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tunate man; and not even the personal interference of the king himself, nor the dread of the Roman power, could save his life.
The animals which the Israelites would offer in sacrifice, were the oxen, the cow, the sheep, and the goat. All were sacred in Egypt; and though the oxen might sometimes be sacrificed, yet it was not every ox that might be made the victim. It was necessary that the beast, before he was slain, should be closely examined by a priest, to see that he was free from certain marks; the presence of which would have made him sacred, and unfit for a victim. Herodotus tells us, that only a red ox could be offered; one single black hair would cause it to be set aside. Cows were all consecrated to Athor, and could not on any account be sacrificed. The sheep was sacred in the locality of the transaction we are considering, and so was the goat. What Moses meant, therefore, probably was, that the Egyptians would have risen in a body, and in their religious frenzy would have massacred the Israelites, had they attempted to offer their sacrifices in Egypt.
Hengstenberg very ingeniously reasons to prove, that the offence of the Israelites in sacrificing would have consisted in their entire disregard of what, among the Egyptians, was a point of great religious importance, viz., the cleanness of the animal offered. Herodotus says: "They are not allowed to sacrifice any animals, except those that are clean among them;" and hence Moses says: "Lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?" From this he infers, that the animals alluded to by Moses in the word "abomination," could not be consecrated among the Egyptians; for the word would then have been inapplicable: but that what is meant by "abomination," is unclean animals, inasmuch as the Israelites would not look to see if a black hair could be found on a red ox, before they would sacrifice it. On either view, the danger to Moses and the Israelites would be the same.
Fifth Plague—the Destruction of the Animals.
The destruction, it was declared should be on the horses, the asses, the camels, the oxen, and the sheep. It is perhaps here worthy of note that horses, and that without any accompanying remark, are assigned the first place. It furnishes an item to be added to the general and incidental evidences of probability. The destruction of the horse, from its value and extensive use in Egypt, would be likely to be deemed the crowning calamity in any injury to the domestic animals. We know not enough of the diseases of animals in Egypt, to say whether at any time they are visited by a general desolation. The French "Description" informs us, that a murrain sometimes is very general and fatal among the horned cattle; compelling the inhabitants to supply their losses from Syria, and the islands of the Archipelago.
We must not omit here to notice the positive testimony of our author, to the existence of the camel in Egypt. We have touched on this point in our remarks upon the gifts made by Pharaoh to Abraham. It was supposed by the French literati, that the figure of the camel was nowhere to be found on the monuments. Even had this been true, it would not have established the falsehood of our history; for we have no right to assume, that the sculptures and paintings embrace or were meant to embrace, the whole circle of Egyptian zoology. But, as we have already mentioned, it is not true. The head and long necks of these animals are repeated several times, two by two, upon the obelisks at Luxor, when they were discovered by Minutoli. Regnier suggests, that even if they were wanting, it might reasonably be explained on the ground that, however useful the animal, it was associated so closely with the idea of the detested nomade shepherds, that it would not be permitted to appear in Egypt's sacred places. The animal certainly was in common use among the nomade tribes on the borders of Egypt, and was indispensable in the neighboring deserts, from the earliest period of which we have any evidence; and as a communication for trade, or other purposes, was kept up between Egypt and her wandering neighbors, from our earliest knowledge of her history; it is scarce possible that the camel should not, in a greater or less degree, have been found in the valley of the Nile.
The sixth Plagued—the Boils.
This visited both man and beast "throughout all the land of Egypt." It touched even the scrupulously clean magicians or priests, and they seem to have retired from further rivalry. Differences of opinion exist among the learned as to what is meant by boils. It is of the less importance that we should state them, because there is nothing connected with the history of this visitation, that falls within our purpose of illustrating Scripture truth by Egyptian testimony.
The seventh Plague—the Thunder, and Hail, and Fire.
By fire is here meant lightning; and such a tempest as is here described would have been terrific any where, even in the tropics; but in Egypt, such a visitation, as her meteorology shows, would have been more alarming than in any other country; more particularly, when the adjacent province of Goshen was seen to be untouched. It is not wonderful, therefore, that this calamity made the deepest impression upon the stubborn nature of Pharaoh.
In the account of this plague, there are some noteworthy references to facts such as are found in Egypt. Thus, Moses warns Pharaoh: "Send therefore, now, and gather thy cattle and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die." The cattle, then, were in the field at that time, not in the stall. With this other accounts agree. According to the "Description," the cattle get green food (in the fields) four months in the year; the rest of the time they are stall-fed. Niebuhr tells us what months these four are: "In the months January, February, March, and April, the cattle graze, whereas during the remaining months they must be supplied with dry fodder." The transaction we are considering occurred in March.
We have (in fixing the time for the plagues) already adverted to another fact recorded in the history of this visitation. "The flax and the barley was smitten; for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was boiled. But the wheat and the rye were not smitten, for they were not grown up." This exactly agrees with the state of the crops in Egypt at this day, at the time of the year here indicated. Dr. Richardson, in his "Travels," speaking of March, (the early part of it,) says: "The barley and flax are now far advanced; the former j in the ear and the latter is boiled, and it seems to be about this season of the year that God brought the plague of thunder and hail upon the Egyptians, to punish the guilty Pharaoh, who had hardened his presumptuous heart against the miracles of Omnipotence." We learn, too, from Sonnini, that barley comes to maturity in Egypt about a month before wheat. Wheat and rye mature there about the same time. Flax and barley are generally ripe in March, wheat and rye in April. It was the same in former times: Theophrastus and Pliny both tell us that there was a month's difference in the harvesting of barley and wheat.
The eighth Plague—the Locusts.
The succession of calamities with which Egypt had been visited seem at length to have roused the people to expostulation. "Knowest thou not yet that Egypt is ruined?" was the emphatic question with which they accompanied their advice that Israel might be permitted to depart. It is not to be doubted, that the great contest so obviously going on between the power of Jehovah, and the proud obstinacy of Pharaoh, had by this time effectually roused the close attention of all, both of Egypt and Israel. All stood waiting with interest the result. The labors of the oppressed descendants of Abraham had probably ceased; and congregated in Goshen, (for there only could they be exempt from God's fearful manifestations of his might,) they began to believe that God was working deliverance for them by the agency of his prophet; and looking at the gathering dismay of the Egyptians, they gladly hoped that the time of their deliverance had indeed come.
Pharaoh, moved doubtless by the unequivocal manifestations of feeling on the part of his own people, summons Moses and Aaron to his presence, to yield a reluctant assent to the exode of the men only of Israel. The spirited answer of