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discharging their contents on them: the other cause (as has been well explained by Le Pere in the Descript. de VEgpyte) is, that at a certain season of the year, a long-continued and steady wind, coming from the north, blows over the whole length of Egypt, as every traveller on the Nile has reason to know. This wind drives the water-clouds that are formed on the Mediterranean, and carries them toward the high lands of Abyssinia; here, the contiguity of mountains produces the usual effect, the clouds are attracted, become surcharged, and empty themselves. Now, it is very plain, that in some years rain enough might fall on the mountains of Abyssinia, independent of any clouds from the Mediterranean, to afford the Nile a sufficient supply; in which case Egypt would have abundance, though Syria and the countries adjacent to the Mediterranean might then suffer for want of the Mediterranean rains on which they entirely depend. So, also, it is equally plain that if the Mediterranean rains should from any cause be deficient, and, at the same time, less than the usual local rains of the Abyssinian Mountains should fall, both Egypt and Syria, with other adjacent countries, would simultaneously suffer from drought, and might therefore simultaneously experience famine. But whatever may be the scientific explanation of such a result, the fact stares us in the face that it has actually occurred. Now, had the author of the Pentateuch been drawing on his invention for the incidents of his story, we scarcely think his scientific knowledge would have enabled him to understand the natural causes which made such an event as a simultaneous famine possible; and he would, therefore, have framed his story to suit the fact so well known, in his day, that Egypt depended for her fertility on the river, and not on local rains; and con
sequently would not have risked the seeming improbability, to the men of that time, of a famine, as well in Egypt as out of it. Therefore, that he does relate the fact of such a famine is, to our mind at least, evidence that he did not draw on his invention.
12. Joseph entertains his brethren on their second visit to Egypt.
There is here, in the Scripture narrative, a somewhat minute enumeration of circumstances, worthy of notice. Joseph said, "Set on bread. And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians. And they sat before him:— and he took and sent messes unto them from before him; but Benjamin's mess was five times so much as any of theirs."
The refusal of the ancient Egyptians to have familiar intercourse with foreigners in eating, is fully sustained by history. Herodotus remarks on it, and assigns as one reason, that strangers ate food which the Egyptians deemed sacred. This feeling was carried very far: "Neither will any man or woman among them kiss a Grecian, nor use a knife, or spit, or any domestic utensil belonging to a Greek; nor will they cat even the flesh of such beasts as by their law are pure, if it has been cut with a Grecian knife." In setting on for Joseph "by himself," they but paid the respect due to his rank; for they doubtless considered him as one of their own people, which by naturalization he was: but not so with his brethren. The monuments show the customs in eating, and from these
it will be seen how matters, on this occasion, were probably arranged. A small table was appropriated, either to each guest singly, or to each couple of them.