Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library


Bible Truths.

By S. S.

From the Deluge to the Exodus

The fearful flood had passed away, and nature, recovering from the terrific shock of the contending elements, hastened to reclothe the earth with a garb consonant to the future wants of that race for which the command had gone forth. “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.” To Adam had been given but one command; a command, however, that embraced all others,—obedience to God. To Noah and his sons this com<<395>>mand had been amplified, though its tenor was still obedience to God alone. But evil, indeed, is the heart of man from his  youth; and how soon was the special providence extended over Noah and his sons forgotten by their own immediate descendants, even whilst Noah and his sons lived still as witnesses of its truth! Abraham was born two hundred and ninety-two years after the flood, fifty-eight years before the death of Noah, and yet at this early date had idolatry almost blotted out the knowledge of the living God. But it was to re-illuminate that faithful spirit, and its light was to be so firmly impressed upon the hearts of his descendants, that it should fade nevermore.

We will make a short digression here, to take into consideration the arguments derived from the ancient records of Egypt, as expounded by Champollion and others, from which they have deduced a longer antiquity for Egypt than the Bible record warrants. We will explain here (for our younger readers) how ideas were conveyed by the hieroglyphical or symbolical characters used by the ancient Egyptians, and see if they will not agree with us, that although these characters were engraven on stone, and found upon the monuments of priests and kings, they have but little weight when contradicting (taking for granted they should even do so) a plainly-written and well-authenticated document.

Like the Hebrew when written without points, the symbolical writing had no vowels; but, unlike the Hebrew, it had many arbitrary signs representing the same letter or sound. Even if this did not present sufficient difficulties to the correct reading of the events detailed, these arbitrary signs were of the  Coptic tongue, a language not used by any nation now living on the earth. Now, suppose the Hebrew was a dead language, only open, and that imperfectly, to the researches of the learned and curious, and yet we should take its mouldering characters to convey an account of an event or a chronicle; בד would represent the consonants b, d, in the word abode; but by supplying other vowels how many other words might be formed from these two consonants? And as hieroglyphical writing is presented to the eye, not through the form of an arbitrary sign, but by the outline of a beast, a bird, or the drawing of something in <<396>>the arts or mechanics as they existed in that day, the difficulties of arriving at a correct understanding of the event detailed is still yet farther increased. But suppose that the learning and ingenuity of man are sufficient to master all these difficulties, and that the history or record of the numerous monarchy said to have lived and reigned in Egypt has been correctly read, unless we have other corroborative testimony, this only proves that the Egyptians, like all pagan nations, wished to convey an idea of a remote antiquity, as proving them more illustrious in their origin. Who believes that the Chinese records of the long duration of their empire are true, or in the fabulous history of the Greeks and Romans?

From the entering of the household of Jacob into Egypt to the Exodus was four hundred and thirty years (Ex. xii.) and the seventy souls had increased “six hundred thousand on foot that were men, besides children,” and we may safely estimate the  whole number of both sexes who left Egypt at two millions, showing a doubling of the descendants of Jacob once every twenty-eight years. The family of Jacob descended into Egypt five hundred and seventy-four years after the flood, and we will assume that the population of the world for the first three hundred years after the flood doubled itself once in twenty years: for the Almighty to enable man to fulfil his injunction, “be fruitful and multiply,” had prolonged the lives of the first five generations after the flood, till length of days was no longer necessary for this purpose. At this ratio of increase, when Abraham was eight years old, the population of the earth would have been 262,144: from this date to the going down of Jacob into Egypt, a period of two hundred and eighty-two years, at a doubling of the earth’s population once in twenty-eight years the ratio of increase of Israel’s descendants, the number of human beings then existing would be 268,435,456; and allowing the population to double itself once in thirty years during the time of the sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt, at the Exodus, in the thousand and twelfth year* after the flood, the <<397>>population of the earth would have amounted to more than it could well provide for; but to stop the too great increase of population, war, famine, and the pestilence had no doubt been at work.

* Arphaxad, born two years after the flood, to the birth of Salah, thirty-five years: Eber, thirty; Peleg, thirty-four; Reu, thirty; Serug, thirty-two; Nahor, thirty; Terah, twenty-nine; Abram, seventy; Isaac, one hundred; Jacob, sixty; Jacob’s entrance to Egypt, one hundred and thirty; sojourn in Egypt,  four hundred and thirty=1012 years.

We have thus shown by a simple arithmetical calculation that there was ample time between the deluge and the entrance of Jacob into Egypt to found and build up mighty nations; and although in this age we have built no cities like Babylon or Thebes, and erected no temples like Luxor or Carnac, nor raised any monuments equal to the Pyramids, yet all these great works are only the aggregate of a certain amount of human labour, not equal, perhaps, to that required in the building of some of our modern canals or railroads. As to the question of the time required in their construction, we must recollect that the ancient governments were absolute in their nature, and could cause the whole population to aid in carrying out their designs, if they so willed it. We have a modern example to show how soon a great work can be accomplished by a people under an absolute governor. Mahommed Ali undertook to make his great canal, men, women, and children were impressed for the work; and although twenty thousand persons are said to have perished through the fatigue caused by the labour, or the want resulting from so large a body of the inhabitants being withdrawn from their regular pursuits, the undertaking (if our memory is not, in fault) was completed in two years.*

* St. Petersburg, Alexandria, and Constantinople, are also evidences of how soon great cities can arise where will and power are united.

We think then we have satisfactorily proven that no reason exists for setting aside that part of the chronology of the Bible between the deluge and the Exodus, and will now proceed in our inquiry without farther digression.

From the calling forth of Abraham, himself and descendants were to be separate and apart from all other people, and they should be hedged in as it were with peculiar observances, tried in prosperity and schooled in adversity, until those great truths so necessary for man’s guidance should form a part of their <<398>>nature to that degree, that they could not, even if they wished, entirely divest themselves from their influence. The very dislikes that their peculiar doctrines engendered in the minds of those with whom they came in contact, was one of the grand means of impressing them more firmly on their own hearts. The pure stream quaffed by Abraham was imbibed by Isaac, and supported the wanderer Jacob in his weary pilgrimage. In the children of the latter was the germ of a nation; and what means so powerful to bind them together, when they increased and multiplied, as to plant them within the borders of a people who held their pursuits in abhorrence? Perverse is the heart of man! Contradict him, decry the ideas which he advances, and he is ready to endure the gibbet and the stake in witness of his firm belief in doctrine which, perhaps, if no opposition had met him, he would have thrown carelessly by.

But in addition to the differences existing between the customs and faith of the Egyptians, and the manners and religion of the Hebrews, another force, that of common insults and equal misery was to bind the latter still more indissolubly together; since all suffered from an aggravated slavery, a universal and cruel wrong, from which none was to be exempt. How deadening that usage was to the intellectual development of the people their after-history too sadly proved. The only advantage, as far as the human mind can perceive, resulting from their bondage, was to cause such a spirit of nationality to spring up amongst them, that, having its foundations imbedded in misery and anguish, no after-injuries, how great soever the sufferings they produced, no accumulated wrongs, how great soever their burden, should in the future have the power of destroying this nationality.

The majesty of God was now to be displayed in all its terrible power! A God of love to the oppressed! of vengeance to the oppressor! Not to a single individual, not before one family was the divine manifestation be made; but before a nation powerful—before a people degraded by heart-rending bondage. Proud of his power, glorying in his battle array, what cared Pharaoh for the unknown God? He laughed in scorn at the request of the messenger to allow his slaves to depart, and leave the land they had enriched by years of toil to <<399>>the care only of his Egyptians, and to lose this immense property; and for what? The commands of a Being whom he knew not, though he knew not the God of Israel, nor dreaded his power, as chaff before the wind it scattered him—it withered his mighty hosts; thus teaching the sublime lesson to man, that  though God for a time may delay the exercise of his justice, the bolt, though long withheld, is still all-powerful to destroy.

To the scoffer, to the unspiritualized, the act of faith required by the Most High of the Israelites prior to their redemption may seem of little worth. Of what efficacy could the blood of a lamb sprinkled on the door-posts of their house be in warding off the doom of the first-born? Could the All-seeing not discover the abode of the Hebrew without this mark? Ah, yes! it was to be a pledge of their faith in God, of their obedience to all his commands, whether their minds could grasp their meaning or not. As the infant rushes to its mother’s arms confident of protection from the supposed danger, so was Israel required to have a childlike faith and trust in their Heavenly Parent. We may think after the wonders displayed in Egypt before our ancestors, that their bosoms should have been divested of all fear, and though the sea in front of them debarred their egress from the land, when they heard the approach of Pharaoh’s conquering host, they should have rejoiced that the time had at length arrived to repay some part a that ill-treatment they had received in times past. But is it a wonder that the heart of the slave should faint in the presence of his master—that the many, long‑used to bow before the few, should still tremble at the prestige of their presence? Their faith was too new to imbue them with courage in the presence of an overwhelming danger; and He, who could have given that strength to them, left them to the schooling of their own hearts, to teach them yet again that their deliverance was to be brought about by God alone, and that the agent He employed in their preservation, should be the avenging sword by which their adversaries should be destroyed.

But if they showed little faith under the deadening effects of so terrible a bondage, how much less do we? We have no dreaded enemy in our rear to make our hearts cower; we dwell in a land of peace, where Providence, with a lavish hand spreads plenty <<400>>around; and yet so small is our faith, so weak is our trust in Divine Omnipotence, that we daily break the covenant of Sinai, to provide for that morrow which may never dawn for us; or, in our haste to reach some earthly goal, we brush from our paths the sweet flowers of purity, humility, and love.