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.