And when they came to Marah
A place in the wilderness, afterwards so called from the quality of the waters found here; wherefore this name is by anticipation:
they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter;
and they must be very bitter for people in such circumstances, having been without water for three days, not to be able to drink of them: some have thought these to be the bitter fountains Pliny F6 speaks of, somewhere between the Nile and the Red sea, but these were in the desert of Arabia; more probably they were near, and of the same kind with those that Diodorus Siculus F7 makes mention of, who, speaking of the Troglodytes that inhabited near the Red sea, and in the wilderness, observes, that from the city Arsinoe, as you go along the shores of the continent on the right hand, there are several rivers that gush out of the rocks into the sea, of a bitter taste: and so Strabo F8 speaks of a foss or ditch, which runs out into the Red sea and Arabian gulf, and by the city Arsinoe, and flows through those lakes which are called bitter; and that those which were of old time bitter, being made a foss and mixed with the river, are changed, and now produce good fish, and abound with water fowl: but what some late travellers have discovered seems to be nearer the truth: Doctor Shaw F9 thinks these waters may be properly fixed at Corondel, where there is a small rill, which, unless it be diluted by the dews and rain, still continues to be brackish: another traveller F11 tells us that, at the foot of the mountain of Hamam-El-Faron, a small but most delightful valley, a place called Garondu, in the bottom of the vale, is a rivulet that comes from the afore mentioned mountain, the water of which is tolerably good, and in sufficient plenty, but is however not free from being somewhat bitter, though it is very clear: Doctor Pocock says there is a mountain known to this day by the name of Le-Marah; and toward the sea is a salt well called Bithammer, which is probably the same here called Marah: this Le-Marah, he says, is sixteen hours south of the springs of Moses; that is, forty miles from the landing place of the children of Israel; from whence to the end of the wilderness were six hours' travelling, or about fifteen miles; which were their three days' travel in the wilderness, and from thence two hours' travel, which were five miles, to a winter torrent called Ouarden; where, it may be supposed, Moses encamped and refreshed his people, and from thence went on to Marsh, about the distance of eight hours, or twenty miles southward from the torrent of Ouarden:
therefore the name of it is called Marah;
from the bitterness of the waters, which the word Marah signifies; see ( Ruth 1:20 ) .
F6 Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 29.
F7 Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 172.
F8 Geograph. l. 17. p. 553.
F9 Travels, p. 314.
F11 A Journal from Grand Cairo to Mount Sinai, A. D. 1722, p. 14, 15.