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Verse 15. "Stand by the river's trini "—"
history to have been originally built on mounds, t. serrm
to militate against this general conchess they may tare, unte. 1:
increase in the depth of the sul at
On : 12
The swell of the river varies in different parse
able until early in July; the greatest gam
saturated the labours of upco
is such a
and harvest follow
in the seasse
from LORD ought
1 out of d out of
there was and hearkD had said. nto Moses, y rod, and it it may bend of Egypt. ron stretched nd smote the ne lice in man, of the land beland of Egypt. id so with their 1 lice, but they lice upon man,
said unto PhaGod: and Phaand he hearkenLORD had said. said unto Moses, rning, and stand ometh forth to the n, Thus saith the o, that they may
not let my people warms of flies upon ants, and upon thy ses: and the houses be full of swarms of ound whereon they
in that day the land
• Or, Against to-morrow.
the river brings down from Abyssinia. Some are inclined to consider this as the discoloration alluded to in the text. To this there are the strongest objections. One is, that if it had been a common occurrence, the Egyptians could not have been surprised or intimidated. Another is, that the water, while subject to this red discoloration, is so far from being unwholesome, that its turning red is a sign that it has become fit for use; for it is preceded by a greenish discoloration, during which the water is so corrupt, tasteless, and unwholesome, that the natives confine themselves to the water which they preserve in cisterns. Another objection to this hypothesis is, that the transactions recorded here could not have happened later than February, as we are enabled to perceive by the condition of the agricultural produce, as specified in chap. ix. 31. But the rise of the river, which is attended by the red discoloration, does not take place till several months later; if, therefore, the discoloration was natural, the river must have risen at a very unusual season of the year; and this-considering the astonishing punctuality, even to a day, of the periods of increase and subsidence-would be no less a miracle than the supernatural discoloration of the river. Michaelis and others, however, rather than admit the latter alternative, allow that the miracle consisted in an anticipatory rise of the river being produced at the command of Moses. We do not see what is gained by this hypothesis, or that the miracle would be in this case less striking than in the other.
18. "The Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river."-There is an intensity in this which should not escape notice; it is as much as to say that the Egyptians should hate that which was dearest to them, and which they most admired and worshipped. Of the adoration of the Nile we have spoken in the previous note. We have now to add, that the admirable quality of its water has been the theme of praise among both natives and foreigners in ancient and modern times. Very ancient writers inform us that the water was considered so nourishing that the priests abstained from giving it to their sacred bull Apis, lest he should become too fat; and others state, that it never became impure, whether preserved at home or exported abroad. The Egyptians were even said to put it in jars, and to keep it three, four, or more years, under the impression that, like wine, the longer it was kept the better it became. Benjamin of Tudela describes the water as both drink and medicine; and our countryman, John Sanderson, who was in Egypt in 1586-7, says (in Purchas), "Nilus water I thinke to be the profitablest and wholesomest in the world, by being both bread and drinke to them; for bread there could be none without it. It breedeth no manner of disease in the body, as divers other waters doe: it hurteth not to drinke thereof either troubled or cleere; for being brought to our houses, one mile and a halfe or two miles off, it cometh in warmer than blood, and troubled, seeming sandy; but standing all night in our jars of earth, it is very clear and cool in the morning, and so continueth in the house be the weather never so hot." Subsequent travellers confirm this account, particularly Maillet, who expatiates with much satisfaction on the subject. It is said that the natives excite thirst artificially that they may drink the more of this delicious water; and it is a saying among them, that had Mohammed himself drunk of it, he would have desired to live for ever, that he might always enjoy it. Those who go on pilgrimages and journeys seem to have all other regrets absorbed in that of wanting the Nile water, and talk of little else but the pleasure they anticipate in drinking it when they return. Nor is this merely the natural partiality of the thirsty Africans for their own river: Europeans in general allow that they have not found such water in any other place. Maillet says, that when a stranger drinks it for the first time it seems like a drink prepared by art: he confesses that it had rather too much sweetness for his taste; but says that it is among waters what champagne is among wines. Perhaps this account is highly coloured; but there is no doubt, from the united testimony of various travellers, that the Nile water has some peculiarly agreeable qualities, which are doubtless the more strongly appreciated in consequence of the unpleasant character of the only other water which can be obtained in Egypt-that from the wells.
21. “The fish that was in the river died.”—As we touch here and there on the condition and usages of ancient Egypt, as illustrating the effect of these plagues, our conviction increases that those who would fully appreciate this series of wonderful transactions would do well to acquaint themselves with the current accounts of that remarkable country in which they took place. Every line in the history of the plagues seems to have a point and force which without some knowledge of Egypt cannot properly appreciated. The text before us will then appear to have a most forcible meaning, which might else be overlooked. It is repeatedly stated by Herodotus that fish formed the principal subsistence of the Egyptian people. They ate them either salted or dried in the sun, without any other preparation. Diodorus says that, from the time of the king Moris, a great body of men found continual occupation in salting the fish caught in the lake dug by that prince. Diodorus also describes the Nile as abounding in fish, not only sufficient to supply them with fresh fish, but to enable them to salt large quantities for exportation. He adds, with truth, that there was not in the world a river more serviceable to mankind than the Nile. The Egyptians are the first people whom history mentions as curing any kind of meat with salt for preservation. They used fossil salt, which they got from the African deserts; sea salt, and every thing belonging to the sea, being abhorred by them. The priests abstained from the fish even of the Nile; but whether because they considered the natives of the river too sacred to be eaten by them, or too impure from their possible communication with the sea, authors are not agreed. Clement of Alexandria gives the former reason, and Plutarch the latter. These facts will explain the force of this plague, not only in spoiling the delicious water of the idolized river, but as touching at the same time their principal means of subsistence. Bruyn hastily affirmed that there are few fish in the Nile; and Harmer has thought it worth while to give a whole chapter to disprove this statement. He brings the authority of Sandys, Norden, Egmont and Heyman, and Maillet, to bear against that of Le Bruyn. Sandys, in going up the Nile, often bought as many fish for sixpence as would satisfy twenty people. There is in fact no doubt on the subject. Harmer well observes, that fish might have been very plentiful in Egypt even if they had been scarce in the Nile. Fish were very abundant in the lakes and canals: they also abound in the Red Sea and on the shores of Lower Egypt, but we are inclined to believe that the ancient Egyptians did not eat fish derived directly from the sea.
22. "The magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments."-It has been objected, "How could the magicians turn water into blood, when all the water is said, in verse 19, to have been changed?" The answer is, that the Egyptians, by digging, found water unaffected by the plague, and on this water the magicians might operate.
24. "The Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink.”—A similar operation of digging for water, in a less likely situation than the banks of the Nile-that is, in the desert between Egypt and Palestine-is thus described by Dr. Richardson: "On our arrival at Gatsallakh we stopt in a low, wind-swept valley, beside a precipitous sand-bank that towered above our heads to the height of 100 feet. Here, however, we were told there was water, though to our longing and inexperienced eyes every inch of surface was covered with dry sand, without the slightest indication of the fluid below. Our flasks were all drained, and we alighted, and laid ourselves down on the sand, wishing for the arrival of our camels to bring us a fresh supply. Meanwhile, as we were admiring the operations of the industrious beetle, rolling his ball over the smooth surface of the desert, the sheikh of the caravan began to clear away the
arenaceous accumulation from a very unlikely spot, which, however, soon discovered signs of water beneath. He then proceeded to deepen the excavation by basketing out the sand, singing at the same time an appropriate Arab tune. They continued digging and singing for about ten minutes, when abundance of the wished-for fluid flowed amain. At the joyful sight, men, women, dogs, and asses, all crowded around, eager to dip their lips in the wave. We all drank of it, and, though it is muddy and brackish in the extreme, our first sentiment was that of universal approbation. It is extremely good," flowed from every tongue after it had tasted the water. We tried it a second time, but the voice of applause stuck in our throats." (Travels,' vol. ii. p. 182-83.) This again leads us to mention that the well water of Egypt is detestable; a circumstance which no doubt greatly enhances the estimation in which the water of the Nile is held, as described in a former note.
1 Frogs are sent. 8 Pharaoh sueth to Moses, 12 and Moses by prayer removeth them away. 16 The dust is turned into lice, which the magicians could not do. 20 The swarms of flies. 25 Pharaoh inclineth to let the people go, 32 but yet is hardened.
AND the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto
2 And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:
3 And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy 'kneading-troughs:
4 And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy
5 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt.
6 And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.
7 And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.
8 ¶ Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.
9 And Moses said unto Pharaoh, "Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?
10 And he said, "To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God.
11 And the frogs shall depart from thee, 1 Or, dough. 2 Wisd. 17.7. 8 Or, Have this honour over me, &c.
14 And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank.
15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
17 And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
18 And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.
19 Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
20 And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may
21 Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send 'swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they
22 And I will sever in that day the land Heb. to cut off. Or, Against to-morrow.
4 Or, against when.
7 Or, a mixture of noisome beasts, &c,
the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as he shall command us.
28 And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.
29 And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, to morrow but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.
30 And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.
26 And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?
27 We will go three days' journey into 8 Heb. a redemption. 9 Or, by to-morrow.
31 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
10 Wisd, 16.9.
11 Or, destroyed. 12 Chap. 3. 18.
BLATTA EGYPTIACA. A colossal Beetle, from the Egyptian
Verse 3. "The river shall bring forth frogs abundantly."-Frogs are still very abundant in the Nile and other waters of Egypt. This and several of the other plagues consisted in giving an unexampled intensity and magnitude to some of the greatest nuisances of the country. The astonishing extent of this invasion of frogs is indicated not only by the immense heaps of their carcasses which ultimately corrupted the land; but still more expressly by the fact, that their numbers were such as to oblige them to forego their natural habits, and instead of confining themselves to the waters and moist soils, to spread over the country, intruding even into the most frequented and driest places-the most private chambers, the beds, nor even the ovens being exempt from their visitation. Here, as in other instances, the objects of superstition became the instruments of punishment. The frog was one of the sacred animals of the Egyptians; but whether because they esteemed or disliked it has not been distinctly ascertained. The Egyptians were not the only people of antiquity whose deities were the objects of their dislike or fear. The frog of Egypt is the rana punctata, or
dotted frog, so called from its ash colour being and the toes are separate to half their length. Europe.
16. "Lice."-The Septuagint renders the Hebrew word ", kinnim, by envíos, which means the mosquito gnat; and this rendering is entitled to great respect, when we recollect that the translators lived in Egypt. It is also confirmed by Origen and Jerome, who, with the Septuagint, form perhaps the best mass of authority on such a point which it is possible to possess. Gesenius, Dr. Boothroyd and others, concur in this view of the word; but it is certain that the generality of interpreters agree with the common translation, which perhaps may be accounted for by the fact, that the noisome parasite is better known in the West than the mosquito, although, happily, neither of them is so generally familiar as in the East. The writer has had some experience in different countries of the misery and continual irritation which the mosquito-gnat occasions, and can say, without the least hesitation, that of all insect plagues, there is none which he should think so intolerable. The activity of these insects, their small size, their insatiable thirst for blood, and the power of their sting, which enable them to riot not only on the exposed parts of the person, but on those that are thinly covered, as the legs, almost render existence a calamity during the seasons in which they most abound. The painful sensation which their sting produces, and the intolerable and protracted itching which ensues, with the combined torture resulting from the infliction of fresh stings while the former are still smarting, is scarcely less distressing to the mind than to the body. To secure sleep at night, the inhabitants of the countries infested by these insects are obliged to shelter themselves under mosquito-nets or curtains; and it deserves to be mentioned that this precaution was used by the ancient Egyptians. There is a remarkable passage on this subject in Herodotus. After mentioning how the country is infested by gnats, he says that as the wind will not allow these insects to ascend to any considerable elevation, the inhabitants of Upper Egypt sleep in turrets to avoid these tormentors; but that in Lower Egypt the people sleep securely underneath their nets with which they fish by day, and which they spread over their beds at night. This has puzzled translators and others; but it is a fact that mosquitos and other flies will not pass through nets, the meshes of which are much more than large enough to admit them. This is practically known in some parts of Italy, where the inhabitants use net window-curtains which freely admit the air while they exclude gnats and flies. How severely this calamity was felt is evinced by the fact that the Egyptians and other nations of antiquity had gods whose especial province it was to protect them from these and other "flies." The "Baalzebub," or "god of flies," so often mentioned in Scripture, was a deity of this description. We read also of towns near lakes and marshy grounds (where these insects particularly abound) being deserted on account of this nuisance, as well as of important military undertakings being relinquished. As the mosquitoes breed in marshy soil, and particularly in moist rice-grounds, where such exist, the annual overflowing of the Nile renders Egypt but too favourable to their production. They accordingly appear in immense swarms, and the testimony of travellers concurs in declaring that there is no country, in the old continent at least, where the mosquito-gnats are so numerous and voracious as in Egypt, or where the pain of their wound and the consequent smart and itching are so acute. We have abstained from describing them, as their general appearance and habits do not differ from those of the common gnat; but there is no comparison in the degree of annoyance which they occasion. The Egyptian gnat is rather small. It is ash-coloured, with white spots on the articulation of the legs. It may be objected to the view of the text which we have taken, that it detracts from the miraculous nature of the visitation to suppose it connected with insects which Egypt naturally produces in such abundance. But this objection equally applies to "lice," which swarm there to such a degree that it is difficult for the most cleanly persons to keep themselves wholly free from them. If we take either reading, it is only necessary to conclude (which the text expressly states) that the creatures were brought in swarms most extraordinary even in Egypt, and perhaps that they were brought thus abundantly at a time of the year when they do not usually abound.
dotted with green spots. The feet are marked with transverse bands, This frog changes colour when alarmed, and is comparatively rare in
21. "Swarms of flies," Arob, Heb., "omne genus muscarum," Vulg.—As the word Arob implies a mixture, the Vulgate has translated it "all sorts of flies," and from thence our version, swarms of flies," where it is to be observed that "flies," in Italics, is not in the original. We are left to conjecture what kind of fly is meant, or whether, indeed, the plague consisted in flies at all. The language of the 24th verse is remarkable: "the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm," which could hardly apply to any "fly," properly so called. If also we refer to Psalm lxxviii. 45, we see the Arob is described as devouring the Egyptians, which is an act that seems inapplicable to a fly. Upon the whole, we strongly incline to the opinion which has found some able supporters of late years, that the Egyptian beetle (Blatta Egyptiaca) is denoted in this place. The beetle, which is almost everywhere a nuisance, is particularly abundant and offensive in Egypt, and all the circumstances which the Scripture in different places intimates concerning the Arob, applies with much accuracy to this species. It devours every thing that comes in its way, even clothes, books, and plants, and does not hesitate to inflict severe bites on man. If also we conceive that one object of these plagues was to chastise the Egyptians through their own idols, there is no creature of its class which could be more fitly employed than this insect. What precise place it filled in the religious system of that remarkable people has never, we believe, been exactly determined; but that it occupied a conspicuous place among their sacred creatures seems to be evinced by the fact, that there is scarcely any figure which occurs so frequently in Egyptian sculpture and painting. Visiters to the British Museum may satisfy themselves of this fact, and they will also observe a remarkable colossal figure of a beetle in greenish coloured granite. Figures of beetles cut in green coloured stone occur very frequently in the ancient tombs of Egypt. They are generally plain; but some have hieroglyphic figures cut on their backs, and others have been found with human heads. The Egyptian beetle is about the size of the common beetle, and its general colour is also black. It is chiefly distinguished by having a broad white band upon the anterior margin of its oval corselet.
26. “Shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us ?”—There can be no doubt that this means that it would not be safe in Egypt to sacrifice animals which the Egyptians worshipped. What were the sentiments of the "shepherd-king," whom we have concluded to be the Pharaoh here addressed, it is impossible to determine; but there is much in this narrative which would seem to imply, that however this race of kings may, in the first instance, have discouraged the Egyptian worship, they ultimately conformed to most of the peculiar usages, and probably to the religion, of the conquered. This is the usual course of things when a conquered people are superior to the conquerors in civilization and refinement; and it is rendered the more bable by the fact that the Israelites themselves did not remain untainted by the idolatry of Egypt. What that idolatry, or rather zoolatry, was we have had some occasion to intimate already. The text before us would naturally suggest some details concerning the religion of the ancient Egyptians; but as this would not consist with the limits of a note, we must confine our attention to the simple fact which the passage before us indicates. Whatever may have been the ulterior objects of Egyptian worship, and whatever explanations they may have given on the subject, it is certain that the sensible mani