The slightest inspection of the map of this portion of the globe will teach us that Palestine, Phoenicia, and Egypt were admirably situated for commerce both by sea and land. It is, indeed, true that the Phoenicians, by the conquests of Joshua, were expelled from the greatest part of their territory, and obliged to confine themselves to a narrow slip of ground between Mount Lebanon and the Mediterranean; but even this confined territory presented opportunities and advantages for commerce of no mean importance: they had a safe coast,—at least one good harbour; and the vicinity of Lebanon, and other mountains, enabled them to obtain, with little difficulty and expence, a large supply of excellent materials for shipbuilding. There are, moreover, circumstances which warrant the supposition, that, like Holland in modern times, they were rather the carriers of other nations, than extensively engaged in the commerce of their own productions or manufactures. On the north and east lay Syria, an extensive country, covered with a deep rich soil, producing an abundant variety of valuable articles. With this country, and much beyond it, to the east, the means and opportunities of communication and commerce were easy, by the employment of the camel; while, on the other hand, the caravans that carried on the commerce of Asia and Africa necessarily passed through Phoenicia, or the adjacent parts of Palestine.
Egypt, in some respects, was still more advantageously situated for commerce than Phoenicia: the trade of the west of Asia, and of the shores of the Mediterranean lay open to it by means of that sea, and by the Nile and the Red Sea a commercial intercourse with Arabia, Persia, and India seemed almost to be forced upon their notice and adoption. It is certain, however, that in the earliest periods of their history, the Egyptians were decidedly averse to the sea, and to maritime affairs, both warlike and commercial. It would be vain and unprofitable to explain the fabulous cause assigned for this aversion: we may, however, briefly and, incidentally remark that as Osiris particularly instructed his subjects in cultivating the ground; and as Typhon coincides exactly in orthography and meaning with a word still used in the East, to signify a sudden and violent storm, it is probable that by Typhon murdering his brother Osiris, the Egyptians meant the damage done to their cultivated lands by storms of wind causing inundations.
As the situation of Palestine for commerce was equally favourable with that of Phoenicia, it is unnecessary to dilate upon it. That the Jews did not engage more extensively in trade either by sea or land must be attributed to the peculiar nature of their government, laws, and religion.
Having thus briefly pointed out the advantages enjoyed by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, and Jews for commercial intercourse, we shall now proceed to notice the few particulars with which history supplies us regarding the navigation and commerce of each, during the earliest periods.