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of one speech," until finding themselves straitened, for room, in the hilly countries of Armenia, where they had first settled when they descended from the Ark; they be gan to spread over the adjacent lands. Travelling westward, they came to a plain called Shinar, and on the spot as it is supposed, where the city of Babylon afterwards stood, they began (B. C. 2233), to build a city, and a tower whose top should reach the heavens, to perpetuate their name to succeeding generations. But God, who does not always favour the designs of ambitious men, was pleased to send among these projectors, such a confusion of languages, that they could not understand one another; and the place was called Babel, which imports confusion. One tie which had hitherto held together the great family of Noah, being now dissolved, they dispersed yet further with less reluctance. Still, as the number of mankind was comparatively small, it is not to be supposed that they could at once form very extensive settlements. The chil dren of Shem remained in Asia, and those of Ham are still found in Africa; Mizraim, his grandson, led colonies into Egypt (2188), and founded a powerful kingdom; whence Egypt is sometimes called the land of Ham.
Europe was the portion of Japhet, and he, at least, must have practised the art of ship-building, which they had learned from Noah, their progenitor; for without it, he could not have taken possession of the isles of the Mediterranean sea, included in his lot. Petty monarchies, called Patriarchical, in which the head of each family was both its chief and its king, then prevailed. Nimrod is the first person mentioned in this period, who founded a kingdom. He began his reign by building the stupendous city of Babylon, on the Euphrates.
FANNY. What was the primitive language?
MRS. M. The Hebrew undoubtedly. The Chaldee, the Syrian, and the Arabic, have contended for priority; but the Hebrew has the better claim. It appears in the Chaldea character, but the Samaritan is the Hebrew letter.
No event of importance after the miracle at Babel is recorded, till the calling of Abraham, a descendant of Shem. The birth of Terah, his father, concludes the second age of the world, a period of four hundred and thirty-seven years. (B. C. 2126.)
During this lapse of ages, the knowledge of the Deity had become greatly obscured and debased by ignorance and idolatry; for no written law was yet given, but only a few moral and ceremonial precepts. To transmit, therefore, to posterity the knowledge of one God and his essential attributes, and to preserve in symbols and prophecies, the promise of a Saviour, the particular family, of which at the appointed time, He was to come, was now to be sepa rated from the gentile world. The principal subject then of the Old Testament from this epoch is the history of this separate and highly-favoured people. They were then called Hebrews from Eber, their ancestor, who was the great-grandson of Shem. In latter times they have been known by the name of Jews.
As the founder of this nation, Abram, the son of Terah, and the tenth from Noah, was selected and commanded by God to leave Chaldea, his native country, and go into the land of Canaan, the inheritance of his posterity "in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed." (B. C. 1921.)
CHARLES. Was this a repetition of the promise made to our first parents?
MRS. M. A blessing so extensive could mean no less. But it is not to be supposed that it was clearly intelligible to Abram, who, at that time, had no child, and both he and his wife were old. Yet he did not hesitate to believe Him who he knew certainly, would find means to make good his promise.
Some years before his death, Terah had come with his family from Chaldea to Haran, in Mesopotamia, and died there. After his death, Abram, and Lot, the grandson of Terah, proceeded to the land of Canaan; and pitched their tents first, at a place called Sichem (in our day, Neapolis) and afterwards farther south at Bethel. At each place we observe, they left an altar, the monument of their piety.
A famine which greatly afflicted Canaan, in the following year, (B. C. 1920) obliged Abram to go with his family into Egypt for subsistence.* When they arrived at the border of that country, forgetting for a moment his accustomed confidence in divine Providence, Abram requested Sarai, his wife, to call herself his sister; lest her beauty might be fatal to him, she consented to this deception. When they came into Egypt, and resided near the court, the princes saw her, and spoke of her, in admiration before the king. This was enough to determine her fate; she was immediately conducted to the palace, according to the still prevailing custom of oriental despots, whom no law restrains from seizing all the beautiful women within their reach. Her supposed brother was respectfally treated for her sake. But great afflictions fell upon
* From this period the 430 years bondage of the Israelites is reckoned.
the royal family, and Pharaoh, who seems not to have been ignorant of a superintending providence, understood that they were the punishment of his injustice to the strangers, He ordered Abram therefore into his presence, and very properly reproved him-" Why hast thou brought these evils on me? Why saidst thou," she is my sister," so I might have taken her to be my wife. She is thine; take her and go thy way;" and he charged his servauts to dismiss them honourably with all their possessions.
The same year, after the famine had ceased, Abram with his wife and his nephew, returned to their former residence near Bethel. But their flocks were become so numerous, that they could no longer remain together. The ground they occupied was insufficient for their support, and disputes frequently arose between their herdsmen. That they might not themselves be involved in contention, these primeval shepherds separated. Lot departed to the south, and settled on the plain of Jordan, a fertile valley, watered by the celebrated river of that name. He was still in the territory of the Canaanites, the descendants of Ham, who, as I hinted just now, were by this time abandoned to vices of every description. Exemplary judgments had been denounced against them, and the sovereign Avenger began now to execute them. But the virtue of Lot was regarded with singular favour.. Two angels, in the character of travellers, were commissioned to tell him, that Sodom, the city of his residence, would be consumed by fire from heaven; and to direct him to repair with his family to the mountains! He obeyed; and thus with his two daughters, was preserved; whilst his wife, heedless of an express command, "not to look back," lingered. Bewailing perhaps, her unworthy city, and friends,
she forgot the injunction, and "was turned into a pillar of salt."
CHARLES. Is that metamorphosis supposed to be literally true?
MRS. M. The words of Moses are often metaphorically understood by infidels to serve their own impious ends, but as his history was written for the instruction of the common people, and all classes were commanded to teach it to their children, we can seldom admit of figures beyond their comprehension. In this case, however, commentators have found several interpretations to explain the difficulty. It is enough for us to know, that she was punished for disobedience; and let us remember the example of Lot's wife, whenever we are tempted to transgress a known command!
Five populous cities with all their inhabitants were utterly destroyed by this judgment, and a remarkable lake now covers the soil where once they flourished-the lasting monument of that tremendous event!
CATHERINE. You mean, I suppose, the lake Asphaltites; or in more modern language, the Dead Sea. But why do you call it a remarkable lake?
MRS. M. Because its appearance and properties are really so, independently of the fables to which it has given rise. It has been called the Dead sea, for example, because its waters were supposed to have a fatal influence on animal and vegetable life. Modern travellers have detected the fallacy of this opinion.
CATHERINE. How is it ascertained that it flows where Sodom once stood?
MRS. M. The site is described with sufficient precision by Moses: the Arabs who dwell on its borders acknow