27 JUNE 1896, Page 7


THESE two volumes mark an addition of strength to the reaction against the speculations of the destructive school of Biblical critics. We are again going through an experience which resembles in a certain degree what occurred a genera- tion ago in the discussion of early Roman history. We were told that the first four centuries were a region of legend and myth, that the kingly period in particular was absolutely a figment of later days. The length of the seven reigns was singled out as a proof positive of the fabulous character of the story. Then it was found out that these broad assertions were a little rash—that, as to the Kings in particular, the two hundred and forty-three years was not at all impossible, that seven successive reigns had exceeded that aggregate, and that, of all places in the world, in Ashantee. We have not got to accepting the first decade of Livy as history, but there is • (1.) Patriarchal Palertine. By the Rev. G. H. Sayre. London : —(2.) The Egypt of the Hebrews and Horodoiee. By the Rev. O. II. Sayre. London: Rivington, Percival, and Co. little doubt that there is a good deal of history in it. Of course the literalists, with their ultimatum of "not a foot of our soil, not a stone of our fortresses," will find themselves worsted; Professor Sayre does not attempt to deny the existence of discrepancies and errors in the Hebrew records ; but the general tendency is towards the rehabilitation of these documents. Not long ago we reviewed in these columns a volume which was all the more noteworthy on account of the nationality of the author, in which the writer, himself a Jew, relegated Abraham to the region of myth. Now there is little in the story of Abraham that is not quite natural and credible. His figure is hardly heroic, if by the hero we mean the demi- god. The general effect of what Professor Sayce tells us about him, or rather about the circumstances of his life, tends to strengthen this impression. His journey from "Ur of the Chaldees " into Canaan was not the extraordinary enterprise which we are accustomed to consider it Babylonian influence had touched the country, and when Abraham reached it he found himself in the midst of surroundings with which he was already familiar. This, after all, is nothing more than might be inferred from the story of the war in the Jordan valley. On this story and on the personages who figure in it the cuneiform tablets throw much light. Chedor-laomer is identified with Kudar-Lagamar, " the servant of the god Lagamar," Arioch with Eri-aku, King of Larsa (Ellasar in Genesis). Amraphel and Tidal we must be content, it seems, to leave in uncertainty. A still more interesting conjecture connects Melchizedek with Ebed-Tob, King of Jerusalem. Among the Tel-el-Amarna letters are some written by this Prince to Amenophis IV. He describes himself as King of Ures-salim, a dignity which he has received through the " Mighty King," and is a vassal of Pharaoh. In his " Mighty King" Professor Sayce sees the "Most High God" of Melchizedek, an opinion which he confirms by quoting another letter in which Ebed- Tob assures Pharaoh that this same " Mighty King" will overthrow the navies of his enemies. It may be only a coincidence, but it is certainly curious that Amen- ophis attempted to destroy the national religion of Egypt. Could it have been the influence of Ebed-Tob that impelled him in this direction ? That a vassal of the Pharaoh should congratulate the warrior who had over- thrown Babylonian princes harmonises exactly with what we know of the unceasing antagonism between Egypt and the Babylonian or Assyrian Empire, an antagonism of which Canaan was after all the battle-field. It cannot be con. cealed, however, that there is a chronological difficulty of no small gravity. If Arioch of Ellasar is, indeed, Eri-aka of Larsa, his date must be put not later than 2350 B.C., when he was defeated and dispossessed of his dominions by the forces of Babylon, which were then united in a single ruler. But this date cannot be made to snit the Biblical narrative of Abraham and his descendants. The detail in which the family history of Abraham, his son, and his grandson is related does not permit us to suppose that there may have been generations which the historian has omitted to name. It will be seen that the Egyptian episode in the Hebrew history, harmonising as it does very well with what we know of the course of events in Egypt, is separated by an impossible interval of time from the date of Abraham, if that is to be identified with the date of Arioch. One number which is stated with so much em- phasis that it can hardly be neglected without doing serious violence to the whole narrative, is the four hundred and thirty years of the sojourn of Israel in Egypt. This was evidently a cardinal point with the writer of Exodus. But the end of the four hundred and thirty years falls some- where in the thirteenth century B.C., as the Exodus must have happened after the death of Rameses II. and before the accession of Rameses III.,--i e., between 1250 and 1230. But what are we to make of the eleven hundred years between Abraham and the Exodus, or, to make the dis- crepancy still more obvious, of the six hundred and seventy years between the victory of Abraham over Arioch and the going down of his grandson Jacob into Egypt ? The Egyptian dates, it should be observed, hang together so closely that they can hardly be dislocated. The immigra- tion of the Hebrew clan into Egypt when the long supremacy of the Hyksos Kings was drawing to a close, but had not yet beep Oaten, suite the story very well. The monarch who wakes

Joseph his Grand Vizier is a regular Pharaoh ; and such the Hyksos Kings had become after centuries of rule. But he has no aversion to immigrants from Asia, for his own predeces- sors had been such. Then comes the revolution. The native Egyptian race reasserts itself ; the Hyksos are expelled, and the immigrants whom they had favoured suffer the conse- quences of the change. Professor Sayce quotes an interesting parallel from recent Egyptian history :—

" By a curious coincidence, the Wadi Tumilit, the old land of Goshen, has, in the present century, again been handed over to Bedouin and Syrians, and again been the scene of an Exodus. Mohammed All was anxious to establish the culture of the silk- worm in Egypt, and accordingly planted mulberry-trees in the Wadi Tumillit, and settled there a large colony of Syrians and Bedouin. The Bedouin were induced to remain there, partly by the pasturage provided for their flocks, partly by a promise of exemption from taxes and military conscription. When Abbas Pasha became Khedive, however, the promise was forgotten ; orders were issued that the free Bedouin of the Wadi Tumill.t should be treated like the enslaved feUahin, compelled to pay the tax-gatherer, and to see their children driven in handcuffs and with the courbash to serve in the army. But the orders were never carried out. Suddenly, in a single night, without noise or warning, the whole Bedouin population deserted their huts, and with their flocks and other possessions disappeared into the eastern desert. The Pasha lost his slaves, the culture of the silk- worm ceased, and when the Freshwater Canal was cut not a single mulberry-tree remained."

The absence of any record of the sojourn of the Hebrews in Egypt on the monuments of that country has long been felt to be a defect in the evidence. It cannot be said that it has been fully supplied by recent discoveries. But the dis- covery of Pithom, i.e., Pi-Tam (the abode of the Setting Sun), with its huge buildings of brick, goes certainly some way in that direction. The name, the brick-built structures that seem intended for magazines are, to say the least, a very remarkable coincidence with the story that we read in Exodus, even if Professor Sayce goes too far when he saw that " with this discovery for the Egyptologist and the archwologist the question has been finally settled."

We need not follow Professor Sayce when he passes on to later periods of Hebrew history, to Solomon and the un- named Pharaoh, possibly Psousennes Il. (of the 21st Dynasty), with whom he allied himself, to Rehoboam and Shishak, Asa and Zerah (Osorkon II.), Hoshea and So, Hezekiah and Tirhakah, and Josiah and Necho. Here we are on sufficiently firm ground. To discuss his criticism of Herodotus would require a separate article. For his contri- bution to Biblical criticism we thank him heartily, though we feel that here and there he may have overrated the force of his arguments and underrated the opposing difficulties.