Charles Foster Kent.

The Making of a Nation The Beginnings of Israel's History online

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opportunity. Especially was this true during the reigns of the
powerful despots of the eighteenth dynasty, when the relations
between Egypt and Palestine were exceedingly close. Thus, for
example, according to contemporary records, during the reign of the
great reformer king, Amenhotep IV, several Semites rose to
positions of great authority. A certain Dudu (David) was one of
the most trusted officials of this king. He is addressed by one of
the Egyptian governors as "My lord, my father." Another Semite
named Yanhamu not only had control of the storehouses of grain in
the eastern part of the Nile Delta, but also directed the Egyptian
rule of Palestine. The local governors of Palestine refer to him
in terms which suggest that his authority was almost equal to that
of Pharaoh himself. This was perhaps the Joseph of the Biblical

Is there any evidence that Joseph complained because of the
injustice of his brothers? By loyal attention to his duties he
made himself indispensable to his Egyptian master. A great
temptation came to him in the new home. What influences led him to
resist this temptation? Analyze his probable motives in detail.

The great injustice which he suffered and the seeming misfortune
proved in turn a new door of opportunity, but this would not have
been the case had not Joseph forgotten his own personal wrongs and
given himself to the service of his fellow-prisoners. Was the
prosperity which generally attended Joseph a miraculous gift or the
natural consequences of his courageous, helpful spirit and his
skill in making the best of every situation?

In modern life as in the ancient story, the place usually seeks the
man who is fitted to fill it. The ever recurring complaint of
employers is the scarcity of good men, especially of men able to
exercise discretion in positions of responsibility. Was it
Joseph's skill in interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, or his wise
counsel in suggesting methods of providing for the people during
famine that gave him his position of high trust and authority? Was
the policy which made Pharaoh practical owner of all the land first
instituted by Joseph, or was it already in force in Egypt? (_Hist.
Bible_, I, 133.) In the thought of the prophetic narrative, was
Joseph's fiscal system regarded as evidence of his loyalty to his
master rather than of disloyalty to the interests of the people?
Was the system suited to that stage and kind of civilization? Can
this be cited by Socialists to-day as a valid argument in favor of
public ownership of all land? If not, why not?

Three principles, illustrated by Joseph's life, are true to all
time: (1) The only successful way to forget one's own burdens is to
help bear another's; (2) God makes all things work together for
good to those that love him; (3) he alone who improves the small
opportunities will not miss the great chances of life.



Modern life, and especially that in America to-day, is full of
illustrations of the overwhelming temptations which come to the man
who has had great success. Many a man has enjoyed the confidence
and respect of his associates until his abilities have won for him
large wealth with which apparently comes at times a misleading
sense of immunity from the ordinary moral obligations. The result
has been that the sterling virtues which have enabled him to win
success have been quickly undermined and his public and private
acts have become the theme of the public press. Instead of being
an honor he has become a disgrace to his nation.

Joseph's sudden rise to power surpassed anything told in the
Arabian Nights' Tales, and yet he remained the same simple,
unaffected man, more thoughtful for another's interests than for
his own. The supreme test came in his contact with his brothers,
who had insulted and cruelly wronged him. They were completely at
his mercy and he had abundant reason for ignoring the obligations
of kinship. Did Joseph hide his cup in Benjamin's sack and later
hold him as a hostage in order to punish his brothers or to test
their honor and fidelity? Was this action wise? Did the brothers
stand the test?

No class was regarded by the Egyptians with greater scorn and
contempt than the shepherds to whom they entrusted their flocks,
because the task of herding sheep was regarded as too menial for an
Egyptian. The public recognition of his shepherd kinsmen,
therefore, revealed in Joseph the noblest and most courageous

Why is such loyalty a primary obligation? Is it to-day regarded by
all thoughtful men as one of the clearest evidences of a strong
character? Can you give any modern illustrations, perhaps among
your acquaintances? What is a snob? Did Joseph leave undone any
act which loyalty to his kinsmen could prompt? Is Joseph's
character as portrayed by the prophetic account practically
perfect? Of the three characters, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, which
offers more practical suggestions to the man of to-day? Which has
exerted the most powerful influence upon the ideals and conduct of
the human race?



It is natural and inevitable that the various social classes of
each succeeding generation should define their standards of success
concretely, that is, by the lives and achievements of those who
have done great things. In certain social groups the world's
champion prize fighter is the beau ideal of success. Among the
Camorrists of Italy that ideal is the successful blackmailer. In
many sections of our great cities the powerful ward boss, whatever
be his methods, is regarded as the embodiment of success. Too
often in America to-day, both in the public press and in the public
mind, the multi-millionaire is regarded as the pre-eminently
successful man. Although the power to amass wealth is evidence of
marked ability, the homage paid to it is one of the most sinister
tendencies in American life. Ordinarily it means that the
ambitions and achievements of a Jacob, rather than those of a
Joseph, are set before the youth as the supreme goal for which to
strive. A most hopeful element in the present situation is that
many of the world's wealthiest men are proclaiming their sense of
responsibility to society in ways both practical and impressive.
Far more significant than their actual gifts is this public
declaration that each man is indeed his brother's keeper, and that
no man has a right to use his wealth simply for his own pleasure.

Leonidas and his fearless patriotic followers at Thermopylae left
an impress upon Greek life and character that did not fade for
centuries. The spirit of Robert Bruce still lingers among the
crags and heather-clad hills of Scotland. The patriotic devotion
of Garibaldi has imparted a new character to the Italian race. Two
hundred million of the world's inhabitants still bear the imprint
of the fiery faith and fanaticism of Mahomet.

America is rich in its memories of the achievements of such as
Washington, Lincoln, Morse, Beecher and Emerson. What characters
in all history seem to you the best examples of real success? What
men and women in the present generation? How can the great
majority of the boys and girls and the men and women of to-day be
led to accept those higher ideals of success which are the
lodestones drawing on the race to higher achievement?



The story is told of the late President Garfield that in the heat
of a political campaign one of his lieutenants suggested that he
adopt an exceedingly questionable policy. When Mr. Garfield
objected, his lieutenant replied, "No one will know it." "But I
shall know," was the quick reply.

- "To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
- _Hamlet, Act I, Sc. 3_.

Wealth and power are worthy goals for which to strive. One of the
first duties of a political party is to capture the offices, for
without them in its power it cannot carry out the principles for
which it stands. The possession of wealth represents vast
possibilities for service. Thousands of tragic experiments have
demonstrated, however, the fallacy of the seductive doctrine that
the end justifies the means. The tragedy that overshadows many of
the seemingly most successful men of to-day is the memory of the
iniquitous methods whereby they have acquired wealth or mounted to
power. Lavish philanthropy and the beneficent use of power can
never wholly blot out from the public mind or from the mind of the
successful man the memory of certain questionable acts that at the
time seemed essential to the realization of a great policy.

A keen, well-informed student of modern economic conditions has
asserted that no man can succeed in business life today and remain
true to the teachings of Jesus. Is this true? Is it true in
professional life? Is it true in politics? One of our most
prominent statesmen has said that he would have found it impossible
to succeed and maintain his independence if he had been compelled
to earn his living. He would have been compelled either to yield
to the boss or quit politics. Who are some of the men in public
life who are gaining success and yet maintaining Christian
principles? If the ultimate ideal of real success is service, is
there any other way in which men may obtain success? Is this true
of every department of human effort? Does this principle make it
possible for every man, however limited his ability and
opportunities, to attain real success?

_Questions for Further Consideration_.

How would you define genius? Edison called it 2% of inspiration
and 98% of perspiration. (But see James, _Talks to Teachers_.)

Is the chief difference between the successful and the unsuccessful
man the ability to recognize and seize opportunities?

Would Joseph's policy in dealing with Pharaoh's subjects meet with
public approval to-day?

Could Joseph have succeeded as well in a republic?

Does Joseph's land policy justify the single tax? Or serfdom such
as Joseph countenanced?

What place does loyalty to humble friends and kinsmen take in the
making of great and noble characters?

Would you say that the ultimate standard of all real success is

Would it be wise for the state to enforce service for the public
good by a heavy, progressive inheritance tax?

What justification is there for such a modification of Joseph's
land policy, as the single tax? (See George, _Progress and
Poverty_; Seligman, _Essays on Taxation_, 64-94.)

Do you think that a man earning his own living can expect to-day to
succeed in politics and maintain his self-respect as an independent

_Subjects for Further Study_.

(1) The Origin and Literary Form of the Joseph Narratives. Kent,
_Student's O. T_. I, 126-127; Hastings, _Dict. Bible_ II, 767-769;
Smith, _O. T. History_, 54-55.

(2) Contemporary Parallels to the Joseph of the Biblical
Narratives. Hastings' _Dict. Bible_ II, 772-775.

(3) Compare and Contrast the Achievements of Joseph, Bismarck and
Cecil Rhodes.




_Parallel Readings_.

Goodnow, F. J., _Comparative Administrative Law_.
_Hist. Bible_ I, 151-69.

And he went out on the following day and saw two men of the Hebrews
striving together; and he said to the one who was doing the wrong,
Why do you smite your fellow-workman? But he replied, Who made you
a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you
killed the Egyptian? Then Moses was afraid and said, Surely the
thing is known. When, therefore, Pharaoh heard this thing, he
sought to him Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh
and took up his abode in the land of Midian.

And Jehovah said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people
that are in Egypt, and have heard their cry of anguish, because of
their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to
deliver them out of the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them
up out of that land to a land, beautiful and broad, to a land
flowing with milk and honey; Go and gather the elders of Israel
together and say to them, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, hath appeared to me, saying, I have
surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt,
and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt
to a land flowing with milk and honey. And they shall hearken to
thy voice; and thou shalt come, together with the elders of Israel,
to the king of Egypt, and ye shall say to him, "Jehovah, the God of
the Hebrews, hath appeared to us; and now let us go, we pray thee,
three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to
Jehovah our God." - _Hist. Bible_.

Hold on; hold fast: hold out - patience is genius.

Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us
dare to do our duty as we understand it. - _Lincoln_.



The one contemporary reference to Israel thus far found in the
Egyptian inscriptions comes from the reign of Merneptah the son of
Ramses II. It implies that at the time at least part of the
Hebrews were in the land of Palestine:

Plundered is Canaan with every evil;
Askalon is carried into captivity,
Gezer is taken;
Yenoam is annihilated,
Israel is desolated, her seed is not,
Palestine has become a widow for Egypt.
All lands are united, they are pacified.
Every one who is turbulent has been found by King Merneptah.

The testimony of the oldest Biblical narratives regarding the
sojourn of the Hebrews in Egypt is, also, in perfect accord with
the picture which the contemporary Egyptian inscriptions give of
the period. Furthermore, the Egyptian historians never
distinguished the different races in their midst, but rather
designated the foreign serf class by a common name. The absence of
detailed reference to the Hebrews is therefore perfectly natural.
It seems probable that not all but only part of the tribes which
ultimately coalesced into the Hebrew nation found their way to
Egypt. The stories regarding Joseph, the traditional father of
Ephraim and Manasseh, imply that these strong central tribes,
possibly together with the southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah,
were the chief actors in this opening scene in Israel's history.

The Biblical narratives apparently disagree regarding the duration
of the sojourn in Egypt. The reference in Gen. 15:16, which, some
writers think, comes from the northern Israelite group of stories,
implies that it was a period of between one hundred and one hundred
and fifty years. The same duration is suggested by the priestly
writer in Numbers 26:57-59. The later traditions tend to extend
the period. If, as seems probable, the Hebrews first found their
way to Egypt during the reign of Amenhotep IV, who reigned between
1375 and 1358 B.C., the older Hebrew chronology would make Ramses
II, who reigned between 1292 and 1225, the Pharaoh of the
oppression. Of all the Pharaohs of this period in Egypt's history
the great builder and organizer Ramses II corresponds most closely
to the Biblical description. He it was who filled Egypt from one
end to the other with vast temples and other buildings which could
have been reared only through the services of a huge army of serfs.
The excavations of the Egypt Exploration fund have identified the
Biblical Pithom with certain ruins in the Wady Tumilat near the
eastern terminus of the modern railroad from Cairo to the Suez
Canal. This probably lay in the eastern boundary of the Biblical
land of Goshen, which seems to have included the Wady Tumilat and
to have extended westward to the Nile delta. Here were found
several inscriptions bearing the Egyptian name of the city P-Atum,
house of the god Atum. The excavations also laid bare a great
square brick wall with the ruins of store chambers inside. These
rectangular chambers were of various sizes and were surrounded by
walls two or three yards in thickness. Contemporary inscriptions
indicate that they were filled with grain from the top and were
probably used for the storing of supplies to be used by the armies
of Ramses II in their Asiatic campaigns. This city was founded by
Ramses II, who during the first twenty years of his reign,
developed and colonized the territory east of the Nile delta
including the Biblical land of Goshen. A contemporary inscription
also states that he founded near Pithum the house of Ramses, a city
with a royal residence and temples. Thus the inferences in the
first chapter of Exodus regarding the historical background are in
perfect accord with the facts now known from other sources
regarding the reign of Ramses II. In transforming the land of
Goshen into a cultivated, agricultural region the nomadic Hebrews
were naturally put to task work by the strong-handed ruler of
Egypt. That the Hebrews were restive under this tyranny was
natural, inevitable. Apparently their rebellious attitude also
increased the burden which was placed upon them. The memory of the
crushing Hyksos invasion, which meant the rule of Egypt by nomadic
invaders from Asia, was still fresh in the minds of the Egyptians.
They both looked down upon and feared the nomad immigrants on their
eastern border. In the light of these facts it is possible to
understand the motives which influenced Ramses II cruelly to
oppress the Hebrews. He endeavored, by forced labor and rigorous
peonage, not only to avail himself of their needed services, but
also to crush their spirit and by force to hold in subjection the
alarmingly large serf class which was found at this time in the
land of Egypt. Was any other procedure to be expected from a
despotic ruler of that land and day?



The story of Moses' birth and early childhood is one of the most
interesting chapters in Biblical history. It is full of human and
dramatic interest. The great crisis in Moses' early manhood came
when he woke to a realization of his kinship with the despised and
oppressed serfs and an appreciation of the cruel injustice of which
they were the helpless victims. Was Moses justified in resisting
the Egyptian taskmaster? Are numbers essential to the rightness of
a cause? What right had Ramses II to demand forced labor from the
immigrants within his border? Was he justified in his method of
exacting tribute? Is peonage always disastrous not only to its
victims but also to the government imposing it?

Did Moses show himself a coward in fleeing from the land of Egypt?
Naturally he went to the land of Midian. The wilderness to the
east of Egypt had for centuries been the place of refuge for
Egyptian fugitives. From about 2000 B.C. there comes the Egyptian
story of Sinuhit, an Egyptian prince, who, to save his life, fled
eastward past the "Wall of the Princes" which guarded the
northeastern frontier of Egypt. On the borders of the wilderness
he found certain Bedouin herdsmen who received him hospitably.
These "sand wanderers" sent him on from tribe to tribe until he
reached the land of Kedem, east of the Dead Sea, where he remained
for a year and a half. Later he found his way to the court of one
of the local kings in central Palestine where he married and became
in time a prosperous local prince.



The story of Moses is in many ways closely parallel to that of
Sinuhit. Among the Midianite tribes living to the south and
southeast of Palestine he found refuge and generous hospitality.
The priest of the sub-tribe of the Kenites received him into his
home and gave him his daughter in marriage. Note the
characteristic Oriental idea of marriage. Here Moses learned the
lessons that were essential for his training as the leader and
deliverer of his people.

The Kenites figure in later Hebrew history as worshippers of
Jehovah and are frequently associated with the Israelites. After
the capture of Jericho certain of them went up with the southern
tribes to conquer southern Palestine. (Judg. 1:16.) It was Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite (Judg. 5:24), who rendered the Hebrews
a signal service by slaying Sisera, the fleeing king of the
Canaanites, after the memorable battle beside the River Kishon.
Many modern scholars draw the conclusion from the Biblical
narrative that it was from the Kenites that Moses first learned of
Yahweh (or, as the distinctive name of Israel's God was translated
by later Jewish scribes, Jehovah). Furthermore it is suggested
that gratitude to the new God, who delivered the Israelites from
their bondage, was the reason why they proved on the whole so loyal
to Jehovah. This conclusion is possible and in many ways
attractive, but it is beset with serious difficulties. We know, in
ancient history, of no other example of a people suddenly changing
their religion. When there have been such sudden and wholesale
conversions in later times they have been either under the
compulsion of the sword, as in the history of Islam, or under the
influence of a far higher religion, as when Christianity has been
carried to heathen peoples on a low stage of civilization. Do the
earliest Hebrew traditions imply that the ancestors of the
Israelites were worshippers of Jehovah? Is it not probable that
Moses fled to the nomadic Midianites not only because they were
kinsmen but because they were also worshippers of Jehovah?

In any case Moses' life in Midian tended to intensify his faith in
Jehovah. The title of his father-in-law implies that this priest
ministered at some wilderness sanctuary. In the light of the
subsequent Biblical narrative was this possibly at the sacred
spring of Kadesh or on the top of the holy mountain Horeb
(elsewhere called Sinai) where Kenites and Hebrews believed that
Jehovah dwelt, or at least manifested himself? Moses, in the home
of the Midian priest, was brought into direct and constant contact
with the Jehovah worship. The cruel fate of his people and the
painful experience in Egypt that had driven him into the wilderness
prepared his mind to receive this training. His quest was for a
just and strong God, able to deliver the oppressed. The wilderness
with its lurking foes and the ever-present dread of hunger and
thirst, deepened his sense of need and of dependence upon a power
able to guide the destinies of men. The peasants of the vast
Antolian plain in central Asia Minor still call every life-giving
spring, "God hath given." The constant necessity of meeting the
dangers of the wilderness and of defending the flocks entrusted to
Moses' care developed his courage and power of leadership and
action. What other great leaders of Israel were trained in this
same school? What was the effect of their wilderness life upon the
early New England pioneers?



The solitude of the wilderness gave Moses ample opportunity for
profound reflection. His previous experiences made such reflection
natural, indeed inevitable. Borne by the caravans over the great
highway from the land of the Nile or from desert tribe to tribe
came occasional reports of the cruel injustice to which his kinsmen
in Egypt were subjected. In these reports he recognized the divine
call to duty. When perhaps at last the report came that the mighty
despot Ramses II was dead, Moses like his later successor Isaiah
(Is. 6) saw that the moment had come for decision and action.

It looks to many scholars as if three originally distinct versions
of Moses' call have been welded together in the narrative of Exodus
3, 4 and 6. Each differs in regard to detail (Hist. Bible I,
161-5). According to the early Judean prophetic account Jehovah
spoke audibly to Moses from the flaming thorn bush. In the
Northern Israelite version the moment of decision came to him as he
stood with his flock on the sacred mountain Horeb. Like Isaiah in
his memorable vision of Jehovah's presence, the inner consciousness
of God and the compelling sense of duty led him to cry out: "Here
am I." Likewise in the late priestly story God's presence and
character were so deeply impressed upon him that he seemed to bear
an audible voice, according to the view of those who accept this
interpretation, even though the later priests believed and taught
that God was a spirit, not like man clothed in flesh and blood.
Thus the different groups of Hebrew narratives in their
characteristic way record the essential facts in Moses' call to

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Online LibraryCharles Foster KentThe Making of a Nation The Beginnings of Israel's History → online text (page 6 of 11)