« PreviousContinue »
"Non nobis, tantas componere lites."*
"And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days." Gen. 1. 3.
The author here mentions two numbers, forty and seventy: the latter, doubtless, including the former as a part of it The meaning, in the judgment of the best writers, is that the whole period of the mourning embraced seventy days, of which the process of embalming occupied forty; and with this, the statements both of Herodotus and Diodorus may be reconciled.
Mourning for the dead, among the Egyptians, and especially when the deceased was of high rank, was a very solemn ceremony. Herodotus says, "with respect to their funerals and ceremonies of mourning; whenever a man of any importance dies, the females of his family, disfiguring their heads and faces with dirt, leave the corpse in the house, run publicly about, accompanied by their female relations, with their garments in disorder; their breasts exposed, and beating themselves severely: the men, on their parts, do the same." Diodorus says: "If any one dies among them, all his relatives and friends cover their heads with mud, and go about the streets with loud lamentations, until the body is buried. In the meantime, they neither use baths, nor even take wine, or any other than common food; they also do not put on beautiful garments." On the previous page, may be seen the representation of a solemn act of mourning, copied from the monuments.
* On this subject of embalming, see Wilkinson, Vol. V. chap. xvi.
We must not here omit a seemingly slight circumstance, but really important, as indicating a very familiar acquaintance on the part of the author of the Pentateuch with Egyptian usages. He has written, "And when the days of his [Israel's] mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying," &c. Gen. 1. 4. It will hardly be suspected that in writing these words, the author supposed he was furnishing incidental testimony to his own truth, when it should be called in question at a future day; and yet it is such testimony. Why did not Joseph go in person to Pharaoh to speak for himself, as we have seen he did on the occasion of his father's and brothers' arrival in Egypt? Herodotus, speaking of the customs of Egypt, tells us that "it is elsewhere customary, in case of death, for those who are most nearly affected to cut off their hair in testimony of sorrow; but the Egyptians, who, at other times, have their heads closely shorn, suffer the hair on this occasion to grow on both head and chin." Joseph was now mourning, consequently his hair and beard were both apparent, and in that condition, he knew that Egyptian etiquette and propriety did not allow of his appearance before the sovereign. He could not now shave, as he did when summoned from the prison.
10. Joseph died, and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
The particular mention of a coffin seems here to imply a distinction. Coffins have never been much used in the East, though royal personages have sometimes been put in stone sarcophagi. Coffins, however, were more common in Egypt than elsewhere; but still the common people were, for the most part, obliged to dispense with them, and were merely swathed in wrappers with bandages. The original word used here (aron) denotes that the coffin was of wood; and we know that sometimes persons of wealth and distinction had two, three, or even four: one within the other. Herodotus particularly describes the Egyptian coffin; and those found, we believe, have generally been of sycamore.
It has been objected, that the writer of the sacred history proves himself to have been ignorant of Egyptian usages, because he makes the body of Joseph to be deposited in a coffin; and it is said that one of his rank would have occupied a sarcophagus of stone. The very fact of his being put in a coffin of wood confirms the story; for such were in general use, while those of stone were appropriated to royal personages. Beside, it must not be forgotten that the body of Joseph was to be transported from Egypt, and this circumstance alone would have indicated the propriety of placing his remains in a coffin of wood.
After the death of Joseph, sixty-five years elapsed before the birth of Moses, according to the chronology of Dr. Hales. The author of the Pentateuch distinctly informs us that during this interval all the sons of Jacob, and the men of their generation, had died; and toward the latter part of the interval above named, the fact meets us that "there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." This is a particular of Egyptian history, in the explanation of which confusion has arisen, from the fabrication of the pretended Manetho about the leprous Israelites under Moses, and their recall of the shepherd kings, to which we have already adverted. Some have thought that the monarch of this new dynasty was the first sovereign furnished on the re-intrusion of the pastoral invaders. In opposition to this opinion, we arc met by the fact that these shepherds are represented by Manetho (the only authority for the return of the shepherds at all,) as coming back on the invitation of the Israelites; the shepherds, therefore, were not likely to become their oppressors. But further, according to Manetho, the Israelites were not oppressed during this supposed second period of pastoral sway, but, in conjunction with the shepherds, were themselves the oppressors. The document of Manetho on this subject, therefore, can only be made intelligible by interpreting it to mean exactly the contrary of what it says; and of course is not entitled to the least respect as historical authority. We therefore reject as spurious the whole paragraph from Manetho giving the story of the return of the shepherds on the invitation of "the lepers."
As far as our investigations have enabled us to discover, the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt began to reign about sixty years after Joseph's death, and the first king was Thothmes, Tethmosis or Amosis, or Ames or Amos, for in all these various modes has it been written. The chronological coincidence would, therefore, suggest that he was the king who "knew not Joseph." By this expression we understand, not that he was ignorant of the past history of Joseph, but that he was not so deeply impressed as the last dynasty had been with a sense of the services Joseph had rendered to the state; and therefore not equally disposed to acknowledge the claims of the Israelites upon the Egyptian government. But why was this? Because he was from the distant province of Thebes, knew nothing personally of the Hebrews, and, with the usual haughty arrogance of Egyptian monarchs, probably viewed them with the contempt and suspicion that attached to foreigners, and, as we have seen, especially to shepherds. Sir Gardner Wilkinson has made a suggestion on this subject, well worthy of consideration. He thinks that the Jews, who had come in under the pressure of a famine, had asked and obtained a grant from the Egyptian authorities, on condition of the performance of certain services by them and their descendants. This is rather corroborated by the fact that some of them were agriculturists, while others were shepherds; for we read that, beside their labor "in mortar and brick," they were also employed "in all manner of service in