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by [?]

Moses lived thirty-three hundred years ago. In one sense thirty-three centuries is a very long time. All is comparative–children regard a man of fifty as “awful old.” I have seen several persons who have lived a hundred years, and they didn’t consider a century long, “and thirty-five isn’t anything,” said one of them to me.

Geologically, thirty-three centuries is only an hour ago. It does not nearly take us back to the time when men of the Stone Age hunted the hairy mammoth in what is now Nebraska, nor does thirty-three centuries give us any glimpse of the time when tropical animals, plants and probably men lived and flourished at the North Pole.

Egyptian civilization, at the time of Moses, was more than three thousand years old. Egypt was then in the first stage of senility, entering upon her decline, for her best people had settled in the cities, and this completes the cycle and spells deterioration. She had passed through the savage, barbaric, nomadic and agricultural stages and was living on her unearned increment, a part of which was Israelitish labor. Moses looked at the Pyramids, which were built more than a thousand years before his birth, and asked in wonder about who built them, very much as we do today. He listened for the Sphinx to answer, but she was silent, then as now. The date of the exodus has been fixed as having probably occurred during the reign of the Great Pharaoh, Mineptah, or the nineteenth Egyptian Dynasty. The date is, say, fourteen hundred years before Christ. An inscription has recently been found which seems to show that Joseph settled in Egypt during the reign of Mineptah, but the best scholars now have gone back to the conclusions I have stated.

At the time of the Pharaohs, Egypt was the highest civilized country on earth. It had a vast system of canals, an organized army, a goodly degree of art, and there were engineers and builders of much ability. Philosophy, poetry and ethics were recognized, prized and discussed.

The storage of grain by the government to bank against famine had been practised for several hundred years. There were also treasure-cities built to guard against fire, thieves or destruction by the elements. It will thus be seen that foresight, thrift, caution, wisdom, played their parts. The Egyptians were not savages.

* * * * *

About five hundred years before the birth of Moses there lived in Arabia a powerful Sheik or Chief, known as Abraham. This man had a familiar spirit, or guide, or guardian-angel known as Yaveh or Jehovah. All of the desert tribes had such tutelary gods; and all of these gods were once men of power who lived on earth. The belief in special gods has often been held by very great men: Socrates looked to his “demon” for guidance; Themistocles consulted his oracle; a President of the United States visited a clairvoyant, who consented to act as a medium and interpret the supernatural. This idea, which is a variant of ancestor worship, still survives, and very many good people do not take journeys or make investments until they believe they are being dictated to by Shakespeare, Emerson, Beecher or Phillips Brooks. These people also believe that there are bad spirits to which we must not harken.

Abraham was led by Jehovah; what Jehovah told him to do he did; when Jehovah told him to desist or change his plans, he obeyed. Jehovah promised him many things, and some of these promises were fulfilled.

Whether these tutelary gods or controlling spirits had any actual existence outside of the imagination of the people who believed in them–whether they were merely pictures thrown upon the screen by a subconscious spiritual stereopticon–is not the question now under discussion. Something must be left for a later time: the fact remains that special providences are yet relied upon by sincere and intelligent people.