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(EXODUS II. 5, 6.) In the patriarchal ages, Egypt was visited by two remarkable providential occurrences. During seven years a superabundance of corn grew in that fertile “valley of the Nile;” which seven years were succeeded by an equal period of great dearth. This had been signified to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in two night visions; which none of his wise men could interpret. Joseph, however, who was at that time confined unjustly in the king's prison, was inspired by God to reveal the secret; and, being raised for his wisdom to the high post of governor of Egypt, he preserved the nation from the dire effects of the famine.

Pharaoh and his people were grateful for the services of Joseph. This was shown in various ways; but one of the most pleasing instances of the monarch's gratitude, is that in which he directed Joseph to send for his aged father, and his numerous descendants, out of Syria—where the effects of the famine were also felt—that they might enjoy “the good of all the land of Egypt.” The father and the brethren of Joseph, therefore, went down to Egypt; and the rich pastures of the land of Goshen were assigned to them by the grateful monarch. But in process of time a Pharaoh, or king, ascended the throne of Egypt, who, unlike his predecessors, look upon the Hebrews with a jealous eye, and commenced an iron rule over them. Conceiving their increasing numbers formidable to the future peace and prosperity of the Egyptian state, in order to reduce them he compelled them to relinquish their mode of life as tent-dwelling shepherds, and to cultivate that soil originally granted them for pasturage. He likewise required that they should make bricks, build towns, and perform many other works, both painful and hateful to a pastoral people. Like the Bedouins of the present day, indeed, they would not have executed such works, unless by coercion. Pharaoh knew this, and the execution of his will was confided to task-masters, who “ made their lives bitter with hard bondage.”

But the end was not accomplished. The more the Hebrews were oppressed the more they multiplied, and the more Pharaoh and his people were alarmed. A new expedient was, therefore, devised to

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