« IndietroContinua »
that country, though they do now in plenty. and are so much valued as to be distinctly mentioned, when other fruits are not taken notice of.
It may even, possibly, be doubted whether. they then commonly grew in Egypt, notwithstanding that, according to our translation, thie Israelites, in the Wilderness, regretted the want of them there: We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick, Numb. xi. 5. I have elsewhere shown that the justness of our version may be questioned, as to some other things mentioned here; and perhaps the second of the words used to describe the vegetables they longed after has been mis-translated.
It is true, they are now in great numbers, and in great variety, in Egypt : but some of them, we are positively assured, have been introduced into that country, from other places, and some of them not very many ages back. Perhaps none of the more delicious of the melon-kind were aboriginal, or introduced so early as the time of Moses. The Septuagint, which is known to be an Egyptian translation, supposed fruit of the melon-kind was meant by the Hebrew word,' which appears no where else in the Old Testament: but it is to be remembered, that great improvements might have heen, and doubtless actually were made, in the
Sosx ubtucheem, for they translate it lemones.
introducing foreign plants into Egypt, between the time of Moses and that of Ptolemy Philadelphus. All, perhaps, that can be certainly said about it is, that if these watermelons were common in Egypt, in the time the children of Israel sojourned there, it can be no wonder that they longed for them in those sultry deserts ; and that as improvements went very slowly on in those very early times, they might not have been introduced into the land of Canaan, when the spies took a survey of it. Had they found it there, they would 10 doubt, have brought a specimen of this fruit to Moses and Israel in the Wilderness. Nor would it have been unmentioned, in those passages that speak of the fertility of the country promised to the patriarchs.
It may be amusing to subjoin Maillet's account of this kind of fruit, in its present state in Egypt.* “ Among the different kinds of vegetables, which are of importance to supply the want of life, or to render it more agreeable, (he tells us ) is the melons, which, without dispute, is there one of the most salutary and common among them. All the species that they have in Europe, and in the sea-ports of the Mediterranean, are to be found in Egypt. Besides them, there is one, whose substance is green and very delicious. It grows round like a bowl, and is commonly of an admirable taste. There are also water-melons, extremely good. But above all the rest, at Cairo and its weighbourhood, they boast of a species of melons, pointed at each end and swelling out in the middle, which the people of the country call abdelarins. This is an Arabian word, which signifies the slave of sweetness. In fact, these melons are not to be eaten without sugar, as being insipid without it. Macrisi says, this last kind was formerly transported hither, by a man whose name they bear ... They give it to the sick, to whom they refuse all other kinds of fruit. The rind is very beautifully wrought; its figure very singular ; as well as the manner of ripening it, which is by applying a red-hot iron to one of its extremities. The people of the country eat it green as well as ripe, and in the same manner as we eat apples. These melons, of a foreign extraction, continue two whole months, and grow no where else in Egypt. They say the same species is found in Cyprus.
k Lett. 9. p. 11, 12.
1 66 The Arabians,” according to Hasselquist, Voyages p. 255. “ call the water-melon, BATECH, a word evidently derived from the Hebrew noa batach, whence the plural Sinox abtachaem. It is cultivated, he observes, in Egypt on the banks of the Nile, in the rich clayey earth which subsides during the inundation. This serves the Egyptians for meat, drink, and physic. It is eaten in abundance during the season, even by the richer sort of people; but the common people, on whom Providence has bestowed nothing but poverty and patience, scarcely eat any thing but these ; and account this the best time of the year, as they are obliged to put up with worse fare at other times. As this fruit also serves these poor creatures for drink, they have less occasion for water than if they were to live on more substantial food.” It is no wonder therefore that the Israelites, who in heart forsook their God, should have murmurod for lack of these in the burning, parched Wilderness. · Water-melons also form a part of the pro.
Curious Observations on the Dove's Dung', mentioned
2 Kings vi. 25.
The royal city of Samaria was so severely distressed, when a certain king of Syria besieged it, that we are told an ass's head then sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's-dung for five pieces :" this last article has been thought to be so unfit for food, that it has been very commonly imagined, I think, that a species of pulse was meant by that term ;" nevertheless, I cannot but think it much the most probable, that proper doves-dung was meant by the prophetic historian, since, though it can hardly be imagined it was bought directly for food, it might be bought for the purpose of more speedily raising a supply of certain esculent vegetables, and in greater quantities, which must have been a matter of great consequence to the Israelites, shut up so straitly in Samaria. visions, essentially necessary to the comfort and health of the military in their encampments in the hot Eastern coun, tries : Mr. Jackson, in his Journey overland from India, soon after having fallen in with a Turkish encampment on the river Tigris, not far from Baghdad, met several kiraffes laden with refreshments for the Turkish army; the cargo of one of them consisting entirely of water-melons. p. 85. Édit.
m 2 Kings vi. 25. • Bochart has taken a great deal of pains to support this. Botion, though by no means with equal success,
Had the kali of the Scriptures been meant, how came it to pass that the common word was not made use of? Josephus and the Septuagint suppose that proper doves-dung was meant, and the following considerations may make their sentiment appear far from improbable.
All allow that melons are a most refreshing food, in those hot countries. And Chardin says, “melons are served up at the tables of the luxurious almost all the year; but the proper season lasts four months, at which time they are eaten by the common people. They hardly eat any thing but melons and cucumbers at that time.” He adds, "that during these four melon months, they are brought in such quantities to Ispahan, that he believed more were eaten in that city in one day, than in all France in a month.o
On the other hand, he te'ls us, in another volume, that they have a multitude of dovehouses in Persia, which they keep up more for their dung than any thing else. This being the substance with which they manure their melon-beds, and which makes them so good and so large.
Now if melons were half so much in request in those days in Judea, as they are now in Persia, it might be natural enough to express the great scarcity of provisions there, by ob
• Voyages, tome ii, p. 19. P Tome iii, p. 91.
9 Many generations after the time of Moses and the