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§ I. Moses calls Palestine fruitful. IN treating of the fertility of Palestine and its principal advantages, by the word Palestine I mean not only the region in the vicinity of Jerusalem, but Palestine properly so called, situated on this side of the Jordan. Moses, the leader of the Israelites, to whose posterity God was about to give this country for a habitation, describes it as being very fertile. And his testimony is corroborated by Shaw, Maundrell, and many other modern travellers, who have visited it. This description of Moses has, however, without any reason, been made a matter of ridicule. And why? The enemies of religion, instigated by a vain and impious audacity, have represented Moses as a man destitute of understanding and regardless of truth, whilst they have strenuously affirmed that Palestine was sterile and uninviting. These unprincipled men, who would wish, if they cannot overthrow the truth of Sacred Scripture, at least to invalidate it as much as possible, inveigh against no writer more vehemently, than against Moses, rejecting his
whole history, and all the miracles wrought by him, as false and absurd.
We could blunt their opposing weapons, but to follow out all the windings of their fallacious arguments would be a useless labour; for it is impossible, and not to be credited that Moses could have possessed such inconceivable assurance as to speak of actions and miracles, as performed by him before their eyes, if they were not true. Surely he would have exhibited all the symptoms of derangement, and the people having detected his deceit and misrepresentation, would have withdrawn their confidence from him, and would have committed his writings to the flames. If we consider the situation and condition of Moses, it will appear manifest, that a false description of Palestine, would have been most pernicious to him : for he delayed in the vicinity of that land with an immense multitude of men, and therefore it would have been the greatest imprudence, to have represented it in glowing colours, as surpassing other countries in fertility and abundance of all productions, if it had not been the fact ; especially considering that the people were rough and uncultivated, rebellious and inclined to seditions, and on every trivial occasion that offered itself, desirous of returning to Egypt. But the spies that were sent before them, brought back the same description, and exhibited as a proof the rich productions of the land. The number of the Israelites is minutely stated by Moses in different places:* which places, if they be compared, will be found to contain the same amount; whence I infer that the same census is alluded to in all those places, although others entertain a different opinion. Indeed it seems incredible, that the number of so great a people should neither be increased nor diminished within the space of a year; but it is worthy of notice that the taking of the census of so large a multitude must have consumed much time as each name was written down. In the first year then the tables were made out by the rulers
* Exod. xxx. 15, 16; xxxviii. 24. 31 ; et Num. I. 1.
of hundreds and of tens, which the priests reviewed in the second year, and made more complete by adding the age and lineage of each one. Then from the tables completed by this new survey a larger book was formed, in which each one was numbered as living, although he might have died during the preceding year. The number was 603,550, excluding the infants, the youth who had not reached their twentieth year, all the women, the servants, and the whole tribe of Levi. The number of the Levites was 22,300, which added to the former number will make the sum of 625,850; and if to this we add the infants and the females, and the servants, which would probably increase it fourfold, the whole amount will be 2,503,400. Therefore if the new habitation of the Israelites had been unfruitful, it could by no means have supported so large a multitude. Beside, Moses placed the foundation of his republick in agriculture which he could not by any means have done, had not the land been fertile. Each one of the Israelites received a portion of land as his private property, which was left to his posterity, and which it was wrong to sell ; for all the support of the Israelites, as long as they dwelt in the land, was derived from pasturage and agriculture. God* himself describes this region as “A good land and a large, a land flowing with milk and honey." Mosest also gives the same description when the camp was in the neighbourhood of Jericho; the Lord, says he, will bring you into a good land, a land of rivers and of fountains, in whose plains and mountains, streams flow forth; a land of corn, barley, and vineyards, in which the fig-tree and promegranate and olive-tree grow, a land of olives and honey. It is preferred to Egypt:["For the land whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from which ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed and wateredst it with thy foot as a garden of herbs; but the land whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys and drinketh water of the rain of heaven.” Finally, Moses celebrates the fertility of Palestine in a song to be sung by the Israelites in this land. *
* Exod, üü. 8.
+ Deut. xi. 10.
Deut. xi. 10.
“ The Lord,” says he, “made him to ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields ; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock and oil out of the flinty rock ; butter of kine and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats with the fat of kidneys of wheat ; and thou didst drink of the pure blood of the grape.”
§ II. The advantages of Palestine when compared with
Egypt. The testimony of Mosest has appeared incredible to many; whence, they say, they have been compelled to regard his representations as false, when he extols the land of Palestine in the highest praises, and describes it as abounding with superior privileges, because it is watered with rain from heaven and running streams, whilst Egypt is watered only by the overflowings of the Nile. But to this we may add that Palestine possesses the most delightful climate, having neither too great nor too small a quantity of rain. ABULFEDA divides the different countries into the salubres, that is, those which are irrigated by rain, and the insalubres, that is, those which are inundated by rivers. And no one will venture a denial, that in this respect Palestine enjoys advantages far surpassing those of Egypt. BARTHOLINUS on the properties of water says, that rain water is in itself transparent, clear, subtile, light,
* Deut. xxxii. 13. Conf. Exod. xiii. 5, xxiii. 1. Lev. xx. 24. Num. xii. 27, xiv. 7, 8. Jos. xxi. 14, xxiv. 13. Ps. cvi. 24. Neh. ix. 35. Jer. xi. 5. Ezech. xx. 6. Joel. ii. 3. Basnage's histoire des Juifs, lib. i. c. 14. § 9.
+ Deut. xi. 10.
# Lib xiii. p. 553
and savoury; that its clearness indicates that there is no foreign admixture with it, and its lightness and sapidity show that it is a subtile substance. He, adds that of all kinds of water it is most productive of fertility, and especially when it falls with thunder, for the thunder by its motion scatters the vapour and makes the water thin and pure. In Palestine moreover the atmosphere is serene and salubrious, but in Egypt many diseases unavoidably arise from the quantity of mud and dirt which the Nile produces. For Egypt, especially the upper part, is watered by few or no showers. *
The lower part has rain, but only in the months of November, December, and January.t Hence, when in the time of Psamenitus, king of Egypt, a rain descended at Thebes, it was considered as a prodigy; for whilst a solitary rain at far distant intervals descends on those parts adjacent to the sea, and those parts which are above Memphis have no rain, at that time, the atmosphere presented a new appearance and a tempestuous storm rushed upon them. This novel and astonishing event overwhelmed them with terror. Since then, Egypt is almost entirely deprived of showers, its fertility depends solely on the inundations of the Nile, whence the Egyptians feign the Nile to be a deity, and they esteem it the greatest of the deities, declaring it to be a rival of the heavens, because without clouds or rain, it waters the land and moistens the earth yearly instead of showers. These things the common people say.
But those skilled in their mysteries affirm that the land is Isis, and the Nile Osiris,
* Conf. Ray's Collection of Travels, Tom. ii. p. 92. Greaves Beschrei. bung der Pyramiden, p. 74, &c.
+ Vansleben's Relation d’Egypte p. 37, 354. Thevenot's voyage au Levante lib ii. p. 789. Vossii Obsen, ad Melam desitu orbis. lib i. c. 9. Dapper's Beschr. von Afrika, p. 127.
# Conf. Herodoti hist. lib iii. cap. 10. Philo Judæus in vita Mosis, lib i. page 4 81. Edit. Genev.
& Conf. Thesaurus numismatum antiquorum cum commentariis I. Oiseli, Tab, xxxiv. n. 9. et Trestani Numism. T. i. p. 307.