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Receding and speeding,
And thundering and floundering.
And gleaming and streaming, and steaming and beaming,
LANGUAGE, WRITING, AND HIEROGLYPHICS. “Out of the ground,” says the sacred historian, “ the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam, to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." Gen. ii. 19. Adam had nothing that “ he had not first received ;” and the point is simply, whether the Deity imparted this knowledge when he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, or whether it was not given to him till the time at which the animals, then innocent and harmless, were cited before him to receive their several names. We are quite sure that the inspiration of the Almighty had given him the understanding which he thus called into exercise, and it does not seem to us a matter of the slightest consequence whether this faculty was bestowed a few hours sooner or later.
“ It appears, then,” to quote the words of a learned lexicographer, “ that language was the immediate gift of God to Adam, or that God himself either taught our first parent to speak, or, which comes to the same thing, inspired him with language. (Parkhurst. Heb. Lex. pref. viii.) That the names thus given to the animal world were expressive of the several characters of the
which they were bestowed, seems likely; for there are many words in the Hebrew language (which appears to have been the primitive tongue) formed immediately from the sound, and consequently descriptive of the more obvious circumstances in the habits of animals. Thus the partridge is called Qra, from its peculiar cry, which Buffon describes as harsh, not unlike the noise of a saw,” and which has been aptly designated, in a poem called the Village Curate, as
The turtle is called in Hebrew, Tur, for the same reason most probably: a notion which derives not a little additional support from the duplication of that syllable in the Tur-tur, of the Latins. The hoopoe, or whoop, makes a noise analogous to the sound of the name bestowed upon it, Dukipet ; and this correspondence might be traced in numerous other instances. 6. The first-created divine institutor of all philosophy,” says a quaint old writer, “ Adam, who, without all peradventure, was the greatest amongst mere mortals that ever the world possessed; concerning whom the scripture saith, that he gave names to every living thing, which argues his great sagacity and philosophic penetration into their natures.” (Gale Court of the Gentiles, pt. 2, p. 7.)
It is therefore sufficiently well established, that language came originally from God, and is as old as the world itself. But though the mode of communicating ideas by the living voice is thus ancient, we have no reason to believe that writing is older than the time of Moses. We are aware that Josephus has given to Seth, the son of Adam, the credit of using this art; but with what reason will be shewn presently. “ Adam,” says he, “ had many children, but Seth in particular. Now this Seth, when he was brought up, and came to those years in which he could discern what is good, became a virtuous man; and as he was himself an excellent character, so did he leave children behind him who imitated his virtues. All these proved to be of good dispositions. They also inhabited the same country without dissensions, and in a happy condition, without any misfortunes falling upon them till they died. They also were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies and their order; and that
their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars, the one of brick, and the other of stone: they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind, and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day.” (Ant. Jud. lib. 1, c. 2, sec. 3.)
As Seth was long anterior to Moses, and as the Jewish historian here appeals to an existing fact as the basis of his argument, his testimony deserves such consideration as will reconcile it with the sacred theory of the origin of writing. That certain pillars did exist in Syria when Josephus wrote, answering in appearance, at least, to that which he refers to, is very probable, as Herodotus, who preceded him by a few centuries only, expressly states that Sesostris, king of Egypt, whenever he gained a conquest, set up a column in the land over which he had triumphed; and that he saw some of these standing in Palestine of Syria, though the greater part of them were no longer to be found. (Euterpe. cii. and cvi.) To this custom of commemorating a victory by such erections, and very probably with an immediate reference to these identical memorials, it is predicted in holy writ that when Egypt shall be reclaimed from her defection and idolatry,“ there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land, and a PILLAR at the border thereof to the Lord.” (Isaiah xix. 19.)
On referring to Whiston's note upon the passage in Josephus, it would appear that the latter was, in reality, under the very error which we have hinted at above, in mistaking “ Seth, the son of Adam, for Seth or Sesostris, king of Egypt, the erecter of this pillar in the land of Siriad;" and though this learned commentator seems willing to assign to that monarch the very high antiquity, which was, in his time, supposed to belong to him, there is now every reason to believe that he was identical with the Shishak of scripture, and consequently several centuries posterior to Moses.
To similar pillars the Egyptian annalist, Manetho, professes himself indebted for his information respecting the early sovereigns of Egypt; but he ascribes them to Thoyth or Mercury, who, according to his account, reigned “ in the beginning of ages.” It happens, however, rather unfortunately for the antiquity of these memorials, that they recorded events which, by their own shewing, did not take place till very long after this period; and furnished us with “ a history of the world for 50,000 years to come!" The simple fact is, that Thoyt, Taaut, Thoyth, or Hermes, were only so many names for the Jewish lawgiver himself; who, though he did not “live” in the beginning of ages, has left us the only rational account extant of the origin of all things. “ If it were worth while, and likely to affect our particular purpose, we could, from Herodotus, Diodorus, Plutarch, and various others, with almost moral certainty, demonstrate that Thoyth and Taautes are identical; and that they are only fictitious metamorphoses of Moses himself, whom, when stripped of their allegorical apparel, they resemble in almost every feature.” (Heming's Enquiry into the Origin of Nations, p. 11.)
We have thus endeavoured to shew that there is no necessity for believing the origin of writing to be as ancient as those authors would make it; and, in particular, that the testimony of Manetho, so far from disproving the fact that Moses was the first individual who practised the art, only goes to show that it was indeed to him, though under another name, that its invention was attributed.
It has been attempted to prove, from scripture, that writing was in use in the days of Abraham; and the narrative of his negociation with the children of Heth has been adduced in support of this idea; but in our opinion it goes very far to sustain a contrary notion. It has been argued that the terms of the contract, and the mode of its delivery, are precisely those which we should expect to belong to the execution of a legal instrument in our own day; but we are so well persuaded that the simple narrative contained in the Bible, will, if carefully perused, leave an impression directly the opposite upon the mind, that we proceed to give it without note or comment.
Ephron, the Hittite, and Abraham, are in treaty for the field of Machpelah. “ And Ephron said unto Abraham, My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.' And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron, and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver which he had named in the AUDIENCE of the sons of