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BRICKS WITHOUT STRAW.
There is no straw given unto thy servants,
and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten ; but the fault is in thine own people.—Exod. v. 16.
THE circumstances and condition of the children of Israel, when under the bondage of Pharaoh, may afford, under God's blessing, some instructive topics of meditation. Egypt, the scene of their slavery, was, by its geographical nearness to the land of Israel, and as such interwoven with the history of
that people, frequently alluded to in messages of Holy Writ.
The twenty-ninth and three following chapters of Ezekiel are full of remarkable statements connected with it. One of these is, “All the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the Lord, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Ifrael:" i.e. as we find from the next verse,
deceiving support; “ When they took hold of thee, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder : and when they leaned upon thee, thou breakest.” It was to be a base kingdom-no more to exalt itself among the kingdoms—that there should be more a prince of the land of Egypt. It is now, as we know, though struggling for independence, ruled by a viceroy who receives his authority to govern from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The people, too, are base and ignoble. Ancient writers speak of them as superstitious and luxurious (Strabo)—as an unwarlike and unserviceable nation—as a faithless and fallacious nation, always meaning one thing and pretending another—as lovers of wine and strong drink—as cruel in their anger -as thieves, tolerating all kinds of theft. Still blacker characteristics are ascribed by modern travellers.
“ The people of Egypt, generally speaking, are all exceeding wicked-great rogues -cowardly-lazy-hypocrites-robberstreacherous--so very greedy of money, that they will kill a man for a very trifle.” A visit of two months in their country impressed me with the same views. When persons of such a character govern, they invariably tyrannise ; and such they appear to have done when they domineered over the children of Israel. Hard and irksome labour did they inflict, and to add to its burden they withdrew from their bondsmen the means of accomplishing their work. The bricks they had to make were of mud, dried in the sun and rendered compact by admixture of straw. This straw was taken away, so that they had to manufacture without material, or to find it for themselves at great labour.
The buildings, like the manners of the people, seem to this day to have undergone little change. Their dwellings now are of the same material as of old. The Pyramids also, which I cannot but believe were partly accomplished by Hebrew hands, are of the same fabric; they are, indeed, in some instances, cased over with a mail of huge stones, but in others they are pointed masses of funburnt brick only, with the straw still retaining its appearance; and it is not uninteresting or unprofitable to remark, that on one of the pyramids was inscribed the
number of workmen employed in its erection, and the cost of the “leeks, onions, and garlic” supplied to the fons of toil. We all remember, that when delivered from bondage, and when in straits in the wilderness, these were the very productions of Egypt specified as the objects. of Israel's longing and regret.
Arbitrary conduct still marks the sway of the ruling powers now. Districts of the country are farmed out, as it were, to men who are bound to render a certain fum to the Pacha, or supreme ruler. These have subordinate exactors under them, and the poor
groan by reason of their bondage under their foreign masters, each rank in turn being subject to the bastinado if they fail. So with the Israelites : Pharaoh gave
orders to the officers—the officers to the taskmasters—the taskmasters to the