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Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations by Archibald Sayce

Part 2 out of 5

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plains and unfrequented paths of Palestine, waylaying the traveller and
robbing the peasant of his flocks.

The peasantry or fellahin are the Perizzites of the Hebrew Scriptures.
"Perizzite," in fact, means "villager," and the word is a descriptive
title rather than the name of a people or a race. It denotes the
agricultural population, whatever their origin may have been. Another
word of similar signification is Hivite. If any distinction is to be
drawn between them, it is that the term Perizzite was specially applied
to the fellahin of southern Canaan, while the term Hivite was restricted
to the inhabitants of the north. In two passages, it is true, "Hivite"
seems to be used with an ethnic meaning. Esau is said in one of them to
have married the granddaughter of "Zibeon the Hivite," while in the
other we read of "the Hivite" who dwelt under Mount Hermon. But a
comparison of the first passage with the later verses of the same
chapter shows that "Hivite" must be corrected into "Horite," and in the
second passage it is probable that "Hittite" instead of "Hivite" should
be read.

Amorite and Hittite, Canaanite and Philistine, were all alike emigrants
from other lands. The Hittites had come from the mountains of Asia
Minor, the Amorites had probably wandered from the northern coast of
Africa, the Canaanites traced their ancestry to the Persian Gulf, the
Philistines had sailed from the harbours of the Greek seas. Canaan had
been inhabited, however, before any of them had found their way to it,
and this prehistoric population of the country was known to the Hebrews
by the name of Rephaim. In the English translation of the Bible the word
is usually rendered "giants;" it seems, however, to have been a proper
name, which survived in the name of one of the cities of Bashan.
Doubtless it often included other elements besides that to which it was
properly applied. At times it was extended to the Amorites, whose
occupation of Palestine went back to a remote past, just as in the
Babylonian inscriptions the name of Amorite itself was extended to the
aboriginal population. Among the Philistines this older population was
called Avvim, the people of "the ruins."

Such then were the races who lived in Canaan, and with whom the invading
Israelites had to contend. There was firstly the primitive population of
the country, whose rude rock-sculptures may still be seen in the Wadi
el-Qana near Tyre. Then there were the intrusive Amorites and
Canaanites, the Amorites with their fair skins and blue eyes who made
themselves a home in the mountains, and the Semitic Canaanites who
settled on the coast and in the plains. The Amorite migration went back
to an epoch long before that of the first Babylonian conquests in the
West; the Canaanitish migration may have been coeval with the latter
event. Next came the Hittites, to whom the Jebusites of Jerusalem may
have belonged; then the Philistines, who seized the southern coast but a
few years previously to the Israelitish invasion. Canaan was a land of
many races and many peoples, who had taken shelter in its highlands, or
had found their further progress barred by the sea. Small as it was, it
was the link between Asia and Africa, the battle-ground of the great
kingdoms which arose on the Euphrates and the Nile. It formed, in fact,
the centre of the ancient civilised world, and the mixture of races
within it was due in great measure to its central position. The culture
of Babylonia and Egypt met there and coalesced.

[Footnote 2: Numb. xiii. 29.]

[Footnote 3: 1 Chr. ii. 55; Jer. xxxv. 3-10.]

[Footnote 4: 1 Sam. xxx. 14.]

[Footnote 5: Deut. xxiii 8.]



Israel was cut in two by the Jordan. The districts east of the Jordan
were those that had first been conquered; it was from thence that the
followers of Joshua had gone forth to possess themselves of Canaan. But
this division of the territory was a source of weakness. The interests
of the tribes on the two sides of the river were never quite the same;
at times indeed they were violently antagonistic. When the disruption of
the monarchy came after the death of Solomon, Judah was the stronger for
the fact that the eastern tribes followed those of the north. The
eastern tribes were the first to lose their independence; they were
carried into Assyrian captivity twelve years before the fall of Samaria

The eastern side of Jordan, in fact, belonged of right to the kinsfolk
of the Israelites, the children of Lot. Ammon and Moab derived their
origin from the nephew of Abraham, not from the patriarch himself, the
ancestor of Ammon being Ben-Ammi, "the Son of Ammi," the national god of
the race. It was said that the two peoples were the offspring of incest,
and the cave was pointed out where they had been born. Ammon occupied
the country to the north which in earlier days had been the home of the
aboriginal Zuzini or Zamzummim. But they had been treated as the
Canaanites were treated by the Israelites in later days; their cities
were captured by the invading Ammonites, and they themselves massacred
or absorbed into the conquerors.

To the north the territory of Ammon was bounded by the plateau of Bashan
and the Aramaic kingdoms of Gilead. Southward it extended towards the
frontier of Moab, if indeed the borders of the two nations did not at
one time coincide. When the Israelitish invasion, however, took place,
the Amorites under Sihon had thrust themselves between, and had carved
for themselves a kingdom out of the northern half of Moab. The land
north of the Arnon became Amorite; but the Ammonite frontier was too
well defended to be broken through.

The kingdom of Ammon maintained itself down to the time of David. At one
time, in the days of the Judges, the Ammonites had made the Israelitish
tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan tributary to them, and had even
crossed the river and raided the highlands of Ephraim. Under Saul, Ammon
and Israel were at constant feud. Saul had begun his reign by rescuing
Jabesh in Gilead from the Ammonite king Nahash, who had threatened to
treat its inhabitants with innate Semitic barbarity. When civil war
broke out in Israel, Nahash naturally befriended David, and the alliance
continued after David's accession to the throne. Common interests
brought them together. Esh-Baal, the successor of Saul in Gilead, was
the enemy of both: his frontier adjoined that of Ammon, while between
him and the King of Judah there was perpetual war. David had
strengthened himself by marrying the daughter of the king of the Aramaic
district of Geshur, which bounded Gilead on the north, and Ammonites and
Aramaeans were in close alliance with each other.

As long as Nahash lived, there was peace between him and David. But with
the accession of his son Hanun came a change. The King of Judah had
become King of Israel, and his general, Joab, had subdued the
neighbouring kingdom of Moab, and was looking out for a fresh field of
fame. Hanun determined to forestall the war which he believed to be
inevitable, and, in alliance with the Aramaeans, to crush the rising
power of David. Family quarrels also probably conspired to bring about
this resolution. In the after days of Absalom's rebellion we find David
entertained in Gilead by Shobi the brother of Hanun;[6] it may be,
therefore, that Hanun had had a rival in his brother, who had received
shelter and protection at David's court. At all events the Israelitish
ambassadors were grossly insulted, and a long war with Ammon began.
Campaign followed upon campaign; the City of Waters, Rabbah, the
"capital" of Ammon, was closely invested, and the Aramaic allies of
Hanun were put to flight. Rabbah fell at last; its defenders were
tortured and slain, and the kingdom of Ammon annexed to the Israelitish

When it recovered its independence we do not know. In the days of
Assyrian conquest in the West it was already again governed by its own
kings. One of them, Baasha, the son of Rehob, was, like Ahab of Samaria,
an ally of Damascus against the Assyrian invader, and we hear of two
others, one of whom bears the same name as "Shinab, King of Admah." The
storm of Babylonian conquest which overwhelmed Judah spared Ammon; after
the destruction of Jerusalem Baalis was still king of the Ammonites, and
ready to extend his power over the desolated fields of Judah.[7]

The language of Ammon, if we may argue from the proper names, was, like
that of Moab, a mere dialectal variety of that of Israel. The "language
of Canaan" must have been adopted by the Ammonites and Moabites just as
it was by the Israelitish tribes. The Moabite Stone has proved this
conclusively. Moabite and Ammonite, Phoenician and Hebrew, were all
alike dialects of one language, which differed from one another merely
as one English dialect differs from another. Hebrew had retained a few
"Arabisms," a few traces of its ancient contact with Arabic-speaking
tribes; that was all. In other respects it was the same as "the language
of Canaan" on either side of the Jordan.

The Ammonites believed themselves to be the children of the national god
Ammi. But Ammi was usually worshipped under the title of Malcham or
Milcom, "the King." It was to Milcom that Solomon erected an altar at
Jerusalem, in honour of that Ammonite wife whose son Rehoboam succeeded
him on the throne, and it was from the head of his image at Kabbah that
his crown of gold and precious stones, 131 pounds in weight, was removed
to grace the triumph of David.[8]

Moab was more exposed to the inroads of its nomadic neighbours from the
wilderness than its sister-kingdom of Ammon. It lay along the eastern
shores of the Dead Sea, and was a land of lofty mountains and fertile
river-plains. Its wadis were coveted by the tribes of the desert; the
well-watered valley of the Arnon attracted more powerful foes. When the
Israelites encamped in "the plain of Moab," Balak, the Moabite king,
sent in terror to Balaam, the seer of Pethor. He had indeed cause for
alarm. The Amorites had already robbed him of the fairest portion of his
dominions; Moab north of the Arnon had fallen into their hands. The
Amorite song of triumph has been preserved in the Book of Numbers. "Come
unto Heshbon," it said; "let the city of Sihon be built and fortified.
For a fire has gone forth from Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon;
it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the Baalim of the high-places of Arnon.
Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: [Chemosh] hath
given his sons that escaped [the battle], and his daughters, into
captivity unto Sihon, King of the Amorites."[9]

Moab was avenged by Israel. The Amorites were crushed by the Israelitish
forces, though the lands they had taken from Moab were not restored to
their original owners. The conquerors settled in them, and a mixed
Israelitish and Moabite population was the result. The Moabites, in
fact, were powerless to resist. The southern portion of the kingdom had
been overrun by Midianite hordes; the enemy with whom the Israelites had
to contend on Moabite soil was Midianite and not Moabite. Those who
corrupted Israel on the high-place of Peor were Midianites in race.

The Midianites seem to have continued in occupation of Moabite territory
for several generations. Reuben was enabled to pasture his flocks in
peace in its valleys, and it is probable that it was not till Hadad, the
King of Edom, "smote Midian in the plain of Moab" that Midianitish
supremacy came finally to an end. It may be that Gideon's success
against the Midianite oppressors of Gilead was one of the results of
their overthrow by the Edomite prince.

At the same time, Midianitish supremacy did not mean the destruction of
the Moabite kingdom. Moab was still governed by its own kings, tributary
vassals though they were to the foreigner. One of them, Eglon, made
himself master of southern Palestine shortly after the Israelitish
conquest of the country, and was murdered by the Benjamite Ehud. Between
Moab and Judah there was, as might be expected from their geographical
position, constant intercourse. A Moabitess was the ancestress of David,
and it was to the court of the King of Moab that David entrusted his
parents when hard pressed by Saul. Possibly the Moabite prince was not
ill pleased to befriend the enemy of his own enemy, the King of Israel.

It had been better for the Moabites, however, had David never lived to
succeed Saul. The conquest of the Philistines by his troops was followed
by the conquest of Moab. The vanquished people were decimated, every
second man being mercilessly slain. So thoroughly was the country
subdued that it was more than a century before it ventured to break away
from its Israelitish master. After the disruption of Solomon's heritage
it fell to the share of the northern kingdom, though native kings once
more sat upon its throne. Now and again they revolted, to be brought
back to obedience, however, when Israel recovered its strength. Such was
the case when Omri founded his dynasty at Samaria; Moab again became a
dependency of the Israelitish monarch, and its ruler was forced to pay
tribute and homage to his over-lord. The tribute consisted in sheep, or
rather in their skins, which were tanned by the Israelites into leather,
while the fleeces upon them were woven into cloth. In the time of Ahab,
Mesha, the son of Chemosh-melech, sent each year 100,000 lambs and
100,000 rams.

Mesha subsequently succeeded in shaking off the foreign yoke. He has
left us a record of his victories, the so-called Moabite Stone, which
was discovered among the ruins of his capital, Dibon. The country north
of the Arnon was wrested from Israelitish hands, and the King of Israel,
in spite of help from Judah and Edom, failed to recover it. Moab was
permanently lost to the kingdom of Samaria. The Assyrian texts mention
some of its later rulers. One of them was Shalman, who may be the
spoiler of Beth-Arbel referred to by Hosea;[10] another was
Chemosh-nadab, the contemporary of Hezekiah.

Chemosh-nadab signifies "Chemosh is noble." Chemosh was the national god
of Moab, as Milcom or Ammi was of Ammon. Like Yahveh of Israel, he stood
alone, with no wife to share his divinity. So entirely, in fact, had the
conception of a goddess vanished from the mind of the Moabite, that, as
we learn from the Moabite Stone, the Babylonian Istar, the Ashtoreth of
Canaan, had been transformed into a male deity, and identified with
Chemosh. It was to Ashtar-Chemosh, Mesha tells us, and not to Ashtoreth,
that he devoted the captive women of Israel.

The older population, expelled or enslaved by the conquering Moabites,
went by the name of Emim. It is probable that they belonged to the same
stock as the Zamzummim or Zuzim whose country had been seized by the
Ammonites. We may gather from the narrative in Genesis that the invaders
forced their way eastward and northward from the valley of the Jordan
and the shores of the Dead Sea.

South of Moab were the rugged and barren mountains of Seir, the seat of
the kingdom of Edom. In prehistoric days they had been the home of the
Horites, whose name may denote that they were of the "white" Amorite
race or that they were dwellers in "caves." To the Egyptians it was
known as "the Red Land," along with the desert that stretched westward;
"Edom" is merely the Hebrew or Canaanitish translation of the Egyptian
title. The title was one which well befitted the red cliffs of Seir.

Through the centre of the mountains a rift extended from the Dead Sea to
the Gulf of Aqaba. In geological times it had been the channel of the
Jordan; now it is called the Wadi el-Araba. It was this rift which
brought wealth to Edom; through it passed the highroad of commerce which
connected Syria with the harbours at the head of the gulf. The spices of
Arabia, the gold of Africa, were unshipped at Elath and Ezion-gaber, and
carried from thence on the backs of camels to the nations of the north.
The tolls levied on the merchandise made the kingdom of Edom wealthy,
and at the same time an object of envy to its poorer neighbours. In
conquering Edom, David doubtless desired to secure the trade with the
Red Sea and the ports through which the trade passed.

Edom was the elder brother of Israel. The two nations never forgot that
they were of one blood and one parentage. Their languages were the same,
as we may gather from the Edomite proper names; indeed, it would seem
that the dialect of Edom agreed with Hebrew in those Arabising
peculiarities which marked it off from the language of the Canaanites.
Edomites took part in the Israelitish conquest of Palestine, and both
Caleb and Othniel were Kenizzites by race.

The Edomite occupation of Seir was long subsequent to the settlement of
the Ammonites and Moabites in the regions which bore their names, though
it preceded the Israelitish settlement in Canaan. While Israel was
herding its flocks in Egypt, Edom was establishing itself in the
mountains of Seir. Esau, the brother of Jacob, had already gathered
around him a body of followers, and had married into the family of a
Horite chief. His descendants, partly by conquest, partly by absorption,
planted themselves securely in the country which was henceforth to be
called Edom. Horite and Amalekite Bedawin were alike absorbed into the
new-comers, whose position in Edom resembled that of the Israelites in

How long the work of conquest and settlement lasted we do not know. It
resulted in the formation of numerous tribes, each under its chieftain,
the _aluph_ or "duke" as he was termed. These "dukes" corresponded with
the "princes" of the tribes of Israel. But whereas the "princes" of the
Israelitish tribes did not survive the life in the desert, the "dukes"
of Edom give way only to kings. For this there was a good reason. The
invasion of Canaan and the promulgation of the Mosaic Law changed the
whole organisation of the Hebrew people. On the one hand, the Israelites
required a leader who should lead them in the first instance against the
Canaanites, in the second against the foreign oppressors who enslaved
them from time to time. On the other hand, the high-priests at Shiloh
exercised many of the functions which would naturally have belonged to
the head of the tribe. Neither "judge" nor high-priest was needed in
Edom. There the native population was weak and uncivilised; it possessed
neither cities nor chariots of iron, and its subjugation was no
difficult task. Once in possession of the fastnesses of Seir, the
Edomites were comparatively safe from external attack. It was a land of
dangerous defiles and barren mountains, surrounded on all sides by the
desert. There was no central sanctuary, no Levitical priesthood, no
Mosaic Law. The "duke" consequently had no rival; the history of Edom
knows nothing of judges or high-priests.

The law of evolution, however, which governed other Semitic communities
prevailed also in Edom. The dukes had to give place to a king. The
tribes were united under a single leader, and the loosely federated
clans became a kingdom. As in Israel, so too in Edom the kingdom was
elective. But, unlike Israel, it remained elective; there was no
pressure of Philistine conquest, no commanding genius like David, no
central capital like Jerusalem to make it centralised and hereditary.
Several generations had to pass before the Edomites were called upon to
fight for their independence against a foreign invader, and when they
did so the struggle ended in their subjugation. The elective principle
and the want of a common centre and feeling of unity that resulted from
it had much to do with the victory of David.

The song of triumph with which the Israelitish fugitives celebrated the
overthrow of their Egyptian enemies mentions the _aluphim_ or "dukes" of
Edom. But before the Israelites had emerged from the wilderness the
dukes had been supplanted by a king. It was a king who refused a passage
through his dominions to Moses and his followers, and in this king some
scholars have seen the Aramaean seer Balaam the son of Beor. At all
events, the first Edomite king is said to have been Bela or Balaam the
son of Beor, and the name of the city of Din-habah, from which he came,
has a close resemblance to that of Dunip in northern Syria.

A list of the kings of Edom is given in the thirty-sixth chapter of
Genesis, extracted from the state annals of the country. It seems to be
brought down to the time when Saul was elected king over Israel. The
chronicles of Edom were probably taken to Jerusalem at the time of its
conquest by David; at any rate, they would then have become accessible
to an Israelitish writer. The conquest was very thorough, all the male
population being put to the sword, and a few only escaping to Egypt.
Among these was a member of the royal house, Hadad by name, who grew up
at the Egyptian court, and, after marrying the sister-in-law of the
Pharaoh, returned to his native mountains, where he played the part of a
bandit chief. The caravans which passed from the Gulf of Aqaba to the
north were attacked and plundered, and Solomon up to the end of his
reign failed to suppress the brigands. With the disruption of the
Israelitish monarchy, Edom, as was natural, fell to the lot of Judah,
and for many years was governed by a viceroy. It was not until after the
death of Jehoshaphat that the Edomites succeeded in revolting from their
masters, and in recovering their ancient independence. Three of their
rulers are mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions, from which we learn
that there was a city of Edom, as well as a country of that name.

Of the religion of the Edomites we know but little. The supreme Baal was
the Sun-god Hadad; another god worshipped by them was Qaus or Kos. Of
goddesses we hear nothing. The Israelites, however, recognised in the
Edomites brethren of their own, whose religion was not far removed from
that of the descendants of Jacob. An Edomite of the third generation
could enter "into the congregation of the Lord," and we hear of no rival
deity in Edom to Yahveh of Israel. Indeed, in the old poetry of Israel
Yahveh was said to have risen up "from Seir," and the charge brought
against Edom by the prophet Obadiah is not that of idolatry or the
worship of a "strange god," but of standing on the side of the
"foreigners" on the day that Jerusalem was destroyed.

The southern part of Edom was known as Teman; it was to the east of
Teman that the Kadmonites or "children of the East" pitched their tents.
We first hear of them in an Egyptian papyrus of the age of the Twelfth
dynasty (B.C. 2500). Then they received with hospitality a political
fugitive from Egypt; he married one of their princesses and became one
of their chiefs. Their wisdom was celebrated in Palestine like that of
their Edomite neighbours of Teman, and the highest praise that could be
bestowed on Solomon was that his "wisdom excelled all the wisdom of the
children of the East."

Not far from the camping-places of the Kadmonites was the land of Uz,
famous as the home of Job. Uz, in fact, was a province of Edom; Edomite
colonists, so we are told in the Book of Lamentations,[11] inhabited it.
Indeed, it has been suggested that the difficulties presented by the
language of the Book of Job are due to the fact that it is the language
of Edom rather than of the Jews, differing from the latter only as an
English dialect may differ from that of a neighbouring county. At all
events, Job was as much a hero of Hebrew as of Edomite tradition, while
the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs contains the wise sayings of a
king whose territory adjoined the land of Edom. Lemuel, according to the
Hebrew text, which is mistranslated in the Authorised Version, ruled
over Massa, and Massa, the Mash of Genesis, is described in the Assyrian
inscriptions as that part of northern Arabia which spread eastward from
Edom. The Hebrew of Palestine doubtless included it in the country of
"the children of the East."

The larger part of northern Arabia, however, was the home of the
Ishmaelites. They lived, it is said, "from Havilah unto Shur," like the
Amalekites or Bedawin. But whereas the Amalekites were the wild,
untamable natives of the desert, the Ishmaelites came of a cultured
ancestry, half Babylonian, half Egyptian, and the traditions of it were
never forgotten. They lived a settled life in fenced villages and
fortified castles, as their descendants still do to-day. Like the
Israelites, they were divided into twelve tribes, the eldest and most
important of which were the Nabatheans, who spread from the frontiers of
Babylonia to Petra in the far west. Kedar was another powerful tribe; in
the days of the later Assyrian empire its kings contended in battle with
the armies of Nineveh.

The name of Ishmael is met with in Babylonian contracts of the age of
Abraham. It is a name which belongs to Canaan rather than to Babylonia
or Arabia. The Ishmaelite tribes, in fact, spoke dialects in which
Canaanitish and Arabic elements were mingled together. They are the
dialects we term Aramaic, and represent a mixture of Arabic with
Canaanitish or Hebrew. As we go northwards into Syria the Canaanitish
element predominates; southward the Arabic element is the more

The Ishmaelites were merchants and traders. They lived on the
caravan-road which brought the spices of southern Arabia to Canaan and
Egypt, and the trade was largely in their hands. In the history of
Joseph we hear of them carrying the balm of Gilead and the myrrh of the
south on their camels to Egypt, and in the second century before the
Christian era the merchant princes of Petra made their capital one of
the wealthiest of Oriental cities. It was not until 105 A.D. that the
Nabathean state was conquered by Rome, and the Ishmaelites of northern
Arabia transformed into Roman subjects. They have left their tombs and
inscriptions among the rocks of Petra, while the cliffs of the Sinaitic
Peninsula are covered with the scrawls of Nabathean travellers.

Southward of the Ishmaelites came the Midianites. Midianites and
Ishmaelites were alike of the same blood. Both traced their descent from
Abraham; it was only on the side of the mother that their origin was
different. While the Ishmaelites claimed connection with Egypt, the
Midianites were more purely Arabic in race. The name of Keturah their
ancestress means "incense," and points to the incense-bearing lands of
the south. Midian was properly the district which stretched along the
western coast of the Gulf of Aqaba towards Mecca, if not towards Yemen.
But Midianite tribes had also pushed northwards and mingled with the
descendants of Ishmael. "Ishmaelites" and "Midianites" seem convertible
terms in the story of Joseph, and the Midianites who swarmed into the
north of Israel in the days of Gideon, along with the Amalekites and
"the children of the East," must have been as much Ishmaelite as
Midianite in descent.

Between the Midianites and the Israelitish fugitives from Egypt there
had been close affinity. Moses had found a refuge in Midian, and his
wife and children were Midianite in race. His father-in-law, "the priest
of Midian," had visited him under the shadow of Sinai, and had given him
his first lessons in political organisation. A Midianite remained to
guide the Israelites through the wilderness, and the Kenites, who took
part with the tribe of Judah in the conquest of Canaan, appear to have
migrated from Midian. It was not until just before the invasion of
Palestine that the old bonds of friendship and mixture between Israel
and Midian were broken asunder. Midianite hosts had overrun the land of
Moab as at a later time they overran the land of Israel, and the
Israelites had forsaken Yahveh for the worship of the Midianite
Baal-Peor. This was the result of intermarriage; the Israelites had
taken Midianite wives and conformed to the licentious rites of a
Midianite god.

Israel, however, was saved by its Levite priests. They rallied round
Yahveh and Moses, and in the struggle that ensued the forces on the side
of the national God proved the stronger. The Midianitish faction was
annihilated, its leaders put to death, and the Midianites themselves
attacked and despoiled. Among the slain was the seer of Pethor, Balaam
the son of Beor.

The Moabites must have hailed the Israelites as saviours. They had
delivered them from their two assailants, the Amorites on the north, the
Midianites on the east. But the Midianite power was broken only for a
time. We hear at a subsequent date of the Edomite king Hadad "who smote
Midian in the field of Moab," and a time came when Midianite shekhs
overran Gilead, and penetrated into the valleys and villages of Manasseh
on the western side of the Jordan. After their defeat by Gideon,
however, we hear of them no more. They passed out of the Israelitish
horizon; henceforth their raiding bands never approached the frontiers
of Israel. The land of Midian alone is mentioned as adjoining Edom; the
Midianites who had traversed the desert and carried terror to the
inhabitants of Canaan become merely a name.

Midian was originally governed by high-priests. This was the case among
other Semitic peoples as well. In Assyria the kings were preceded by the
high-priests of Assur, and recently-discovered inscriptions show that in
southern Arabia, in the land of Sheba, the high-priest came before the
king. Jethro, "the priest of Midian," represented a peculiarly Arabian

The name of "Arab" was applied to certain tribes only of northern
Arabia. We hear of them in the Old Testament as well as in the Assyrian
inscriptions. In the Old Testament the name seems to include the
Ishmaelite clans to the east of Edom. Their "kings," it is said, brought
tribute to Solomon; a colony of them was established at Gur-Baal in the
south of Judah. We learn from the Assyrian texts that they could be
governed by queens; two of their queens indeed are mentioned by name.

It was also a "queen of the south," it will be remembered, who came to
hear the wisdom of Solomon. Sheba, the Saba of classical antiquity, was
an important kingdom of south-western Arabia, which had grown wealthy
through its trade in spicery. From time immemorial Egypt had imported
frankincense from the southern coasts of the Arabian peninsula, and the
precious spices had been carried by merchants to the far north. The
caravan-road of trade ran northward to Midian and Edom, touching on the
one side on the frontier of Egypt, on the other on that of Palestine.
The road and the country through which it passed were in the hands of
the south Arabian kings. Their inscriptions have been discovered at
Teima, the Tema of the Old Testament, not far inland from El-Wej, and in
the days of Tiglath-pileser the kings of Saba claimed rule as far as the
Euphrates. It was no strange thing, therefore, for a queen of Sheba to
have heard of the power of Solomon, or to have sought alliance with so
wealthy and luxurious a neighbour. His province of Edom adjoined her own
possessions; his ports on the Gulf of Aqaba were open to her merchants,
and the frankincense which grew in her dominions was needed for the
temple at Jerusalem.

The people of Sheba belonged to the south Arabian stock. In both blood
and language they differed considerably from the Semites of the north.
Physically they bore some resemblance to the Egyptians, and it has been
suggested that the Egyptians were originally emigrants from their
shores. They lived in lofty castles, and terraced the slopes of the
mountains for the purpose of cultivation, as they still do to-day.
Civilisation among them was old; it was derived, at least in part, from
Babylonia, and the dynasty which reigned over Babylon in the age of
Abraham was of south Arabian descent. Some of them crossed the Red Sea
and founded colonies in Africa, in the modern Abyssinia, where they
built cities and introduced the culture of their former homes. Like the
Egyptians and the Babylonians, they were a literary people; their
inscriptions are still scattered thickly among the ruins of their towns,
written in the letters of the alphabet which is usually termed
Phoenician. But it is becoming a question whether it was not from south
Arabia that Phoenicia first borrowed it, and whether it would not be
more truthfully called Arabian.

The religion of southern Arabia was highly polytheistic. Each district
and tribe had its special god or gods, and the goddesses were almost as
numerous as the gods. Along with Babylonian culture had come the
adoption of several Babylonian divinities;--Sin, the Moon-god, for
instance, or Atthar, the Ashtoreth of Canaan. How far westward the
worship of Sin was carried may be judged from the fact that Sinai, the
sacred mountain whereon the law of Israel was promulgated, took its name
from that of the old Babylonian god.

In the tenth chapter of Genesis Sheba is one of the sons of Joktan, the
ancestor of the south Arabian tribes. Foremost among them is
Hazarmaveth, the Hadhramaut of to-day; another is Ophir, the port to
which the gold of Africa was brought. But the same chapter also assigns
to Sheba a different origin. It couples him with Dedan, and sees in him
a descendant of Ham, a kinsman of Egypt and Canaan. Both genealogies are
right. They are geographical, not ethnic, and denote, in accordance with
Semitic idiom, the geographical relationships of the races and nations
of the ancient world. Sheba belonged not only to south Arabia but to
northern Arabia as well. The rule of the Sabaean princes extended to the
borders of Egypt and Canaan, and Sheba was the brother of Hazarmaveth
and of Dedan alike. For Dedan was a north Arabian tribe, whose home was
near Tema, and whose name may have had a connection with that sometimes
given by the Babylonians to the whole of the west.

Such, then, was Arabia in the days of the Hebrew writers. The south was
occupied by a cultured population, whose rule, at all events after the
time of Solomon, was acknowledged throughout the peninsula. The people
of the north and the centre differed from this population in both race
and language, though all alike belonged to the same Semitic stock. The
Midianites on the western coast perhaps partook of the characteristics
of both. But the Ishmaelites were wholly northern; they were the kinsmen
of the Edomites and Israelites, and their language was that Aramaic
which represents a mixture of Arabic and Canaanitish elements. Wandering
tribes of savage Bedawin pitched their tents in the desert, or robbed
their more settled neighbours, as they do to-day; these were the
Amalekites of the Old Testament, who were believed to be the first
created of mankind, and the aboriginal inhabitants of Arabia. Apart from
them, however, the peninsula was the seat of a considerable culture. The
culture had spread from the spice-bearing lands of the south, where it
had been in contact with the civilisations of Babylonia on the one side
and of Egypt on the other, and where wealthy and prosperous kingdoms had
arisen, and powerful dynasties of kings had held sway. It is to Arabia,
in all probability, that we must look for the origin of the alphabet--in
itself a proof of the culture of those who used it; and it was from
Arabia that Babylonia received that line of monarchs which first made
Babylon a capital, and was ruling there in the days of Abraham. We must
cease to regard Arabia as a land of deserts and barbarism; it was, on
the contrary, a trading centre of the ancient world, and the Moslems who
went forth from it to conquer Christendom and found empires, were but
the successors of those who, in earlier times, had exercised a profound
influence upon the destinies of the East.

[Footnote 6: 2 Sam. xvii. 27.]

[Footnote 7: Jer. xl. 14.]

[Footnote 8: Rehoboam is an Ammonite name, compounded with that of the
god Am or Ammi. Rehob, which is the first element in it, was also an
Ammonite name, as we learn from the Assyrian inscriptions.]

[Footnote 9: Numb. xxi. 27-29.]

[Footnote 10: x. 14.]

[Footnote 11: iv. 21.]



Canaan is but the southern continuation of Syria, which shades off, as
it were, into the waterless wilderness. The name of Syria is usually
supposed to be an abbreviation of Assyria, but it is more probable that
it comes from Suri, the name by which the Babylonians denoted
Mesopotamia and Syria of the north, and in which Assyria itself was
sometimes included. As we have seen, the Syria of our own maps, and more
especially the southern half of it, was commonly known to the
Babylonians as the land of the Amorites; in the later inscriptions of
Assyria the place of the Amorites is taken by the Hittites. When Assyria
appeared upon the scene of history the Hittites had become the dominant
people in the west.

The main part of the population of Syria and Mesopotamia was
Aramaean--that is to say, it consisted of Semites from Arabia who spoke
Aramaic dialects. But it was exposed to constant attacks from the north,
and from time to time passed under the yoke of a northern conqueror. At
one time it was the Hittites who poured down the slopes of Mount Taurus
and occupied the fertile plains and cities of northern Syria. At another
time a kindred people from the highlands of Armenia established a
kingdom in Mesopotamia known as that of Mitanni to its own subjects, as
that of Aram-Naharaim to the Hebrews.

The northern invaders sundered the Semites of the West from those of the
East. The kings of Mitanni held guard over the fords of the Euphrates,
and intrigued in Palestine against the Egyptian Pharaohs. But this did
not prevent them from marrying into the Pharaoh's family, while their
daughters were sent to the harem of the Egyptian king. Towards the end
of the Eighteenth dynasty the sacred blood of the Pharaohs became
contaminated by these foreign alliances. For two generations in
succession the queen-mother was a Mitannian princess, and a king finally
sat upon the Pharaohs' throne who attempted to supplant the religion of
which he was the official head by a foreign cult, and thereby brought
about the fall of his house and empire.

The power of Mitanni or Aram-Naharaim--Aram of the Two Rivers--does not
seem to have long survived this event. Chushan-rishathaim, we learn from
the Book of Judges, held Palestine in subjection for eight years, until
he was driven out by the Kenizzite Othniel, and about the same time
Ramses III. of Egypt records his victory over the Mesopotamian king.
After this we hear no more of a king of Aram-Naharaim in Canaan or on
the frontier of Egypt, and when the name of Mitanni is met with a little
later in the Assyrian inscriptions it is that of a small and
insignificant state.

The Hittites had grown at the expense of Mitanni, but their glory too
was of no long duration. In the days of Ramses II., the Pharaoh of the
Oppression, their power was at its height. From their southern capital
at Kadesh on the Orontes their armies had gone forth to contend on equal
terms with the forces of the Nile, and after twenty-one years of
warfare, peace was made between the two combatants, neither side having
gained an advantage in the long struggle. The text of the treaty is
engraved on the walls of Karnak. There we may read how the two rivals
swore henceforth to be friends and allies, how the existing boundaries
of their respective territories in Syria were to remain unchanged for
ever, and how a general amnesty was to be granted to the political
fugitives on either side. It was only the criminal to whom the right of
asylum in the dominions of the other was denied.

In the war they had waged with Egypt the Hittite princes of Kadesh had
summoned their vassal allies from the distant coasts of Asia Minor.
Lycians and Dardanians had come from the far west; and were joined by
the troops of Aram-Naharaim from the east. The extension of Hittite
supremacy to the shores of the AEgean Sea is testified by the monuments
it has left behind. Hittite inscriptions have been found near Smyrna
engraved on the rocks, as well as the figures of Hittite warriors
guarding the westernmost pass of the ancient road. The summer residences
of the Hittite princes were on the eastern bank of the Halys. Here the
roads of Asia Minor converged, and here we still see the sculptured
bas-reliefs of a Hittite palace and long rows of Hittite deities.

The Hittite empire broke up into a multitude of small principalities. Of
these Carchemish, now Jerablus, on the Euphrates, was perhaps the most
important. It commanded the ford across the river, and the high-road of
commerce from east to west. Its merchants grew rich, and "the mina of
Carchemish" became a standard of value in the ancient world. Its capture
by Sargon destroyed a rival of Assyrian trade, and opened the road to
the Mediterranean to the armies of Assyria.

The decay of the Hittite and Mitannian power meant the revival of the
older Aramaean population of the country. The foreigner was expelled or
absorbed; Syria and Mesopotamia became more and more Semitic. Aramaean
kingdoms arose on all sides, and a feeling of common kinship and
interests arose among them at the same time. To the north of the Gulf of
Antioch, in the very heart of the Hittite territory, German excavators
have lately found the earliest known monuments of Aramaean art. The art,
as is natural, is based on that of their Hittite predecessors; even the
inscriptions in the alphabet of Phoenicia are cut in relief like the
older hieroglyphs of the Hittites. But they prove that the triumph of
the Aramaean was complete. The foreigner and his works were swept away;
no trace has been discovered of a Hittite text, barely even of a Hittite
name. The gods are all Semitic--Hadad the Sun-god and Shahr the
Moon-god, the Baal of Harran, and Rekeb-el, "the Chariot of God."

Hittite inscriptions have been found at Hamath on the Orontes. But they
must belong to a period earlier than that of David. The rulers of Hamath
who made alliance with David bear Semitic names. The crown-prince came
himself to Jerusalem, bringing with him costly vessels of gold and
silver and bronze. His name was Hadoram, "Hadad is exalted;" but out of
compliment to the Israelitish king, the name of Hadad was changed into
that of the God of Israel, and he became known to history as Joram. A
common enmity united Hamath and Israel. The war with Ammon had brought
David into conflict with Zobah, an Aramaic kingdom which under
Hadad-ezer was aiming at the conquest of the whole of Syria. In the
reign of Saul, Zobah was divided into a number of separate clans or
states; these had been welded together by Hadad-ezer, who had added to
his empire the smaller Aramaic principalities of central Syria. Geshur,
Maachah, Damascus all acknowledged his authority. He had secured the
caravan-road which led across the desert, past the future Palmyra, to
the Euphrates, and eastward of that river the Aramaean states sent him
help in war. Like the Pharaohs of a former generation, he had erected a
monument of his victory on the banks of the great river, marking the
farthest limit of his dominions.

Hamath was threatened by the growing power of Hadad-ezer, when a new
force entered the field. Joab, the commander of the Israelitish army,
was a consummate general, and the veterans he led had been trained to
conquer. Ammon was easily crushed, and while its capital was closely
invested the Israelitish troops fell upon the Aramaeans in campaign after
campaign. Victory followed victory; the forces of Zobah and its allies
were annihilated, and the Aramaean states as far as Hamath and even the
Euphrates became the tributaries of David. Wealth flowed into the royal
treasury at Jerusalem; the cities of northern Syria were plundered of
their bronze, and the yearly tribute of the subject states, as well as
the proceeds of the desert trade, yielded an unfailing revenue to the
conqueror. The attempt of Hadad-ezer to found an Aramaean empire had

But the empire of David was hardly longer lived. The murder of Joab, and
the unwarlike character and extravagance of Solomon, brought about its
downfall. Damascus revolted under Rezon; and though in the war that
ensued Solomon succeeded in keeping the cities of Zobah which kept guard
over the caravan road, it never returned to Israelitish rule. When the
disruption of the Israelitish kingdom came after Solomon's death, the
Aramaeans rallied round the successors of Rezon. Damascus increased in
strength, and at times laid northern Israel under tribute. Between the
two kingdoms there was indeed constant intercourse, sometimes peaceful,
sometimes hostile. Syrian merchants had bazaars in Samaria, where they
could buy and sell, undisturbed by tolls and exactions, and Israelitish
traders had similar quarters assigned to them by treaty in Damascus.
"Damask couches" were already famous, and Ahab sent a contingent of
10,000 men and 2000 chariots to the help of Ben-Hadad II. in his war
against Assyria. This Ben-Hadad is called Hadad-idri or Hadad-ezer in
the Assyrian texts; Ben-Hadad, in fact, was a god, who was worshipped by
the Syrians by the side of his father Hadad.

In the struggle with Assyria the Aramaean forces were led by Hamath. Most
of the states of western Asia contributed troops; even the "Arabs" took
part in the conflict. But the confederates were overthrown with great
slaughter at Karkar on the Orontes in B.C. 853, and immediately
afterwards we find Ahab at war with his late ally. Hadad-idri lived only
a few years longer. In B.C. 842 he was murdered by Hazael, who seized
the throne. But Hazael, like his predecessor, was soon called upon to
face an Assyrian army. Year after year the Assyrians invaded the
territories of Damascus, and though they never succeeded in capturing
the capital, the country was devastated, and a countless amount of booty
carried away. The Syrian kingdom was utterly exhausted, and in no
condition to resist the attacks of the Israelitish kings Jehoash and
Jeroboam II. Jehoash, we are told, gained three victories over his
hereditary enemy, while Jeroboam occupied its cities. When an Assyrian
army once more appeared at the gates of Damascus in B.C. 797, its king
Mariha was glad to purchase peace by rich presents and the offer of
homage. Gold and silver, bronze and iron in large quantities were
yielded up to the conqueror, and Damascus for a while was the vassal of

But a respite was granted it in which to recover its strength. Civil war
sapped the strength of the kingdom of Israel, and Assyria fell into
decay. Freed from its enemies, Damascus again amassed wealth through the
trade across the desert, and was recognised as the head of the smaller
Aramaean states. In conjunction with the Israelitish king Pekah, Rezon
II. proposed to overthrow Judah and supplant the Davidic dynasty by a
Syrian vassal-prince. The fall of Judah would have meant the fall also
of Edom and the submission of the Philistines, as well as that of Moab
and Ammon. The strength of its capital made Judah the champion and
protector of southern Canaan; with Jerusalem in their hands, the
confederate rulers of Damascus and Samaria could do as they chose. Ahaz
of Judah turned in his despair to the Assyrians, who had once more
appeared on the scene. Tiglath-pileser III. had overthrown the older
Assyrian dynasty and put new life into the kingdom. In the interests of
the merchants of Nineveh he aimed at incorporating the whole of western
Asia and its commerce into his empire, and the appeal of Ahaz gave him
an excuse for interfering in the affairs of Palestine. Ahaz became his
vassal; Pekah was put to death, and an Assyrian nominee made king in his
place, while Rezon was shut up in his capital and closely besieged. For
two years the siege continued; then Damascus was taken, its last king
slain, and its territory placed under an Assyrian satrap.

Hamath had already fallen. A portion of its population had been
transported to the north, and their places filled with settlers from
Babylonia. Its king had become an Assyrian vassal, who along with the
other subject princes of Asia attended the court held by Tiglath-pileser
at Damascus after its capture, there to pay homage to the conqueror and
swell his triumph. A few years later, on the accession of Sargon, Hamath
made a final effort to recover its freedom. But the effort was
ruthlessly crushed, and henceforward the last of the Aramaean kingdoms
was made an Assyrian province. When an Aramaean tribe again played a part
in history it was in the far south, among the rocky cliffs of Petra and
the desert fortress of the Nabathean merchants.

In the Book of Genesis, Mesopotamia, the country between the Euphrates
and Tigris, is called not only Aram-Naharaim, "Aram of the Two Rivers,"
but also Padan-Aram, "the acre of Aram." Padan, as we learn from the
Assyrian inscriptions, originally signified as much land as a yoke of
oxen could plough; then it came to denote the "cultivated land" or
"acre" itself. The word still survives in modern Arabic. In the Egypt of
to-day land is measured by _feddans_, the _feddan_ (or _paddmi_) being
the equivalent of our acre. _Paddan_ was used in the same sense in the
Babylonia of the age of Abraham. Numerous contracts have been found for
the lease or sale of estates in which the "acreage" or number of
_paddani_ is carefully stated. The application of the name to the plain
of Mesopotamia was doubtless clue to the Babylonians. An early
Babylonian king claims rule over the "land of Padan," and elsewhere we
are told that it lay in front of the country of the Arman or Aramaeans.

It was in western Padan that the kingdom of Mitanni was established. Its
founders, as we have seen, came from the north. From the river Halys in
Asia Minor to Lake Urumiyeh, east of Armenia, there was a multitude of
tribes, most of whom seem to have belonged to the same race and to have
spoken dialects of the same language. The Hittites of Cappadocia and the
ranges of the Taurus have already been described. East of them came the
Meshech and Tubal of the Bible as well as the kingdom of Comagene, of
which we often hear in the Assyrian texts. But of all these northern
populations the most important--at all events in the later Old Testament
age--were the inhabitants of a country called Biainas, but to which its
neighbours gave the name of Ararat. Ararat corresponded to southern
Armenia, Biainas being the modern Van, and the Mount Ararat of modern
geography lying considerably to the north of it. In the ninth century
before our era a powerful dynasty arose at Van, which extended its
conquests far and wide, and at one time threatened to destroy even the
Assyrian empire. It signalised its accession to power by borrowing the
cuneiform writing of Nineveh, and numerous inscriptions exist recording
the names and victories of its sovereigns, the buildings they erected,
and the gods they served. The language of the inscriptions is strange
and peculiar; it seems to be distantly related to modern Georgian, and
may be akin to the dialects of the Hittites or of Mitanni.

If we may trust the representations of the Assyrian artists, the people
of Ararat did not all belong to the same race. Two ethnic types have
been handed down to us--one with beardless faces, resembling that of the
Hittites, the other of a people with high fore-heads, curved and pointed
noses, thin lips, and well-formed chin. Both, however, wear the same
dress. On the head is a crested helmet like that of the Greeks, on the
feet the Hittite boot with upturned end; the body is clad in a tunic
which reaches to the knee, and a small round target is used in battle.

For many centuries the Semites and the people of the north contended for
the possession of the Syrian plains. Horde after horde descended from
the northern mountains, capturing the Aramaean cities and setting up
kingdoms in their midst. At one time it seemed as if the Semites of the
east and west were to be permanently sundered from one another. The
decay of Babylonia and Egypt enabled the Mitannians and Hittites to
establish themselves in Mesopotamia and Syria, and to gain possession of
the fords of the Euphrates and the great lines of trade. But the
northerner was not suited by nature for the hot and enervating climate
of the south. His force diminished, his numbers lessened, and the
subjugated Semite increased in strength. Mitanni perished like the
Hittite empire, and with the rise of the second Assyrian empire the
intruding nations of the north found themselves compelled to struggle
for bare existence. Ararat had become the leader among them, and in the
latter days of the older Assyrian dynasty had wrested territory from the
Assyrians themselves, and had imposed its dominion from the borders of
Cappadocia to the shores of Lake Urumiyeh. But on a sudden all was
changed. Tiglath-pileser swept the land of Ararat to the very gates of
its capital, destroying and plundering as he went, and a war began
between north and south which ended in the triumph of Assyria. Ararat
indeed remained, though reduced to its original dimensions in the
neighbourhood of Lake Van; but its allies in Comagene and Cappadocia, in
Cilicia and among the Hittites, were subjugated and dispersed. The
tribes of Meshech and Tubal retreated to the coasts of the Black Sea,
and Ararat and its sister-kingdom of Minni were too exhausted to
withstand the invasion of a new race from new quarters of the world. The
Aryan Kimmerians from Russia poured through them, settling on their way
in Minni; while other Aryans from Phrygia made themselves masters of
Ararat, which henceforth took the name of Armenia. The Aramaean was
avenged: the invaders who in days before the Exodus had already robbed
him of his lands were themselves pursued to their northern retreats. The
south proved to them a land of decay and destruction; Gog and his host
were given, "on the mountains of Israel," to the vulture and the beast
of prey.



Egypt had been the bondhouse of Israel. It was there that Israel had
grown from a family into a people, which the desert was to transform
into a nation. The Exodus out of Egypt was the beginning of Israelitish
history, the era from which it dated. Down to the last the kingdom of
the Pharaohs exercised upon it an influence more or less profound; the
extravagant splendour of Solomon was modelled after that of the Egyptian
monarchs, his merchants found their best market on the banks of the
Nile, and the last Canaanitish city which passed into Israelitish hands
was the gift to him of the Pharaoh. The invasion of the Egyptian king
prevented Rehoboam from attempting to reconquer the revolted tribes, and
in the days of Assyrian ascendancy it was Egypt that was played off
against the Assyrian invader by the princes and statesmen of the west.
The defeat of Necho at Carchemish handed Palestine over to the
Babylonians, and indirectly brought about the destruction of Jerusalem;
even in the age of the Ptolemies Egypt still influenced the history of
Israel, and the Jews of Alexandria prepared the way for the Christian
Church. For centuries Palestine was the battle-ground of the nations;
but it was so because it lay between the two great powers of the ancient
East, between Egypt on the one side and Assyria and Babylonia on the

Egypt is the creation of the Nile. Outside the Delta and the strip of
land which can be watered from the river there is only desert. When the
annual inundation covers the fields the land of Egypt exists no more; it
becomes a watery plain, out of which emerge the villages and towns and
the raised banks which serve as roads. For more than 1600 miles the Nile
flows without an affluent; in the spring it falls so low that its
channel becomes almost unnavigable; but in the late summer, its waters,
swollen by the rains and melted snows of Central Africa, and laden with
the fertilising silt of the Abyssinian mountains, spread over the
cultivated country, and bring fertility wherever they go.

The waters of the inundation must have been confined by dykes, and made
to flow where the cultivator needed them, at a very remote date. Recent
discoveries have thrown light on the early history of the country. We
find it inhabited by at least one race, possibly of Libyan origin, which
for the present we must term pre-historic. Its burial-places are met
with in various localities in Upper Egypt. The members of the race were
not acquainted with the use of metals, but they were expert artificers
in stone and clay. Stone was skilfully carved into vessels of different
forms, and vases of clay were fashioned, with brightly polished
surfaces. Sometimes the vases were simply coloured red and black, or
adorned with patterns and pictures in incised white lines; at other
times, and more especially in the later tombs, they were artistically
decorated with representations of men and animals, boats, and
geometrical patterns in red upon a pale drab ground.

The pre-historic race or races had already reached a fair level of
civilisation--neolithic in type though it may have been--when a new
people appeared upon the scene, bringing with them the elements of a
high culture and a knowledge of working in metals. These were the
Pharaonic Egyptians, who seem to have come from Babylonia and the coasts
of southern Arabia. Cities were built and kingdoms were founded on the
banks of the Nile, and the older population was forced to become the
serfs of the new-comers, to cultivate their fields, to confine the Nile
within artificial boundaries, and to carry out those engineering works
which have made the valley of the Nile what it is to-day.

The Pharaonic Egyptians are the Egyptians of history. They were
acquainted with the art of writing, they mummified their dead, and they
possessed to a high degree the faculty of organisation. The gods they
worshipped were beneficent deities, forms of the Sun-god from whom their
kings derived their descent. It was a religion which easily passed into
a sort of pantheistic monotheism in the more cultivated minds, and it
was associated with a morality which is almost Christian in its
character. A belief in a future world and a resurrection of the flesh
formed an integral part of it; hence came the practice of embalming the
body that it might be preserved to the day of resurrection; hence too
the doctrine of the dead man's justification, not only through his own
good works, but through the intercession of the Sun-god Horus as well.
Horus was addressed as "the Redeemer;" he had avenged the death of his
father Osiris upon his enemy Set, the lord of evil, and through faith in
him his followers were delivered from the powers of darkness. Horus,
however, and Osiris were but forms of the same deity. Horus was the
Sun-god when he rises in the morning; Osiris the Sun-god as he journeys
at night through a world of darkness; and both were identical with Tum,
the Sun-god of the evening. The gods who watched over the great cities
of Egypt, some of which had been the capitals of principalities, were
identified with the Sun-god in these his various forms. Thus Ptah of
Memphis became one with Osiris; so also did Ra, the Sun-god of
Heliopolis, while in those later days when Thebes rose to sovereign
power its local god Amon was united with Ra.

Along with this higher and spiritual religion went--at least in
historical times--a worship of sacred animals. The anomaly can be
explained only by that mixture of races of which archaeology has assured
us. Beast-worship must have been the religion of the pre-historic
inhabitants of Egypt, and just as Brahmanism has thrown its protection
over the superstitions of the aboriginal tribes of India and identified
the idols of the populace with its own gods, so too in ancient Egypt a
fusion of race must have brought about a fusion of ideas. The sacred
animals of the older cult were associated with the deities of the
new-comers; in the eyes of the upper classes they were but symbols; the
lower classes continued to see in them what their fathers had seen, the
gods themselves. While the Pharaonic Egyptian adored Horus, the older
race knew of Horus only as a hawk. If we may trust Manetho, the Egyptian
historian, it was not till the beginning of the Second historical
dynasty that the sacred animals of popular worship were received into
the official cult.

The Pharaonic Egyptian resembled in body and character the typical
native of Central Egypt to-day. He was long-headed, with a high and
intellectual forehead, straight nose, and massive lower jaw. His limbs
were well-proportioned and muscular, his feet and hands were small. He
belonged to the white race, but his hair and eyes were black, the hair
being also straight. His artistic and intellectual faculties were highly
developed, he was singularly good-tempered and light-hearted, averse to
cruelty, though subject at times to fits of fanatical excitement and
ferocity. At once obstinate and industrious, he never failed to carry
out what he had once taken in hand. The Nile valley was reclaimed for
the use of man, and swamp and jungle, the home of wild beasts and
venomous serpents, were turned by his labours into a fruitful paradise.

By the side of the long-headed Egyptian of the ruling classes we find in
the age of the earlier dynasties a wholly different type, of which the
famous wooden statue now in the Cairo Museum, and commonly known as the
"Shekh el-Beled," may be taken as an illustration. Here the skull is
round instead of long, the lips and nostrils are thick and fleshy, the
expression good-humoured rather than intellectual. The type is that of a
portion of the lower classes, and disappears from the monuments after
the fall of the Sixth dynasty. After that epoch the races which
inhabited Egypt were more completely fused together, and the rounded
skull became rare.

Egyptian history begins with Menes, the founder of the united monarchy,
and of the First historical dynasty. Our glimpses of the age that
preceded him--the age of the followers of Horus, as the Egyptians termed
it--are few and scanty. Egypt was divided into several kingdoms, which
were gradually unified into two only, those of the north and the south.
The northern kingdom was symbolised by the snake and papyrus, the
southern kingdom by the vulture and aloe. The vulture was the emblem of
Nekheb, the goddess of the great fortress whose ruins are now called
El-Kab; and it is probable that the city of Nekhen, which stood opposite
it on the western bank of the Nile, was once the capital of the south.
However this may be, when Menes mounted the throne he was hereditary
ruler of This, a city which adjoined the sacred burial-place of Osiris
at Abydos, and of which Girgeh is the modern successor.

Menes made himself master of the north, and so united all Egypt under
one rule. He then undertook and carried through a vast engineering work,
one of the greatest the world has ever seen. The Nile was turned aside
out of its old channel under the Libyan cliffs into a new channel to the
east. The dyke which forced the river from its old course still remains,
and two or three thousand years before the bed of the valley had risen
to its present level the destruction of the dyke would have meant the
return of the Nile to its former path. North of the dyke English
engineers have found that the alluvial soil bears witness to
interference with the natural course of the river of a far-reaching
kind, and its long straight course resembles that of a canal rather than
of the naturally winding stream of the Nile.

On the embankment thus won from the waters Menes built his capital,
which bore the two names of Men-nefer or Memphis, "the Beautiful Place,"
and Ha-ka-Ptah or AEgyptos, "the Temple of the Double of Ptah." On the
north side of it, in fact, stood the temple of Ptah, the local god, the
scanty remains of which are still visited by the tourist. In front of
the shrine was the sacred lake across which, on days of festival, the
image of the god was ferried, and which now serves as a village pond.

Menes was followed by six dynasties of kings, who reigned in all 1478
years. The tombs of the two first dynasties have been found at Abydos.
Menes himself was buried on the edge of the desert near Negada, about
twenty miles to the north of Thebes. His sepulchre was built in
rectangular form, of crude bricks, and filled with numerous chambers, in
the innermost and largest of which the corpse of the king was laid. Then
wood was heaped about the walls and the whole set on fire, so that the
royal body and the objects that were buried with it were half consumed
by the heat. The mode of burial was peculiar to Babylonia. Here, in an
alluvial plain, where stone was not procurable, and where the cemeteries
of the dead adjoined the houses of the living, brick was needful instead
of stone, and sanitary considerations made cremation necessary. But in
the desert of Egypt, at the foot of rocky cliffs, such customs were out
of place; their existence can be explained only by their importation
from abroad. The use of seal-cylinders of Babylonian pattern, and of
clay as a writing material, in the age of Menes and his successors,
confirms the conclusion to which the mode of burial points. The culture
of Pharaonic Egypt must have been derived from the banks of the

That Menes should have been buried at Negada, and not, like the rest of
his dynasty, in the sacred necropolis of his mother-city, is strange.
But we are told that he was slain by a hippopotamus, the Egyptian symbol
of a foe. It may be, therefore, that he fell fighting in battle, and
that his sepulchre was erected near the scene of his death. However that
may be, the other monarchs of the first two dynasties were entombed at
Abydos, The mode of burial was the same as in the case of Menes.

The objects found in the tombs of Menes and his successors prove that
the culture of Egypt was already far advanced. The hieroglyphic system
of writing was fully developed, tools and weapons of bronze were used in
large quantities, the hardest stones of the Red Sea coast were carved
into exquisitely-shaped vases, plaques of ivory were engraved with high
artistic finish, and even obsidian was worked into vases by means of the
lathe. As the nearest source of obsidian to Egypt that is known are the
islands of Santorin and Melos in the AEgean Sea, there must have already
been a maritime trade with the Greek seas. Art had already reached
maturity; a small dog carved out of ivory and discovered in the tomb of
Menes is equal to the best work of later days. Finally, the titles
assumed by the Pharaohs are already placed above the double name of the
king, and the symbols employed to denote them are the same as those
which continued in use down to the end of the Egyptian monarchy.

The first six dynasties are known to Egyptologists as the Old Empire.
Kings of the Fourth dynasty, Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura, built the
great pyramids of Giza, the largest of which is still one of the wonders
of the world. Its huge granite blocks are planed with mathematical
exactitude, and, according to Professor Flinders Petrie, have been
worked by means of tubular drills fitted with the points of emeralds or
some equally hard stone. It was left for the nineteenth century to
re-discover the instrument when the Mont Cenis tunnel was half
completed. The copper for the bronze tools employed by the workmen was
brought from the mines of Sinai, where the Egyptian kings had kept an
armed garrison for many generations; the tin mixed with the copper must
have come from India and the Malayan Peninsula, or else from Spain and

While the Fifth and Sixth dynasties were reigning, exploring expeditions
were sent into the lands of the Upper Nile. The two dynasties had sprung
from the island of Elephantine, opposite Assuan; it was, therefore,
perhaps natural that they should take an interest in the country to the
south. One expedition made its way into the land of Punt, to the north
of Abyssinia, and brought back a Danga dwarf, whose tribal name still
survives under the form of Dongo. Later expeditions explored the banks
of the Nile as far south as the country of the Dwarfs, as well as the
oases of Libya.

The Old Empire was followed by a period of decline. Egypt was overrun by
barbarians, its kings lost their power, and the whole land suffered
decay. The pyramid tombs of the Old Empire were entered and despoiled;
the bodies of the monarchs within them were torn to pieces, and the
precious objects that had been buried with them were carried away. As
the power of the kings diminished, that of the great landowners and
nobles increased; a feudal aristocracy grew up, which divided Egypt
between its members, and treated the royal authority with only nominal
respect. Memphis ceased to be the capital, and a new dynasty, the Ninth,
was founded by the feudal prince of Herakleopolis, now Ahnas, south of
the Fayyum. For a time the Tenth dynasty succeeded in reducing its
rebellious vassals to obedience, but the princes of Thebes steadily grew
in strength, and at length one of them seized the throne of the Pharaohs
and established the Eleventh dynasty. Thebes became the capital of the
kingdom, and under the Twelfth dynasty was the capital of an empire.

Once more Egypt revived. The power of the aristocracy was broken, and
the local princes became court officials. Temples were built, and
engineering works undertaken all over the country. The ancient temple of
Ra at Heliopolis was restored, and two obelisks, one of which is still
standing, were planted in front of it. The depression west of the Nile,
now known as the Fayyum, was drained of its waters, and by means of
embankments transformed from a pestiferous marsh into fertile fields.
The Nile was brought to it by a river-like canal, and the supply of
water regulated by locks. Fresh exploring expeditions were sent to the
Somali coast and elsewhere. The gold-mines of Hammamat were worked in
the eastern desert, and Egypt became the California or Australia of the
ancient world. The eastern frontier was defended against the Asiatic
tribes, while campaign after campaign was carried on in the south,
resulting in the conquest of the Sudan.

The Thirteenth dynasty came to an end in the midst of internal troubles.
The short reigns of the kings of the dynasty that followed show that the
line of the Pharaohs was again becoming feeble. It closed in disaster
and overthrow. Hordes of invaders poured into Egypt from Asia and
overran the whole country. They are known as the Hyksos or Shepherds,
and the greater part of them were of Semitic descent. For 669 years they
ruled the valley of the Nile in three dynasties, and the recollection of
their hated sway never faded from the Egyptian mind. At first they
burned and plundered, then they established themselves in Memphis and
Zoan, and from thence governed the rest of the country. But they soon
submitted to the influence of Egyptian culture. The conquered people
took their conquerors captive, and the Hyksos kings became veritable
Pharaohs. The manners and customs, the writing and titles of the native
monarchs were adopted, and, in course of time, even the language also.
The court was filled with native officials, the cities and temples were
restored, and Egyptian learning was patronised. One of the few Egyptian
treatises on mathematics that have come down to us is dedicated to a
Hyksos sovereign. It was only in religion that the new rulers of Egypt
remained foreign.

They continued to worship a form of the Semitic Baal, who was invoked
under the Hittite name of Sutekh. An attempt to impose his worship upon
the native Egyptians led to the war of independence which ended in the
expulsion of the stranger. Apophis III., of the Seventeenth dynasty,
sent messengers to Skenen-Ra, the prince of Thebes, bidding him renounce
Amon of Thebes for the god of his suzerain. Skenen-Ra resisted, and a
long war followed, which, after lasting through five generations,
resulted in the complete triumph of the Egyptians. The Hyksos were
driven back into Asia, and the prince of Thebes was acknowledged the
Pharaoh of an united Egypt (B.C. 1600).

It was while the Hyksos kings were reigning that Abraham visited the
Delta. Their court was held at Zoan, now San, close to the Asiatic
frontier, and on the frontier itself stood their fortress of Avaris,
which served at once to bar the way from Asia and to overawe the
conquered Egyptians. The Pharaoh of Joseph was probably Apophis III. If
so, the Hebrew vizier would have witnessed the outbreak of the war of
independence towards the close of the long reign of the Hyksos king. It
may be that the policy which transferred the soil of Egypt from the
people to the king and the priests gave its first impulse to the

The Eighteenth dynasty founded an Egyptian empire. Its kings carried the
war into Asia, and planted the boundaries of Egyptian dominion on the
banks of the Euphrates. Thothmes III. (B.C. 1503-1449) made Canaan an
Egyptian province, dividing it into districts, each under a governor or
a vassal prince, who was visited from time to time by a royal
commissioner. Carriage roads were constructed, with posting inns at
intervals along them where food and lodging could be procured. The
country east of the Jordan equally obeyed Egyptian rule. The plateau of
Bashan was governed by a single prefect; Ammon and Moab were tributary;
Edom alone retained its independence, thanks to its barren mountains,
and inaccessible ravines. Thebes, the capital of the dynasty, was
adorned with splendid buildings, and all the wealth and luxury of Asia
was poured into it. Thothmes established zoological and botanical
gardens, where the strange plants, birds, and animals he had collected
in his campaigns could be preserved. His immediate predecessor, Queen
Hatshepsu, had already revived the exploring expeditions of earlier
centuries. An exploring fleet had been sent by her to Punt, the land of
frankincense, and it returned home with rarities of all kinds, including
apes and giraffes. The history of the expedition and the treasures it
brought back were depicted on the walls of the temple built by the queen
at Der el-Bahari, after the design of the architect Sen-Mut.

The authority of Egypt was not extended to the Euphrates only. Cyprus
sent tribute to the Pharaoh, the coasts of Asia Minor, perhaps also of
Greece, were harried, and the Sudan was conquered as far south as
Berber, if not Khartum. Under Amen-hotep III., the grandson of Thothmes
III., the empire underwent still farther extension. Egyptian temples
were erected on the banks of the Upper Nile, and Napata, the future
capital of Ethiopia, was built at Gebel Barkal, beyond Dongola.

In Asia, Mitanni was the first neighbour of Egypt that had maintained
its independence. Assyria and the Mesopotamian prince of Singar or
Shinar had paid tribute to Thothmes III.; so, too, had the Hittite king,
and even Babylonia had been forced to acquiesce sullenly in the
annexation by Egypt of her old province of Canaan, and to beg for gifts
of gold from the Egyptian mines. But Mitanni was too powerful to be
attacked. Her royal family accordingly married into the Solar race of
Egypt. One of her princesses was the mother of Amen-hotep III.; another
was probably the mother of his son and successor, Amen-hotep IV.

Amen-hotep IV. was one of the most remarkable monarchs that have ever
sat upon a throne. His father died while he was still a boy, and he was
brought up under the Asiatic influences of his mother Teie. But he was a
philosopher by nature rather than a king. The purpose of his life was to
reform the religion of Egypt, to replace it, in fact, by a pantheistic
monotheism, the visible symbol of which was the solar disk. For the
first time in history a religious persecution was entered on; the
worship of Amon, the god of Thebes, was proscribed, and his very name
erased from the monuments. Amen-hotep changed his own name to
Khu-n-Aten, "the glory of the solar disk," and every effort was made to
extirpate the state religion, of which he was himself the official head.
But the ancient priesthood of Thebes proved too strong for the king. He
left the city of his fathers, and built a new capital farther north,
where its ruins are now known as Tel el-Amarna. Here he lived with the
adherents of the new creed, and here he erected a temple to the god of
his worship and a stately palace for himself.

Along with the reformation in religion had gone a reformation in art.
The old conventionalised art of Egypt was cast aside, and an attempt was
made to imitate nature, exactly, even to the verge of caricature. The
wall and floor paintings that have been discovered at Tel el-Amarna are
marvels of realistic art. Plants and animals and birds are alike
represented in them with a spirit and faithfulness to nature which is
indeed astonishing. Like the houses of his followers, the palace of the
king was adorned with similar frescoes. But it was also decorated with a
lavish profusion of precious materials; its walls and columns were
inlaid with gold and bronze and precious stones, statues almost Greek in
their type stood within it, and even its stuccoed floors were covered
with costly paintings. Roads were made in the desert eastward of the
city, where its wealthier inhabitants took their morning drives, and the
king occupied the earlier part of the clay in giving lectures or sermons
on the articles of his faith.

The archives of the empire had been transferred from Thebes to the new
capital. Among them was the foreign correspondence, written upon clay
tablets in the cuneiform characters, and (for the most part) in the
language of Babylonia. We have learnt from it that the Babylonian
language and script were the common means of intercommunication from the
Euphrates to the Nile in the century before the Exodus. It proves how
long and how profound must have been the influence and rule of Babylonia
in western Asia. Throughout the civilised world of Asia the educated
classes were compelled to learn a foreign writing and language, and when
the empire passed from Babylonia to Egypt, Egypt itself, whose script
and literature went back to immemorial times, was forced to do the same.
The correspondence was active and far-reaching. There are letters in it
from the kings of Babylonia and Assyria, of Mitanni and Cappadocia, as
well as from the Egyptian governors in Canaan. Even Bedawin shekhs take
part in it, and the letters are sometimes on the most trivial of
subjects. It is clear that schools and libraries must have existed
throughout the civilised East, where the Babylonian characters could be
taught and learned, and where Babylonian literature and official
correspondence could be stored up. Among the tablets found at Tel
el-Amarna are some fragments of Babylonian literature, one of which has
served as a lesson-book, and traces of dictionaries have also been
discovered there.

The religious reforms of Khu-n-Aten resulted in the fall of the dynasty
and the Egyptian empire. The letters from Canaan, more especially those
from the vassal-king of Jerusalem, show that the power of Egypt in Asia
was on the wane. The Hittites were advancing from the north, Mitanni and
Babylonia were intriguing with disaffected Canaanites, and the
Canaanitish governors themselves were at war with one another. The
Pharaoh is entreated to send help speedily; if his troops do not come at
once, it is reputed, they will come too late. But it would seem that the
troops could not be spared at home. There, too, civil war was breaking
out, and though Khu-n-Aten died before the end came, his sepulchre was
profaned, his mummy rent to pieces, and the city he had built destroyed.
The stones of the temple of his god were sent to Thebes, there to be
used in the service of the victorious Amon; and the tombs prepared for
his mother and his followers remained empty. In the national reaction
against the Asiatised court and religion of Khu-n-Aten, the Canaanitish
foreigners who had usurped the highest offices were either put to death
or driven into exile, and a new dynasty, the Nineteenth, arose, whose
policy was "Egypt for the Egyptians."

Ramses I. was regarded as the founder of the Nineteenth dynasty. His
reign was short, and he was followed by his son Seti I., who once more
led his armies into Asia and subdued the coast-land of Syria. Seti was
succeeded by his son Ramses II., who died at a great age after a reign
of sixty-seven years (B.C. 1348-1281), and whose mummy, like that of his
father, is now in the Cairo Museum. He set himself to restore the
Asiatic empire of Thothmes. But the Hittites barred his way. They had
established themselves at Kadesh on the Orontes, and a long war of
twenty-one years ended at last in a treaty of peace in which the two
combatants agreed to respect from henceforth the existing boundaries of
Egypt and Kadesh. Egypt was left with Palestine on both sides of the
Jordan, a possession, however, which it lost soon after Ramses' death.
The treaty was cemented by the marriage of the Hittite princess with the

Ramses II. was the great builder of Egypt. Go where we will, we find the
remains of the temples he erected or restored, of the cities he founded,
and of the statues he set up. His architectural conceptions were
colossal; the temple of Abu-Simbel, hewn out of a mountain, and the
shattered image of himself at Thebes, are a proof of this. But he
attempted too much for the compass of a single reign, however long. Much
of his work is pretentious but poor, and indicative of the feverish
haste with which it was executed.

Among the cities he built in the Delta were Ramses and Pithom. Pithom,
or Pa-Tum, is now marked by the mounds of Tel el-Maskhuta, on the line
of railway between Ismailia and Zagazig; it lay at the eastern extremity
of Qoshem or Goshen, in the district of Succoth. Like Ramses, it had
been built by Israelitish labour, for the free-born Israelites of Goshen
had been turned into royal serfs. None had suffered more from the
revolution which overthrew the Asiatised court of the Eighteenth dynasty
and brought in a "new king which knew not Joseph."

They had been settled in the strip of pasture-land which borders the
Freshwater Canal of to-day, and is still a place of resort for the
Bedawin from the east. It lay apart from the cultivated lands of the
Egyptian peasantry, it adjoined the desert which led to Asia, and it was
near the Hyksos capital of Zoan. Meneptah, the son and successor of
Ramses II., tells us that from of old it had been given by the Pharaohs
to the nomad shepherds of Asia; and after the departure of the
Israelitish tribes the same king is informed in a letter from one of his
officials that the deserted district had been again handed over to
Bedawin from Edom. This was in the eighth year of the king's reign,
three years later than that in which the Exodus must have taken place.

For 400 years the Israelites had been "afflicted" by the Egyptians. But
while the Eighteenth dynasty was in power their lot could not have been
hard. They still remained the free herdsmen of the Pharaoh, feeding
their flocks and cattle on the royal demesne. During the reign of
Khu-n-Aten, indeed, their own Semitic kinsmen from Canaan held the chief
offices of state, and the Pharaoh was endeavouring to force upon his
subjects a form of monotheism which had much in common with that of
Israel. The language of the hymns engraved on the walls of the tombs at
Tel el-Amarna reads not unfrequently like the verses of a Hebrew Psalm.

The national reaction which found its expression in the rise of the
Eighteenth dynasty swept away the power and influence of Asia, and
brought back the gods and religion of Egypt. The Semites who had
absorbed the government of the country were expelled or slain; their
weaker brethren, the Israelites in Goshen, were enslaved. Egypt became
for them a house of bondage, and they had to toil under the lash of the
taskmaster at the cities and temples which the Pharaoh built. Ramses
held his court at Zoan, like the Hyksos of old days, but it was to keep
guard over the Asiatic frontier, not to be in touch with a kindred
people in Canaan. Canaan itself was conquered afresh, and the
Canaanitish captives--the "mixed multitude" of the Bible--assisted the
Israelites in erecting the monuments of their conqueror.

Nevertheless, the people multiplied. The memory of the Hyksos invasion
had not passed away, and the Pharaoh and his subjects alike feared the
possibility of other invaders from Asia being joined by their
disaffected kinsfolk in Egypt itself. That their fears were justified is
shown by what happened less than a century later. When the Nineteenth
dynasty fell in the midst of civil war, a Canaanite, Arisu by name,
seized the throne and made himself master of Egypt. Ramses determined to
prevent such a catastrophe by destroying as many as possible of the male
children of the Hebrews. The men were worn down in body and mind by
constant labour, the children were not allowed to live.

Egyptian testimony confirms the statement of Scripture that this policy
was actually carried out. A hymn of victory addressed to Meneptah
alludes to "the Israelites" to whom "no seed" had been left. But the
policy was ineffectual. The opportunity came at last when the serfs
could fly from their enforced labour and escape into the wilderness.

It was in the fifth year of Meneptah (B.C. 1276). Egypt was threatened
by formidable enemies. The Libyans advanced against it by land, the
nations of the Greek seas attacked it by water. Achaeans came from the
north, Lycians from Asia Minor, Sardinians and Sicilians from the
islands of the west. The Delta was overrun by swarms of barbarians, who
pitched their tents in front of Belbeis at the western end of the land
of Goshen. Plague after plague descended upon the Egyptians, and the
freedom of his serfs was wrung from the Pharaoh. They fled by night,
carrying with them the spoil they had taken from their masters, only to
find that the gate of the great line of fortification which protected
the eastern frontier of Egypt was closed against them. Meneptah had
repented of his act, and a squadron of six hundred chariots was sent in
pursuit of the fugitives.

But a violent wind drove back the sea from the shallows at the southern
extremity of the forts, and enabled the Israelites to cross them. While
their pursuers were following in their footsteps, the dropping of the
wind caused the waters to return upon them, and chariots, horses, and
men were alike overwhelmed. The Israelites were saved as it were by
miracle, and the Pharaoh lost his bondsmen.

But Egypt also succeeded in repelling the storm of invasion which had
fallen upon it. The Libyans and their northern allies were annihilated
in a decisive battle, their king, Murai, fled from the field, and a
countless amount of booty and prisoners fell into the hands of the
victorious Egyptians. Canaan, however, was lost, with the exception of
Gaza, which defended the road from Egypt, and was still garrisoned by
Egyptian troops. But Gaza, the Calais of Egypt, was not destined to
remain long in their power. Already the coast-road was made dangerous by
the attacks of Philistine pirates from Crete; and it was not long before
the pirates took permanent possession of the southern corner of
Palestine, and established themselves in its five chief towns. The
Egyptian domination in Asia had passed away for ever.

After Meneptah's death the Nineteenth dynasty soon came to an inglorious
end. Civil war distracted the country, and for a time it obeyed the rule
of a foreign chief. Then came the rise of the Twentieth dynasty, and a
third Ramses restored the prestige and prosperity of his kingdom. But
once more the foreign invader was upon its soil. The nations of the
north had again poured southward, partly by land, partly by sea, greedy
for the wealth that was stored in the cultured lands of the Oriental
world, and eager to find new settlements for an expanding population.
Greek traditions spoke of the movement as a consequence of the Trojan
war, and delighted to dwell on the voyages of its heroes into unknown
seas, of the piratical descents to which it led, and of the colonies
which were planted by it. The Philistine occupation of southern
Palestine was one of its results.

As in the time of Meneptah, the Libyans took part with the northern
tribes in the assault upon Egypt, and Sardinians and Sicilians followed
behind them. But the main bulk of the invaders came from the Greek seas.
The Danaans take the place of the Achaeans, and the Philistines are among
their allies. The invaders had swept through western Asia, plundering
and destroying as they marched, and bringing in their train contingents
from the countries through which they passed. Hittites, Mitannians, and
Amorites all followed with them, and the motley host of men and ships
finally reached the Egyptian frontier. Here, however, they were met by
the Pharaoh. The battle raged by sea and land, and ended in a triumph of
the Egyptians. The invaders were utterly overthrown, their ships burned,
their kings and leaders made captive. Egypt was once more saved from
destruction, and Ramses III. was free to develop its resources and
repair the damage that had been done.

First came a campaign in Canaan and Syria, the object of which was not
to acquire territory, but to teach the Asiatic that there was once more
an army in Egypt. The Egyptian forces seem to have gone as far as
Hamath; at all events, they occupied southern Palestine, capturing Gaza,
Hebron, and Jerusalem, and made their way across the Jordan into Moab.
Another campaign carried the Egyptian troops into Edom, where they
burned the "tents" of the Bedawin, and for the first and last time in
history planted the Egyptian standard on the slopes of Mount Seir.
Ramses now turned to the internal administration of his country, and the
copper-mines of Sinai, like the gold-mines of the eastern desert, were
worked with fresh vigour. The spoil won from the northern invaders made
the Pharaoh the richest monarch of the age. Temples were built, and
endowed with lavish generosity, and the priesthood must have grieved
when he died at last after a reign of thirty-three years.

He was followed by a line of feeble princes. The high-priests of Amon at
Thebes usurped their power, and finally dispossessed the last of them of
the throne. A new dynasty arose in the Delta. In the south the
government was practically in the hands of the Theban high-priests. With
a divided kingdom the strength of Egypt passed away.

It was restored by a foreigner, Shishak I., the captain of the Libyan
mercenaries. The Pharaoh whose daughter was married by Solomon must have
been the last king of the old dynasty. Perhaps he sought to strengthen
himself against his enemies in Egypt by an alliance with his powerful
neighbour. At all events, the King of Israel allowed his army to march
through Palestine as far as Gezer. The Egyptians flattered themselves
that they had thereby asserted their old claim to sovereignty over
Palestine, but the substantial gainer was the Israelitish monarch. He
won the last independent Canaanite city without effort or expenditure,
and was allowed to marry into the Solar race.

Shishak had no need of Israelitish alliances. On the contrary, Solomon
was connected by marriage with the dethroned dynasty, and the power of
Israel, if unchecked, was a menace to his own kingdom. But while Solomon
lived he was afraid to move. He kept at his court, however, an
Israelitish rebel, who might prove useful when the time came. Hardly was
Solomon dead when Jeroboam returned to his native country, and the
kingdom of David was sundered in twain. Shishak seized the opportunity
of striking a blow at what remained of it. With contemptuous
impartiality he overran the territories of both Judah and the revolted
tribes, but it was Judah which suffered the most. The unfinished
fortifications of Jerusalem were stormed, the treasures accumulated by
Solomon carried to the Nile, and the King of Judah compelled to
acknowledge himself the vassal of Shishak. Judah never recovered from
the blow: had it not been for the Egyptian invasion, and the consequent
loss of its hoarded wealth, it might have been able to suppress the
rebellion of Jeroboam, and to reduce all the tribes of Israel once more
under one sceptre. The names of the captured cities of Palestine are
still to be read on the walls of the temple of Karnak.

Shishak's successors of the Twenty-second dynasty did not inherit his
military vigour and skill. The central authority grew gradually weaker,
and Egypt again fell back into the condition from which he had rescued
it. The tribes of the Sudan could no longer be hindered from attacking
the enfeebled land, and Ethiopian princes made their way to Memphis,
carrying back with them to their capital of Napata the spoil and tribute
of a defeated and disunited people. At last the Ethiopian raids changed
into permanent conquest, and a negro dynasty--the Twenty-fifth--sat on
the throne of Menes.

But the kings who belonged to it, Shabaka and Taharka, were vigorous,
and for a short while there was peace in the valley of the Nile.
Assyria, however, had already arisen in its strength, and was claiming
the empire over western Asia which had belonged to Babylon in the dawn
of history. The states of Palestine endeavoured in vain to play off
Assyria against Egypt. Again and again the Egyptian armies were defeated
on the borders of Canaan, and Taharka was saved from invasion only by
the disaster which befell Sennacherib during his siege of Jerusalem. But
the respite was only momentary. Asia at last submitted to the dominion
of Nineveh, the King of Judah became an Assyrian vassal, and
Esar-haddon, the successor of Sennacherib, was now ready to march
against the land of the Nile. In B.C. 674 he entered the Delta and
scattered the forces of the Ethiopians. But two more campaigns were
needed before the country was thoroughly subdued. At last, in June B.C.
670, he drove the Egyptian forces before him in fifteen days from the
frontier to Memphis, twice defeating them with heavy loss and wounding
Taharka himself. Three days later Memphis opened its gates, and Taharka
fled to Egypt, leaving Egypt in the hands of the Assyrian. It was
divided among twenty satraps, most of whom were Egyptians by birth.

Two years, however, were hardly past when it revolted, and while on the
march to subdue it Esar-haddon fell ill, and died on the 10th of
Marchesvan or October. But the revolt was quickly suppressed by his
successor Assur-bani-pal, and the twenty satrapies restored. It was not
long, however, before the satraps quarrelled with one another, intrigued
with Taharka, and rebelled against their suzerain. Headed by Necho of
Sais, they invited the Ethiopians to return; but the plot was
discovered, and Necho and his fellow-conspirators sent in chains to
Nineveh. Sais, Mendes, and other cities of northern Egypt were sacked,
and Taharka, who had advanced as far as Thebes and even Memphis, fled to
Ethiopia and there died. Meanwhile Necho had been pardoned and loaded
with honours by the Assyrian king; his son, who took an Assyrian name,
was made satrap of Athribis, near the modern Benha, and the satraps of
the Delta henceforward remained faithful to their Assyrian master. But
another Ethiopian prince, Tuant-Amon, made a last attempt to recover the
dominion of his fathers. Thebes received him with acclamation, and
Memphis was taken without difficulty. There the satrap of Goshen came to
pay him homage on behalf of his brother-governors in the north.

His triumph, however, was short-lived. Assur-bani-pal determined to
inflict a terrible punishment on the rebel country, and to reduce it to
subjection once for all. Thebes had been the centre of disaffection; its
priesthood looked with impatience on the rule of the Asiatic, and were
connected by religion and tradition with Ethiopia; on Thebes and its
priesthood, therefore, the punishment had to fall. The Ethiopian army
retreated to Nubia without striking a blow, and Egypt was left
defenceless at the mercy of the Assyrian. The Assyrian army entered
Thebes, the No or "City" of Amon, bent on the work of destruction. Its
temple-strongholds were plundered and overthrown, its inhabitants
carried into slavery, and two obelisks, seventy tons in weight, were
sent as trophies to Nineveh. The sack of Thebes made a deep impression
on the Oriental world; we find it referred to in the prophecies of Nahum
(iii. 8).

Egypt now enjoyed peace, but it was the peace of exhaustion and
powerlessness. Psammetikhos had succeeded his father Necho, who had been
put to death by Tuant-Amon. He was a man of vigour and ability, and he
aimed at nothing less than sovereignty over an united and independent
Egypt. His opportunity came in B.C. 655. The Assyrian empire was shaken
to its foundations by a revolt of which Babylonia was the centre and
which had spread to its other provinces. For a time it was called on to
struggle for bare existence. While the Assyrian armies were employed
elsewhere, Psammetikhos shook himself free of its authority, and, with
the help of Greek and Karian mercenaries from Lydia, overcame his rival
satraps and mounted the throne of the Pharaohs. Once more, under the
Twenty-sixth dynasty, Egypt enjoyed rest and prosperity; the
administration was re-organised, the cities and temples restored, and
art underwent an antiquarian revival. Psammetikhos even dreamed of
recovering the old supremacy of Egypt in Asia; the Assyrian empire was
falling into decay, and Egypt was endeavouring to model its life after
the pattern of the past. After a long siege Ashdod was taken, and the
control of the road into Palestine was thus secured.

But the power of the Twenty-sixth dynasty rested upon its Greek
mercenaries. The kings themselves were, it is probable, Libyans by
descent, and the feelings of the native priesthood towards them do not
seem to have been cordial. Their policy and ideas were European rather
than Egyptian. Necho, the son and successor of Psammetikhos, cleared out
the old canal which united the Red Sea with the Nile, and did all that
he could to encourage trade with the Mediterranean. An exploring fleet
was even sent under Phoenician pilots to circumnavigate Africa. Three
years were spent on the voyage, and the ships finally returned through
the Straits of Gibraltar to the mouths of the Nile. Meanwhile, the
Pharaoh had marched into Palestine. Gaza was captured, and the Jewish
king, Josiah, slain in his attempt to bar the way of his unexpected
enemy. Jerusalem surrendered, and a nominee of the Egyptians was placed
upon its throne.

The Asiatic empire of the Eighteenth dynasty was thus restored. But it
lasted barely three years. In B.C. 605 the Egyptians were defeated by
Nebuchadrezzar under the walls of Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Asia
passed into the possession of the Babylonians. Once more Palestine
became a shuttlecock between the kingdoms of the Nile and the Euphrates.
Trusting to the support of Egypt, Zedekiah of Judah revolted from his
Babylonian master. His policy at first seemed successful. The Babylonian
army which was besieging Jerusalem retired on the approach of
Psammetikhos II., who had succeeded his father Necho, and the Jewish
statesmen again breathed freely. But the respite lasted for only six
years. The Babylonian troops returned with increased strength; the
Egyptians retreated to their own country, and Jerusalem fell in B.C.
588, one year after the death of the Egyptian king.

His son Hophra or Apries had made a vain attempt to rescue Zedekiah. His
fleet had held the sea, while his army marched along the coast of
Palestine and occupied Tyre and Sidon. But the fall of Jerusalem obliged
it to retire. The dream of an Asiatic empire was over, and the Pharaoh
had more than enough to do to defend himself against his own subjects.
They saw with growing impatience that the power and wealth of the Greek
mercenaries continually increased. The native army had already deserted
to Ethiopia; now the priests complained that the revenues of the temples
were sacrilegiously confiscated for the support of the foreigner. In
B.C. 570 discontent reached a head; civil war broke out between Hophra
and his brother-in-law Ahmes or Amasis, which ended in the defeat of
Hophra and his loss of the crown.

But Amasis found the Greeks more indispensable than ever, and they were
loaded with favours even more than before. They were moved to Memphis
that they might be close to the king, and at the same time overawe the
native Egyptians, and Amasis himself married a Greek wife. The invasion
of Egypt by Nebuchadrezzar in B.C. 567 showed that the policy of Amasis
had been a wise one. The Babylonians were unable to penetrate beyond the
eastern part of the Delta; the Greek troops fought too well. The limits
of the Babylonian empire were permanently fixed at the frontiers of

That empire, however, was overthrown by Cyrus, and it was easy to see
that the conqueror who had proved so irresistible in Asia would not
allow Egypt to remain at peace. Amasis prepared himself accordingly for
the coming storm. Cyprus was occupied, and therewith the command of the
sea was assured. The maritime policy of the Twenty-sixth dynasty was an
indication of Greek influence; in older days the sea had been to the
Egyptian a thing abhorred.

Kambyses carried out the invasion which his father, Cyrus, had planned.
Unfortunately for the Egyptians, Amasis died while the Persian army was
on its march, and the task of opposing it fell to his young and
inexperienced son. The Greek mercenaries fought bravely, but to no
purpose: the battle of Pelusium gave Egypt to the invader, Memphis was
taken, and the Pharaoh put to death. In the long struggle between Asia
and Egypt, Asia had been finally the victor.

The Egyptians did not submit tamely to the Persian yoke. Kambyses indeed
seemed inclined to change himself into an Egyptian Pharaoh; he took up
his residence at Memphis and sent an expedition to conquer the Sudan.
But under Darius and his successors, whose Zoroastrian monotheism was of
a sterner description, there was but little sympathy between the
conquered and their conquerors. Time after time the Egyptians broke into
revolt, once against Xerxes, once again against Artaxerxes I., and a
third time against Artaxerxes II. The last insurrection was more
successful than those which had preceded it, and Egypt remained
independent for sixty-five years. Then the crimes and incompetence of
its last native king, Nektanebo II., opened the way to the Persian, and
the valley of the Nile once more bowed its neck under the Persian yoke.
Its temples were ruined, the sacred Apis slain, and an ass set up in
mockery in its place.

A few years later Egypt welcomed the Macedonian Alexander as a
deliverer, and recognised him as a god. The line of the Pharaohs, the
incarnations of the Sun-god, had returned in him to the earth. It was
not the first time that the Egyptian and the Greek had stood side by
side against the common Persian foe. Greek troops had disputed the
passage of Kambyses into Egypt. The first revolt of Egypt had saved
Greece from the impending invasion of Darius, and postponed it to the
reign of his feebler son, and during its second revolt Athenian ships
had sailed up the Nile and assisted the Egyptians in the contest with
the Persians. If Egypt could not be free, it was better that its master
should be a Greek.

Alexander was followed by the Ptolemies. They were the ablest of his
successors, the earlier of them being equally great in war and in peace.
Alexandria, founded by Alexander on the site of the village of Rakotis,
became the commercial and literary centre of the world; thousands of
books were collected in its Library, and learned professors lectured in
the halls of its Museum. An elaborate fiscal system was devised and
carefully superintended, and enormous revenues poured into the treasury
of the king. As time passed on, the Ptolemies identified themselves more
and more with their subjects; the temples were rebuilt or restored, and
the Greek king assumed the attributes of a Pharaoh. The Jews flocked
into the country, where special privileges were granted to them, and
where many of them were raised to offices of state. A rival temple to
that of Jerusalem was built at Onion near Heliopolis, the modern Tel
el-Yahudiya, or "Mound of the Jews," and the books of the Hebrew
Scriptures were translated into Greek. A copy of the Septuagint, as the
Greek translation was called, was needed for the Alexandrine Library.

Egypt, once the house of bondage, thus became a second house of Israel.
It gave the world a new version of the Hebrew Bible which largely
influenced the writers of the New Testament; it gave it also a new Canon
which was adopted by the early Christian Church. The prophecy of Isaiah
was fulfilled: "The Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians
shall know the Lord."

In the course of centuries, however, the monotheistic element in
Egyptian religion had grown clearer and more pronounced in the minds of
the educated classes. The gods of the official cult ceased to be
regarded as different forms of the same deity; they became mere
manifestations of a single all-pervading power. As M. Grebaut puts it:
they were "the names received by a single Being in his various
attributes and workings.... As the Eternal, who existed before all
worlds, then as organiser of the universe, and finally as the Providence
who each day watches over his work, he is always the same being,
reuniting in his essence all the attributes of divinity." It was the
hidden God who was adored under the name whatever the latter might be,
the God who is described in the texts as "without form" and "whose name
is a mystery," and of whom it is said that He is the one God, "beside
whom there is no other." In Ptah of Memphis or Amon of Thebes or Ra of
Heliopolis, the more educated Egyptian recognised but a name and symbol
for the deity which underlay them all.

Along with this growth in a spiritual conception of religion went, as
was natural, a growth in scepticism. There was a sceptical as well as a
believing school, such as finds its expression in the festal Dirge of
King Antef of the Eleventh dynasty. Here we read in Canon Rawnsley's
versified translation--

"What is fortune? say the wise.
Vanished are the hearths and homes,
What he does or thinks, who dies,
None to tell us comes.

Eat and drink in peace to-day,
When you go, your goods remain;
He who fares the last, long way,
Comes not back again."

A curious work of much later date that has come down to us is in the
form of a discussion between an Ethiopian cat and the unbelieving jackal
Kufi, in which the arguments of a sceptical philosophy are urged with
such force and sympathy as to show that they were the author's own. But
such scepticism was confined to the few; the Egyptian enjoys this life
too much, as a rule, to be troubled by doubts about another, and he has
always been distinguished by an intensity of religious belief.

With his religion there were associated ideas and beliefs some of which
have a strangely Christian ring. He was a believer in the resurrection
of the body; hence the care that was taken from the time of the Third
dynasty onwards to preserve it by embalmment, and to place above the
heart the scarab beetle, the symbol of evolution, which by its magical
powers would cause it to beat again. Hence, too, the long texts from the
Ritual of the Dead which enabled the deceased to pass in safety through
the perils that encompassed the entrance to the next world, as well as
the endeavour to place the corpse where it should not be found and

The Egyptian believed also in a Messiah. Thus, in a papyrus of the time
of Thothmes III., we read that "a king will come from the south, Ameni
the truth-declaring by name.... He will assume the crown of Upper Egypt,
and will lift up the red crown of Lower Egypt.... The people of the age
of the Son of Man will rejoice, and establish his name for all eternity.
They will be far from evil, and the wicked will humble their mouths for
fear of him. The Asiatics will fall before his blows, and the Libyans
before his flame."

Even the conception of a son who is born of a virgin and a god is met
with in the temples of Hatshepsu at Der el-Bahari, and of Amenophis III.
at Luxor. Here Amon-Ra is said to have "gone to" the queen, "that he
might be a father through her. He made her behold him in his divine
form, so that she might bear a child at the sight of his divine beauty.
His charms penetrated her flesh, filling it with the odours of Punt."
And the god is finally made to declare to her: "Amen-hotep shall be the
name of the son that is in thy womb. He shall grow up according to the
words that proceed out of thy mouth. He shall exercise sovereignty and
righteousness in this land unto its very end. My soul is in him, and he
shall wear the twofold crown of royalty, ruling the two lands like the
sun for ever."

Religious dogmas did not weaken the firm hold the Egyptian had upon
morality. His moral code was very high. Even faith in Horus the
"Redeemer" did not suffice by itself to ensure an entrance for the dead
man into the fields of Alu, the Egyptian Paradise. His deeds were
weighed in the balance, and if they were found wanting, he was condemned
to the fiery pains of hell. Each man, after death, was called upon to
make the "Negative Confession," to prove that he had not sinned against
his fellows, that he had not oppressed or taken bribes, had not judged
wrongfully, had not injured a slave or overtasked the poor man, had not
murdered or stolen, lied or committed adultery, had not given short
weight or robbed the gods and the dead, had made none to "hunger" or
"weep." Only when all the questions of the awful judges in the
underworld had been answered satisfactorily was he allowed to pass into
the presence of Osiris and to cultivate the fields of Alu with his own

This was the last trial demanded from the justified Egyptian, and it was
a hard one for the rich and noble who had done no peasants' work in this
present life. Accordingly, small images of labourers were buried with
the dead, and it was supposed that their "doubles" or shadows would
assist him in his labours. The supposition rested on a theory which
ascribed to all things, whether animate or inanimate, a double or
reflection which corresponded to the thing itself in every particular.
It was like a shadow, except that it was invisible to mortal eyes, and
did not perish with the object which had projected it.

The "double" was called _ka_, and the _ka_ of a man was his exact
representation in the other world, a spiritual representation, it is
true, but nevertheless one which had the same feelings, the same needs,
and the same moral nature as himself. It thus differed from the _ba_ or
"soul," which flew away to the gods on the dissolution of the body. It
was, in fact, the Personality of the man.

From the outset the Pharaonic Egyptians were a nation of readers and
writers. Nothing is more astonishing than the way in which the simplest
articles of daily use are covered with inscriptions. Even the rocks on
the river-bank are scribbled over by the generations who once passed
beside them. Already in the time of Menes the hieroglyphic system of
writing was fully developed, and before the end of the Third dynasty a
"hieratic" or running hand had been formed out of it. The more cumbrous
and picturesque hieroglyphics were reserved for engraving on wood or
stone or metal, or for the sacred texts; the ordinary book was written
in hieratic. The papyrus which grew in the marshes of the Delta was the
writing material, and in spite of its apparently fragile character, it
has been found to last as long as paper. When its use was at last
discontinued in the tenth century of our era, the cultivation of the
papyrus ceased also, and it became extinct in its ancient home.
Tradition, however, asserted that leather had been employed by the
scribe before papyrus, and in the time of Pepi of the Sixth dynasty a
description of the plan of the temple of Dendera was discovered
inscribed on parchment. Even in later ages leather was sometimes

Egyptian literature covered a wide field. Two of the oldest books that
have come down to us are the wise sayings of Qaqemna and Ptah-hotep, the
first of whom lived under the Third, the second under the Fifth dynasty.
They are moral treatises like the Proverbs of Solomon or the Discourses
of Confucius. Ptah-hotep already laments that men were not as they had
been. He had reached the age of a hundred and ten years, and had fallen
upon degenerate days. Perhaps he was right, for it would seem that the
examination system had already been introduced for the disposal of
official posts. Ptah-hotep's style, too, is involved and elaborate; he
writes for a _blase_ circle of readers who can no longer appreciate

The historical novel was an Egyptian invention. Several of the works
that have survived are examples of it. But light literature of every
kind was much in fashion. A tale written for Seti II. when he was
crown-prince contains an episode which closely resembles the history of
Joseph and Potiphar's wife, and the reign of Ramses II. produced a
sarcastic account of the misadventures of a tourist in Canaan, the
object of which was to ridicule the style and matter of another writer.
Poetry--heroic, lyrical, and religious--flourished, and a sort of
Egyptian Iliad was constructed by the poet Pentaur out of a deed of
personal prowess on the part of Ramses II. during the war with the

Reference has already been made to the work on mathematics that was
composed when the Hyksos were ruling Egypt. A century or two later a
work on medicine was written, a copy of which is known as the Ebers
Papyrus. It shows that medicine has not advanced very rapidly since the
age of the Eighteenth Egyptian dynasty. Diseases were already carefully
diagnosed and treated, much as they are to-day. The medical
prescriptions read like those of a modern doctor; we have the same
formulae, the same admixture of various drugs.

The Egyptians were not only a people of scribes and readers, they were
also a people of artists. They had the same power as the Japanese of
expressing in a few outlines the form and spirit of an object; their
drawing is accurate, and at the same time spirited. It is true that
their canon of perspective was not the same as our own, but the greater
difficulties it presented to the artist were successfully overcome.
Their portraits of foreign races are marvellously true to life, and
their caricatures are as excellent as their more serious drawings. It
was in statuary, however, that the Egyptian artist was at his best. The
hardest of stones were carved into living likenesses, or invested with a
dignity and pathos which it is difficult to match. Such at least was the
case with the statuary of the Old Empire, before the conventionalised
art of a later day had placed restrictions on the sculptor and stifled
his originality. The great statue of King Khaf-Ra of the Fourth dynasty,
seated on his throne with the imperial hawk behind his head, is carved
out of diorite, and nevertheless the sculptor has thrown an idealised
divinity over the face, which we yet feel to be a speaking likeness of
the man. The seated scribe in the Museum of Cairo, with his high
forehead, sparkling eyes, and long straight hair divided in the middle,
has a countenance that is the very ideal of intellectuality, and in the
wooden figure of the "Shekh el-beled," we have an inimitable portrait of
the sleek and wealthy _bourgeois_ as he walks about his farm. All these
statues are older than the Sixth dynasty.

In disposition the Egyptian was remarkably kindly. He was affectionate
to his family, fond of society, and, alone among the nations of
antiquity, humane to others. His laws aimed at saving life and
reclaiming the criminal. Diodoros states that punishments were inflicted
not merely as a deterrent, but also with a view towards reforming the
evil-doer, and Wilkinson notices that at Medinet Habu, where the artist
is depicting the great naval battle which saved Egypt from the
barbarians in the reign of Ramses III., he has represented Egyptian
soldiers rescuing the drowning crew of an enemy's ship.

The Pharaoh derived his title from the Per-aa or "Great House" in which
he lived, and where he dispensed justice. The title thus resembles that
of the "Sublime Porte." Next to him, the priests were the most powerful
body in the kingdom; indeed, after the close of the struggle between
Khu-n-Aten and the priesthood of Thebes the latter obtained more and
more power, until under the kings of the Twentieth dynasty they were the
virtual rulers of the state. They stood between the labouring classes
and the great army of bureaucracy which from the days of the Eighteenth
dynasty onward carried on the administration of the kingdom. The
labouring classes, however, knew how to defend their own interests; the
artisans formed unions and "went on strike." Curious accounts have been
preserved of strikes among them at Thebes in the time of Ramses III. The
free labouring population must be distinguished from the slaves, who
were partly negroes, partly captives taken in war. The greater part of
the latter were employed on the public works. The mines and quarries
were worked by criminals.

At home the well-to-do Egyptian was artistic in his tastes. The walls
and columns of his house were frescoed with pictures, and his furniture
was at once comfortable and tasteful. Chairs and tables are of patterns
which might well be imitated to-day, and the smallest and commonest
articles of toilet were aesthetically and carefully made. Nothing can
exceed the beauty of the jewellery found at Dahshur, and belonging to
princesses of the Twelfth dynasty. Precious stones are so exquisitely
inlaid in gold as to look like enamel, and are formed into the most
beautiful of designs; small forget-me-nots, for example, alternate with
plain gold crosses on one of the coronets, and the workmanship of the
pectoral ornaments could hardly be equalled at the present day. In
dress, however, the Egyptian was simple; his limbs were not overloaded
with jewellery, and he preferred light and muslin-like linen, which was
kept as scrupulously clean as his own person.

But he was fond of social entertainments, and Egyptian cookery and
confectionery were famous throughout the world. Table and guests alike
were adorned with fragrant flowers, and musicians and singers were
called in to complete the banquet. The house was surrounded by a garden,
if possible, near the river. It was open to the air and sun. The
Egyptian loved the country, with its fresh air and sunshine, as well as
its outdoor amusements--hunting and fishing, fowling and playing at
ball. Like his descendants to-day, he was an agriculturist at heart. The
wealth and very existence of Egypt depended on its peasantry, and though
the scribes professed to despise them and to hold the literary life
alone worth living, the bulk of the nation was well aware of the fact.
Even the walls of the tombs are covered with agricultural scenes. In one
of them--that of Pa-heri, at El-Kab--the songs of the labourers have
been preserved. Thus the ploughmen sing at the plough: "'Tis a fine day,
we are cool, and the oxen are drawing the plough; the sky is doing as we
would; let us work for our master!" and of the reapers we read: "In
answering chant they say: 'Tis a good day, come out to the country, the
north wind blows, the sky is all we desire, let us work and take heart."
The best known, however, of the songs, is that sung by the driver of the
oxen who tread out the corn, which was first deciphered by Champollion--

"Thresh away, oxen, thresh away faster,
The straw for yourselves, and the grain for your master!"

Such were the Egyptians and such was Egypt where the childhood of Israel
was passed. It was a land of culture, it was a land of wealth and
abundance, but it was also a land of popular superstition and idolatry,
and the idolatry and culture were too closely associated in the minds of
the Israelites to be torn apart. In turning their backs on the Egyptian
idols, it was necessary that they should turn them on Egyptian
civilisation as well. Hence it was that intercourse with Egypt was
forbidden, and the King of Israel who began by marrying an Egyptian
princess and importing horses from the valley of the Nile, ended by
building shrines to the gods of the heathen. Hence, too, it was that the
distinctive beliefs and practices of Egypt are ignored or disallowed.
Even the doctrine of the resurrection is passed over in silence; the
Pentateuch keeps the eyes of the Israelite fixed on the present life,
where he will meet with his punishment or reward. The doctrine of the
resurrection was part of the faith in Osiris, Isis, and Horus, and
Yahveh of Israel would have no other god beside Himself.

Moreover, the Israelites saw but little of the better side of the
Egyptians. They lived in Goshen, on the outskirts of northern Egypt,
where the native population was largely mixed with foreign elements.
When they first settled there the Pharaoh and his court were Asiatic or
of Asiatic descent. And in later days the rise of a purely native
government meant for them a bitter bondage and the murder of their
children. Between the Israelite and the Egyptian there was hostility
from the first; Joseph began by confiscating the lands of both peasant
and noble; the natives revenged themselves by reducing his kinsfolk to a
condition of serfdom, and the last act in the drama of the Exodus was
the "spoiling of the Egyptians."



While the influence of Egypt upon Israel may be described as negative,

Book of the day: