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parts whence Claudian very truly stiles the country--- Ægyptus sine nube ferax---Egypt is fruitful without any cloud to afford rain.
Farther Propriety in these Judgments.
The Egyptians therefore must have perceived themselves particularly aimed at in these fearful events; which were so contrary to all experience. For they were witnesses to not only deluges of rain, but hail mingled with rain; and these attended with thunder and fire, to their great amazement.---For the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground.Again-Hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. Now the Egyptians were superstitious above all people upon earth. earth. We learn from Herodotus that they were particularly addicted to the observance of portentous appearances. Every uncommon circumstance was esteemed of this class. But as these were imaginary portents, which arose merely from a superstitious dread, it pleased God to punish their blind credulity by bringHerodotus, 1. 2. c. 82. p. 142.
Claud. de Nilo, v. 5.
ing upon them some real prodigies; some preternatural evils, to which they had never been witness. Such was the rain, and hail; and the fire, which ran on the ground, to their great amazement and ruin. Its coming was determinately foretold: nor could all the deities of Egypt prevent its fearful effects. Those of the people, who took warning, were preserved: but all who neglected the caution, and who did not shelter themselves, were, both man and beast, destroyed.
There seems farther a great fitness and propriety in the Egyptians being punished by fire, and by water; as they were guilty of gross idolatry towards these elements; and adored them, as deities. Porphyry intimates that this was a very ancient worship, and adds,---1 T και νυν εν τη ανοίξει τε άγιε Σεραπιδος ἡ θρησκεια δια πυρος και ύδατος γίνεται. Even at this day, when they open the temple of Serapis, the worship commences by fire and water. And he gives a reason--- dwę και πυρ σεβοντες μαλιςα It seems, that of all elements they
Περι αποχ 1. 4. p. 374.
* Ibid. p. 373.
Eusebius also says--idwę nαı avę cz. Prep. Evan. 1. 3. p. 95.
--Aquam, quam colis. Jul. Firmicus, p. 5.
shewed the greatest reverence to fire and water. They esteemed Isis, as the deity which presided over all 'fluids: and looked upon Osiris to be the lord of the contrary element: though some give the precedency to Hephaistus or Vulcan. Το δε πυς, μεθέρμηνευομένον Ηφαισον ονόμασαι (της Αιγύπτιες) νομισαντας μεγάν είναι Osov. The Egyptians esteemed fire, which they called Hephaistus, to be a great God. They went so far as to think it to be really a living animal, endowed with a soul.---3 νενομίσαι το πυς θηριον είναι εμψυχον. Hence we find, that not only the presiding deity, but the elements themselves, were held in idolatrous veneration. The propriety of the punishment is therefore conspicuous.
We are farther told, that the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled. Exod. ch. ix. ver. 31. These circumstances may to some appear of little consequence. And it may be asked, when it is intimated that men and cattle
1 Plut. Is. et Osir. passim.
In some places Canobus was looked upon as the God of Water.
Diodor. Sic. 1. 1. p. 11. B. 3 Herod. 1. 3. c. 16. p. 202.
were slain in great abundance, what occasion was there for adding this trivial article about flax and barley? I answer, it is by no means trivial: but of great moment. The Egyptians were doomed to undergo many terrors; and, beside these, to suffer no small losses: and scarcely any thing could have distressed them more than the ruin of the former article. I have before mentioned that the Egyptians, above all nations; affected outward purity and cleanliness. On this account the whole nation wore 'linen garments: and the priests never put on any other kind of clothing. This linen was manufactured from that fine flax, for which the country was particularly famous. The Athenians, who were originally from Sais in Egypt, for a long season wore garments of this sort; and Thucydides says, that it was not long before his time, that the custom was laid aside. The flax and linen of
Egypt are celebrated by Herodotus, Pliny, Apuleius, and many other writers. It was in
Qui grege linigero circumdatus et grege calvo
* L. 1. c. 6. p. 6.
Juvenal, Sat. 6. v. 532.
Χιτωνας λίγ8ς. Herod. 1. 2. p. 121. c. 105. p. 151.
4 L. 19. c. 1. p. 156, 7.
great request in other countries: on which account we read in the scriptures of its excellence.---In the Proverbs a person is introduced saying, 'I have decked my bed with the fine linen of Egypt. And in Ezekiel mention is made of fine linen and embroidered work from Egypt. And though the Egyptians did not themselves trade abroad, and carry on any foreign commerce, yet they suffered other nations to come to them and this they permitted very early. For not only the Israelites were permitted to come to Egypt: but we read also antecedently of the sons of Ismael going thither with their caravans; and this as early as the time of Joseph. The manufacture of their flax is still carried on in this country: and many writers take notice of it. Egmont, and 3Hay3 man speak of it particularly, and say that it is of a beautiful colour, finely spun; so that the threads are hardly discernible. Hence the de
I C. 7. v. 16.
2 C. 27. v. 7.
3 The soil of Egypt is also very proper for raising flax.The Egyptians, besides the extraordinary beautiful colour of their flax, spin it so remarkably fine, that the threads of their linen are scarce discernible. The vestments of their priests were wholly made of it, &c.-The Byssus, which was the finest sort, was frequently dyed purple, which raised it to so great a price, that few could purchase it. Vol. 2. p. 222.