“Gracefeld,” asked Perambula, “does God actually think they can remember all this? The details are mind boggling!”Read More
Perambula and Gracefeld were hovering in the heavens on a perfectly beautiful day, which is common since there is no nighttime there at all, but let’s pretend. It was their time off as Israel was busy being scared out of their wits by the smoky mountain and the thunderous trumpeting bellows from God which He did Himself without the assistance of Gracefeld’s skill in creating sound effects.
“Do you know what the Lord is going to tell them to do?” asked Perambula.
“Yes, we discussed it.” replied Gracefeld in the angel’s most condescending tone.
Ignoring the slightly rancid whiff of arrogance, Perambula said, “Well, what? After all, so many of them are already old and set in their ways. What can the Lord expect?”
“My dear naive Perambula, these souls are mere seeds. The Lord will treat them as the infants they are, but more importantly He speaks to every man to be born from now to Kingdom Come.” replied Gracefeld.
“Kingdom come?” asked Perambula.
“Don’t ask. It’s too soon to explain it to you. Just know that these instructions will illuminate and define the path to immortality.”
“Will they know that?”
“The sages will. Some will thrive on the guidance, others will rebel against it, still others will be challenged by it and others will feel threatened by these simple, albeit obvious rules. Some will see freedom through the Commandments, others will see constraints.”
“Can’t the Lord of all just make sure everyone understands the purpose and value of these Laws?”
“NO, NO, NO” retorted Gracefeld getting impatient with Perambula’s simplicity.
“Okay, you don’t have to snap at me. I was just asking a question.” replied wincing Perambula. “Let’s get back to work, I don’t want to miss this.”
Aaron and Moses carefully climbed Mt. Sinai together in silence, dodging rocks to avoid tripping and falling. Each old man was thinking his own thoughts about what to expect, and about the difficulty of the climb. Some parts were so steep that it was hard to catch one’s breath. Aaron stayed behind Moses. The intense dry heat made it even harder to climb. God waited and watched patiently as the exhausted elderly brothers drew near.
The people stood in their pack patiently below, while Moses and Aaron approached the thick darkness, not daring to go beyond the limit set for them. Some not daring to look up as the old men made their way to God, until the two dissolved into tiny specks. There was murmuring below, but fear kept most of the people, except the oblivious children, from becoming boisterous.
Hours passed before the elderly brothers reached the spot where they could receive the commands of God. Like receiving instruction on how to breath, or how to make your heart beat, or how to digest your food and sort the elements of it into nutrients to send to the bloodstream, so did Moses, with Aaron as the witness, receive from God almighty instructions on how to exist, and coexist in a world constantly threatened by evil.
Dear reader, imagine a factory where the maker and the made interact. So fantastic and magnificent was this moment, the moment wrapped in time, yet outside of time so as to challenge every flesh-wrapped soul that ever graces our earth. To be told, like an ancient secret, the Will of God, for the very first time, is to hear the echo of “Let there be light.”
Thousands of angel eyes and angels ears witnessed this moment and were in awe that their God cared so much about humankind that He would not give up, but time and time again interact with this divine animal to form it, to mould it, to teach it. Why, to what end all this effort? A blazing bonfire from which only a candle here and there will be lit.
Aaron stood at a distance away, frightened to the point of numbness. While Moses faced the sound of God, afraid but reverent. Moses stood straight and tall, like an ancient soldier. The babe of a slave who had grown up with mighty Pharaoh as his stepfather was fully prepared to be fathered by God. In fact Moses was visited with a sense of nostalgia every time he approached the Lord.
Moses heard clearly God say:
- I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
- I am a jealous God, you shall not make for yourself an idol, that you would bow down and worship. I will punish to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but show love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commands.
- Do not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy. The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. The Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
- Honor your father and your mother so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord is giving you.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, or wife, or slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The Lord God bellowed these instructions consecutively without hesitating between them. Moses and Aaron could hardly remember them all but went from listening to one and the next without the opportunity to pause and reflect. The ones that pierced each brother’s soul the most were those that he felt most guilty of.
Silence followed the admonition to be grateful for what one has and to look neither to the left nor to the right with envy, something that was so unlikely for these nomads that the mention of it was absurd. This last rule relieved Aaron who was glad of his innocence on this one point.
For the giver of the Law, that which is wrong is illegal. It is a false measure, it is a broken clock, worthless, and destructive. It is poison. To disobey, which resulted in death and curses to Adam, likewise means the death of sin to his seed. With his disobedience Adam was banished from utopia, and with disobedience his seed is unable to return.
“Is that all, my Lord,” asked Moses to break the silence.
“That’s enough for now. Go and tell my people these basic precepts. There will be more. Hurry down this mountain for the sun will be setting soon, and I won’t delay that for you. Go! But Moses...”
“Yes, my Lord?!”
“Return without Aaron and I will write this down for you.”
Moses and Aaron were quite relieved to hear that as they bowed and departed down the steep mountain in the sunset as quickly as their stiff legs could take them.
While the two men carefully made their way down Perambula who had been listening intently to the rules turned to Gracefeld and said, “Correct me if I am wrong Gracefeld, but did the Lord just say the same thing ten times?”
Gracefeld replied, “You are not wrong. He just said the same things from ten different perspectives. Brilliant!”
Both angels looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Respect Reality!” Then they shared a hearty laugh and the thought of how simple and obvious the Rule was. Gracefeld added, “Now let’s watch them complicate it and disobey in a thousand different ways.” Perambula nodded with a smirk.
Meanwhile, the people below saw only lightening and heard loud peels of thunder and trumpets. They saw smoke billowing out of the mountaintop. In an attempt to endure the fear they remembered Moses say, “Do not be afraid for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of Him upon you so that you do not sin.”
But they didn’t yet know what sin was. Hours and hours passed as the sun was setting behind Sinai, but the congregation still waited patiently for Moses and Aaron to return to tell them what they had to do to satisfy the thunder.
From that day that Moses climbed Mt. Sinai through thunder and smoke with every Jew who inhabited the earth in one place meeting God, from that awesome day of the Lord to this moment of reading about it thousands of years later there has been an annual commemoration of the holy and unique period between Passover night and the day God handed down the Torah through Moses. Never forget Passover. Never forget meeting God and receiving His Law. And never forget the time period between the two.
The time period is called Pentecost in Greek and Shavuot in Hebrew. Pente means five (50 days between Passover and receiving the Torah.) The word Shavuot means weeks, the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and (Pentecost) Shavuot. 49 days, plus the Sabbath day of Passover at the head of the weeks, hence fifty.
“But wait!” interjects the well read reader, “Exodus 19 says it was three moons later, not 50 days! That’s 90 days! And don’t forget that Shuvout also celebrates the end of the seven week barley and wheat harvest. Why two celebrations on one day, with the same name, Shavuot?”
On the fiftieth day after Passover, Israel celebrates the day it was given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God. Although it was 90 days, it is linked to the harvest to tie together grain, the body’s life sustainer, with the law, the soul’s life sustainer. A bouquet of the life of body and soul.
The law is life because God is life. He gave us the law to teach us how to live in cooperation with Him. By obeying the law, our relationship with God is reciprocal.
From that scary dusty day for a thousand years Israel gathered from wherever they had dispersed to Jerusalem to commemorate Pentecost.
The magnificence of Pentecost cannot be overstated. It was the day that God almighty proclaimed His undying love for Israel. He said through Moses, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians [for you] and how I bore you on Eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed the whole earth is Mine, but you shall be for Me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” And the people replied, “I will.”
“But wait! There are two Pentecosts!” exclaims the knowledgeable reader.
Yes, and there is not one, but two preceding earth shattering rescues by God.
On Passover, God rescued Israel from slavery. Freedom gave new life to the seeds of Jacob. During the courtship that became the season of Pentecost, there was nothing asked in return as Israel trekked through the wilderness to Sinai. Bitter water turned sweet for them. When they hungered and thirsted, they were fed manna and water that gushed from a rock. God guided and provided all they needed asking for nothing in return until the day of the Law.
The second Rescue by God of Israel occurred on the night of the Crucifixion, when paradoxically the Angel of Death, instead of passing over the blood of the lamb to kill the firstborn sons of Egypt, honed in on the Lamb of God, His one and only Son.
Yet, imagine the surprise when Hades, the place of the dead received God and was forced to release its captives. On that second holy night Jesus/God rescued all the dead, and the living from the slavery of sin that causes death.
The prison that was Egypt was rendered impotent on Passover night and the prison that was death was rendered impotent on the night of the Crucifixion. Egypt still exists, sin still exists, and death still exists, but they are shells of their former conditions no longer able to hold captives.
Sin is separation from God which is missing the mark of His image and likeness. To divorce yourself from the likeness of the Giver of Life, is to be dead. (To be cruel, to hate, to lie, to cheat and steal etc. is death) That’s why it is said that sin causes death.
First, God rescued the dead in Hades, all those souls who were away from him, and then He set about to make it easier than ever to become like Him, to be truly ALIVE....to enhance the Law with Spirit, on Pentecost.
Passover and Pascha are both followed by a 50 day courting period. High in the heavens above, the stars are in the constellation of Gemini, the twins. Pentecost is the primordial twin.
The Bridegroom Christ courts His bride Ecclesia, the Church, after rescuing her from the power of death. He walks on earth for 40 of those days as an immortal man, and then ascends to heaven to prepare for Pentecost. On the day Israel commemorated the handing down of the life-giving Law, God descended upon Israel as eternal-life giving Holy Spirit.
On Pentecost the twin, God infuses humankind with life through the Law and the Spirit.
“Wait a minute!” blurted the well reader. “Remember, it was NOT 50 days, but 90 days from Passover to Pentecost. Your theory is flawed!”
When Israel walked away from Egypt three moons passed by before the loud and fearsome day when from Mount Sinai the Torah was handed to Israel. 90 days.
“Exactly 90 not 50!” reminds the smart reader.
Yes! That’s the most amazing aspect of it all!
90 minus 50 equals the holy reoccurring magical mystical 40 days. Between Passover and Pentecost lay a 40 day period, like spirit air, that evaporated into the heavens like holy rain, leaving on the books only fifty days of barley and wheat. Food. The earth’s gift of life.
To the evaporated mystical 40 days between Passover and Pentecost, Christ/God added the 10 days after His ascension to heaven.
A joining of the 40 evaporated days of the journey to Sinai, to the ten days between Christ’s ascension and Pentecost became God’s heavenly Pentecost of 50 days. One for the Law, one for the Spirit on Earth, and one in Heaven too! 50:50:50!
The Bridegroom Christ after 40 days, evaporates in His ascension, leaving the Spiritual Food of His mystical Body and Blood behind to be celebrated with the Barley and the Wheat at the Festival of Weeks, Shavuot, Pentecost.
Pentecost. Acts 2. “When the day of Pentecost had come (to commemorate the handing down of the Torah) they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind (as in Creation, Genesis 1:2), and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.”
The observers were dumbfounded and thought they were drunk. But Peter said it was only morning. He then explained the phenomenon by quoting the prophet Joel, “in the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh...[and people shall prophecy and see visions and dream dreams.] Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”....Then Peter went on to explain that Jesus is the messiah.
Time never matters for God. For Him the two Pentecosts happened on the same day with the same passionate love, giving Israel the Torah first, then the Holy Spirit .
Jeremiah 31 “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other “Know the Lord” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
Do you see it? Isn’t it amazing?
Regard the triangle. Left bottom is Passover; the right bottom is Pascha. They join at Pentecost. One union with God through the Law and through the Spirit.
Infuse your mind and heart with the larger meaning Pentecost to be ALIVE.
God said, “Gracefeld, you and Perambula guide Israel to the mountain beneath us. I want the people to meet Me.”
“My Lord!” blurted Perambula. “How is that possible?! Are you going to take the form of a human apparition like you said we can do?”
“Of course not! I want them to know Me through the vail of fear, and respect. Just bring them here and watch what happens. The time has come that I have awaited since the days of Noah, since Creation, to re-form them from within. The problem has been that despite the conscience that I planted in them as I planted the lungs, yet unlike the lungs that function well, the conscience weakens in the presence of the ego. It’s a flaw. Clear rules for behavior from Me will strengthen the weak conscience. I will spell out what I expect from them with commandments and laws. Then there will be no excuse for misbehavior.”
Gracefeld sneered cynically, “I wish you success my Lord, but with all due respect, I doubt that will work. These beings seem too be too willful, but it’s worth a try.”
God smiled the smile of knowing, the smile of tolerance. “Oh, ultimately I will be very successful. You will see; but in the meantime make sure Moses has something to write with.”
On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they stopped at the foot of the mountain Sinai, where God was waiting for them, where Perambula and Gracefeld had lead them.
Moses was aware that God was there on that mountain and called him to hike up for instruction. After an hour’s hike, Moses stopped to rest. That’s when he heard the Lord say, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. Now go back and tell them.”
Gracefeld overheard that and thought, ‘Brilliant! God is going to use their ego to combat their ego’s power over the conscience.’ The angel smiled at its own foolishness cynicism.
Without delay, Moses turned and headed back down the mountain full of wonder. Being the link between divine God and human beings required tremendous physical strength for such an old man, and it required a clean and open heart. Moses had to straddle earth and heaven as no ordinary man before him, and no one since. Moses was most Alive, unique, humble, and open. No man before or after Moses had spent so much time serving as His instrument to change the face of the world. No one.
Moses is the giant stepping stone in the middle of the stream of centuries for ordinary humans to use to leap from the death and darkness of ignorance to the life and light of the knowledge of God.
As he carefully descended the mountain Moses’ thoughts turned to the people. He always knew that this congregation from the twelve sons of Jacob were special, set aside out of all mankind, but it was encouraging to hear it again from the Lord. Moses never saw Perambula and Gracefeld, but he sensed that the absence of more enemy tribes on this journey was providential.
He knew too that the covenant with Abraham was as strong as it had been on the day God announced it centuries earlier, on the day of the circumcision of Ishmael, but that the time had come for each person to have the covenant written on his and her heart. It was to be a covenant of relationship, a covenant of trust between Creator and created, between heart and face.
The covenant of trust that Abraham was so faithful to, would be affirmed by Abraham’s great grandsons and daughters daily through obedience.
When he returned to the camp, Moses summoned the elders and told them that the Lord God had instructions for them. He was relieved and a little surprised, given all their complaints, when he heard the people all answer as one: “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
After the elders dispersed, Moses hiked back up the mountain to report the people’s willingness to obey. As he climbed the mountain Moses increasingly sensed the presence of the powerful Spirit of God until he could restrain himself no longer. Moses spoke out loud. He said, “Lord! The people want to meet You and they promised to obey you! Imagine that!”
The Lord smiled both for Moses’ enthusiasm and his naïveté. Moses did not sense the Lord’s smile or the reason for it, but only heard the Lord respond, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day I will come down this mountain in the sight of all the people.”
Then God became very serious and very stern. He said, “You will need to set limits for all the people. Tell them to be careful not to go up to the mountain or touch the edge of it. Any who touches the edge of the mountain will be put to death.”
Upon hearing that Moses was frightened and concerned. He wondered why others would be killed for something that was so common for Moses and how that would happen.
Reading his thoughts, God explained, “No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows; whether animal or human being, they shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, then they may go up on the mountain. Now be gone and prepare the people.”
As Moses descended the mountain, he wondered why the other people had to take such great care to prepare themselves to meet God when all this time, he himself was neither ritually clean nor frightened. Well, not as frightened as he was when he saw the burning bush, but that was so long ago.
Gracefeld whispered into the heart of Moses, “If they aren’t afraid, if they don’t sense imminent death, then they will not feel compelled to obey. You are different Moses. You were not a slave. They have been ruled by fear and through fear they will be taught.”
His mind brimming with thoughts and arguments, Moses carefully descended the mountain watching out for snakes and loose rocks, until he reached the bottom where he was greeted by several elders.
Moses responded to their facial queries by saying, “Bring the congregation together here; I have something to tell them.”
When they all congregated around Moses who stood patiently at the foot of the mountain, and all eyes were on him, men young and old in the front, followed by a jagged layer of young maidens and old women, and on the outskirts mothers with children running about, he spoke with all the authority and power he could muster. Without help from Aaron, Moses took a deep breath and spoke slowly and distinctly with only a slight stutter.
When Moses lifted his right hand, the people instinctively all bowed their heads. He consecrated the people by praying, “May our Lord God bless these His people. May He keep and protect them from all harm, purify them from all unrighteousness that they will come to know Him and become a sacred holy unique people on this mighty earth.”
After a few moments of silence while the people absorbed the blessing and were sure Moses was finished, the people one after another looked up. Some faces appeared radiant with smiles, others were somber.
Looking straight into their faces, hundreds of eyes catching his own Moses added, “Now all of you, men included, wash your clothes, wash your bodies. Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman. Now be gone. Do as I say. The Lord God is watching us. Prepare yourselves to meet the almighty Creator.”
The congregation dispersed in silence. Israel didn’t know what to expect, but they all sensed that it could be overwhelming. Humility infused with fear visited every soul.
After all that these people had experienced in Egypt, the many strange and awful plagues, crossing through the sea on dry ground at night, water pouring from a rock, and daily manna falling to feed them, Israel could not begin to imagine what the Source of all this magic would be like.
Most young people were excited, and most older people were terrified in anticipation of meeting God. They all knew that Moses had been meeting and talking with Him for ages, and that he didn’t die, but no one ever stopped to think what it was like for Moses to be in the presence of such power and glory. One by one sleep claimed the mind of each man, woman and child. All of Israel lay in deep peaceful slumber on the night before their visitation.
On the morning of the awesome third day while women and children scurried around to gather the manna into baskets, a loud sound of thunder shocked everyone’s ears, and then lightening was seen as bolts crashing through the sky. No rain followed. Instead, a thick cloud as of fog covered the mountain. All hands stopped working, all eyes looked up at the mountain. Then, a blast of a celestial trumpet sounded so loud that all the people in the camp trembled with fear not knowing where that strange sound came from.
All heads turned left and right searching for Moses and upon seeing him went to join him who was leading the growing crowd that moved as one body out of the camp toward the loud and mysterious mountain.
By the time they arrive, Sinai was rapped in smoke. The Lord had descended on it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. The blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Moses hollered words no one could hear and God answered him in thunder. This bizarre conversation was more frightening than anyone reading this could imagine. Many fell on their knees and covered their heads with their hands with their eyes shut tightly.
Only Moses was not afraid. Those brave souls with eyes opened watched in awe as Moses climbed up to the top of the loud rumbling mountain. He appeared as a fly drawn to the light until he disappeared into the smoke.
Those close enough to hear, heard Moses shout, “Stay there! Do not follow me. I will be back.” No one tried to follow, not even Aaron.
When he arrived at the top of Mount Sinai, the Lord said to Moses, “Go back down and warn the people not to break through to Me to look; otherwise many of them will perish. Even the priests who approach Me must consecrate themselves or they will die.”
Moses said to the Lord, “Remember, these people are not permitted to come up to Mount Sinai; for you yourself warned us saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and keep it Holy.”
The Lord said, “Okay. Go down, and return with Aaron; but do not let either the priests or the people follow.” So Moses carefully hiked back down the mountain to fetch his brother Aaron.
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of Israelites journeying by stages stopped to set up camp at Rephidim. Manna continued to fall wherever they were, but at Rephidim there was no water to drink. God decided to leave something out to see how they would react, or rather to give them another reminder that He was with them. That God repeatedly made Himself so obvious was unique and would have amazed any one of the zillions of people who have passed through this planet, but people are funny. Even miracles can become mundane to them. Even more sad and more common is how they cling to a separatist mentality when all along God wants to interact with them and be their God.
Israel complained to Moses saying, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” What a slap to God’s face. Once again and for the zillionth time, He swallowed His pride and refused to react, but instead carried on with His mission to reform His people. The slow, methodical centuries-long plan to populate a new world with trusting chosen ones turned immortal. With His focus on that goal, God could dismiss the callous stupidity of these poor freed slaves.
Moses, who was less patient, and ignorant of the end game, cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” But to the people Moses said, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”
The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”
Moses didn’t hesitate, and he didn’t question that water could be extracted from a rock which pleased God. That day God used the driest, most lifeless thing in the world, a dense hard rock, to send forth the essence of life, water. All that Israel wanted was a drink of water, but what all the zillions of people who hear and read of this event through the centuries receive is something much more vital and lasting, that is water for a rocky soul to germinate the seeds of faith. Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing.
Moses did what the Lord instructed. The people watched as he gathered the elders who followed him to a small nearby boulder. When Moses struck the rock a stream of water came pouring out and the relieved thirsty people drank to their hearts’ content, and filled their jugs for the journey. Moses called that place, Test and Quarrel.
God decided that it was time to test them again with something more threatening than thirst. For the first time since they left their safe and secure Egyptian workhouses, the Lord introduced an enemy. It was time for God to deflect the people’s rancor from Moses and Himself and give them a real foe to direct their hostilities upon.
A band of locals, named for their leader Amalek, appeared and fought with the intruders, Israel. Moses recognized the scoundrels from his days in Midian for they were known for being the serpents of the wilderness. In fact Moses was surprised they hadn’t encountered Amalek sooner.
“Good move Lord,” said Gracefeld to God. “These people deserve a good fight for being so faithless. Why do they get so angry at Moses? Why don’t they simply pray for their needs? Ask and they shall receive!”
God smiled and replied, “I like that phrase. I may use it someday. You must remember Gracefeld that these people are used to being told what to do every minute of every day. They have hated the task masters for centuries and it will take time and experiences to change the mindset that resents and complains against the leader. Let them get beat up a bit; it will be good for them.” Gracefeld nodded and Perambula looked with fascination for the upcoming battle.
Meanwhile when Moses saw the ruffians approach the camp, he sought out Joshua, a strong young Israelite whom he had come to admire for his unusual optimism and enthusiasm. “Ah, there you are Josh! Choose some men for us and go out and fight Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”
Joshua replied enthusiastically, “At your service!” God looked on approvingly, proud of the bravery of Joshua.
The next morning Moses, Aaron and, Hur hiked up a nearby hill with the staff. From that vantage point they could witness the collision between Amalek with his ruffians and the innocent, inexperienced Israelites who clearly needed help from above.
Much to their distress, because they were not warrior angels like Michael, Gracefeld and Perambula were instructed to carefully participate in the battle. Whenever Moses held up his hand which Gracefeld watched for, Perambula would enter the fray and cause Amalek to make a careless move so Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Perambula would allow the professional fighters of Amalek to prevail. Gracefeld thought the charade was silly, but didn’t challenge the Lord for the angel knew that His purpose was one more opportunity for Israel to be aware of the presence and magnitude of the Lord God.
Old Moses’ grew weary, so Aaron found a large enough stone for him to sit on. After a while longer, the hand-to-hand combat still transpiring, Aaron and Hur stood on Moses’ left and right and held up Moses hands for him, so his hands were high and steady until sunset when Amalek gave up, being all bloodied up from the gashes that Joshua and his men inflicted on them with their swords.
Perambula was exhausted!!
“Welcome to the real world,” said Gracefeld to Israel cynically, still irritated over their insults to God, “where your enemy is neither hunger nor thirst, nor your own bodily cravings, nor Moses or your Lord, but rather like the Lord, your enemy is those base and blind godless animal-men who want to extinguish your very existence.” Israel didn’t hear a word spoken by the angel, but Perambula cast a glance at Gracefeld and smiled in agreement.
When the fighting had ended, the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it to Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”
Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner. He said, “A hand upon the banner of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Israel slept well that night. Babies curled up in mother’s bellies and beside them. Men snored loudly, even children didn’t thrash around as they usually did. All was quiet and still in Rephidim after Amalek slithered away leaving trails of blood behind them.
It was pow-wow time in heaven. Making Israel rest on the Sabbath gave the angels a break too. “What’s next My Lord?” asked Gracefeld with Perambula looking most attentive. “I’m afraid we can’t keep them away from other tribes much longer; there is bound to be some fighting.” added Gracefeld.
“We can take care of that, I have a bigger matter to deal with.” replied God.
“Bigger than annihilation of this nation? Pray tell, what could that be?”
“Since I expelled Adam and Eve from the garden, I have wondered why they were so easily lured away from Me? If Adam was made in My image and likeness, why didn’t he think like Me, or behave like Me? Why didn’t he trust Me?”
Perambula quickly interjected, “How could that slimy serpent ....”
But before Perambula could finish the sentence God said thoughtfully, “As disappointing as it was, seeing how evil the human beings easily become makes me shudder. It is as if they gravitate to unlikeness, to counterfeit Me. I was so very angry during the days of Noah, but I see now that it makes no sense at all to annihilate them when they will bounce back to an opposing willfulness time and time again. But I refuse to admit defeat.”
Gracefeld spoke up, “I don’t see why you need to deal with humans at all. You have us my Lord, and puppies.”
At that God smiled lovingly and simply replied, “Matter matters to Me angel, and as for the puppies and all of animal life, I know you were joking. Besides, I like the challenge. I formed them physically, and now I must form them spiritually, I must form their souls in such a way that they cooperate willingly, but that will not happen in one day.”
“It was so lovely in Eden.” sighed Perambula, “I rather miss it.”
“Remember, you weren’t there Perambula!” retorted Gracefeld.
“Well, I miss the place I think of it as! That’s good enough, and my longing is real!”
“Gish!” murmured Gracefeld.
Ignoring the angels’ banter God added, “I made Adam and Eve in My image and likeness, with a mind and a heart, a will and emotions that are relational to their situation and surrounding to allow them to exercise their intelligence and creativity. It was like forming the dependent infant body that could someday walk and run on its own. Without a reason to walk and run, without the practice of it, the body would be stymied.”
“Well, they walked and ran right away from You, my Lord. And I don’t see after all these years and all these experiences, them walking toward you much.” added Gracefeld.
“Yes, they have walked away from Me long enough. Slavery molded them, but also warped them. At this point their ignorance not only offends me, it hurts them. It is time for us to teach them what I like, we need to tell them exactly how to be like Me, by making very clear what I want from them. I will use their minds to instruct their hearts.
They will be My people when they know Me, as best as they can, and want to follow my commands. There will be no excuse, as with Adam who was given only one command, these people will be given ten times that. My commandments will be clear and simple. I must remember that I am leading children, unschooled ignorant slaves who are driven by their appetites and by their fears.”
Gracefeld asked, “But Lord, You wrote on their hearts, in their conscience the difference between right and wrong. I saw You do it, it was amazing to me. These beings know intuitively the difference between good and evil, between kindness and malice.”
“Yes, but I see that humans are shrewd and sly, even to themselves, they can override and pervert what is written in their conscience. They must have both, a clear command and insight. More importantly they must know Me. Since Jacob, Israel, I have not made myself widely known. It is time for Me to engage this nation of mine for whom I have great plans. Someday, I will walk among them as Adam walked in My Garden.”
At that subtle but shocking announcement Perambula and Gracefeld blurted out in unison. “My Lord! How can You do that?!”
God smiled condescendingly at their reaction of shock and calmly replied, “I must do this. Among all of humanity, this nation is singled out to know Me, to follow Me for the sole purpose of being the nation into which I will become incarnate.
I am the only One who can restore immortality to humanity. Those who willingly become My Children, must be immortal like Me. I despise death. The days of Noah repulsed me like no other. I must release the captives of Hades. I can only go there to release them if I am human and die.”
A gasp as loud as thunder radiated from these spirit beings, so loud that the sound of their gasp surprised both of them. Butterflies on earth shivered, owls flew for cover, little mice dove into holes recently dug. Even the air quaked in the upper atmosphere with alternating flashes of heat and cold.
“Why does that surprise you so my friends?” inquired the Lord. Not certain if the angels were more shocked by His announcement that He would condescend to become human, or that He would die, He chose to respond to the former.
The Lord was aware that from the days of creation angels felt threatened by humans. They had much in common. Angels and humans are both intelligent but the fact of human materiality confused and troubled the angels at first.
Dear reader, let’s pause here to understand why Perambula and Gracefeld were appalled at the notion of God entering a human body. First admit that the composition of a spirit being is foreign to you.
Try to understand the existence of angels, those spirit beings, by imagining the immaterial warmth of love and joy. The scintillating eruption of an idea or a thought before it becomes a word. Imagine the essence of peace, its stillness, its delicate nature and how vulnerable and threatened it is by sharp and fierce hatred that forces itself upon peace to extinguish it in the air.
Contemplate that ethereal world, that world of pure spirit, not air. Denser than air, like aroma laden air, but holier than aroma, sacred, untouchable. To further distinguish spirit from matter, imagine peace entering a rock, or joy entering a tree in winter, imagine love as fire. Imagine sheer intelligence occupying a whole mountainside saturating the earth with its brilliance like gold dust scattered deep in earth, protected by pebbles.
Hold that thought and now try to understand how absurd it seemed to angels for intelligence beyond words, emotions beyond tears to become manifest in an animal form. The angels were as shocked by the creation of personhood in an animal’s body, man, as you would be to see that tree outside your window walk away, or the sun doing somersaults.
God made humanity, unique from animal, with the form and biology of the mammal but with His Spirit, the ability to create, to love, to think, to speak. He did this to make a fractal of Himself in matter so that then He too could materialize. He could enter His creation. What artist among us doesn’t desire to enter his creation, Michelangelo in David, Dali in his Last supper, Mozart in his requiem?
How can God be divine and human simultaneously? He can if He simply retains the powers over nature which He gave to Adam. Nothing is impossible. Nothing is impossible. Nothing is impossible. God made humanity for its dual nature with His divinity.
For Gracefeld especially, it was less astounding that God would separate from the body to go to Hades and release the dead captives to restore immortality, than that He would become a human in the first place.
During this most unusual conversation Perambula and Gracefeld came to comprehend the brilliance of their God as never before.
“My Lord?” said Perambula sheepishly.
God smiled, knowing what Perambula wanted to say. “Can you make me human too?”
“Yes” replied the Lord to the joy and amazement of the angel already packing itself for the journey into form. “But I won’t.”
To remove the sting God added, “I have made My own laws of nature. The immutable laws of nature require a complex genetics of the human from two parents to form the being. The being is not pre-created and then placed into the body. The body and soul and spirit of the human are carefully woven together with each individual. My dear Perambula, how can I say this? “You are too old to be born. You know too much.”
Perambula quivered with instant grief, but added with as much meekness as the angel could muster, “Aren’t You too old My Lord?”
Not offended God replied, “I have been working on my genetics from the day of Adam. I have carefully planned my parentage, one person and one generation at a time. I have even chosen my mother who will not grace the earth for hundreds of years of time to come. I have been working on My own contribution as the Father of Me as well. This is a wholly unique situation, never to be copied, never to be repeated. Can you understand why an angel cannot be born a person dear Perambula?”asked the Lord with compassion, and without waiting for an answer added, “I’ll make a deal with you. From time to time you may be as human in the form of an apparition. You may even appear solid. You can appear to humans to be helpful to them, but you won’t have a real life.”
Hearing that Gracefeld quickly asked, “Me too my Lord?”
“Yes, and spread the word to the thrones. But these must be very rare occurrences and typically unrecognized by the humans. Is that clear?”
Thrilled by the notion that they could appear, both angels cheerfully said in unison, “What will we do for your nation today?”
God replied, “Tell Moses to meet me at the top of Mt. Sinai. And he is to tell the people to fast and prepare for My appearance to him. Now be off, I have to prepare myself for this meeting!”
Imagine starving. Imagine that your kitchen has vanished and with it went the pantry and the freezer stocked with delicacies frozen in time to satisfy you at the moment of your desire.
The united nation of the tribes of Jacob/Israel had been set free. They left the whips of their taskmasters and they also left their larders and their gardens. After weeks of walking, their food depleted, their bodies screamed for nourishment. Hunger and panic turned into thoughts of betrayal and indignation. God knew that old Moses, in his own wrinkled body silently was shriveling from hunger. From place to desolate place they sometimes found patches of water. Bitter water turned sweet by the Lord was a lesson lost on people whose roots lay deep in the parched earth, but not on sages of future eras who read and learned of God’s wisdom, of His secrets revealed, of foreshadowing in teaching by analogy to grasp the essence of the thing. Saved by the wood, the Tree of Life.
Hunger is a powerful state of being. When self-imposed by fasting, mountains of obstacles are removed. When forced by circumstances, extended hunger eats away at the delicate balance of the body’s chemistry that regulates every function of muscle and mind. A hungry body pulses with blood searching for nutrients while the stomach radiates sensations like echoes of sound in a tunnel. Tingling fingers and weak muscles render the strongest men frail. The quality of thought travels in descending spirals if not focused upward from the magnetic pull of evil.
Food comes from the earth, not from the sky. Seeds germinating in rich soil yield a bounty of delicacies, nuts, fruit, vegetables, wheat to become bread. Animals eat of the earth and are eaten. Chickens peck at grains and lay eggs and both are eaten. In the deep sea without sun, fish eat plankton and each other to be. Earth feeds.
Yet, the lifeless desert repels life. Miles of sand and parched earth yield only sagebrush and scorpions. Rain rarely visits and even then, only briefly. Miles of lifeless wilderness kept Israel away from enemies as he gradually walked out of the persona of an abused resentful slave.
Hunger kills and hunger teaches. Hunger opens vaults containing treasures. God the Spirit mysteriously knows that.
There are desert places and there are desert days. Days and places of hunger when the earth holds back or we push it away; we look around and see nothing and then look up in search of spiritual nourishment.
Over and over again God wanted to manifest Himself to Israel. He wanted them to understand with every fiber of their being, their reliance on Him. Being invisible in a material world, requires extraordinary means of communication. “You need food, I am as your food. Look to Me when the earth won’t help you.”
Rationed food from heaven taught the Lord’s people to trust Him. Daily bread. Each person was to gather as much as (s)he wanted for that day only.
But don’t distrust and don’t be greedy. Those people found worms in their stash. The man who laid up his treasure in bigger barns died. Daily bread from heaven is all one needs, for as long as one needs it. Why is this so hard to believe?
Manna nourished their bodies and forever after the lessons of Manna nourish the souls of those who seek wisdom.
At the end of the week, God did not allow manna to fall from the skies. He and His angels rested. This is the sacred exception to the daily bread rule. No one gives and no one forages on the holy day of rest. A day of rest for the body and soul was the primary command that was made obvious by the miracle that on the Holy Sabbath two-day-old bread was not full of worms. Once a week for forty years Israel was reminded as never again, of the sanctity of the Sabbath. Rest was the weekly reminder of their freedom from slavery, and a day of thanksgiving.
For forty years God lifted the curse on Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground.”
For forty years there was no plowing, no rocks or thorns, just as in the lost days of Eden.
Now fast forward to when God gave His body to be the bread of eternal life.
So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so we may see it and believe you? What works are you performing? Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness; as it is written He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is My father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.”
At sunrise Moses awoke to find his wife gone. The boys were snoring, that bullhorn that heralds the abandonment of reality in deep sleep. He quietly crept out of the tent to look for her. In darkness, sound is magnified as if it is suppressed in the presence of holy light. Moses could barely hear her familiar sniffles of weeping and followed the thread to find Zipporah (Sepphora) crouched down behind a boulder in deep distress.
“My dear, why do you weep? These are joyful days. The people are free!”
“I miss my father, and my home. We are near Midian, I recognize the hills and I am tired of walking. These are not my people. I have no friends. I was not a slave, and they resent me for it. I am hungry.”
Moses hugged his wife to envelope her in the only comfort he could offer. She soaked it up like the desert soaks up a flash of summer rain. Moses thought back on how much Sepphora endured, and how he had neglected her.
“When the boys wake up, I will tell them to take you home. You are right; it is less than a two-day journey to Midian. Go to your father and tell him what the Lord has done. Take a messenger with you to bring us his news.”
Sepphora hadn’t felt so calm and happy in weeks. She was jubilant as she hugged Moses and quickly left him to wake her sons and pack. Moses had enough to do; she was sure he would be well cared for by Miriam.
Gersam and Eliezer grumbled at having to leave the group, but they knew they had to serve their mother and obey their father. Admittedly, they too looked forward to seeing their grandfather and friends again, and sleeping in their comfortable beds, and eating meat and vegetables.
By noon, the troupe was off on their own journey home. Moses watched them walk away until they were reduced to speckles on the horizon. He commended them to the Lord’s care.
That night, alone in his empty tent by the sweetened waters of Marah, Moses heard the voice of God loud and clear in his heart. The Lord had made for the people a statute and an ordinance. It was time to put them to the test.
The next morning when everyone was awake and bustling around chatting and doing, Moses climbed onto a boulder to make his announcement. “The Lord says to you,” bellowed Moses, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give heed to his commandments, and KEEP all his statutes, He will not bring upon you any of the diseases that He brought upon the Egyptians; ‘for He is the Lord who heals you.’ Now, it is time to move on! Fill your flasks with water and let’s go!”
Moses said no more to the people that day. He allowed them to think about the words of the Lord as they packed up their tents and goods and quietly assumed their positions in the parade of refugees that followed Perambula in the cloud.
“Who was this God who brings on diseases and heals?”
“Where are we going? I am so hungry.”
“What are these commands and statutes and ordinances that we should obey them? How can we obey what we don’t know?”
Every day brought more unfamiliar experiences, thoughts, and places. If it can be said that Israel was reborn in the Red Sea, it was now in the toddler stage of wonder and learning.
Moses descended the boulder and began packing with the rest. He also never knew where they were going, or what would happen from one day to another. ‘There it is’ he thought, ‘the deal. From this moment on the Lord will let us know the conditions for His blessings, and the consequences if we refuse the conditions. There is no wasteland in between where these people can ignore the Lord and live in peace. The world is too dangerous a place for that.’
Moses and Aaron assumed their place at the head of the mass of refugees, and Perambula in the cloud took position too. They walked and thought, walked and talked, walked and wept.
By dusk the nation of God stopped to set up camp once again.
The following morning Israel saw the beauty of the place they were lead to. A young girl proudly counted 70 palm trees and ran around cheerily announcing her discovery. As the young bucks explored their new home, one after another found a spring of fresh clean water. When it was clear that there were many springs, Aaron assigned one to each tribe. Coincidentally there were just enough, twelve.
This blissful, almost surreal place would have been good enough for eternity, except their bellies growled. Each day that went by Israel had less to eat. Mothers worried, fathers grew grumpier.
After three days walk through the desert wilderness, Moses decided it was time to move on to distract themselves from the hunger and to see if they could find food along the way, although everyone knew that was unlikely in this desert wasteland.
Six weeks had passed since they had left their cozy homes. Curious thoughts turned bitter with heat and hunger. The worried mothers and grumpy fathers joined forces to become a complaining mob that was mystically reduced to the one man, Israel. Israel barked at Moses and Aaron, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” Frail people fainted.
With furrowed brow Moses looked into the hostile eyes of Israel fearing what could happen. The thought of mass suicide, like an oncoming baseball came hurling at Moses who reflexively batted it away with all his might. At that intense moment the Lord appeared and said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. This is how I will test them, whether they will follow My instructions or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it should be twice as much as they gather on other days, so they may observe My day of rest and not harvest food on the Sabbath.”
Moses through Aaron made the announcement of relief and providence, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because He has heard your complaining. For what are we, that you complain against us, but the Lord!”
Moses walked away in disgust. He entered his empty tent, and took a nap to escape the ungrateful, short-sighted mob.
When he awoke in the evening Moses emerged from his tent to find the whole camp covered with quails and boys and girls and mothers and fathers chasing and capturing them. Others were lighting fires with the brush and anything they could find to burn. That evening Israel feasted for the first time since they ate the Passover lamb. And they went to their sleep with full bellies and content hearts. But no one, not even one person out of the thousands who were fed approached Moses to apologize for complaining and doubting him.
In the morning one tent after another emptied out of people who found a light dew hovering throughout the land. When the dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it they said, “What is it?”
Moses replied, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an Omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for their own tents. But only take enough for one day! One day ONLY, do you hear me! This is your daily bread! The day before the Sabbath you will gather enough for two days so you may obey the Sabbath rest.”
The people took every vessel they could find and gathered the flaky substance. It was delicious! It tasted like wafers and honey. The first day that Israel ate manna the joy of relief spread through the hungry nation like wildfire. Chatting turned to chewing. Chewing and humming approvals like the sound of happy hummingbird wings sucking juicy nectar.
Safely on shore, Israel rejoiced as no nation has rejoiced together ever before or ever since. Songs of gratitude to the Lord poured out of happy hearts. Their God was more powerful than Pharaoh! Whole bodies erupted in celebratory dance for hours and hours. A contagion of laughter and hugs swept through people who had been strangers a week earlier. A mass of berated and abused slaves had miraculously become a huge family with a common endowment.
By morning, Israel, having petered out, simply wondered what marvel would happen next.
The second day of freedom was calmer. More food preparation, less dancing. Freedom had begun to settle in. It was more natural and less of a shock.
Moses found a boulder to climb on so he could be seen and heard, and standing on it he announced to his vast crowd of refugees that the journey to their new home, the Promise Land, would commence the following day. “Get plenty of rest tonight. We have left our bricks and straw and our taskmasters with their whips. We owe Egypt nothing more for its food. Egypt has been paid in full! Let us forge ahead and follow the cloud to our new homes where we may raise our children and build our communities working for each other and for ourselves. Follow me!”
And so they did. Like a swarm of earthbound flies, like a great army of humanity young and old men, with their women, and their children, their animals and with every thing they owned walked to find the land of their own. Israel journeyed over field and desert and into the wilderness of Shur.
For three long hot days and two short cold nights Israel walked in dry wilderness. Loud chattering settled into a muffled roar of shuffling feet; even the animals trudged along without voice. There was less and less to say; each morsel of life wanted to conserve his or her energy with silence. Feet grew tough, even children’s feet became as tough as leather. Israel was united as one body walking. Not since Israel was one man, Jacob, had Israel been so contained and so aware of its God.
Gersam and Eliezer enjoyed their position in the lead. “Look!” shouted Gersam, “Water!!! The young bucks all ran up to the pond and scooped up the water with their ready hands, only to spit it out!
“Ptouie!” Moses caught up and looked curiously at his sons. “What’s wrong?”
“This water is bitter!” said Gersam.
“It is undrinkable,” added Eliezer between spits.
In syncopated rhythm most of the thirsty people complained to Moses whom they came to regard as their highly paid tour guide, “What shall we drink?” Their complaints tasted as bitter as the water to the ears of Moses.
Moses wincing, looked up into the heavens and cried out, “Lord! What shall I do? Your people need water to drink and this pond is as poison to them?”
“Tch tch” said Gracefeld as the angel made its spirit way over to Perambula to speak. Perambula peeked out from the cloud to meet Gracefeld in the air and answered, “What’s that for?”
“The Lord seems to have a real issue with water, and I wonder if these poor people are alert enough to figure it out for themselves.” Said Gracefeld.
“Do you mean death and life?” Asked Perambula.
“Of course! I think some angel must have poisoned this lake while we weren’t looking to remind and teach them. First, the Flood annihilates life, then first born babies are drown in the Nile, then the marvels begin with the bloody Nile, and end with the parting of the Red Sea that killed the enemy.”
“Yes the water is the means of death, needed to sustain life. It’s a paradox.” replied pleased Perambula. “But no Gracefeld. These people are simply thirsty. They don’t need philosophy, the need drink.”
Gracefeld shrugged angel wings and watched.
As Moses stood by the bitter waters listening attentively for a reply from the Lord, the message welled up in his soul, “Look there, that wood. Pick it up and fling it into the water.” Moses picked it up and looked curiously at it.
Perambula gasped! Gracefeld smiled. The angels which flow as freely through time as through air recalled the future day when God’s Son died on wood, and while still hanging went into Hades to release the dead who were there. “Wood will be the medium through which God restores life, not water!” exclaimed Perambula cheerfully feeling wise, “The wood removed the bitterness from the water as it will someday remove the bitterness of death from life.”
Gracefeld completed the equation by adding, “so that the water can be the agent of life again, because of WOOD!”
Perambula feeling as wise as God added, “Reversing the power of The Flood, the drowning of the firstborn, and the drowning of the enemy army! It’s brilliant! Wood renders life more powerful than death.”
Gracefeld submerged in the part, topped it off by proclaiming, “By wood, I render thee, oh precious water, life giving again!”
God looked on smiling that His angels, His hard working angels were enjoying some merriment too, and didn’t dare disturb them.
Moses hurled the wood into the pond. After the splash, they all watched the concentric circles radiate outward. When the pond was still again, Moses walked toward the edge of it, bent down and under thousands of watchful eyes, scooped some of the lake into a metal cup for a taste.
Eliezer and Gersham looked at their father in awe with the taste of bitterness still on their tongues.
“It’s good now. Sweet as honey. Taste it, I kid you not. Tell the people to fill up their water bottles, and then let’s all bathe. We certainly need this water by now!” And in jest he added, “especially you Gersam!”
After everyone had their fill of water, and then their baths, they sat patiently by the lake waiting for the last one to be done. No one noticed that the Lord their God kept enemy tribes away so they could walk in peace. They simply did not know how protected they were in this land surrounded by violent people, the likes of which they had never encountered in their slavish isolation.
While Israel squeezed every last ounce of relief and satisfaction and cleanliness from the lake, every molecule of life, they set up camp for the last night by the sweet waters of Marah .
That night Moses lay next to Zepporah in their tent, with their boys snoring loudly and prayed. “Lord, when may I see Your face?” In the silence of the Lord’s reply, Moses slowly and smoothly slipped into a sound, yet soundless, sleep.
Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”
“Evangeline.” whispered an ethereal little voice.
“Who said that?” I replied.
“It’s me, Gracefeld; how can you not recognize my voice since you are who gave me voice?”
Trying to act nonchalant, I said to the air, “Ah! Gracefeld, nice to meet you; what is it?”
“I must point out that in Chapter 6, you fell short of your objective;” answered the angel sternly, then added, “how could you write about the crossing of the Red Sea in only one or two paragraphs? Take your readers in there. Let them feel the spray of water on their faces; let them know that it wasn’t just a mere escape, but rather a mass baptism of Israel the likes of which the world has never seen and will never see again. Now get to work!”
“Wait, don’t go!” I begged. “Why do you call it a baptism? Did they ask for it? Did they seek to repent of their sins; did the crossing remit their sins?”
“My dear, you have so much to learn.” replied Gracefeld sympathetically. “You of all people remember the iconic baptism which was Noah in the ark. Did they repent? John’s baptism used repentance as the reason for the people’s rebirth, for their transformation into children of the most high God.
Baptism is rebirth. Even Christ knew He needed a rebirth, the mark of a new life and was voluntarily baptized. You know almost nothing about His life before, because it had been so different. There wasn’t anything to say about it. Christ mandated baptism because the second birth is as vital to immortality as the first was to mortality.
The people Israel, each one of them individually and together as a nation, via water were reborn, just as Noah’s family was reborn, just as you were reborn as an infant.
After the miraculous crossing, there was no turning back for Israel, as there is no reentering the womb, as Noah’s family could not return to the old world. Illuminate the event as you do. One or two paragraphs! What a failure on your part!”
“Wait! Will you help me?”
“Not me, no. Don’t fret, the words will come as surely as that sun arrives to erase the darkness you start out in every morning. Yield yourself to the words. I must go and assume my own position in the story. Treat me kindly please.”
“Wait! As long as you are here, I have a burning question.”
“Okay, but ask me quickly. You really should wake up earlier you know.”
“I know. Sh. Isn’t it peculiar to call a whole nation after one man? Israel. It’s like calling a country Harvey.” I asked as succinctly as I could.
“Ah! We don’t have the time to discuss the concept of ‘out of one many, and out of many one!’ You’re American. Think about it! Israel was named by God. He is a man, he is a plethora of man, he is a country. He strives with God and man, and prevails. Israel grew from the seed that was one man and then twelve tribes and from there, a nation. And today, he is baptized in the Red Sea to mark his rebirth in God’s will. Now get on with it!” And as mysteriously as Gracefeld appeared, the angel vanished and I was left to go back to the Red Sea just as we were about to cross it...again.
Perambula in the pillar of cloud lead the exodus of thousands of Israelites out of Egypt. They were as loud as a giant swarm of bees. Children whined, ladies chattered, cows mooed, dogs barked, roosters crowed, thousands of feet shuffled. Perambula in the pillar started in a straight line out of their homes in Goshen.
“Perambula!”called God to His angel.
“Yes Lord, how am I doing?”
“I want you to steer this group around, send it back towards the sea at Pihahiroth; I will let Moses know that it’s okay. I want the Egyptian army to think we are wandering aimlessly, but I don’t want Moses to think that.”
“May I ask You why we can’t just take the straight and faster route to get out of here before the army of Pharaoh overtakes us? I admit that I am a little concerned for these people. They are difficult to steer.”
God wondered when to inform His angel of His grand plan and then said, “Trust me angel; I am about to shock both Israel and Egypt one last time to prove that I am the Lord God who is freeing Israel from the bonds of his oppressor. Now take that cloud to the sea!”
“Yes, my Lord.” and with that Perambula pushed and blew until the luminous cloud made a giant u-turn. The sounds of chattering grew louder and louder still as the mass, one person after another commented with curiosity and skepticism on the change in direction.
The appearance of wandering had its desired affect. “My Lord!” In rushed a courtier into Pharaoh’s throne room disturbing his moaning and fretting. “I bring a good report!”
Pharaoh looked up as a man starving for good news, about to breathe his last.
“The Israelites are lost! They don’t seem to have any idea of where to go, and they have ended up in front of the sea. They have cornered themselves!”
“That is good news. We must fetch them and bring them back immediately. They have had enough of their freedom. They don’t even know what to do with it. And they must be thirsty by now too. Israel will be easy prey.” said Pharaoh with the glee of a salivating lion. “Assemble the entire army and prepare my chariot. We are going to bring back our delinquents! Didn’t they ask for only three days! Meet me in front of the palace. Be quick about it!”
Pharaoh’s despondency turned to ebullience. Thoughts of his dead son burrowed deep in his soul, so deep they were forgotten by his mind. He was now the conquering general about to lead his army to victory. A rag-torn adversary against the greatest army civilization has known was an unfair match, but that didn’t diminish Pharaoh’s thrill of pursuit. It only made it stronger because he knew that he would win this time.
Within an hour every horse and chariot in the army, in full uniform, with polished spears and bayonets and with Pharaoh in the lead were galloping to the sea, fueled by exhilaration and confidence.
Israel on the outskirts of the mass, heard the thunder of horses hooves and looked at the horizon to see the army in hot pursuit. Fear and panic spread through the crowd like a virus. “We are doomed!” cried a sixty year old Reubenite.
“Let’s surrender quickly before we are harmed, and return to serve him. It wasn’t such a bad life. Heads nodded in agreement as the decision to surrender became consensus among the tribes.
By the time that opinion reached the ears of Moses who stood closest to the sea, he too wondered what to do. Suppressing his concern, Moses said, “Don’t be afraid, see what the Lord will do. The Lord will fight for you, keep still.” But to the Lord Moses sang a different song. He looked around for options and saw none. Then he said, “Lord, your cloud cornered us. How can we escape? Did you lead us here only to be slaughtered?”
“Why are you crying out to Me.” replied the Lord.”Lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it so Israel can walk on dry ground.”
‘Divide the sea?’ thought Moses, but he caught himself before adding, “That’s impossible!”
Instead, Moses took a deep breath, looked up into the heavens for a sign; saw none, lifted his right arm with hand clenched around the staff. Suddenly a mighty wind, a wind never before and never again to be duplicated swept up from the east. Small objects took flight. Mother’s clutched their infants. Chickens squawked. The sun fell onto the horizon. It was surreal. But the wind also mysteriously blew away fear and complaints.
Perambula and Gracefeld repositioned their pillars of cloud and fire from the lead to behind Israel to form a rampart nestling Israel into a safe and secure space from which man, woman, and child could regain their composure. Perambula filled the clouds with bright light so Israel could see with daylight eyes the widening path created at his million feet.
All night long Perambula and Gracefeld held back Pharaoh’s army so it could not reach Israel.
Israel walked in dusky light through the Red Sea corridor with watery walls spraying a refreshing mist onto the faces of the numb multitude while the mighty wind roared to push the people through and blow away any inkling of trepidation that would have made them surrender to their familiar taskmasters.
Moses, his brother and sister, his wife and sons lead the congregation of Israel on the miraculous trek through the sea. It was the iron clad faith of one man, Moses, that caused a chain reaction so strong that faith grew and grew as it was passed down the line to the very last family. Men, their wives and children felt the soggy earth beneath their feet. It was like walking on the narrow wet sea shore without the wide dry beach to go to.
The wind that formed the magical corridor was created by a plethora of powerful spirits. It was a warm wind, and it pushed the mass of marchers along through the sea so that no one felt resistance, but rather as if he or she was being swept through.
“Look ahead!” shouted Moses. “Do not look at the water! Pass it down.”
Echoes of, “Look ahead! and Faces front!” echoed through a mile of souls. The people were too numb to entertain doubts that they would make it through. Even the most stubborn skeptic didn’t dare doubt that he would make it to the other side of the sea.
Moses who had experienced many supernatural events since the day that God spoke to him from the burning bush was confident that God had created this temporary highway to freedom, this short cut to safety just for them. Every step of the way detached the people from Pharaoh, in body and in soul.
Eliezer clutched the bundle of bones of Joseph close to his heart. Gersam and a band of young men stood on the sidelines as the people passed shouting the message, “Look ahead! Don’t look at the water!”
Moses was glad it was night time when the darkness made it easier to be blind to the weird corridor walls. The warm and mighty wind at their backs was the Spirit of God-almighty Who was creating a way where there was no way. He was shepherding His precious people through the valley of the shadow of death for the first time.
Miriam was among the first to reach the beach. The sight of miles of shore to her left and right made her heart skip. She took a few deep breaths to try to regulate it again. Long red streaks appeared in the dark night sky. The sun was about to rise. She was an old woman, more than ninety years of age, but she wept like a baby. Aaron held her arm, and said, “Come sister, there is a rock, let me take you to sit. It will be a long time before the rest of the people arrive. You may even want to try to sleep.”
“Thank you Aaron, I could no more sleep than I could do cartwheels right now. Yes, take me to that rock.”
Every minute that went by more and more people arrived. Cows and oxen, chickens and sheep too were mixed in with the rich families of Israel.
“Look at the sun mommy!”shouted a little girl with glee. Indeed daybreak heralded the arrival of the pilgrims to the eastern shore.
“Move back, don’t linger here, make room for more people! Move back!” A few young men took it upon themselves to usher the pilgrims onto dry ground. First steps out of the sea were like taking first steps on the Moon. The relief of arrival and wonder at new surroundings was commonly felt by young and old.
Meanwhile, just as the sun filled the sky with day, the Lord and Perambula and Gracefeld in their pillars of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army still in pursuit of Israel. By then pharaoh’s army was deep into the corridor of the sea, closing in on the older Israeli stragglers. Suddenly, God through the Egyptians into a panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so they turned with difficulty.
Terror swept through the army of Pharaoh. A soldier shouted, “Let’s flee, for the Lord is fighting with them!” Realization that they were in pursuit of the God who killed their firstborn terrified them.
While horses were being whipped to pull their chariots out of the mud, and the Israelites were all safely on the eastern shore, the Lord instructed Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea. Moses peered into the path of their salvation to see in the distance the struggling pursuers and slowly lifted his hand clenching the staff.
The walls of the magical path melted to erase the highway of the salvation of Israel. Within twenty five minutes the sea returned to its normal depth. Several of the heartiest soldiers which had almost made the crossing washed up on shore, as dead as their drowned compatriots whose bodies were being tossed by the current. Not an enemy was left to threaten God’s people.
Thousands of wide Israeli eyes looked back to stare at their path as it slowly submerged under water. Some saw in the distance arms and legs flailing and heard horses neighing and chariots breaking.
That which they didn’t dare to fear, drowning, was befalling the army of Pharaoh. That which they convinced themselves would not happen, was indeed happening to those who would have captured them.
As in the days of Noah, water was the cause of death and new life. All of Israel began its new free life with baptism in the bloody Red Sea.
Perambula and Gracefeld with a congregation of sub-angels wafted through the party soaking in the joy and blowing away random evil spirits that would spoil the moment.
They laughed. They danced. They cried. They sang new songs. Miracle of miracles.
Two days of merriment gave God’s nation time to catch their breath and continue their journey east to the land that was promised to Father Abraham centuries before, and to them.
Israel was renewed.
“Now, that’s more like it, Evangeline.” whispered Gracefeld. And I smiled, relieved to be approved by one of my favorite, most respected angels.
Miriam looked up into the starry sky as if searching for the face of the Lord to thank Him for freedom. In all her years Miriam had never stepped even one toe out of Egypt; she had rarely left her neighborhood. Relief and haste rising from Hebrew hearts permeated the air so that even the dumb animals and youngest babes and toddlers felt an incomprehensible sense of relief that finally Pharaoh let them go. They had to leave fast before he changed his mind again.
The Egyptians, left behind, sat in their homes and in the gathering squares glad to be getting rid of the cause of so much suffering. The God of these people who served them for generations had appeared with a vengeance causing much more harm than those people were ever worth.
Mothers and fathers were still mourning the death of their first born. Grieving hearts craved the exodus of Israel, the murderer. They gladly parted with their jewelry of silver and gold and with their finest clothing to be rid of Joseph’s God. They were a plundered people without anger or regret for it. Some Egyptians wanted an end to the days of calamity, others routed for Israel to beat Pharaoh. Even children joined in the thrill of expelling the Israelites. Those who thought about the extra work figured it would help them forget the devastation they had endured.
“Get out! Go away from here. Now. Tonight! Just go! Don’t wait for your dough to rise. Take your bowls of dough and your flocks and livestock and your first born. Take our silver and gold and clothing and leave us. Never return!” shouted the elders in unison. “Go before Pharaoh recovers from his grief.”
Young men went in packs through Goshen knocking on doors and demanding that Israel leave immediately. A great commotion was stirring as families hastily packed up their possessions to obey the Egyptians and their own hearts that yearned to flee from familiar cages. Bellies still full of the sacrificial lamb would have to wait a long time for another feast. Dough in bread bowls couldn’t rise with all the commotion, but would have to be rolled out and baked later in makeshift ovens.
How many times had Pharaoh told them they could leave? How many times had they packed and formed their groups and exit strategy? Never had it been so rushed and chaotic. Foreigners clung to Israelites to escape Egypt with them. The elders allowed only those who were circumcised, or willing to be circumcised to join them.
As he marshaled his own family Moses became hyper-aware of the significance of this night, and that future generations must experience however possible this holiest of nights when their One True God set them free. The vigil of this night must be kept throughout their generations. The lamb with bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, the prayers; each generation of Israel must remember this moment of relief and the presence of their mighty God.
The Lord said to Moses, Consecrate to Me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and of animals, is Mine.
Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the Lord brought you out from there by strength of hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten. Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to his ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this observance in this month.
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. You shall tell your children on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt. You shall keep this ordinance at its proper time from year to year.’
Perambula and Gracefeld met with the Lord to review the route of the migrants. Gracefeld was to lead them by night as a pillar of fire, and Perambula by day in a pillar of cloud so that they might travel day and night. They would not take the direct route, but rather a circuitous path to avoid war. The people weren’t ready for that yet.
Eliezer felt so much more alive than ever before. Experiencing the favor of the Lord during all those calamities, he was shocked when they were happening to the Egyptians and not to them, not to him. It seemed to him that his life before coming to Egypt and being a Jew was merely mechanical. He had the same body that needed to sleep and eat, that got angry and sad, happy and mischievous, but seeing that their God answered prayers for freedom, he had begun to pray. Every night as he lay in bed waiting for sleep to come over him, he spoke to God, told him how he felt, asked him for guidance, and for protection. From time to time there were indications that he was heard!
Since he seemed to be communicating with this great God, Eliezer felt different! More like a real person and not just an animal with language and emotions. Knowledge of God made life exciting and safe at the same time.
Eliezer was proud of His father. Every morning when he woke up, Eliezer was excited to see what miracles the day would bring. Even though he was from Midian and well travelled compared to the rest of them, he anticipated the exodus with joy and gladness. He was ready for anything, because he knew that their God, His God, was leading them to a fine new home.
Eliezer was very glad to leave Egypt, probably gladder than the Israelites. Slavery meant something very different to him. It was humiliating to be treated so inhumanely. He had been robbed of his humanity by force. He had been treated as an animal only for his physical usefulness. Moses and his grandfather Jethro always treated him with kindness and respect. Eliezer knew what it meant to be free and he knew the appalling difference. How grateful he was to be free again. He wondered how many lives had been spent from birth to death in these 400 years with no inkling of the difference. The Israelites, he feared, would have a huge adjustment to make. In fact, he didn’t know how they would react to freedom with its responsibilities and risks. Many of the people that he met did not want to leave their homes; slavery trained them to grumble over every command.
“Eliezer, stop daydreaming!” shouted Moses to his son. “Come here. The elder Baruch has given me this precious bundle, which is the bones of our patriarch, Joseph. You will carry them out of Egypt.”
Eliezer walked closely behind his father, solemnly embracing the Patriarch Joseph. What an honor! There was a man doubly blessed by God, with wisdom and intelligence, and with favor. When they reached Baal-zephon Eliezer carefully set his holy bundle down in the care of his mother Sepphora and helped to set up camp opposite it by the sea.
The Lord could not resist orchestrating one last event, a grander finale more positive than the death of the first-born, more astonishing than the million frogs, lest anyone ever forget that it was God and not Pharaoh who set Israel free.
In the comfort of his palace far far away from the hubbub of his poor grieving people, Pharaoh was told that indeed all of Israel had left, not a soul remained in Egypt to work. With their exodus, he lost power, wealth, and respect. The humiliation was worse than the grief caused by the death of his cherished son. This God, this immaterial magician had stripped Pharaoh of everything that had been the almighty leader of the greatest country in the world. “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” thought Pharaoh, “but I still have an army.”
In a vain attempt to recover, Pharaoh shouted for his officials. “Israel has been gone long enough! Surely by now their worship is over. Go and make ready my chariot and my army. We must bring them back immediately! Take chains and ropes to tie up the resisters!”
The captain was glad to see his leader aback to normal. The Egyptian elite were concerned about the new world order.
Soon, six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them and Pharaoh went in hot pursuit of Israel.
Swift Arabian horses and chariots rode to the campsite by the sea where it was reported that Israel had foolishly cornered themselves, making it oh so easy to round up.
When Israel heard them and then saw the great mass of Egyptians advancing on them, in great fear they cried out to Moses, “was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt? Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians. For that is better than to die in the wilderness.”
Moses replied to the people, “Do not be afraid! Stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you only have to keep still.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that Israel may go into the sea on dry ground. Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh, His chariots, and his chariot drivers.”
Then Perambula who had been leading Israel, in his pillar of cloud, moved and went behind the mass of people. Perambula took the position between the armies of Israel and Egypt. The angel shined in the cloud and separated the two armies throughout the night.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.
At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire (with Gracefeld) and cloud (with Perambula) looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw them into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels in the mud so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians shouted, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and their chariot drivers.”
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, of the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.
Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses, for about an hour.
Some scholars say the Passover story is not historical. Only God knows for sure. Nevertheless, it has happened for billions of people in the reading and telling of it in annual commemorations whether or not thousands of frogs ever hopped into Egyptian beds and all the rest. Obviously, God wants us to know the Passover story for a good reason which makes Passover as real in our minds as the moon landing.
The ALIVE account of the Passover offers imagined details that evoke the rich meaning, and therefore the purpose of the story.
The Passover is the second major work of God in a triptych designed to gradually restore His people to the state of human origin in which we clearly reflected His image and likeness, when we were designed to have dominion over nature with its decay, malfunction (illness), and natural death.
We became subject to the cycle of nature (e.g. childbirth pain, difficulty farming, death) when Eve, then Adam believed the lie that God was not trustworthy, and then ate of the poisonous tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Creation story may be an allegory too, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful.
They were forbidden to eat of that tree for God’s good reason. Adam and Eve were originally in the world but not of it. Jesus showed us what that means. He was in the natural world, but not of it, because like Adam and Eve, He had dominion over nature as demonstrated by the many miracles.
Distrust opened the floodgate of good and evil, which could only be mitigated by exhibiting extraordinary faith, as demonstrated by Noah and Abraham. Faith looks at evil and sees the good hiding behind it. Faith ignores both to seek God’s mysterious will.
The Flood, the Passover, and the Resurrection take God’s chosen people, step by step to a new Promise Land, revealed by the Apostle John in his revelation, where we will live in incorruptible bodies, and once again enjoy dominion over nature.
For those of us who wonder why God allows evil, the answer is that once upon a time He didn’t. Yet, the Flood tells us that annihilating everything was a short term solution, but key.
Making children of God, through God’s will and man’s cooperation is an ambitious project, particularly in the face of such great opposition.
First step. Noah’s Flood defined the essential elements of life, which are salvation, baptism, and mercy.
When wondering about salvation imagine those who drowned outside the ark. Drowning is easier to picture than Armageddon.
Baptism signifies death and rebirth. Everyone died in the Flood except Noah and his family who were reborn through the combustion of equally intense fear and faith. As with Noah’s family, true life begins, not in the oblivion of natural birth, but rather with the will to be in the ark of salvation from the doomed world. One appropriates the powerful and meaningful event through re-enactment, as though it is happening for the first time, and for the same purpose.
The concept of mercy is perfectly defined by the olive branch presented by the dove. Ελέησον. The Greek word for mercy literally means to olive me. Stop. Clear your mind of all noise, and imagine intense of relief after 180 days at sea. Imagine being the only life form on the entire planet, and you are starving and scared, and then you see a dove approach you with an olive branch. Hallelujah!!! Noah and his family were given mercy and they received relief. Ask for mercy to receive relief from your suffering or to prevent punishment. Olive oil is the manifestation of a powerful concept, God-bestowed relief. Keep in mind too, the months of faith and suffering before the olive branch appeared. Patience is a virtue. To touch your forehead, the shell of your mind, with Holy Water, or olive oil (Holy Unction) is a flashback.
As big and meaningful as The Flood was, it would be as a fleck of gold buried deep in the earth had it not been for Passover.
Passover opened the gilded altar doors to reveal God to all His people. Passover was as God’s third beginning. The Creation birthed man, the Flood baptized him, the miracles of Passover ushered the sons of God into a new world in communion with Him.
When the angel of death passed over the blood-stained doorways, it was as if the olive branch appeared after four hundred years.
Four hundred years in Egypt made the descendants of Jacob into a solid nation. Slavery bound them together, lest in freedom they scatter throughout the earth and were dissolved. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and the nine calamities gave this nation time and conditions to pry them loose from the mold of an Egyptian slave.
The epic story starts with the bloody Nile to recall the days when Pharaoh drowned the Hebrew baby boys in the Nile. Only Moses was saved from the deadly Nile as if baptized to begin life anew as the grandson of Pharaoh. The bloody Nile echoed the Flood. Again, baptism initiates a new different kind of life.
To explain His purpose for the Passover God tells Moses that He will:
- Free them from the burdens of the Egyptians
- Deliver them from slavery
- Redeem them
- Take them as His people
- Be their God
- Bring them to the Promise Land
- Give it to them, that they may know that He has...
- Freed them (past tense, as if it already happened)
- Keep His promise.
During the worst of times during the last days in Egypt, God repeated His overarching purpose which was to demonstrate that He is the Lord, the powerful, to make His name resound through all the Earth (Exodus 9:16). God impressed upon this nation of His that He is their God who will free them from the harsh bonds of slavery. Millennia will go by before He associates slavery with sin and consequently with death, from which He ultimately intends to free His people, forever.
And now let’s go cross the Red Sea.
Part Three- Finale
The people solemnly slaughtered their lambs at twilight as instructed. The women wept while preparing for the meal coating their lambs with the herbs, and making unleavened bread.
Children watched in awe as blazing fires settled into red hot coals to roast the lambs slowly and thoroughly. The sweet aroma of the cooking meat and herbs filled all of Goshen with the strong incense of Passover. A smell they will remember all their earthly days as the smell of freedom. This sweet smoke created a dense fog that slowly rose into the heavens carrying with it the thoughts and prayers of the slaves about to be set free.
While the lambs were cooking, doorway after doorway was being painted with deep red blood. The children ran from house to house to watch and the teenage boys asked to help. Fathers handed their sons the hyssop brushes. No one complained, no one questioned. After all that they had been through, each person knew better than to question Moses or his God.
After the ceremony of painting, the menfolk and the children went inside their homes to divided and eat the lamb.
It was time. In Mariam’s house Moses, Sepphora, Gersham, Eliezer, and Aaron with his wife Elisheba, with his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamar and Aaron’s daughter in law, and his grandson Putiel were gathered. With all eyes focused on the lamb, they prayed. “Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam. Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe great and powerful God who hath brought us to this king of moments in all of history, God of life, be with us and guide us through this awful night.” There was nothing more to say. In silence Moses carved the lamb in equal parts to the number of people in the family and passed the platter for each person to take his or her piece of the one lamb that united them with each other. Everyone looked at their meat with thoughts of the lamb who just that morning had been frolicking in the pasture. He alone represented their corporate frailty.The lamb was their refuge. There was to be no leftovers, they ate quickly, with sandals on their feet, ready to run. After the lamb had been completely consumed, when it had gone from the platter into each man, woman, and child’s body to nourish and sustain them for the journey ahead, one by one family members fell exhausted.
Gersham was first to ask, “Mother, I am so tired, may I go to rest now?”
Aaron and Nadab followed, the three first-born men of the family subconsciously felt a great weight on their hearts in sympathy, in grief, in relief that for a reason that no man comprehended, they were going to be spared. That blood was to save him specifically. These three men craved the relief of a deep slumber.
In ones and twos the rest of the family went to their beds to rest. Bellies full and satisfied, hearts sad, minds afraid and excited about the journey ahead.
A feeling of awe and reverence swept through every home in Goshen. Whoever was not ready to leave Egypt was getting ready now. A few, mostly infants and small children, managed to fall into a deep restful sleep. Most of the family member sat or laid in their beds hugging each other and praying with their thoughts in the still darkness.
As forewarned, at midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.
Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
The sound of women and men wailing could be heard throughout the land. Everyone who was asleep woke up. The cries, the shrieks of mother’s, of wives, of brothers and sisters collided to fill the air as loud sirens. Every Egyptian was alarmed that so many could die so suddenly. It didn’t take the Egyptians long to realize that each family had lost its first-born son. First born fathers died too leaving their wives and children bereft of support. Shepherds noticed that the first born of the livestock had fallen too. This was no accident, no coincidence. It was mysterious to the ignorant Egyptians, but it was a mystery no one had the energy to contemplate. So strong was their grief.
Pharaoh ran into his son’s room only to see his lifeless body completely drained of all joy and sorrow, of love, and of hopes and fears. There was nothing but a shell of the young man he had poured all his dreams into. With his royal head resting on his son’s still and silent chest Pharaoh saw his dynasty crumble. His heir was dead. Pharaoh walked out of the room of death and went to sit on his throne.
Gracefeld never felt so sorry, so guilty knowing that the bitter grief of Pharaoh was due to the stubborn thoughts that he had planted in Pharaoh’s mind. Gracefeld wondered how this story would have played out if Pharaoh had been allowed to decide for himself how to respond to all the calamities. But then, these musings were too high for Gracefeld, who had learned to trust and not question God long ago.
In his grief, remembering their warning, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron in the night.
Moses and Aaron, along with almost everyone else in Mariam’s home, were awaken from their deep sleep by the loud harsh knock on their door. Mariam who was still cleaning up after the meal opened the door to see the messenger. She called her brothers to wake up and go to Pharaoh.
Moses and Aaron walked out through the blood-stained lintel to follow the messenger back to the palace. While he was walking Moses contemplated how long he had known that this would happen. From the time he first set out from Jethro’s home, which seemed a lifetime ago, God had told Moses about the deaths of the first born. Before all the marvels, Moses knew that it would culminate in this tragedy. And yet, he was not prepared for how he would feel on this deadly night.
The grief drenched air was so thick with heartbreak that Moses had to wade through it as if he was wading through an ocean of tears in a strong undertow. It was impossible to walk quickly. Every doorway they passed spewed anguish.
As he walked Aaron was reminded of his youth when another Pharaoh had the infant boys drowned in the Nile and how grief-struck his own aunts had been. Perhaps it was to avenge this killing that God’s first act was to bloody the Nile. It was the blood of hundreds of Hebrew infants that spoiled the Nile. He had never realized that before. Aaron had long forgotten those day of anguish, until now. Had their God chosen this genocide as retribution? Aaron was not as sensitive to the cries surrounding him, so absorbed had he been in the memory of the infanticide he had escaped. But, didn’t the murder of the boys also cause Moses to be brought up in the palace and make him particularly well suited for this day? At that point Aaron stumbled on a rock and quickly shifted his feet to keep from falling. Upon his quick recovery he lost all track of his mental exploration.
When they finally arrived in the throne room the brothers found a depleted Pharaoh sitting dejectedly on his throne. In barely audible words Pharaoh simply said, “Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone.”
Just as Moses and Aaron turned to go, Pharaoh added, as if reaching for a life line “And bring a blessing on me too!”
This chapter, being the climax of the event, had to be very long, which isn’t practical to post, therefore I have split it into three sections. When the book comes out, that won’t happen, but for now I ask for the indulgence of the reader, promising to post the final part of this chapter next Sunday.
God continued speaking to Moses, slightly annoyed by the distraction of Perambula’s loud thoughts, He continued, “then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.
They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until morning; anything that remains until morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord.”
Hearing this, Perambula suddenly understood the meaning of it all. The blood of the unblemished lamb will save them from the grief and pain of death. As with Isaac, the lamb replaced the firstborn son. Now the sons of Jacob too will be rescued by the sacrificial lambs. Abraham’s faith will be rewarded once again. The covenant will be sealed anew.
The lamb’s death, in return for their life. The lamb’s death was the key to their freedom. This lamb, cut up and shared equally would work its way through their bodies to cleanse them from within, and prepare them and qualify them to be free from slavery forever. Once again, Perambula was amazed by God’s plan. He thought of everything!
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every first born in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
Moses listened intently to the instructions. He neither commented, nor allowed himself to fret as Perambula did, nor to question them. Moses was not nervous, but rather in a state of heightened anticipation after a very long drawn out effort, like a war or campaign whose culmination was near. It had been a very long time since Moses first encountered God in the burning bush. A very long time; much had happened, and all to lead up to this moment when the key to release the prisoners would be gently placed in the ancient lock, and turned.
“Oh Egypt,” thought Moses, “how much like a mother’s womb you have been to our people Israel. Within your walls we found protection and nourishment; we were formed in here and grew. Now mother-Egypt must expel us. Without desire or permission, Egypt will go through birth pains as a woman in labor, shrieks in agony before the moment of relief when her womb will be evacuated with a violent birth.”
Moses solemnly called all the elders of Israel who gathered quickly to receive their instructions, and said to them, “Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the Passover lamb.
Take bunches of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in their basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians, when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your house to strike you down.”
The elders listened intently. They sensed the intensity of the moment. No one murmured or questioned Moses. Perambula wafted through the Israelites like a sheepdog gathering the elders at the foot of the holy hill where Moses could be easily seen and heard. Then the angel went over to Moses and whispered in his heart to add the most important, enduring aspect of the cataclysmic event, that it should be remembered, re-enacted, and respected by every generation, until the end of days, or else it would be meaningless. Or else all that had happened to destroy Egypt for the sake of Israel, for the sake of its freedom from slavery, but much more than that, to create from Israel a unique nation among all nations in all of time. It wasn’t enough for God to create Adam and Eve in His image and likeness. He wanted a nation, a society within which to make Himself known. God wanted a family, Abraham’s family. He first had to extract this family from the womb where He planted it, to extract it in a violent painful way, like a long and arduous labor that would be so intense that it would form the essence of the family lore.
“You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and for your children. When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as He promised, you shall keep this observance. And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ You shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when He struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’”
Hearing this, the elders lowered their heads in awe and humility. The youngest elders fell to their knees, some fell into a fetal position with their faces hidden between their legs, and worshipped. After several moments of silence when each man listened to Perambula’s wordless reverence placed in his heart, the elders, filled with awe and humility quietly disbanded, each man walked with fear and reverence in his heart to relay to his people the instructions that it was time to slaughter their lambs and paint the entrance of their homes with its blood, before eating it.
This chapter, being the climax of the event, had to be very long, which isn’t practical to post, therefore I have split it into three sections. When the book comes out, that won’t happen, but for now I ask for the indulgence of the reader, promising to post the subsequent part shortly.
Goshen was abuzz. Every man, woman and child sensed that the time was near when they would leave Egypt together. Surely there was nothing else God could do to ravage Egypt any more. The land was a virtual disaster area after the hail, locusts, frogs and everything. Everyone, except Pharaoh was exhausted. They had long forgotten what a normal day was.
No one, neither Hebrew nor Egyptian could imagine Egypt without its Israelites. So entwined were the two cultures for centuries. Egypt had been the refuge of the Israelites, then when their Joseph managed the country with such skill it was their pride, before it was their prison.
They ate the same food, their children played together, they even shared idols. This God who suddenly came to make himself so obvious to them and to call them out of Egypt into a land of their own was a mystery to everyone, save Moses.
Had they asked for all of this commotion, this devastation of their land, when they simply prayed for relief from the tyranny of Pharaoh?
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to let Israel know of His power and their uniqueness as a people. He remembered His covenant with Abraham. Generation upon generation after the attempted sacrifice of Isaac, buried the stories of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel with days of harsh toil.
This Egypt was surely not the Promise Land. Not this place where they had to ask permission to worship, but the other part of the covenant was coming true, the part that promised Abraham that he would become the father of a multitude, that he would have more children than the stars in the sky, from one son, Isaac, born in his old age; that part was coming true. That the population of Israel had exploded could not be disputed. For every Egyptian baby born, there were several Hebrew births. The women were fertile, and the babies were strong. Since that prediction was coming true, perhaps there was a Promise Land as well.
What would life be like without the chains and handcuffs of Pharaoh to order their waking days? They would have to wait and see. This God, whether by His sovereign Will alone, or in answer to their prayers had woken up. He came determined to destroy Egypt for their sake.
Word had trickled out in Goshen that the first born of the Egyptians, both human and animal, from the son of Pharaoh, to the son of the prisoner and all livestock that broke the womb would die. Those who knew were not quick to spread the word, so terrified were they. Those who knew clutched their first-born and wondered how it was that they could be spared. Every Israelite knew that although they lived in Egypt for over four centuries, they had been set apart in Goshen. Although the Egyptians were slaves of Pharaoh too, the Israelites had been treated much more harshly. Can centuries of ill treatment be offset by a few months of bizarre favor?
On this particularly bright morning Perambula was more fidgety than usual. The angel had received some strange news and didn’t want to challenge God (again) and didn’t want to hold it in. The perplexed angel flew over to the palace to find Gracefeld.
“Gracefeld, have you heard what is going to happen next?!”
“Yes, of course.” replied Gracefeld with an air of superiority and calmness. “I suppose you mean that the angel of death is coming to take all of the first born. Thankfully, we don’t have to do that. Messy job. Disgraceful.”
“Yes, but no!”cried Perambula. “I mean the sacrifice of the lambs! The Lord will tell Moses that each family is to sacrifice a lamb, right here...in Goshen! I mean how can this be?! Wasn’t it that they had to leave on a three day journey simply because this animal sacrifice would be so repugnant to the Egyptians, and now, He will have them do this right here where they live! I am so confused!”
“Calm down Perambula!”ordered Gracefeld. “Yes, I admit that this is a switch, but the Lord requires it for a very good reason. Besides, Pharaoh asked for it, ummm thanks to me! He wouldn’t let them go into the wilderness, so they would just have to do it right here under their noses. Pharaoh and all of the Egyptians too will see for themselves the power and meaning of the animal sacrifice.”
Gracefeld had a wonderful way of calming Perambula, which is why the Lord often paired them up on missions.
Gracefeld added, “Do you know which angel of death is coming?”
“No, and I don’t think it matters. I must be getting back for the announcement. Thank you.”
“I heard that we will be getting reinforcements for the Exodus!” shouted Gracefeld as Perambula drifted away. At that, Perambula merely smiled and didn’t reply.
When Perambula glided into Goshen, the meeting had begun. Perambula heard God speak to Moses and Aaron, “This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.
Perambula wondered why Moses did not seem at all surprised by the request for a massive animal sacrifice that was to take place, not in the wilderness away from the delicate sensibilities of the Egyptians, but right here in the city limits of Goshen! But then again, Moses was in no position to challenge God again since the beginning when he tried to turn down the assignment and was given his brother as assistant.
God ignored Perambula’s loud and useless thoughts as He continued with His instructions. “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month;”
Hearing this reminded Perambula of the sacrifice of Isaac. Keeping the sacrificial animal for four days, assumed Perambula, was to make them familiar with the animal. This sacrificial lamb was to be no anonymous piece of meat, but rather more like a pet whose every feature had been first inspected for its perfection and admired. For four days and three nights the family looked upon this perfect animal that they knew they would slaughter. In the eating of this lamb, each person might remember a moment of connection, when the animal was stroked, or when a glance into its eyes created a spark of sorrow. The thought of this saddened Perambula. To the angel it was as if Isaac had been slaughtered after all, and not the stranger-ram the Lord provided. To Perambula, it was as if each Hebrew family was required to slaughter their Isaac to join in the covenant with God before being saved from genocide ahead.
Pharaoh tossed and turned all night. It was getting harder and harder to be the strong decisive leader his father had taught him to be. He was in agony. He didn’t want to fall asleep because every night plagued him with horrendous nightmares, dreams of frustration. The sleep state found him lost and desperate to find his way, or being chased by wild animals and not able to hide, or falling off a precipice. He was afraid of where his mind would take him, and yet his waking hours were just as horrendous. His idiotic magicians proved useless. From his birth Thutmose had always gotten his way. Anything his heart desired had only to be named and it came to him within hours, the tastiest food, the most beautiful women, the best performers of music and dance. He remembered the day that he was told that his father died and he was crowned Pharaoh as the most thrilling day of his life. Then, when his first born son was presented to him. Oh joy; what magician conjured that up! A miniature version of himself with a touch of his father and of his mother all rolled into one sweet smelling bundle of emotions. The baby smiled and gurgled so much; how he often wondered what was making this child so joyful.
Could it be that if only he would release the Israelites to go into the wilderness to pray, then their god would be pleased and restore his kingdom and his peace of mind? Thutmose could not understand why he vacillated so, and why he was being so stubborn? Why did Moses only ask for permission to go away to pray, when they both knew full well that once gone, they would never return? Why did Moses repeatedly expect him to believe the lie that they would return? He might as well have asked for permanent release. Did that false brother of his think him a fool? He should just let them go and be rid of the whole lot!
NO NO NO, what demon placed that thought in his mind? Absolutely not. He would not be bullied by that god of theirs. Pharaoh admitted that he showed his weakness too often when he asked Moses for prayer and offered to let them go. He really had to stop that. He must win. He must show himself strong and decisive. If only he could get a good night’s sleep, everything would be better. He needed a sleeping potion. He would try one more time to clear his mind of thoughts and focus on resting his every muscle from his royal toes up through his body until he reached his mind, the summit of his being and even there he must be in control enough to sweep away any thought that displeased him. Pharaoh craved rest, to fall into the warm soothing waters of oblivion.
Meanwhile, back on the hill, the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.”
Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt.
Pharaoh stayed in his bedroom and tried to sleep as long as he could. His man servant entered holding a candle and said, “Sire, how long shall this darkness last? The people have stopped working. The cows have stopped giving milk. The roosters won’t crow. The people want to know when the light will return. What shall I tell them?”
“How should I know!” shouted Pharaoh. “Tell them that the light will return when they have pleased their gods. Tell them that I proclaim a holiday and that they need not report to work until the darkness is lifted. Tell them to pray to the gods that their rest is deep and restorative. Now GO and leave me be!”
“I have one more message Sire.” added the daring messenger.
“What is it peon?” replied Pharaoh nastily.
“I am told that Gotham is bathed in light. They have no darkness there.”
“How can that be?” replied Pharaoh incredulously.
“We don’t know.”
“Then they should be working! Order the slaves of Goshen to clean their streets and their fields. I will send inspectors in three days and expect to see Goshen spotless! And while you are there order Moses to return to me. Now please leave me!”
The messenger walked out after kissing the hand of Pharaoh and bowing low. His first stop was to the municipal room to tell the officials about the holiday. They chuckled at the news.
Then the messenger turned to start his trek to Goshen to give them their orders. He had a very difficult time making his way through the streets of Egypt. His candle blew out. The darkness was so dense and pure that he had to walk waving his hands out in front of him and around his sides. No one else was out, which made it easier than it otherwise might have been.
As he approached Goshen he was shocked to see the dull luminous fog that made it much easier to walk. The closer he got to Goshen, the more light. It was amazing, it was dumbfounding. Goshen was filled with light, as opposite as the darkness of the rest of Egypt could be. He looked up at the sky for the sun, but found not the familiar ball. The messenger wondered if the light came from their God. Was He showing Egypt that He was indeed the God of light, and they were people of darkness?
With no task masters showing up for work, with all the merriment he observed, it appeared that they were the ones having the holiday. The messenger went directly to the Town Square and announced the requirement to clean their streets.
Then the messenger walked to the home of Miriam where he found Moses and Aaron eating lunch as if it was a typical day in paradise. He ordered them to return with him to the palace.
Moses didn’t seem to have half the trouble walking back to the palace as the messenger had had wading through the darkness. Either he was being guided by an inner light, or the path was so familiar that Moses could walk it in his sleep.
They arrived to find lit candles everywhere. Pharaoh’s throne room was bathed in jittery candle light.
As soon as he spotted Moses, Pharaoh said, “Go, worship the Lord. Only your flocks and your herds shall remain behind. Even your children may go with you.” Pharaoh felt, that by saying this he was being generous and yet, authoritative enough to demand reasonable limitations. He expected Moses to comply and he looked forward to the end of the standoff. Sitting in darkness, Pharaoh had no clue that the worse was yet to come.
Without hesitation, without compromise, Moses replied, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings to sacrifice to the Lord our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must choose some of them for the worship of the Lord our God, and we will not know what to use to worship the Lord until we arrive there.”
Pharaoh was angry that Moses wouldn’t take the olive branch that had been so hard for him to offer. This demanding, unyielding, uncompromising opponent would not get the best of him. Pharaoh had no power over the light; he didn’t know the reason for the strange darkness, or when the light would return, but he still had it in his power to keep Israel from leaving, and that would be good enough. Good enough for this meeting. Good enough for this dark day. He would just try to fall asleep again.
Pharaoh turned his stubborn heart inside out and barked, “Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day that you see my face, you shall die.”
Moses replied, “Just as you say! I will never see your face again.”
Then the brothers departed from the palace for what they figured was the very last time. As they walked through the dark halls into the pitch blackness, they knew not what time of day it should be. All was darkness, all was stillness, like the day before creation, like the day of death. Moses and Aaron walked back to Goshen in silence as they tried to maneuver the streets without stumbling and falling.
They finally spotted the dim yet welcome light of Goshen in the far distance and used it to guide them home quickly. They went straight to their hill and waited, but not for very long.
Moments after they arrived the Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed when he lets you go, he will drive you away. Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and gold.”
Moses and Aaron were immensely relieved to hear that the end was indeed near, as they had suspected.
On the third day the people of Goshen could see the light of their district expand throughout Egypt. The days of darkness were over.
The Egyptian people, tired, and hungry, innocent victims of the battle between egotistical Pharaoh and the powerful God of Moses were thoroughly drained; they had lost everything, their fields, their herds and flocks, their air of superiority.
It was clear to everyone that Pharaoh with his useless demands was the weak one, the loser. Many of them wanted to leave with Israel. The Egyptians through all of these calamities saw what Pharaoh was blind to. Sitting on his throne, his own people rooted for Israel to win the battle and move on. Moses was clearly the victor, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials and in the sight of his people.
As they were told to do, the Israelites took advantage of the favor they sensed from their neighbors. The women went into the Egyptian neighborhoods, knocked on doors and asked for items of silver and gold to take with them. By then it was not a matter of whether they would leave, but when. Egyptian women gladly handed over their precious metals as a prayer offering to the god of the Hebrews. Each household tried to out do its neighbor in generosity to the slaves and their powerful God. Little did they know that their biggest sacrifice was yet to come.
Strengthened by the return of light to Egypt, and by the treasure they were given by the people, Moses sensed too that he had won. Their God won! Only now, the plague was yet to come. Until this time, in spite of all the loss, not one human life had been taken. God thought it only fair to give Pharaoh a warning of the tenth and final event, the plague, that would break Pharaoh’s God-produced strong will.
The guards saw Moses and Aaron approach and sent a messenger to ask Pharaoh if they should be admitted. Feeling better after the three day rest, and the morning light, he consented to receive the brothers. Perhaps they were coming to concede, he thought. Perhaps, they were willing to leave something precious behind to insure their return. That’s all he ever really wanted anyway. He didn’t care that they had a holiday, he just wanted to retain their usefulness, and his power over them.
Moses entered the throne room with an air of confidence and solemnity that shook the better mood out of Pharaoh. Aaron said, “Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock. Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as never been or ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites-not at people, not at animals-so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me , and bow low to me, saying, ‘Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.’ After that, I will leave.”
Moses had worked himself into a fury with this message. He was angry that it should come to this, the killing of so many innocents to force their release. By the time Aaron finished speaking, Moses was clearly fed up and in hot anger he turned without saying a word and walked out with Aaron at his heels.
The Lord spoke to Moses’ heart, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
Moses was comforted by those words; he understood that God’s ways are mysterious. It was more important to God that His power and favoritism of Israel be recognized, than all the destruction and death that it took to make it obvious to Pharaoh, to the Egyptians, and to Israel.
Gracefeld and Perambula were both very pleased with themselves for so successfully helping the Lord carry it off. These angels had never worked so hard, neither in the galaxies, nor on earth. They expected great rewards would follow and their names to be written in the Angel Hall of Fame.
Moses and Aaron too clearly sensed that these were holy days. For all the frustration and suffering, surely future generations would hear of the marvels and the plague that was to come, and stand amazed that God orchestrated such an epic release from the chains that had bound them to Egypt and to Pharaoh for centuries.
However, it wasn’t over yet; the Lord still hardened Pharaoh’s heart, in spite of the threat of the death that would ensue, through his able emissary Gracefeld, and he did not let them go.
After the hail subsided, even the angels Perambula and Gracefeld grew weary observing all that the transplanted Hebrews and the native Egyptians had to endure together with one calamity after another in a non-stop barrage of misery. No one was free to leave Egypt; everyone had to suffer not knowing what would come next to frighten or repulse them.
“Gracefeld,”asked Perambula, “how are you managing to keep Pharaoh so stubborn through all this? I really thought that the hail had to be more than he could endure, knowing that it is in his power to relent and return to normalcy. His kingdom is utterly destroyed!”
“It isn’t easy Perambula.”replied Gracefeld. “You see how many times Pharaoh weakened. Over and over I spoke through his heart, that surely the Hebrews would not return once they left. To have less than half of his workforce, and to be left with the least skillful builders would spell the end of his pyramid project. His own tomb could not be built. What is a Pharaoh without a tomb? Besides, I told him. No matter how bad it got, the Hebrew slaves would be the ones to clean it up and restore the fields.
Then I tell him that he, not this Hebrew god, has ultimate authority. He loves that. To let the Israelites go would make him subservient to their magician of a god.”
“Ooo Gracefeld! Did the Lord hear you say that?”
“I don’t know.” said Gracefeld. “He didn’t say anything to me.
Perambula, doesn’t it make you wonder why God has to cause so much pain and suffering to prove his greatness?”
“No, not really.” replied Gracefeld. “Someday soon, the Israelites will need to remember these days. Besides, I imagine that to leave a destroyed country is easier than to leave a tidy country with their cozy beds behind them.
They will need to know first and foremost that their God is almighty, that He has the power to destroy all that sustains them. Besides,” added Gracefeld, “their lives have been too comfortable. Now that they are such a large nation, it is time for God to completely extract them from their small world. Like a long lost Father, he wants to reintroduce himself and mold them. That will take much hard work on everyone’s part.”
“Especially ours!”exclaimed Perambula.
“I believe you are correct. Enough chatting Perambula. We must prepare for the next calamity. Farewell.”
The angels departed, one flew to the pharaoh and the other back to God for further instructions. Perambula found God speaking to Moses again.
“Go to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials in order that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I have made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them-so you may know that I am the Lord.”
As instructed, Moses and Aaron returned to Pharaoh, with Perambula following closely, and Aaron said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, so that they may worship Me. For if you refuse to let My people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country. They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They shall devour the last remnant left you after the hail, and they shall devour every tree of yours that grows in the field. They shall fill your houses, and the houses of your all officials and of all the Egyptians - something that neither your parents nor your grandparents have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” When Aaron stopped speaking Moses turned and walked out with Aaron at his heels. Perambula and Gracefeld’s angel eyes met briefly to exchange a wide-eyed look before Perambula hurriedly followed the brothers out of the palace.
Gracefeld stayed to hear Pharaoh’s officials say to him, “How long shall this fellow be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God; do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”
Before they reached the palace gates messengers were summoned to retrieve the brothers. When Moses and Aaron returned, Pharaoh said to them, “Go, worship the Lord your God! But which ones are to go?”
Moses himself said loudly and slowly, “We will go with our young and our old; we will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, because we have the Lord’s festival to celebrate.”
Gracefeld whispered to Pharaoh, “See! They mean to leave you forever, and then who will clean up this place? This city is in shambles,” Pharaoh paused to listen to his invisible angel, and then replied indignantly. “The Lord indeed will be with you if EVER I let your little ones go with you! Plainly you have some evil purpose in mind. No, never! Your men may go and worship the Lord, for that is what you are asking.” Pharaoh gave the sign to his guards to escort the brothers out of the palace. Within moments they were gone, leaving Pharaoh to brace himself for the next event.
As if returning home from a typical day at work, Moses and Aaron walked out of the palace and back to their favorite spot on the hill in silence.
The Lord had been waiting for their arrival. He said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt, so that the locusts may come upon it and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.”
Moses obediently stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night; when morning came, the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts came upon all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never before, nor ever shall be again. They covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was black; and they ate all the plants of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left; nothing green was left, no tree, no plant in the field remained in all the land of Egypt. This time even Goshen was a swarm of devastating locusts. Man, woman and child, rushed into their homes and shut their doors tight. Window openings were covered to keep as many locusts out as possible. Screeches and shouts reverberated throughout every building. The inside air grew thick and stuffy. It was hard to breath. The people’s hunger was gradually turning to starvation. Locust appeared everywhere as if they could pass through the walls.
It was as bad at the palace as it was in the hut. Pharaoh hurriedly summoned Moses and Aaron who were both quick to heed the request of Pharaoh’s messenger. The men crushed locusts with every step of their giant feet, as the streets were coated in swarming bugs who loud humming wings were deafening to the ears.
No sooner had the brothers entered the throne room than Pharaoh said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. Do forgive my sin just this once and pray to the Lord your God that at least He remove this deadly thing from me.” Perambula looked over at Gracefeld with a look that said, “Is this IT?!”
Moses and Aaron turned and walked out. There was nothing more to say. They went directly to their hill and prayed to the Lord who immediately changed the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. No one before, and no one since has ever received such instant response to a prayer as when Moses asked God to remove the locusts. The devastation was more than anyone could bear.
Gracefeld was given orders that it was still not enough. He would have to try harder to stiffen Pharaoh’s resolve in spite of the hunger and devastation. Gracefeld thought and thought of how he could turn this ship around again. “Oh Great Pharaoh,” said Gracefeld, “would you cave to the orders of a mere Hebrew, the false brother that so often stole the affection of your father? What will your son think of you, the great Pharaoh being tossed by the wind like a mere locust? No, this is a matter of dignity. The Hebrews must remain and restore your land that their god destroyed.”
Success! Pharaoh soon announced his reversal. NO! He would NOT let the Israelites go, after all. Not even after the locusts.
Miriam lay sleepless in the quiet darkness of the night. Thoughts that poured into her mind clashed with each other, taking turns for flashes of attention before dissolving. She felt the earth tremble under her. She sensed the pain and suffering of her Egyptian neighbors while all was calm and peaceful in Goshen. They were still in Egypt, and yet they weren't. Her world was transformed daily while she remained fixed in her familiar home. She was confused and yet thrilled. Within a square mile existed both heaven and hell, peace and torment. "How bizarre," she thought, "for the most degraded of peoples to suddenly be the reason for calamity, like sweet revenge. Who is this God of ours?"
Miriam had no one with whom to share these thoughts. Sepphora, being a foreigner, was a relatively free woman since the strangling hand of Pharaoh did not reach as far as Midian, Sepphora would not understand the magnitude of what was happening and Aaron was wrapped-up in his new role as spokesman and super-magician. Her neighbors were too busy with chores and forced labor to discuss how they felt about the series of calamities.
While trying to fall asleep, she thought back to when she began to feel so unsettled. Was it when the calamities started, when the Nile turned bloody and the frogs and those horrible gnats appeared everywhere? She must have swallowed a cupful before they suddenly disappeared. No, oddly enough, she thinks she was most unsettled when the calamities happened to the Egyptians and not to the Jews. Who is this God?
All her adult life, Miriam wanted to escape her captors, the pharaohs with their demands, but she wondered what this God would demand of her? Were they being set free, only to be flung into the clutches of a vastly more powerful tyrant? All her life Miriam made idols and worshipped them and prayed to them. She was in control of these gods made with hands. She placed her hopes onto these figurines. Sometimes they would grant her wishes and sometimes they didn't. But they never did anything on their own that she knew of, and they certainly never controlled nature like this. How could she love and trust this mega-powerful God of Israel Who spoke to her brother Moses, and wreaked havoc?
Before Moses came back into her life she only thought of God when she was being mistreated. For the most part, it was the menfolk who were the forced laborers. The women did the work they would have always done anywhere, raise the children, cook and clean. This was the kind of life no woman could escape, except prostitutes, and they had their own, worse and perverted forced labor.
Perambula who was wafting through the house read the thoughts of Miriam and felt saddened. These people, these slaves of Pharaoh are so precious to God while they knew so very little about Him. Slavery and living among their oppressors stifled not only their freedom to assemble, and to fill their days, but their awareness of God. The concept of gods made by human hands, was too much for Perambula to bear.
Trying to recall everything she knew about this God, everything her mother taught her, Miriam drifted into a deep refreshing slumber. She woke up before daybreak as usual, lit the fire and was about to bake the bread-dough that had been rising all night.
Aaron entered. “Good morning sister. Ahh fresh bread this morning!”
“Miriam looked up and said with a hint of sarcasm, “What does our God have planned for us today?”
Aaron replied, “I don't know. He just tells Moses before it is about to happen.” And then tossed a fig from the bowl into his mouth.
Just then Moses enetered the room and said, “Come Aaron, let's go back.”
“I’m ready.” replied Aaron enthusiastically and gave his sister a peck on the cheek and rushed out to catch up with Moses.
In the middle of the night Moses had been awakened by the need to urinate. Back in bed, while trying to fall asleep again, the Lord spoke. He said, “Rise up early and present yourself before Pharaoh, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and upon your officials, and upon your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth.
By now I could have stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But this is why I have let you live: to show my power, and to make My name resound through all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against My people and will not let them go. Tomorrow at this time I will cause the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Send, therefore and have your livestock and everything that you have in the open field brought to a secure place; every human or animal that stays in the open field and is not brought under shelter will die when the hail comes down upon them.”
As they walked Moses was anxious to deliver this message. He tried hard to repeat everything God said to Aaron in his garbled way while they walked to the palace. Aaron was made for this role. He remembered every word that Moses relayed to him, and never questioned or argued with the message.
Moses and Aaron arrived at the palace, walked in, delivered their message to Pharaoh and his officials who had just arrived for the day's duties. At this latest message Pharaoh appeared dumbfounded. The timbre of Aaron’s voice was so clear and had such authority for a pitiful peasant, that Pharaoh had no response. His magicians had been reprimanded so severely that they hadn’t shown their faces in over a week. Moses and Aaron promptly departed. The officials followed close behind them.
Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried their slaves and livestock off to a secure place. Those who did not regard the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the open field. On the way back home, Moses and Aaron returned to their favorite spot in the hilltop in Goshen to listen for further instructions. Before long, the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that hail may fall on the whole land of Egypt."
Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire came down on the earth. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt; there was haiI with fire flashing continually in the midst of it, such heavy hail as had never fallen in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck down everything that was in the open field throughout all the land of Egypt, both human and animal; the hail also struck down all the plants of the field, and shattered every tree in the field.
Only in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were, there was no hail. From their perch on the hill, Moses and Aaron could see the clouds ejaculating onto the neighborhoods in the distance.
On their way home a band of locals approached Aaron and asked what was going on. He reported the news about the hail. Some of the men were astonished while one or two others chuckled.
While the family was eating supper they were suddenly startled by a loud forceful knock on the door. Eliezer got up to answer it. It was no surprise to anyone to find a messenger from the palace who had come to summon Moses and Aaron. The messenger, not much older than Eliezer, was drenched and bedraggled. Eliezer asked him to join in the meal and the Egyptian boy gladly accepted.
After supper everyone stood up to leave for the palace. Miriam said, “Don’t you think you should find something to shield yourselves from the hail?”
“Good idea!” said Aaron.
“Indeed!” added the messenger boy.
Miriam looked around the house and decided to let them take her platters to deflect the watery bullets.
“We must be going now,” said the messenger. “Pharaoh will be furious that I have delayed.
The brothers agreed and followed the young messenger out of their dry cozy home.
As they made the familiar trek to the palace it was interesting to note how gradually the driving hail progressed from light rain to thousands of tiny bullets as they approached the palace. They used Miriam’s platters to shield their faces, especially their eyes from the driving hail so they could see where they were going.
As they passed a field the brothers saw that the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in the bud. But the wheat and spelt were not ruined, for they were late in coming up. It was a tragic sight. Their walked turned into a jog. The streets were empty. Even the animals were sheltered, some in barns and others in homes.
When they arrived at the palace drenched and dripping they were given towels to dry themselves and then the brothers proceeded to the throne room.
Pharaoh had been waiting for them on his throne. Without a greeting, Pharaoh looked down at the marble floor and said meekly, as if he was about to choke on his words, “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the Lord. Enough of God’s thunder and hail! I will let you go; you need stay no longer.”
Moses replied “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. But as for you and your officials, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.”
“Be gone!” shouted Pharaoh forcefully. He had been humiliated enough and didn’t need these peasants to tell him whether he feared God or not.
Aaron and Moses left the palace with the platters deflecting the hail that would have stabbed their faces mercilessly. It would have been impossible to look up to the heavens under those conditions.
When they arrived at the first spot where there was no more hail, Moses stretched out his hands to the Lord; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured down on the earth. Moses listened to hear the cheers of the people he saw in the distance venturing out of their homes.
Back at the palace, when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and thunder had ceased, he sinned once more and hardened his heart, he and his officials. He no longer saw a reason to lose his labor force, and once again changed his mind. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.
Moses woke up feeling refreshed. The air was warm but clean. He had just been dreaming that he and his sons were leading the people out of Egypt; a vast army of families heavily laden with jewels and supplies were following them. A boy playing a flute walked beside him and his sons. In his dream Moses could see angels guiding them, as if the path had been mapped out for eons.
Sepphora heard Moses rousing and called through the window from the kitchen area, “Good morning sleepyhead. What can I make you for breakfast? We have eggs today! Look, we have no flies! Isn't this wonderful?!”
“Yes.” replied Moses, still deep in thought. “Eggs are fine. Is there any fish and bread?”
Just then they heard a knock on the door and Miriam opened it after wiping her hands on her apron.
A barefoot boy, seemingly out of breath from running announced, “Moses, the Pharaoh wants to see you right away. I am to take you, come.”
Aaron looked in from his room and then over to catch Moses’ glance and smiled. “I’m ready!”
Moses replied, “Go back and tell Pharaoh that I will be there after breakfast. Go; I know the way.”
“But he will be angry if I don't bring you back as he commanded.”
“Then wait for me outside.”
The boy was happy to wait where there were no flies. He wanted never to return to the flies.
Miriam looked over at Moses and said, “Perhaps this is IT! Pharaoh is ready to let us leave this wretched place.”
“We will see.” said Moses “Aaron, there is no rush. What do you want to eat?”
No one was in a hurry to walk into the Egyptian district with the swarms of flies everywhere.
The brothers saw the neighborhoods, one after the other were in shambles. The people looked more miserable than ever. Dead flies, killed by angry humans, carpeted the ground. The city was in ruins because of the flies and the other calamities.
Guards let the brothers go right in. There was more order inside the palace with its cavernous rooms and statues, but the flies were there too, as many, if not more densely populated than in the streets. Moses wished he had brought a woven fan to whisk them away.
They reached Pharaoh sitting on his throne with slaves fanning him on three sides. Over the loud buzzing sound of thousands of fluttering wings and through the screen they created, Moses heard Pharaoh say, “Go sacrifice to your God within the land.”
Moses replied, “It would not be right to do so; the sacrifices that we offer to the Lord, our God, are offensive to the Egyptians. If we offer in the sight of the Egyptians sacrifices that are offensive to them, they will stone us! We must go a three days journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to our God as He commands us.”
Pharaoh thought for a moment and replied, “Alright, I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away. Pray for me.”
Then Moses said, “Good. I will pray to the Lord that the flies may depart tomorrow, from you, from your officials, and from your people, only do not change your mind again!”
“You may be excused.” replied Pharaoh somberly anxious to be rid of the brothers so he could bathe.
Moses and Aaron quickly walked back through the swarms of flies with their noses and mouths covered by their hands. They decided to go to the hill where they had prayed before. When they arrived, Moses lifted his arms and looked into the heavens saying “Lord God almighty, good God, great God who wants to free Your people from their oppressors, please remove the flies. Without waiting for an answer, Moses and Aaron descended the hill and went into the villages, Moses going to the right and Aaron to the left to announce to the people that they would be leaving the next day. Once again, men, women and children enthusiastically loaded their mules for the journey.
God ordered Gracefeld to lead an army of angels to remove the invisible shield that kept the flies in Egypt so they could disperse.
By noon the next day, as Moses promised, the flies were completely gone from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; not one remained. Each Egyptian from Pharaoh to the smallest infant sighed with relief. No one cared how it happened so fast, only that the flies were gone. Women swept the dead flies into piles inside their homes and out. On every street a deep pit was dug to deposit the flies into. Relief became a fleeting sensation.
Moses and Aaron were too busy organizing for their exodus to notice. They decided to start the journey the next morning. The word went out from one neighborhood in Goshen to the next to be ready.
Meanwhile, Pharaoh changed his mind again. He called his chief guard in to announce that his permission was to be rescinded. The guards were to put a stop to the exodus of the Israelites.
Gracefeld who was invisibly present observed this scene, pleased that Pharaoh could be so easily manipulated.
“But sire! The people are ready! They have already begun to walk away! This will be a very difficult task!”
“How dare you speak thus! Get your weapons and do as I command! No Hebrew is to leave the border of this land or it will be you who suffer! Go and don't let me see your face again.” bellowed Pharaoh to his very frustrated chief guard.
Guards on horses were dispatched into every neighborhood to command the slaves back into their homes. This time, loud sighs not cries filled the air as the slaves obediently shuffled back into their homes to unpack their beasts of burden.
Disappointed but not surprised, Moses too went home, into his bedroom to listen for the familiar voice of the Lord. After several moments of inner silence he heard, “Go to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, the hand of the Lord will strike with a deadly pestilence, on your livestock in the field: the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds and the flocks. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing shall die of all that belongs to the Israelites.”
The Lord then set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” It was still light out so Moses immediately went to tell Pharaoh.
The Hebrew people saw Moses walk quickly by as on a mission and wondered what would happen next. Some of them smiled to themselves and to each other. In the Egyptian neighborhoods the people were less cheerful to see Moses.
The palace guards spotted Moses approaching and one was sent in to announce his approach to Pharaoh who agreed to allow Moses to be admitted. This time, Moses walked as one with authority into the throne room, made his announcement without stuttering, and without waiting for a reply, and without requesting permission to depart, turned and left.
Pharaoh was stunned at the forcefulness of Moses. He called for his magicians and told them what he heard and to be prepared to do the same.
The next day all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but none of the livestock of the Israelites died. Pharaoh inquired and found that not one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. It was becoming more and more obvious to the Egyptians that something supernatural was occurring. Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s stubbornness was set as in concrete, a deep and firm foundation, and he would not give his permission, even to rescind it again, to let the people go. It was his form of retaliation. Powerful Pharaoh refused to admit defeat, to admit that there was a power greater than his own. It was foolishness.
Without a moment’s delay for the Egyptians to recover from the calamity of their dead livestock, or for Pharaoh to wake up from his delusion, the Lord then said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw it in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and shall cause festering boils on humans and animals throughout the whole Land of Egypt.”
The brothers walked on paths by fields of dead animals large and small, of dead cows without milk to give, of rotting lambs and goats. The stench was nearly unbearable so they walked as fast as they could to get to the palace. Once again the guards saw them approach and one went inside to ask Pharaoh if they should be admitted.
Pharaoh filled with the curiosity and hope of one who is suffering, bade the guard to let them in.
“What have you to say today Moses as if I didn't know. Have you come to see a broken man? You won't find him here! Your magic tricks don't bother me! I have the best magicians in the universe and one day you will see what they can do!”
Aaron replied, “Sire, the Lord our God is greater than all the magicians that have ever lived. Our God is greater than your magicians and greater than your gods. Even your magicians shall be afflicted as never before.” The magicians looked on in fear and amazement thinking that this time Pharaoh demanded too much.
Pharaoh’s face was hard and expressionless. He steely eyes revealed no fear.
Then, Moses walked over to the cold kiln and reached inside where a large pile of soot and ashes waited for him. He reached in while Pharaoh looked on in confusion wondering what on earth this man was doing with ashes.
Moses, with two fists full dripping with ashes went to stand before Pharaoh and flung his arms up in the air opening his fists wide. The fistful of ashes rose high and multiplied! It was upside-down rain. The magicians cried out in pain from boils that suddenly appeared on their skin. Painful boils. They rushed out to seek relief. Some went directly into the sea, others rushed for salves of any kind they could find.
Soot appeared everywhere, inside the palace and out of it in every Egyptian neighborhood, and in the fields. Only this was a malevolent soot that caused festering boils on the skins of humans and animals.
Moses and Aaron did not wait for any sort of response, as Pharaoh too was obviously in pain. As he watched them leave Pharaoh shout, “Get out!”
This time Moses fully expected this reaction and walked quickly through the soot filled air past sore and moaning people, until he and Aaron arrived in the Hebrew quarter where the air was clean and children played and the animals were healthy.
And Moses said, “I am hungry. What’s for lunch!”
It uses a false measure for a free man to estimate the impact of seeing those swarms of flies buzzing around the Egyptian’s heads, and not theirs. It was like seeing a vast army of aliens from outer space coming to your rescue after 400 years of oppression. A free person might laugh at the sight of hundreds of sets of flailing arms creating a Jackson Pollock dance, but the slaves felt a mysterious multilayered satisfaction, as if justice was born, a flickering sunrise after the longest night. It was a sign from heaven that the earth was about to open up and swallow their suffocating world, consciousness and all. All they could do was to sit in a semi-paralyzed state and wait to see what would happen next.
The two angels flying overhead reading into slave hearts and minds had pity on these crippled people imagining life with clipped wings. They wondered if they could safely make the short leap from slavery to humility.
The slave is forced to submit to the will of the master, whereas the humble one voluntarily complies with the will of God without the fear or malice of a slave, but instead with the trust and faith of a child. The similarities between a slave and an child of God are striking and profound, and so are the differences. So much more profound than the difference between a steely willful free man and a yielding humble man. The willful man and the humble man can hardly know each other, being more like a tiger and an artist staring at the other with deep curiosity. No.
The metamorphosis from slavery to piety can be silky smooth, albeit with lumps and grit. Each is made with a similar pliable fabric, a similar soft texture. Is this why the heavenly Father endured watching so many generations of misery between Joseph and Moses? Were those centuries of gestation and cruel pharaohs the crucibles of God to mold Abraham’s children into His own? The flies not bothering them, was the first centimeter of dilation before their birth into a brand new state of existence. It was the very first sign that these lowly people were special and beloved. The labor pains were still to come.
The serpent staff, the bloody Nile, the frogs and gnats introduced the Hebrew people to their God with magic. This mysterious ancient God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of lore became real by showing His power over nature in a shocking way. Egyptian and Hebrew alike witnessed the biggest magic show that there ever was and ever will be until the Second Coming of Christ. For the first time since Creation, the laws of nature, were defied by their Maker in order to show humankind, especially the oppressor-class, the source of real power.
Magicians were allowed to duplicate the marvels. Yes, magic exists in this world of scientific laws, but only up to a point and no further. They couldn't make gnats because they weren't allowed to, and from that point forward the magicians were bereft of their false power.
Thousands of years ago, in Egypt, through a series of shocking events God descended from His throne room to become obvious. It was a unique display of real power. It was real, intentional, purposeful, and effective. This chapter of human history, the story of this one people among the millions of ethnicities was as a flash of lightening that illuminates the heavens for a brief moment. If only we can grasp the sight that was exposed, and remember it through the generations and tell our children and our grandchildren what we saw; we would humble scientist and philosophers. It was loud and bright; it was frightening; it was alarming; it was revealing. It only happened once, and only needed to because God, the Maker of heaven and earth, only needed once to transform this one mass of slaves into a free humble people that He could call His own. He only needed one group that some day He would incarnate into for the grain of thirty-three brief years, for one purpose: to free humankind from the iron shackles of death, in this world and the one under it.
And yet, even God with His armies of angels could not do this alone. He needed one human liaison, one child of man, Moses, whom He raised from birth.
Moses is a giant of a man, because he was a humble man. He humbled himself to God by listening and doing what was asked of him. Moses allowed God to steer him. God needed Moses to link His power from heaven to earth through his greatest creation, humanity. Moses was most alive by virtue of his extraordinary ability, or was it fortune, to communicate with God, to be His tool.
On the day when Pharaoh first rescinded his permission for the Hebrews to leave to worship their God, the people cried. This event too was part of their introduction to the Lord and King. This terrible disappointment was their first opportunity to become humble, trusting people of God. God knew He had to pry them away gently, so He did this with a succession of five offers by Pharaoh to allow them to worship in the wilderness.
God knew that no one was yet ready to be free. He had to tease them out of Pharaoh’s clutches for their sakes and so Pharaoh could get used to the idea. This also explains why Moses only asked for three days when he meant forever.