Puslapio vaizdai

and a mountainous district on the eastern side of it, seems to have been more thickly peopled, having in it several cities in the midst of a luxuriant country, of which Sodom and Gomorrah were the chief. The inhabitants of these cities had become profligate in the extreme. They were governed by kings, each city having its own king. But these kings were tributary to an empire, the centre of which was on the eastern bank of the Tigris. It is probable that the kingdom erected by Nimrod had, by this time, extended itself to the Jordan. The kings of the cities of the plain of Jordan had, about the time of the call of Abraham, rebelled against the king of Elam or Persia. And the next year, Chedorlaomer, with four confederate kings, one of whom was the king of Shinar, came upon them with an army, defeated them, and plundered Sodom and Gomorrah. They were, however, overtaken, in returning home, by Abraham, with his servants, and some of the neighbouring chiefs, and the booty recovered from them.

Egypt was then governed by a king, and seems to have retained some knowledge of the true God. Damascus was built in a beautiful valley, watered by two rivers, on the edge of the wilderness. It is called by the inhabitants of that country Sham, which renders it not improbable that it was built by Shem, the son of Noah.

Abraham had brought with him Lot, his nephew, who went down to live in the vale of the Jordan, near the city of Gomorrah. While he was there, the wickedness of that and the neighbouring cities became so intolerable, that God rained fire and brimstone upon them, and destroyed them; and, at the same time, the ground seems to have sunk, so that the Jordan, instead of flowing through the valley to the Red Sea, was arrested in its course, and formed that salt lake, which is called the Dead Sea.

After this, Lot, who had been warned of the impending fate of the cities, and fled with his family, lived among the mountains, to the east of the Dead Sea, where he had two sons, Moab and Ammon, by whose

descendants that district of country was afterwards peopled.

Abraham had a son by Hagar, an Egyptian woman— Ishmael, whom he sent away from him, and who took up his residence in the wilderness, between the south of Palestine and Egypt.

In his old age, Abraham had his son Isaac, who was to inherit the promises that had been made to him on leaving his own country. Isaac, before the death of his father, married his near relative Rebekah, by whom he had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau, or Edom, became a man of the field, and frequented Mount Seir, to the south-east of Palestine. His descendants, for many ages, occupied that district, under the name of Edomites, and more recently Idumæans.

Jacob went to Mesopotamia and married two of his near relatives Rachel and Leah, and by them, and two other wives, he had twelve sons, who became of the twelve tribes of Israel.


Abraham had also children by Keturah, another wife, whom he sent away from Isaac towards the eastward. Among these was Midian, who became the head of a nation, which is frequently noticed in the subsequent history.

Jacob remained in the land of Mesopotamia for 21 years, and then returned to Canaan, where he found Isaac still living. Esau, his brother, who had addicted himself to the chase, and probably also to warfare, was at the head of 400 armed men, and resided chiefly in Mount Seir. Jacob had eleven sons at the time of his return to Canaan, and one was born to him after his return. The two youngest were sons of his favoured wife, Rachel, and were distinguished by him from his other children by particular tokens of affection. This occasioned discontent and envy in the others, which being increased, with respect to Joseph, the elder of Rachel's sons, by his fidelity in reporting their vices, and by certain dreams, which he related, that seemed to indicate an ambition of ruling over them, they seized an opportunity of his being at a distance from his father, to sell him to a company of merchants passing

through the country. These merchants, who were Ishmaelites and Midianites, brought him to Egypt, and sold him there as a slave.

While he was there, the king of Egypt had a remarkable dream, which gave him uneasiness, and Joseph being informed of it, felt himself warranted, by a divine impulse, to propose to interpret it. He was accordingly brought before Pharaoh, and interpreted the dream, to signify that it indicated that there would be seven years of plenty in the land of Egypt, followed by seven years of extreme scarcity. Joseph was immediately raised to the highest rank in the kingdom of Egypt, being intrusted, during the years of plenty, with the collecting of grain for supplying the deficiency of the approaching years of famine. While he was engaged in the execution of this office, during the years of scarcity, the famine, having reached to Canaan, brought down his brethren to Egypt to purchase corn. Joseph immediately recognised them, although they did not recognise him; and after a variety of measures, the purport of which seems to have been to bring them to a sense of their guilt, he at length made himself known to them. The result was, that, on the invitation of Joseph, and also of the king of Egypt, Jacob and his whole family removed to Egypt, where he lived about seventeen years, and died.

The Israelites, being placed in a fruitful part of the country, increased, under the blessing of God, with amazing rapidity.

EGYPT.-Egypt had now become a powerful kingdom. That king, who reigned in the time of Joseph, in consequence of his having obtained the command of the supply of food during seven years of extraordinary scarcity, had been enabled to make his own terms with the people. And the arrangement which he had made was, that the people should pay to him a fifth part of the produce of the land, in lieu of rent as proprietor of the land, and of taxes as head of the government. This arrangement enabled the king to maintain a powerful and well-appointed army, with abundance of horsemen

and war chariots. It enabled him also to engage in those stupendous works of architecture, the remains of which are still the astonishment of the world. Egypt had also commenced the practice of embalming the bodies of the dead, by which it has been rendered so remarkable. Forty days were employed in this operation in the time of Joseph.



A.M. 2500.-B.C. 1500.

THE ISRAELITES.-The rapid increase of the Israelites rendered them in process of time objects of alarm to the Egyptians; a king arising who knew not Joseph,' he began to adopt the most rigorous and unscrupulous measures to diminish their number. He reduced them to the most abject slavery, employed them in building cities, exacting of them exhausting and overpowering labour. But finding that they still continued to increase, he commanded that all their male children should be thrown into the river as soon as they were born, and only females preserved alive. At this time Moses was born, and was preserved from the effects of this edict in consequence of having been taken under the protection of the king's daughter. His parents had placed him in a chest of bulrushes, and laid him among the flags, by the brink of the river, and Pharaoh's daughter finding him, adopted him as her own son. Thus Moses received an education which fitted him for the important office to which he was destined, as leader and governor of the Israelites. When Moses came of age, however, having been made acquainted with his descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and having been instructed by his parents in the privileges bestowed upon their nation by the God of heaven, he relinquished his fair hopes and prospects, as an Egyptian of high, even

of royal rank, and claimed his connection with the despised and persecuted Israelites. He chose " rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." He saw an Egyptian smiting, probably putting to death, an Israelite, and taking the part of the Israelite, he killed the Egyptian. This being discovered, he fled across the Red Sea, to the mountains which lie between the gulfs into which the Red Sea divides itself at its northern extremity, which was then called the land of Midian, doubtless in consequence of Midian, the son of Abraham, fixing his residence there. He thus obtained an opportunity of becoming acquainted with that district of country, and with the whole of the desert that lies between it and the land of Canaan. While Moses was in Midian, the Lord appeared to him and commissioned him to return to Egypt, there to call together the heads of the Israelites, and then to go to Pharaoh and demand liberty for the people to leave the land of Egypt. Moses did so. The demand was, of course, refused; but, by a series of plagues, which Moses was commissioned to inflict on the land of Egypt, the last of which was the destruction, in one night, of all the first-born sons in Egypt, Pharaoh was compelled to yield to the demand, and to let the people go. Moses accordingly led them towards the Red Sea, as if he intended going round the northern extremity of the western gulf of it; but by direction of God he turned, and encamped close by the gulf, on the western side. Pharaoh seeing the immense body of the Israelites, consisting of 600,000 men, with their wives and children, entangled in the land, and apparently within his reach, pursued them with his whole army, and came up with them as they lay encamped, unable to go forward, for the sea was in their front, or to turn either to the north or the south. In this extremity, the Lord' caused the sea to divide, and directed Moses to lead the people through the bed of it. The Israelites thus passed in safety into the Arabian desert, while the Egyptian army, in attempting to follow them, were caught by the return of the sea to its usual bed, and drowned.


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