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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE FALL OF MANNA

[61] IT was not long before the rejoicing of the Israelites was turned again into moaning and sorrow. For the country into which they had come was a desert or wilderness, and there was nothing for them to eat or to drink. They had indeed brought some water along with them, but this was soon exhausted; and when this was spent, they had to dig deep wells with much toil and pain, and the water they found in this way was bitter and not fit for drinking, and this in small quantities also. And late one evening they came to a place called Marah, which was so called from the badness of its water, for Mar means bitterness. Now here there was a well in which there was a great deal of water, and they had been told that it was the only well for many hundred miles around. Yet was this water bitter, and not fit for men to drink, and not only so, but it was intolerable even to the cattle.

Moses grieved greatly to see the people so cast down. For they all of them ran to him and begged of him, the men begging for the women, and the women for the infants and children, that he would find some way of delivering them from their terrible thirst. He therefore betook himself to prayer to God, that He would change the water from its present badness and make it fit for drinking. And when God had granted him that favor, he took a stick that lay at his feet and divided it in the middle. He then let it down in the well, and told the Israelites that God had listened to [62] his prayer, and would sweeten the waters in case they did what he enjoined upon them. And when they had asked him what they were to do, he bade the strongest men among them that stood there to draw up water, and told them that when the greater part was drawn up, the remainder would be fit to drink. So they labored at it till the water came up sweet and pure.

And they journeyed and came to Elim. This place looked well from a distance, for there was a grove of palm-trees there; but when they came near, the palm-trees were found to be feeble and ill-grown for want of moisture. Here the Israelites, having exhausted their provisions suffered grievously from hunger, and complained bitterly, and laid the blame upon Moses. But he came into the midst of them even while they clamored against him and had stones in their hands to kill him. And he spoke kindly to them, and reminded them of the wonderful ways in which God had helped them in the past, and told them that He would assist them also in the future. By this means he pacified the people and restrained them from stoning him, and brought them to repent of what they were going to do.

Then he went up a mountain and prayed to God for assistance, and God promised to hear him. Accordingly, a little time after there came a vast quantity of quails, and hovered over them, till, weary of their flight, they fell down upon the Israelites, who caught them and satisfied their hunger with them. And Moses thanked God for this assistance.

But presently after this first supply of food He sent them a second, for as Moses was lifting up his hands in prayer a white dew fell down from heaven. Moses, when he found it stick to his hands, guessed that this also was food sent by God, and he tasted it and found it was indeed so. Seeing the people knew not what it was, but thought it snowed, he told them this dew did not fall from heaven after the manner [63] they supposed, but was sent them for food. They tasted it and were pleased with the food, for it was like honey in sweetness and pleasant flavor, but in bigness equal to coriander-seed. And very eager they were in gathering it up. But they were told to gather up only so much as was necessary for themselves and their families for one day, because every day there would be more on the ground for them. Some, distrusting this promise, gathered up more than was necessary, but next day they found it was spoiled and had worms in it. This food supplied the want of all other foods to those that fed on it. The Israelites called it manna, which means, what it this? for they knew not what it was.

They journeyed on and came to a place called Rephidim. Here they again suffered for want of water, and again they turned their anger against Moses. He at first avoided the fury of the multitude, and then betook himself to prayer to God, beseeching Him that as He had given them food when they were in want of it, so He would give them drink now. And God did not long delay to give it to them, but promised Moses He would procure them a fountain and plenty of water, from a place whence they could not expect any. He commanded him to smite a rock that lay in front of him with his rod, and when he did so, water burst out in abundance, and it was very sweet and pure. And all the Israelites were astonished at this wonderful thing, and when they had satisfied their thirst, they gave thanks to God.


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