Page images

another Apis to be slain and served up at a banquet he had appointed in consequence of his victories.

It was also foretold, by the prophet Isaiah, that they should be miserably distracted with civil wars, And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians; and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor, city aguinst city, and kingdom against kingdom, Isaiah xix. 2. Egypt was divided into twelve prefectures, or provinces, over each of which presided a petty prince, or governor. These disagreeing with each other, civil wars took place, and, for a considerable time, the whole kingdom was one continued scene of anarchy and confusion. It is, therefore, little to be wondered at that in such distractions as these the Egyptians, who were naturally a cowardly people, should be destitute of counsel, and that the spirit of Egypt should fail in the midst thereof, as is foretold by the prophet in ver. 3. and that being also a very superstitious people, they should seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards. But their di. vination was all in vain; it was their fate to be subdued and oppressed by cruel lords and tyrants, And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, ver. 4. This is a very essential part of the prophecy, and may with the greatest propriety and justice, be applied to the Persians, and especially to Cambyses and Ochus, the former of whom put the yoke on the necks of the Egyptians, and the latter rivetted it. Ochus was the cruellest and worst of all the kings of Persia, and was so destructive and oppressive to Egypt in particular, that his favorite eunuch Bagoas, who was an Egyptian, in revenge of his injured country, poisoned him. No other allegation is wanting to prove, that the Persian yoke was more galling and intolerable to the Egyptians than their frequent revolts and rebellions, which instead of being any benefit to them, only served to enslave them the more, and augment their misery.

The prophet, after denouncing these judgments against the Egyptians, next proceeds to set forth, in figurative language, the consequences of this subjection and slavery,

the poverty and want, the mourning and lamentation, the confusion and misery, which should be entailed on them and their posterity; after which he recounts the immediate causes of these evils, the folly of the princes and rulers who valued themselves upon their wisdom, and the cowardice and effeminacy of the people in general. These things will plainly appear to any one who attentively peruses the history of that nation, the particulars of which are too considerable to be here admitted. It may, however, in general, be said, that Egypt would not have become a prey to so many foreign enemies, had it not been for the excessive weakness of the people both in counsel and in action. They had not the courage even to defend themselves. They trusted chiefly to their Grecian and other mercenaries, who, instead of defending, were often the first to betray them.

The next memorable revolution was effected by Alex. ander the Great, who subverted the Persian empire in Egypt as well as in other places; and this event is particularly pointed out in the same 19th chapter of the prophet Isaiah. It is also foretold, that about the same time several of the Egyptians should lay aside their idolatry, and be converted to the worship of the true God. In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord. And it shall be for a sign, and for a witness unto the Lord of Hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation, yea, they shall row a vow unto the Lord, and

perform it, Isaiah xix. 19, &c.

The prophet then proceeds to show, that Assyria and Egypt, which used to be at great enmity with each other, should be united in the same worship by the intermedia tion of Israel, and that those three should be a blessing on the earth. In that day shall there be a highroay out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the

[ocr errors]

third with Egypt, and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; whom the Lord shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance, ver. 23, &c.

It is clearly foretold by the prophet, that a great prince, from a foreign country, should deliver the Egyptians from their Persian oppressors, and heal their country, which was smitten of God, and afflicted. And who could this be but Alexander, who is always distinguished by the additional epithet the Great, and whose first successor in Egypt was called the great Ptolemy and Ptolemy Soter, or the Saviour ? When Alexander went first into Egypt the people all cheerfully submitted to him out of hatred to the Persians, so that he became master of the country without any opposition. For this reason he treated them with great humanity and kindness, built a city there, which, after bis own name, he called Alexandria, appointed one of his own country for their cidl governor, and permitted them to be governed by their own laws and customs. By these changes and regulations, and by the prudent and gentle administration of some of the first Ptolemies, Egypt revived, trade and learning flourished, and, for a time, the land was blessed with peace and plenty.

The prophet likewise foretels, that about the same time the true religion, and the true worship of the God of Israel, should begin to spread, and prevail in the land of Egypt; and what event was ever more unlikely to happen than the conversion of a people so sunk and lost in superstition and idolatry of the worst and grossest kind? But that it did happen will appear from what followe.

It is certain that many of the Jews, after Nebuchad. nezzar had taken Jerusalem, fled into Egypt, and with them went Jeremiah the prophet, who there delivered most of his prophecies concerning the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar. From thence some kuowledge of God, and some notices of the prophecies, might easily be received by the Egyptians. This alteration was to take place principally in five cities, which accordingly came to pass. The first city in which the true worship of God was received was Heliopolis ; the second Migdol, or

Magdolum; the third, Tahpanhes, or Daphne; the fourth, Noph, or Memphis; and the fifth, in the country of Pathros, or Thebais; all of which are particularly mentioned by the propbet Jeremiab, chap. xliv. 1.

In these cities, at that time, many Jews resided; and though they were, in general, very wicked men, and disobedient to the word of God, yet po doubt, some good people were mingled among them, who might relate to them the prophecies of Jeremiah, and they themselves, when they saw them fulfilled, might embrace the Jewish religion. This, however, is not to be understood of all the inhabitants of those places, but only of some, which is sufficient to justify the expression of fire cities speaking the language of Canaan, and swearing by the Lord of Hosts. The prediction of the prophet Zephaniah is to the same effect: Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the Lord to serve hit with one consent, Zeph. iii. 9.

After Alexander the Great had made a conquest of Egypt, he transplanted many of the Jews into his new city of Alexandria, and allowed them many privileges and immunities equal to those enjoyed by the Macedonians. Ptolemy Soter carried more of them into Egypt, and they received such indulgencies that many others followed them of their own accord. Ptolemy Philadelphus redeemed and released the captive Jews; and in his reign, or his father's, the books of Moses were translated into Greek, and afterwards the other parts of the Old Testament. The third Ptolemy, called Euergetes, having subdued all Syria, did not sacrifice to the idols of Egypt in acknowledgment of his victory; but going to Jerusalem made his oblations to God after the manner of the Jews, and his example, no doubt, was followed by many of his subjects. The sixth Ptolemy, called Philometer, committed the whole management of his kingdom to two Jews, Onias, and Dositheus, who were his chief ministers and generals, and had the principal direction of all affairs, both civil and military. This Onias obtained a license from the king to build a temple for the Jews in Egypt, like that at Jerusalem, alledging for the purpose this very prophecy of Isaiali

, that there should be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt; and the king and queen in their edict make honorable mention of the law and of the prophet Isaiah, and express a dread of sinning against God. The place, chosen for the building of this temple, was in the prefecture of Heliopolis, or the city of the sun, which place is likewise mentioned in the prophecy. It was built after the model of the temple at Jerusalem, but not so sumptuous and magnificent. Pbilometer himself was made high-priest; other priests and Levites were appointed for the ministration; and Divine service was daily performed there in the same manner as at Jerusalem. By these means the Egyptians must have known the Lord ; and without doubt there must have been many proselytes among them. Amidst those who came up to the feast of Pentecost, there are particularly mentioned the dwellers in Egypt and in the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, Jews and proselytes, Acts ii. 10.

Thus were the Jews settled and encouraged in Egypt; nor were they less favored by the kings of Syria. Seleucus Nicator made them free of the cities which he built in Asia and the Lower Syria, and even of Antioch, the capital of his kingdom; and granted the same rights and privileges to them as to the Greeks and Macedonians. Antiochus the Great published several decrees in favor of the Jews, both of those who inhabited Jerusalem, and of those who dwelt in Mesopotamia and Babylon. And thus, by means of the Jews and proselytes dwelling in Egypt and Syria, Israel, Egypt and Syria, were, in some measure, united in the same worship. But this was more fully accomplished when the inhabitants of these countries became Christians, and were made members of the church of Christ. And it is to be seriously hoped and believed, that the prophecy will still receive its most perfect completion in the latter days, when Mahometanism shall be rooted out and christianity shall again flourish in these countries, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, and all Israel shall be saved.

The fate of Egypt, from the days of Nebuchadnezzar to the present period, is predicted, in a most remarkable manner, by the prophet Ezekiel. He foretels, that after the desolation of the land, it should be a base kingdmo ; it

« PreviousContinue »