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infinitely more favoured by God than that of Jacob. Both races, it is true, have produced robbers ; but the Arabian robbers have been prodigiously superior to the Jewish ones; the descendants of Jacob conquered only a very small country, which they have lost; whereas the descendants of Ismaël conquered part of Asia, of Europe, and of Africa, established an empire more extensive than that of the Romans, and drove the Jews from their caverns, which they called The Land of Promise.
Judging of things only by the examples to be found in our modern histories, it would be difficult to believe that Abraham had been the father of two nations so widely different. We are told that he was born in Chaldea, and that he was the son of a poor potter, who earned his bread by making little earthen idols. It is hardly likely that this son of a potter should have passed through impracticable desarts, and founded the city of Mecca, at the distance of four hundred leagues, under a tropical sun.
If he was a .conqueror, he doubtless cast his eyes on the fine country of Assyria. If he was no more than a poor man, he did not found kingdoms abroad.
The Book of Genesis relates that he was seventy-five years old when he went out of the land of Haran after the death of his father Terah the potter; but the same book also tells us, that Terah, having begotten Abraham at the age of seventy years, lived to that of two hundred and five; and afterwards, that Abraham went out of Haran; which seems to signify, that it was after the death of his father.
Either the author did not know how to dispose his narration, or it is clear from the Book of Genesis itself, that Abraham was one hundred and thirty-five years old when he quitted Mesopotamia. He went from a country which is called idolatrous, to another idodatrous country named Sichem, in Palestine. Why did he quit the fruitful banks of the Euplırates, for a spot so remote, so barren, and so stony as Sichem ?It was not a place of trade, and was distant a hundred - leagues from Chaldea, and desarts lay between. But
God chose that Abraham should go this journey ; he chose to show him the land wbich his descendants were to occupy
several ages after him. It is with difficulty that the human understanding comprehends the reasons for such a journey.
Scarcely had he arrived in the little mountainous country of Sichem, when famine compelled him to quit it. He went into Egypt with his wife Sarah, to seek a subsistence. The distance from Sichem to Memphis is two hundred leagues. Is it natural that a man should go so far to ask for corn in a country, the language of which he did not understand? Truly these were strange journies, undertaken at the age of nearly a hundred and forty years !
He brought with him to Memphis his wife Sarah, who was extremely young, and almost an infant when compared with himself; for she was only sixty-five. As she was very
handsome, he resolved to turn her beauty to account. Say, I pray thee, that thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake." He should rather have said to her, “Say, I pray thee, that thou art my daughter.” The king fell in love with the young Sarah, and gave the pretended brother abundance of sheep, oxen, he-asses, she-asses, camels, men. servants and maid-servants; which proves that Egypt was then a powerful, and well-regulated, and consequently an ancient kingdom, and that those were magnificently rewarded who came and offered their sisters to the kings of Memphis. The youthful Sarah was ninety years old when God promised her that, in the course of a year, she should have a child by Abraham, who was then a hundred and sixty.
Abraham, who was fond of travelling, went into the horrible desart of Kadesh with his pregnant wife, ever young
and ever pretty. A king of this desart was, of course, captivated by Sarah, as the king of Egypt had been. The father of the faithful told the same lie as in Egypt, making his wife pass for his sister; which brought him more sheep, oxen, men-servants, and maid-servants. It might be said that this Abraham became rich principally by the means of his wife. Commentators have written a prodigious number of volumes to justify Abraham's conduct, and to explain away the errors in chronology. To these commentaries we must refer the reader; they are all composed by men of nice and acute perceptions, excellent metaphysicians, and by no means pedants.
For the rest, this name of Bram, or Abram, was famous in Judea and in Persia. Several of the learned even assert, that he was the same legislator whom the Greeks called Zoroaster. Others say that he was the Brama of the Indians; which is not demonstrated. But it appears very reasonable to many, that this Abraham was a Chaldean or a Persian; from whom the Jews afterwards boasted of having descended, as the Franks did of their descent from Hector, and the Britons from Tubal. It cannot be denied that the Jewish nation were a very modern horde; that they did not establish themselves on the borders of Phænicia until a very late period ; that they were surrounded by ancient states, whose language they adopted, receiving from them even the name of Israel, which is Chaldean, from the testimony of the Jew Flavius Josephus himself. We know that they took the names of the Angels from the Babylonians, and that they called God by the names of Eloi or Eloa, Adonaï, Jehovah or Hiao, after the Phænicians. It is probable that they knew the name of Abraham or Ibrahim only through the Babylonians; for the ancient religion of all the countries from the Euphrates to the Oxus was called Kish Ibrahim or Milat Ibrahim. This is confirmed by all the researches made on the spot by the learned Hyde.
The Jews, then, treat, their history and ancient fable as their clothes-men treat their old coats--they turn them and sell them for new at as high a price as possible. It is a singular instance of human stupidity, that we have so long considered the Jews as a nation which taught all others, while their historian Josephus himself confesses the contrary.
It is difficult to penetrate the shades of antiquity; but it is evident that all the kingdoms of Asia were in a very flourishing state before the wandering horde of
Arabs, called Jews, had a small spot of earth which they called their own,—when they had neither a town, nor laws, nor even a fixed religion. When, therefore, we see an ancient rite or an ancient opinion established in Egypt or Asia, and also amongst the Jews, it is very natural to suppose that this small, newly-formed: ignorant, stupid people, copied, as well as they were able, the ancient, flourishing, and industrious nation. :
It is on this principle that we must judge of Judea, Biscay, Cornwall, &c. Most certainly triumphant Rome did not in any thing imitate Biscay or Cornwall; and he must be either very ignorant or a great knave, who would say that the Jews taught anything to the Greeks.
It must not be thought that Abraham was known only to the Jews : on the contrary, he is renowned throughout Asia. This name, which signifies father of a people in more Oriental languages than one, was given to some inhabitant of Chaldea, from whom several nations have boasted of descending. The pains which the Arabs and the Jews took to establish their descent from this patriarch, render it impossible for even the greatest Pyrrhoneans to doubt of there having been an Abraham.
The Hebrew Scriptures make him the son of Terah, while the Arabs say that Terah was his grand-father, and Azar his father, in which they have been followed by several Christians. The interpreters are of fortytwo different opinions with respect to the year in which Abraham was brought into the world, and I shall not hazard a forty-third. It also appears, hy the dates, that Abraham lived sixty years longer than the text allows him; but mistakes in chronology do not destroy the truth of a fact. Supposing even that the book which speaks of Abraham had not been so sacred as was the law, it is not therefore less certain that Abraham existed. The Jews distinguished books written by inspired men, from books composed by particular inspiration. How, indeed, can it be believed that God dictated false datea? Philo the Jew of Suidas, relates that Terah, the father or grand-father of Abraham, whọ dwelt at Ur in Chaldea, was a poor man who gained a livelihood by making little idols, and that he was himself an idolater. If so, that ancient religion of the Sabeans, who had no idols, but worshipped the heavens, had not then, perhaps, been established in Chaldea; or, if it prevailed in one part of the country, it is very probable that idolatry was predominant in the rest. It seems, that in those times each little horde had its religion, as each family had its own peculiar customs; all were tolerated, and all were peaceably confounded. Laban, the father-inlaw of Jacob, had idols. Each clan was perfectly willing that the neighbouring clan should have its gods, and contented itself with believing that its own were the mightiest,
The Scripture says that the God of the Jews, who intended to give them the land of Canaan, commanded Abraham to leave the fertile country of Chaldea, and go towards Palestine, promising him that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. It is for theologians to explain, by allegory and mystical sense, how all the nations of the earth were to be blessed in a seed from which they did not descend, since this much-to-be-venerated mystical sense cannot be made the object of a research purely critical. A short time after these promises, Abraham's family was afflicted by famine, and went into Egypt for corn.
It is singulat that the Hebrews never went into Egypt, but when pressed by hunger; for Jacob afterwards sent his chil. dren on the same errand.
Abraham, who was then very old, went this journey with his wife. Sarah, aged sixty-five: she was very handsome, and Abraham feared that the Egyptians, smitten by her charms, would kill him in order to en, joy her transcendent beauties : he proposed to her that she should pass for his sister, &c. Human nature must at that time have possessed a vigour which time and luxury have since very much weakened. This was the opinion of all the ancients; it has even been asserted that Helen was seventy when she was carried off by