« PreviousContinue »
in a box in the temple at Madînat Habû, built by Rameses III. ; it is now in the British Museum. (No. 9900.)
IV. Decrees, Scarabs, Statues of Kings and Private Persons, which are fruitful sources of information about historical, religious, and chronological subjects.
V. Biblical notices about Egypt and allusions to events of Egyptian history.
The earliest recorded contact between the Hebrews and the Egyptians is mentioned in Geneses xii. 10–20, where we are told that Abram went down to live in the land of Egypt, because there was a famine in the land. The Patriarch probably entered the country by the old caravan road which ran from Syria to the north-east of the Delta, and sojourned in the district round about Tanis, where grain was to be had in abundance, and where the fertility of the land was proverbial. This portion of the Delta was inhabited by a mixed population of Egyptians and temporary, or permanent, dwellers from the Eastern Desert and Syria, from time immemorial. Famines were frequent in Syria and Palestine, and the Hebrews and other nomad tribes must often have been compelled to send to Egypt for grain, and the trading transactions which existed between the Egyptians and the desert peoples must have been considerable. If the generally accepted chronology be correct, Abram probably visited Egypt under the XIIth dynasty, at the time when so much was being done for the irrigation of the country, and when the power of the Egyptians over the dwellers in the Eastern Desert and in the peninsula of Sinai was renewed in a very effective manner.
From the history of Joseph many side-lights on the social condition of Egypt may be gleaned. In the first place, it is seen that a famine in Syria first compelled the Patriarch Jacob to send his sons into Egypt to buy corn, and in so doing he was following the example of his great ancestor Abram. When Joseph's brethren sold him to the proprietors of a caravan on its way to Egypt, they did what it has been the custom of Orientals in the desert to do from time immemorial, and every detail of the story has found innumerable parallels in the histories of free-born desert men who have been kidnapped and taken 10 Egypt and sold as slaves there. The description of Potiphar, Joseph's master, the incident of the love turned to hate of his mistress, the prison life, the interpreting of the dreams of the butler and baker, and the rapid rise of the young Hebrew to power as the wazîr or prime minister of the king of the district, are most accurately described, and every part of the narrative proves how intimately life in the Delta was known and understood by its writer. That Joseph should marry Asenath, the daughter of a priest of Heliopolis, was as natural for a high official in his position, as it was for the king to make him take the Egyptian name of “Zaphnathpaaneah,” which means something like, “God spake, and he came into life,” 330879.00 @ fmming.
obite, ondor 4 It is of course impossible to assign a date to the period during which Joseph lived in Egypt, but the facts of his history are older than the recension of them with which we are familiar. The arrival of Joseph in Egypt and the settlement of his father and brethren in Goshen may well have taken place under the rule of the Hyksos, i.e., some time before B.C. 1700, and a good deal may be said in favour of this view. On the other hand, the names of Potipherah, and Asenath, and Zaphnath-paaneah all belong to a period some 700 years later, i.e., to the time of the XXIInd dynasty; certainly the Egyptian inscriptions contain no evidence which would show that they were used during the period of the Hyksos, or during that immediately following. It is also impossible to identify the famine in Egypt which took place under Joseph's rule, for severe famines of the kind
have taken place in the country with terrible frequency from time immemorial. The earliest seven years' famine mentioned by tradition is that which the inscription on the rock on the island of Sâḥal in the First Cataract says took place in the reign of Tcheser, a king of the II Ird dynasty, about B.C. 4000 ; this famine was caused by a succession of low Niles, and the lack of food was so absolute that the people sank down through exhaustion in the streets, and died where they dropped. Of the awful seven years' iamine which lasted from A.D. 1066-72, many details are known. A cake cost 15 dînârs (the dinâr = 10 shillings), an egg i dînâr, a dog 5 dînârs, a cat 3 dînârs, and a house was exchanged for 20 lbs. of flour. Passengers in the streets were caught by hooks let down from upper windows, drawn up, killed and eaten; and human flesh was sold in public. In 1201 another awful famine began, and the people habitually ate human flesh; parents killed and cooked their children, and a wife was found eating her husband raw. The plague came in the following year, and at Alexandria a Muḥammadan religious official said the funeral prayers over 700 persons. In connexion with the history of Joseph, and as an instance of the influence of Egyptian customs on the Hebrews, it may be noted that when Jacob died, Joseph " commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his " father: and the physicians embalmed Israel (Genesis l. 2). " And forty days were fulfilled for him ; for so are fulfilled " the days of those which are embalmed : and the Egyptians “mourned for him threescore and ten days.” In accordance with the oath which Joseph sware to Jacob, and with Pharaoh's permission, Joseph and his brethren carried their father “into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the " cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought “ with the field for a possession of a burying place of Ephron " the Hittite, before Mamre” (Genesis 1. 13). Finally, " Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old : and
“ they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt”; and in Joshua xxiv. 32, we read that the bones of Joseph were buried at Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.
The history of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt as related in the Book of Exodus is full of allusions to the manners and customs of the Egyptians of a most important character, and, although it is impossible in the existing state of Biblical criticism to reconcile the numbers which occur in that Book with every-day probabilities, it is quite certain that the narrative is based on historical events. Egyptian history shews that several exoduses of Semites from the Delta must have taken place, the oldest of all being in connexion with the expulsion of Hequ-Shasu, or Hyksos, i.e., the “Shepherd Kings,” or chiefs of nomad and pastoral tribes. The Exodus of the Bible took place probably after the death of Rameses II, at the period when the Libyan tribes atiempted to gain possession of the Delta in the reign of Menephthah, and as the policy of the kings of the XIXth dynasty was “ Egypt for the Egyptians,” and Rameses II was the great king who forced the peoples of the Delta to build "treasure cities” for him, he may well be regarded as the “Pharaoh of the Oppression.” Under the XVIIIth dynasty the Semites of Western Asia had great power in Egypt, but the kings of the XIXth dynasty set themselves the task of breaking that power. The mention of the “Israelites "* on the stele of Menephthah refers in no way to their sojourn in Egypt, and if the identification be correct, it only proves that there were Israelites in the reign of Menephthah where we should expect to find them, i.l., in Palestine. The story of the finding of Moses is paralleled with that of the finding of Sargon, but in the Book of Exodus the word for “ark” is Egyptian, as is that used * The Egyptian word is 14 To o Istrảai.u
for "bulrushes.” The “ark” was probably made of papyrus, and Dr. Birch pointed out many years ago that Moses' mother used this plant in making the “ark," because, being sacred to Isis, crocodiles would not approach it to do the child harm. Isis hid her own son Horus among the papyrus plants to save him from the enmity of Set. The name Moses is, of course, the Egyptian name Mesu li ye, which has actually been found in the inscriptions. The route followed by the Israelites on leaving Egypt, as described in Exodus, was the one which historical considerations would lead us to expect them to take. They made their way first eastwards, and then to the south, for, humanly speaking, it was impossible for them to pass the line of fortified towns which stood on the old road between Egypt and Palestine. The lack of wells at frequent distances would also form a serious difficulty to a host of fugitives taking women and children with them. In the desert of Sinai the Israelites lapsed into idolatry, and they worshipped an image of the Cow-goddess Hathor, made of gold; this goddess was regarded by the Egyptians as the tutelary deity of the Peninsula of Sinai, and temples in her honour existed at Wâdi Maghâra and Şarâbît al-Khâdim in early times.
The Hebrews maintained a steady intercourse with the Egyptians for centuries, and always regarded them with consideration ; this is clear from the command, “Thou “shalt not abhor an Egyptian, because thou wast a stranger in his land” (Deut. xxiii. 7). From i Kings iii. 1, we learn that “ Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of “ Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her “ into the city of David.” The kings of Egypt became allies of the Hebrews, for Solomon received help from Pharaoh against the Canaanites (1 Kings ix. 16), but after the division in the kingdom of David, Shishak (i.e., Shashanq I.)