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tert. 'Hyrcanus, says he, having subdued the Idume
ans, granted them permission to continue in their
territory, if they would consent to be circumcised, ' and conform to other Jewish laws; they, thro' their
affection to their native country,submitted to under
go circumcision, and to live in other respects as Jews, • and from this period they were Jews. The passage then in Jeremiah, upon which the plea for the superior antiquity of circumcision among the Egyptians is built, instead of establishing that point, rather confirms our opinion that circumcision was of earlier use among the Jews than among them, if it was ever at all a national rite with them. Nay, may be improved to increase the fufpicion that Herodotus, and others after him, were mistaken * in relating it as such.
III. Once more, it is insisted on as a strong prefumption, that circumcision was earlier known in Egypt, that it was not injoined by God to Abraham till he had resided in that country. To this purpose, Mr. Voltaire, having observed that Abraham had been circumcised before the Jews spoken of in the book of Joihua, (though, as was remarked, he made his circumcision terminate in himself, and not pass
+ Antiq. 13. 9. I.
* If Suidas be appealed to in behalf of its general use among the Egyptians, because he, under the word twros in his Lexicon, hath thefe words, οι δε Αιγυπτιοι ψωλοι λεύονται ειναι, τετ' εστι περιτέζjinueron. It is easy to answer, he may describe their state in his own age, through their obedience to Mahomet. As heathens, it had ceased to be universal among them long before his time, according to Mr. Voltaire himself, who rightly observes, Phil. Di&tion, page 131. 'The * Latin Authors gave the Jews the epithets of Curti, Apellae, &c. and *not the Egyptians.' So Horace, Catullus, Martial, Juvenal, thereby denoting, they alone in their days were circumcised in a national capacity.
to his pofterity till Joshua's time) proceeds and says, tó Abraham, having travelled into Egypt, which
had, for a long time, been a flourishing monarchy,
governed by a powerful king, circumcision may ' not improbably be supposed to have obtained in a
kingdom of such antiquity, before the Jewish nation
was founded.' And the author of the Characterifticks had led the way to him here, for he exprefseth himself thus, I' Abraham had been a guest and inha
bitant of Egypt, (where historians mention this to • have been a national rite) long ere he had received
any divine notice or revelation concerning this af« fair.' But, besides that there is reason to look upon
all as arrant fiction, which we are told about Egypt's being the seat of a powerful monarch for many ages
before Abraham, and that there is some appearance, circumcision, when it obtained there, was only a facerdotal rite, instead of a national one, upon which supposition, the use of it would be less catching to strangers that were not of priestly rank, it cannot at all be justly concluded, from God's not instituting circumcision till after Abraham had been in Egypt, that he had seen it there, and on seeing it, contracted, as is pretended, a fondness for it; for why then should its injunction have been delayed for twenty years after his return from sojourning there, and not have been commanded while he stayed in the country, or foon after he came back? The natural account of its appointment at that season plainly is, not that he was then disposed to practise it † Phil. Dict. ubi fupra, page 129, 130.
Shaftesbury's Characteristics vol. 3. page 52, 53.
in imitation of the Egyptians, (for condescension in God to such a weakness would have operated the injunction of it sooner, as the biass and propensity to it must have been stronger, the shorter the interval from his communication and intercourse with the Egyptians) but that then God revealed his intention of bestowing on his pofterity, by a fon whom Sarah should bear to him, the land of Canaan. Upon this account, he at that time, and not before, appointed circumcision to be a token of his covenant with him, Gen. xvii. 5–14. There is then no cause to think circumcision was ordered to Abraham from a regard to some prepossession he had imbibed in its favour during his abode in Egypt.---This hypothesis of our author, however, is also liable to other difficulties besides such as arise from considering the distance of time between Abraham's residence there, and God's institution of the rite to him and his family. For Mr. Voltaire roundly afferts, “That the Egyptians at first circumcised both male and female
children, though he makes them, in process of "time, to have discontinued this operation on * the “females, and at length to have limited it to priests,
astrologers, and prophets.' I may therefore ask him if God gave the command to Abraham because he was inclined to tread in the steps of the Egyptians, why did he not order the ceremony to be performed upon his female, as well as upon his male issue, and upon his domeftics of the one sex, as well as the
* Philos. Diat. page 131. Yet Strabo, who wrote in the age of Au. guftus, speaks of it as the manner of the Egyptians in his time, as was observed above. And Ambrose, Bp of Milan, whose words are produced in a following note, speaks of it as their practice almost 400 years aster.
other? As God did not injoin it so extensively in regard of its subjects to Abraham, as, according to our author, it was practised in Egypt, here certainly is a difficulty which prefses his scheme, though it may not embarrass that of others, who, while they attribute the original of circumcision to the Egyptians, do not suppose any but males were subjected to it, because Herodotus, Agatharcides, and others, 0mit all particular mention that others underwent it, and use only a general expression *. To this also I may add, how will he explain, upon his principles, the variation in the time of performing the rite, that whereas the Egyptians circumcised their children in the thirteenth or fourteenth
Abraham was directed to circumcise his, Gen. xvii. (as the Jews in like manner were commanded afterwards, Levit. xii. 3.) on the eighth day from their birth, under the pain of their being cut off from the land of the living? For if this difference, as to the time of their practising the rite from that fixed by God's ordinance to Abraham, which some thave affirmed, be admitted by him, it must still more straiten him, who makes God to have prescribed circumcifion to Abraham and his feed, in indulgence to their propensity to imitate Egyptian manners. Neverthe
• Thus Herodotus, page 117. AIJUATION EPITaurortay.-TQ τε αιδοια περιταμνονται, &c.
+ Thus Ambrose, who flourished about A. D. 382. is positive that the fourteenth year of childrens age was the time of the operation. * De Abrahamo, lib. 2. sect 11. Aegyptii anno decimo quarto cir• cumcidunt mares, et foeminae apud eos eodem anno circumcidi ferun
tur, quod ab eo viz anno pallio virilis flagrare incipiat, et feminarum menstrua sumant exordia.
less, though more antient writers may seem to express themselves in such a manner as to lead us to think that the Egyptians, as well as Jews, did perform it soon after the birth, he, if I do not misapprehend him, adopts that opposite notion, that they did it at the distance of thirteen or fourteen years from it. For he says, “ The Jews imitated the cir'cumcision of the Egyptians and Arabs;' as if these two nations had observed the same time for it, when yet the Arabs, as we will learn from Josephus presently, did not perform it till about that more mature season of life. There is then no foundation in Scripture for saying, that circumcision prevailed among the
I I intend Strabo, who, speaking of the Egyptians, says, lib. 17. p. 824. (Almel. edit. 1180.) Kay 7870 di twr Snowueron Manisa παρ' αυτοις, τα παντα τρέφειν τα Γεννωμενα παιδια, και το περιTEMVH, xay ta Onnea exteurer, &c Diodor. Sicul edit. Weffeling. lib. 1. p. 33. (Rhodom 24.) after mentioning that the nation of the Colchians in Popius, and the nation of the Jews between Arabia and Syria had gone out of Egypt to seek habitations, adds, 110 x4 nupa torç Yeregi 787015, &c. as in page 283. Also, lib. 3. page 198. (Rhod. 115.) he says, 'All the Troglodites are circumcised in the 'fame manner, 11 xpa Taniws, as the Egyptians, except those of them
who called Konibon, for they alone of all who dwell within those • straits, have all the part, which in others is circumcised, cut off with
razors in childhood, ex vn718. To the same purpose, Photius hath preserved a passage of Agatharcides, in his Bibl. p. 1358. for he gives the same account of the Troglodites in general, as was seen before, and then says the Konubou, as the Greeks called them, were treated in that manner when they were children, TIWY CYTWY.
+ Dr. Delany argues from Genesis, xvi. 3. where it is said, 'Abraham circumcised all in his house that were bought with his money,' that circumcision did not prevail in Egypt then, because if it had, some of them would have been circumcised before, even such as he had acquired in Egypt, Gen. xii, 16. also from Exod. ii. 6. that circum