and directing the muzzle of his piece through one of the holes, he will sometimes shoot a whole covey at a time. The Arabs have another, but a more laborious method of catching these birds ; for, observing that they become languid and fatigued, after they have been hastily put up two or three times, they immediately run in upon them, and knock them down with their bludgeons. They are likewise well acquainted with that method of catching partridges called tunnelling; and, to make the capture the greater, they will sometimes place behind the net, a cage with some tame ones within, which, by their perpetual chirping and calling, quickly bring down the coveys which are within hearing, and by that means, destroy great numbers of them.* To bunt the jackall, which greatly abounds in that country, they sometimes use a leopard which has been trained to hunting from his youth. The hunter keeps the animal before him on his horse, and when he meets with a jackall, the leopard leaps down, creeps along till he thinks himself within reach of the prey, when he leaps upon it with incredible agility, throwing himself seventeen or eighteen feet at a time.” These statements illustrate the force and propriety of those passages of holy writ, which allude to the arts and implements of the hunter and the fowler, by which the timid victim is taken, ere ever it is aware; or the bold is compelled by main force, or by deadly wounds, to submit to his more cunning or powerful adversary. It is not without reason, the Psalmist rejoiced that the snare was broken, and his soul had escaped as a bird from the share of the fowler; and that God had brought his feet out of the net.t

Before taking leave of this subject, it may not be improper

to direct the reader's attention to a text which has long exercised the critical powers of expositors. When Joseph was going to introduce his father and his brethren to the Egyptian court, he instructed them to say they were shepherds, that they might be separated from the natives, and settled together in the land of Goshen; a country abounding with rich and ample * Shaw's Trav, vol. 1, p. 424.

† Psal. xxv. 15.

pastures, and lying nearest to Canaan, the place of their future residence. On this occasion, the sacred writer observes, that “every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” Cunæus, with great plausibility, ascribes the detestation of that people, to the ferocious dispositions and rebellious conduct of the shepherds who tended their flocks in the plains and marshes of Lower Egypt. “ These," says that writer, “ were active and able men, but execrable to all the Egyptians, because they would not suffer them to lead their idle course of life in security. These men often excited great commotions, and sometimes created kings for themselves. It was on this account, that the Romans, in succeeding times, when they easily held the rest of Egypt in obedience, placed a strong garrison in all these parts. When you have taken the most exact survey of all circumstances, you will find this was the reason that made the Egyptians, even from the first, so ill affected to shepherds; because these sedentary men and handicrafts, could not endure their fierce and active spirits. Pharaoh bimself, when he had determined to abate and depress the growing numbers of the Israelites, spake to bis subjects in this manner: “ The Israelites are stronger than we; let us deal wisely, that they increase not, lest, when war arises, they join themselves to our enemies, and take up arms against us.”

But, this view does not account for the use of the term which is properly rendered abomination, and which indicates, not a ferocious and turbulent character, which is properly an object of dread and hatred, but a mean and despicable person, that excites the scorn and contempt of his neighbours. It is readily admitted, that the detestation in which shepherds were held in Egypt, could not arise from their employment in the breeding of cattle ; for the king himself, in the days of Joseph, had very numerous flocks and herds, in the management of which he did not think it unbecoming his dignity to take a lively interest. This is proved by the command to his favourite minister: 66 If thou knowest any men of activity among them,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

then make them rulers over my cattle.”* Nor were his numerous subjects less attentive to this branch of industry; every one seems to have lived upon his paternal farm, part of which was converted into pasture. Hence, when money failed in the years of famine, 66 all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, Give us bread; for why should we die in thy presence ? for the money faileth. And Joseph said, Give your cattle, and I will give you bread for your cattle, if money fail.”+ But if Pharaoh and all his subjects were themselves engaged in the rearing of stock, a shepherd could not be to them an object of general abhorrence. Besides, it was not unlawful in Egypt to deprive an ox or a sheep of life, and feast upon the flesh; for, in the temples, these animals were offered in sacrifice every day;f and for what purpose did the Egyptians rear them on their farms, but to use them as food ? The contempt in which this order of men were held, could not then be owing to the superstition of the nation in general. It may even be inferred from the command of Pharaoh to Joseph, requiring him to appoint the most active of his brethren rulers over his cattle, that the office of a shepherd was honourable among the Egyptians; for it could not be bis design to degrade the brethren of his favourite minister. This idea is confirmed by Diodorus, who asserts, that hus. bandmen and shepherds were held in very great estimation in that country. But that writer states a fact, which furnishes the true solution of the difficultythat in some parts of Egypt, shepherds were not suffered. The contempt of shepherds, seems, therefore, to have been confined to some parts of the kingdom ; probably to the royal city, and the principal towns in Upper Egypt, where the luxury of a court, or the wealth and splendour of the inhabitants, taught them to look down with contempt and loathing upon those humble peasants.

The sagacious prime minister of Egypt, desirous to remove his brethren from the fascinations of wealth and power, directed them to give

Gen. xlvii. 6.
Rollin's Anc. Hist. vol. 1, p. 195.

+ Ver. 15, 16.
$ Rollin's Anc, Hist. vol. 1, p. 220.


such an account of themselves, that the counsellors of
Pharaoh, from their dislike of the mean employment
in which they had been educated, might grant their
request, and suffer them to settle in Goshen, a land of
shepherds, far removed from the dangerous blandish-
ments of a court.




WHEN God placed Adam in Paradise, he instruct-
ed him 66 to dress and keep it;" to work and labour
the ground, let in the influences of heaven, prune the
trees, cherish the plants, preserve the fruits from the
beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, which
had access to the garden; and to keep all his abode,
and the domain around it, in good order. This was
the first employment of man, which, by the wise and
benevolent arrangements of his Maker, was to cheer
and accelerate the hours of innocence and peace. Af-
ter his expulsion from the garden, on account of his
transgression, the command which he had received at
biş formation, to cultivate the ground, was renewed ;
and the curse under which it was laid, rendered his
exertions more necessary than before. This may be
one reason, that Adam initiated his eldest son in the
art of cultivating the soil, which now refused to pro-
duce the necessaries of life in sufficient abundance and
perfection, without the skill and industry of man; while
he devoted Abel, his younger son, to the easier and
more simple occupation of a shepherd.

In the first ages of the world, men were chiefly em-
ployed in digging and throwing up the earth, by means
of rude and inconvenient implements : but Noah made
important advances in the art of husbandry, and found


out fitter instruments of cultivation than were known before. This patriarch, the second father of our family, is called a man of the ground-in our translalation, a husbandman, because of his improvements in agriculture, and his inventions for subduing and fertilizing the soil. In consequence of the divine malediction, useless or noxious plants obtained the ascendancy, and obstructed the growth of esculent vegetables. These obstructions were to be removed, which required great pains and labour; and the sterility of the ground was to be corrected, and its productive energy excited and improved, by the operations of the plough.

The surface of the ground was probably divided into fields, and secured to individual proprietors, long before the flood. By that dreadful catastrophe, the whole earth reverted to its natural, undivided, unappropriated state ; but how long it continued in common, we have no means of ascertaining. In the days of Abraham, who lived at no great distance of time from the flood, the lands of Canaan had become in some degree the exclusive property of the nation by whom they were occupied; and been even subdivided into small fields, and claimed as the legal inheritance of private individuals. The patriarch bought a field from Ephron the Hittite, for a possession of a burying place ; and the transaction shows, that the property was perfectly well defined ; that Ephron had the same absolute right to it, as any landed proprietor of our times has to his estate. And

And upon the purchase money being paid, the sacred historian says, “ The field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was therein; and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure unto Abraham, for a possession, in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.”* The minute divisions of landed property in Egypt, is attested by the same infallible authority; for, under the administration of Joseph, the people of that country were compelled by the famine to sell every man

Gen, xxii. 11. 20.

« VorigeDoorgaan »