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by the water of that river, it is not at all to be wondered at, that he compares knowledge to the splendor of those Egyptian illuminations.
If the Nile was meant by him, the son of Sirach could not intend to compare knowledge to the clearness of its stream, in that time of the year, for the time of vintage fell out within the time of the inundation of the Nile, when its waters are mixed with large quantities of mud, but must be understood of the illuminations upon it, which were wont to be so brilliant at that season.
I am very sensible the Gihon of the 2d of Genesis cannot well be understood of the Nile, since it is described as a river of Paradise ; but is it necessary to suppose the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus referred to the Gihon of Paradise? He was an Egyptian Jew, and he might design to be understood of the Egyptian Geon, by which name, or one very much like it, the Nile has been sometimes denoted. So Menochius affirms, that in his time the Abys. sinians called the Nile, Guyon;' and in the year 1322, Symon Simeonis, a devout Irish visitor of Egypt and the Holy Land, called it by a name not far distant in sound from Gihon ;' and takes notice that Josephus supposed the Gihon of Paradise was the Nile.
On consulting the great Jewish historian, I found that he did suppose that the Gihon of Paradise was the river called the Nile by the y Poli Syn. in Gen. ij. 13.
Wyou, p. 31
Greeks. Since this was the notion of Josephus, can it be unlikely that the son of Sirach meant the Nile by the name Inw, or Geon? This is precisely the way of writing the name Gihon by Josephus; and if it be admitted that about his age the Nile was supposed to have been the Gihon of ancient times, the understanding the light of Geon of the illuminations upon the Nile, and the light reflected from its waters, can be no unnatural interpretation.
These illuminations are made at the time that the Khalis is opened, which is along a canal that runs through Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, and which terminates in a large lake, several miles from Cairo towards the East. Upon the opening of this canal, which is at the time that the water of the Nile is risen to such a height as to secure future plenty, great rejoicings are made, and that by night as well as by day. - The same day, in the evening,” says Thevenot, “ we took a cayque, and went to Old Caire, and as soon as we came near it, we began to see, on all hands, ashore and upon the water, a vast number of large figures made of lamps placed in such and such order, as of crosses, mosques, stars, crosses of Malta, trees, and an infinite number of the like, from one end of Old Caire to the other. There were two statues of fire, representing a man and a woman, which, at the farther distance they were seen, the more lovely they appeared : 'these figures were two square machines of • Antiq. Jud. lib. I, cap. 1, $ 3.
wood, two pikes length high, each in a boat.
These machines are filled with lamps from top to bottom, which are lighted as soon as it is night. In each of these figures there are above 2000 lamps, which are so placed, that on all sides you see a man and a woman of fire. Besides that, all the acabas, or barks, of the pasha, and beys, are also full of lamps, and their music of trumpets, flutes, and drums, which keep almost a continual noise, mingled with that of squibs, crackers, fire-lances, great and small shot ; so that the vast number of lamps, with the cracking of the gunpowder, and noise of music, make a kind of agreeable confusion, that, without doubt, cheers up the most dejected and melancholic. This lasts till midnight, and then all retire; the lamps burning all nfgbt, unless they be put out by the wind and squibs. This solemnity continues for three nights. The opening of the Khalis hath, in all times, been very famous, even among the ancient Egyptians, as being that which nourishes the country.
These illuminations, which Thevenot saw, were very magnificent; but Maillet supposes these modern Egyptian illuminations fall far short of those of antiquity. If so, no wonder an Egyptian Jew, of the time of the Ptolemies, should be so struck with the light of Geon, or the Nile, in the time of the vintage, or when the grapes became ripe, which, according to Dr. Shaw, is in those countries by August,“ in which month the Khalis is generally opened.' h
· Not, it may be, rigidly speaking, the opening that particular canal, but the time the Nile is so much swelled as to insure plenty in the following spring.
d Part 1, p. 234.
Maillet tells us, that illuminations are very common in Egypt.“ That there is no rejoicing, no festival of any consideration at all, unaccompanied with illuminations. That for this purpose they make use of earthen lamps, which they put into very deep vessels of glass, in such a manner as that the glass is two-thirds, or at least one-half of its height higher than the lamp, in order to preserve the light, and prevent its extinction by the wind. That he believed the Egyptians had carried this art to the highest perfection, there being nothing which they could not represent with lamps; palaces, towers, even battles. That nothing assuredly produced a more charming effect. That the illuminations of all the mosques of Cairo, every night during the Ramadan month, and those preceding the principal Mohammedan festivals, , viewed from the fiat roofs of the houses of that city, made one of the most beautiful spectacles in the world, being in no respect inferior to the illuminations of Constantinople, which some travellers have so much extolled, and which are seen at such great distances."
But these were land-illuminations; those on the water must be much more brilliant, on account of the waters reflecting the splendor and greatly augmenting the light. · P. 116.
I Shaw, p. 383. 5 Lct. 2, p. 80.
Maillet indeed supposes, that in their waterprocessions, which he describes with great pompousness, and which continued through the months of June, July, August, and September, these illuminations were made uee of. "All those boats being decorated with lamps, united with the sound of an infinite number of musical instruments, on all sides afforded a magnificent spectacle. The name of the owner of each boat was in the night season written there with letters of fire (by means of these lamps ;) as they were known in the day-time by the shape and the colours of each man's banner.” He adds, that, according to the Arabian writers; "the (floating) palaces about the king's were all illuminated, for four or five leagues round, more than twenty thousand boats being assembled, particularly in the time that the Nile was upon the increase."
But as Thevenot speaks only of the three nights after the opening of the Khalis, there is reason to believe, that in the time in which the son of Sirach lived, that was then the principal time for water-illuminations, and that therefore that ancient Jewish writer speaks of the light of Geon at that time only. The processions which are represented on the swathing of some of the mummies, which Maillet mentions, p. 75, may as well be understood of those of the time when the Nile had attained its desired height, as of the superstitious processions of other months.
P. 80, 81.