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bodies which they have abandoned will repose forever in their tombs, while they will enjoy the presence of the Supreme God.”
Egyptians considered their own country as peculiarly privileged, and set apart from others. They called it "The Pure Land;" “Region of Justice and Truth.” They were extremely courteous to foreigners in all things unconnected with religious scruples; but they considered it unclean to eat or drink with them. They were more partial to the Grecians than any other nation, but they deemed it pollution to kiss a Greek, or touch the knife with which he ate his food, or to use any of his cooking utensils; because Greeks were accustomed to eat the beef of cows, the most sacred of all animals in Egypt. It is recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures that when the brethren of Joseph were invited to eat," they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians by themselves; because the Egyptians may not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto them." Though Joseph was so high in favour with Pharaoh, he was excluded by the same custom which now prevents wealthy Hindoos from dining at the same table with their British governors.
The idea of successive grades of emanations from the Deity introduced a distinction of castes into Egypt, as it did in Hindostan. Priests and kings were believed to have emanated before labourers, who, on account of being further removed from the Divine Source of Being, were supposed to have received a smaller and more attenuated influence of his Pure Spirit. Priests, warriors, and labourers constituted the principal castes; but the latter were subdivided into various classes. Fishermen, and those who tended herds and flocks, were among the lowest. The caste of swine-herds was the most despised, and their situation seems to have been similar to the wretched Pariahs of Hindostan. They were not allowed to enter the temples, to come in contact with the priests, or to hold any communication with the higher castes. They were obliged to live in places set apart for them, and it was pollution to touch any vessel
they had used. Egyptians supposed that Evil Spirits, and the souls of impure men, entered into swine, which they regarded as the most unclean of all animals. The higher castes had great horror of tasting the flesh, and if they happened to touch the creatures, even by accident, they went through religious purifications to cleanse themselves from pollution. They were, however, necessary; for when they sowed their lands, soaked by inundation of the Nile, herds of swine were driven over the fields, to trample the seed into the earth. Because they thus assisted the Fructifying Principle, a hog was annually sacrified to Osiris in every house. The soul imprisoned in the pig, for punishment, expiated its sins by being sacrificed; thus a debt of gratitude was paid to the animal.
In addition to pride of caste, there were other reasons for Egyptian prejudice against shepherds. Their policy was opposed to the nomadic life, which they knew was fatal to the progress of civilization; therefore, the descendants of Jacob were required to settle in one territory, which would lead to the necessity of building towns. They had, moreover, a strong national animosity to wandering herdsmen,
in consequence of what they had suffered by the irruption of Pali, or Shepherds, from the East. The monarchs, who compelled them to toil in building the great pyramids, were of that odious race. Herodotus says they had such an extreme aversion to their memory, that they avoided mentioning them, and called their pyramids by the name of a shepherd who fed his cattle in those places. Thus there was a threefold reason why Joseph should say, “Shepherds are an abomination unto the Egyptians." They made a distinction in favour of their own herdsmen, who tended cattle connected with agricultural pursuits in their villages. Such men, though humble in rank, were not detested like tribes of roving shepherds. To a certain degree, they were cared for by the priests, who prescribed such food for them as they deemed suitable; bread made of bran, fish, the flesh of some few animals, and barley-beer for drink.
Circumcision, being closely connected with their ideas of health and cleanliness, was another barrier between Egyptians and foreigners. It is said Pythagoras was obliged to conform to this custom before he could gain admission to their religious Mysteries, and that he nearly died in consequence. Herodotus says: “As this practice can be traced, both in Egypt and Ethiopia, to the remotest antiquity, it is not possible to say which first introduced it. The Phænicians and the Syrians of Palestine acknowledge that they borrowed it from Egypt. Male children, except in those places which have borrowed the custom from hence, are left as nature formed them.” Sir J. G. Wilkinson says: “ That this custom was established long before the arrival of Joseph in Egypt is proved by the ancient monuments."
The Egyptian states, like their Ethiopian ancestors at Meroë, were originally governed by priests only. Each district had a High Priest, who reigned in the name of some god, and had subordinate priests under him. The caste of warriors afterward raised themselves to the royal dignity, and Menes was the first king. But though the rulers were thenceforth from the military caste, the priests kept them in almost complete dependence. They were not allowed to administer punishments according to their own will, or judgment, but in conformity to laws which the gods had prescribed through the medium of priests. They bad constant supervision over affairs of the State and the army; they made daily regulations concerning religious ceremonies to be performed by the royal household, and even concerning the food upon their tables. None but the sons of High Priests were allowed to be in attendance upon the king's person. Before he could be anointed, he was required to enter the priesthood, and be initiated into their religious mysteries. He was called Phra, which signifies of the Sun. In this manner was indicated the divine origin of government, and the universal and equal beneficence which ought to characterize it. The hieroglyphic title of kings was “Son of the Sun." Phra, which we call Pharaoh, was applied to all their monarchs as the title of Czar is to the Emperor of Russia; hence, it is often diffi
cult to ascertain which particular Pharaoh is meant on the monumental records.
Not only was the priest caste generally hereditary, but also the priesthood of each particular deity; and in each of these orders the High Priesthood descended lineally in some particular family. The son of a priest at Memphis could not become a member of the college of priests at Heliopolis, and a priest at Thebes could not join the sacerdotal order at Memphis. This arose from the fact that each temple had large landed property attached to it, to defray the expenses of religious service. The revenues were drawn by priests, and transmitted to their posterity as a perpetual inheritance. These extensive estates were let out to the subordinate castes, and the rents formed a treasury for the common use of the sacerdotal order belonging to the temple. From this fund, priests and their families were supplied with free tables. In addition to this fixed income, there were the daily sacrifices and offerings of fruit and grain at the temples; they also carried on many profitable branches of business, in consequence of being the only depositories of such knowledge as existed. Herodotus says: “So many dishes were furnished daily of those kinds of meat which their laws allowed them to eat, and a certain quantity of wine ; for they had the privilege of enjoying that luxury, which was forbidden to the lower castes. Thus there was no need for them to contribute anything from their private means toward their own support.” The priestly families were in fact the highest and wealthiest in the country, except the king. They were exempted from taxation, and it is said that one-third of the land of Egypt was allotted to them. When Joseph bought up the lands, it is recorded that he left the portion of the priests untouched. The places of interment belonged to them, and as the use of them was paid for, they must have been sources of considerable emolument.
As the civil law was included in the Sacred Books, priests were the only judges. The Chief Judge, who was also High Priest, wore a golden chain on which was suspended an image of Thmei, Goddess of Truth and Justice, graven on a sapphire, and set round with precious stones of various colours. He pronounced his decision by touching the successful applicant with this figure. Several representations of these breast-plates are extant in European museums, or to be seen on Egyptian monuments. Some of them contained two figures, an image of Ra, the Sun, and of Thmei; the signification being Light and Truth, or Light and Justice.
Priests were also the only physicians. They prescribed the articles of food to be used by each class of people; and according to the testimony of Herodotus the Egyptians were remarkably healthy. Each part of the body was believed to be under the especial care of some particular deity, who must be invoked, with prescribed offerings and ceremonies, in case of disease. Invalids were carried to the temples, and it was supposed they would be cured, if the priest laid his hands on them, and recited appropriate prayers. They probably had some knowledge valuable for the preservation and restoration of health; for their medical schools became renowned. There are indications that some of their remedies were of a magnetic nature. Solon, who had been in Egypt, says, “ Touching with the hands will immediately restore health.” Æschylus, the famous Greek poet, makes one of his characters in the tragedy of Prometheus say, when speaking of the shores of the Nile, “There Jupiter Ammon will render you sane, stroking you with gentle hand, and simply touching you." A high degree of cleanliness, both in person and clothing, was a distinguishing characteristic of the ancient Egyptians; habits which they doubtless owed to the instructions of their priests.
As all the sciences were deemed direct revelations from the gods, a degree of sacredness was attached to knowl. edge, of which we in modern times can form no idea. Such learning as the priests had, manifested itself in results which seemed to the uninitiated like divination and magic. Perhaps they themselves, with the scanty information of