Before man made us citizens, great Nature made us men—Lowell.
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and
never the twain
Till earth and sky stand presently at God’s great
But there is neither East, nor West, border nor breed
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come
from the ends of the earth.
The measure of the success of our lives can only lie in the stature of our manhood, in the growth in unworldliness and in the moral elevation of our inner self.—Henry Drummond.
THE WILDERNESS ENVIRONMENT.
The accounts regarding the experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness lack the unity which characterizes the records of the earlier and later periods. They simply give occasional pictures of the life of the Hebrew fugitives. They must be interpreted in the light of the peculiar background of the wilderness and of the nomadic life which flourishes there to-day as it did in the past. The Hebrews on escaping from Egypt entered the South Country, which extends seventy miles from the rocky hills of Judah southward until it merges into the barren desert. During the later Roman period the northern and northwestern portions of this territory were partially reclaimed by agriculturalists; but in early periods, as to-day, it was pre-eminently the home of wandering, nomadic tribes. This wild, treeless region is divided by rocky ranges running from east to west. Parallel to these are deep, hot and for the most part waterless valleys. In the springtime these valleys are covered by a sparse vegetation; from a few perennial springs flow waters that irrigate the immediately surrounding land; but they soon lose themselves in the thirsty desert. During the summer the vegetation disappears almost entirely, and the struggle for subsistence becomes intense. The nature of the country makes it necessary for its inhabitants constantly to journey from one pasture land and spring to another.
The home of the Hebrews at this time, like that of the modern Arabs, was the tent. The stories that have come down from this period suggest the experiences through which they passed. The constant insistent problem in this region was and is how to secure adequate supplies of food and water. During the greater part of the year the chief food of the people is the milk and curds supplied by their herds. At times, however, these fail to meet the needs even of the modern Bedouin inhabitants of this South Country. They then gather the gum that exudes from the tamarisk tree or the lichens from the rocks. From these they make a coarse flour and bread which keeps them alive until the winter rains again bring their supply of water and pasturage. Some scholars hold that this coarse food was the manna of the Biblical accounts.