Page images

Abraham's day, Lower Egypt was dry, and habitable. Facts, now existing in Egypt, would seem to show that there had been ample time for the production of such a result. The s»il of Egypt was, doubtless, originally formed in great part,. by the earth brought down by the river, from Abyssinia and the interior of Africa, and deposited during the periodical annual inundations. From the same cause, in the progress of years, it has been gradually elevated. There are towns and buildings which we know, from history, to have been originally built on mounds above the reach of ordinary inundations, that are now so much below the level of the river, that they are regularly overflowed; for it must not be forgotten that the rise in the bed of the river keeps pace with the extent of every fresh deposit on the adjacent land.

Thus, the ancient Nilometer at Elephantine, mentioned by Strabo, is still in existence. The highest measure marked on it is twenty-four cubits. At this day, the water, in its greatest elevation, rises eight feet above that mark; while an inscription on the wall, made in the third century of our era, shows that the water then rose but one foot above the twenty-four cubit, or high water mark. Here, then, is a difference of elevation of seven feet in about sixteen hundred years: i. e. of five and a quarter inches in a century; and there is independent testimony to show, that in the circumjacent soil, the rise has been in about the same proportion. There are isolated spots where, from local causes, the rise of the soil may be more or less than this, but these are occasional irregularities, not affecting the general result. Of course, as in all long rivers that form Deltas, the strata of deposit will diminish in thickness as the river approaches the sea; thus, Sir Gardner Wilkinson tells us, that "at Elephantine, the land has been raised about nine feet in seventeen hundred years, at Thebes, about seven, and so on gradually diminishing to the mouth." He also indicates the ratio of gradual diminution by the statements, that around the base of the obelisk of Osirtasen, at Heliopolis, the alluvial soil has accumulated to the height of five feet ten inches; and that around a monument—had one been erected at Elephantine, when the obelisk was reared—there would now have been an accumulation of about nineteen feet.

for instance, it is an undoubted fact, that new land successively rises and disappears at the mouths of the river, from upheavals and depressions, occasioned by subterraneous agencies. When, in 1811, New Madrid, on the Mississippi, was destroyed, and the city of Caraccas was simultaneously overthrown by the same convulsion, the effects and agitation about the mouths of the Mississippi, it is said, were such as to indicate that the locality was in the line of communication by which the mighty subterraneous agent reached from New Madrid to Caraccas.

The swell of the river varies in different parts of its channel. In Upper Egypt it is from thirty to thirty-five feet; at Cairo, it is about twenty-three feet; in the northern, or most seaward part of the Delta, it is not more than four feet. This arises, first, from the breadth of the inundation, (the waters spreading over a large extent of level formation,) and secondly, from the fact that its volume in the river is diminished by the numerous artificial channels, all over the country, into which it is conducted for purposes of irrigation; and in which channels it is retained after the river has subsided. The inhabitants of Egypt have, with great labor, cut a vast number of canals and trenches through the whole extent of the land, and the object of these is to convey the waters to spots where the inundation does not directly extend.

But there is additional evidence, adduced by Osborn, in support of the fact we are considering. Herodotus informs us that in the days of Menes, (the first of Egypt's line of human monarchs,) the Delta of the Nile was already a reclaimable marsh. Now let us inquire if there be any data on which to form an opinion as to the time it would require so to elevate the land, by means of art aiding the deposits of the river, as to render this reclaimable marsh fit for occupancy. Juvenal informs us that about 1600 years ago, the Nile emptied itself by many mouths; we now know that the deposits of the river have filled up all its mouths but two. If then 1600 years were sufficient to produce the effect of stopping all the mouths but two; and if, in Menes's day, (who was confessedly, according to the anti-Bible school of "Egyptologists," many hundreds of years before Abraham,) the Delta was then reclaimable; is it unreasonable to conclude that Lower Egypt was a dry country, and thickly inhabited when Abraham first saw it ?—We are unwilling to leave this subject without adverting to the testimony it incidentally affords to the point in proof of which Osborn originally adduced it: viz., that Menes (who we readily admit lived in a very distant period from the present) did not live, as some have informed us, about 6000 years before Christ; for had this been the case, if Herodotus and Juvenal may be credited in their statements, the Delta, instead of being in his day, a reclaimable marsh, would have been an expanse of deep sea.

But there is still another, and to our minds most conclusive proof on this subject, which shows "that the Egypt of the Bible is Egypt indeed, not a fiction, nor an imposture, nor a blunder—as writers of the Voltaire school would persuade the world—but a reality, so far as it goes, a picture copied from actual life."

If the reader will turn to the map of ancient Egypt, he will find that on that branch in the Delta, which empties by the Tanitic, or, as Herodotus terms it, the Saitic month, stands Tunis, not far from the sea. This place is known in Scripture by the name of Zoan. In Numbers xiii. 22, it is stated that "Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt." Zoan, then, we remark in passing, seems to have been proverbially ancient, as it was used as a standard of reference, to indicate the age of other cities. Now we have but to ascertain whether Hebron existed in Abraham's day. To this the answer is, that when Abraham reached Canaan, the Scriptural history tells us, he found Hebron there; and for aught that is known to the contrary, it might then have been standing for many years.

3. The kings of Egypt were then Icnown by the title, Pharaoh.

This word is sometimes used in Scripture, as if it were a proper name; and sometimes the phrase, "King of Egypt," is added to it. Sometimes, also, the real proper name, as it may be called, is added; thus we read of Pharaoh Necho, and Pharaoh Hophra. The word is written in Hebrew, Phrah, [nsic,] and different opinions have been expressed as to its origin. Josephus, in his antiquities, intimates that it is derived from the ancient Egyptian word, ouro, meaning "king;" prefixing the masculine article, in Coptic, it becomes p-ouro, "the king," or ph-ouro, whence Pharaoh. A later, and probably more correct opinion, derives it from the Egyptian word Phra, "the sun," which both Rosellini and Lepsius have remarked, is often written hieroglyphically, on the monuments, over the heads of the kings, where it is represented by the hawk and globe, or by the symbol of the sun. Sir Gardner Wilkinson thus writes: "I have frequently had occasion to notice the true meaning and purport of this name. I shall, therefore, only observe, that it is written in Hebrew, Phrah, and is taken from the Egyptian word Pke or Phre, (pronounced Phra,) signifying the sun, and represented, in hieroglyphics, by the hawk and globe, or sun, over the royal banners. It was through the well-known system of analogies that the king obtained this title, being the chief of earthly, as the sun was of heavenly bodies. But the word is not derived from, or related to ouro, "king," as Josephus supposes. Phouro is' like Pharaoh; but the name is Phrah, in Hebrew, and Pharaoh is an unwarranted corruption."

It has been suggested that the two derivations are quite reconcileable; inasmuch as it is not only possible, but highly probable, that the Egyptians, in conformity with a very common usage among modern oriental sovereigns, should make the name of the sun a royal title, and that thence, custom "should make it equivalent to the word "king." But, at present, our business is with the fact that, in Abraham's day, the monarch of Egypt was known by the title of Pharaoh; and that the monuments clearly show that it was the generic term applied to all the native sovereigns of Egypt. As far as the Bible conveys any information on the subject, it tells exactly the same story. We leave this point here, for the present, as we shall have occasion to resume it on a future page.

4. Domestic servitude then existed in Egypt.

Pharaoh gave to Abraham men-servants and maid-servants, according to our history. Had Egypt at that day household slaves? It is difficult, in tracing the history of slavery, to say when it did not exist. We meet with it in the

« PreviousContinue »