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Sarah in Egypt, “ It shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife; and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake.” She was then only sixty-five; since she had, twenty-five years afterwards, the king of Gerar for a lover, it is not surprising that, when twenty-five years younger, she had kindled some passion in Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed she was taken away by him in the same manner as she was afterwards taken by Abimelech, the king of Gerar, in the desert. Abraham received presents at the court of Pharaoh
sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and menservants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels.” These presents, which were considerable, prove
that the Pharaohs had already become very great kings; the country of Egypt must therefore have been very populous. But to make the country inhabitable and to build towns, it must have cost immense labour. It was necessary to construct canals for the
of draining off the waters of the Nile, which overflowed Egypt during four or five months of each year, and stagnated on the soil. It was also necessary to raise the town at least twenty feet above these canals. Works so considerable seem to have required thou
sands of ages.
There were only about four hundred years betwixt the Deluge and the period at which we fix Abraham's journey into Egypt. The Egyptians must have been very ingenious and indefatigably laborious, since, in so short a time, they invented all the arts and sciences, set bounds to the Nile, and changed the whole face of the country. Probably they had already built some of the great pyramids; for we see that the art of embalming the dead was in a short time afterwards brought to perfection; and the pyramids were only the tombs in which the bodies of their princes were deposited with the most august ceremonies.
This opinion of the great antiquity of the pyramids receives additional countenance from the fact, that three hundred years earlier, or but one hundred years after the Hebrew epoch of the Deluge of Noah, the Asiatics had built, in the plain of Sennaar, a tower which was to reach to heaven. St. Jerome, in his commentary on Isaiah, says that this tower was already four thousand paces high, when God came down to stop the progress of the work.
Let us suppose each pace to be two feet and a half; four thousand paces, then, are ten thousand feet; consequently the Tower of Babel was twenty times as high as the pyramids of Egypt, which are only about five hundred feet. But what a prodigious quantity of instruments must have been requisite to raise such an edifice! All the arts must have concurred in forwarding the work. Whence commentators conclude, that men of those times were incomparably larger, stronger, and more industrious, than those of modern nations.
So much may be remarked with respect to Abraham, as relating to the arts and sciences.
With regard to his person, it is most likely that he was a man of considerable importance. The Chaldeans and the Persians each claim him as their own. The ancient religion of the Magi has, from time immemorial, been called Kish Ibrahim, Milat Ibrahim; and it is agreed that the word Ibrahim is precisely the same with Abraham, nothing being more common amongst the Asiatics, who rarely write the vowels, than to change the iinto a or the a into i in pronunciation.
It has even been asserted that Abraham was the Brama of the Indians, and that their notions were adopted by the people of the countries near the Euphrates, who traded with India from time immemorial.
The Arabs regarded him as the founder of Mecca. Mahomet, in his Koran, always viewed in him the most respectable of his predecessors. In his third sura or chapter, he speaks of him thus :- -“ Abraham was neither Jew nor Christian; he was an orthodox Mussulman; he was not of the number of those who imagine that God has colleagues."
The temerity of the human understanding has even gone so far as to imagine that the Jews did not call themselves the descendants of Abraham until a very late period, when they had at last established themselves in Palestine. They were strangers, hated and despised by their neighbours. They wished, say some, to relieve themselves by passing for descendants of that Abraham who was so much reverenced in a great part of Asia.
The faith which we owe to the sacred books of the Jews removes all these difficulties.
Other critics, no less hardy, start other objections relative to Abraham's immediate communication with the
Almighty, his battles, and his victories.
The Lord appeared to him after he went out of Egypt, and said, * “ Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.”
The Lord, by a second oath, afterwards promised him all “ from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." +
The critics ask, how could God promise the Jews this immense country which they have never possessed ? and how could God give to them for ever that small part of Palestine out of which they have so long been driven ?
Again, the Lord added to these promises, that Abraham's posterity should be as numerous as the dust of the earth so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.”I
Our critics insist that there are not now on the face of the earth four hundred thousand Jews, though they have always regarded marriage as a sacred duty, and made population their greatest object.
To these difficulties it is replied, that the church, substituted for the synagogue, is the true race of Abraham, who are therefore
very numerous. It must be admitted that they do not possess Pales
Genesis, chap. xiii, verses 14 and 15. t Ibid, chap. xv, verse 12. I lbid, chap. xiii, verse 16.
tine; but they may one day possess it, as they have already conquered it once, in the first crusade, in the time of Urban II. In a word, when we view the Old Testament with the eyes of faith, as a type of the New, all either is or will be accomplished, and our weak reason must bow in silence.
Fresh difficulties are raised respecting Abraham's victory near Sodom. It is said to be inconceivable that a stranger who drove his flocks to graze in the neighbourhood of Sodom, should, with three hundred and eighteen keepers of sheep and oxen, beat a king of Persia, a king of Pontus, the king of Babylon, and the king of nations, and pursue them to Damascus, which is more than a hundred miles from Sodom. Yet such a victory is not impossible, for we see other similar instances in those heroic times, when the arm of God was not shortened. Think of Gideon, who, with three hundred men, armed with three hundred pitchers and three hundred lamps, defeated a whole army! Think of Sampson, who slew a thousand Philistines with the jaw-bone of an ass !
Even profane history furnishes like examples. Three hundréd Spartans stopped, for a moment, the whole army of Xerxes, at the pass of Thermopylæ. It is true that, with the exception of one man who fled, they were all slain, together with their king Leonidas, whom Xerxes had the baseness to gibbet, instead of raising to his memory the monument which it deserved. It is moreover true, that these three hundred Lacedæmonians, who guarded a steep passage which would scarcely admit two men abreast, were supported by an army of ten thousand Greeks, distributed in advantageous posts among the rocks of Pelion and Ossa, four thousand of whom, be it observed, were stationed behind this very passage of Thermopylæ.
These four thousand perished after a long combat. Having been placed in a situation more exposed than that of the three hundred Spartans, they may be said to have acquired more glory in defending it against the Persian army, which cut them all in pieces. Indeed, on the monument afterwards erected on the field
of battle, mention was made of these four thousand victims; whereas, none are spoken of now but the three hundred.
A still more memorable though much less celebrated action, was that of fifty Swiss, who, in 1315, routed at Morgat the whole army of the archduke Leopold of Austria, consisting of twenty thousand men. They destroyed the cavalry, by throwing down stones from a high rock; and gave time to fourteen hundred Helvetians to come up and finish the defeat of the army. - This achievement at Morgat is more brilliant than that of Thermopylæ, inasmuch as it is a finer thing to conquer than to be conquered. The Greeks amounted to ten thousand, well armed; and it was impossible that, in a mountainous country, they could have to encounter more than a hundred thousand Persians at once; it is more than probable that there were not thirty thousand Persians engaged. But here fourteen hundred Swiss defeat an army of twenty thousand men. The diminished proportion of the less to the greater number, also increases the proportion of glory. -But, how far has Abraham led us?
These digressions amuse him who makes and sometimes him who reads them. Besides, every one is delighted to see a great army beaten by a little one.
Abraham is one of those names which were famous in Asia Minor and Arabia, as Thaut was among the Egyptians, the first Zoroaster in Persia, Hercules in Greece, Orpheus in Thrace, Odin among the northern nations, and so many others, known more by their fame than by any authentic history. I speak here of profane history only; as for that of the Jews, our masters and our enemies, whom we at once detest and believe, their history having evidently been written by the Holy Ghost, we feel towards it as we ought to feel. We have to do here only with the Arabs. They boast of having descended from Abraham through 'Ismaël, believing that this patriarch built Mecca and died there. The fact is, that the race of Ismaël has been