A celebrated country in the north of Africa, at the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hebrews called it Mizraim, Ge 10:6, and hence it is now called by the Arabs, Mizr. The Greeks and Romans called it Aegyptus, whence Egypt; but the origin of this name is unknown.
The habitable land of Egypt is for the most part a great valley, through which the river Nile pours its waters, extending in a straight line from north to south, and skirted on the east and west by ranges of mountains, which approach and recede from the river more or less in different parts. Where this valley terminates, towards the north, the Nile divides itself, about forty or fifty miles from the seacoast, into several arms, which inclose the so-called Delta. The ancients numbered seven arms and mouths; the eastern was that of Pelusium, now that of Tineh; and the western that of Canopus, now that of Aboukir. As these branches all separate from one point or channel, that is, from the main stream, and spread themselves more and more as they approach the coast, they form with the latter a triangle, the base of which is the seacoast; and having thus the form of the Greek letter, delta, this part of Egypt received the name of the Delta, which it has ever since retained. The prophet Ezekiel describes Egypt as extending from Migdol, that is, Magdolum, not far from the mouth of the Pelusian arm, to Syene, now Essuan, namely, to the border of Ethiopia, Eze 29:10; 30:6. Essuan is also assigned by Greek and Arabian writers as the southern limit of Egypt. Here the Nile issues from the granite rocks of the cataracts, and enters Egypt proper. The length of the country, therefore, in a direct line, is about four hundred and fifty miles, and its area about eleven thousand square miles. The breadth of the valley, between Essuan and the Delta, is very unequal; in some places the inundations of the river extend to the foot of the mountains; in other parts there remains a strip of a mile or two in breadth which the water never covers, and which is therefore always dry and barren. Originally the name Egypt designated only the valley and the Delta; but at a later period it came to include also the region between this and the Red Sea.
The country around Syene and the cataracts is highly picturesque; the other parts of Egypt, and especially the Delta, are uniform and monotonous. The prospect, however, is extremely different, according to the season of the year. From the middle of spring, when the harvest is over, one sees nothing but a gray and dusty soil, so full of cracks and chasms that he can hardly pass along. At the time of the autumnal equinox, the country presents nothing but an immeasurable surface of reddish or yellowish water, out of which rise date-trees, villages, and narrow dams, which serve as a means of communication. After the waters have retreated, and they usually remain only a short time at this height, you see, till the end of autumn, only a black and slimy mud. But in winter, nature puts on all her splendor. In this season, the freshness and power of the new vegetation, the variety and abundance of vegetable productions, exceed every thing that is known in the most celebrated parts of the European continent; and Egypt is then, from one end of the country to the other, like a beautiful garden, a verdant meadow, a field sown with flowers, or a waving ocean of grain in the ear. This fertility, as is well known, depends upon the annual and regular inundations of the Nile. Hence Egypt was called by Herodotus, "the gift of the Nile." See NILE.
The sky is not less uniform and monotonous than the earth; it is constantly a pure unclouded arch, of a color and light more white than azure. The atmosphere has a splendor which the eye can scarcely bear, and a burning sun, whose glow is tempered by no shade, scorches through the whole day these vast and unprotected plains. It is almost a peculiar trait in the Egyptian landscape, that although not without trees, it is yet almost without shade. The only tree is the date-tree, which is frequent; but with its tall, slender stem, and bunch of foliage on the top, this tree does very little to keep off the light, and casts upon the earth only a pale an uncertain shade. Egypt, according, has a very hot climate; the thermometer in summer standing usually at eighty or ninety degrees of Fahrenheit; and in Upper Egypt still higher. The burning wind of the desert, Simoom, or Camsin, is also experienced, usually about the time of the early equinox. The country is not unfrequently visited by swarms of locusts. See LOCUSTS.
In the very earliest times, Egypt appears to have been regarded under three principal divisions; and writers spoke of Upper Egypt or Thebais; Middle Egypt, Heptanomis or Heptapolis; and Lower Egypt or the Delta, including the districts lying east and west of the river. The provinces and cities of Egypt mentioned in the Bible may, in like manner, be arranged under these three great divisions:
1. LOWER EGYPT The northeastern point of this was "the river of Egypt," on the border of Palestine. The desert between this point, the Red Sea, and the ancient Pelusium, seems to have been the desert of Shur, Ge 20:1, now El-Djefer. Sin, "the strength [key] of Egypt," Eze 30:15, was probably Pelusium. The land of GOSHEN appears to have lain between Pelusium, its branch of the Nile, and the Red sea, having been skirted on the northeast by the desert of Shur; constituting perhaps a part of the province Rameses, Ge 47:11. In this district, or adjacent to it, are mentioned also the cities Pithom, Raamses, Pi-Beseth, and On or Helipolis. In the proper Delta itself, lay Tahapanes, that is, Taphne or Daphne; Zoan, the Tanis of the Greeks; Leontopolis, alluded to perhaps in Isa 19:18. West of the Delta was Alexandria.
2. MIDDLE EGYPT Here are mentioned Moph or Memphis, and Hanes, the Heracleopolis of the Greeks.
3. UPPER EGYPT The southern part of Egypt, the Hebrews appear to have called Pathros, Jer 44:1,15. The Bible mentions here only two cities, namely, No, or more fully No-Ammon, for which the Seventy put Diospolis, the Greek name for Thebes, the most ancient capital of Egypt, (see AMMON;) and Syene, the southern city and limit of Egypt.
The chief agricultural productions of Egypt are wheat, durrah, or small maize, Turkish or Indian corn or maize, rice, barley, beans, cucumbers, watermelons, leeks, and onions; also flax and cotton. The date-tree and vine are frequent. The papyrus is still found in small quantity, chiefly near Damietta; it is a reed about nine feet high, as thick as a man's thumb, with a tuft of down on the top. See BOOK, BULRUSH. The animals of Egypt, besides the usual kinds of tame cattle, are the wild ox or buffalo in great numbers, the ass and camel, dogs in multitudes without masters, the ichneumon, the crocodile, and the hippopotamus.
The inhabitants of Egypt may be considered as including three divisions: 1. The Copts, or descendants of the ancient Egyptians. 2. The Fellahs, or husbandmen, who are supposed to represent the people in Scripture, called Phul. 3. The Arabs, or conquerors of the country, include the Turks, etc. The Copts are nominal Christians, and the clerks and accountants of the country. They have seen so many revolutions in the governing powers, that they concern themselves very little about the successes or misfortunes of those who aspire to dominion. The Fellahs suffer so much oppression, and are so despised by the Bedaween or wandering Arabs, and by their despotic rulers, that they seldom acquire property, and very rarely enjoy it in security; yet they are an interesting race, and devotedly attached to their native country and the Nile. The Arabs hate the Turks; yet the Turks enjoy most offices of government, though they hold their superiority by no very certain tenure.
The most extraordinary monuments of Egyptian power and industry were the pyramids, which still subsist, to excite the wonder and admiration of the world. No work of man now extant is so ancient or so vast as these mysterious structures. The largest of them covers a square area of thirteen acres, and is still four hundred and seventy-four feet high. They
the land of the Nile and the pyramids, the oldest kingdom of which we have any record, holds a place of great significance in Scripture.
Illustration: Sphinx and Pyramids
The Egyptians belonged to the white race, and their original home is still a matter of dispute. Many scholars believe that it was in Southern Arabia, and recent excavations have shown that the valley of the Nile was originally inhabited by a low-class population, perhaps belonging to the Nigritian stock, before the Egyptians of history entered it. The ancient Egyptian language, of which the latest form is Coptic, is distantly connected with the Semitic family of speech.
Egypt consists geographically of two halves, the northern being the Delta, and the southern Upper Egypt, between Cairo and the First Cataract. In the Old Testament, Northern or Lower Egypt is called Mazor, "the fortified land" (Isa 19:6; 37:25, where the A.V. mistranslates "defence" and "besieged places"); while Southern or Upper Egypt is Pathros, the Egyptian Pa-to-Res, or "the land of the south" (Isa 11:11). But the whole country is generally mentioned under the dual name of Mizraim, "the two Mazors."
The civilization of Egypt goes back to a very remote antiquity. The two kingdoms of the north and south were united by Menes, the founder of the first historical dynasty of kings. The first six dynasties constitute what is known as the Old Empire, which had its capital at Memphis, south of Cairo, called in the Old Testament Moph (Ho 9:6) and Noph. The native name was Mennofer, "the good place."
The Pyramids were tombs of the monarchs of the Old Empire, those of Gizeh being erected in the time of the Fourth Dynasty. After the fall of the Old Empire came a period of decline and obscurity. This was followed by the Middle Empire, the most powerful dynasty of which was the Twelfth. The Fayyum was rescued for agriculture by the kings of the Twelfth Dynasty; and two obelisks were erected in front of the temple of the sun-god at On or Heliopolis (near Cairo), one of which is still standing. The capital of the Middle Empire was Thebes, in Upper Egypt.
The Middle Empire was overthrown by the invasion of the Hyksos, or shepherd princes from Asia, who ruled over Egypt, more especially in the north, for several centuries, and of whom there were three dynasties of kings. They had their capital at Zoan or Tanis (now San), in the north-eastern part of the Delta. It was in the time of the Hyksos that Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph entered Egypt. The Hyksos were finally expelled about B.C. 1600, by the hereditary princes of Thebes, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty, and carried the war into Asia. Canaan and Syria were subdued, as well as Cyprus, and the boundaries of the Egyptian Empire were fixed at the Euphrates. The Soudan, which had been conquered by the kings of the Twelfth Dynasty, was again annexed to Egypt, and the eldest son of the Pharaoh took the title of "Prince of Cush."
One of the later kings of the dynasty, Amenophis IV., or Khu-n-Aten, endeavoured to supplant the ancient state religion of Egypt by a new faith derived from Asia, which was a sort of pantheistic monotheism, the one supreme god being adored under the image of the solar disk. The attempt led to religious and civil war, and the Pharaoh retreated from Thebes to Central Egypt, where he built a new capital, on the site of the present Tell-el-Amarna. The cuneiform tablets that have been found there represent his foreign correspondence (about B.C. 1400). He surrounded himself with officials and courtiers of Asiatic, and more especially Canaanitish, extraction; but the native party succeeded eventually in overthrowing the government, the capital of Khu-n-Aten was destroyed, and the foreigners were driven out of the country, those that remained being reduced to serfdom.
The national triumph was marked by the rise of the Nineteenth Dynasty, in the founder of which, Rameses I., we must see the "new king, who knew not Joseph." His grandson, Rameses II., reigned sixty-seven years (B.C. 1348-1281), and was an indefatigable builder. As Pithom, excavated by Dr. Naville in 1883, was one of the cities he built, he must have been the Pharaoh of the Oppression. The Pharaoh of the Exodus may have been one of his immediate successors, whose reigns were short. Under them Egypt lost its empire in Asia, and was itself attacked by barbarians from Libya and the north.
The Nineteenth Dynasty soon afterwards came to an end; Egypt was distracted by civil war; and for a short time a Canaanite, Arisu, ruled over it.
Then came the Twentieth Dynasty, the second Pharaoh of which, Rameses III., restored the power of his country. In one of his campaigns he overran the southern part of Palestine, where the Israelites had not yet settled. They must at the time have been still in the wilderness. But it was during the reign of Rameses III. that Egypt finally lost Gaza and the adjoining cities, which were seized by the Pulista, or Philistines.
After Rameses III., Egypt fell into decay. Solomon married the daughter of one of the last kings of the Twenty-first Dynasty, which was overthrown by Shishak I., the general of the Libyan mercenaries, who founded the Twenty-second Dynasty (1Ki 11:40; 14:25-26). A list of the places he captured in Palestine is engraved on the outside of the south wall of the temple of Karnak.
In the time of Hezekiah, Egypt was conquered by Ethiopians from the Soudan, who constituted the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. The third of them was Tirhakah (2Ki 19:9). In B.C. 674 it was conquered by the Assyrians, who divided it into twenty satrapies, and Tirhakah was driven back to his ancestral dominions. Fourteen years later it successfully revolted under Psammetichus I. of Sais, the founder of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. Among his successors were Necho (2Ki 23:29) and Hophra, or Apries (7/5/type/net'>Jer 37:5,7,11). The dynasty came to an end in B.C. 525, when the country was subjugated by Cambyses. Soon afterwards it was organized into a Persian satrapy.
The title of Pharaoh, given to the Egyptian kings, is the Egyptian Per-aa, or "Great House," which may be compared to that of "Sublime Porte." It is found in very early Egyptian texts.
The Egyptian religion was a strange mixture of pantheism and animal worship, the gods being adored in the form of animals. While the educated classes resolved their manifold deities into manifestations of one omnipresent and omnipotent divine power, the lower classes regarded the animals as incarnations of the gods.
Under the Old Empire, Ptah, the Creator, the god of Memphis, was at the head of the Pantheon; afterwards Amon, the god of Thebes, took his place. Amon, like most of the other gods, was identified with Ra, the sun-god of Heliopolis.
The Egyptians believed in a resurrection and future life, as well as in a state of rewards and punishments dependent on our conduct in this world. The judge of the dead was Osiris, who had been slain by Set, the representative of evil, and afterwards restored to life. His death was avenged by his son Horus, whom the Egyptians invoked as their "Redeemer." Osiris and Horus, along with Isis, formed a trinity, who were regarded as representing the sun-god under different forms.
Even in the time of Abraham, Egypt was a flourishing and settled monarchy. Its oldest capital, within the historic period, was Memphis, the ruins of which may still be seen near the Pyramids and the Sphinx. When the Old Empire of Menes came to an end, the seat of empire was shifted to Thebes, some 300 miles farther up the Nile. A short time after that, the Delta was conquered by the Hyksos, or shepherd kings, who fixed their capital at Zoan, the Greek Tanis, now San, on the Tanic arm of the Nile. All this occurred before the time of the new king "which knew not Joseph" (Ex 1:8). In later times Egypt was conquered by the Persians (B.C. 525), and by the Greeks under Alexander the Great (B.C. 332), after whom the Ptolemies ruled the country for three centuries. Subsequently it was for a time a province of the Roman Empire; and at last, in A.D. 1517, it fell into the hands of the Turks, of whose empire it still forms nominally a part. Abraham and Sarah went to Egypt in
The genealogies in Genesis 10 concern races, not mere descent of persons; hence, the plural forms, Madai, Kittim, etc. In the case of Egypt the peculiarity is, the form is dual, Mizraim, son of Ham (i.e. Egypt was colonized by descendants of Hain), meaning "the two Egypts," Upper and Lower, countries physically so different that they have been always recognized as separate. Hence, the Egyptian kings on the monuments appear with two crowns on their heads, and the hieroglyph for Egypt is a double clod of earth, representing the two countries, the long narrow valley and the broad delta. The Speaker's Commentary suggests the derivation Mes-ra-n, "children of Ra," the sun, which the Egyptians claimed to be. It extended from Migdol (near Pelusium, N. of Suez) to Syene (in the far S.) (Eze 29:10; 30:6 margin). The name is related to an Arabic word, "red mud."
The hieroglyphic name for Egypt is Kem, "black," alluding to its black soil, combining also the idea of heat, "the hot dark country." The cognate Arabic word means "black mud." Ham is perhaps the same name, prophetically descriptive of "the land of Ham" (Ps 105:23,27). The history of states begins with Egypt, where a settled government and monarchy were established earlier than in any other country. A king and princes subordinate are mentioned in the record of Abram's first visit. The official title Pharaoh, Egyptian Peraa, means "the great house" (De Rouge). Egypt was the granary to which neighboring nations had recourse in times of scarcity. In all these points Scripture accords with the Egyptian monuments and secular history. The crown of Upper Egypt was white, that of Lower red; the two combined forming the pschent.
Pharaoh was Suten, "king," of Upper Egypt; Shebt, "bee" (compare Isa 7:18), of Lower Egypt; together the SUTEN-SHEBT. The initial sign of Suten was a bent reed, which gives point to 2Ki 17:21; "thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed ... Egypt on which if a man lean it trill go into his hand and pierce it." Upper. Egypt always is placed before Lower, and its crown in the pschent above that of the latter. Egypt was early divided into nomes, each having its distinctive worship. The fertility of soil was extraordinary, due to the Nile's overflow and irrigation; not, as in Palestine, due to rain, which in the interior is rare (Ge 13:10; De 11:10-11; Zec 14:18). The dryness of the climate accounts for the perfect preservation of the sculptures on stone monuments after thousands of years. Limestone is the formation as far as above Thebes, where sandstone begins.
The first cataract is the southern boundary of Egypt, and is caused by granite and primitive rocks rising through the sandstone in the river bed and obstructing the water. Rocky sandstrewn deserts mostly bound the Nilebordering fertile strip of land, somewhat lower, which generally in Upper Egypt is about 12 miles wide. Low mountains border the valley in Upper Egypt. In ancient times there was a fertile valley in Lower Egypt to the east of the delta, the border land watered by the canal of the Red Sea; namely, Goshen. The delta is a triangle at the Nile's mouth, formed by the Mediterranean and the Pelusiac and Canopic branches of the river. The land at the head of the gulf of Suez in centuries has become geologically raised, and that on the N. side of the isthmus depressed, so that the head of the gulf has receded southwards. So plentiful were the fish, vegetables, and fruits, that the Israelites did "eat freely," though but bondservants.
But now political oppression has combined with the drying up of the branches and canals from the Nile and of the artificial lakes (e.g. Moeris) and fishponds, in reversing Egypt's ancient prosperity. The reeds and waterplants, haunted by waterfowl and made an article of commerce, are destroyed and Goshen, once "the best of the land," is now among the worst by sand and drought. The hilly Canaan, in its continued dependence on heaven for rain, was the emblem of the world of grace upon which "the eyes of the Lord are always," as contrasted with Egypt, emblem of the world of nature, which has its supply from below and depends on human ingenuity. The Nile's overflow lasts only about 100 days, but is made available for agriculture throughout the year by tanks, canals, and forcing machines. The "watering with the foot" was by treadwheels working sets of pumps, and by artificial channels connected with reservoirs, and opened, turned, or closed by the feet.
The shadoof, or a pole with a weight at one end and a bucket at the other, the weight helping the laborer to raise the full bucket, is the present plan. Agriculture began when the inundating water had sunk into the soil, a month after the autumn equinox, and the harvest was soon after the spring equinox (Ex 9:31-32). Herodotus, Diodorus, Strabo, and the monuments confirm Ge 47:20,26, as to Joseph's arrangement of the land, that the king and priests alone were possessors and the original proprietors became crown tenants subject to a rent or tribute of one-fifth. Joseph had taken up one-fifth in the seven plenteous years. Naturally then he fixed on one-fifth to be paid to the king, so that he might, by stores laid up, be prepared against any future famine.
The warriors too were possessors (Diodorus, 1:73, 74; and Egyptian monuments), but probably not until after Joseph's time, since they are not mentioned in Genesis, and at all events their tenure was distinct from the priests', for each warrior received (Herodotus, 2:168) 12 aruroe (each axura a square of 100 Egyptian cubits); i.e., there were no possessions vested in the soldier caste, but portions assigned to each soldier tenable at the sovereign's will. The priests alone were left in full possession of their lands. Lake Menzaleh, the most eastern of the existing lakes, has still large fisheries, which support the people on its islands and shore. Herodotus (ii. 77) and Plutarch are wrong in denying the growth of the vine in Egypt before Psammetichus, for the monuments show it was well known from the time of the pyramids. Wine was drunk by the rich people, and beer was drunk by the poor as less costly.
Wheat was the chief produce; barley and spelt (asin Ex 9:32) ought to be translated instead of "rie," Triticum spelta, the common food of the ancient Egyptians, now called by the natives doora, the only grain, says Wilkinson, represented on the sculptures, but named on them often with other species) are also mentioned. The flax was "boiled," i.e. in blossom, at the time of the hail plague before the Exodus. This accurately marks the time just before Passover. In northern Egypt the barley ripens and flax blossoms in the middle of February or early in March, and both are gathered before April, when wheat harvest begins. Linen was especially used by the Egyptian priests, and for the evenness of the threads, without knot or break, was superior to any of modern manufacture. Papyrus is now no longer found in the Nile below Nubia. In ancient times, light boats were made of its stalks, and paper of its leaves.
It is a strong rush, three-cornered, the thickness of the finger, 10 or 15 ft. high, represented on the monuments. The "flags" are a species called tuff or sufi, Hebrew suph, smaller than that of which the ark was made (Ex 2:3), "bulrushes," "flags" (Isa 18:2; 19:7). The lotus was the favorite flower. Camels are not found on the monuments, yet they were among Abram's possessions by Pharaoh's gift. But it is certain Egypt was master of much of the Sinai Peninsula long before this, and must have had camels, "the ships of the desert," for keeping up communications. They were only used on the frontier, being regarded as unclean, and, hence, are not found on monuments in the interior. The hippopotamus, the behemoth of Job, was anciently found in the Nile and hunted. The generic term tannim, "dragon," (i.e. any aquatic reptile, here the crocodile) is made the symbol of the king of Egypt (Eze 29:3-5.)
God made Amasis the hook which He put in the jaws of Pharaoh Hophra (Apries), who was dethroned and strangled, in spite of his proud boast that "even a god could not wrest from him his kingdom" (Herodotus, 2:169). C
Habitable and cultivable Egypt consists practically of the broad fan-shaped' Delta opening on to the Mediterranean, and the narrow valley of the Nile bordered by deserts as far as the First Cataract (beyond which is Nubia, i.e. Ethiopia), with a few oases westward of the valley. Amongst the latter may be counted the Fayyum, which, however, is separated from the river only by a narrow ridge, and is connected therewith by a canal or natural channel conveying the waters of the river to the oasis. The Greek name Aigyptos may perhaps be connected with Hakeptah, a name in vogue during the New Kingdom for Memphis, the northern capital. Egypt was divided anciently into Upper and Lower, the latter comprising the Delta and a portion of the valley reaching above Memphis, while Upper Egypt (the northern portion of which is often spoken of as Middle Egypt) terminated at the First Cataract (Aswan). Each of these main divisions was subdivided into nomes, or counties, varying to some extent at different times, 22 being a standard number for the Upper Country and 20 for the Lower. Each nome had its capital city
In Hebrew Mizraim (though really it is Mitsraim). It is a dual form, signifying 'the two Matsors,' as some think, which represent Lower and Upper Egypt. Egypt is also called THE LAND OF HAM in Ps 105:23,27; 106:22; and RAHAB, signifying 'the proud one' in Ps 87:4; 89:10; Isa 51:9. (This name in Hebrew is not the same as Rahab, the harlot, which is really Rachab.) Upper Egypt is called PATHROS, that is, 'land of the south,' Isa 11:11. Lower Egypt is MATSOR in Isa 19:6; 37:25, but translated 'defence' and 'besieged places' in the A.V. Egypt is one of the most ancient and renowned countries, but it is not possible to fix any date to its foundation.
The history of ancient Egypt is usually divided into three parts.
1. The Old Kingdom, from its commencement to the invasion of Egypt by those called Hyksos or Shepherd-kings. This would embrace the first eleven dynasties. In some of these the kings reigned at Memphis, and in others at Thebes, so that it cannot now be ascertained whether some of the dynasties were contemporaneous or not. To the first four dynasties are attributed the building of the great Pyramid and the second and third Pyramids, and also the great Sphinx.
2. The Middle Kingdom commenced with the twelfth dynasty. Some Hyksos had settled in Lower Egypt as early as the sixth dynasty; they extended their power in the fourteenth dynasty, and reigned supreme in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth dynasties. These were Semites from Asia. They established themselves in the north of Egypt at Zoan, or Tanis, and Avaris, while Egyptian kings reigned in the south. They are supposed to have held the north for about 500 years, but some judge their sway to have been much shorter.
3. The New Kingdom was inaugurated by the expulsion of the Hyksos in the eighteenth dynasty, when Egypt regained its former power, as we find it spoken of in the O.T.
The first mention of Egypt in scripture is when Abraham went to sojourn there because of the famine. It was turning to the world for help, and it entangled the patriarch in conduct for which he was rebuked by Pharaoh, the prince of the world. Ge 12:10-20. This would have been about the time of the twelfth dynasty. About B.C. 1728 Joseph was carried into Egypt and sold to Potiphar: his exaltation followed; the famine commenced, and eventually Jacob and all his family went into Egypt. See JOSEPH. At length a king arose who knew not Joseph, doubtless at the commencement of a new dynasty, and the children of Israel were reduced to slavery. Moses was sent of God to deliver Israel, and the plagues followed. See PLAGUES OF EGYPT. On the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians, Israel left Egypt. See ISRAEL IN EGYPT and the EXODUS.
Very interesting questions arise
(land of the Copts), a country occupying the northeast angle of Africa. Its limits appear always to have been very nearly the same. It is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Palestine, Arabia and the Red Sea, on the south by Nubia, and on the west by the Great Desert. It is divided into upper Egypt --the valley of the Nile --and lower Egypt, the plain of the Delta, from the Greek letter; it is formed by the branching mouths of the Nile, and the Mediterranean Sea. The portions made fertile by the Nile comprise about 9582 square geographical miles, of which only about 5600 is under cultivation. --Encyc. Brit. The Delta extends about 200 miles along the Mediterranean, and Egypt is 520 miles long from north to south from the sea to the First Cataract. NAMES. --The common name of Egypt in the Bible is "Mizraim." It is in the dual number, which indicates the two natural divisions of the country into an upper and a lower region. The Arabic name of Egypt --Mizr-- signifies "red mud." Egypt is also called in the Bible "the land of Ham,"
comp. Psal 78:51 --a name most probably referring to Ham the son of Noah --and "Rahab," the proud or insolent: these appear to be poetical appellations. The common ancient Egyptian name of the country is written in hieroglyphics Kem, which was perhaps pronounced Chem. This name signifies, in the ancient language and in Coptic, "black," on account of the blackness of its alluvial soil. We may reasonably conjecture that Kem is the Egyptian equivalent of Ham. GENERAL APPEARANCE, CLIMATE, ETC. --The general appearance of the country cannot have greatly changed since the days of Moses. The whole country is remarkable for its extreme fertility, which especially strikes the beholder when the rich green of the fields is contrasted with the utterly bare, yellow mountains or the sand-strewn rocky desert on either side. The climate is equable and healthy. Rain is not very unfrequent on the northern coast, but inland is very rare. Cultivation nowhere depends upon it. The inundation of the Nile fertilizes and sustains the country, and makes the river its chief blessing. The Nile was on this account anciently worshipped. The rise begins in Egypt about the summer solstice, and the inundation commences about two months later. The greatest height is attained about or somewhat after the autumnal equinox. The inundation lasts about three months. The atmosphere, except on the seacoast, is remarkably dry and clear, which accounts for the so perfect preservation of the monuments, with their pictures and inscriptions. The heat is extreme during a large part of the year. The winters are mild, --from 50
EGYPT, a country of Africa, called also in the Hebrew Scriptures the land of Mizraim, and the land of Ham; by the Turks and Arabs, Masr and Misr;
and by the native Egyptians, Chemi, or the land of Ham. Mr. Faber derives the name from Ai-Capht, or the land of the Caphtorim; from which, also, the modern Egyptians derive their name of Cophts. Egypt was first peopled after the deluge by Mizraim, or Mizr, the son of Ham, who is supposed to be the same with Menes, recorded in Egyptian history as the first king. Every thing relating to the subsequent history and condition of this country, for many ages, is involved in fable. Nor have we any clear information from Heathen writers, until the time of Cyrus, and his son Cambyses, when the line of Egyptian princes ceased in agreement with prophecies to that effect. Manetho, the Egyptian historian, has given a list of thirty dynasties, which, if successive, make a period of five thousand three hundred years to the time of Alexander, or three thousand two hundred and eighty-two years more than the real time, according to the Mosaic chronology. But this is a manifest forgery, which has, nevertheless, been appealed to by infidel writers, as authority against the veracity of the Mosaic history. The truth is, that this pretended succession of princes, if all of them can be supposed to have existed at all, constituted several distinct dynasties, ruling in different cities at the same time; thus these were the kingdoms of Thebes, Thin, Memphis, and Tanis. See WRITING.
2. In the time of Moses we find Egypt renowned for learning; for he was instructed "in all its wisdom;" and it is one of the commendations of Solomon, at a later period, that he excelled in knowledge "all the wisdom of the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt." Astronomy, which probably, like that of the Chaldeans, comprehended also judicial astrology, physics, agriculture, jurisprudence, medicine, architecture, painting, and sculpture, were the principal sciences and arts; to which were added, and that by their wisest men, the study of divination, magic, and enchantments. They had also their consulters with familiar spirits, and necromancers, those who had, or pretended to have, intercourse with the infernal deities, and the spirits of the dead, and delivered responses to inquirers. Of all this knowledge, good and evil, and of a monstrous system of idolatry, Egypt was the polluted fountain to the surrounding nations; but in that country itself it appears to have degenerated into the most absurd and debased forms. Among nations who are not blessed by divine revelation, the luminaries of heaven are the first objects of worship. Diodorus Siculus, mentioning the Egyptians, informs us, that "the first men, looking up to the world above them, and, struck with admiration at the nature of the universe, supposed the sun and moon to be the principal and eternal gods." This, which may be called the natural superstition of mankind, we can trace in the annals of the west, as well as of the east; among the inhabitants of the new world, as well as of the old. The sun and moon, under the names of Isis and Osiris, were the chief objects of adoration among the Egyptians. But the earliest times had a purer faith. The following inscription, engraven in hieroglyphics in the temple of Neith, the Egyptian Minerva, conveys the most sublime idea of the Deity which unenlightened reason could form: "I am that which is, was, and shall be: no mortal hath lifted up my veil: the offspring of my power is the sun." A similar inscription still remains at Capua, on the temple of Isis: "Thou art one, and from thee all things proceed." Plutarch also informs us, that the inhabitants of Thebais worshipped only the immortal and supreme God, whom they called Eneph. According to the Egyptian cosmogony, all things sprung from athor, or night, by which they denoted the darkness of chaos before the creation. Sanchoniathon relates, that, "from the breath of gods and the void were mortals created." This theology differs little from that of Moses, who says, "The earth was without form, and void; darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
3. A superstitious reverence for certain animals, as propitious or hurtful to the human race, was not peculiar to the Egyptians. The cow has been venerated in India from the most remote antiquity. The serpent has been the object of religious respect to one half of the nations of the known world. The Romans had sacred animals, which they kept in their temples, and distinguished with peculiar honours. We need not therefore be surprised that a nation so superstitious as the Egyptians should honour, with peculiar marks of respect, the ichneumon, the ibis, the dog, the falcon, the wolf, and the crocodile. These they entertained at great expense, and with much magnificence. Lands were set apart for their maintenance; persons of the highest rank were employed in feeding and attending them; rich carpets were spread in their apartments; and the pomp at their funerals corresponded to the profusion and luxury which attended them while alive. What chiefly tended to favour the progress of animal worship in Egypt, was the language of hieroglyphics. In the hieroglyphic inscriptions on their temples, and public edifices, animals, and even vegetables, were the symbols of the gods whom they worshipped. In the midst of innumerable superstitions, the theology of Egypt contained the two great principles of religion, the existence of a supreme Being, and the immortality of the soul.
The first is proved by the inscription on the temple of Minerva; the second, by the care with which dead bodies were embalmed, and the prayer recited at the hour of death, by an Egyptian, expressing his desire to be received to the presence of the deities.
4. The opulence of Egypt was for ages increased by the large share it had in the commerce with the east; by its own favourable position, making it the connecting link of intercourse between the eastern and western nations; and especially by its own remarkable fertility, particularly in corn, so that it was, in times of scarcity, the granary of the world. Its extraordinary fertility was owing to the periodical inundation of the Nile; and sufficient proofs of the ancient accounts which we have of its productiveness are afforded to this day. The Rev. Mr. Jowett has given a striking example of the extraordinary fertility of the soil of Egypt, which is alluded to in Ge 41:47: "The earth brought forth by handfuls." "I picked up at random," says Mr. Jowett, "a few stalks out of the thick corn fields. We counted the number of stalks which sprouted from single grains of seed; carefully pulling to pieces each root, in order to see that it was but one plant. The first had seven stalks, the next three, the next nine, then eighteen, then fourteen. Each stalk would have been an ear.
5. The architecture of the early Egyptians, at least that of their cities and dwellings, was rude and simple: they could indeed boast of little in either external elegance or internal comfort, since Herodotus informs us that men and beasts lived together. The materials of their structure were bricks of clay, bound together with chopped straw, and baked in the sun. Such were the bricks which the Israelites were employed in making, and of which the cities of Pithom and Rameses were built. Their composition was necessarily perishable, and explains why it is that no remains of the ancient cities of Egypt are to be found. They would indeed last longer in the dry climate of this country than in any other; but even here they must gradually decay and crumble to dust, and the cities so constructed become heaps. Of precisely the same materials are the villages of Egypt built at this day. "Village after village," says Mr. Jowett, speaking of Tentyra, "built of unburnt brick, crumbling into ruins, and giving place to new habitations, have raised the earth, in some parts, nearly to the level of the summit of the temple. In every part of Egypt, we find the towns built in this manner, upon the ruins, or rather the rubbish, of the former h