The Years Of Plenty And The Years Of Famine In Egypt -- By: G. Frederick Wright
BSac 59:233 (Jan 1902) p. 169
The Years Of Plenty And The Years Of Famine In Egypt
The account of the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine during which Joseph administered the affairs in Egypt receives much light, and becomes more easily credible, from a study of the physical conditions which determine the growth of crops in Egypt. The more one studies the subject, the more he is surprised at the delicacy of the balance of physical forces which annually determines the prosperity of the Egyptian agriculturist. A friend with whom we traveled is soon to publish a work upon the pyramids, to show that they represent a series of experiments to obtain a trustworthy sun-dial from whose shadow the exact date of the winter and summer solstices could be obtained, and that this object was at last attained in the great pyramid of Cheops.
The difficulty and the importance of determining this exact point of time each year are not generally appreciated. Few realize how much we owe to the astronomical observations of the ancients in determining the exact length of the year. Since this is approximately 365¼ days, the point shifts so imperceptibly that long observations must have been required to ascertain the exact period. But it was especially necessary to determine this in Egypt, in order that the crops might be sown at a proper time. For, if the rotation of crops each year can be properly adjusted, two crops, and sometimes three, can be secured; while, if a mistake of even a few days is made in the time of sow-
BSac 59:233 (Jan 1902) p. 170
ing the first crop, the second one would be imperiled, and the third one rendered impossible. Our friend suggested that the successive years of plenty and famine were occasioned by the skill with which the right time for sowing the first crop was determined in the years of plenty, and the failure to observe the most favorable seedtime in the years of famine.
From what has been said, it can be easily seen that, when population has reached the great density which it evidently had in Egypt, where the margin between plenty and want was so narrow, a slight mistake in astronomical observations might have produced a series of disastrous years. Indeed, our friend further suggested, that he was not sure but that the years of famine were produced by Joseph on purpose to secure for Pharaoh the nationalization of the land whereby, as now under the exact justice of English rule, the distribution of water could be regulated more readily by the central authorities. And it is evident that, where dependence is had upon irrigation, success can be obtained only by the strongest form of centralized government.
But, apart from such considerations, there are certain physical elements in t...
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