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Polygamy was not common, though concubines were
allowed. In the upper classes women were treated Habits of the
with great respect, and were regarded as the equals peop e "

42 Egypt and the Pharaohs. [Chap. iy.

of men. They ruled their households. The rich were hos-
pitable, and delighted to give feasts, at which were dancers
and musicians. They possessed chariots and horses, and
were indolent and pleasure-seeking. The poor people toiled,
with scanty clothing and poor fare.

Hieroglyphic writing prevailed from a remote antiquity.
Literary The papyrus was also used for hieratic writing,
and numerous papyri have been discovered, which
show some advance in literature. Astronomy was cultivated
by the priests, and was carried to the highest point it could
attain without modern instruments. Geometry also reached
considerable perfection. Mechanics must have been carried
to a great extent, when we remember that vast blocks of
stone were transported 500 miles and elevated to enormous
heights. Chemistry was made subservient to many arts,
such as the working of metals and the tempering of steel.
But architecture was the great art in which the Egyptians
excelled, as we infer from the ruins of temples and palaces ;
and these wonderful fabrics were ornamented with paintings
which have preserved their color to this day. Architecture
was massive, grand, and imposing. Magical arts were in
high estimation, and chiefly exercised by the priests. The
industrial arts reached great excellence, especially in the
weaving of linen, pottery, and household furniture. The
Egyptians were great musicians, using harps, flutes, cym-
bals, and drums. They were also great gardeners. In their
dress they were simple, frugal in diet, though given to occa-
sional excess ; fond of war, but not cruel like the Assyrians ;
hospitable among themselves, shy of strangers, patriotic in
feeling, and contemplative in character.



When Joseph was sold by the Midianites to Potiphar,
Egypt was probably ruled by the Shepherd kings, potiphar and
who were called Pharaoh, like all the other
kings, by the Jewish writers. Pitiphar (Pet-Pha, dedi-
cated to the sun) was probably the second person in the king-
dom. Joseph, the Hebrew slave, found favor in his sight,
and was gradually promoted to the oversight of his great
household. Cast into prison, from the intrigues of Potiphar's
wife, whose disgraceful overtures he had virtuously and
honorably rejected, he found favor with the keeper of the
prison, who intrusted him with the sole care of the prison-
ers, although himself a prisoner, — a striking proof of his
transparent virtue. In process of time two other high
officers of the king, having offended him, were cast into the
same prison. They had strange dreams. Joseph inter-
preted them, indicating the speedy return of the one to
favor, and of the other to as sudden an execution. These
things came to pass. After two years the king himself had
a singular dream, and none of the professional magicians or
priests of Egypt could interpret it. It then occurred to the
chief butler that Joseph, w T hom he had forgotten and ne-
glected, could interpret the royal dream which troubled him.
He told the king of his own dream in prison, and the ex-
planation of it by the Hebrew slave. Whereupon Joseph
was sent for, shaven and washed, and clothed with clean
raiment to appear in the royal palace, and he interpreted the
king's dream, which not only led to his promotion Elevation of
to be governor over Egypt, with the State chariots Joseph -

44 The Jews to the Conquest of Canaan. [Chap. y.

for his use, and all the emblems of sovereignty about his
person — a viceroy whose power was limited only by that
of the king — but he was also instrumental in rescuing Egypt
from the evils of that terrible famine which for seven years
afflicted Western Asia. He was then thirty years of age,
1715 B.C., and his elevation had been earned by the noblest
qualities — fidelity to his trusts, patience, and high principle —
all of which had doubtless been recounted to the king.

The course which Joseph pursued toward the Egyptians
His rule as was a PP aren tly hard. The hoarded grain of seven
Viceroy. years' unexampled plenty was at first sold to the
famishing people, and when they had no longer money to
buy it, it was only obtained by the surrender of their cattle,
and then by the alienation of their land, so that the king
became possessed of all the property of the realm, personal
as well as real, except that of the priests. But he surren-
dered the land back again to the people subsequently, on
condition of the payment of one-fifth of the produce an-
nually (which remained to the time of Moses) — a large tax,
but not so great as was exacted of the peasantry of France
by their feudal and royal lords. This proceeding un-
doubtedly strengthened the power of the Shepherd kings,
and prevented insurrections.

The severity of the famine compels the brothers of Joseph
The famine to see k corn in Egypt. Their arrival of course,
in Egypt. j g known to the governor, who has unlimited rule.
They appear before him, and bowed themselves before him,
as was predicted by Joseph's dreams. But clothed in the
vesture of princes, with a gold chain around his neck, and
surrounded by the pomp of power, they did not know
him, while he knows them. He speaks to them, through
an interpreter, harshly and proudly, accuses them of
being spies, obtains all the information he wanted, and
learns that his father and Benjamin are alive. He even
imprisons them for three days. He releases them on the
condition that they verify their statement ; as a proof of
which, he demands the appearance of Benjamin himself.

Chap, y.j Joseph, Governor of Egypt. 45

They return to Canaan with their sacks filled with corn, and
the money which they had brought to purchase it, secretly
restored, leaving Simeon as surety for the appearance of
Benjamin. To this Jacob will not assent. But starvation
drives them again to Egypt, the next year, and Jacob, re-
luctantly is compelled to allow Benjamin to go with them.
The unexpected feast which Joseph made for them, sitting
himself at another table — the greater portions Benjamin
given to Benjamin, the deception played upon brothers.
them by the secretion of Joseph's silver cup in Ben-
jamin's sack, as if he were a thief, the distress of all the
sons of Jacob, the eloquent pleadings- of Judah, the re-
strained tears of Joseph, the discovery of himself to them,
the generosity of Pharaoh, the return of Jacob's children
laden not only with corn but presents, the final migration
of the whole family, to the land of Goshen, in the royal
chariots, and the consummation of Joseph's triumphs, and
happiness of Jacob — all these facts and incidents are told by
Moses in the most fascinating and affecting narra- Moses as an
tive ^ver penned by man. It is absolutely trans- historian,
cendent, showing not only the highest dramatic skill, but re-
vealing the Providence of God — that overruling power
which causes good to come from evil, which is the most im-
pressive lesson of all history, in every age. That single epi-
sode is worth more to civilization than all the glories of
ancient Eg}^pt ; nor is there any thing in the history of the
ancient monarchies so valuable to all generations as the
record by Moses of the early relations between God and his
chosen people. And that is the reason why I propose to give
them, in this work, their proper place, even if it be not after
the fashion with historians. The supposed familiarity with
Jewish history ought not to preclude the narration of these
great events, and the substitution for them of the less im-
portant and obscure annals of the Pagans.

Joseph remained the favored viceroy of Egypt until he
died, having the supreme satisfaction of seeing the prosperity
of his father's house, and their rapid increase in the land of

46 The Jews to the Conquest of Canaan. [Chap. V.

Goshen, on the eastern frontier of the Delta of the Nile, —
Prospen- a land favorable for herds and flocks. The capital
Hebrews. of this district was On — afterward Heliopolis, the
sacred City of the Sun, a place with which Joseph was
especially connected by his marriage with the daughter of
the high priest of On. Separated from the Egyptians by
their position as shepherds, the children of Jacob retained
their patriarchal constitution. In 215 years, they became
exceedingly numerous, but were doomed, on the change of
dynasty which placed Ramesis on the throne, to oppressive
labors. Joseph died at the age of 110 — eighty years after he
had become governor of Egypt. In his latter years the
change in the Egyptian dynasty took place. The oppression
of his people lasted eighty years ; and this was consummated
by the cruel edict which doomed to death the infants of
Their subse- Israel; made, probably, in fear and jealousy from

quent mis- . . „ , _ ., _

eries. the rapid increase of the Israelites. I he great

crimes of our world, it would seem, are instigated by
these passions, rather than hatred and malignity, like the
massacre of St. Bartholomew and the atrocities of the French
lie volution.

But a deliverer was raised up by God in the person of
Moses, the greatest man in human annals, when we consider
his marvelous intellectual gifts, his great work of legislation,
his heroic qualities, his moral excellence, and his executive
talents. His genius is more powerfully stamped upon civili-
zation than that of any other one man — not merely on the
Jews, but even Christian nations. He was born b. c. 1571,
sixty-four years after the death of Joseph. Hidden


in his birth, to escape the sanguinary decree of Pha-
raoh he was adopted by the daughter of the king, and taught
by the priests in all the learning of the Egyptians. He was
also a great warrior, and gained great victories over the
Ethiopians. But seeing the afflictions of his brethren, he pre-
ferred to share their lot than enjoy all the advantages
of his elevated rank in the palace of the king — an act of sebf-
renunciation unparalleled in history. Seeing an Egyptian

Chap, v.] The Slavery of the Israelites. 47

smite a Hebrew, be slew bim in a burst of indignation, and
was compelled to fly. He fled to Jethro, an Arab cbieftain,
among tbe Midianites. He was now forty years of age, in
the prime of his life, and in the full maturity of his powers.
The next forty years were devoted to a life of contemplation,
tbe best preparation for his future duties. In the most secret
places of the wilderness of Sinai, at Horeb, he communed with
God, who appeared in the burning bush, and revealed the
magnificent mission which he was destined to fulfill. He
was called to deliver his brethren from bondage ; but forty
years of quiet contemplation, while tending the flocks of
Jethro, whose daughter he married, had made him timid and
modest. God renewed the covenant made to Abraham and
Jacob, and Moses returned to Egypt to fulfill his mission.
He joined himself with Aaron, his brother, and the two went
and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel,
and after securing their confidence by signs and wonders, re-
vealed their mission.

They then went to Pharaoh, a new king, and entreated of
him permission to allow the people of Israel to go into the
wilderness and hold a feast in obedience to the command of
God. But Pharaoh said, who is the Lord that I The slavery

of the Israel-
should obey his voice. I know not the Lord — ites.

your God. The result was, the anger of the king and
the increased burdens of the Israelites, which tended to
make them indifferent to the voice of Moses, from the excess
of their anguish.

Then followed the ten plagues which afflicted the Egyp-
tians, and the obstinacy of the monarch, resolved to suffer
any evil rather than permit the Israelites to go free. But
the last plague was greater than the king could bear — the
destruction of all the first-born in his land — and he _,, .

The ten

hastily summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, plagues,
under the impulse of a mighty fear, and bade them to depart
with all their hosts and all their possessions. The Egyptians
seconded the command, anxious to be relieved from further
evils, and the Israelites, after spoiling the Egyptians, de-

48 The Jews to the Conquest of Canaan. [Chap. V.

parted in the night — " a night to be much observed" for all
generations, marching by the line of the ancient canal from
Rameses, not far from Heliopolis, toward the southern
frontier of Palestine. But Moses, instructed not to conduct
his people at once to a conflict with the warlike inhabitants
of Canaan, for which they were unprepared, having just
issued from slavery, brought them round by a sudden turn to
the south and east, upon an arm or gulf of the Red Sea. To
the eyes of the Egyptians, who repented that they had suf-
fered them to depart, and who now pursued them with a
great army, they were caught in a trap. Their niirac-
The deliver- ulous deliverance, one of the great events of

ance of the .... - . _ _

Israelites. their history, and the ruin of the Egyptian hosts,
and their three months' march and countermarch in the
wilderness need not be enlarged upon.

The exodus took place 430 years from the call of Abraham,
after a sojourn in Egypt of 215 years, the greater

The exodus. ^,-titi -i • i • i

part oi which had been passed in abject slavery
and misery. There were 600,000 men, besides women and
children and strangers.

It was during their various wanderings in the wilderness
of Sinai— forty years of discipline — that Moses gave to them
Hebrew the rules they were to observe during all their gen-
deuce, erations, until a new dispensation should come.
These form that great system of original jurisprudence that
has entered, more or less, into the codes of all nations, and
by which the genius of the lawgiver is especially manifested ;
although it is not to be forgotten he framed his laws by divine

Let us examine briefly the nature and character of these
laws. They have been ably expounded by Bishop Warbur-
ton, Prof. Wines and others.

The great fundamental principle of the Jewish code was
The prinei- to establish the doctrine of the unity of God.
Jewish code. Idolatry had crept into the religious system of all
the other nations of the world, and a degrading poly-
theism was everywhere prevalent. The Israelites had not

Chap. v.J The Worship of Jehovah. 49

probably escaped the contagion of bad example, and the
suggestions of evil powers. The most necessary truth to
impress upon the nation was the God of Abraham, and Isaac,
and Jacob. Jehovah was made the supreme headj of the
Jewish state, whom the Hebrews were required, first and last,
to recognize, and whose laws they were required to obey.
And this right to give laws to the Hebrews was deduced,
not only because he was the supreme creator and preserver,
but because he had also signally and especially laid the
foundation of the state by signs and miracles. He had
spoken to the patriarchs, he had brought them into the land
of Egypt, he had delivered them when oppi'essed. Hence,
they were to have no other gods than this God of Abraham
— this supreme, personal, benevolent God. The violation of
this fundamental law was to be attended with the severest
penalties. Hence Moses institutes the worship of the Supreme
Deity. It was indeed ritualistic, and blended with sacrifices
and ceremonies ; but the idea — the spiritual idea of God as the
supreme object of all obedience and faith, was impressed first
of all upon the minds of the Israelites, and engraven on the
tables of stone — " Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
Having established the idea and the worship of God,
Moses then instituted the various rites of the service, and
laid down the principles of civil government, as the dictation
of this Supreme Deity, under whose supreme guidance they
were to be ruled.

But before the details of the laws were given to guide the
Israelites in their civil polity, or to regulate the worship of
Jehovah, Moses, it would seem, first spake the word of God,
amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai, to the assembled
people, and delivered the ten fundamental com- The Ten
mandments which were to bind them and all sue- ments.
ceeding generations. Whether these were those which were
afterward written on the two tables of stone, or not, we do
not know. We know only that these great obligations were
declared soon after the Israelites had encamped around Sinai,
and to the whole people orally.

50 The Jews to the Conquest of Canaan. [Chap. V.

And, with these, God directed Moses more particularly to
declare also the laws relating to man-servants, and to man-
slaughter, to injury to women, to stealing, to damage, to the
treatment of strangers, to usury, to slander, to the observ-
ance of the Sabbath, to the reverence due to magistrates, and
sundry other things, Avhich seem to be included in the ten

After this, if we rightly interpret the book of Exodus,
Moses on Moses went up into the mountain of Sinai, and
Sinai. there abode forty days and forty nights, receiving

the commandments of God. Then followed the directions
respecting the ark, and the tabernacle, and the mercy-seat,
and the cherubim. And then were ordained the priesthood
of Aaron and his vestments, and the garments for Aaron's
sons, and the ceremonies which pertained to the conse-
cration of priests, and the altar of incense, and the brazen

After renewed injunctions to observe the Sabbath, Moses
„. . . , , received of the Lord the two tables of stone,

The tables of

stone. « written with the finger of God." But as he

descended the mountain with these tables, after forty days,
and came near the camp, he perceived the golden calf which
Aaron had made of the Egyptian ear-rings and jewelry, —
made to please the murmuring people, so soon did they for-
get the true God who brought them out of Egypt. And
Moses in anger, cast down the tables and brake them, and
destroyed the calf, and caused the slaughter of three thou-
sand of the people by the hands of the children of Levi.

But God forgave the iniquity and renewed the tables, and
made a new covenant with Moses, enjoining upon him the
utter destruction of the Canaanites, and the complete extirpa-
Th idol tr ^ on °^ idolatry. He again gathered together the
of the Jews, people of Israel, and renewed the injunction to ob-
serve the Sabbath, and then prepared for the building of the
tabernacle, as the Lord directed, and also for the making of
the sacred vessels and holy garments, and the various ritu-
alistic form of worship. He then established the sacrificial

Chap. V.] The Mosaic Legislature. 51

rites, consecrated Aaron and his sons as priests, laid down the
law for them in their sacred functions, and made other divers
laws for the nation, in their social and political relations.

The substance of these civil laws was the political equality
of the people ; the distribution of the public domains among
the free citizens which were to remain inalienable and perpet-
ual in the families to which they were given, thus making
absolute poverty or overgrown riches impossible; the estab-
lishment of a year of jubilee, once every fifty years, when
there should be a release of all servitude, and all debts, and
all the social inequalities which half a century produced ;
a magistracy chosen by the people, and its responsibility
to the people ; a speedy and impartial administration of
justice ; the absence of a standing army and the prohi-
bition of cavalry, thus indicating a peaceful policy, and the
preservation of political equality ; the establishment of
agricidture as the basis of national prosperity ; universal
industry, inviolability of private property, and the sacredness
of family relations. These were fundamental principles.
Moses also renewed the ISToahmic ideas of the „, .,

The Mosaic

sacredness of human life. He further instituted legislation.
rules for the education of the people, that " sons may be as
plants grown up in their youth, and daughters as corner
stones polished after the similitude of a palace." Such were
the elemental ideas of the Hebrew commonwealth, which
have entered, more or less, into all Christian civilizations. I
can not enter upon a minute detail of these primary laws.
Each of the tribes formed a separate state, and had a local
administration of justice, but all alike recognized the
theocracy as the supreme and organic law. To the tribe of
Levi were assigned the duties of the priesthood, and the
general oversight of education and the laws. The members
of this favored tribe were thus priests, lawyers, teachers, and
popular orators — a literary aristocracy devoted to the culti-
vation of the sciences. The chief magistrate of the united
tribes was not prescribed, but Moses remained the highest
magistrate until his death, when the command was given to

52 The Jews to the Conquest of Canaan. [Ciiap. v.

Joshua. Both Moses and Joshua convened the states gene-
ral, presided over their deliberations, commanded the army,
and decided all appeals in civil questions. The office of
chief magistrate was elective, and was held for life, no salary-
was attached to it, no revenues were appropriated to it, no
tribute was raised for it. The chief ruler had no outward
badges of authority ; he did not wear a diadem ; he was not
surrounded with a court. His power was great as commander
of the armies and president of the assemblies, but he did not
make laws or impose taxes. He was assisted by a body of
seventy elders — a council or senate, whose decisions, however,
were submitted to the congregation, or general body of citi-
zens, for confirmation. These senators were elected ; the office
was not hereditary ; neither was a salary attached to it.

The great congregation — or assembly of the people, in
which lay the supreme power, so far as any human power
... could be supreme in a theocracy, — was probably a
theocracy. delegated body chosen by the people in their
tribes. They were representatives of the people, acting for the
general good, without receiving instructions from their con-
stituents. It was impossible for the elders, or for Moses, to ad-
dress two million of people. They spoke to a select assembly.
It was this assembly which made or ratified the laws, and
which the executioner carried out into execution.

The oracle of Jehovah formed an essential pai't of the con-
stitution, since it was God who ruled the nation. The oracle,
in the form of a pillar of cloud, directed the wanderings of
the people in the wilderness. This appeared amid
the thunders of Sinai. This oracle decided all
final questions and difficult points of justice. It could not
be interrogated by private persons, only by the High Priest
himself, clad in his pontifical vestments, and with the sacred
insignia of his office, by " urim and thummim." Within the
most sacred recesses of the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies,
the Deity made known his will to the most sacred personage
of the nation, in order that no rash resolution of the people,
or senate, or judge might be executed. And this response,

Chap, v.] The Jewish Code. 53

given in an audible voice, was final and supreme, and not
like the Grecian oracles, venal and mendacious. This oracle
of the Hebrew God " was a wise provision to preserve a con-
tinual sense of the principal design of their constitution — to
keep the Hebrews from idolatry, and to the worship of the
only true God as their immediate protector ; and that their
security and prosperity rested upon adhering to his counsels
and commands."

The designation and institution of high priest belonged
not to the council of priests — although he was of the tribe of
Levi, but to the Senate, and received the confirmation of the
people through their deputies. " But the priests belonged
to the tribe of Levi, which was set apart to God — the king
of the commonwealth." " They were thus, not merely a
sacerdotal body, appointed to the service of the altar, but
also a temporal magistracy having important civil The p r i es t-
and political functions, especially to teach the peo- hood '
pie the laws." The high priest, as head of the hierarchy,
and supreme interpreter of the laws, had his seat in the cap-
ital of the nation, while the priests of his tribe were scattered
among the other tribes, and were hereditary. The Hebrew

Online LibraryJohn LordAnceint states and empires → online text (page 4 of 55)