A Class-Book of Biblical History and Geography with numerous maps

- By Henry S. Osborn
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1. The first book of the Bible, which is Genesis, begins with a history of the Creation. The words "In the beginning," with which it opens, give us no chronological data by which we are able to form any estimate of the time. Seven divisions, called "days," have special appointments assigned to each in that which is usually called "the work of creation," including the appointment of a day of rest. Before the beginning of the days there existed a state of chaos, the earth being "without form and void" and darkness being upon the face of the waters.
The first act was the calling into being Light The appointment of Day and Night closed the work of the first day. The separation of the waters beneath "the firmament," or expanse, from those above "the firmament" constituted the work of the second day. The formation of dry land, called earth, and the appearance of vegetable growth, called grass, herbs, and trees, occurred on the third day.
On the fourth day lights appeared in "the firmament," or expanse, and on the fifth day the first animal life moved in the waters and birds in the air, the latter called "winged fowl." On the sixth day the earth brought forth living creatures, "cattle, creeping things, and beasts;" and finally man was created, made after God's image, with dominion over all that had been here created. The seventh day was set apart as a day of rest, a day of which it is said, "God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it." Gen. 2:3.
2. After the creation of man he was placed in a garden which the Lord God planted "eastward in Eden." The locality of Eden is unsettled, but the opinion of many scholars is that it is not far off from the head of the Persian Gulf. The garden is described as "eastward in Eden," and it is supposed to have been in the eastern part of a district called Eden. Prof. Sayce derives Eden from an ancient word meaning "the desert." If this be correct, the garden of Eden was more remarkable for its contrast with the great Syrian desert in its immediate vicinity. The rivers mentioned by name are Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates. The Euphrates at the present day joins the ancient Hiddekel, which is now called the Tigris, at a point one hundred miles northwest from the Persian Gulf, and the stream formed by the union of the two rivers is called the Shat el-Arab. The Pison and Gihon have not been satisfactorily identified.
It should be remembered that the geographical condition of this region is very unlike that which existed at the time we are considering. Dr. Delitzsch calculates that a delta of between forty and fifty miles in length has been formed since the sixth century B. C. Prof. Sayce says that in the time of Alexander, B. C. 323, the Tigris and Euphrates flowed, by different mouths, into the sea (gulf), as did also the Eulæus, or modern Karun, in the Assyrian epoch.1
The increment of land about the delta has been found to be a mile in thirty years, which is about double the increase of any other delta, owing to the nature of the soil over which the rivers pass.2 Under these changes it is probable that any but very large streams might disappear.
3. The Euphrates passes along a course of more than 1,780 miles from the head-waters of the Mourad Chai3 and for about 700 miles it passes through a nearly level country on the east of the great Syrian desert. It varies in depth from eight to twenty feet to its junction with the Tigris; after its union with the Tigris its depth increases. It is navigable for about 700 miles or more from the Persian Gulf. The Tigris is shorter, being about 1,150 miles in length, and navigable for rafts for 300 miles. Some of the extreme head-sources of this river approach those of the Euphrates within the distance of two or three miles. The name Hiddekel is the same word as Hidiglat, which is its name in the Assyrian inscriptions, as Purat is the ancient Assyrian for Perath in Hebrew.4
The land of Havilah, which was encompassed entirely by the river Pison, is unknown, but the "Ethiopia" encompassed by the river Gihon is in the Hebrew called Cush, and recent discoveries have proved that in very early times Cushite people inhabited a part of the region near the head of the Persian Gulf. There is little doubt that the land so called was a part of the plain of Babylonia where the cities of Nimrod were planted, Gen. 10:10, Nimrod being a son of Cush.
These discoveries show that, in after ages, the Cushites left Babylonia and emigrated southward along the Persian Gulf into Arabia, of which they occupied a very large part, and from its southern part crossed over to Africa to the country which in after times was called by the Greek geographers Ethiopia. Dr. F. Delitzsch supposes that Havilah was the district lying west of the Euphrates and reaching to the Persian Gulf, and that the Cush of the text was the land adjoining on the east, having the present Shat el-Nil for its border line. The long stream west of the Euphrates, which was known to the Greeks as Pallacopas, Dr. Delitzsch considers as the Pison, and the Shat el-Nil as the Gihon (see the map). The Garden of Eden he places at that part where the Euphrates and Tigris approach each other very nearly, being at that place only twenty-five miles apart.5
4. In the Garden of Eden the Lord God put the first pair. Of the man it is said that he was placed in the garden "to dress it and to keep it;" and of the woman, that she should be "a help meet for him." How long this state of things continued is not related, but, through the serpent, temptation entered into the mind of Eve, and she gave of the forbidden fruit unto her husband and they did eat, "and their eyes were opened," apparently to the sense of guilt in violating the command which forbade them to "eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." The curse then followed, and they were driven out from the garden, to which they were never to return.
5. After the expulsion Cain and Abel were born, and the first murder took place in the killing of Abel by Cain, the latter being punished by being driven out "from the presence of the Lord." Cain went eastward and dwelt in the land of Nod, and his first-born son, Enoch, built the first city, which was named after him, Enoch. Neither the land of Nod nor the city Enoch has been certainly located.
6. We now have an account of the descendants of Adam, with the statement of their several ages. Upon this statement of ages a chronology has been based, usually called the Biblical Chronology. It is derived from that account which is recorded in the Hebrew, the language in which the history was originally written. But there is another account which was given in the earliest extant translation of the Hebrew history, and this is called the Septuagint Greek, made about 286 B. C.; and the chronology of this old translation differs materially from the Hebrew original. There is yet another authority, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the manuscript of which is kept at Shechem, in Palestine, and is the oldest known manuscript of the Bible in the world, having been written before the Captivity and in the old Hebrew letters.6
It will be seen by the above table that the Hebrew text affords data which give us 1,656 years from the creation of Adam to the Flood, for we must add 100 to Noah's age of 500, since the Flood began when Noah was 600 years old (Gen. 7:6). The Samaritan text takes away 100 years from the life of Jared, 120 from that of Methuselah, and 129 from that of Lamech, as compared with the Hebrew text, making the Flood occur 1,307 after Adam's creation, while the Septuagint adds 100 to the lives of each of the first five and to that of Enoch, and six to that of Lamech, making the Flood begin 2,262 years after the creation of Adam, according to one reading of the Septuagint, or 2,242 according to another.
So that the aggregates of time from the Creation to the Flood, as deduced from the Hebrew, the Samaritan, and the Septuagint, severally are 1,656, 1,307, and 2,262. The Samaritan is the oldest manuscript, but it cannot be made certain that the dates as given in that manuscript have suffered no alteration; and hence the Hebrew account has been followed in our entire English version, the chronology of which was arranged by Archbishop Ussher (usually written Usher), A. D. 1580,8 but it "is of no inspired authority and of great uncertainty."
7. The subject of Biblical Chronology, as derived from data recorded in the Scripture, is necessarily unsettled; and this is so partly because9 the sacred writers speak of descendants of a given progenitor as his sons, in accordance with Eastern custom, and partly perhaps from the use of letters, for figures, in the early manuscripts,10 which have suffered changes in subsequent transcriptions. But although these variations occur, discoveries connected with the remains of other nations than the Jewish, and connected with other histories than the Jewish, are beginning to throw light upon the Scripture history and chronology.
These collateral histories allude to persons and events of Jewish history and afford such data that in many instances we can determine from them the actual year of Scripture events. This aid is particularly important as derived from both Assyrian and Egyptian discoveries, and this we shall have reason hereafter to show.

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Word Lists:

Text : a book or other written or printed work, regarded in terms of its content rather than its physical form

Chronology : the arrangement of events or dates in the order of their occurrence

Firmament : the heavens or the sky, especially when regarded as a tangible thing

Transcription : a written or printed representation of something.

Creation : the action or process of bringing something into existence


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Rating: B

Words: 1651

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