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.