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ETHAM, AND THE CITY BOUTHAM.
MANY of the places taken notice of in holy writ are described in aftertimes by different authors : but there is one place mentioned in the Mosaic account of the march of the Israelites, which nobody has taken notice of, but Herodotus : this is, according to our version, 'Etham, on the edge of the wilderness; called Boutous, and Boutoun by the Greek historian. There was a city of this name in lower Egypt, famous for its religious conventions and festivals, and for a particular reverence shewn to a poisonous species of mole. But the city, I am now treating of, was in Arabia, at some distance from the Nile, and in the way towards the Red Sea. Near this city was a very remarkable spot of ground, which Herodotus had the curiosity to visit. He went to inquire about the reality of the flying serpents, with which this place was supposed at times to swarm. And he says, that he was witness to the truth of the report; and saw the exuvia of
them in great heaps, both the bones, and the scales, in quantity beyond conception. And this place, he tells us, where the scales lay in such abundance, was a narrow pass between two hills, that afforded an outlet into a great plain, which reached to the plain of Egypt ; that is, to the top of Delta. And the history of it was this; that the winged serpents came early in the spring to this pass, in their flight from Arabia towards Egypt : but that the birds, called the Ibis, intercepted them at these streights, and prevented their proceeding any farther, by intirely destroying them. ' Εσι δε χωρος της Αραβιης κατα Βετεν πολιν μαλισα κη κειμενος και ες τετο το χωριον ηλθον πυνθανομενος περι των πτερωτων, οφιων απικoμενος δε ειδον οσεα οφιων, και ακανθας. πληθεί μεν αδυνατα απηγησασθαι» σωροι δε ησαν ακανθεων και μεγαλοι, και υποδεεςεροι, και ελασσονες ετι τετων. Πολλοι δε ησαν ουτοι" εςι δε ο χωρος δυτος, εν τω αι ακανθαι κατακεχυαται, τοιοσδε τις. Εσβολη εξ ουρεων σειναν ες πεδιον μεγα" το δε πεδιον τετο συναστει τω Αιγυπτια πεδιω. Λογος δε εσι, αμα το εαρι πτερωτους οφις εκ της Αραβιης πετεσθαι εσ’ Αιγυπτε. Τας δε Ιβις, τας ορνιθας, απαντωσας ες την εσβολην ταυτης της χωρης ου παριεναι τας οφις, αλλα κατακτεινειν. The spot here spoken of was the second place of encampment, when the Israelites departed from Egypt. It was the Etham of the Scripture, according to our ver„sion : but seems by the Egyptians to have been
2 Herod. lib. 2. pag. 238. edit. Wesselin.
called Otham. Hence in the translation of the Seventy it is so rendered: 3 Εξαραντες δε οι υιοι Ισραηλ εκ £oxqwt, E5Patonederoav sv OIwpe. The city is mentioned by Herodotus to have been situated near a narrow pass; and like many other cities, which I have before treated of, was denominated from this circumstance, Be Otham, contracted Boutham: and so it is rendered in another part of the same translation; + Και αααραντες εκ Σοκχωθ, παρενεβαλον εις Βαθαν, ό εςι μερος τι της ερημε. This is the Boutous and Bouton (BxTxv) of Herodotus ; situated in Arabia beneath the mountain, and in the sandy plain, which extended from thence to Egypt.
3 Exod. 13. v, 20.