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The overflow being nearly at its height, it seems to have been the custom of Egypt, in all ages, for the supreme ruler to go forth in solemn procession to the brink of the Nile, and there with much ceremony to direct the opening of the sluices at the mouths of the great canals; the occasion being further marked by feasts and rejoicings which last for many days.
Here again also the messenger of Jehovah met Pharaoh Sethos. The threatened plague on this occasion also, we believe to have been the natural phenomenon next in order of occurrence. At this period of the overflow, when so much of the country is under water, the common flies infest the cities of Egypt to a fearful extent. The attempt to read the word, rightly translated “swarms,” (270) of some blood-fly, is altogether supererogatory, to those who have actually experienced the torment of the common fly in Egypt, during the overflow, at the present day. The plague of flies will take its place as a round in the entire climax of the plagues, without the aid of any such interpretation.
Goshen,“ the land of flowers,” was at first the name of a district in the east of the Delta. It was there that Israel and his tribe were first located. It was also, like Ramses, a name for the whole Delta. The Egyptians in the Delta were principally settlers brought thither by the Pharaoh of that name. We infer from this passage that they were for the most part located in the western portion of it, around the city of Ramses. The Israelites still clung to the settlements of their forefathers, and inhabited Goshen and its eastern portions.
· And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
“And Moses said, It is not meet so to do: for we shall sacrifice the dread [or reverence) of Egypt • to Jehovah our God : see now, may we sacrifice the dread of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us? We must go three days' journey into the wilderness, to sacrifice to Jehovah our God as he shall command us.
“ And Pharaoh said, I will send you forth, and ye shall sacrifice to Jehovah your God in the wilderness, only go not very far away [but] intreat for me.
“And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat Jehovah that the swarms may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people to-morrow : but let not Pharaoh act deceitfully any more in not sending forth the people to sacrifice to Jehovah.
“ And Moses went out from Pharaoh and intreated Jehovah. And Jehovah did according to the word of Moses, and removed the swarms from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. There remained not one.
" And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go.” Exodus viii. 25–32.
No curtains, no precautions, no assiduity on the part of attendants can keep out the flies of Egypt. They creep in at every crevice, however minute, through which the air circulates. It will only be by a detail of actual and personal suffering from this pest in an ordinary year, that the amount of torment they are capable of inflicting will appear to those who have not been to Egypt ; and these details are too revolting. It may suffice to remark, that the suffering from the nausea that ensued when a fly was accidentally swallowed, and from the countless swarms of them that settled on every morsel of food, the moment it was exposed to them, had nearly in one instance issued in loss of life during the inundation of 1848. The cause of these fearful swarms was, on that occasion, rendered perfectly apparent. Not only has a far greater number been hatched (as we have already explained), but so large a proportion of the whole land being under water, their supply of food is greatly diminished by the circumstance; so that they are literally mad with hunger, and throw themselves headlong upon whatever offers to satiate it. They rush into an apartment in which food is set forth like a snowstorm, and in spite of all the attendants can do,
every drinking-vessel is filled with them, and they are heaped in huge black masses alive and dead upon every dish. Nothing escapes their voracity. Bread and fruit are polluted by them just as eagerly as animal food. We have described that which we saw under the ordinary circumstances of the overflow. What the plague must have been when Jehovah “hissed to the fly” from the entire Delta, and settled their noisome swarms upon the narrow strip of country around the city of Ramses, we must confess our own utter inability to imagine. From the inspired narrative before us, we may form some judgment of their numbers. They died of hunger in such quantities, that their bodies rotted on the mud, and corrupted the land. The amount of torment they inflicted we also learn from thence. The suffering bowed the stiff-neck and smote the stout heart of Pharaoh Sethos.
Oxen, sheep, and goats were all worshipped as gods in Egypt. To have offered them in sacrifice would have been to have slain the gods of Egypt before the eyes of their worshippers. Such would evidently have been the impression which such an act would have produced. These animals were slaughtered in Egypt for food, not for worship.
Of course Sethos disregarded and laughed at his promise, the moment the plague was removed. Doubtless he still laid the flattering unction to his
soul, that Jehovah was after all like his own idols, only a little more powerful. The enchanters are already beaten. Moses will yield after this or another trial, and then Sethos will be master of the field.
“ Then said Jehovah unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith Jehovah the god of the Hebrews, Send forth my people, that they may serve me; for if thou refuse to send them forth, and holdest them still, Behold the hand of Jehovah is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen and upon the sheep, even a very grievous mur rain. And Jehovah shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt. There shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel.
" And Jehovah appointed a set time, saying, Tomorrow shall Jehovah do this thing in the land. And Jehovah did that thing on the morrow, for all the cattle of Egypt died; but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. And Pharaoh sent, and behold, there had died not one of the cattle of Israel.
“ Yet the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not send the people forth.” Exodus ix. 147.
From those marvellous treasure-houses of ancient knowledge, the tombs of Egypt, we have the perfect