Even more insistent than the constant struggle for food and water were the dangers that came from the hostile tribes which already occupied this much-contested territory. For the possession of the springs and pasture lands they fought with the energy and craft that characterize the Bedouin tribes to-day. Hence, to the Hebrews, fresh from the fertile fields of Egypt, their life in the wilderness represented constant hardship, privation, suffering and danger.
INFLUENCE OV THE NOMADIC LIFE UPON ISRAEL’S CHARACTER AND IDEALS.
The wilderness left a stamp upon Hebrew character and life that may be traced even to-day in the later descendants of that race. It tightened their muscles and gave them that physical virility which has enabled them to survive even amidst the most unfavorable conditions. It taught them how to subsist on the most meagre food supply and to thrive where the citizen of a more prosperous land would inevitably starve.
It is probable that in their early nomadic experiences the Hebrews acquired those migratory habits which, intensified by unwonted vicissitudes, have carried them to almost every civilized land. In the wilderness they also learned the art of nomadic warfare which, to win victories, depended not so much upon open attack as upon strategy. The common dangers of the wilderness life tightened the racial and religious bonds that held them together. Only by the closest union could they resist the perils that beset them. Upon the complete devotion of each man to the interest of the tribe hung his fate, as well as that of the community as a whole. Hence arose that devotion to race, that readiness to avenge every wrong and to protect each individual, even if it cost the life-blood of the tribe, which is illustrated in many of the stories that come from this early period. How far has this racial characteristic survived?