For the land whither thou goest in to possess it
The land of Canaan they were about to take possession of:
[is] not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out;
either the whole land of Egypt, or that part of it, Rameses, in which Israel dwelt, and which was the best of it, as Jarchi observes, and yet Canaan exceeded that; though the design of this passage is not so much to set forth the superior excellency and fertility of the land of Canaan to that of Egypt, which was certainly a very fruitful country; see ( Genesis 13:10 ) but to observe some things in which they differed, whereby they both became fruitful, and in which Canaan had the advantage:
where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a
garden of herbs;
as a gardener when he has sowed his seed, or planted his plants, waters them that they may grow, by carrying his water pot from bed to bed, which requires much labour and toil. In Egypt rain seldom fell, especially in some places it was very rare, though that there was none at all is a vulgar mistake; (See Gill on Zechariah 14:18) F5. To supply the want of it the river Nile overflowed once a year, which not only moistened the earth, but left mud or slime upon it, which made it fruitful; but this was not sufficient, for what through the river not overflowing enough sometimes, and so as to reach some places, and through the heat of the sun hardening the earth again, it was found necessary to cut canals from it, and by water from thence to water it, as a gardener waters his seed and plants; and it is to this watering that respect is here had, not to the overflowing of the Nile, for that was before the seed was sown; but to the watering of it out of the canals, which was done after it was sown; the former was without any trouble of theirs, the latter with much labour; the manner in which it is done is expressed by the phrase "with thy foot", which the Targum explains "by thyself", by their own labour and industry. Jarchi is more particular; "the land of Egypt had need to "have water brought from the Nile with thy foot; he seems to have understood the phrase to signify carrying water on foot from the Nile to the place where it was wanted; but the custom still in use in Egypt, when they water their fields, plantations, or gardens, will give us a clear understanding of this phrase; as a late traveller informs us F6, the water is drawn out of the river (Nile) by instruments, and lodged in capacious cisterns; when plants require to be refreshed, they strike out the plugs that are fixed in the bottoms of the cisterns, and then the water gushing out, is conducted from one rill to another by the gardener, who is always ready as occasion requires to stop and divert the torrent by turning the earth against it "with his foot", and opening at the same time with his mattock a new trench to receive it: and to the same purpose another learned person F7 has observed, that at other times (than the flowing of the Nile) they are obliged to have recourse to art, and to raise the water out of the river and some deep pits by the help of machines, which water is afterwards directed in its course by channels cut in the ground, which convey the water to those places where it is wanted; and when one part of the ground is sufficiently watered, they then stop that channel, by thrusting some earth into the entrance of it "with their foot", and then also "with their foot" open a passage into the next channel, and so on: and Philo the Jew F8 speaks of a machine with which they used to water fields, and was worked with the feet by going up the several steps within, which gave motion to it.
F5 See also Vansleb's Relation of a Voyage to Egypt, p. 213. who speaks of large rains in Egypt.
F6 Shaw's Travels, p. 408.
F7 Clayton's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 478.
F8 De Confusione Ling p. 325.