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the most ancient book in the world. It is evident, that those of Sanchoniathon, and those of Thaut, eight hundred years anterior to those of Sanchoniathon; those of the first Zerdusht, the Shasta, the Vedam of the Indians, which we still possess; the five kings of China; and finally, the book of Job; are of a much remoter antiquity than any Jewish book. It is demonstrated, that this little people could only have annals whilst they had a stable government; that they only had this government under their kings; that its jargon was only formed, in the course of time, of a mixture of Phenician and Arabic. There are incontestable proofs that the Phenicians cultivated letters a long time before them. Their profession was pillage and brokerage; they were writers only by chance. We have lost the books of the Egyptians and Phenicians, the Chinese, Bramins, and Guebres; the Jews have preserved theirs. All these monuments are curious, but they are monuments of human imagination alone, in which not a single truth, either physical or historical, is to be learned. There is not at present any little physical treatise that would not be more useful than all the books of antiquity.
The good Calmet, or Dom Calmet (for the Benedictines like us to give them their Dom) that simple compiler of so many reveries and imbecilities; that man whom simplicity has rendered so useful to whoever would laugh at antique nonsense, faithfully relates the opinion of those who would discover the malady with which Job was attacked, as if Job was a real personage. He does not hesitate in saying, that Job had the smallpox, and heaps passage upon passage, as usual, to prove that which is not. He had not read the history of the small-pox by Astruc; for Astruc being neither a father of the church nor a doctor of Salamanca, but a very learned physician, the good man Calmet knew not that he existed. Monkish compilers are poor crea
BY AN INVALID, at the Baths of Aix-la-Chapelle.
THE history of Joseph, considering it merely as an object of curiosity and literature, is one of the most precious monuments of antiquity which has reached us. It appears to be the model of all the oriental writers; it is more affecting than the Odyssey of Homer; for a hero who pardons is more touching than one who
We regard the Arabs as the first authors of these ingenious fictions, which have passed into all languages; but I see among them no adventures comparable to those of Joseph. Almost all in it is wonderful, and the termination exacts tears of tenderness. He was a young man of sixteen years of age, of whom his brothers were jealous; he is sold by them to a caravan of Ismaelite merchants, conducted into Egypt, and bought by an eunuch of the king. This eunuch had a wife, which is not at all extraordinary; the kislar aga, a perfect eunuch, has a seraglio at this day at Constantinople; they left him some of his senses, and nature in consequence is not altogether extinguished. matter; the wife of Potiphar falls in love with the young Joseph, who, faithful to his master and benefactor, rejects the advances of this woman. She is irritated at it, and accuses Joseph of attempting to seduce her. Such is the history of Hippolytus and Phedra, of Bellerophon and Zenobea, of Hebrus and Damasippa, of Myrtilus and Hippodamia, &c.
It is difficult to know which is the original of all these histories; but among the ancient Arabian authors there is a tract relating to the adventure of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, which is very ingenious. The author supposes that Potiphar, uncertain between the assertions of his wife and Joseph, regarded not Joseph's tunic, which his wife had torn as a proof of the young man's outrage. There was a child in a cradle in his wife's chamber; and Joseph said that she seized and tore his tunic in the presence of this infant. Potiphar consulted the child, whose mind was very advanced for its age.
The child said to Potiphar," See if the tunic is torn behind or before; if before, it is a proof that Joseph would embrace your wife by force, and that she defended herself; if behind, it is a proof that your wife detained Joseph." Potiphar, thanks to the genius of the child, recognised the innocence of his slave. It is thus that this adventure is related in the Koran, after the Arabian author. It informs us not to whom the infant belonged, who judged with so much wit. If it was not a son of Potiphar, Joseph was not the first whom this woman had seduced.
However that may be, according to Genesis, Joseph is put in prison, where he finds himself in company with the butler and baker of the king of Egypt. These two prisoners of state both dreamed one night. Joseph explains their dreams; he predicted that in three days the butler would be received again into favour, and that the baker would be hanged; which failed not to happen.
Two years afterwards the king of Egypt also dreams, and his butler tells him that there is a young Jew in prison who is the first man in the world for the interpretation of dreams. The king causes the young man to be brought to him, who foretels seven years of abundance and seven of sterility.
Let us here interrupt the thread of the history to remark, of what prodigious antiquity is the interpretation of dreams. Jacob saw in a dream the mysterious ladder at the top of which was God himself. dream he learned a method of multiplying his flocks, a method which never succeeded with any but himself. Joseph himself had learned by a dream that he should one day govern his brethren. Abimelech, a long time before, had been warned in a dream, that Sarah was the wife of Abraham.*
To return to Joseph. After explaining the dream of Pharaoh, he was made first minister on the spot. We doubt if at present a king could be found, even in Asia, who would bestow such an office in return for an interpreted dream. Pharaoh espoused Joseph to a
* See Dreams, section iii. of the article Somnabulists.
daughter of Potiphar. It is said that this Potiphar was high priest of Heliopolis; he was not therefore the eunuch his first master; or if it was the latter, he had another title besides that of high priest; and his wife had been a mother more than once.
However, the famine happened, as Joseph foretold; and Joseph, to merit the good graces of his king, forced all the people to sell their land to Pharaoh, and all the nation became slaves to procure corn. This is apparently the origin of despotic power. It must be confessed, that never king made a better bargain; but the people also should no less bless the prime minister.
Finally, the father and brothers of Joseph had also need of corn, for "the famine was sore in all lands." It is scarcely necessary to relate here how Joseph received his brethren; how he pardoned and enriched them. In this history is found all that constitutes an interesting epic poem-exposition, plot, recognition, adventures, and the marvellous; nothing is more strongly marked with the stamp of oriental genius.
What the good man Jacob, the father of Joseph, answered to Pharaoh, ought to strike all those who know how to read-" How old art thou," said the king to him." The days of the years of my pilgrimage," said the old man, are an hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been."
I NEVER was in Judea, thank God! and I never will go there. I have met with men of all nations who have returned from it, and they have all of them told me, that the situation of Jerusalem is horrible; that all the land round itis stony; that the mountains are bare; that the famous river Jordan is not more than forty feet wide; that the only good spot in the country is Jericho; in short, they all spoke of it as St. Jerome did, who resided a long time in Bethlehem and describes the country as the refuse and rubbish of nature. He says, that in summer the inhabitants cannot get
even water to drink. This country however must have appeared to the Jews luxuriant and delightful, in comparison with the deserts in which they originated. Were the wretched inbabitants of the Landes to quit them for some of the mountains of Lampourdan, how would they exult and delight in the change; and how would they hope eventually to penetrate into the fine and fruitful districts of Languedoc, which would be to them the land of promise!
Such is precisely the history of the Jews. Jericho and Jerusalem are Toulouse and Montpelier, and the desert of Sinaï is the country between Bourdeaux and Bayonne.
But if the God who conducted the Israelites wished to bestow upon them a pleasant and fruitful land; if these wretched people had in fact dwelt in Egypt, why did he not permit them to remain in Egypt? To this we are answered only in the usual language of theology. Judea, it is said, was the promised land. God said to Abraham-"I will give thee all the country between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates."*
Alas! my friends, you never have had possession of those fertile banks of the Euphrates and the Nile. You have only been duped and made fools of. You have almost always been slaves. To promise and to perform, my poor unfortunate fellows, are different things. There was an old rabbi once among you, who, when reading your shrewd and sagacious prophecies, announcing for you a land of milk and honey, remarked that you had been promised more butter than bread. Be assured, that were the great Turk this very day to offer me the lordship (seigneurie) of Jerusalem, I would positively decline it.
Frederick III. when he saw this detestable country, said, loudly enough to be distinctly heard, that Moses must have been very ill-advised to conduct his tribe of lepers to such a place as that; why, says Frederick, did he not go to Naples? Adieu, my dear Jews; I am
Genesis xv. 18.