I will continue to use my imagination and make some logical deductions and guesses, based on information from the Bible and historical records, to paint the story of Moses and bring it to life. I do not say that all the events I mention happened as I paint them, but they might have happened this way, and the characters might have had similar thoughts and said similar words.
The purpose is to help readers relate to what happened to Moses, to realize that, in spite of his great gifts, the privileges and opulence of his life at the beginning, and the miracles at the end, he was merely human and shared many things in common with us. He had lusts and shame, doubts and fears, conceit and confusion, yet God shaped him into a mighty man of faith.
It is also important to know why the king of Egypt hardened his heart against God. It wasn't just a matter of him deciding to be a total jerk. He thought he was justified in dismissing Moses and his warnings, using quite a lot of the same criteria that modern man uses in this scientific age, for the Egyptian elite were very sophisticated people in some ways, in spite of adhering at times to ignorant practices. The plagues of Egypt were brought about through natural causes that had been set in motion at God's decree. Because the plagues could be explained as events of Nature, the highly–educated priests considered this sufficient enough reason to ignore Moses' warnings, regardless that Moses had the curious ability to know in advance what was going to happen and when.
This same tendency to seek for natural explanations of events directed by God is reflected in modern Man's attempts to explain away miracles, when they occur. Instant healings are dismissed as the result of a psychological response to the suggestion of a charismatic personality, and it is alleged that the illness was psychosomatic in the first place. Even when people are raised from the dead, many will say that the person really wasn't dead, but rather than they were in a coma, if a reawakening happened at all.
The road to unbelief is paved with many rationalizations, and it is helpful to really get into the stories in the Bible to think about what the possible rationalizations were that people used to harden their hearts against God, so that we can avoid making the mistakes that led to the destruction of those souls. If the reader can come up with a better scenario, then good for them. I will feel happy that I provoked others to think more deeply about the Bible and take it more seriously.
The Hebrews lived in Egypt and for the first thirty years, gratitude towards Joseph remained high. Many of the people remembered the years when the crops failed and that the Grand Vizier Joseph saved their lives. A new generation arose, though, who had no memory of how their parents and grandparents had been saved. They saw the foreigners in Goshen prospering to a point that ignited malicious envy in their hearts.
It started with the Egyptians grumbling that the Hebrews had stolen their wealth and lashing out spitefully against them, but as long as the throne was occupied by kings of the dynasty that Joseph had served, the Hebrews were protected by Egyptian law and crimes against them were prosecuted. Then the dynasty was replaced either by another family that did not know Joseph and had no gratitude for the tax system he had set up that enriched the kings of Egypt, or simply because the descendents of the Pharaoh he had served did not retain their gratitude. Red–haired Joseph was now identified with red–haired Set, an agent of the evil one who had been sent to plague them with his offspring. Set was the Egyptian name for Shem, whom the inner circle of the Mysteries hated.
The oppression of the Hebrews was gradual, but distressing expectations of them developed. The Jews' legends say that the Egyptians were afraid of the Israelites because they multiplied so quickly and were very strong. They had fought alongside the Egyptians with great success against their enemies, but instead of being grateful, the Egyptians fretted that in a war, the Hebrews might turn against them.
They came up with a scheme to reduce their numbers. Pharaoh commanded the building of treasure cities and the Hebrews were offered money for their work. They streamed to the sites and commenced work, except for the tribe of Levi; they were suspicious of the Egyptians' motives. The Levites probably kept things going at home, taking care of livestock, conducting business, and attending to religious instruction. The Hebrews who were away from home were kept from their wives, and this, it was supposed, would reduce the birthrate. Either the men found ways to return home to spend time with their wives, or their wives visited them at their work site. The birthrate was not slowed down.
At first, the Egyptians worked alongside the Hebrews and everything was friendly. Gradually, though, the Egyptians withdrew from the labour, and became the work bosses. Perhaps the Hebrews put it down to the tendency of human nature of those in charge to give the best jobs to their own kind. Eventually, the last of the Egyptians stopped working alongside the Hebrews and became their taskmasters. The Israelites were now forced to work without pay and not allowed to leave the camps.
Frequent earthquakes tumbled the cities that the Hebrews built, but the Egyptians were not very troubled about it. They just set the Hebrews to rebuilding. It kept them busy and confined to the areas that the Egyptians had designated to hold them captive.
Enticed into the camps with the prospect of being with their men to comfort them in their afflictions, Hebrew women found themselves being forced to work on building the monuments. Children likely accompanied their mothers. It was a scenario similar to what the Nazis perpetrated on the Jews when they hauled the able–bodied men and boys to work camps, forced them to send letters home saying all was well to lull friends and relatives into a false sense of security, and then transported the remainder later.
One would think the slaves would be too tired for anything but sleep when their labour ended for the day, but conception increased. Hard labour did not result in miscarriage as often as one would think. The Hebrew women were hardy and many of them were able to bring their children to birth. In spite of deaths from starvation, disease, accidents, overwork, and beatings, the Hebrew population was still exploding.
There was talk among the Hebrews of escaping from Egypt, but they were not certain how to go about it. Through his spies, the Sacred Scribe or High Priest, who possibly was also the Grand Vizier of the country (the vizier had numerous positions and duties, all of which contributed to his power and wealth), was well aware of their unrest. He studied the Hebrew writings and took note of Abraham's prophecy that God would bring the Hebrews out of Egypt. He noted when the prophecy had been given and calculated how many of the 400 years (which did not include the thirty good years)1 remained until the time that the Hebrews were to leave.2
It was just a little over eighty years away, but he knew that the Hebrews would need a leader to organize them, and the prophecy indicated that the leader would be a fourth generation immigrant. The original sons of Jacob had sired sons, who had sired sons. Did the prophecy mean that the sons of Jacob were the first generation, or their sons who were born prior to their entry into Egypt? The original twelve brothers already had greatgrandsons and greatgreatgrandsons and greatgreatgreatgrandsons living in the land.
The leader might already be born, but if there was another eighty some odd years to go, that was unlikely, for he would be a very old man when the Israelites attempted to leave, probably too old for such a heavy task. In Egypt, the average life among the peasantry was thirty to thirty–five years. The Israelites, though, were a stronger people and very long–lived in comparison.
If the Deliverer possibly would not be born for another forty years, then his father, if a grandson of one of the twelve brothers, would have to be very ancient before he sired the child. One never knew with these Hebrews; apparently Joseph's greatgrandfather was still fathering children after he turned 100–years–old. The father of the deliverer was probably already an old man, and it was likely that the deliverer would be born any day now. Just in case it turned out that the deliverer was well into old age by the time he assumed leadership of the Hebrews, to be on the safe side, the Scribe figured that they should immediately take preventive measures.
The Sacred Scribe pondered how the exodus of the Hebrews could be prevented. It occurred to him that they had enough Hebrew manpower for the present and to last for a few years to come. They would have to liquidate the next generation of males, until only the women remained to be used for labour and pleasure.
The Scribe must have reasoned that if they were to kill all the males that were born for the next sixty–five years, that would take care of any of them who would be fit as leaders or warriors eighty years hence. Perhaps they would extend the edict to the full eighty or so years, just to be extra careful.
Pharaoh appointed two Egyptian midwives,3 one for each of the treasure cities where the Israelites were incarcerated. They were to oversee all the Hebrew births, and to ensure that all the males were immediately killed. The midwives, however, were impressed with the Hebrews and learned from them about their God, who was far superior to the cruel, sensual gods of Egypt. Their reverence for Him and the certain knowledge that He would avenge His people against those who mistreated them put them in league with the Hebrews, so that they did not murder their children. They probably smuggled some of the babies out of the camps.
Pharaoh received reports that newborn male babies were seen among the Hebrews. He called the midwives whom he had appointed to the Hebrews and asked why they were not killing the male babies. They said that the Hebrew women were strong and had short labours, so the babies were born before they could get there. Because they had honoured Him, God protected them from being killed, and He also gave them conception so that they would have children to look after them in their old age, and to carry on their genes right to the end of the world. Their progeny left Egypt eighty years later with the Israelites and became absorbed among their tribes.
Normally, Pharaoh would not have believed the midwives, but God's angels held back the demons within him and directed his reasoning so that he found the midwives' story plausible. He decided that since the Hebrew women had such quick labours, he would enlist all his people to keep an eye on them to retrieve the male babies and throw them into the Nile as a sacrificial offering to the gods, including male children born to Hebrews outside the camps.
A law was also issued that any family who concealed their male babies would be destroyed. There were many, at first, who tried to keep their children hidden, but that dropped down to only a few after the Hebrews witnessed the public executions of those who were caught. It was heart–rending enough to see innocent adults tortured and murdered, but to see little children abused compounded the Israelites' terror, and grief, and helpless rage.
The Hebrews were in great distress and they cried out to God, asking Him why He was permitting these atrocities. They were dying from being forced to do heavy labour and from beatings, their daughters (and even their sons) were raped with impunity, their goods were stolen and there was no recourse to recover them, and now their newborn sons were being murdered. Life in Egypt had been so good for them, so why were their benefits now all being ripped away? They had enriched the country with their intellect and their labour; why was there no longer any gratitude?
A man named Amram, of the tribe of Levi, was very distressed and he prayed for the salvation of his people. He wondered what would become of Israel, as it would have no more young men in a few decades. He was also worried because his wife was pregnant, and what if the child was a boy? Would they be able to find the courage to conceal their child, taking the risk of the whole family being killed? How could they possibly hide their child? Isolated places were watched, to see if male infants were sent to them for refuge.
During a time of prayer, God spoke to Amram and said that his wife was indeed carrying a male child, that the child in her womb would lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and that He would protect him. He promised Amram that this child would be famous until the end of the world. Amram took heart from God's words. He and his wife did not know how God would protect their child, but they decided to just take it one step at a time.
Jochebed's labour pains began long before she expected them to and she was afraid she was going to lose her baby, but she dared not ask anyone for help. If the child lived, she would be putting her helper at risk for not reporting the birth. Perhaps the contractions would slow, if she took things easy. She hurried into her house and told her daughter Miriam to look after her little brother Aaron while Mommy laid down for a rest.
Miriam stayed close to her mother as she lay on her pallet, holding Aaron in her arms, trying to keep him amused. Amram eventually arrived home and Miriam told him that Mother was not feeling well. He knelt at Jochebed's side and she told him that she thought she might be losing the baby, as it was coming too soon, though the pains were not bad. Amram told her in a fierce whisper, "No! God promised me that this child will be safe. You must not think that way." Jochebed nodded and reordered her thoughts.
When Jochebed's water broke, Amram told Miriam to get the things that they had prepared for the birth of their new baby. She hurried and was soon back at Mother's side. Jochebed's labour was short and without hardly any pain, so she was able to keep from crying out. The baby was so small and it was a male. Amram could hardly believe his eyes as he washed the child and rubbed him with salt. With a wide smile, he handed him to his wife and whispered with excitement, "See what the Lord has done!"
Jochebed's eyes widened when she saw that the baby was perfectly and fully formed, as if he had been brought to full term. As lustily as any healthy, full–term child, he latched onto her breast and greedily began to suck. He not only was fully formed and perfectly healthy, he was the most beautiful child she had ever seen.
Amram said to her, "Do you realize what this means? Because you had him early, we have at least two months before anyone will expect the child to be born. You might even be able to go another month and convince the Egyptians that the child is late. They may not even expect him until then, because you did not show very much. We must not let anyone outside this house know of his birth." Jochebed looked at her newborn, who was nothing short of a miracle, and felt sure that God would give her the courage and wit to do what she needed to in order to save his life.
The children were cautioned to not let anything slip about how Mother had given birth already. Even little three–year–old Aaron, being an exceptionally intelligent child, understood that he must not talk to anyone about the baby. The parents named the baby Levi, after his mother's father, who was also his father's grandfather, but mostly they referred to him as their little miracle, constantly reminding themselves that God's hand had been in his birth, and that it would be on his life, also. Jochebed's father had been very old when she was born, but she had heard of how strong and fierce and courageous and cunning he was in his youth. It was good to have named the baby after Papa, to inspire him to be shrewd and brave, and she would be shrewd and brave like Papa, too.
Jochebed wadded up cloth and bound it around her middle, adding to it week by week to make it look like her pregnancy was progressing. When asked by her neighbours how she was feeling, she sighed and said she did not feel well; this pregnancy was very hard on her. It gave her an excuse to spend a lot of time inside the house, so that she could keep the baby quiet by feeding him a lot.
He grew enormous in a very short time. Amram laughed softly and remarked to her, "You have been feeding him well, Jochebed. I have never seen a child so large at this age." Jochebed pointed out that they both were quite tall themselves, but it seemed to her that the child was destined to be a giant. Who would have thought it of someone who had been so tiny when he was born? She rolled her eyes and said it was a good thing he was born early, for it would have been a very difficult birth, if he had been born full term.
Miriam was a blessing beyond compare, so helpful to her mother. She took over many of Miriam's housekeeping duties to free her to look after the baby, and when Mother had to make appearances outside of the house, she was an excellent babysitter. She was also a courageous, clever little girl. She knew what would happen if the Egyptians found out about the baby. She kept a close watch on Aaron to make sure that he did not inadvertently give away their secret.
They managed to conceal their baby for a full two and a half months without anyone suspecting that he had already been born. Then when Jochebed was tending to her cooking fire, a neighbour made a remark to her that the baby should be coming any day, and hopefully it would be a girl. Alert to anything that could be a danger, Jochebed discerned that the neighbour was sincere, but she noted a slave passing through the village, a foreign girl, who glanced briefly at her belly. Jochebed arched to rub her back and said that she would be glad when the baby came. She had no doubt that the slave would report to the Egyptians that the baby was due at any time.
Jochebed conferred with Amram that night. They had to do something soon. They prayed and sensed God telling them to entrust the baby to Him, and He gave them a plan. They were obliged by law to put their child in the Nile, but they could put the child in a little boat. The law did not say that they had to put him into the water directly or that they had to do it in front of witnesses. When asked what had become of their child, Amram and Jochebed could honestly reply that they had put the child in the river because it was a boy. They made plans for Jochebed to make a water–tight basket for the child, and then they would see what God would do.
Egyptians came by the next day and inquired of Jochebed how she was getting along in her pregnancy. Jochebed, expecting this, stayed close to her door, sitting outside on a bench in the shade with her basket weaving while Miriam looked after the baby in an inner room. They had a bottle rigged up for him to drink his milk from after Jochebed expressed it from her breasts. Jochebed played her charade very well, easing her back, rubbing her belly, as if it felt like it was about to burst, saying that the child seemed to be taking its time to make its debut. The Egyptians nodded with a cunning look that told her that they were keeping a very close watch, and she had better not try to hide the child if it was a boy.
Jochebed took the basket inside the house when she was finished weaving it, and sealed it with pitch. It sat in readiness, waiting for the time when it would be needed. The family wanted to keep little Levi with them for as long as possible, but both parents were alert to when God would tell them that it was time to release the baby to Him. The Egyptians watched like a pack of panting hyenas, hoping to catch the family unaware, for they planned to raid the house and see if the child had already been born. They were starting to doubt that the woman's big belly was what it seemed to be. Before they launched their search, though, Amram turned to Jochebed and told her it was time to take the child to the river.
Jochebed held back her tears as Amram laid his hands on his son and prayed for his safekeeping and God's blessing on him. Miriam and Aaron sat by watching solemnly. Aaron did not understand that the baby was going away, but he knew that something important was happening. Miriam wondered when they would ever see him again. Mother and Father said that God would look after him, but it was painful to lose her little brother. She had looked after him so much that she felt like she was another mother to him, instead of just his sister, and the thought of him being killed had made him all the more precious to her.
Miriam carried the basket while mother carried the baby close to her bosom a while later, as they crept out of the house shortly before dawn. They slipped past the other houses down to the river and Miriam set the basket in the water. It was well–lined with cosy blankets. She lifted the lid and Mother held the baby a moment longer, murmuring against his sweet, little scalp with its fine, dark curls. She lowered the baby so that Miriam could give him one last kiss. He was fast asleep; Jochebed carefully put him in the ark so as to not wake him.
Miriam saw tears glistening on her mother's face in the moonlight as she turned away and waded back through the reeds to the shore. She dashed her own away and reluctantly followed. The ark bobbed gently on the water, closed in by the reeds so that it would not float off down the river. Mother stood a while looking at it, her soggy clothing drooping in a big wad beneath her waist. She reached under and started tugging at the cloth. It would not do for anyone to see the bundle sagging down. Miriam helped her remove the wadding and Jochebed rolled it up, holding it in front of her while she cautioned Miriam to keep a close watch, for she had been appointed to stay in hiding and see what happened to the baby. Mother looked around and pointed out a good spot for Miriam to hide, then kissed her and hurried home as the first scarlet rays of the sun reached like fingers across the sky.
Jochebed was spotted by one of the neighbours as she reentered the village. The woman was getting breakfast started and she noticed that Miriam no longer looked pregnant. "Jochebed, you've had the baby?" she asked. Jochebed nodded. The woman raised her brows and asked, "Boy or girl?" Jochebed did not have to pretend to look upset as she replied, "Boy. I have just come from putting him in the river." The woman enveloped her in a hug and said sympathetically, "What else could you do? My daughter had to give her twins up to the Nile a few months ago, both of them boys. We live in a terrible time." Jochebed nodded and went inside the house. The neighbour looked thoughtfully at the doorway. It surprised her that Amram and Jochebed had given the child up without protest; she had figured that they would try to hold onto him until the Egyptians took him away.
The word soon spread that Jochebed had given birth to her child and had tossed him in the river. The Egyptians searched the house just to make sure that there was no baby within. They left the place in a shambles, just for the fun of it. Jochebed was still straightening out the mess when Miriam came running in, breathlessly telling her to come quick. She hurried after her, asking no questions until they had left the village.
When they were away from listening ears, Miriam explained that Queen Thermuthis had come out that morning to bathe in their part of the river, and had caught sight of the basket. She ordered one of her maids to bring it to her, and the baby started to cry when they all looked inside the basket to see what was in it. The queen had lifted up the baby and marvelled at how beautiful and big he was, much larger than Egyptian babies. His skin was fair and he was circumcised, so they correctly surmised that he was a Hebrew baby. She apparently intended to keep him, to adopt him as her own, since she was not able to get pregnant. Then Thermuthis passed him to one of her ladies to nurse him for her, but the baby would not take her breast. They had passed him around among the other ladies who had milk, but he would not nurse from any of them and kept howling his head off.4
Miriam had slipped out of hiding and approached the group when she saw the women trying to nurse the baby, as if she was just a curious, little girl, interested in seeing what was going on, and the queen's guards allowed it, for they did not think she could do any harm, though she had obviously been keeping an eye on the basket. When none of the ladies could nurse her brother, she piped up and suggested to the queen that maybe the baby would nurse from a Hebrew woman, and asked if she wanted her to fetch one for her. The queen had looked at her thoughtfully, then smiled and told her to go.
With her heart pounding, Jochebed passed a pair of the muscular eunuchs who guarded the queen while keeping a short distance, and approached the party of women who stood by the river looking like a bevy of gorgeous butterflies in their fluttering white linen dresses, colourful jewelry, and heavy, glamorous wigs. Thermuthis fought down her smile as she noticed that the tall, young girl had brought a tall woman, and that the baby strongly resembled both of them. They looked healthy and fit. The woman respectfully fell to her knees before her, and touched her head to the dusty road. Such recognition of Thermuthis's consequence was gratifying to her.
Thermuthis said to the Hebrew woman, "Take this baby and nourish him for me." One of the ladies handed the squalling child to Jochebed and he mercifully shut up the moment his lips touched her breast. Thermuthis questioned Jochebed to find out her name and family history, discovering that the woman was married to her nephew, who was several years older than her.
The queen asked the Hebrew woman what her dwelling was like. Jochebed, her forehead besmirched with dirt that proclaimed her respect for the queen, described its location. Thermuthis asked, "Is it clean and orderly?" Thermuthis supposed it was, judging by the general appearance of the woman and her daughter. As expected, the woman replied that it was. Thermuthis asked her about her husband. He had a trade and he was also a scholar. That was good; with such intelligent parents and sister, it was likely that the baby was intelligent, too. Indeed, now that he was quiet, his eyes were sparkling and looking about with curiosity at the strange assemblage of painted women.
Thermuthis then haughtily ordered the woman to take the child home and nurse him for her until she sent for him. She took an bracelet from her wrist that had her royal emblem on it and said, "I give you this amulet, in case anyone doubts that he is my child. I name him Moses, because I drew him from the river. I will send you wages from time to time. Be sure to train him well for me, else I will give him to one who will teach him better manners and habits." Jochebed nodded and assured her that she would be most diligent. The queen nodded and then turned away to continue along the bank to look for a good place to bathe.
Jochebed and Miriam could hardly believe that God had given the baby back to them, even if it was only temporary. They had at least the next three years before he would be weaned. Miriam picked up the basket that had been set aside and carried it home. When they were out of earshot of Pharaoh's daughter and her party, they began to laugh with relief and say to the baby, "Well, little "Moses", you can cry if you like now, and go outside to play. No more hiding for you!"
As they entered the village, the Egyptian officer who had led the raid on their home earlier and torn it apart was now rounding up more Hebrew men for construction work. Catching sight of them, he nodded to the guards and they stopped Jochebed and Miriam. Before they could demand to see whether the child was a boy or girl, Jochebed lifted the bracelet to the officer's face and said fiercely, "He is protected by Queen Thermuthis! See, here is her insignia." The officer was taken aback when he saw the emblem, but he demanded, "Why would Pharaoh's daughter protect this child?" Jochebed replied triumphantly, "Because he is her child; she has adopted him!"
The Egyptians' eyes dropped to look at the ark that Miriam held and then understood what the woman had meant when she told them she had taken her child to the river, and judging from the size of him, he was not a newborn. The officer snarled through clenched teeth, "This is your child and you kept him hidden! You should die for this!" Jochebed lifted her chin and said, "Queen Thermuthis has appointed me to be her son's wet nurse. Let us now pass with Prince Moses." The Egyptians had no choice but to step aside and let them pass, grinding their teeth as the woman and her daughter swept by them, their heads held high. The officer snarled under his breath, "Prince Moses indeed! I shall be keeping an eye on you."
It did him no good to harbour ill will towards Jochebed and her family for the Egyptians could not touch them. When the queen's servant brought Jochebed her wages, he always carried back a report that the child was thriving, and as he grew older, that he was learning good manners and seemed to be very bright.
Many of the neighbours rejoiced for the family that their son had been spared, but some, such as the woman whose twin grandsons had been thrown into the Nile, felt bitter that Jochebed's son was spared when her grandsons had been lost, not making the connection that his family had decided to trust God and risk their lives, rather than surrender their child to the Egyptians to kill.
Some took courage from the example set before them. Though they could not use the same method as Amram and his wife, for the tale was well–known of how Pharaoh's daughter had found the child, they invented other methods. Sometimes they worked, and sometimes they didn't, but the failed attempts did not stop some of the people from trying to do what was right.
Moses' parents poured themselves into teaching their child as much as they could about God and His ways. From the time of his birth, they recited their ancient histories and proverbs and prophecies to him, believing that their words ministered spiritual life to him, whether he understood them intellectually or not. They were gentle and affectionate, stern only when they needed to be. Every moment with him was lived as if it was to be their last, for they knew that three years is a very short time.
At the end of three years, the dreaded summons came. The royal wet nurse was to bring Prince Moses to the palace where Pharaoh's daughter resided when she visited her father's domain. Miriam struggled with her longing to hold Moses, as they were now accustomed to calling him, so that he would answer to the name when Thermuthis addressed him as such. She did not get much chance to cuddle him the night before he was to leave, for Mother kept holding him tightly and weeping, in spite of Father's admonishments to control herself for the child's sake. Jochebed protested that she would give vent to her tears, to reassure her child that she loved him and was very sorry he was leaving their home. She did not want him to think that she could let go of him easily. Instead, Miriam cuddled Aaron, who looked very solemn and in need of cuddling. He did not protest, though he was a big boy of six years.
Finally Jochebed pulled herself together. It would not do to appear before the queen with red, swollen eyes. She let Miriam bathe Moses while she prepared herself to take him to the palace. Then Father laid his hands on Moses, blessed him, and told him to never forget the things they had taught him. Moses solemnly promised he wouldn't, though he did not know why they supposed he might forget. He usually remembered everything and could recite quite a lot of their nation's history, considering that he was only a toddler. Big brother Aaron kissed him, then Miriam, and then Father. They stood in the door of their house looking sad as Mother carried him out of the village.
Moses was a big boy and heavy, so Mother put him down after a while, but as they walked further, he became tired, so she picked him up again. She did not seem to mind, but held him close. People stared at him; he was used to that. They were always remarking at how handsome he was; he did not know that, aside from his extraordinary beauty, it was very unusual to see a fair–skinned boy his age. They wondered if he was Hebrew, as the woman who carried him was Hebrew, and sometimes they were stopped by officers and busybodies, but Mother simply showed them the pretty bracelet that she always wore and they backed off.
Moses held tightly to his mother, not only so he would not slip, but also because he sensed her distress. She did not cry as much as she had the night before, but a few tears slipped down her cheeks and he saw them pock the dust of the street. When they reached a big house, she set him down and wiped her hand across her face, then straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin, and took him by the hand. They proceeded to the door and Mother spoke to the guards, showing them her bracelet. They let them pass.
Moses' large, brown eyes became rounder as he looked about at the house while he and his mother walked behind a guard who led the way. Everything about it looked fabulous and the people passing by seemed to be very lofty, including the servants when there was nobody of higher rank near by. They looked down their noses at his mother, though he did not know why because she was so good and kind, but when their eyes fell on him, they forgot all about her and stared at him.
The guard came to an inlaid door and passed them on to other guards who were tall, muscular, and black as pitch. Jochebed explained her business. They nodded and led her to a fat, flabby, beardless man in beautiful clothes, whom she repeated her business to. The strange man led them through sumptuous apartments populated by gorgeous women in sheer linen garments, or wearing only colourful loincloths. The man stopped before a doorway and told them to wait, then passed through its curtain. A moment later, he returned and, with a high voice, told them to enter.
A stunningly attractive woman reclined on an elegant couch, surrounded by slave girls who wafted her gently with big fans made of colourful plumes. She wore sheer linen that had been painstakingly pleated, a heavy, black wig decorated with jewels, a wide collar of fine, sparkling gems, and gold bracelets with jewels encircled her arms. Most astonishingly, her face was painted, as were also the rest of the women in the room, but her paint was more lavish, possibly to disguise the fact that, though she was so impressively dressed, she was not nearly as blessed with natural beauty as the rest of the women. The queen smiled when she saw him, stretched her arms, and crooned, "Come to me, my treasure."
Moses was tongue–tied and shy, but he felt Mother nudge his back as she dropped to the floor in a graceful bow. He bowed, too, as he had been taught, and then approached the lady. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed his forehead. Then she lifted her chin and nodded to a slave standing next to her. The slave handed Mother a little, leather purse and the queen said to her haughtily, "Here is your final pay. You may go now; I have no further need of you." Jochebed nodded and, with flaming cheeks, handed the slave the bracelet she had been wearing, and took the purse. She tossed Moses a swift look as she thanked the queen and backed away bowing. Moses saw that Mother's eyes looked like they were about to spill over with tears, but she quickly left the room before that could happen.
The queen's attention was back on him and ladies gathered around, ooohing over him and making remarks about how beautiful he was. The queen called him Taweret's blessing, saying that the Nile had given him to her. Moses did not know who Taweret was. He was to find out later that it was an ugly idol that looked like a hippopotamus, the goddess of childbirth, when his new mother offered up sacrifices of thanksgiving for him.
The harem was a confusing place with many new faces and the prettiest girls he had ever seen fawning over him, though they looked strange wearing all that paint. He thought they would have been prettier without it. The queen called for sweets and fed them to him, and stroked his glossy curls while she held him on her lap.
Then a very regal–looking man entered the room and all the ladies prostrated themselves to the floor, except for the queen. She only bowed her head and said with a smile, "It is pleasant to see you, my lord. You have arrived at a good time. This is the child I told you about."
The man was of medium build and adorned with a heavy gold collar around his neck and bracelets at his wrists, but otherwise wore only a kilt and sandals. He patted Moses on the head and said, "He is a pretty boy; hopefully he will turn out to be more than that and prove useful to us. I wish to spend some time with you," he said after looking around at the most decorated ladies and pointing one of them out. The woman bowed to the floor and said, "I am honoured, my lord." She then arose and followed him.
Moses sat on the queen's lap and watched the man leave, whom he later learned was the queen's husband and the king of another territory further up the Nile. He wondered what he wanted that other lady for, but his attention was soon distracted by the offering of another sweetmeat. He was starting to feel a bit sick from eating them, but he never before got so many sweets at home and he enjoyed the variety of flavours and shapes and colours that were being offered.
For the most part, Moses liked all the attention, but sometimes the excessiveness of it got the better of him, and he wished people would just let him alone, instead of always cuddling and patting him. The rest of the day passed in a blur. He liked his new toys, the food he was fed was delicious, and he enjoyed dipping his feet in the pool of cool water that the girls bathed in, but night time came and his mother did not.
That was when he realized that this was not just a visit. His new nurse tried to get him to settled into his bed, but he kept asking for his mother. The nurse took him by the shoulders and said quietly, but with force, "You must not ask for your wet nurse. Your mother is the queen and you must not displease her. You will get your wet nurse into trouble, if you ask for her or go about with an unhappy face, so be a good boy and forget about her."
Moses was shocked. Forget about his mother? How could he ever forget that gentle and loving woman? What did this nurse mean that she was not his mother? The nurse replied, "The queen paid her to nurse you. Do you not remember that she gave her some money before she sent her away? " Moses nodded. The nurse continued, "The queen is your mother and you must act like a prince and make her proud of you. No more tears now."
Moses lay down quietly, pondering this revelation that the queen was his mother. She had lots of lovely things and was surrounded by servants. It was a fine thing that she was his mother, he supposed, but he missed Jochebed and Father and Miriam and Aaron. He turned his head away from the nurse who lay on a pallet near him, so she would not see him as he wept silently until he fell asleep, his head pounding with an ache.
Moses liked his new mother very much. She was curt with the servants, and he supposed that was how one was supposed to be with them. With him, though, she was gentle and generous and cooed when she talked to him, and cuddled him often. She bragged to her ladies about how beautiful and clever and strong he was. They gave him plenty of attention, too, and they made the other children in the harem be nice to him, though most of them did not seem inclined towards it naturally.
He had been there only a few days when Thermuthis picked him up and carried him to a large room to meet an old man who sat on a big, fancy chair. She bragged to him, too, about having found a child of the Hebrews who had a fine mind, and suggested that he might make him his heir. Smiling, Pharaoh took the beautiful child onto his lap and said, "Let's see how my crown will look on him."
He reached up for his mitre and placed it on Moses' head, but Moses had had enough of being cuddled. He was tired and just wanted to sleep. He did not want to sit on this wrinkly, old man's lap, smelling his bad breath, and he did not want that hard mitre on his head. He slipped off of Pharaoh's lap, cast the crown to the floor with a shriek, and spun it around his foot, then stamped on it.
The Grand Vizier, who also was in charge of religious matters and had the designation of Sacred Scribe among his many titles, had been standing near by, his mind on other things while he waited for Pharaoh to finish visiting with his favourite daughter. His eyes now popped wide open at the scene as he suddenly realized what was transpiring before him. He had heard that Thermuthis had rescued a Hebrew child from the Nile, but had not been able to do anything about it because she claimed that he was divine, a gift from Taweret.
Throwing caution aside, he pulled his dagger from its scabbard and rushed towards the child, but Thermuthis grabbed the boy and shielded him in her arms with her body turned away, asking him furiously how he dared such a thing. The Vizier turned to the king and demanded his death, saying, "This is the child that we have been trying to destroy, the one who will lead the Hebrews in rebellion, if you do not kill him now! Look how he already despises your crown!" Thermuthis interjected, "Nonsense; he is only tired and needs a nap. My son will not lead any rebellions. I will teach him to be loyal to us and he will serve us well."
Pharaoh inclined his head and asked with an arched brow if the Grand Vizier doubted that they were capable of doing a good job of giving the boy a decent upbringing. He sometimes felt that the Vizier tried too much to overstep his prerogatives and needed to be set down. How dared he doubt the wisdom of his divine daughter? The Vizier backed off, hiding his resentment. That woman was a rival to be reckoned with. Her husband had other children and no need of an heir, but Thermuthis was determined that, regardless of her barrenness, she would produce a child who would rule her father's kingdom and, eventually, her husband's, and do as she bid him.
Satisfied that she had her father's backing, she looked haughtily at the Grand Vizier and swept from the room with the child in her arms. Moses was handed to a nurse to put him down for a nap, and then she made arrangements to make sure all his food was tasted before he ate it and extra men added to his bodyguard.
The Grand Vizier called off the slaughter of the male children. What was the point? They might as well use the Hebrews for building their monuments and rebuilding the edifices that earthquakes occasionally destroyed. The slaves were under tight control, most of them confined to camps, or quarries, or mines. The one they were looking for was now identified, and he was being raised right there in the court! It rankled him, but he decided that he would have much to do with training that young pup to be loyal to the crown, just in case any of his attempts to bring about a fatal "accident" failed.
Thermuthis returned up the Nile with her new child, and he spent much time in his stepfather's kingdom, except on visits with his mother to the Delta. He seemed to have a charmed life. Nothing worked out when the Sacred Scribe appointed assassins to kill the boy. He had to stop trying before the number of near accidents started looking suspicous to Pharaoh, though he had no doubt from the hostile looks that Thermuthis sent his way that she knew he was behind those close calls both in the Delta and in Upper Egypt. She had no proof, though. And his opposition was just serving to bind her more tightly to the child and make her all the more determined to set him on the throne.
Moses was subjected to rigorous training for the position. He spent very little time playing and lots of time being schooled in everything that the Egyptians could teach him. His mind was like a sponge, soaking it all up. Thermuthis was very proud of how clever he was, and that he excelled in military arts, as well.
His visits to the temples were the most bewildering part of his education. His eyes had been wide the first time he entered those precincts, and saw the hideous idols set up there. He had never been exposed to such things in the wet nurse's home, and the people there had taught him it was wrong to bow to images. He did not say so to anyone, as he suspected that it would get them into trouble, if he objected to anything based on what they had taught him.
At first the ceremonies weren't too bad. He overheard his mother arguing with the priests from time to time, saying that she would not permit it, whatever it was. He knew it had something to do with him because they would say, "We must initiate the boy deeper, so that he gives full allegiance to our lord." She kept saying, "Not yet." Finally, the Grand Vizier had a private talk with her and overcame her objections.
Shocking things began to happen in those ceremonies, and Moses could not believe that his mother allowed him to be subjected to those things, but those were the only times she allowed him to be put through such trials. In ordinary life, she was very protective, so he set aside the ceremonies as nightmares that he forgot about in the daylight and did his best to please her.
Eventually, the gruesome ceremonies and lascivious activities became normal to him. He understood he must do all those things and occasionally eat human flesh in the most secret of the ceremonies to please the gods whom it was offered to, and that, as a leader, he must steel his heart and learn how to extract information from prisoners through torture. He must always place the well being of the state above his personal feelings and learn to be ruthless. It was just a normal part of an Egyptian aristocrat's life to be trained in such things, so that they could retain their power.
Moses grew very tall and was so handsome that the common Egyptians did not find it hard to believe that he was a god. His intelligence set him above his peers, as well, and when the priests made inquiries about various candidates for the throne, he was the only one whom the spirits said would have great success in his life. The vultures around him only wondered whose side would get the benefit of his success, and they worked hard at hardening his heart towards the Hebrews, telling him all manner of slander about them, and making sure that he was present at their tortures. They often tested his loyalty by requiring that he take an active part.
Moses eventually felt nothing when he was required to hurt people, though in ordinary life, he tried to not hurt anyone unneccessarily, unless they needed to be taught to treat him with more respect, or if his temper got the better of him, but that did not happen very often. When he used females to satisfy his passions, he was not inclined to damage them, even if they were slaves, though many other nobles did not take as much care. Consequently, he was never short of willing partners for his bed, and many noble ladies vied for a place there, as well.
Thermuthis did not mind this; she expected her son to develop every type of prowess that would give him an advantage in maintaining respect and control. She had arranged to have him schooled even as a young boy, and it amused her to see how women practically drooled when they looked at him. For that matter, quite a number of men pined for him, as well, but he seemed to be more attracted to women. It did not matter; he did not need to be adept at pleasing men in that regard; he was a prince and he would be king.
Moses turned out to be very gratifying to his mother. He was able to take on many duties for his stepfather; her husband could see that none of his natural children compared to the adopted one, but he still intended to put one of his own sons upon his throne. He groomed Moses to be close friends with his heir, in case Thermuthis had any ideas about setting him on his brother's throne. He tested his loyalty to their gods many times; each time, Moses passed the tests, but there were many in the government who still had their doubts and kept him out of some of the key positions where he could have done much harm, if he had been minded to.
They were wise to have their doubts. While still a little boy, Moses realized that he really was a Hebrew and that the wet nurse and her husband were his true parents. It made him bitter that they had sold him, but eventually he learned of how the male children had been sentenced to die at that time, and he surmised that his parents had sold him to Pharaoh's daughter to protect him. He heard that she had found him in a basket in the Nile, and in spite of all the fantastic stories she told him about how he was a god and a gift from the gods, he started to put two and two together, though he did not have all the pieces of the puzzle.
He eventually felt sorry for his parents that they were forced to give him up, but grateful that it had worked out well for him. He wondered about them sometimes, but mostly put them out of his mind; they were weaklings, though probably the best among the despised Hebrews, for he did not imagine that his adoptive mother would have chosen him if they had been as bad as the rest. It was best that he align himself with the strong. Besides that, if he did not think about his birth family, it made his pain of longing for them to go away.
As time went on, though, and his experience of the world grew, Moses began to see that what he had been told about the Hebrews was not completely true. In fact, he met some who had noble character, and the noblest of them were frequently victims whom he tortured and put to death with his own hands.
His conscience ate away at him, but he muffled it by keeping busy with his duties and resorting often to his concubines, and other lovers who did not belong to his harem. Usually, his normal activities were enough to occupy his mind. He knew from intelligence reports that the Hebrews watched him for signs that he would side with them and lead them out of Egypt, and he resented it. It made it all the harder to win Pharaoh's complete trust, and that of others who doubted him, so he worked harder at proving that he was worthy of their trust and far removed from the Hebrew religion; the hopes of the Hebrews plunged deeper and deeper. He tried to not think about what his natural parents thought of his lust and ambition and cruelty.
Eventually, a threat to the whole country arose that put those worries completely out of his mind. To the south, the Ethiopians were rising up with visions of conquest, trying to reestablish the empire their forefather lost when the Shemites rebelled against Nimrod, known to the Egyptians as the followers of the evil Set who slew noble Osiris. The Ethiopians looked like they were well on their way to world domination, invading Egypt all the way to Thebes, as well as destroying ancient cities right up to the shores of the Great Sea. The government was in a panic about what to do.5
The spirits were consulted and they told the priests, "Send Moses the Hebrew." Some thought that was an excellent idea. He was their best general, though he had been held back from higher promotions before now because of doubts about his loyalty. His enemies finally decided to take a chance on it; they had nothing to lose at that point, because it looked like the Ethiopians would soon make slaves of them. With some luck, the Ethiopians might finish him off, and that would save them from further anxiety about his loyalty.
Moses was gratified with his appointment as General of the Generals. Thermuthis told him, "This is your chance to show them your worthiness to the throne. This position is only a short step away from Vizier, for the Sacred Scribe is very old and cannot carry on with his duties much longer. I know you will do well!" With that ringing in his ears, he eagerly set his mind to working out strategies for turning the tables on the Cushites.
Moses came up with a brilliant idea. He had considered various approaches whereby he could take them by surprise, knowing that they would expect him to march his troops alongside the Nile and bring some up by boats. The one place they would never, never, never expect an attack from required that they cross a desert that was rife with serpents that slept under the sand during the day, and when disturbed, leapt up like lightning to strike with venomous fangs. Their poison was deadly, and some varieties of sand viper could strike more than once, which was terrifying.
It occurred to him that ibises were a threat to the snakes, for they were faster than the snakes and loved to eat them. His thoughts turned to the marshes of Goshen where ibises were plentiful. Basket weavers were plentiful, too, as reeds were plentiful. He ordered the marsh dwellers, who were mostly Hebrews, to make baskets for the ibises, so that the troops could carry them through the desert and release them on the snakes, and thereby take the Ethiopians completely by surprise.
The baskets were woven and the ibises captured quickly, giving the reason for the enterprise that they were to be sacrifices to Thoth, whereby he expected the god would give him wisdom to make war. Then when the ibises were ready, the troops were ordered to carry them along and they headed off for the desert. The plan worked perfectly! Moses grinned after he gave the order to release the ibises and saw them leap on the snakes. There were a few human casualities, and some of their pack animals got bitten, as well, but no substantial losses. Moses chuckled as he envisioned the Ethiopians' shock when they arrived from this direction.
Indeed, the Ethiopians were shocked, and they did not recover their former advantages. Moses devastated their country with his army, killing, looting, and taking slaves. The Egyptian army came to the royal city of Sheba and met with the next major challenge of the campaign. The city was a fortress with thick walls and surrounded on three sides by the river, which made breeching it even more difficult. Well, if it took two years to lay siege to it, so be it.
Moses ordered his troops into their positions and showed his generals his plans for siege engines and rafts. They were impressed. The Ethiopians on the city's walls were impressed, too, when they saw the preparations being made, among them the princess who was her father's heir. She was a clever female, the pride of her father's heart due to her intelligence and beauty and strong will. She worried, along with her father and his counsellors, when she saw the Egyptians' plans going forth, and then she caught a closer view of the man who was in charge.6
Tharbis's breath caught in her throat. He was a very tall man, almost a giant, a truly heroic figure. He was slim, but muscular with broad shoulders, tanned, but much lighter skinned than her people and the Egyptians he commanded. She had heard that this General was a foreigner, and very wise, but nobody had told her that he looked like a god! She was glad that she had taken the trouble to don fine clothes and a glittering crown that enhanced her physical attributes.
Moses turned his face to survey the city's walls; even at that distance, Tharbis could tell that he had caught sight of her. It seemed that something sizzled between them. No doubt he was thinking of the day when he would enter the city and take her as a prize. The idea made her feel momentarily faint, but then her strong will asserted herself and she thought, "You won't get past these walls, if I have anything to do with it, nor will I allow my body to be taken by force!"
Tharbis continued to watch the General closely, trying to get into his mind to figure out what he would do next. She noticed how his men seemed to have great respect for him, and this impressed her much. No doubt, they were in awe of his military genius, but it also was possibly due to his keen understanding of people and how to handle them.
An idea that had been niggling at the back of her mind crept stealthily past her notions of Ethiopian superiority until she acknowledged in her heart that this fair–skinned Asiatic could possibly be her genetic, intellectual, and spiritual equal, and possibly even her master in some respects. She could learn much from a close association with him and acquire a higher level of military and administrative abilities.
Daily as Tharbis watched the General, her resistance in regards to being sexually conquered by him began to change. It was truly alarming the assaults that the General made against the city, and how he bounced back each time he was repelled, and with deadlier strategies than before. What a consort he would be, if they wedded, and a thrill beyond anything if they bedded. The court was very distraught at Moses' ingenuity and determination, though the nobles tried to conceal their distress. Only Tharbis had any notion that the General's talents could be turned to their own advantage, and hers in particular.
She was intensely attracted to the man on a physical level, and he seemed to have qualities that would make him an interesting and exciting man to be married to, qualities that would also make him a very astute and powerful king. She wanted him as a lover, but she was a cunning and responsible ruler, not one to give anyone access to her sacred body without acquiring substantial strategic gain from granting them that privilege. She sought her father for a private conference and told him her plan to save their city and their country from complete destruction.
She told him, "I want to marry the General." He smiled and said, "So, you have finally made up your mind to take a husband. I am amazed that you can think of marriage at a time like this, but I am curious. Which one?" "Not any of our Generals, Father," Tharbis replied with some annoyance. "I want to marry this Moses, the Egyptians' General."
Her father was shocked and was about to rage when she held up her hands and said quickly, "Think about it. He took us totally by surprise and has been destroying us, and by the looks of things, he will probably succeed in taking the city. Not today, and not tomorrow, but he has us hemmed in while he is free to bring in as many supplies as he needs until he has starved us out. One way or another, our conquests for now have come to an end, and we will be made subject to Egypt. But if we offer an alliance that is of advantage to him, we can gain advantages."
"Tell me the advantages," her father replied. Tharbis began to list them. She said, "The city will not be destroyed; some of our people will be taken as slaves, but that is better than most of us being killed and the survivors taken as slaves, including your dear daughter, for I reckon that they intend to put me a harem. I like the idea of choosing whose bed I will share. As the General's wife, I will have influence with him to advocate for our people. You will have to become vassal to Egypt, but it is better that you be a vassal, seeing as conquest cannot be avoided, than be taken prisoner, degraded, tortured, and killed in retribution for what we did when we invaded Egypt."
The king was not convinced. He turned to her angrily and said, "I will not have you speak to me of defeat!" Tharbis protested, "Not defeat, Father. Retrenchment. Ethiopia could rise again, if I had such a husband by my side. With such a husband at my side, we could eventually throw off the yoke of Mizraim and our people will accept the General as your heir because he is my husband!" The king looked at her with slow smile growing on his face and he said, "I like your plan. He seems to be an ambitious man, and he is not Egyptian. How will you get the General to agree to marry you?"
Tharbis asked, "You will hand over the city, if he marries me?" He nodded. She said, "We must not speak of our ambitions to anyone, in case the Egyptians get wind of our plans to overthrow them. I will send a trusted servant to relay my proposal." Her father asked, "What if he refuses? He could take you as his prize in any case, but no, I suppose he would not refuse. Marrying you will save him a lot of time and trouble, and a man would be a fool to not take you as a wife, when he has the chance." Tharbis smiled and kissed him before she left the room.
Moses was preparing to sleep after having dismissed one of his new concubines when his servant entered to announce that he had a visitor. He replied irritably, "Tell him to speak to the officer on duty." The servant said in a quiet voice, "He comes on an errand from the city and says he will speak only to you." Moses became alert; he was not about to lose any advantage that was offered him. Did the Ethiopians want to parley? Was the man a traitor who had some important intelligence? He grabbed a robe and stood up, saying, "Show him in."
An Ethiopian entered and bowed low before Moses. Moses said, "State your business." The man replied, "I am on an errand from the Princess Tharbis and must speak to you privately." Moses hesitated, recalling the slim, dark figure who watched him daily from the walls. Her face was too dark for him to see her clearly at that distance, but he heard that she was very beautiful. He had noted the stately way she carried herself, and yet had keenly felt the intensity of her gaze on him. What did she want? He was convinced that whatever it was, she was not likely to want him dead, as he suspected she was attracted to him. The thought of subduing her after he took the city had added extra interest and zeal to his task. He nodded his head to his servant, and the man retreated from the tent.
The ambassador arose at a gesture from Moses's hand. He told the General that his mistress had sent him with a proposal of marriage. Moses was not often taken by surprise, but this made his brows shoot up. He turned away from the servant for a moment, and thought about it. Marrying this young woman was a move that his mother would approve of, he felt sure. She had always cautioned him that he must make only advantageous marriages. She expected that he would be chosen to inherit the throne, and if he was married to this woman, the Ethiopians would be more consenting to his rule.
Besides that, it was very flattering to him that a powerful royal princess had taken the initiative this way. It soothed an ego that had been wounded many times by nobles who disdained his lowly Hebrew roots. He nodded his head and said, "If she will hand over the city to me, I will accept. Open the gates tomorrow and I will wed your mistress." He gave the servant a note stating the conditions of his consent to take back to his mistress.
Tharbis passed the note on to her father, who showed it to his nobles that the General had given his word to spare the city, if Tharbis was given to him in marriage. Most of them eagerly agreed and arrangements were made for the wedding. The ones who disagreed were put in ward to ensure that they did not make trouble.
The Egyptian troops were ordered to fall into place before the gates, but not to do any damage when they entered. The troops marvelled at their General's confidence that they would enter that day and wondered what he was up to now.
Moses was decked out in his best finery as he stood in his chariot and drove through the gates. The court awaited him, the princess standing at her father's side outside of the main temple. Moses was pleased when he gained a closer look. The princess was beautiful, for an aristocrat. Many of them were considered beautiful merely because it was expected of the populace to say they were. She was not what he would consider breath–taking; the women he saw who fit that description were normally either slaves or courtesans, but she was quite pleasant to look at, in her own right. Her dignity and pride graced her with greater effect than her diamonds, though they added much to her consequence, as well.
The marriage was immediately performed and its consummation witnessed in the temple by the priests and other dignitaries to verify her virginity and the validity of the marriage. Immediately afterwards, Moses exercised his privilege as conqueror to absent himself and his bride from the wedding feast, tossing her over his shoulder like a maid whom he intended to ravish while her servant nervously led the way to the princess's chambers, and the princess did not object. Tharbis expected that being alone with her new husband would be much more exciting and satisfying than their ceremonial bedding, and she understood that his male ego felt a need to demonstrate by this public display of barbarian behaviour that he had conquered both her and the city. It rankled her spirit to have her dignity undermined, but she was wise enough to accept, for the time being, that men had to have their egos catered to in order for clever women to gain advantages over them.
The king felt insulted and frustrated as Moses strode from the room, disregarding the etiquette of a wedding feast and denying him the opportunity to present the eloquent speech he had prepared, but he supposed that arrogance was to be expected as a reminder that he was no longer the first ruler of the city. Moses left it to his officers to make arrangements about tribute and governors and the occupation of Egypt's new territory.
Tharbis was not disappointed with her bridegroom's attentions, but they ended all too soon. When morning came, he announced his intention of leaving that very day. She was dismayed and leaped to her feet to wrap her arms around him and say, "Why such a hurry? You have things to arrange before you go." He shook his head and said, "My officers have taken care of my arrangements. Now you be a good wife and take good care of the things I have left in your trust." He could not have said anything better to ensure her cooperation. She solemnly gazed back at him for a moment, and then nodded in agreement while she murmured, "As you wish, my lord." Moses nodded in approval and smiled with satisfaction. His new wife was very young, only half his age, but she was thoroughly a queen.
Moses took leave of the city, but not at the head of his troops. His journey home would be more comfortable than his journey through the desert, and swifter, by way of the Nile. The king went with him; Moses took him as a hostage, promising his daughter that he would have every comfort. Her father was infuriated about his abduction, but he had to admit it was a smart move; he would not have trusted himself as a regent either. An infatuated young woman, who was drugged into submission by skillful love–making, and hopeful of further attentions of this sort from her beloved, was more apt to carry out the duties required of her.
Tharbis was startled at seeing her father's forced departure, but she saw that he was settled in comfort for the trip with Moses aboard their finest ship; the rest of their ships, laden with treaure, were prepared to follow them in a flotilla. It was annoying to see they were losing so many of their treasures, but she felt she could trust Moses to keep his word about taking good care of her father. Also, she felt gratified that she was being left in charge, and it was an added bonus that she hadn't had to wait for her father to die before she sat on his throne.
When Moses looked back, Tharbis stood again on the walls, a graceful and noble figure. He smiled at the memory of the torrid night he had spent with her and then turned his face again towards Egypt, putting her out of his mind for the moment as he made more plans for administrating this new territory, and how he would word his suggestions to Pharaoh. His body was tired from lack of sleep, but his mind was too active with the additional possibilities of power gains now open to him through this marriage to let him catch a nap, until much later in the day.
The fact was that his mind did not return to Tharbis very often; he had plenty of other women to entertain him. His mind was also occupied much with his usual duties, and with his recurring problem. No matter what he achieved, he felt empty. In fact, the more he achieved, after the temporary thrill wore off, he felt emptier and emptier. Just as he had greedily eaten all the sweets that were offered him the first day he arrived at the palace, he was getting heartily sick of his self–indulgence in jaded pleasures. He had lived long enough to see much and experience a wide variety of many of the most coveted things that life had to offer, and to realize the futility of it all.
His mother was extremely gratified with his triumphs and spoke often of her plans for Egypt that she wanted him to accomplish. He had admirers more than ever before, and his enemies were more frustrated than ever, but some of them had conceded defeat and were now willing to support him, since he had so clearly shown his loyalty to the empire.
Moses wondered why none of this could satisfy him. At night when he found it difficult to sleep, echoes of screams rung through his mind, of Hebrews he had tortured. One of them was actually his own cousin by blood, thrust at him as an object upon which he was required to prove his loyalty to the crown.
The Hebrews had cried out to their God, and many of them refused to spill any secrets about conspiracies that he knew they were involved in. He felt deep shame that they had such courage, for when he was honest with himself, he admitted that he served the Egyptians because he was afraid, not because he loved them or thought their ways were better than the ways of the Hebrews. He admired and envied those who carried their secrets about their plans for rebellion and their associates to their deaths, for he was terrified of ever being put to torture as they had been, and also afraid of being despised by his peers as a traitor and nothing more than a slave. He often was assaulted in his imagination by visions of people whom he admired, and some whom he detested, shaking their heads and saying, "Blood will tell," if he ever defected to the Hebrews.
It seemed that the Egyptians had most of the advantages; they were the mighty, and they continually increased their oppressions of their slaves. They particularly despised the Hebrews and blasphemed their God. Moses had done it, too, but he wondered just how much he really knew about their God. He searched his memory for things he learned long ago at the breast of the first woman he had called Mother. It was amazing how much came back when he deliberately tried to remember. He remembered the kind face of the man he had called Father, and the quiet, steady sound of his voice as he spoke.
"You must always remember, my son, that you are an Israelite. Your ancestor Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees, that wicked and idolatrous city, to serve the one true God. He brought Abraham to the land of Canaan, and promised it to his seed. It was a long time before Abraham had a son because his wife was barren, but when he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90, God gave them a miracle and their son Isaac was born.
"And from Isaac came Jacob, who hungered after God, and stole his brother's birthright and his blessing, for Jacob was not the firstborn. He learned to wait on God and do things His way, and he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord to gain His blessing again, when he was afraid that his brother would take revenge against him. That was how he came to be called Israel, for he learned afterwards that it was God Himself that he had wrestled with. And so his brother Esau did not take revenge and Jacob lived in the land with his children.
"We came here to Egypt when there was a famine in the land, as one of Israel's sons went ahead to prepare the way for us. His name was Joseph and he came into great favour with the Pharaoh who ruled at that time, and he saved Egypt from destruction. Our fathers were very blessed when we came here, and I remember some good things we enjoyed, before everything turned bad. We must not blame God, though, that our lives here became hard. He has permitted this so that our people will be agreeable to leaving, to fulfill the promise that God made to Abraham, that He would bring us back to Canaan and give us that land, for that is where our destiny lies.
"Remember when you are older, my son, that you must come apart from the idolaters. You must seek God about what you are to do with your life, for He has preserved you for a great destiny. You must remember that our people have been chosen to birth the Messiah, the Saviour who will take away the sins of the world. They must have their own homeland and not mingle with the heathen, so that we can keep our blood pure. It is required for the Messiah."
Moses had dismissed the Israelitish elitism with the disgust that he had been taught by the Egyptians, but he reconsidered it. The man in his memory had not seemed arrogant. He had seemed merely honoured at the idea that their god had set them apart from other nations. Who was this Messiah that he had spoken about? Certainly not the one whom the Egyptians and their associates expected.
Moses began to look more closely at what the Hebrews believed, quietly obtaining copies of their writings and looking for Egyptian records of the Grand Vizier whom the Hebrews called Joseph. He found that many of the records were missing or had been changed. He supposed that this was due to an Egyptian tendency to rewrite history to reflect more glory on whatever Pharaoh was currently in power, but he found evidence of royal privileges and feats of engineering constructed during the previous dynasty that were the work of a Grand Vizier of foreign origin.
Keeping in mind the (now justified) paranoia of the Egyptians about his loyalties, Moses maintained strict secrecy in his meetings with a Levite teacher whom he trusted to not give him away, particularly since he was one of his cousins. He had heard plenty from the Egyptians about what they had learned of the Hebrews, but he felt he needed to hear from the Hebrews their side of things, so that he could learn the real truth about them. Of course the Egyptians had slanted their "information" to promote their agenda. That was how things were done in politics, and he had done it many times himself. The Hebrews would do the same thing, but somewhere between those two sides of the story, the truth existed. He might not be able to figure out the whole truth, but he would have a clearer idea of it than what he had now.
Moses had many discussions with the old scholar. The more he talked to him, the more it bothered him that he'd had a hand in putting some of his own people to death when they clearly did not deserve it. And then one day, the old man startled him by saying, "I know your father well; we are very close friends."
Moses quickly regained his composure and said calmly, "Tell me about him." The old teacher spoke at length about Amram, how they had been to school together, what he had been like when he was young, what his parentage was, what he had accomplished in his life, in spite of many hardships. Moses nodded thoughtfully when the old man came to an end and said, "Thank you. I must be going now. Duty calls." The old man felt disappointed. Duty called! Duty to the Egyptians! That young man needed to be thinking about his duty to his own people.
Moses did think about it. He thought about it more and more every day. He could hardly keep his mind on doing what the Egyptians expected of him. It especially disturbed him when he had to attend their secret rites, though he tried to avoid them as much as possible. Those rituals were outrageously depraved. What a contrast the Israelite beliefs were to what the Egyptians believed. How much farther was their god above these gods that the Egyptians served.
Moses knew about the evil kings, Cush and Nimrod, and the evil queen, Semiramis, now long dead, whom these idols represented. Eventually, he learned that worshipping these idols ultimately led to worshipping satan; they were just a front for pure evil. He had suspected that satan was the power behind some of the spirits of the gods, particularly the most evil ones. He did not like those gods, though he performed what was expected of him, but just barely. He did not display any extra zeal, as did some of the priests.
Now he found out that satan was the lord of all the gods whom pagans served, and Moses surmised that satan wanted to completely devour the souls of all whom he could manage to entice into his service. He promised great rewards both in this life and the next, but it could not be possible that an entity who was so evil, perpetrating rape and other types of extreme violence even on children, could be telling the truth about promotions and rewards in the afterlife.
The Grand Vizier was dying, and someone else was to be appointed as High Priest to the Mysteries. Thermuthis and the priests of the innermost circle gathered together and told Moses that he was their choice for that position, and that if he gave full allegiance to satan, he would also be given the throne of Lower Egypt when the king died.
Thermuthis searched his face for a response. She was not certain what Moses was thinking. Was he shocked to finally learn that this was required of him, and did he suspect that she had fully given Lord Lucifier her heart some years ago, to guarantee that he would let Moses sit on that throne, and that she would maintain control over him? She expected him to say yes, but she did not know when he would say yes. She was tired of waiting. She was an old woman and wanted to enjoy her power, while she could.
Moses was stunned to learn that he would have to sell himself totally to satan in order to obtain that throne. His heart had been warming towards his own people as he learned of their religion. He had been hoping that as Pharaoh, he could ease the burdens of the Hebrews and eventually let them go their way, to enter into their promised land. He was not required to go with them, he supposed, since he was not of the tribe that they believed would produce their Messiah. He figured he would be their strong ally, though, to help them conquer Canaan, and there in their own land, their good god would have the authority to bless them.
He realized that he was being forced to make this decision because it was the only way that the Egyptians would know for sure that he was totally on their side. He must do something that would cut him off forever from the god of the Hebrews. Was the god of the Hebrews the only true God? Why else would satan be so much in opposition to that god that he demanded him to commit his whole soul to him? The spirits behind those other gods were all under his rule, but the Hebrews' god demanded that they have no god at all, except for him. The Hebrews' god was the only god who did not submit to satan, and the only god whom satan had no power over, though his people often were victimized by satan's oppressions.
Thermuthis noted Moses' hesitation. She must not push too hard; he might decide to go over to the Hebrews. Of course, he would eventually come back, after he saw how useless it was to be allied with them. She had Lucifer's promise that he would rule Egypt eventually, but it would set back her people's trust for years. He must be confronted with more inducements, to see more of the glory that would be his. What man can resist, if he is regaled enough with all the advantages? He'd had too much opposition, too much doubt voiced about his loyalty. He must see that he would have all the power of Egypt behind him to support him in his position.
She said solemnly, "Take some time to think about it, my son. If you do this, you will rule the whole world. None other has your intelligence, your talents, your strength. You have already made a good start by conquering Ethiopia, and we have the territories that they conquered before you stopped them. We will all stand behind you 100%, if you choose this." The priests nodded agreement. They were powerful men. Moses said, "I will give this very serious thought," and then he left the inner sanctum of the temple.
Moses felt like he was choking as he walked away. Was Thermuthis hinting that he could be the Messiah? They had very different ideas than the Hebrews about the Promised Seed and what He would do. It seemed more reasonable to Moses' mind that the Messiah would be good, according to what the Hebrew religion considered good, than what the Egyptians considered good, and he knew that he was not good.
Images of being worshipped all over the world, though, clamoured at his mind. To be Pharaoh was a dream that had enthralled him, and to think that he could possibly be the man whom the whole world would worship was incredibly tempting. Though it rung true what his mother had said that he was the most intelligent, talented, and capable man in his generation, he knew he would need much more than his natural abilities to gain the whole globe and administrate it. Satan promised to give him those abilities, if he would give him his soul.
But what would be the point, if what the old teacher had said was true? He had told him about how God created the earth, and then Adam and Eve, and how Eve had been tempted and deceived and eaten of forbidden fruit. She in turn gave it to her husband, and his error had sold all Mankind into sin.
Mankind was under condemnation, but there was a way out. God had promised the woman that her Seed would defeat satan and win salvation for all those who chose to put their trust in Him. If that Messiah did not come, Man was doomed to perish forever. If Moses did not help the Hebrews, so that they could produce the Messiah who was to redeem Mankind, all souls would go to an eternity of torments because Adam had turned from the true God and his progeny were tainted with sin.
What if the things the scholar told him were true? He would bear the responsibility for having doomed them all to torment and why would he be allowed to escape torment? It would not be possible, if the Hebrews' religion told the truth, for they said their god was all–powerful and could not be overcome by satan.
Moses looked at the murals of Sekhet–Hetepu, the paradise of the pharaohs, on the walls as he passed through the various chambers and corridors of the temple. This was all lies. There was no glorious future for the worshippers of these gods after they died. These gods were cruel and deceptive. Why would they keep their word about eternal rewards? They caused so much suffering in the here and now. They loved it so much that they undoubtedly continued to perpetrate it in the hereafter, or at least the spirits behind them did.
He was practiced well enough in sorcery to know that spirits were real, though some of the priests said that they were but projections of their own souls, a means to gather their energy and train it on a single focus to achieve their desired end. What the Israelites believed about satan and other evil spirits made sense, not these so–called "scientific" explanations. He knew how he would like to be treated – like how he had been treated as a child by his true parents, gently and kindly, rather than how he had been abused by the Egyptians with their twisted concepts of morality.
The burning of resentment in Moses' soul about being backed into a corner, forcing him to make a choice between one that would destroy him completely in a spiritual sense or one that would put him at risk of death, and a painful one at that, was interrupted by the realization that he had finally owned his parents. Yes, he was a Hebrew, and he longed for those loving people who had raised him. It was about time that he went to see them.
Moses was much troubled. He was so afraid that sometimes it got the better of him and he had to find some privacy where nobody would see him shaking, and his teeth chattering, and sweat pouring from his face and body. He had any amounts of courage for battle, because he was trained for it and he loved the adulation he received for his accomplishments. This was different, though. If he went over to the Hebrews, he would lose all his Egyptian friends, both among the aristocracy and the valiant men who had fought under him. His lovers would despise him. He normally did not give those women much thought, particularly the slaves; he had always received their admiration as his due. It was mortifying to think of his concubines sneering at him in disgust for returning to his despised Hebrew roots, and of becoming the song of the drunkards in the taverns. Having risen so high above the majority of Egyptians, it was debilitating to contemplate going down so low where even the beggars in the streets would make a jest of him.
Moses entered the palace and passed a small boy in one of the courtyards. He was Jannes, the youngest son of one of Pharaoh's brothers. Normally, he was an obnoxious and cruel, little brat, but he adored Moses and would always listen to him when Moses took the time to rebuke him for his mean pranks and pettishness. Moses saw the hero worship in his eyes, but today Moses did not smile in reply and ruffle his hair as he passed by. The child's adoration would end if he joined his people, but if he became Pharaoh, this boy, in time, might become one of his most loyal generals. He hurried into his apartments and called for some wine.
The wine was interspersed with a riotous night with the concubines and he felt the next day that he was not only going to die of a headache, but also with shame. He staggered to the door and called for his servant to mix him a potion for his hangover and attend to his grooming. Trying to run away from his decision was not helpful. It only stared at him more luridly in his face.
After his stomach settled, he left the palace, dressed in simple clothing, though still of good quality that marked him as a prince. He would not try to shake off the agents, who were undoubtedly following him. If he did that, at this time, now that the decision had been put before him to sell out totally to evil, it would raise too much suspicion that he was leaning towards the Hebrews. He would be called to account for the time when they had not had him in view. But it was understandable that, before he fully made up his mind, he would want to take a look at the Hebrews he had sprung from, to see what they had to offer in contrast to what Lucifer was offering him.
Moses went on foot, his bright, white, starched linen headdress easily keeping him in view of watchers as he passed through the streets. He retraced the route that his mother had taken 37 years ago to bring him to the palace and felt stirrings in his soul of how awful that journey had been. He would have sensed her sorrow, even if he had not seen her tears.
A lot of things had changed in the last 37 years. The city was more congested now, and more dwellings had sprouted up on the banks of the Nile. He finally saw ahead of him the Hebrew section where their craftsmen lived and paused at the river. Was this the place where Thermuthis had found him? He did not know, but the reeds grew thick there. He looked towards the streets and memories came back.
It had been only a tiny village when he was a child. He had not been back here since then, always avoiding this place when he made raids on the Hebrews. Where was the house? Would he still remember it? He recognized first the house of little Sarah, a playmate from those days. The ramshackle houses all looked much smaller than he remembered them, but he knew his parent's home was one of the larger, tidier ones; his father had a prosperous business. Sarah was just a few doors over from his house. There it was.
Baskets were piled outside the door. It had been his mother's craft, but his father had been an expert jeweller, as well as a scholar. His skills as a jeweller had kept him out of the camps, though he would never make any items associated with idolatry for the Egyptians. His designs were cunning enough to be so pleasing to the Egyptians that they had tolerated his religious reservations, and the family's connections as former servants of the royal family had increased the value of Amram's products to the Egyptians; they boasted of their possessions that were impressed with his prestigious stamp.
Moses stood for long moments leaning against the house. It was the heat of the day, and nothing was moving about outside except for a boney dog hunting for scraps near the embers of the cooking fires and a boy who listlessly attended to the coals to keep them burning. His skin felt like it was being scorched and sweat glistened on his body, but his heart felt so cold and empty. He was lost, lost. What was he to do? His soul was hanging in the balance; which way would he go? He hoped he would do what was right, but he felt so weak. And lonely. He had no one who would understand the terrible decision he had to make, even if he dared confide it to them.
A sound came from inside the house. Someone was awake and moving about, instead of napping as people usually did in the worst heat of the day. He moved to the door and stooped, peering into the gloom, trying to make out the dim figure who squatted on the floor, sorting through some pottery for a specific dish.
Jochebed looked up from her task at the feeling she was being watched; she saw a tall, tanned, handsome man with a smooth, chiselled jaw looking at her in bewilderment. She knew that face! She had watched him from afar for years and had dreamed of this day. With a glad cry, she leaped to her feet, scattering her pots and accidentally breaking two of them, launching herself at her long–lost son. As she embraced him. Moses' arms wrapped around her, seemingly of their own accord, and then his heart followed his actions. He buried his face against her shoulder and sobbed. He was home! This was where his heart belonged.
Mother and son shook with their sobs; Miriam arose from her nap to see who was crying in the outer room. Her child, who had been sleeping next to her, sat up and then followed her to the door. Miriam's heart leaped and she cried out, "Levi!," as she ran to his embrace. Moses gathered her in his arms and she urged her child, "Uri, go get Grandpa! Go get Uncle Aaron quickly!" The boy sped away into the city where Grandfather and Uncle Aaron did their trading and fetched them, as instructed, leaving his father to tend to the stall. Soon they all stood in a cluster, covering Moses' face with kisses.
Miriam cautioned her son to not tell anyone that they had a visitor; she knew Moses was taking a big risk to visit them, and she did not want Pharaoh's officers paying them a visit to find out what they talked about. She sent him off to Aaron's house for the rest of the day to play with his cousins and spend the night. Uri simply told his aunt that his mother was busy and wanted to get him out of the way. This was true, and he felt hurt about not being included, but Mother told him it was safer for him to not know what they talked about. He asked, "Will you tell Father what you talked about?" She said, "Yes, when he gets home tonight." Maybe they would tell him, too, some day.
Moses and his parents and siblings talked all the rest of the day in hushed voices. Miriam went outside from time to time to attend to her cooking and then brought the food indoors, but they were all so excited with their reunion that nobody felt much like eating. Hur came home and up to the roof to keep watch, after briefly meeting his brother–in–law for the first time and having a quick bite to eat. The sun went down and Jochebed put a fire in the hearth to give light while Amram answered many questions that Moses had about God.
He asked him, "If our nation does not bring forth the Messiah, then will nobody be saved?" Amram replied, "Our nation will bring forth the Messiah, for God promised this to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He cannot lie for it is impossible for Him to do evil. Whether we will have a part in that or not, is another question. The Promised seed will not come from the tribe of Levi; at least not directly, but He has offered us a part in bringing Him forth through saving His people."
Amram continued, "Your mother and I, and Miriam and Aaron, too, have done our part in protecting your life. We all risked our lives for you, for if we had been caught, we all would have been killed. Now it is up to you to do your part. This is a great privilege that God has offered you. If you do not take it, though, He will give the honour of it to someone else, and who knows what you will lose?"
Moses asked forlornly, "My very soul?" His father said, "I don't know. I don't know how far you would go to run away from the destiny that God has appointed to you, but it could happen. At the very least, you will feel unfulfilled for the rest of your life, for fulfilling God's will is the only chance that any man or woman has of finding total satisfaction.".
Moses asked, "Does everyone who does God's will find total satisfaction?" Amram shook his wise, old head and said, "I don't think so. Some do God's will reluctantly, and their satisfaction is in doing what they know is right, though they might resent the suffering that it sometimes entails. God lets our hearts be sifted, and it is a painful process, and those who find the most satisfaction are those who are most surrendered to His will."
Moses looked at his aged father intently and said, "You were afraid to hide me, weren't you?" Amram nodded and said, "We were all afraid. We were forced to watch the executions, and your sister and brother and mother would have been ravished before they were killed. But we feared God more. Men can kill only the body, but God can kill the soul, and then the suffering never ends.
"I do not think that we would have killed you, even if you had been an ordinary child, or even if you had been sickly and deformed. He who gave us the gift of a son must be thanked, not have His gift thrown back in His face; we did not want to answer for your blood on our hands. God gave us courage, the ability to overcome our fears." Amram laughed, "You should have seen your mother! I did not know she could be such a good liar, pretending that she was still carrying you in her womb. She had everybody fooled!"
Jochebed gave her husband a playful slap on his arm and said, "Tease! You know I did it to save the life of our innocent child. I don't normally lie." She looked at Moses and whispered, "The risk was worth it. If I died, if all of us died, I would have considered it an honour to die protecting my child, and also an honour to die for my people, trying to bring them the Deliverer who would set them free from their pains and lead them to the land of promise."
They spent the rest of the night talking about the promises of God, and Amram telling his family again of the wonderful things that God had done for them in the past. He said, "If you go to Rowarty, where Jacob lived, you will see the house that Joseph built after Jacob died, and you will see the tombs he built for his brothers and himself, in the belief that some day, at the appointed time, his people would leave this place, and he gave a charge to carry his bones back to Canaan and bury them in Shechem where he lived as a boy."
Moses asked, "Why in Shechem? Why did he not ask to be buried with his father in Kirjath–arba?" His father's eyes twinkled as he said, "Ah, you have done some studying; I see. I suspect we have a mutual friend, though he has never said anything specific to me. A certain cousin of mine has been a great encouragement; he has whispered to me that he thought you would eventually return to your own people. I think Joseph had happy memories of Shechem because that was the last place where he had a settled home before his mother died."
"The thing about Joseph," Amram continued, "Is that he believed God's promise that He would raise him up, even when he was a slave, and later when he was falsely accused by his mistress and thrown into prison. He believed God all those years in prison, facing many perils. God raised him up, just as He said He would, and reunited him with his father and his brethren, just as He said He would, and God was with Joseph to save his family at that time."
Amram's rheumy eyes leveled themselves intently at Moses from his deeply wrinkled face as he asked, "Do you think a man like that was deluded to believe that God would lead His people back to Canaan? No, assuredly not. As God was with Joseph, He will be with you, if you choose to do His will. I do not say that it will be easy, but it will surely come to pass. You must decide if you will take hold of His hand and give Him your heart; nobody else can make that decision for you."
Moses nodded thoughtfully, and finally in that moment, he decided that he would do it. He did not know how he would deliver his people, but he would find a way, and trust God to bless his efforts. He was scared. He hoped that if he was ever put to torture, he would bear it as bravely as others he had seen and not betray his people. In the meantime, he would just take it one day at a time, doing whatever good he was capable of doing.
Moses felt a great weight roll off of him when he made this decision. He was not going to commit himself to satan after all. No, the throne of Egypt and all its attendant pleasures were not worth his soul; he would suffer with his people, if that was required of him, and then go on to an everlasting joy that was real. This God was not one who delighted in cruelty, nor did He make false promises.
Jochebed felt great relief when she saw the shy smile that flickered momentarily on his face. She knew in her heart that her boy had made his decision, and it was the right decision, the one she had been praying for. She would continue to pray for his safety, but she knew that, spiritually, he was safer now than at any time that he had been in the last 37 years, and this was much more important than his physical safety.
There was no crying this time as Moses rose to take his leave of them. He kissed and hugged them all, smiling with contentment and hope. He whispered, "It is so good to be with my family again. I will come back." Miriam whispered, "Be careful; you are surely watched." He nodded, and then slipped outside to make his way to the palace in the dim, morning light.
Moses kept checking around him on the way back to the palace. He spotted a man following him some distance away, but managed to ambush him near a tavern. He asked the man sternly, "Why do you follow me? Did my mother send you after me to ensure my safety?" That was not why he had been told to follow him, but he nodded, glad of being given an honourable reason for his activities. Moses let go of him and said contemptuously, "She need not have bothered. Those Hebrews have no guts. I was curious about them and they tried to get money out of me. Pah! Just like all the Hebrews who have not had a good upbringing. Greedy, grasping knaves!" The spy agreed and Moses said with disgust, "Well, if you are going to follow me, don't be so obvious about it. It is a good thing it is not actually necessary. I can take care of myself."
The spy scurried away. He had not been able to get near enough to the house to hear what was said because of a dog that was skulking in the area, and he had seen the silhouette of a man on the roof of the house, seemingly walking about aimlessly in quiet contemplation of the stars. He probably was a lookout, for he had stayed up there nearly all night. Whatever had happened in that house had obviously put the General in a bad mood. The queen would be interested to know this.
Moses guarded his words closely and said all the things that were expected of him, but his mind was constantly distracted from his duties as he discarded one plan after another for how he would deliver his people. The Ethiopians could prove useful to him in this. He wished he could send a message to Tharbis to command her to close the gates of Sheba and wait for him to get there, but he did not know who he could trust to take the message to her.
It would be best if he could find a way to bring her father back to her, for additional assurance of cooperation from her people. He did not think that her father would turn against him to reassert his former conquests, as Tharbis was a strong ally, but how could he possibly get the old man out of the guarded estate that had been assigned to him and safely back into Sheba? He was expected to give the Egyptians an answer soon, so there was no time to plan and implement a rescue, but without it, the Ethiopians were unlikely to back him up because it would endanger their king.
No, he must not send Tharbis a message. He was sure that he was now being watched more closely than ever and the message was likely to be intercepted. It would alert the Egyptians that he had already decided to go over to the Hebrews, and they would surely execute his father–in–law to create a rift between him and Tharbis, leaving him without an ally in the south.
He had to make contact with the Hebrews, to let them know that he was on their side, and then go into hiding among them, though it would be very hard to hide him, considering his height. Maybe the Hebrews knew of an isolated place where he could work from to organize the rebellion. He had intelligence on a number of their hiding places, so he would know if it was one that the Egyptians were already aware of, and he would also be able to tell the Hebrews what the Egyptians knew about their hidden networks. He had to find a way within just the next few days to win their trust.
Moses forced himself to pay closer attention to matters of state, as if his heart still leaned towards Egypt, but Pharaoh did not think that he was sufficiently focussed enough on the matters at hand to make sound decisions, as he had been formerly. He said, "Get yourself to the Sacred Scribe and ask his advice on these things that we have discussed. He has insisted on being kept informed, regardless of his condition. We will talk of them again after you have seen him."
Moses had to comply with the order, though he detested the Scribe, and doubtless the Scribe would pressure him for his decision. He went back to the temple and entered the chambers of the former Vizier; the rooms smelled of death. The old man smiled in satisfaction when learning of his errand and loftily read him a lecture on how old dogs could teach young pups plenty. Then he told the priests who attended him to bring the new Grand Vizier a chair. The priests hurried to fulfill his bidding, placing a chair near his bedside, before bowing their way out of the room to give the two leaders privacy in which to conduct their business.
The Scribe's eyes narrowed when he finished with the items that Pharaoh had wanted addressed and he said, "I believe you have not paid any attention to a word I said." Moses, who had been staring into space preoccupied with other thoughts, swiftly turned his attention to the Scribe. His memory replayed what he had heard in the background and he repeated back to the Scribe almost perfectly what he had said. The Scribe scolded him irritably and set him straight on some minor points.
Then he looked at him shrewdly and said, "Made your mind up, yet, boy? Don't play stupid with me, like you don't know what I am talking about. Will you be eating my flesh and drinking my blood when I die?" Moses grinned and said, "You'd be a tough, old vulture to swallow." The High Priest snapped, "You know that I am asking if you will be following in my footsteps, doing the will of my lord. What is it going to be?" Moses replied, "My mother deserves to know the answer to that before anyone else, and I have not spoken to her, yet. Good day, my lord." He rose from the chair beside the Scribe's bed, bowed courteously, and left the room, pausing outside to take a breath of relief that he had thought of an answer so quickly.
Thermuthis was told that he had said this to the High Priest, after the old man sent messengers to her, demanding that she advise him of Moses' decision. She waited the rest of the day, but did not receive a visit from Moses nor any messages from him. Early the next morning, she summoned Moses to a garden where she liked to walk when the grass was dewy and dismissed the servants. She had heard that he had visited his parents, and that he had also visited an old Hebrew scholar several times. She asked him about it. He replied, "You have always told me, Mother, to know my enemy." She said, "So, you consider them your enemies?"
Moses paused thoughtfully and said slowly, "It is sad to think that they took money to look after their own flesh and blood, but I suppose they can't help themselves. Some people are weak." Thermuthis smiled triumphantly and said, "They were better off than many others of their tribe and did not need the money. There are greedy dogs, not worthy to have you for a son." Moses nodded and said, "I suppose they are what you say." He spoke what he knew she wanted to hear, but remorse tweaked his conscience for saying such things about his parents, regardless that his life would have been forfeited if he spoke honestly what he felt about them.
Thermuthis affectionately put her arm around Moses as she continued her walk and asked, "So, you have something interesting to tell me? I hear that you spoke with our old nemesis yesterday." He looked at her and said, "I am still deliberating. This is a serious step to take, and once I take it, there is no turning back."
Thermuthis agreed and then said sternly, "You seem to be taking an overlong time, though, and I wonder why this is so. You are very distracted by it, much more than what I was. You don't seem to be paying much attention to your duties; at least, not as much as we expect and what we are used to seeing from you. You have not even had any of your women in your bed for the last week, nor noticed how that haughty daughter of my father's second wife has been simpering at you, finally considering you worthy for her bed. She would be a bit of a trial to me, but her blood is good and her mind is not too shrewd that I, … I mean you …, could not handle her. Really, Moses, you ought to be more grateful for what I have done for you. I saved your life, gave you the best education possible, and you tease me with your dithering. Stay away from those Hebrews; they seem to be muddling your thinking!"
Moses bowed his head and said, "Mother, I am grateful for all you have done for me. The Sacred Scribe still lives. He has not yet vacated his position. You will have my answer when he breathes his last." Thermuthis smiled and her eyes gleamed. Moses said the first thing that came to his mind to get her off his back, but she supposed that he meant that he wanted the Scribe dead.
"Why would he not?" she reasoned. He had suffered much from the High Priest and she knew he hated him. Perhaps this was a subtle message that he wished for her to speed the Scribe on his way? How delightfully ruthless of him; he would make a good king. Thermuthis hated the High Priest, as well. There never was a better time to do him in; everyone would think he had died of natural causes. She was sure that Lord Lucifer would not mind if his days were cut a little bit short, especially if it hastened Moses' commitment to his service. Thermuthis patted Moses' arm and said, "Well, my son, we will not have to wait long for that."
Moses looked at her sharply. Did she mean what he thought she meant? Thermuthis smiled back in satisfaction at his questioning look. He hurriedly bowed and took his leave.
Moses figured that, by the look on his foster mother's face, he had better find a place for refuge quickly. Soon everyone would be demanding an answer from him, and he would be trapped in the palace. If she killed off the Sacred Scribe, that was one more enemy out of their way, but he needed to make friends with the Hebrews as swiftly as possible. How could he win their trust after all that he had done to them before?
He left the palace and shivered, despite the heat of the burning sun, as he considered his mother. She had become as cold–blooded as a lizard and he harboured no delusion that she would show him any mercy, if he disappointed her hopes to gain control of Egypt, and ultimately the world, through him. He had always had a great deal of affection for her, in spite of the things she allowed to be done to him in the secret rites, because he knew that she had prevented them from being done more often, and prevented even worse things than those he had been dragged into. But what sort of woman was she to have allowed any of those things to happen to a little child whom she claimed as her son?
He knew that Jochebed would have died to save him before anyone could lay a hand on him in that way, if she had known what the priests did in their secret ceremonies. She assumed that because he was a prince, he was protected from such abuses, and he would never give her the pain of knowing it was otherwise.
Thermuthis was a monster. He still struggled with tender feelings for her, but he knew this was true. Though she'd had natural desires to be a mother that were sharpened by her inability to produce children, she had chosen him mainly because she wanted to mold him into someone she could rule Egypt through. He was a pretty piece of clay; people were attracted to his face and form, and impressed with his intelligence and athletic ability and valour in battle, but his whole life he had been her puppet. He started to burn with resentment towards her; she cared nothing for his soul.
But when did she turn herself over to satan completely? He suspected that it was after she saw how he was developing and that he had a very good chance of turning out the way she wanted him to. When he was still a boy, he felt she genuinely cared for him, that there really was a true maternal instinct that had awakened when she found him, alongside her cunning and ambitions. His heart strings were tugged by various memories of sincere kindnesses.
Thermuthis was now a woman with no soul. All she did was in expectation of wielding power in this world and in the world to come, but Moses still honoured her for the good things she had done for him in her younger days. He sensed a stirring in his heart, a conviction that it was only fitting to honour her for the good she had done, but not to let her take a higher place in his heart than God.
When it came right down to it, it was God who had moved on her to save his life and to spare him some of the pains that would have come his way without her intervention. He smiled as he thought of the irony of how God not only rescued him from being killed by the Egyptians, but even had him raised right under Pharaoh's nose. Yes, God had been with him, and He would be with him as he went forth to free his brethren.
Moses leapt into his waiting chariot and headed out to view some public works that needed his attention. He saw again how ruthlessly the slaves were being treated. It had always bothered him before, but he had never been ready to admit it. He schooled his face to show indifference to their suffering and inspected the work, then sent the head engineer away with instructions about something needed to be corrected.
His bladder needed emptying after that, so he went off to find privacy to take care of his needs. That was how he came upon a taskmaster who was beating one of the slaves and had the opportunity to do something about it. Blood pounded in Moses' neck as his heart filled with rage. The Egyptian was obviously enjoying his work, cursing, kicking, and lashing his victim, knowing that if the poor sod dared to defend himself, it would mean his certain death without any interference from the law. If necessary, the law itself would implement it, drawing his execution out to make it as painful as possible. Moses told himself that this might be the chance he had been looking for to demonstrate his change of allegiance to the Hebrews.
He finished his business, effecting an indifference to the pitiful cries of the Hebrew who was being beaten, while glancing around to see if there were witnesses to the deed he was contemplating. No, the coast was clear. He stepped over to the overseer, as if he was going to inquire how the slave had erred. After one more look around, he slipped his dagger from the scabbard that hung at his belt and stabbed the overseer in the back.
I suppose it was the way that Moses killed the Egyptian that makes Christian pastors consider it a murder, stabbing him in the back, without giving the overseer a chance to defend himself against his knife. I can understand Moses's reasons, though. If the Egyptian had seen his approach, he would have raised a cry, then both Moses and the man he was attempting to rescue would be finished, and he would have no further chance to set his people free. If he had told the Egyptian to stop beating the Hebrew, the overseer would have obeyed, but quickly reported it to his superiors, who would then pass the information on to Pharaoh that Moses had demonstrated sympathy to a Hebrew.
His method was possibly wrong, but I cannot fault his motive. If I were in a similar circumstance, perhaps watching one of my children being beaten to death, if I could rescue them by stabbing their potential murderer in the back, I might do it. It probably would be the only way I could manage it. Any decent person, if they had the chance to rescue someone from being murdered, would probably do it, and ponder the matter over in their conscience later.
For years, I have heard pastors describe Moses at this point in his life as a murderer, and I have bought into that opinion, as well, until now that I have put some deeper thought into it. Maybe it is more accurate to say that he was a rescuer, rather than a murderer. If not, then everyone who ever fought in the Resistance against the Nazis was a murderer, and Ehud was a murderer because he tricked the king of Moab and assassinated him when he was off his guard, and Jael, as well, because she killed a man while he slept. Oddly, the Bible styles both Ehud and Jael as heroic, and Deborah sang a song that celebrated Jael's deed. The king of Moab and Sisera were bloody murderers who needed to be stopped from taking innocent lives.
I think that many pastors and teachers, regarding this incident in Moses' life, have been too hard on him, possibly because their criticism implies that they would be too noble and wise to make a similar mistake. Nobler and wiser than Moses? Ha! If a sadistic killer was beating them to death, they probably wouldn't mind having someone like Moses step in and rescue them.
Getting back to the story, the slave looked in disbelief at the fallen body of his tormenter, then in terror at Moses who stood before him with blood dripping from his dagger. Prince Moses had never before shown pity for a Hebrew. What was he? A heartless madman who enjoyed killing? Was he going to be next? If he did not quibble at killing one of his own taskmasters for the heck of it, then how much less would he mind killing a slave?
Moses raised his finger to his lips to caution the man to not speak, then said quietly in a kindly tone, "Go back to your work and say nothing about this." The man ran away, looking back briefly as Moses wiped the blood off of his blade and hands onto the taskmaster's kilt, and then put his dagger away
Moses swiftly dug a shallow pit in the sand and pushed the man's body into it, then covered it over. The jackals would find the corpse tonight and make a meal of it.
He was amazed at how calm and cool he was after what had just happened. This must have been what it was like for his mother when she played her charade; she told him that it had surprised her very much that she could be so steady and calm when she walked about in front of her neighbours and the Egyptians, pretending to still be pregnant. Whenever she started to feel troubled, she would recall to mind how perfectly formed he was when he was born, whereas premature babies usually lacked finger nails and had trouble breathing. It assured her that God was with them to help carry it off.
Moses felt that way all the rest of the day. He saw the man whom he had rescued, and the fellow stole a look at him. Moses pretended indifference and paid closer attention to what the engineer was saying. He trusted that the fellow would not betray him.
The man did not mean to betray him. Maybe it went something like this, though neither the Bible nor historical records (that I know of) give us any clue to the man's identity, nor speak of how he came to tell what happened. If I were going to write a movie script based on how the word got out about what Moses did, I would call the rescued man Judah and show him at his evening meal that night.
Proceeding from there, a close friend entered the scene, whom he tended to relax around, and remarked, "Well, Judah, you got a taste of the lash today I see." Without thinking, he replied, "It would have been worse if he had not stepped in and stabbed The Snake through the back clear to his heart." The man looked startled and growled low in disbelief, "What is that you say? The Snake is dead?" Judah gulped when he realized what he said. "Nathan, don't tell anyone," he whispered before he busied himself with his meagre rations.
Nathan went away and returned with water and salve. He washed Judah's back and asked quietly, "Did you kill him?" Judah whispered back, "No, it wasn't me." Nathan urged, "Well who killed him then? When we noticed he was missing, we thought he had taken himself off to pleasure himself with one of the girls. Who did it? Name the brave man and we will make him our champion. We need someone who can lead us out of this miserable mess."
Judah replied, "I think that is what he wants." Nathan queried, "To lead an uprising? Who? We have been waiting for such a man. Who is it?" Judah replied, "I don't think he is ready, yet. He told me to not tell anyone." Nathan replied, "Well, just how much more of this misery can he take? I, for one, am almost ready to do myself in, if something doesn't happen soon." Judah answered, "Oh, he doesn't have to work like the rest of us. He can take it pretty easy while he makes his plans."
The other man shook his head in perplexity and mused aloud, "So, he is not a slave. There hasn't been anyone around here today except for Egyptians who want to make these cursed monuments. Will you really not tell me, your best friend?" Judah's back was now feeling better after having soothing ointment smeared on it, and sympathy for his wounds had also gone a long way. He arched his back to ease his stiffness said, "It wasn't an Egyptian."
Nathan pondered this, reviewing in his mind who he had seen around that day. Then his jaw dropped as an image came into his mind of a tall, muscled, light–skinned figure with a strong, handsome face that looked like it had been sculptured from stone. "Not the Grand Vizier!" he gasped. Judah nodded and said, "Mind you don't tell anyone."
Nathan stayed around long enough to not seem to be in a hurry to get away, and then went to his sleeping place. A short time later, he crept out to join a group of men who huddled in darkness and discussed how they could possibly effect an escape from this project that was killing them. Some were willing to abandon their families to the consequences of their escape, but others wanted to find a way to take their families with them.
The man who joined them now said he had the solution, or, at least, he knew of someone who might have a solution. He told them what he had learned from his friend Judah. There was stunned silence, at first, and then one of them declared it was a trick, that the Grand Vizier did not really intend to throw in his hand with his discarded brethren.
He was challenged by their leader, an Ephraimite named Diblaim. Nathan asked, "How can it be a trick?" Diblaim replied, "The man is a monster! They don't tell everything about what goes on their torture chambers, but they let us know enough to discourage us from doing things that will place us there. I have heard that this Moses is always present when it is one of us who is examined, and that has included some of his own relatives. No, he has cast us off. They want to make him Pharaoh. Can you imagine him giving up the throne? Not I. He is playing a trick. What is one Egyptian brute less to him, if it serves to find out what we are thinking? He wants us to trust him and find out who is plotting against Pharaoh, and then turn us in to Pharaoh to prove his loyalty. That is what we can expect from him!"
The bright flame of hope that had flickered up in the rest of the men subsided into despair. Yes, that was likely what it was about. They remembered how cunning the General was in the matter of the Ethiopians. He was Egypt's hero and had won himself many supporters in that campaign. The throne was within his grasp. Who in that position would give up the throne for an uncertain future with a bunch of slaves who really had no place to go? They had heard that giants lived in the land that was promised to Abraham's descendents. They were the seed of men and fallen angels, who were up to their old tricks again, though only Canaan's seed were depraved enough to give their women to the devils. The men crept away to their sleeping places after agreeing to be cautious with this Moses.
Moses was back at the project the next day, inspecting the changes he had ordered. He had an uncanny feeling that the slaves were stealing peeks at him. When he looked at them, though, they were always looking in a different direction. The confidence he had felt yesterday faded away and now he felt jumpy.
Later in the morning, shortly before noon, Moses rode his horse around the far side of the works to take a last look at it before he retired for his dinner. Two of the slaves were involved in a scuffle and he listened long enough to get the gist of what was going on. One of the men was a bully and had stolen something from the smaller man, who was having no success getting it back.
He urged his horse closer and said reasonably, "Brothers shouldn't fight with each other. You have problems enough; you need to stick together and help each other out." The larger man stopped for a moment and said with a sneer, "You please the Egyptians well enough, but who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian yesterday?"
Moses felt the blood drain from his face as the bully celebrated his triumph by turning back to beat his victim some more, knowing that Moses could do nothing to punish him. If he killed him, then he would lose credibility with the Hebrews, and if he beat him, he would still live and could report to the Egyptians that Moses had killed one of their own. It was a subtle threat of blackmail. Moses' first instinct was to speed off on his horse and get away as far and as fast as he could. If the slaves knew this, and they were ill–disposed towards him, it would not be long before Pharaoh heard of it.
His heart was pounding with terror because this was happening too soon, but he steadied himself and jumped down from horse. He tore the scoundrel away from his victim and then clutched him by his throat, lifting him off his feet. He snarled, "Listen, you idiot. Remember what I tell you and make sure you tell it to the right people. The All–Seeing Eye knows of several groups of Israeli partisans and where they meet. They are waiting and watching to see who associates with them. I have no doubt that the word to round them up will go out as soon as they find out what I did yesterday. Some of your brethren are informers."
Moses told the two men the names of the leaders of the groups and where they met to do their plotting. He looked at the other man, whom he had rescued from a beating, and saw that he was listening intently. He asked,"You will remember the names?" The man nodded. Moses said, "Be sure in all haste to tell someone you can trust, who is able to get the word out of the camp quickly." The man nodded again.
Moses dropped his tormentor in the sand, who was now looking at him with new respect. Moses still did not trust him, though. He had not spoken to the Egyptians, else he would not have let on to Moses that he knew what he had done, but why take a chance? He was a blackmailer. Moses said to the other man, "If he shows the least sign of betraying his brothers, kill him." He shoved his dagger into the Hebrew's hand. The man quickly concealed it beneath his tattered clothes. Moses then jumped up on his horse and trotted a short distance away. He then stopped and watched the two Hebrews return to their work party.
Moses rode back to the quarters that were reserved for high officials when they visited this isolated site. He handed over his horse to a guard and sauntered into the chamber in a relaxed manner. His servants bowed and said his meal was ready. He told them to leave, that he was tired and wanted to rest.
As soon they left, he began to pace. He had been hungry, but now his stomach was in knots and he had no appetite for the food spread out before him. He felt like giving the low table a kick that would scatter the dishes around the room, but he restrained himself. The Egyptians must not know that he was upset about something. What to do, what to do? He had to get out of here. He needed a headstart before Pharaoh gave the order to arrest him. He could not leave in any manner that looked like he was on the run.
The Egyptians hadn't found the taskmaster's body, yet, as they had stopped working on that side yesterday. It would be soon, though, that they got back to the area and found his bones, and realized that he had not gone off on a drunk as they supposed. If he could make himself disappear, as the taskmaster had disappeared, they might suppose that the slaves had done him in as they had the taskmaster.
No, that wouldn't work. They would start to torture the slaves to find out who had done it and they would turn him in faster than they could shake a stick. Well, someone would tell anyway, as soon as they found that body, but if they did not find the body for a little while, it would give him a bit of time, and they might not believe the slaves right away. They might suppose they were lying about the Vizier to save their necks, and they had done away with him, too.
Moses hated to implicate the Hebrews in his escape, but what else could he do? He could not leave the site on his own. That would be suspicious, as it was expected of him to always travel with a guard. If he had a guard, he would not be able to separate from them without arousing their suspicions. A few of the Hebrews would die, but when he came up with a plan to to lead a rebellion, he would come back and save all the rest. He just needed to think of some way to disappear without looking like he had left the site.
This was quite a challenge. Among the Egyptians, he had become very adept as a sorcerer and knew many incantations he could have employed to give him supernatural powers that would have helped him, but now that he was serving the true God, he had to put aside all those things. No more hypnotism, no more divination, no more magic at all!
He could not take any provisions; the quartermasters kept careful track of the supplies, to prevent the slaves from stealing. No doubt they themselves stole and blamed it on the slaves, but they would know if anything was gone that they had not taken. So be it; he was going to have to leave without anything but the clothes on his back, another dagger that he had among his stuff, and the flask of water that he carried with him when he was outside in the heat. He quickly refilled it with water; he would not get far without that.
Moses, being an ingenious man, managed to effect his escape before the taskmaster's body was found. He headed east into the desert and then south, but away from any route to Sheba where the Egyptians would naturally expect him to go. Undoubtedly they would search every boat going up the Nile. As he slogged on through the wilderness, he could not remember ever feeling so depressed, though he had known plenty of lows before.
He regretted that he had not been able to see his family before he left. They would be watched at first, and then questioned. It was better that they not have anything to tell. He hated to put them in that position, but they had encouraged him to be brave and face possible torture, so he supposed they were ready to endure the same; it was vital to his misson that he get away for the present time.
Doubts crowded in on him. Would he ever be able to manage a successful return to his task? He had conquered the Ethiopians, but he was getting the feeling that he was totally out of his depth and did not know the first thing about how to approach this job. What had seemed like a logical move to him had gone terribly wrong.
The worst of it wasn't that Pharaoh would give the order to apprehend him, but that the people he was supposed to rescue had no respect for him and would not trust him. Before, they had feared him, but since he had killed the Egyptian, his own people openly displayed contempt for him. No Hebrew had ever dared to talk to him that way. He could not make up his mind which was worse; to be despised by former friends or former enemies. If both sides hated him, then he must be the most hated man in Egypt. How was he going to gather an army with a deficit like that?
That conscript had seen his vulnerability and gloated over it. He had seen his opportunity to disrespect the Grand Vizier of Egypt and get away with it. How many other Hebrews would love to take a sip from that cup, to get some revenge for the privileges he had enjoyed while they suffered? There surely would be some who would plunge the dagger of their doubt into his well–intentioned heart by turning their back on him, ignoring his pleas to become united under his leadership so they could gain their freedom, foolishly, pridefully choosing instead the temporary satisfaction of thumbing their noses at him.
He supposed that giving the Hebrews information that could save their rebel leaders would win some confidence, and his dagger was proof that he was willing to trust them. How long would it take to turn the tide of their suspicion against him, though? Such things tended to move slowly. How many more people would die before they decided to back him up? How many more people would die before he could think of a good plan?
Moses was weary of being doubted. He had thought he belonged with the Egyptians, and tried so hard to prove it. He had laboured under suspicion his whole life, and the Egyptians had been right to doubt his loyalty, for he had turned on them, as they had feared. Now he was back at Square One with a whole new group of people, and what he knew of the Hebrews was that they were more skeptical, suspicious, argumentative, and pessimistic than Egyptians generally were.
How many years was it going to take him to convince them of his sincerity and how many more Hebrews were going to die in the meantime because of the delay? He could suck it up and endure the doubts about his strategies and integrity, because that was part of the territory of being a leader, but the longer it took to get control of the Hebrews and train them for war, the less chance there would be of his aged parents ever seeing the land they longed for, and many of the Hebrews were dropping like flies because of the rigours imposed on them.
In fact, how many of them were dying right now because of his failure to win their confidence? How many were being interrogated and put to death? Thermuthis knew about the rabbi whom he had been seeing. She would not believe any longer that he had simply been trying to get to know his enemy. The man's whole household would be cruelly examined, unless God intervened to save them. Would He?
After a day of travelling, Moses figured that Pharaoh must be aware of his crime by now. Someone would have informed on him already to collect a reward. What was happening to his parents and brother and sister and their families? And what about his servants and concubines? They were not of his people, but he felt convicted that he should still care about them. If he had handled this better, he might have been able to protect them to some degree, but they were likely being tortured at the moment.
Moses' regrets and his attempts to make plans to effect his people's rescue were too emotionally and mentally taxing. He had never before cared so much about others. He finally pushed his feelings aside and focussed on his most immediate task, to get away from Pharaoh safe and sound. As the one chosen to be the Deliverer, he was the most strategic person in the whole operation, so it was vital that he find a place to regroup. He bent all his energy on keeping track of his location by the sun and the stars, heading in the direction of Midian, putting one foot in front of the other, and finding water along the way.
Moses staggered on for days like an automaton without rest or food until he finally collapsed in the sand. He awoke and began walking again, eventually coming across a wadi where he refreshed himself. He continued on his way, avoiding contact with people so that nobody could tell Pharaoh's agents that they had seen him. He veered again to the east. He had distant kinsmen in that direction, the Midianites, descended from Abraham's concubine Keturah. Maybe he could hide out among them for a while, until he figured out where to go from there.
In the meantime, his disappearance had been noticed, shortly after the body of the Egyptian was found. The slaves were questioned with the help of a lash and they came up with the preposterous accusation that the Grand Vizier had done it. The chief engineer on the project went to report this development to the Vizier, but he could not be found. The slaves were put to torture some more, to see if they had done away with the Vizier, as well, but that was soon halted when one of the slaves piped up, "That proves it was the Vizier. He has run away because he is guilty!"
This made them all pause. It made sense, in a way, but if he had turned to the Hebrews and started to help them, why would they turn him in? Just in case, they sent messengers off to Pharaoh to tell him what the slaves had said, and continued to torture the slaves to see what else they could tell them.
Pharaoh did not have any trouble believing it, particularly when he saw the look of rage come over his daughter's face. It explained his delay in giving her an answer. She refrained from saying aloud, "I had the Sacred Scribe killed for him two nights ago! The cunning serpent! He shall pay!" She was stunned when she realized that satan had lied to her, too. Moses would never become Pharaoh, if he was willing to unleash his cunning on her and manipulate her into killing one of the Hebrews' worst enemies. Bitterness filled her heart towards her dark lord, but there was nothing she could do to injure him. She could get back at Moses, though.
Aloud she shrieked, "Ungrateful wretch! To think that I saved his life and nursed that viper in my bosom all these years, and this is how he repays us!" Her husband looked at her and asked, "How are you certain that he has gone over to the Hebrews?" She replied, "He has been putting me off in that decision he was required to make; I see now that he already had it made when I spoke to him last, the deceiver!"
Her father then boiled with rage and he forgot himself so much as to shriek at his daughter, hurling epithets at her for having saved Moses' life when he was a child. He suddenly collected himself that one does not say such things in public to a royal and ranted instead about Moses, calling him the worst names that he could think of (and he had a considerable supply), as well as spewing curses on him, and describing tortures he would apply when his agents caught the miscreant. Troops were already streaming out of the barracks like bats out of a cave after the first indication that Pharaoh believed Moses to be a murderer, and signal stations relayed a message through all of Egypt's coasts to apprehend the General of the Generals.
Finally exhausted with his diatribe, Pharaoh sank back in his chair, regretfully shook his head, and said in a hoarse voice, "It is too bad that the Sacred Scribe is dead now. He foresaw this long ago. Of us all, he was the one who saw through him the best, right from infancy. Even in his weakness, he could have advised us." His words scalded Thermuthis with humiliation and frustration that Moses had used her hand (she thought) to rid himself of his deadliest enemy.
The court was dismissed. Thermuthis and her husband repaired to the roof of the palace to watch the soldiers being mobilized for the search. Thermuthis vowed, "I will hunt him to the ends of the earth, if need be. He has probably gone to the Ethiopians to get them to make him their king. That was probably in his mind all the time when he married the king's daughter!"
Her husband said, "Well, bring her here, and keep her as a hostage along with her father, in case her lust for her husband overcomes her fidelity to her father. We will send one of our own to be Governor in her place. Send men to get there with all speed before Moses and say that they bear a message from him. From what I have learned from my agents, she will be eager to hear it. The Cushites won't do anything for him, if he does not have her at his side." Thermuthis's face lit up with a delighted smile and she praised her husband for having come up with a brilliant idea. He smiled to himself; it was rare to hear a truly sincere compliment from Thermuthis.
A special contingent of soldiers was sent off in haste on ships up the Nile to take the Queen of Sheba hostage. The slaves who rowed were lashed when any of them failed to keep up the expected pace. They quickly arrived at Sheba. The new Governor took a chance, as instructed, that Moses had not yet managed to arrive or send warning. He acted as if this was a normal visit, without any more guards than what would be usual. The gates were opened without delay. To his relief, after they entered the city, they were not swooped on and tossed into a dungeon for interrogation. Moses was not here, nor had any messages from him arrived.
The official bowed courteously to Tharbis and informed her that his highness, Prince Moses, wanted her to journey down to the Delta with all speed. The accompanying correspondence bore his seal, but it did not explain much. There was a small note at the end, though, where he said that their separation had been too long. This was as far as he could respectably, in an official communication, convey his desire to have her in his bed again.
Tharbis was excited about seeing the husband whom she longed for intensely every moment of each day. The new Governor, who had been introduced merely as an ambassador, carefully kept his expression bland, though inwardly he smiled at how the queen had swallowed the bait. Tharbis wondered momentarily if she was being played for a fool, but if the summons were really from Moses, how could she justify to him not obeying his instructions to come to him immediately? Besides that, it was against the law to use another's seal, especially a royal seal. The punishment for it was severe, and using a royal seal amiss could start a war.
The official said that he would act as governor in her absence. That was to be expected, considering how wary the Egyptians would be of any Ethiopian but herself acting as Governor, so she could not complain. She had her maids quickly gather her jewels and most impressive gowns, and boarded the ship that was to take her to him. Suspicions did not arise until they were well on their way, but it was too late, for she was far from her troops by then.
The ruse of copying Moses' royal seal, which he no longer had the right to use, served to get Tharbis away without trouble, but also ascertained if she had knowledge of Moses' whereabouts. Obviously, she did not. When Thermuthis received word from the signal stations that Tharbis had immediately set forth, she chuckled with satisfaction. This girl had quite a weakness for the Hebrew. It was foolish for a ruler to let their heart rule their head.
Tharbis's suspicions grew as the ship she travelled on passed the cliffs of the Nile. They increased more when they had to disembark and travel by land for a ways to avoid rapids. The guards were watching her very closely now. Why would they be so vigilant? She had run into a trap! She felt like an utter fool, but what was going on?
Was her father dead? Did they need her as a hostage to replace him? That must be it. She might possibly be required as a hostage, if Moses had launched a rebellion, so that he could not gain the support of her people. That was unlikely, though. Moses told her that Pharaoh's daughter was his adoptive mother, and Tharbis had surmised that his mother would do everything in her power to put him on the throne. After he left Sheba, she discovered that most Egyptians considered it likely that he would succeed. He needed only wait until his grandfather died before he ascended the throne, and since Pharaoh was such an old man, that should be soon. It must be that her father was dead.
Tharbis maintained a dignified demeanor, but mourned in her heart for her father, feeling certain that she had been brought to the Delta because he was dead. She did not ask any of the officers if this was so. The Egyptians had kept this information from her, for some reason. Did Moses not fully trust her? At least she would see her husband again, and hopefully he would be sympathetic and sensitive as she mourned for her father. Perhaps Moses was certain of her loyalty to him, but had suggested that she be taken hostage, as an excuse to keep her with him. That was a shrewd way to mask his passion for her. It would not do to let anyone, even his own family, to know that he had a weakness where she was concerned.
Her heart fluttered at the idea that Moses had convinced his grandfather to let him send for her because he wanted her in his arms again. Tharbis was somewhat conceited about her attractions. It seemed logical to her that a reasonably good–looking, ambitious aristocrat with a quick mind would interest a prince much more than concubines who were ten times more beautiful and thoroughly trained in harem arts. After all, blood was more important than flesh.
Tharbis had not paid much attention to sex education beyond knowing just a little bit beyond the basics, as she was not obliged to be a whore. This was how she regarded the obligations of women who were not born to power. She had felt that learning how to please a man in that way was beneath her dignity, and expected that it would be she who must be pleased, when she deigned to take a husband. She had not imagined ever meeting a prince so fabulous as Moses, for she had not suspected that such men truly existed. She most certainly had never imagined that when she married, it would be she who proposed the marriage. Many princes had proposed it to her, but she had disdained them all.
Her educational focus had been on military, political, and economic information and strategies that helped her fulfill her role as a queen. Tharbis had expected that, after her father handed over his throne to her, she would always have the principal say in how she governed her country, and any others that she managed to conquer. No, she never expected that she would care to know how to please a man, as she figured that she would leave most of that chore to her husband's harem. The busier he was kept by other women in that regard, the less time he would have to interfere with her decisions, and she would not have to expend so much effort flattering him to keep him mollified and imagining that he had some power.
But instead of having married merely for political advantage, she had wed a man whom she admired prodigiously and considered it a privilege to bed, and she preferred to not share him with anyone else. It was unrealistic, of course, to expect him to be monogamous, but she wanted to make sure that she was the one whom he favoured the most. Ever since he had left Sheba, she'd had conferences with her father's frustrated ladies that he had left behind. They had shared many exquisite secrets with her that she was eager to practice on her husband.
Besides her rivals in the harem, Tharbis knew that she had a fight on her hands to become more than just a figurehead Queen of Egypt when Moses took the throne. His mother was undoubtedly very ambitious and would contrive to rule through her son. How strong was her hold on him? Tharbis was going to have to exert every art she knew to tie his heart to hers, so that she could gain greater influence with him, not only for the sake of her people, but also so that she did not end up being superseded by his mother.
After Tharbis disembarked from the ship, she was allowed to refresh herself and be dressed becomingly before she was escorted to the court. Nobody told her that her father was dead, as they should have now that she had arrived. What was this about?
Tharbis was led to the court. The palace's opulence surpassed the glamour of the royal residences of Ethiopia, but Tharbis refused to let this intimidate her. She glided forward as stately as any queen before she came to a halt and bowed, though she felt bewildered. She saw Pharaoh on his throne, and other people around him, but not Moses. As the Vizier, should he not be here? Especially since she had arrived.
She had asked on their wedding night about other wives, and he said she was the first actual wife; he'd had only concubines until now. It was gratifying; no, it was dazzling. To think that he had not married at all, though he was in his late thirties, and then had consented to take her for his First Wife! Surely because of her position in his harem, and because this was her very first visit to the Delta, he should be here.
A haughty, old woman came forward and told her to rise. She looked her up and down with scorn, then walked around her to inspect her figure as if she was a slave about to be sold. Tharbis soon realized that this was Queen Thermuthis and that Moses was out of favour with his adoptive mother and all the court. In fact, they said he was a traitor and railed about what they would do to him when he was caught.
She almost fainted with relief when she realized that they did not have him in custody. Apparently his felony had to do with his Hebrew heritage, which had come to be important to him. She wondered where he was hiding. No doubt, he had run away to raise an army to overthrow the Egyptians. Most likely he had been on the way to see her, but the troops got there before him. She schooled her face to show no alarm at the things she was learning, and now her heart felt more quiet. She would make him proud of her in this captivity that was being imposed upon her. She would not show fear. Her chin lifted slightly.
Thermuthis noticed. She smiled sourly and said, "No doubt you think that he will rescue you. Yes, you are a pretty piece of bait. We will see. If we thought you had anything to do with this, you would find your incarceration most uncomfortable, but we know that this rebellion of his is all about the Hebrews. You probably thought you would use him to regain your kingdom, didn't you? Well, it would have never crossed his mind, if had not been for those Hebrews. If he had remained with us, your kingdom would still have remained a vassal state."
Tharbis felt gauche. These people were craftier than her and had guessed her intentions. She sensed that Thermuthis was telling the truth. She knew in her heart that Moses was not in love with her, though she was so madly in love with him. But perhaps he would come to love her, if she proved to be useful to him and assisted him in setting his people free. She would wait and be strong and be ready for when he returned. Surely he would find a way to rescue her from the Egyptians. She sent up silent prayers to the gods.
Tharbis asked, "May I see my father?" The new Vizier stepped forward, for Queen Thermuthis had returned to stand at her father's side. The Vizier replied, "No, princess, you may not. We will not make it easy for the Usurper to rescue you both at the same time, if he should have your rescues in mind. Your father will remain at his current estate and you will be kept here in your own apartments, as befitting your station. Make yourself comfortable, for you will be here for a long, long time."
It was good to receive confirmation that her father was still alive, but Tharbis was deeply disappointed that she would not be permitted to see him. Well, that was just one more thing that she would bear like a queen. It was probably just as well that she could not see him. Now that she was no longer upset about him because she had believed he was dead, she felt embarassed to face him. What would he say about her having so foolishly stepped into this trap? He would now know that it was more due to lust that she had wanted to marry the General than for political advantage, and he would think she was an idiot.
It was the hardest acting job of her life to walk through those corridors with her head held high when the knowledge sunk in of what her father would think of her. She felt so shamed, so human, so ungoddess–like. Father had set her on a pedestal, supposing her to be divinely clever, yet here she had the same weaknesses as the foolish, common mortals that they ruled.
The worst of it was that she still felt helpless to resist her attraction to the General, even knowing that it had lured her to disaster, and that he had chosen to align himself with a despised, ignominious tribe of slaves. Where was Moses? Would he rescue her? When would she again feel his firm lips on her mouth, those strong arms wrapped around her? Would she ever know such delight with him again? Was he even now approaching Sheba and about to walk into a trap?
1And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that your seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
[Genesis 15:13 & 14]
Four hundred years actually refers to the length of time between when the prophecy was made and when the Israelites would be released from Egypt, plus an additional thirty.
And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.
The extra thirty years probably refer to the length of time that they were not afflicted, but appreciated and treated well. Andrew Wommack believes the thirty additional years were due to a delay in the Israelites' deliverance because Moses jumped the gun and attempted it too early. He might be right, but I contend that God knew what Moses would do when He told Abraham that his children would be afflicted for 400 years before they received their inheritance, and I think the affliction includes what they suffered as aliens in Canaan, as well. It seems the only way to me that their affliction can be accounted as having lasted four hundred years, if one counts the children who were still in Abraham's loins at that time (the book of Hebrews shows that the God acknowledges not only children who are not yet born, but also not yet conceived), because their sojourn in Egypt was for only approximately 200 years.
This conclusion about the years of affliction indicates that Abraham's pilgrimage in Canaan was peppered with opposition from the inhabitants, though God stood by him and worked things out to his advantage. Even his confederates were jealous of his wealth, as evidenced by how they took advantage of his grief over Sarah's death, and his necessity of finding a burial place for her, to overcharge for the cave and field that he bought.
Isaac's confederates were jealous of his wealth, as well, fighting with him over wells he had dug. If that was how their friends treated them, though they were supposed to be allies, it is certain, then, that the other tribes resented them. Jacob was especially disliked because of what his sons did to the Hivites. The Israelites were generally not popular, and some of the inhabitants probably found ways to express this, short of attacking with intent to kill, as God would not let them go that far.
Bear in mind, also, that God used a comet to deliver the Hebrews. I don't think that Andrew Wommack realized this at the time that he made his statement. God knew what Moses would do, and He timed the comet to arrive when Moses was eighty years old, not when he was fifty years old.
2Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, Book 2, Chapter 9, Paragraph 2.
3The women were referred to as Hebrew midwives in the same sense that white men who superintended the native reservations in North America were referred to as Indian agents.
4Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, Book 2, Chapter 9, Paragraph 5.
5Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, Book 2, Chapter 10, Paragraph 1.
6Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, Book 2, Chapter 10, Paragraph 2.
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The Majesty of God, Chapter 21
Copyright © 2010, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on January 27, 2011
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.