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CONDITION OF THE ISRAELITES
DEVELOPMENT OF THE NATION DURING THE PERIOD
SPENT IN EGYPT.
§ 14. (Exodus i.)-The historical records of the Old Testament pass very quickly over the first three centuries and a half of the period of 430 years (1), to which the sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt extended. Still there is no ground for attributing to these records either faultiness or omissions, pro-vided we do not measure them by such a standard, as is foreign both to the intention of the records and to the circumstances of the case (2). In accordance with both of these, the historian is content to relate the extraordinarily rapid increase of Jacob's descendants in general but characteristic terms (ver. 6, 7), and then passes at once to a description of the circumstances, which eventually led to Israel's departure from Egypt. The rapidity with which their numbers increased may be learned from the census, taken shortly after the Exodus, from which we may infer that there were in all about two million souls (3). So long as there was a continuance of the good understanding, established by Joseph between the ruling dynasty in Egypt and the Israelitish settlers,—so long, that is, as the former could ensure the faithfulness and attachment of the latter,—this rapid increase in the number of the Israelites must have been a most welcome thing to the Egyptian rulers; for it enabled them with the greater ease to fulfil the task which the policy of Egypt imposed upon them, of guarding carefully against incursions on the part of the hostile hordes to the East. But the government of that time was apparently overthrown by force, and a new dynasty (4) arose. As this put an end to the relations of confidence and devotion, which had existed from the time of Joseph, between the government and the nomadic settlers in the land of Goshen, the extent to which the latter were increasing could not but suggest the possibility, that opposing interests might one day give rise to political difficulties. On the one hand, for example, it must have appeared a dangerous thing to have so powerful and numerous a body of men, estranged from the ruling government, just in that border province of the kingdom, which was continually threatened by the tribes on the East, who were ready to invade it for the purpose of plunder or conquest. How easily might it happen, that the latter would find in the Israelites, not protectors of Egypt, but confederates in their enterprise. On the other hand, it was to the interest of the government to prevent the settlers from leaving the country, that they might not lose so considerable a body of useful subjects; and it became all the more important to put a timely check upon their wish to emigrate, on account of the increasing desire of the descendants of Jacob to possess the promised land, which they regarded as their proper home. Under these circumstances it seemed most advisable to break the free and independent spirit of the shepherd-tribe, and to set bounds to the excessive rate at which they were increasing, by forcing them to hard labour and tributary service (5). But this was so far from accomplishing the end desired, that the dreaded increase went on at a still more threatening rate. This partial failure in their plans only drove the government to adopt severer measures still. The Hebrew midwives received secret orders from the king, to put the Hebrew boys to death in some private way, as soon as they were born. But these measures were also unsuccessful, and, therefore, the king of Egypt made known his ruthless policy in the most undisguised manner, by issuing a command to all the Egyptians, to drown the new-born sons of the Israelites in the river Nile (6). It is not known how long this command was strictly enforced, but its extreme inhumanity is sufficient to warrant us in believing that it could not be carried out for any considerable length of time. Moreover, the Egyptians knew well, that whilst it was policy on their part to weaken, it was highly impolitic to exterminate the Israelites.
(1). The length of their stay in Egypt is clearly and unequivocally stated in Exodus xii. 40 to have been 430 years : " Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.” In the Septuagint, however, (Codex Vaticanus) we read: Η δε παροίκησις των υιών Ισραήλ, ήν παρώκησαν εν γή Αιγύπτω και εν γή Χαναάν έτη τετρακόσια τριάκοντα. In the Alexandrian Codex the word παρώκησαν is followed by the clause αυτοί και οι πατέρες αυτών. We find the same reading in the Samaritan texts and the Targum of Jonathan. Hence, according to these, the 430 years included the 215 years, during which the three patriarchs sojourned in Canaan.
We must first enquire, therefore, which is the reading of the original text : whether the words in question have been omitted from the Hebrew, by accident or design, or whether they have been interpolated in the versions in which they occur. To this we reply, that an impartial examination of all the arguments pro and con yields the most decided and indisputable testimony to the genuineness of the Hebrew text. There are no various readings in the Hebrew MSS. (vid. Rosenmüller Comm. ii. p. 222), which might lead us to doubt the authenticity of the received version ; and whilst the Hebrew is recommended by its simple, natural, and inartificial construction, the Septuagint is rendered just as suspicious by the opposite qualities. At the very first glance these additions look like artificial emendations of the text, which have been made on the supposition that 430 years was too long a period for the stay in Egypt. Starting with this assumption, it was very easy to include the period spent in Canaan, especially as this embraced exactly half of the 430
years. But this rendered it necessary to add the clause ev yn Xavaáv. Moreover, we see the evidence of a guilty conscience in the unskilful clause aŭtoi kai oi tatépes aŭtôv, which is introduced for the purpose of removing the apparent incongruity, of reckoning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among the children of Israel ; for this inaccuracy would no more have given offence to an unprejudiced mind, than the similar one in Gen. xlvi. 8, where Jacob is reckoned as one of the children of Israel. Moreover, the alteration is a very unfortunate one, for it does not entirely answer its purpose, as the principal clause, “the sojourning of the children of Israel was 430 years," still remains. It is not likely that the words were written by the translator himself, since Theophilus of Antioch, who always follows the Septuagint, frequently speaks of a 430 years' sojourn in Egypt (ad Autolycum ii. 9. 24). But if they were, we know what liberties he took with the text, and how often he has altered it, especially in chronological statements, probably to snit sone preconceived system. Seyffarth's hypothesis, that the chronological accounts in the Hebrew text originally tallied with those of the Septuagint, but that they were altered by the Jewish academy at Tiberias, for the purpose of sustaining their Messianic expectations, is too arbitrary and unfounded to meet with support (vid. his Chronologia sacra p. 218 sqq.). The agreement between the Samaritan and Chaldee and the Septuagint only proves that in their case there was the same reason for shortening the 430 years. The apostle Paul, it is true, also reckons 430 years from the call of Abraham to the giving of the law (Gal. iii. 17), but as his statement is founded upon the Septuagint, it cannot be regarded as an independent authority. Paul was writing for Greeks, who were only acquainted with the Septuagint, and as the question of chronology did not in the least affect his argument, it would have been as much out of place on his part to correct the Septuagint, as it is on the part of his expositors to appeal to the doctrine of inspiration in connexion with this passage. Josephus also says (Ant. ii. 15, $ 2), that the Israelites left Egypt 430 years after the entrance of Abraham into Canaan ; but we know how little dependence can be placed upon liis chronological statements with reference to the earlier times, and in this case they lose all their worth, on account of his having spoken in two other places of 400 years as the duration of the
oppression of Israel in Egypt (Ant. ii. 9, § 1, and De bello jud. V. 9, § 4). In addition to the arguments already adduced in favour of the authenticity of the reading in the Hebrew text, we may also mention the circumstance that it is impossible to see what end could be served by an intentional omission of the words in question ; whereas, as we shall presently show, it is by no means difficult to ascertain the motives for an artificial emendation of the passage by the introduction of the clause. And if that be the case, the agreement between the Samaritan, the paraphrase, and the Septuagint loses all its importance, though they are apparently independent of one another.
By the influence of the authorities just named, the notion, that the 430 years were to be reckoned from Abraham, became a settled tradition both among Jews and Christians, and was adopted even by expositors, who followed the Hebrew text in every other case, and admitted its authenticity in the present instance. The fetters of this tradition were first broken by J. B. Koppe (progr. quo Israelitas non ccv. sed ccccxxx. annos in Aegypto commoratos esse efficitur. Göttingen 1777), and he was immediately followed by J. G. Frank (novum syst. chronol. fundam. Göttingen 1778). Since then the opposite view has become the prevailing one. It has been supported by Rosenmüller (ad. h. I. p. 220 sqq.), Hofmann (in the Studien u. Kritiken 1839, p. 402 sqq.), Tiele (Comm. ad. Gen. xv. 13 $99., and his Chronol. d. A. T. p. 33 sqq.), Ewald (Geschichte i. 454 sqq.), Bunsen (Aegypten i. 214 sqq.), Delitzsch (Genesis Ed. 2. 1. 363 seq.), L. Rcinke (Beitr. zur Erklärung d. A. Test. Münster 1851), and many others. M. Baumgarten, however, has vived the old traditional explanation (theol. comm. i. 474 sqq.)
We will commence by examining the arguments of those who are of opinion that the call of Abraham must be taken as the terminus a quo. They are founded upon Gen. xv. 13—16, Ex. vi. 16-20, and Num. xxvi. 59, all of which are said to be irreconcileable with the notion that the stay of the Israelites in Egypt lasted 430 years.—The first passage cited is Gen. xv. 13—16. Jehovah announces to Abraham : “thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge ; and afterward will they come out with great substance, And thou shalt go to thy fathers in