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in return. In fact, some modern travellers state that they have seen them actually eat their heads.
Not the least singular part of their strange calling is their sleight of hand. They will change the Haje, the species of serpent which they use for this trick, into a seeming rod, and compel it to feign the rigidity of death. To perform this, they spit in its throat, compel it to shut its mouth, and lay it down upon the ground. Then, they lay their hand on its head, and immediately the serpent, stiff and motionless, falls into a kind of torpor. When they wish, they rouse it by seizing it by the tail and roughly rubbing it between their hands. To this Du Bois Ayme, one of the French school, bears witness.
Of this same species, which is often to be seen sculptured on the monuments, and which is the undoubted cneph or agathodoemon of the ancient Egyptians, Colonel Smith informs us that it inflates the skin of the neck into an intumefaction of that part; and the Psylli or serpent charmers, by a particular pressure on the neck, can render the inflation of the animal so intense that the serpent becomes rigid, and can be held out horizontally as if it were a staff. We may, therefore, he thinks, "infer that the magicians of Pharaoh used a real serpent for a rod—namely this species, now called Naja Haje, for their imposture; since they, no doubt, did what the present serpent charmers perform with the same species by means of a temporary asphyxiation or suspension of vitality; and producing restoration to active life, by liberating or throwing down." This statement affords us, at least, evidence of remarkable facts connected with the serpent tamers of both ancient and modern Egypt, sufficient to show that the story we have in the Pentateuch is in harmony with an existing state of things in the time of Moses. Jannes and Jambres, who, as we elsewhere learn from Jewish traditions, are supposed to be those who, on this occasion, withstood Moses, may have been but expert jugglers: but it is of very little importance to inquire by which of their many tricks they accomplished their seeming miracle. The real miracle consists in this, that Moses' rod was truly changed into a serpent, and then devoured theirs. The object was to show the power of the true God, and whatever seeming imitations the magicians might furnish, it is remarkable that in the three first signs Moses gave of his mission, that power was proved. Thus here Moses' rod swallows up theirs; they also seemingly changed, on a limited scale, water into blood, but they cannot do, as Moses does, convert it again into water; so, too, they brought up frogs on the land, but they could not, like Moses, free the land from them. It is also to be noted that the author of the Pentateuch does not pretend to speak with certainty on the origin or nature of the acts performed by the magicians. He commits himself to no opinion by calling them either jugglery, or miracles performed by God's permission under Satanic influences; but contents himself with a simple statement of the facts, without entering into an explanation of them. The only issue, therefore, that is here made, is as to the fact itself. Those who deny it are bound to produce some proof, not that it was unusual merely, but that it was actually impossible. We have shown that in Egypt, something, very similar to it at least, might have seemingly been done by these magicians; and that, in the absence of all proof to the contrary, is quite sufficient to show that Egypt, in this particular, has revealed nothing to contradict the Bible. For ourselves, we are free to admit that, while we look on all the plagues of Egypt as miraculous displays of Divine power, we hope to show that so far as natural phenomena are involved in them, nothing that we know of that ancient land, will be found, but what harmonizes with the Scripture narration.
The first Plague—the change of Water into Blood.
The change here indicated, it is supposed, and that not without sufficient reason, (gathered from other and analogous passages,) does not imply any thing more than a change to a blood-red color. It is a very common form of Hebrew speech to express similarity by identity.
Those who are anxious to find an explanation of the plagues of Egypt, in mere natural and ordinary events of that country, are peculiarly unfortunate with this one.
1. It is said, and truly, that the waters of the Nile during one period of their increase become of a brownish red color, owing probably to the earth washed down from Abyssinia, and that the discoloration here spoken of arises from that cause.
The first and most obvious answer to this is; that, on this supposition, it is not, easy to understand why the Egyptians should have been either surprised or intimidated by so familiar an occurrence.
But further: a part of the phenomenon, according to the Bible, is thus recorded: "The river shall stink, and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river." It could not then have been the ordinary discoloration of a common overflow; for, in such case, the water does not cease to be drinkable. "During the continuance of my journey," (says Sonnini,) "I, with my companions, had no other drink than the unmingled water of the Nile. We drank it without any one of us experiencing inconvenience, at all seasons of the year, even when the inundation so fills it with slime that it is thick and reddish, and appears truly loathsome." The fact would appear, from the accounts of travellers, to be, that, so far from its red color making it unwholesome, it is rather a sign that it is fit for use: for it is preceded by a greenish discoloration, during which it is so corrupt, tasteless, and unwholesome, that the natives confine themselves to the water which they have preserved in cisterns.
But, thirdly, this could not have been the discoloration of the usual overflow, from a consideration of the time of the occurrence. It is true, as Dr. Hales has remarked, that the season of the year is not distinctly specified; and yet there are abundant data from which it may be -ascertained with certainty. We read that at the time of these plagues, and particularly of that of hail, which followed the one we are considering, "the flax and the barley was smitten, for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled: but the wheat and the rice were not smitten; for they were not grown up." Now these statements enable us to fix the season of the year. Flax in Egypt ripens in March, when the plants are gathered; it must therefore have been "bolled," or risen in stalk in February. Barley is gathered in Egypt, according to all the accounts, one month before the wheat. The wheat harvest in Upper Egypt is in April, and in Lower Egypt in May: barley, therefore, would have been in ear in February. The season, therefore, must have been about February, when the plague of hail happened; certainly not later than that month. The change from water to blood was before the hail—probably in January; but the discoloration of the river, from the natural overflow, does not take place until months after February, and the commencement of the rise is punctual almost to a day. The only ground, therefore, on which this can be considered the annual, natural discoloration of the river is, that the river must have risen months before its time; and we do not see that this anticipatory rise at the command of Moses, which is the solution of Michaelis, would have been any less miraculous than the discoloration of the water.
But there is another fact stated that is conclusive. The fish died. Of such an effect as this, produced by the annual rise of the river, there is not an instance on record. Another feature, which stamps the event as no mere natural result of well-known ordinary causes, is this, that the waters are changed suddenly, not gradually, as in a rise; and, further, that the change was according to the prediction of Moses, and at the precise moment when he lifted his rod. There are also some matters of seemingly minor importance connected with this plague, which are yet testimony much too strong to be overlooked. Every man, familiar with the business of examining evidence, knows full well that sometimes the great work of eviscerating truth is accomplished by closely marking the incidental statements of a witness, having seemingly little or no connection with the principal subject. Such remarks often betray a prepared story, of which all the little minor details that ought to belong to it, if true, have not been duly studied beforehand: and so also they often show an unstudied consistency in every minute particular, because the witness is simply telling the truth, with no further or other preparation than that of drawing on his memory for facts. Now, here are some particulars in the writer of our history of precisely this description. They are brought forward with no parade, accompanied with no labored explanation to show their consistency with the chief features of the story, but mentioned casually, as if by a man who took it for granted