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CHAPTER 1

ISRAEL IN EGYPT.

Jacob's deacent into Egypt: Joseph's position : Circumstances of Egypt

at the time-Joseph's Pharaoh, Apepi— Israel after Joseph's death Commencement of the severe oppression; its nature-Edict issued to destroy all the male infants.

The great

THE circumstances of the birth and early life of Moses, and his position in Egypt, cannot be set forth intelligibly without some previous consideration of the historical antecedents whereby those circumstances were brought about, and that position rendered possible. The historical antecedents were strange and abnormal. Three hundred and fifty years before Moses was born, there had arrived in Egypt a band of immigrants from Palestine, amounting to several hundreds, or perhaps to some thousands, who had been permitted to become permanent settlers. Their advent was not unexpected. minister of a great Egyptian king had received instructions from the monarch to invite into Egypt his father, his eleven brothers, and their households (Gen. xlv. 17, 18). He had done so, and they had taken advantage of the invitation, and traversed the desert which divides Palestine from Egypt in a huge caravan, bringing with them their flocks and their herds, their asses, their tents and their tent-furniture, their women and their children, their bond-slaves, and all that they had." It is not an unreasonable calculation of Dean Payne Smith's, that they numbered altogether three thousand souls. The “ household” (taph), according to the Hebrew idea, included

: “Bampton Lectures," p. 89

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not merely wife and children, but men-servants and maid. servants, dependents and retainers, even hirelings who might quit the service and go elsewhere when it pleased them. The household of Abraham, when he went in pursuit of Chedorlaomer, comprised three hundred and eighteen adult males, capable of bearing arms, who had all been “born in his house" (Gen. xiv. 14). His taph must altogether have exceeded twelve hundred persons. Jacob's is not likely to have been less; and if we allow his eleven sons, who were all grown up and had families, an average of two hundred a-piece, their taphs would have amounted to two thousand two hundred, giving a total for the immigrants of three thousand four hundred. That so large a body should be favourably received need not excite surprise. Egypt was always open to refugees from foreign lands, and the circumstances of the time were such as secured this particular body of immigrants a warm welcome.

The chief of these circumstances was their kinsman's, Joseph's, position. Joseph had been recognized by the Pharaoh of the time as "a man in whom the Spirit of God was” (Gen. xli. 38)—a man discreet and wise" above all others (verse 39). He had not only been granted the highest honours that the Egyptian monarchs ever allowed to a subject, but he had been made actual ruler of the whole land under the king. He had employed his extraordinary powers wisely and well, had made provision for carrying Egypt safely through a period of extreme difficulty, and had greatly enriched the royal treasury by his arrangements. There was scarcely any favour within reason. able bounds that the successful minister could ask which the king was likely to refuse to him. He “was a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt” (Gen. xlv. 8). Moreover, it is perhaps not too much to say, that personal intercourse with his minister had produced a real feeling of friendliness and attachment between the two, and had disposed the Pharaoh to make spontaneous efforts to afford gratification to his loved and trusted adviser. In the particular case of which we are speaking, Joseph was not actually obliged to prefer any petition. He expressed to his brethren his desires respecting them, and his words having been reported to the Court, the Pharaoh came forward voluntarily, without being asked, and proposed to his minister that he should send his brethren to fetch their father and their households, adding of

his own account the suggestion, that they should be supplied with wheeled vehicles for the conveyance of their wives and “ little ones” (Gen. xlv. 19). So anxious was he to please his minister and anticipate his wishes.

The condition of Egypt was also such that a body of immi. grants from the quarter from which the family of Jacob came could not be otherwise than welcome. Egypt had been conquered, some centuries before the time of Joseph, by a nomadic race from Asia, of pastoral habits. The conquest had been accompanied with extreme cruelty and violence; wherever the nomads triumphed, the males of full age had been massacred, the women and children reduced to slavery, the cities burnt, the temples demolished, the images of the gods thrown to the ground. An oppressive and tyrannical rule had been established. The old Egyptians, the native African race, were bowed down beneath the yoke of unsympathetic aliens. Although by degrees the manners of the conquerors became softened, and, as so often happens, the rude invaders conformed themselves more and more, in language, habits, and methods of thought, to the pattern set them by their more civilized subjects, yet, so far as feelings and sentiments were concerned, a wide gulf still separated the two. Like the Aryan Persians under the rule of the Parthians, like the native Chinese under the Mantchu Tartars, the Egyptians groaned and repined in secret, and persistently nurtured the hope of one day re-asserting their independence. Nor were their foreign masters unaware of these feelings. They knew themselves to be detested; they were conscious of the volcano under their feet; they lived in expectation of an outbreak, and were always engaged in making preparations against it. In this condition of affairs, each band of immigrants from Asia, especially if of nomadic habits, was regarded as an accession of strength, and was therefore welcomed and treated with favour. Shepherds were abomination” to the real native Egyptians. To the Hyksos kings, who held the dominion of Egypt, shepherds were congenial, and Asiatic shepherds, more or less akin to their own race, were viewed as especially trustworthy and reliable. Hence the warmth of Pharaoh's welcome. When Joseph introduced his brethren to the monarch, and, in answer to the question, "What is your occupation ?” they replied—“Thy servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers, thy servants'

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trade has been about cattle from our youth even until now-for to sojourn in the land we are come ; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks ; now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen,” the Pharaoh's words to Joseph were—“Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee; the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell ; in the land of

; Goshen let them dwell; and if thou knowest any men of activity amongst them, then make them rulers over my cattle" (Gen. xlvii. 5, 6).

The particular king, moreover, who at the time of Jacob's entrance into Egypt occupied the throne, had reasons for being especially drawn towards the nomadic tribe, which under their sheikh, Jacob, solicited his favour. George the Syncellus tells us, that there was a universal consensus of historians with respect to the fact, that the monarch who raised Joseph to power was the Shepherd King, Apepi. He does not say, as some have made him say,' that the synchronism was generally agreed upon by the ecclesiastical historians; but that it was “agreed upon by all ”_i.l., by all the historians with whose works he was acquainted. Among these were certainly Abydenus, Apollodorus, Eratosthenes, Alexander Polyhistor, the friend of Sulla, Zosimus of Panopolis, Africanus, Annianus, and Panodorus, possibly also many others, some Christian, some heathen, some writers on Church subjects, some authors of purely secular histories. The tradition, thus strongly supported, receives confirmation from Egyptian chronology, which places an interval of four hundred years between the time of Apepi and a late year in the reign of the second Ramesses, while Hebrew chronology places an interval of four hundred and thirty years between Jacob's entrance into Egypt and the Exodus, which belongs to the reign of Ramesses the Second's

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But if Apepi was the king to whom Joseph owed his elevation, there would have been in his religion a fresh bond between him and his minister, and a fresh ground for his sympathizing warmly with the new immigrants. Apepi was a monotheist. One peculiarity of the Hyksôs period, belonging especially to

: Bunsen, "Egypt's Place in Universal History," vol ii. p. 438.
• “Chronographia,” p. 62, B; p. 69, C.
3 " Records of the Past," vol iv. p. 36.

its later portion, is to be found in the religious views professed, proclaimed, and enjoined upon subject princes. Apepi, according to the MS. known as 'the First Sallier Papyrus,' made a great movement in Lower Egypt in favour of monotheism. Whereas previously the Shepherd Kings had allowed among their subjects, if they had not even practised themselves, the worship of a multitude of gods, Apepi 'took to himself' a single god for lord, refusing to serve any other god in the whole land. According to the Egyptian writer of the MS., the name under which he worshipped his god was Sutech; and some writers have supposed that he chose this god out of the existing Egyptian Pantheon, because he was the god of the North, where his own dominion lay. But Sutech, though undoubtedly he had a place in the Egyptian Pantheon from very ancient times, seems to have been essentially an Asiatic god, the special deity of the Hittite nation, with which there is reason to believe that the Shepherd Kings were closely connected. Apepi, moved by a monotheistic impulse, selected Sutech, we should suppose, rather out of his own gods than out of the Egyptian deities, and determined that, whatever had been the case previously, henceforth he would renounce polytheism, and worship one only lord and god, the god long known to his nation, and to his own ancestors, under the name above mentioned. Apepi's monotheism was a bond of union between him and the family of Joseph, and may well have been among the grounds of the especial favour which he accorded to them.

Apepi placed the Israelites “ in the best of the land in the land of Goshen”—probably the alluvial district on the eastern side of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, which verged upon the desert, and was a good pasturage country, where the royal cattle were pastured (Gen. xlvii. 6). At first the Israelites would occupy

but a small portion of the district ; but as they began to “multiply exceedingly” (Gen. xlvii. 27), they must have spread further and further to the west and south, favoured still by Apepi, and even after his death protected by the prestige of Joseph, whose prudent and successful administration of the country could not easily have been forgotten, and who, if deposed by Apepi's successor, must still have been a power and an influence in the country. The weight and consideration that attached to Joseph until his death, and even afterwards, is

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