336 PICTURESQUE PALESTLNE.
Jehovah was King of kings, and Israel his people. But to-day there is a pitiful reaction. The
King has yielded to Jezebel, and the prophet, the " representative of Jehovah's personal claims
on Israel/' * must retire before the qualms of the near-sighted politician. He had propounded
the proposition that where Jehovah is worshipped no other god can be acknowledged in any
sense. The maintenance of such a proposition, or the introduction of it into the affairs of State
and into the intercourse of Israel with foreign nations, meant political isolation, because
friendship and alliance with other peoples was impossible if their gods were proscribed in
Samaria and the royal cities. Ahab, the Israelite, had, Elijah was certain, some drops of die
blood of Abraham in him. He aspired, may be, to act the role of Solomon—but there was
not yet extinguished in his heart a feeling of awe at the majesty of Jehovah, and of pride
in the unique position which the people brought up by Jehovah out of the land of Egypt
were destined to occupy. What might he not have achieved, if, now under Elijah's tutelage,
he had shaken off the thrall of the Syrian Jezebel ? Overwhelmed, then, at the very moment
of the triumph of Jehovah's cause, the prophet seeks in hot haste an asylum on the extreme
boundaries of Judah.
But there he was not safe! From a passage in Amos (v. 5, and viii. 14) we are led to
infer that at Beersheba, as at Dan, Bethel, and Gilgal, there were idolatrous shrines, with the
almost necessary concomitance of heathen licentiousness. Such a place would not long tolerate
the presence of Jehovah's prophet, fresh from the execution of the priests of Baal. If no
rumour had already reached Beersheba of what had happened on Mount Carmel, there would
be the inquisitive inquiry (just as there would be to-day) on the part of the townsmen into the
business of the prophet and his servant. So Elijah, leaving his servant behind him, goes on
farther, into the Negeb. In point of time Jebel Serbal or Jebel Musa would be equidistant
from the prophet as he starts on his journey in the strength of the miraculous food, while the
difficulty of the route to be followed to either mountain would be the same. Arrived within
reach of them, the solitariness of Jebel Musa would attract the fugitive. Even supposing the
mines at Magharah at this data to have been disused,f and that the Magharah district was
denuded of Egyptian soldiers and their captives, we have no right to strip the fertile Wady
Feiran of inhabitants. Repeopling the peninsula then, and trying to conjure up its life in the
times when Ahab was king of northern Israel, one would have to regard Jebel Musa as more
withdrawn from the noise and bustle of the little world than Serbal. To " the Mount of
God " Elijah is led by the Spirit. On the " Mountain of God " the children of Israel, according
to God's promise, had worshipped Him. The situation and circumstance of Jebel Musa afford
a suitable locality for Moses' and Elijah's critical interviews with Jehovah. Do not its
physical features mark it out as specially adapted for the gathering together of a great multitude
convened for a religious service ?
* Robertson Smith's " Prophets of Israel."
f As we have said, the latest of the inscriptions as yet found at Sarabit el Khadim have the date of Ramses IV. of the Twentieth ynas
B.C. 1200—1166. But the Assyrian Sargon, in B.C. 711, after the conquest of Asdud, made a tour of the mining districts and visited the copp
mine of Baalzephon—by which is meant probably Sarabit el Khadim.