Imatges de pÓgina

thinks that he discovered traces of the representation of a camel on the obelisks at Luxor. They may not, however, have been very numerous in Abraham's day, yet the king of Egypt would possess them.

Men and maid-servants were also given. It has, by some, been deemed probable, that among these maid-servants was Hagar; for she is expressly said in Scripture to be an Egyptian. If this conjecture be well founded, it would serve to prove that, though the great body of slaves were foreigners and captives taken in war, yet that sometimes Egyptians held their own people in servitude. The monuments confirm this view.

10. Abraham accepted the gifts of Pharaoh.

However unnatural and unmanly such conduct may appear in our time and in our state of society, yet, as Kitto has remarked, those who are acquainted with the usages of the East, know that he dared not refuse them.



The greater part of the life of Joseph having been passed in Egypt, many incidents in his career furnish us with the means of comparison, in the work on which we have entered. Indeed, from the time of his sale to Potiphar, through the bondage, up to the exode, the Jews are brought into uninterrupted intercourse with the Egyptians for several hundred years. In this period, therefore, we may expect to meet with abundant facts, to the consideration of which we now proceed.

The story of Joseph, touchingly simple and beautiful in the Scripture narrative, is so familiar, that any outline of it here would be perfectly needless, but for the advantage of bringing at once into view the facts connected with our subject. We shall condense it as much as we can.

At the age of seventeen, he incurred the displeasure of his brothers, "who hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him," and this aversion was, soon after, carried to the highest pitch. Availing themselves of a favorable opportunity, they sold him to a caravan of Arabian merchants, who were bearing spices and aromatic gums of India, to the well-known and much frequented market of Egypt. On arriving in Egypt, the merchants disposed of their young slave, by sale, to Potiphar, an Egyptian, at that time high in office in the court of Pharaoh. Here he possessed his master's confidence, and prospered. At length his personal beauty excited the libidinous passions of his master's wife; and on his virtuous rejection of her wanton allurements, she contrives, with much art, to make it appear to her husband that Joseph had aimed a blow at his master's honor, by tempting her. Her mi principled falsehood succeeds, and Joseph is cast into prison. At length, his correct interpretation of the dreams of two of Pharaoh's officers who were in prison with him, leads to his being summoned before Pharaoh to interpret for him also. He predicts a period of plenty, to be succeeded by an equal period of famine; and recommends measures to the king for averting the calamity foretold. Charged by Pharaoh with the execution of these measures, he rises to a station ol eminence, and marries an Egyptian lady of rank: and his own name is changed to an Egyptian one. At length famine drives his brethren (who had sold him) to Egypt to procure food, when, after many interesting incidents, he makes himself known to them, and at length establishes all his family, including his aged father, in Goshen. After death his body, as that of his father's had before been, is embalmed, and both finally rest in a distant land.

"We now enter, in detail, upon the facts brought to our notice by the history of Joseph.

1. He was sold by his brethren to Arabian merchants, travelling with their spices, fyc, to Egypt.

"Then there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt." Gen. xxxvii. 28.

Were Arabian caravans accustomed at that time to go into Egypt with merchandise? There seems to be no doubt that they were. Among other facts tending to prove it, Sir Gardner Wilkinson refers to certain wells in the desert over which the caravans were obliged to pass; and states that, as appears from the monuments, the king Amun-in gori II. (of the 16th dynasty), caused a station to be erected at the Wady Jasoos, to command these wells for the comfort of the caravans passing from Arabia into Egypt. The same respectable authority deems it "highly probable that the port of Philoteras or JEnnum, on the Red Sea, was already founded;" and adds, "thus we have an additional reason for concluding, the commerce with Arabia to have commenced at a very early period; and that its gums and spices found a ready market in the opulent Egypt, is sufficiently proved by the Ishmaelites or Arabs of those days bringing them for sale into the lower country." Heeren expresses also a similar opinion as to the very early commerce between Arabia and Egypt.

2. Joseph "was sold to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver."

The expression is usual in Scripture "pieces of silver," "pieces of money;" but we do nowhere find, in these early times, mention made of any specific coin having a fixed value. Had such been the case here, it would have thrown suspicion on the story. History offers no intimation that, any where, either in the east or west, coined money existed, until many hundred years after the date of this transaction. In fact, it seems doubtful whether coined or stamped money is of oriental origin. The precious metals passed by weight, in the form of ingots, hars, and rings; and such the monuments now show to have been the case in Egypt. The Greeks, we know, had coined money before the Egyptians, and nations of Western Asia had it. The incident here mentioned therefore, though in itself considered it is comparatively trifling, yet deserves to be noted because it is in harmony with the customs of that day.

3. Joseph was sold for a household slave.

"And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard." Gen. xxxvii. 36.

In addition to the remarks already submitted on the subject of slavery in the last chapter, we would here observe, that probably, the first slaves were prisoners taken in war; and that the traffic in slaves arose from the fact that these prisoners at length came to be sold by their captors, to persons who had not known them in war at all, nor ever met them as enemies. The next step was that of buying up as slaves, any persons offered for sale, though they were not taken in war,—solely as a speculation. These purchased persons were carried to a distant market, and sold at a profit: and Egypt always has been, and is yet, a great market for slaves. On this subject, Sir Gardner Wilkinson thus embodies what he has collected from the monuments.

"The captives brought to Egypt were employed in the service of the monarch in building temples, cutting canals, raising dykes and embankments, and other public works ; and some who were purchased by the grandees, were employed in the same capacity as the Memlooks of the present. Women

« AnteriorContinua »