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Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold two men of the Hebrews strove together; and he said to him that did the wrong, Why smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared and said, Surely this thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh.” Exodus ü. 11–15.
The events in the history of Egypt which have taken place since we last considered it, are required to harmonize this narrative with that which precedes it. It is, as we have explained, only by the aid of the facts contained in the inspired narrative that the history of Egypt at this time can be written.
Thouoris seems from the first to have married the infant heir to the throne of the Xoites, on the condition that on his father's death she should succeed to the throne of all Egypt. As, however, was too often the case, she, together with a host of her brothers and sisters, were passed by, by her father in his extreme old age, and his thirteenth son Amenephthis, a very young man, was named his successor. On the death of this young king, after a short and monumentally inglorious reign of five years, Thouoris was called
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to the throne ; probably by the states of Egypt, to redress the wrong which her father's appointment had done her. It would seem from the coincidence of dates, that her first act on her accession was prompted by her affection for her foster-son. His refusal to be named her successor, would not fail to be a deep mortification and grief to her, however fully she might enter into and appreciate the purity of his motives. She seems from the monuments to have left to her husband, now Pharaoh Siphtha, the administration of the affairs of Lower Egypt, and to have retired to Thebes; when she not only ap- . pointed for her successor the infant son of Amenephthes, but directed that the government should be carried on in his name; constituting Siphtha, her husband, his tutor, and co-regent during life. Queen Thouoris seems thenceforward to have led a religious life at Thebes ; interfering but little with affairs of state, and occupying herself in the decoration of the tomb for herself and her husband, which is more tastefully and elaborately furnished than any other in the valley of the kings, and in other works of a devotional character : such being the nature of all the existing memorials of her reign.
After the departure of his foster-mother, Moses still resided at the court of Pharaoh Siphtha as a prince of Egypt. At this time the metropolis and
ordinary residence of Siphtha seems to have been the city of Ramses in the Western Delta.
It would be in some official capacity that Moses went down to the opposite border of Egypt to inspect the forced labours of the Israelites. The description of these labours in the passage before us, shews that we have correctly estimated the position of Israel in Egypt at this time. All the men of Israel were at all times liable to be called out to serve in the gangs of workmen, but there were no circumstances of aggravation and insult added to this coercion by the government. So that they were not in a worse position than the Canaanites in the Holy Land in Solomon's reign. Their sufferings arose from acts of individual oppression and cruelty from the Egyptian officers and the taskmasters of their own brethren that were over them. They were not systematically enacted as before and afterwards.
The scene which took place when Moses “looked upon the burdens of his brethren," affords clear evidence that he had hitherto been a stranger to the actual sight of their sufferings. It is, moreover, one that would hardly fail to have taken place on the first visit of a high-minded, kindly-natured man, hitherto only accustomed to command, to the house of bondage. This circumstance which excited Moses, is one of daily, hourly occurrence at all times, and
in all places, where man is slave to man. Upon any pretext, or no pretext, a slave is laid down, and cruelly, mercilessly beaten by his tyrant. It is a hard matter! (we speak from personal experience in the land of Egypt and elsewhere) for a man to restrain himself from acts of violent retribution, to whom the spectacle is yet a strange one; even when the tyrant is of his own race, and the slave a stranger. We can therefore readily understand that the indignation which would fire the soul of Moses at the sight of one of his own brethren thus maltreated by an Egyptian, should burst forth uncontrollably, and that, seizing the opportunity when none but Israelites were present, he should cut down the oppressor with his scymitar and bury him in the sand. The act was a perfectly natural one :--a consideration which strongly corroborates the truth of the narrative, though (as we scarcely need observe,) this consideration by no means justifies the act itself.
The transaction of the following day disclosed the extent of the error into which the impetuosity of Moses had betrayed him. The narrative is again wonderfully truthful. A Hebrew task-master, in sedulous imitation of his superiors, is avenging upon the person of one of his unoffending brethren under him, the stripes which still smart on his own. How exactly this is true wherever slavery prevails, they who are most conversant with it will be best able to declare. Even to this day, in every slave-plantation in the west, in every slave-bazaar and compound in the east, the cruellest task-masters are the slaves themselves over their fellow-slaves. The expostulation of Moses with the oppressor, shews him the position in which his rash act has placed him. The Hebrew task-masters will confederate with the Egyptian officers, and be the first to impeach him as a violator of the laws of Egypt. If Moses had seen much of slavery, he might have been well assured of this, though the threat of the Hebrew task-master had never been uttered. It is the one circumstance that perpetuates slavery all over the world. The slaves in authority are in league with the masters against their fellow-slaves.
In the eye of the law in ancient Egypt, as in every well-ordered country, human life was very precious. It awarded the punishment of death not to the shedder of blood merely, but to the bystander also, who, seeing the outrage, forbore to defend the sufferer to the peril of his own life.* The impeachment of Moses therefore which immediately followed, left no choice to Pharaoh Siphtha but the issue of the order for his arrest and trial. Moses, however, had notice of this in time to escape into the desert, and leave the bounds of Egypt, according
. * Diod. Sic. i. $ 77.