After language had been confounded and the people scattered, there appeared in the land of Canaan a tribe of Hebrews ruled by a chief or sheik called Abraham. They had a few cattle, lived in tents, practiced polygamy, wandered from place to place, and were the only folks in the whole world to whom God paid the slightest attention. At this time there were hundreds of cities in India filled with temples and palaces; millions of Egyptians worshiped Isis and Osiris, and had covered their land with marvelous monuments of industry, power and skill. But these civilizations were entirely neglected by the Deity, his whole attention being taken up with Abraham and his family.
It seems, from the account, that God and Abraham were intimately acquainted, and conversed frequently upon a great variety of subjects. By the twelfth chapter of Genesis it appears that he made the following promises to Abraham. "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great: and thou shalt be a blessing, and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee."
After receiving this communication from the Almighty, Abraham went into the land of Canaan and again God appeared to him and told him to take a heifer three years old, a goat of the same age, a sheep of equal antiquity, a turtle dove and a young pigeon. Whereupon Abraham killed the animals "and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another." And it came to pass that when the sun went down and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp that passed between the raw and bleeding meat. The killing of these animals was a preparation for receiving a visit from God. Should an American missionary in Central Africa find a negro chief surrounded by a butchered heifer, a goat and a sheep, with which to receive a communication from the infinite God, my opinion is, that the missionary would regard the proceeding as the direct result of savagery. And if the chief insisted that he had seen a smoking furnace and a burning lamp going up and down between the pieces of meat, the missionary would certainly conclude that the chief was not altogether right in his mind.
If the Bible is true, this same God told Abraham to take and sacrifice his only son, or rather the only one of his wife, and a murder would have been committed had not God, just at the right moment, directed him to stay his hand and take a sheep instead.
God made a great number of promises to Abraham, but few of them were ever kept. He agreed to make him the father of a great nation, but he did not. He solemnly promised to give him a great country, including all the land between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates, but he did not.
In due time Abraham passed away, and his son Isaac took his place at the head of the tribe. Then came Jacob, who "watered stock" and enriched himself with the spoil of Lahan. Joseph was sold into Egypt by his jealous brethren, where he became one of the chief men of the kingdom, and in a few years his father and brothers left their own country and settled in Egypt. At this time there were seventy Hebrews in the world, counting Joseph and his children. They remained in Egypt two hundred and fifteen years. It is claimed by some that they were in that country for four hundred and thirty years. This is a mistake. Josephus says they were in Egypt two hundred and fifteen years, and this statement is sustained by the best biblical scholars of all denominations. According to the 17th verse of the 3rd chapter of Galatians, it was four hundred and thirty years from the time the promise was made to Abraham to the giving of the law, and as the Hebrews did not go to Egypt for two hundred and fifteen years after the making of the promise to Abraham, they could in no event have been in Egypt more than two hundred and fifty years. In our Bible the 40th verse of the 12th chapter of Exodus, is as follows:--
"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years."
This passage does not say that the sojourning was all done in Egypt; neither does it say that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt four hundred and thirty years; but it does say that the sojourning of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. The vatican copy of the Septuagint renders the same passage as follows:--"The sojourning of the children of Israel which they sojourned in Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years."
The Alexandrian version says:--"The sojourning of the children of Israel which they and their fathers sojourned in Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years."
And in the Samaritan Bible we have:--"The sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers which they sojourned in the land of Canaan, and in the land of Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years."
There were seventy souls when they went down into Egypt, and they remained two hundred and fifteen years, and at the end of that time they had increased to about three million. How do we know that there were three million at the end of two hundred and fifteen years? We know it because we are informed by Moses that "there were six hundred thousand men of war." Now, to each man of war, there must have been at least five other people. In every State in this Union there will be to each voter, five other persons at least, and we all know that there are always more voters than men of war. If there were six hundred thousand men of war, there must have been a population of at least three million. Is it possible that seventy people could increase to that extent in two hundred and fifteen years? You may say that it was a miracle; but what need was there of working a miracle. Why should God miraculously increase the number of slaves? If he wished miraculously to increase the population, why did he not wait until the people were free?
In 1776, we had in the American Colonies about three millions of people. In one hundred years we doubled four times: that is to say, six, twelve, twenty-four, forty-eight million,--our present population.
We must not forget that during all these years there has been pouring into our country a vast stream of emigration, and that this, taken in connection with the fact that our country is productive beyond all others, gave us only four doubles in one hundred years. Admitting that the Hebrews increased as rapidly without emigration as we, in this country, have with it, we will give to them four doubles each century, commencing with seventy people, and they would have, at the end of two hundred years, a population of seventeen thousand nine hundred and twenty. Giving them another double for the odd fifteen years and there would be, provided no deaths had occurred, thirty-five thousand eight hundred and forty people. And yet we are told that instead of having this number, they had increased to such an extent that they had six hundred thousand men of war; that is to say, a population of more than three millions?
Every sensible man knows that this account is not, and cannot be true. We know that seventy people could not increase to three million in two hundred and fifteen years.
About this time the Hebrews took a census, and found that there were twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventy-three first- born males. It is reasonable to suppose that there were about as many first-born females. This would make forty-four thousand five hundred and forty-six first-born children. Now, there must have been about as many mothers as there were first-born children. If there were only about forty-five thousand mothers and three millions of people, the mothers must have had on an average about sixty-six children apiece.
At this time, the Hebrews were slaves, and had been for two hundred and fifteen years. A little while before, an order had been made by the Egyptians that all the male children of the Hebrews should be killed. One, contrary to this order, was saved in an ark made of bulrushes daubed with slime. This child was found by the daughter of Pharaoh, and was adopted, it seems, as her own, and, may be, was. He grew to be a man, sided with the Hebrews, killed an Egyptian that was smiting a slave, hid the body in the sand, and fled from Egypt to the land of Midian, became acquainted with a priest who had seven daughters, took the side of the daughters against the ill-mannered shepherds of that country, and married Zipporah, one of the girls, and became a shepherd for her father. Afterward, while tending his flock, the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush, and commanded him to go to the king of Egypt and demand from him the liberation of the Hebrews. In order to convince him that the something burning in the bush was actually God. the rod in his hand was changed into a serpent, which, upon being caught by the tail, became again a rod. Moses was also told to put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out it was as leprous as snow. Quite a number of strange things were performed, and others promised. Moses then agreed to go back to Egypt provided his brother could go with him. Whereupon the Lord appeared to Aaron, and directed him to meet Moses in the wilderness. They met at the mount of God, went to Egypt, gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel, spake all the words which God had spoken unto Moses, and did all the signs in the sight of the people. The Israelites believed, bowed their heads and worshiped; and Moses and Aaron went in and told their message to Pharaoh the king.