334 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
followed Moses.* The movement of the pilgrim caravan on the yearly journey to Mecca is
always a marvel, but this does not usually number more than a small fraction of the "armies"
of the Israelites who came up out of Egypt. Men, women, and children— the old and infirm,
the young and the sickly— all have to be reckoned in with this host. Then, too, the imagination
must conjure up, not a country of vast rolling plains or steppes, but a mountainous district, full
of narrow winding valleys with steep precipitous sides.
There is a third point to be considered when the claims of the two mountains are beino-
examined, viz., What is the capability of either for the encampment of the Israelites, and also
for the giving of the Law, under the conditions of the Bible narrative ? It must be remembered
that it was in the second month of the second year that the camp was broken up at Sinai
(Numbers x. 11), and that then commenced the direct march to the Promised Land, which was
destined to end so miserably in the punishment of the long years of wandering in the wilderness
of the Tih. For such a prolonged halt, during which the ritual of worship and the orderly
government of the people was laid down and adopted, a roomy camping-ground, it may be
supposed, would be indispensable. This is found in the immediate neighbourhood of Jebel
Musa, but not in the valleys of the Serbal district. The great plain of Er Rahah, in front of
Jebel Musa, was carefully measured at the time of the Ordnance Survey by Captain Palmer,
and his measurements proved that " the space extending from the base of the mountain
(i.e. from the foot of the bluff Ras Sufsafeh) to the watershed or crest of the plain is large
enough to have accommodated the entire host of the Israelites, estimated at two million souls,
with an allowance of about a square yard for each individual." x^t the watershed the breadth is
about nine hundred yards. From here to the foot of Ras Sufsafeh the distance is about one mile
and a third, while the northern slope of the plain is about two-thirds of a mile in length. Apart,
however, from the commodiousness of Er Rahah for an encampment, its gradual slope to Jebel
Musa, and the grand view which is always had of the mountain rising at once out of the plain
—not in gentle slopes, nor in steep gradations, but abrupt and precipitous — forces one to
recognise the superior claim of the block of mountains which is bounded by Jebel Musa—the
highest point—at its southern or south-eastern extremity, and by Ras Sufsafeh at its northern
end, to be the scene of the giving of the Law.
As to the narrative of Jethro's visit to Moses, in Exodus xviii, with its several references
to the Mount of God, we may with reason suppose that it may not be in its proper historical
position. The visit would not have been made until it was known that the Israelites had
permanently encamped; and unless we argue that Jethro had been waiting in the neighbourhood
for some time, it is not likely that he would move from Midian into the territory of the
Amalekites before certain news had reached him of their defeat and enforced withdrawal from
Feiran and the neighbouring valleys. The chapter is very complete in itself, and in no wise
suffers from being removed to a position in time subsequent to the giving of the Law, w iei
Moses and the people were busy in preparing the tabernacle, ark, &c, &c. The Jethro episo
* The Israelites had waggons even with them : cf. Numbers vii. 3.