camped, there is another place called Zin, which was the 33rd place in which they camped, and is also called Kadesh, Nu 33:36.

1. the congregation] P’s standing expression (Exodus 12:3). So v. 2 &c.

the wilderness of Sin] Exodus 17:1, Numbers 33:11-12†. In Numbers 33:10 the people are said to have halted, between Elim and the wilderness of Sin, at the Red Sea. Accepting the oasis in W. Gharandel as Elim (on Exodus 15:27), the ‘Red Sea’ station can hardly have been anywhere but at or near the mouth of Wâdy Ṭaiyibeh,—perhaps in the littoral plain of el-Murkheiyeh, just beyond it. There is no passage along the coast from W. Gharandel to W. Ṭaiyibeh, the abrupt projecting cliffs of the lofty Jebel Ḥammam Far‘un (‘Mountain of Pharaoh’s Bath,’—1570 feet) effectually stopping it: the Israelites, if they came in this direction, must have retraced their steps up the W. Gharandel to the point where (see on Exodus 15:26) W. Hawwârah enters it (Ordn. Surv. 75, 76), and then have turned to the right for 12 miles over the desert uplands at the back of J. Ḥammam Far‘un, till they arrived at the top of W. Shebeikeh (the ‘Wâdy of network’), by which they could descend, ‘through an amazing labyrinth of chalky hillocks and ridges,’ to the head of W. Ṭaiyibeh, and so pass straight down to the coast—in all 21 miles (O.S. 156). In W. Ṭaiyibeh, a little above its mouth, there are a few brackish springs, with some stunted palms growing near them (O.S. 81).

From the mouth of W. Ṭaiyibeh there are two principal routes to Jebel Serbâl and Jebel Mûsâ—one, the northern route, back up to the head of W. Ṭaiyibeh again (4 miles), then to the right along the W. Ḥamr (18 miles), to the long upland plain called Debbet er-Ramleh (the ‘Plain of sand’), and thence through a succession of mountain valleys to either J. Mûsâ or J. Serbâl; the other, the coast route, on to the broad flinty plain of el-Markhâ, and then, either leaving this plain on the E., up the Seiḥ Sidreh, and afterwards along the W. Mukatteb into the Wâdy Feiran, or else keeping along the coast for 7 miles beyond the SE. end of el-Markhâ, and there ascending the W. Feiran from its mouth,—in either case, the W. Feiran leading on to both Serbâl and J. Mûsâ. Knob., followed by Keil and Canon Cook, advocated the former of these routes, supposing the ‘wilderness of Sin’ to be the Debbet er-Ramleh. But, if the Israelites were already on the ‘Red Sea’ (Numbers 33:10), at the mouth of W. Ṭaiyibeh or beyond, the latter is much the more natural route for them to have followed (so Rob. i. 73, 120; and the members of the Ordnance Survey Expedition): in this case el-Markhâ will be the wilderness of Sin. But it must be admitted that neither Debbet er-Ramleh nor el-Markhâ is at all naturally described, as a glance at the map will shew, as ‘between’ Elim and Sinai, at least if Elim be in the W. Gharandel.Verses 1-3. - THE FIRST MURMURING FOR FOOD. From Elim, or the fertile tract extending from Wady Ghurnndel to Wady Tayibeh, the Israelites, after a time, removed, and ca-camped (as we learn from Numbers 33:10) by the Red Sea, probably along the narrow coast tract extending from the mouth of Tayibeh to the entrance upon the broad plain of El Markha. Hence they entered upon "the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai" - a tract identified by some with the coast plain, El Markha, by others with the inland undulating region known at the present day as the Debbet-er-Ramleh It is difficult to decide between these two views. In favour of El Markha are:

1. The fact that the Egyptian settlements in the Sinaitic peninsula would thus be avoided, as they seem to have been, since no contest with Egyptians is recorded;

2. The descent of the quails, who, wearied with a long flight over the Red Sea, would naturally settle as soon as they reached the shore;

3. The greater openness and facility of the El Markha and Wady Feiran route, which is admitted by all; and

4. The suitability of the latter to the particulars of the narrative in ch. 18. In favour of the route by the Debbet-er-Ramleh are,

1. The fact that it is better watered at present than the other;

2. Its being somewhat less removed from the direct line between Wady Ghurundel and Sinai than El Markha; and

3. A certain correspondency of sound or meaning between some of the present geographical names along this route and those of the Mosaic narrative. In "the wilderness of Sin" the Israelites for the first time found themselves in want of sufficient nourishment. They hall consumed the grain which they had brought with them out of Egypt; and though no doubt they had still considerable flocks and herds, yet they were unaccustomed to a mere milk and flesh diet, having in Egypt lived principally upon bread (ver. 3), fish (Numbers 11:5), and vegetables (ibid.). They therefore "murmured," and accused Moses and Aaron of an intention to starve them. It is quite possible that many of the poorer sorts having brought with them no cattle, or lost their cattle by the way, and not being helped by their brethren, were in actual danger of starvation. Hence God was not angry, but "heard their murmurings" (ver. 9) patiently, and relieved them. Verse 1. - They journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation came. It has been noted (Cook) that the form of expression seems to imply that the Israelites proceeded in detachments from Elim, and were first assembled as a complete host when they reached the wilderness of Sin." This accords well with their numbers and with the character of the localities. They could only assemble all together when they reached some considerable plain. Between Elim and Sinai. This expression must be regarded as vague to some extent. On the direct line, as the crow flies, there is no "wilderness" (midbar) between Wady Ghurundel and Sinai. All is mountain and valley. All that the writer means is that "the wilderness of Sin" lay upon the ordinary, or at any rate an ordinary route between Elim and the great mountain. This is equally true of El Markha and the Debbet-er-Ramleh. On the fifteenth day of the second month - i.e., on the 15th of Zif, exactly one month after their departure from Egypt. As only seven camping places are mentioned (Numbers 33:5-11), and one journey of three days through a wilderness (Exodus 15:22), it is evident that there must either have been long stays in several places, or that they must have often encamped in places which had no name. Viewed as an itinerary, the record is manifestly incomplete. Exodus 15:22-24

Leaving the Red Sea, they went into the desert of Shur. This name is given to the tract of desert which separates Egypt from Palestine, and also from the more elevated parts of the desert of Arabia, and stretches from the Mediterranean to the head of the Arabian Gulf or Red Sea, and thence along the eastern shore of the sea to the neighbourhood of the Wady Gharandel. In Numbers 33:8 it is called the desert of Etham, from the town of Etham, which stood upon the border (see Exodus 13:20). The spot where the Israelites encamped after crossing the sea, and sang praises to the Lord for their gracious deliverance, is supposed to have been the present Ayun Musa (the springs of Moses), the only green spot in the northern part of this desolate tract of desert, where water could be obtained. At the present time there are several springs there, which yield a dark, brackish, though drinkable water, and a few stunted palms; and even till a very recent date country houses have been built and gardens laid out there by the richer inhabitants of Suez. From this point the Israelites went three days without finding water, till they came to Marah, where there was water, but so bitter that they could not drink it. The first spot on the road from Ayun Musa to Sinai where water can be found, is in the well of Howra, 33 English miles from the former. It is now a basin of 6 or 8 feet in diameter, with two feet of water in it, but so disagreeably bitter and salt, that the Bedouins consider it the worst water in the whole neighbourhood (Robinson, i. 96). The distance from Ayun Musa and the quality of the water both favour the identity of Howra and Marah. A whole people, travelling with children, cattle, and baggage, could not accomplish the distance in less than three days, and there is no other water on the road from Ayum Musa to Howra. Hence, from the time of Burckhardt, who was the first to rediscover the well, Howra has been regarded as the Marah of the Israelites. In the Wady Amara, a barren valley two hours to the north of Howra, where Ewald looked for it, there is not water to be found; and in the Wady Gharandel, two hours to the south, to which Lepsius assigned it, the quality of the water does not agree with our account.

(Note: The small quantity of water at Howra, "which is hardly sufficient for a few hundred men, to say nothing of so large an army as the Israelites formed" (Seetzen), is no proof that Howra and Marah are not identical. For the spring, which is now sanded up, may have flowed more copiously at one time, when it was kept in better order. Its present neglected state is the cause of the scarcity.)

It is true that no trace of the name has been preserved; but it seems to have been given to the place by the Israelites simply on account of the bitterness of the water. This furnished the people with an inducement to murmur against Moses (Exodus 15:24). They had probably taken a supply of water from Ayum Musa for the three days' march into the desert. But this store was now exhausted; and, as Luther says, "when the supply fails, our faith is soon gone." Thus even Israel forgot the many proofs of the grace of God, which it had received already.

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