,) I I •
the word " ground which has been drained and left dry " suggests not mountains only, but
the plains or valleys surrounding them. As mountain names of daily Bedawin use " Sinai "
and " Horeb " have disappeared ; nor do we trace any vestige of the words, unless we may
argue that Jebel 'Aribeh, on the other side of the convent valley, has some etymological affinity
with Horeb, and that Jebel Sona, the conspicuous mountain which rises over against Ras
Sufsafeh, and commands a view of both the plain Er Rahah and the Wady es Sheikh, recalls ■
legitimately the word Sinai. To some it seems probable that the name Horeb has been
introduced by a later writer into Exodus xvii., if not into Exodus iii. as well. For such process
of difficulty-climbing there may be an insufficiency of evidence to go upon. Better, therefore,
to adhere to the assumption that the whole of this portion of the desert was known at first as
Horeb, and that the name was attached subsequently to the mountain alone.
But this encampment at Rephidim is famous not only for the miraculous supply of water
from the rock, but also because the Israelites here first saw war. " Then came Amalek and
fought with Israel in Rephidim" (Exodus xvii. 8). Something of the nature of the warfare
adopted by the mighty desert tribe is told us in the fragment which occurs at the end of
Deut. xxv. The Amalekites met Israel by the way. Like the Afghans in the fatal Khyber
Pass, they hovered round them, and untiringly harassed the hindmost of them, the feeble ones
of that great multitude, so faint and so weary. The scenery and characteristics of the valley
give a meaning to the attack of the Amalekites. Feiran is to-day the Paradise of the Bedawin.
What the oasis of Ammon is in the western desert of the Nile, .so is Feiran in the Sinaitic
peninsula. Quite marvellous is its beauty, for the stream is perennial, being fed by the waters
collected on the northern and eastern sides of Jebel Musa, and drawn off by Wady es Sheikh
into Wady Feiran. The tamarisks, the palm-trees, the. nebbuk-trees, the tall reeds by the side
of the running brook, the sound of the singing of birds, the life of growing things—and all this
made more conspicuous by the desert which has been one's home so many days ! As now
there is a sacred tomb for the Bedawin devotees, and some approach to a permanent settlement
with enclosed gardens and plantations, so in those ancient days for the Amalekites this must
have been a centre of their tribal existence, and not improbably a sanctuary of their gods.
Scouts had told them then of the strange moving mass coming out of Egypt, not as captives to
toil in the mines, but with all the pride of a victorious people laden with rich spoil glittering
in gold and silver and jewel. The cry " To arms!" had echoed through the hills. From out
the valleys, such aswe have seen running up beneath the southern side of Serbal, from the
plains of the northern plateau of the Tih, the tribesmen had flocked in towards Feirans oasis,
in order to protect the most prized of all the districts of their mountain territory.
And these Amalekites! it is very noticeable with how lengthy a period in the Bible
story they are connected. • They are like an " evil genius " to the early life of the people of
God. Whence came they ? are they met with in the annals of other nations ? Herr Brugsch,
in his account of the Hyksos kings of Egypt,* tells us of an ancient tradition preserved
* Brugsch's " Egypt of the Pharaohs," vol. i. p. 266.