“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.
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.
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.
Guards ordered the grief stricken Hebrews to collect the dead frogs and burn them. The stench was unbearable adding disgust to their disappointment.
While the poor bedraggled Hebrews were collecting dead frogs, and nausea erupted like a geyser through Hebrew bodies big and small, male and female, the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.’”
Perambula looked at Gracefeld and exclaimed, “What! So soon? Shouldn't we wait until the frogs are all gone?” Gracefeld just shrugged angel shoulders and looked down at the chaos of the bloody Nile and the millions of dead frogs, and the people both Egyptian and Hebrew filled with fear and confusion and wondered how Pharaoh could be so stubborn and heartless. The angel saw that it was obvious to most humans that a god, the God, was responsible for all of this. Perambula responded to Gracefeld’s thought, “No Egyptian, not even temple guards, or the queen, dared to discuss the successive catastrophes with Pharaoh. In his palace, Pharaoh is insulated from the outrage of the people. He wants to believe that it's all magic. Besides, you know the Lord is keeping Pharaoh’s heart hard for a reason, don't you?”
No sooner had Moses given him the instructions, than Aaron was ready to pile onto the calamity. Neither brother was as concerned about the chaos as were Perambula and the people. In fact, like mischievous young boys, the brothers reveled in their new destructive power. To keep from smelling the burning frogs, Aaron took a deep breath and then stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and the gnats poured out onto on humans and animals alike like grains of flying sand; all the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt. A deep exhale was followed by a hearty grin. Aaron looked over at Moses who was chuckling. This was getting fun!
When Pharaoh saw the gnats he shouted for his magicians who came running to his throne room. “Do it!” He barked. The magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, and for the first time since the marvels began, the magicians could not replicate the event. There were gnats on both human and animals. The chaos among the people both Egyptian and Hebrew could be heard throughout the heavens. People swatted at gnats everywhere with no relief.
The Egyptians were angrier than ever at the Hebrews for causing such calamity and the Hebrews were furious with Moses and Aaron for piling one disaster on another and making them more despised by their neighbors than ever. No one could breathe or eat without gagging and spitting and ingesting gnats. This wasn't freedom; this was torture!
The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God!” as their excuse for their failure to make even more gnats, as if that was possible. But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord said.
That very night, as Moses lay sleepless in his bed under the net, with Sepphora by his side a flash of light whisked pass him. Then the familiar voice of God, the Lord, spoke to him. God said, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, on your officials, and your people, and into your houses and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies; so also the land where they live.’
Hearing that, Moses begged, “Please Lord, spare our people. I am afraid that they feel as persecuted as their oppressors are, and I am concerned that they will be in no mood to worship You, after all this, even when they are set free.” Moses cowered as he spoke thus to the Lord, not knowing how He would react to the suggestion. There was silence.
Perambula looked on curiously, also wondering what God would say.
After many tense moments God replied, “Tell Pharaoh that I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, so that you and he may know that I, the Lord am in this land. Thus I will make a distinction between my people and Pharaoh’s people. This sign shall appear tomorrow. My people need should know that all of this chaos is happening for them, not against them.” And to his angel he said, “Gracefeld, make sure that no flies come near the Hebrews.”
Gracefeld summoned an army of angels that created invisible walls around the Jewish quarter before God released a great swarms of flies that came into the house of Pharaoh and into his officials’ houses; in all of Egypt the land was ruined because of flies.
For the second time Pharaoh relented when he summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” But Moses said it would not be right to do so; for 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, will they not stone us? We must go three days journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as he commanded us.”
So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far. Pray for me.”
Then Moses replied, “as soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people, only do not Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go and sacrifice to the Lord.”
So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. And the Lord did as Moses asked: he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials and from his people, not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.
Yet, this time the Hebrews were less disappointed; many of them expected it. Besides, this was the first time that they were not affected by the event and they were rejoicing. Those people who resided on the border of Goshen looked over at their tormented neighbors, some with relief, some with pity, some with hubris. They all were curious about their God. The sun was rising in Goshen while darkness descended on Egypt and its hard-hearted Pharaoh.
Gracefeld looked over at Perambula who still seemed troubled by the chaos and said, “Suffering is a prelude to joy; it seems to be the way of this world.”
Moses sat quietly by the bloody Nile watching men dig to fill buckets of clear water for drink and bath. As he looked upon this scene his mind drifted to his own infancy. This river where his mother laid him, from which he was granted life, had become a sea of overwhelming death. It stank from all the dead fish. It stank of death like the putrid decay of the heart that hatred makes.
Moses thought about the irony of this blood in the water, two life giving elements combined, kill instead.
These thoughts of death recalled to Moses’ mind the dead boys-victims of his grandfather Pharaoh’s lust for power. How could a man have such power over the lives of others as to decide who shall live and who shall die? How the Lord must have grieved to see the innocents slain, to hear mothers and fathers wailing at the loss of their sons. Moses was more determined than ever to remove his people from the murderous grip of such evil. It wasn't until this visit to Egypt as an old man that Moses saw for the first time in his life the effect on the Hebrew people of their captivity. They prayed to a God they didn't know anything about. They begged for freedom of which they were equally ignorant. It was the blindness of slavery that made it all the more tragic.
God hadn't spoken to Moses in nearly a week. He had no idea of what would happen next or when. All he knew was that the bloody river did not impress Pharaoh enough to release them to pray together. To Pharaoh, God's marvels were assumed to be magic tricks. The Lord of all wanted it that way.
Meanwhile, Perambula, Gracefeld, and God were discussing the next marvel.
“Frogs?! Why frogs?” said Gracefeld to God. “That sounds ridiculous. I have never heard of anything so absurd.”
“I think it sounds creepy.” added Perambula.
God returned a mischievous smile and added, “I already made it happen.” Referring to the millions of frog eggs He had planted in the waters that had turned into tadpoles and would soon become frogs. They didn't mind the bloody water, in fact this brew speeded up their metamorphosis.
Then the Lord left His puzzled angels and went to where Moses sat by the Nile. He said to him in the language and tones that had become so familiar and so pleasing to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Let my people go so they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. The river shall swarm with frogs; they shall come up into your palace, into your bed-chamber and your bed, and into the houses of your officials and of your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your officials.”
At this message, Moses’ eyes opened wide in surprise. “Frogs, my Lord?!” Perambula who had followed God tuned into the conversation and smiled in agreement.
The Lord replied briskly, “Yes, frogs!” Only God was aware that frogs could survive the bloody water, and He wanted the three months of metamorphosis that frogs needed to time the marvel perfectly coinciding the release of the eggs to the bloody river, plus seven days. Those bloodless reptiles were the only life-form that could survive the corrupted water of the Nile. God alone was the scientist of that era.
God continued to speak to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, the canals, and the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’”
Moses, having received his instructions stood up and walked home to tell Aaron. He was grateful to have a partner in this epic ordeal, and even wondered if his speech impediment had been just for this purpose.
“Frogs? In this bloody water; surely you’re joking!” said Aaron.
“The waters aren't as red and thick as they were. You say why, I say, why not frogs.” replied Moses. “Come on, let’s go. Where is the staff?”
Aaron went into his bedroom where the innocent-looking staff leaned into the corner of the room. A smooth wooden stick that Aaron had whittled from a young sycamore in his youth, and had walked into adulthood and old age with it by his side. Aaron was more surprised than anyone how God could fill his familiar stick with such foreign power.
Moses and Aaron walked nonchalantly through the village to a hilltop where they could overlook the city with its many waterways chatting about the weather, and the latest travails of Gersham and Eliezer. They noticed people watching and whispering to each other as they passed. He distinctly heard one man cynically say, “Now what? Are Moses and Aaron about to make our lives even more miserable?”
When the brothers arrived at the top of the hill, they looked around for a good spot where they could be seen. When they landed they were noticed by the Egyptians and working Hebrews who were gathering wood.
Moses looked over at Aaron and said, “Okay, do it.”
Aaron responded with a smile and a deep breath, then he confidently stretched out his hand gripping his long staff with his mind focused only on the waters; and suddenly thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of frogs popped up and covered the land of Egypt.
A chorus of gasps echoed throughout the region. Children screamed. Mothers quickly gathered their babes and sought refuge in their homes. Chaos took hold. Nothing like this had ever happened before. There was no frame of reference to go to for meaning or relief from the fear. No one, not even Pharaoh knew what this infestation would lead to. Frogs hopped out of bloody waters and into stewpots, beds, and out of sewage holes. They were everywhere.
And all Pharaoh could do in response was call his magicians and tell them to make frogs appear too. This of all lame requests was the easiest for the magicians. Who would know if the frogs they produced were from them or by Aaron’s staff. Nevertheless, Pharaoh was satisfied in believing that his magicians had the same power as the God of Moses.
The next morning, after a sleepless night fending off frogs, Pharaoh decided that he must put an end to this absurd calamity, and reel in the brothers. It was no longer worth it. He decided to let the people have their prayer, so his kingdom could return to normalcy, and most important, so that he could get a good night’s sleep.
First thing in the morning, Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron to come to him. When they arrived he said, “Pray to the Lord to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.”
Moses replied, “Kindly tell me when I am to pray for you and for your officials and for your people, that the frogs may be removed from you and your house and be left only in the Nile.”
And he said, “Tomorrow,” to pretend that he wasn’t as desperate as he really was.
Moses replied, “As you say! So that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God, the frogs shall leave you and your houses and your officials and your people; they shall be left only in the Nile.”
Then Moses and Aaron left the palace and went home. They told the people to spread the word that they should all prepare leave the next day. The city was a flurry of happy activity as men, women, and children prepared for freedom. Prayers of gratitude erupted from dry hearts.
Early the next morning with joy and relief, Moses and Aaron returned to their place on the hill where this time Moses lifted his staff over all the waters; and Moses cried out to the Lord concerning the frogs that he had brought upon Pharaoh. And the Lord did as Moses requested: the frogs died in the houses, the courtyards and the fields. And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank.
But after a pleasant night’s sleep and Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, his heart hardened again and he changed his mind.
Oblivious to Pharaoh's change of heart, joyous Hebrew people were gathering by families and tribes to begin their exodus. The town square was crowded with every man woman and child being counted. The elders each took charge of his tribe. Bags bulged with food and clothing.
The parade finally started, but was abruptly halted. Armed guards barked, “Where are you going! Get back to work!”
Moses replied, “By the word of Pharaoh we are going to the wilderness to pray.”
“Well, by the word of Pharaoh to me this morning, you will get back to work!” A fierce wolf-like stare chilled their blood.
The people grumbled and complained. Here and there a man shouted obscenities; children cried; mothers weeped, but in the end, like soldiers or rather like prisoners, they did as the guards demanded. Women returned home weeping to unpack and cook. Bitter men went back to work, children played.
Oblivious to the chaos outside his palace gate, Pharaoh was comfortable in his reversal, for the stasis of his heart was to be hard and mean and stubborn, just as his father before him.
Watching Aaron’s serpent swallow the magician’s serpents strengthened Moses’ resolve. His own eyes beheld how anemic magic was compared to God’s power. The chatter of complaints that had been nagging him receded.
This second visit to Pharaoh was almost amusing. No longer was Moses concerned about the whining Hebrews. No longer did he want to complain to God. He slid and then comfortably nestled into the function of, what the far future would invent, a radio. Moses tuned into God’s words as via a a radio wave. They were thoughts that were obviously being generated by Another mind, and then he relayed the messages for others to hear.
As unusual as it sounds to common man, God clearly communicated to Moses, and to Moses alone, like thunder, invisible and clear. God spoke words in the language that Moses understood. It never even occurred to Moses the phenomenon of it all, of how the invisible God could become audible only to him and to no one else. Their communication was wholly unique in its complexity and in its duration. Never before and never again would a flawed human being, enjoy this kind of communication with the Creator-God, the Lord of all.
It had been several weeks since Moses had first heard God speak to him from the burning bush. That event closed forever another chapter of Moses’ life. He thought back on those years before as a dream. He had been for a while a common man.
Walking away with Aaron from the scene of the hungry serpent, Moses had no idea of what could be in store for them. Nor did he try to imagine. Moses simply and calmly waited for instruction. Aaron was still pondering the bizarre walking stick that tapped the ground loudly with his every step, filled with serpents.
As he was walking back to Miriam’s home, deeply immersed in thoughts, the Lord spoke to Moses again. He said, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go back to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand at the riverbank to meet him, and take into your hand the staff. Say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews sent me to say, ‘Let My people go, so that they may worship Me in the wilderness.’ But until now you have not listened says the Lord. By this you shall know that I am [speaking for] the Lord. See with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn to blood. The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.”
Moses was surprised by the magnitude of this statement. There was a huge difference between watching a stick slither and turning the water of the great Nile to blood. This would be the act of no return. For the first time Moses would cause harm. No, it wasn't he, but God causing the harm through him.
Moses knew that God spoke and not his own thoughts. How could a man turn water into blood? Moses shuddered at the concept of a river of blood, and the notion of all those thirsty people with nothing to drink, and about the sea creatures that would die. How could they live without water? For the first time Moses was forced to accept and carry out a command that repulsed and frightened him.
God gave Moses time to process the request, to walk himself through this chain of thoughts.
Perambula hovered by Moses in silence. Curious and quiet.
(Reader: let’s stop here and take a moment to compare the first marvel of turning the water of the Nile to blood, to Christ's first miracle of turning water into wine at Cana. Moses made water undrinkable, useless, while Jesus made water pleasurable, and most useful to satisfy a need. God shut the door, and then Jesus opened it wide.
To tie the two first miracles together, in a full circle God later raised the glass of wine, and called it His blood. For a moment walk that back to the Nile. Water to blood, water to wine, wine to blood. Overlay these first miracles on each other. The first miracles, one lead to freedom, the other lead to eternal life, freedom from sin and death.
I don't believe Jesus, the man, made that connection in Cana, but that perfect God, the Father, did when He chose this transformation of water as His first marvel in Egypt. In both instances water initiated freedom.
Go ahead, drink this bloody Nile, see how it tastes as sweet as wine, for you will soon be released from the torment of slavery and sin and death. Now let's return to Moses.)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt-over its river, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water-so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in the vessels of wood and the vessels of stone.”
Moses was to bloody the Nile, then Aaron was to complete the deed when he bloodied all the other bodies of water.
The next morning Moses and Aaron awoke and confidently walked to the bank of the Nile. They spotted Pharaoh right away beginning to bathe and walked right up to him. They did just as the Lord commanded. Without a bit of doubt that it would work, in the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials Moses lifted up his staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned to blood, and the fish in the river died instantly. The river stank so the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood flowed throughout the whole land of Egypt. The substance of life instantly became the substance of death.
Pharaoh turned and nonchalantly went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. His officials confused but silent followed close behind. Gracefeld smiled very satisfied by angelic success. Gracefeld had indeed been concerned that such widespread harm would distress all the people and come back to Pharaoh who could become violent. But Pharaoh, with Gracefeld’s influence, didn't care a whit about whether his people had water or not.
Moses and Aaron in awe of what just happened, turned and walked back to Miriam’s house. The Hebrews who were busy at brick-making were not immediately aware that blood instead of water flowed throughout the Nile, but laundering Hebrew and Egyptian womenfolk were in shock and started cackling to each other. “What happened? How did the Nile become so red? Now what are we gong to do? Fear overcame them as they ran back to their homes, some with arms full of dirty clothes, others with blood soaked wet clothes.
Once back in his dark cool palace Pharaoh called for his magicians. When they arrived Pharaoh said, “Did you see what Moses and Aaron did to our water? Can you do that?”
The head magician replied as the others nodded, “Oh I am sure we can.” They all walked over to Pharaoh's well, and pulled up some clear water, all the magicians together focused their minds and recited an incantation. The bucket of water turned red, to their relief who wanted to satisfy Pharaoh and remain in his employ.
Pharaoh’s was relieved. His heart stiffened in its resolve to hold on to the Hebrews, no matter what.
The Egyptians discovered that they could dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.
God looked on at the bloody river from the future as He always does and saw the bloodshed of thousands of Egyptians soldiers who perished in the Red Sea at the end of this period of loosening the Hebrews from the grip of Egypt, of Pharaoh and of their own attachment to their homes and their lives as slaves.
Perambula shrugged angel shoulders with wings fluttering in sympathy, and then looked at God in agreement with Gracefeld saying, "What exactly was it that you saw in Moses? From the first announcement he did not want this mission of Yours my Lord. He is often ready to quit or run away. What good can this kind of attitude do? Can't You start all over and find someone else my Lord? What is your hurry?"
God answered Perambula with the same opalescent patience that He later radiated toward Moses, "My dear Perambula, always measuring by inches, you expect too much. You would try to drive a nail with a ten pound hammer into a snowflake just for the satisfaction of the force. Fret not, where Moses is weak in resolve, I will breach the gap. I created Moses for this time." Then firmly added, "Do you dare doubt My design?!"
Perambula's wings fluttered slow and solemnly at the chiding from the Lord, while Gracefeld looked on saturated with an odor of satisfaction at the false notion that God never suffered frustration from the weakness of Moses. After all, God knew that He would rather work with a weak man who was receptive and pliable, than an rock-hard willful man.
With similar patience that God expressed to Perambula, He spoke loudly and clearly into the heart of Moses who was sitting on the outskirts of the city where he had gone to contemplate his situation, or rather where Perambula had guided him. God spoke to Moses in the familiar tone and language that Moses had come to recognize, the same intonations, the same characteristic authority. Moses and God had been developing a rapport, a quality of extended communication that God had never engaged in with another human being. The Lord made Moses to hear Him speak. Moses was the radio that picked up God’s wavelength.
Even if Moses didn't entirely trust God, as Abraham had in the moment he sacrificed Isaac, or as Noah when he built the ark, Moses was made in his mother's womb to be the tool God used to reveal Himself to humankind. This was something that the angels could never understand. For them God is as obvious as the sun and moon..
"Moses, now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. Indeed by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand Pharaoh will drive them out of his land.
I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name, 'The Lord' I did not make Myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens. I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.
Say therefore to the Israelites, 'I am the Lord, and I will free you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord."
Perambula looked over at Gracefeld and whispered, "There He goes again. He has been promising this land for more centuries than their slavery, and still they don't have it. How long can the Lord keep promising and not deliver?"
Gracefeld replied , ""Sh! He will hear you! What's it to you? Sounds to me that He means it."
"Sounds to me that He is leading them to something other than land. The land is a decoy, or more like a mirage."
God ignored the idle chatter of His angels as He continued to bolster Moses's confidence.
Moses soaked his heart in the message which indeed renewed his resolve. Besides, he thought, what else could he do, but to continue? To quit and return to Midian as if nothing happened was not an option.
Moses rose from his trance and walked alone back to Miriam's house where he was surprised to learn that his own sons had been conscripted into slavery. "Sepphora! How did this happen?"
"After you left this morning, two supervisors came for Gersham and Eliezer! They said that now that Moses has returned as a Hebrew, there is no more pretense of His being the son of Pharaoh's daughter, then He and his family were to be slaves as well. What will we do Moses?! Now we can't leave. I want my father!"
"Sepphora my dear, don't fret. Remember, we have come to free the slaves. The Lord God will free us all from the burden of bondage. It is fitting that we live as Hebrews, that we too may fully understand their plight."
"But our sons, Moses. They have never known such bitterness!"
"Sepphora, this experience will make them stronger. You will see my dear."
When Gershom and Eliezer returned from their toils, wearing marks from their oppressors, their father hugged each young man and then looked directly in his eyes and said, "My son, I am proud of you. Be at peace. God has told me He will deliver us. Have faith in God. For this we have come to this harsh land."
After supper, Aaron and Moses walked to the village square. When the neighbors saw the brothers they grumbled. Moses heard one man say, "There go the idiots who said they would deliver us from slavery, only to make our lives worse than ever before. I could punch them, but I haven't the energy." The men around them all nodded. One man spit in their direction.
Moses approached the group and explained what he had heard from God. He tried to encourage them as he had been encouraged, but they would not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery. Moses and Aaron turned and walked back home with their heads hung low.
Aaron looking at the ground said, "What if you are wrong, and you are not hearing from God, but it is your own former self, the son of Pharaoh, who wants to play the big man, the deliverer? I have never heard this Voice, how can I continue to believe you? Moses, you may soon find yourself making bricks without straw."
Moses walked solemnly and quietly. He just wanted to sleep, for a long time, forever.
In his sleep The Lord spoke again to Moses. He said, "When you wake up, go back to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites go out of his land."
"Lord! Are you fooling me?!" the dreaming Moses replied, "The Israelites won't even listen to me. How in the world will Pharaoh listen to me, poor speaker that I am?"
The Lord replied, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. Expect Me to harden Pharaoh's heart, so then I can multiply my signs and wonders.
When Pharaoh does not listen to you, I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring My people the Israelites, company by company, like a mighty army, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them."
Moses gradually woke up. He could remember once again everything that God spoke to him. As he thought deeply about God's strategy, he realized how brilliant it was. Moses gradually came to understand how God planned to work on two fronts. There were the Israelites who wanted freedom but needed the signs and wonders to understand that their freedom was given by God, and not of their own powers of persuasion, or even Moses' influence, and there was Pharaoh who also needed to know that his power was limited.
At that moment Moses didn't know fully what God meant by signs and wonders. The staff that turned into a serpent was not something that he could control. For him, it was always a wooden stick. In fact it frightened Moses whenever it became a serpent.
As the fog of sleep dissipated into his current reality Moses's thoughts turned to prayer. "Lord, forgive me for my weakness, and my complaints. Use me Lord. I am your clay." Perambula watching and listening to this spirit-scene smiled with relief and pride.
Moses rolled to the edge of the hard bed and fixed his feet firmly on the ground. As he stood up, Moses became ready to shift from his dreams and thoughts and prayer into the world of action.
"Aaron, let's go back to Pharaoh today." he called.
Aaron who was sitting at the table eating breakfast said, "Come, have some food first, then we will go. I am ready." After all, visiting Pharaoh was better than a day of forced labor, even if it was useless.
Perambula followed closely behind the elderly brothers as they made their way back through the streets to the palace.
The guards, recognizing the brothers this time sent a messenger inside to ask Pharaoh if he wanted to see Moses again.
With nothing better to do Pharaoh agreed to receive the pathetic duo.
"Show me your signs from your Lord.” barked Pharaoh condescendingly, and then yawned. “Perform a wonder for me.”
Moses looked at Aaron and said, “Aaron take your staff and throw it down.” Aaron looked up at Moses, nervously wondering if it would work for him too.
Aaron placed the staff on the ground carefully. It lay stiff and still for several tense moments until a movement and then another occurred, the staff gradually transformed into a long serpent that slithered towards Pharaoh and his officials who recoiled. Aaron sighed from relief and then felt proud.
Pharaoh braced himself and shouted, "Summon my sorcerers and wise men." While the serpent slithered around Pharaoh’s feet, five men walked confidently into the throne room each armed with his staff. “Do you see that serpent?” said Pharaoh, “It was the staff of Aaron. I command you to turn your own staffs into serpents!”
To Moses and Aaron's surprise, the Egyptian magicians each one threw down his staff and each staff that fell to the ground became a slithering snake. As the audience of Moses. Aaron, Pharaoh, his officials and his sorcerers and wise men watched the snakes slithering around at their feet, Aaron shouted with glee, “Look, my serpent is swallowing the other serpents!"
"Enough entertainment for one day.” shouted Pharaoh. “Be gone! All of you!" Pharaoh was pleased with his sorcerers who replicated the wonder, and did not give a second thought to the fate of his magician's serpents. Aaron bent down and touched the tail of the serpent and it immediately stiffened into a staff again. He pick up his staff carefully and looked up at Moses in awe.
Even more pleased were Perambula and Gracefeld who had orchestrated the entire event. As Aaron and Moses departed from Pharaoh's sight, they were perplexed that Pharaoh's sorcerers were able to turn their staff into serpents too, and that that the long hard stick that marked their every step had just dined on a bevy of serpents.
Perambula hovered behind the solemn brothers laughing at their confusion.
Back at the palace Pharaoh commended his equally perplexed sorcerers for their good work while Gracefeld proudly accepted Pharaoh's misplaced praise.
Before either angel could relish too much in the misery of the humans, God called them to His throne room.
"How did it go today? Should we start packing?" asked Miriam as the brothers entered.
"I doubt that we convinced Pharaoh of anything except that we were magicians." replied Aaron and to Moses he said. "What do we do now?"
Moses replied, "Be patient. God told me that Pharaoh's heart would be hardened. This is only the beginning. I have no idea what other marvels the Lord will perform, but I suspect that those sorcerers will be kept busy." Moses knew that the way God would harden Pharaoh's heart was by making him think that Moses and Aaron were simply common magicians.
God called Perambula and Gracefeld for a meeting. Gracefeld arrived first because it took Perambula a while to leave the touching scene of the family reunion in Miriam's home.
"Be prepared to see for yourselves your advantage over humankind. Your timelessness and your spiritual sight shield you from much grief that humans suffer because of their short sightedness." God said to His angels. "I want you to stay near them. Gracefeld, you are assigned to Pharaoh. Don't ever leave him. Keep him determined, no matter what he suffers, to hold on to the Hebrews. It won't be very hard for Pharaoh to cling to free labor and to power over the slaves, but the plagues that I will send will be serious and dreadful. The plagues will be designed to tear the Hebrews away from this Egyptian prison, by showing them My Will and My Power." God looked into their angel eyes and saw the kind of support and determination that were the reasons that He chose these two out of all the host of heaven.
"Lord, what is my assignment?" chirped Perambula enthusiastically.
"You will remain with Moses and Aaron, don't let them buckle. I will help you by speaking to Moses when it is necessary. Don't allow them to argue with each other.
You will be sent throngs of angels to assist you with the people, but your job to lead and to manage them will be most demanding."
"Yes, my Lord." replied Perambula dutifully while wondering if Gracefeld had the better role. After all, Gracefeld had only one person to manage.
"Stop that!" bellowed the Lord after reading Perambula's thoughts. "Now let's all get to work! This will be the most significant scene in My story, perhaps since Creation. Unlike in Creation, what happens here, the relatively peaceful exodus of the captives will be taught, remembered and celebrated by every generation until the end of time for the lessons that I will convey to humanity, but to My people first, now be off!"
God and His angels appreciate the nights when people must sleep for the time it gives for planning. The concept of time can be as useful as it is blinding. Sunrise marked their dispersal to their assignments.
Aaron woke up first. The truth is that his anticipation of going to the palace with Moses terrified him and kept him from sleeping soundly all night long. Never had a slave simply walked into the palace. What if he was arrested? Yet, he marveled at the Lord's wisdom that Moses would not be a lone leader of this extraordinary mission. One man alone would be taken less seriously, would be easily dismissed. In his musings Aaron wondered exactly when God had initiated this plan. Was it even before he was born? Was this the reason for Moses' speech impediment? How patient must God be to allow decades to pass for His will to be done? Why?
Before Aaron could carry his thoughts to any conclusion Miriam entered the room. "Aaron, breakfast will be ready soon. Sepphora is preparing it. Time to get dressed."
"Thank you Miriam. I am coming."
Aaron and Moses walked in a strong determined fashion without speaking to each other or to any of the curious onlookers they passed through the winding neighborhoods to the palace.
The palace guards watched them approach becoming more alert as they drew near. Several of them banded together to create a barrage in front of the outer gate.
When they were within range, Aaron shouted. "We come in peace. I bring Moses, brother of Pharaoh returned from Midian. He wishes to speak to Pharaoh."
To the strong young guards the name of Moses was a legend. Mothers and fathers told their children the tale about the traitor who killed an Egyptian guard. The shame the story evoked warned them never to sympathize with the slaves. If even the grandson of Pharaoh would have to run from Pharaoh's wrath, what would become of lesser sympathizers?
"Tell Pharaoh that Moses has returned and wants to see him." explained Aaron with as much sound of authority as this 83 year old slave could muster, even when speaking to men less than half his age.
Pharaoh was young when Moses ran away, so he was curious to see him again after all these years. 'Moses has returned has he? Has he come to usurp my throne?' thought Pharaoh. "Let him in, but guard him closely and make sure he carries no weapons. Let's see what he wants." ordered Pharaoh.
The guards went back to the entrance to retrieve the motley visitors. Moses and Aaron were escorted to the throne room, surrounded by four burley armed guards.
As he walked through the palace memories flooded Moses' mind. The familiar aromas of perfume and cooking brought back many memories of his childhood. He didn't need an escort to find his grandfather's throne. Little had changed within the massive halls of the grandest and largest building in the world.
"Master Moses! It's so good to see you again!" A handshake greeted Moses as an elderly version of his young playmate approached him enthusiastically. After several moments of chatter, Moses' recognition of this person gradually came into focus.
"What brings you home after all these years Master?"
"Ahh Rafa, you know this is not my home. I have come to ask the new pharaoh to release the Jews for three days that they may go into the wilderness and worship their God together, as free men."
"Oh Master, who can be free for three days? Do the Jews even know who is this god of theirs?"
"I cannot answer that Rafa. I do what I am told. How have you been? Has this pharaoh treated you well?"
"I cannot, I dare not complain master." replied Rafa before stepping back so the entourage could continue their journey to the throne room.
"Let's go," barked the lead guard while nudging Aaron's arm.
Moses and Aaron flanked by guards stepped quickly through the massive palace and into the throne room.
Moses was alarmed to see the pharaoh as such a strong and virile man. The pharaoh who was Moses's grandfather and this man's elderly father, had grown into a decrepit old man since the days he ordered the midwives to kill all male babies. Before him stood a rock wall of a man.
Pharaoh was sizing up Moses as well. There were no pleasant greetings as one would expect from a long separated brother. Nothing in his expression or in his eyes revealed even a wisp of the common memory of their family life in the palace.
"Why have you come?" bellowed Pharaoh, in the same tone that Perambula often heard from God.
Although Pharaoh was looking straight at Moses, Aaron replied, surprising Pharaoh who turned to look at Aaron. "The Lord, the God of Israel, sent us to say to you, 'Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to Me in the wilderness."
"Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go!"
Aaron conferred with Moses and then repeated, "The God of the Hebrews has revealed Himself to us; let us go a three days journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or He will fall upon us with pestilence or sword." Moses watched Pharaoh's face closely for reaction. Perambula thought it wise to start by asking for only three days, when all along the intention was complete freedom.
"How dare you ask to remove the people from their work? Aaron, get to your labors!" Pharaoh continued. "Moses, you know that the Hebrews are more numerous than we are and yet you want them to stop working? Don't be absurd! Now get out!"
At the nod of Pharaoh the guards closed in on Moses and Aaron and grabbed each man's arm to escort him out. Neither man turned to look back at Pharaoh, but rather jerked his arm out of the clutches of the young guards and with slightly regained dignity walked out.
Gracefeld whispered in Pharaoh's mind, 'You must be firm with these men. Moses looked too comfortable before you. You need the sons of Israel more than they need you, and they are greater than you. Consider this Pharaoh: You must be stronger than the wind and sharper than the night's freeze to prevail over a force so much greater than you, God or no God.'
When the footsteps of Aaron and Moses could no longer be heard Pharaoh shouted, "Rafa! Call the taskmasters and the supervisors of the Hebrew people to come to me at once!"
"Yes," whispered mischievous Gracefeld to the pharaoh's heart, "we will show them who is king!" While waiting for the taskmasters, Pharaoh went back to his inner chamber to change his clothes and wash his hands.
"The taskmasters and supervisors have arrived sire." announced Rafa.
Back on his throne Pharaoh spoke to his taskmasters, all brutes that they were and said, "You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, 'Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.' Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words. Now go and do as you are commanded!"
The taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out, each to his neighborhood and proclaimed, "Thus says Pharaoh, 'You will no longer be given straw, but must get straw for yourselves, wherever you can find it; but you must produce the same number of bricks each day."
The people scattered throughout the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw, attempting to comply with this impossible demand. Day after day the brick makers had to venture farther and farther out to gather the straw for their bricks. When the sun went down, it was impossible to continue their work. As each day went by, fewer and fewer bricks were being made. Meanwhile, the Egyptian straw gatherers had nothing to do, and irritated their wives and children all day long.
When the Egyptian taskmasters saw that indeed the Hebrews were not producing the required number of bricks, they beat the Hebrew supervisors. The bruised and frustrated supervisors who had been accustomed to respect gathered in force and presented themselves to Pharaoh who received them.
In a pitiful tone the leader of the supervisors cried and said, "Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, 'Make bricks!' Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people."
Pharaoh answered this whining man by saying, "You are lazy, lazy; that is why you sent Moses and Aaron to request that you go and sacrifice to your god. Get back to work, get your own straw and deliver the same number of bricks."
The discouraged supervisors turn and walked away from Pharaoh with their heads and shoulders low and their bruises throbbing.
Moses and Aaron waited for them outside the perimeter of the palace. When they saw the band of bruised supervisors appear they could see immediately how disheartened they were.
Perambula whispered to Moses', "Surely you expected this!"
Moses brushed that inner message off as a fly that landed on his shoulder.
The band of supervisors in a cacophony of chatter each in his own voice and his own words but united with one message growled in viscous anger at Moses and Aaron saying, "The Lord look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us!"
Moses and Aaron were frightened by the hostility of these men with murder in their hearts. Fortunately, they had to get back to work.
When they were at a safe distance, Moses looked up into the heavens and said, "O Lord, why have you mistreated these people? Why did you ever send me? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people."
Gracefeld rolled angel eyes thinking how easily the will of Moses was dissipated by the slightest breeze and looked fiercely over at Perambula whose job it was to keep Moses and Aaron on track.
While Aaron was out Miriam was filled with joy that her long lost brother and his family were actually in her humble home. Miriam saw her father in Gersam's eyes, and her mother in Eliazer's high cheek bones; she felt as if her beloved parents were in the room with them. Sepphora was a lovely woman, and even though she spoke a different language, they chattered away together in broken words with hands fluttering. Miriam was shocked when Sepphora told her about the emergency circumcision. She decided to ponder later what that event said about her God. Moses sat quietly gazing at the cozy domestic scene and then asked for a place to take a nap. Miriam ushered him into their parent's old room where he soon fell into a deep and restful slumber.
Aaron burst through the door quite agitated.
Miriam looked up, "What did they say Aaron? Who did you go see? When will the meeting be, and where?"
Still jittery, Aaron replied, "I began with Judah. The elder of Judah is the oldest and carries more weight than the others. Of course he was astonished, but also skeptical. He agreed that we should all meet. He was most anxious to see Moses, and said that he didn't believe that this man was our Moses."
Sepphora did not understand a word of the exchange, but sat curiously looking on.
"He will see and know." said Miriam. "And what of the others? You have been gone a long time."
"Judah and I decided there wasn't a moment to waste. They will gather here tomorrow at sunset. Where is Moses? I must go and prepare him."
"Wait, Moses sleeps. Who else did you see?"
"Judah and I divided the tribes. He went to tell the elders of Reuben, Dan and Simeon, and Issachar. And I visited the elders of Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. I will let him sleep."
But Perambula did not. The busy guardian angel went into the sleeping room, and into the dream of Moses where he was fending off viscous wolves."Moses, wake up; it is day, you are in Egypt, in the city, in the home of your birth. Aaron is back. There is much to do."
Aaron quietly entered the room to find his brother's eyes open. "Are you awake brother?"
"Yyyyes I am. Whwhwhwhwh...en do we meet with the elders?"
"Tomorrow night. They will come here. I don't think you should go out yet, lest the guards see you. It was fortunate enough to have gotten you and your family in here without being noticed.
The boys were anxious to go into the city for they had never seen such a place before. But for the same reason, strangers would be apprehended immediately, they needed to stay inside. Gersam and Eliezer were not accustomed to the restricted life of a slave. The boys felt imprisoned in this strange home surrounded by foreign people. Gersam longed for the open desert. Eliezer wanted to return to the sea.
The following evening, by ones and twos the elders arrived at Miriam's home to see and hear Moses. Miriam managed to find and borrow enough chairs which the boys helped her fit into the main room. Moses and Aaron would have to stand as would Miriam and Sepphora. The boys sat on the floor in front. Perambula hovered.
Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people. Once again the staff of Moses became a serpent and then he seized it by the tail and it became a hard staff in his hand again. Moses' tucked his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. He held it high for everyone to see. Then Perambula told him in his mind when to put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out again, it was restored like the rest of his body. The elders and Miriam gasped in unison.
Aaron proclaimed to the elders, "God has observed the misery of us, His people; and heard our cries on account of our taskmasters. He knows our sufferings. He has come down to deliver us from the Egyptians, and to bring us up out of this land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
We will tell Pharaoh that if he will not let us go, our God will stretch out His hand and strike Egypt with all His wonders that he will perform in it; after that he will let us go. The Lord God will bring us into such favor with the Egyptians that when we go, we will not go empty-handed; each woman shall ask her neighbor and any woman living in the neighbor's house for jewelry of silver and gold, and clothing, and we shall put them on our sons and daughters; and so shall we plunder the Egyptians."
There was murmuring and sighs, and gasps from the elders. "Who is this God?!" shouted the elder of Reuben. "What is his name?"
Aaron looked at Moses inquisitively.
Moses stammered, "I am. I am who I am has sent me to you. I am is the Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is His name forever and this is His title for all generations."
Perambula reminded Moses to warn the elders that they must be strong and faithful and patient while their God strikes Eqypt. They will all suffer the signs and wonders, until the last day, when Pharaoh will release them. They must be stoic in the face of the devastation of the land, knowing that the horrors they will see are meant for their good, for their release from the chains that have linked them to the diabolical power of Pharaoh's greed.
The elders believed; and when they heard that the Lord had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
Sepphora, Miriam, Gersam and Eliezer looked on this scene with wonderment and curiosity. What was happening in that room was new, they had no frame of reference for it. It was the work of God, to introduce Himself to this generation of the children of Abraham who had finally matured in size into a nation, powerless without Him.
The seed that was God's word to Moses from the burning bush had taken hold, and was presented as a young tree with small tight buds, unfamiliar buds, strange swollen nodules that would someday feed the world. Each of the women, and each of the boys perceived the scene differently. For Moses' family who had known neither the travail of the Hebrew people, nor of the royal life of Moses, this was a vacation, an adventure. For Miriam, it was the echo of her nightly howling at the moon.
Men fell to their knees. Sensitive men, who sensed the power of the moment became teary-eyed, their faces touched the floor where feet delivered the dirt of fields and street, bearded faces hid themselves from the unknown, overwhelming, much longed for, but never imagined possibility of a free world.
The more coarse elders wondered which idol heard their cry. Then there were among them men of doubt who allowed themselves to be carried by the emotions of the faithful.
On this auspicious night Israel took its first step out of Egypt.
The reunited brothers each sensed in his spirit the magnitude of what was to happen, of their mission to yank from the clutches of the height of human power the lowly slaves, people of a unique, albeit latent, covenant with God. A tornado being stopped in its vicious tracks by a candle light could not have shocked demonic powers more. For it was not only the power of Pharaoh that was to be dissolved, but the tails of it in the hubris of every guard, and of the more arrogant wives and children who embodied the spirit of domination that was to be utterly extinguished by the power of the Creator of heaven and earth and of everything visible and invisible.
Moses and Aaron and the family set up camp at the foot of Mt. Horeb where Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to that place, and all the signs with which he had charged him. Aaron learned why he had felt compelled to find Moses and he was amazed by how God directed him in his subconscious. This revelation for Aaron not only impressed him, it also prevented Aaron from thinking that his brother Moses was a madman with an impossible quest. The hard and real fact that he was sitting at the foot of this mountain with his long lost brother was proof enough to Aaron that Moses was an instrument of God, and so was he.
"I ah ah h h h heard God spppppeak to mmmme fffff ffff fff from a bbbbur burnnnnn ing bush!"
It didn't take Aaron long to discover why he was needed.
"Wwweee mmmust ffffirst gagagather the elders and inform them and the people of our Exodus."
"Can you make your staff turn into a serpent whenever you want?" inquired Aaron.
"No. God is in control of everything. He will tell me and I will tell you, and you will tell the people. I have no power on my own. I am nothing but a shepherd, the immigrant husband of the daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian, and so I have been for these forty years. My sons know nothing of my royal life in Egypt."
"Moses, is it enough that you and I believe? God will have to convince the elders."
"Aaron, what we are about to witness is no less than the indisputable power of God over nature. The seed of hope that we will plant in these men will grow into a mighty bridge to span the canyon between the deep despair they have been accustomed to feeling and faith. At least, I hope so."
"Slavery, my brother, has made our people stiff-necked. We are a proud and noble clan that has not worn well the costume of fools these many generations."
"Yes, brother. I have considered that we have not only to convince Pharaoh, but our mission includes the need to change the mindset of people who have, even in their complaining, acclimated well to the wretched balance of power they have known all their lives." replied Moses. "Let's not dwell on obstacles, but on our mission. We will head out tomorrow. We can continue our conversation on the road. Now, let's sleep."
Tucked between the layers of blankets in his bedroll to shield him from the cold desert nights, Aaron's thoughts turned to Miriam and how surprised she would be to see him back so soon. He was glad to be returning to her and their cozy home. How happy she would be to see Moses again. Since she saved his life as an infant she had no contact with him. Then it occurred to Aaron that God had chosen Moses from birth for this purpose, and that Miriam too had been used as an instrument of a very patient God who had waited these eighty years for the right moment to act. A deep and sound sleep slowly consumed Aaron's consciousness before he could ponder any more of God's Wisdom.
At daybreak in a syncopated rhythm that amused Perambula, the eyes of Eliezer, Sepphora, Moses, Aaron, and last of all, Gersam opened, then in a different order shut and opened, until each was vertical and packing bedrolls and noshing on crusts of bread.
By the third hour the family with their new Uncle Aaron and the one well-rested re-burdened ass were headed northwest to Egypt together.
Moses and Aaron lead their little auspicious parade to fetch God's people out of their enslavement. Repeating much of what he had told Aaron already to let the miracle gel in their minds, Moses again conveyed to Aaron all that the Lord has said and done to him. This time, Aaron was less flabbergasted and could begin to think about the scope of their mission. He would first gather the elders to prepare them, so they could in turn prepare the people. Aaron mentally made a list of who to tell, and considered where they would meet. The Egyptians frowned upon assemblies, so they would have to be discreet. To keep Moses from talking and disturbing his planning, Aaron started to think aloud. Moses surely needed Aaron for more than public speaking, as Moses would have no idea of how to prepare the people. And Aaron had no idea of how to reach Pharaoh's ears.
The following days of walking, and resting, talking, and thinking gradually brought them to the river. There was less for Gracefeld and Perambula to do on the return journey as Aaron had just made the trip and remembered every landmark; although forty years had passed, the time-lapse seemed to Moses to be as nothing. Moses felt that he was walking back into his true self, the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He did not fear Pharaoh as others would, even this new Pharaoh.
Looking around the busy dock Aaron soon recognized the fisherman who had recently brought him across the sea and gave him the fish for his journey. This fisherman, in character, offered to transport the family the back to the other side. He laughed when Aaron told him why he was returning so soon, sure that Aaron was joking with him.
The sea air felt so good on their swarthy skin. The boys relished in the experience, having never been on a boat before. Sepphora covered her head closely so her hair wouldn't become knotted. Their hearts felt as free and light as the breeze that swept over them.
On the other side of the sea an unfamiliar sense of awe came over Moses who had been unusually quiet for most of the boat ride. As he disembarked he looked around at the bustling port with fisherman and buyers exchanging with each other and vying with other members of their own species. Moses looked in the distance towards the home of his youth, where he saw not the hard physical landscape, but rather visions of illusive memories as a collage of his life. He experienced a visceral entrance into a new chapter, but more than that. For Moses, it was as if he was about to walk into a new body and a new life. Behind him were Sepphora and his sons, and Jethro his kind and wise father and the herd of sheep. Ahead he had to prepare for spiritual warfare, where through him the power of God would confound nature and natural man. Moses sensed that his mission was impossible unless he changed, unless he yielded himself to something much greater than himself. He would have to be simultaneously strong and powerful, and all surrendered to the Voice of the burning bush.
"Come brother," said Aaron, "follow me. We should arrive by tomorrow. I will take you home to Miriam, while I assemble the elders to tell them the good news. What do you want me to say to them? How will we convince them?"
Meanwhile God, Perambula and Gracefeld had their own conference. "Perambula, I want you to prepare the Hebrew people for what is about to occur. For it will be no less cataclysmic for them than the flood was for those in the days of Noah. A very new and different world, a new and different sense of life and purpose will overcome these tribes. The plagues will prepare them for this transformation of their existence, but even before that, I want you to go to these people and wake them up from their enslaved mental stupor."
The angel not quite sure how to respond to this demand agreed that it was necessary. Perambula would need legions of angels to explore every household to familiarize themselves with these creatures and determine the transformation in their souls that needed to occur.
"Yes, my Lord. I will need an army of angels to assist. Will you send them, or should I go to retrieve them?" replied Perambula.
"You will find them waiting for you, now be off. There is much to be done." With that Perambula disappeared leaving God with Gracefeld hovering nearby awaiting his own assignment.
"And I, my Lord, what is it that you should have Me do?"
"Gracefeld, your mission will be to harden the heart of Pharaoh. Whereas the Hebrews must become more aware, more perceptive of the depth my Creation, Pharaoh must be blinded to anything but his own power and comfort. He must become as a world unto himself."
"From what I have seen of this despot, he is already such a fool."
"Gracefeld, Pharaoh will have to maintain that strong ego through many severe tastings. Your job is to make sure he doesn't waver. Let there be no doubt in his mind that he can survive the plagues to come. Your job is harder than you think. Use whatever means you need to, now be off. I have my own work to do."
"Yes, Sir!" said Gracefeld humbly before shooting off to the castle while wondering what God planned to do for himself.
Moses and his family and the donkey and Aaron arrived in the city on the biweekly day of rest.
Aaron asked Moses and the family to wait nearby while he went inside the home to prepare Mariam for the shock of her life.
Aaron found Miriam kneading bread when he casually entered as if he had just returned from work.
Miriam looked up to see who entered. As soon as she grasped that it was her beloved brother she ran over to him with her glutenous sticky hands and hugged him too long.
"Oh Aaron, you have returned! You changed your mind and have come back to your home and your bed! Sit, and tell me what happened."
"My dear Miriam, we must both sit, for I have an even greater surprise for you; Moses and his wife and two sons are outside this very door. The Lord God, whom Moses heard speak to him, is preparing to free us from Egypt. The time is coming and now is when the sons and daughters of Abraham will enjoy freedom in a land of our own as the covenant decreed!"
Miriam wasn't sure whether to believe her brother or ask him to lie down to return to his dream and wake up again. Instead, she was speechless. Aaron seized the silence to retrieve Moses who was waiting outside the door.
"Come, Moses, see your sister who has longed for this moment her entire life without being conscious it was not indeed a fantasy."
Moses smiled as he had to lower his head to enter the home he last saw on the day he was weaned.
Although the elderly siblings would not have recognized each other walking down a busy street, their hearts instantly locked in each other's long embrace.
Aaron woke up at dawn that spring morning feeling energized and optimistic. It was the slave's day off. Pharaoh thought himself generous for giving the Hebrews one day free every fortnight to rest, when actually their restfulness benefited him tenfold. The Hebrews had not yet been told that God demanded Sabbath rest and this ignorance made their toil less tragic than it really was.
Thoughts of his younger brother, Moses, swirled through Aaron's mind that morning washed clean of its black night. He hadn't thought about Moses in years, but lately he could think of nothing else. He had been reminiscing about how Pharaoh's soldiers had searched for Moses for days, but never found him. They eventually gave up. After all, who really cared if he killed a Hebrew?
Aaron had been proud of his younger brother. Surely, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had blessed him by delivering Moses from death and the bonds of slavery directly into Pharaoh's closest orbit. Aaron often pondered what it must have been like to live in the palace with all those clean beautiful women, and all that sumptuous food and music!
Forty years had gone by since Moses escaped. How strange to be thinking of him now. "If Moses can escape, so can I." said Aaron to himself while becoming infused with a spirt of courage. "I could go today! Perhaps I will find Moses in Midian. Do I remember an Egyptian mention that Moses was alive in Midian, or did I dream that? I will go to Midian to find out for myself. Even if I don't find Moses, it is still better than this life in chains!"
Emboldened by his resolve to escape, Aaron began to fill a sack with food.
Miriam, his sister, walked into the room still numb from her deep sleep. "What are you doing Aaron?" she said.
"I am leaving; I am going away from Egypt to look for Moses."
"Aaron, are you mad?! You can't just walk away. If you could, we all would do that. Besides, you are 83 years old! How far could you go on your own? Come to your senses Aaron. Start the stove for me while I make you breakfast. I made bread dough last night. It will be ready soon enough. Come, let's talk."
She knew it would be senseless to force him to stay, that escape was a yearning Aaron had been nurturing for years.
"And what will I tell them tomorrow when they come looking for you?" she said.
"Tell them that I went into the desert to die. I am an old man and no longer so useful. Miriam, tell them anything you want. I can't stay here another day. I must find Moses."
While pleading his case, Aaron noticed how lovely Miriam looked for such a mature woman. Wisps of gray hair produced an aura around her leathered olive face with its high cheek bones and large wise green eyes. Aaron and Miriam had always been close. Even as a young girl, she was more like a motherly confidant than a big sister. He knew he would miss her terribly.
"Let me make you bread to take, and then you can go."
Aaron emerged from the house their family had inhabited for an hundred years as if for the first time. The familiar city took on a glow as if he was walking into the past, into a memory. Brimming with resolve and with fear he wanted to capture the scenes of the city that he would never see again.
Aaron carefully slithered through the most populated Hebrew neighborhoods and arrived at the very fringe of the city. He managed to make himself invisible as he passed guard after guard.
"Give me some credit for this!" exclaimed Perambula who indeed was fully responsible for Aaron's escape by blinding the guards which the angel carefully placed within the trajectory of the low morning sunbeam, and bringing to their minds gossip to spread while facing each other. Thus renegade Aaron managed to drift farther and farther from their clutches until he was well within the protective isolation of the wilderness.
Days later, the last ounce of nostalgia spent, Aaron faced his new challenge of how to cross the Gulf of Acaba. Once on the other side, he knew he would be completely free of Pharaoh's tight grip on him. When he arrived at the shore, he found a busy port with fishing boats unloading their catch. He chose one, and asked if he could be taken to the other side. Once on the boat, Aaron marveled at how easy it had been to escape. He had never seen such a large body of water before and was astounded by the vastness of the sea, and the smell and feel of the silky salty air on his rough face. Having arrived, Aaron thanked his generous host who gave him some fish to take on his journey to Midian.
Once on the other side, the challenge was how to find Moses in this vast territory. Aaron prayed to the God of Abraham to help him, ignorant that God cared more than he did that they meet. Every thought of Moses and of fleeing were planted in his mind by God himself. Had he known, Aaron would not have been so frightened, or so cautious.
"Gracefeld, go help Perambula." said God. "Lead this man to Horeb (Sinai)."
"Yes, my Lord." replied Gracefeld.
Perambula picked up the signal that Gracefeld was on the way and was glad for the assistance. Aaron had been meandering from tree to tree sinking into the deepest part of the wilderness. It was difficult to be both protector and pathfinder.
"Where have you been Gracefeld? This man obviously hasn't a clue of where to go. I can either guide him or ward off the animals, but I can't do both!"
"I have been with Moses. Poor sore boys. I kept the predators away to give them peace in their healing. They are resting safely."
"God wants them to meet at Mount Horeb." added Perambula.
"Of course." replied Gracefeld, "The Mountain of God, where else? Aaron can travel faster without the family, but his journey is so much longer. I know Moses will want to stop there to show his sons the burning bush. Does Aaron know anything of Mt. Horeb? What will make him stop there?" Perambula flashed Gracefeld an expression of disbelief, that the angel could ask such an absurd question.
"Okay, so who will guide the family if we are on Aaron-duty? said Perambula.
"Firstoff," replied Perambula, "this week of rest gives Aaron time to reach Horeb. He is the one who needs our guidance most now. Moses will see Horeb in the distance, and is familiar enough with the place. They will be fine. Come Gracefeld, let's see if we can rush this man along. Did he bring water?"
While the angels were discussing their mission, Moses and his family were still reeling.
"Father, it has been three days and I still hurt so bad!" whined Gersam. Sepphora told Moses that they must stay put while Gersam was recuperating, and she was recuperating too. Sepphora, the daughter of a priest of Midian had never met God before. But after He nearly killed her husband, she had a newfound fear of this God, and a newfound concern over the what they would find in Egypt. She did not dare share her worries with Moses, only wondered if they should circumcise Eliezer too, or rather, when?
"I know my son. Forgive me." confessed Moses, "Had we done this when you were eight days old, you would not be suffering now, and I would not have angered God. When I left my people and Egypt, I believed that I was leaving everything behind me, not just Pharaoh. I never lived as a Hebrew," and then Moses paused reflectively and added, "except by the covenant stamped on my own penis, which I never understood. Why would I care, why would anyone care that Abraham would be the father of nations? More unbelievable still, that his children would possess these lands. Those poor slaves could barely possess the mats they slept on. Forgive me my son, for my ignorance."
"Father, when will you circumcise Eliezer?" said Gersam with a pinch of bitter malice folded into the sweet buttercream of desire for his protection, and of their own. Eliezer tried to hide because he knew that it must be his turn to meet the flint. Moses and Sepphora had already decided that they should circumcise Eliezer right away.
Sepphora hollered, "Eliezer, come here, right now!"
Trembling, Eliezer succumbed to his mother, and screamed as his brother had. The circumstance being very different, the reaction was too. Eliezer bore his pain nobly, proud to be accepted into the tribe of the people of the covenant about whom he knew so little.
A week later Moses announced, "Tomorrow, we will set off again. Do you see that mountain over there? That is Horeb, the mountain where God spoke to me from the flaming bush. We will go there to show you my bush. Perhaps God will return and speak to me again. For now, let's pack up."
That evening, as Moses laid down to sleep, thoughts of Aaron flooded his mind. How would he find Aaron? Would he even recognize him? Where could he go to to look for Aaron in this vast wilderness? As a mental exercise to help him fall asleep Moses tried to remember every time he had ever seen Aaron. Moses knew his family of birth, his parents and brother and sister, but he rarely saw them, certainly not in the last forty years in exile. How would he recognize him?
The next morning the donkey was fully burdened again, and took it well as any decent donkey would. It was Gersam's turn to hold the donkey's rope. Fully recovered from his operation, Gersom grabbed the rope and lead the ass on the well-trodden path to Egypt. He held his head as high as the donkey's head was lowered to bear the weight, trusting his man-child.
Moses walked alone ahead of the others, thinking and listening for God. He had walked this path many times while shepherding the flock to find green pastures, sometimes being gone from home many days, but it never took so long to reach Horeb as it had with his family in tow.
Eliezer who was still sore, walked side by side with his mother in silence.The sons and Sepphora saw that they were walking towards a mountain, and wondered if Moses meant to take them over it or around it, but they didn't ask. Moses walked too far ahead for conversation clutching his staff and contemplating the whole concept of speaking with God.
Perambula and Gracefeld used every means in their angelic powers to speed Aaron along so the brothers would arrive at the mountain at roughly the same time. As they grew nearer, the moment became imminent.
Aaron was intrigued by one particular mountain before him and used that as his goal for days focusing on it as over time it grew from the size of his thumb to the size of a dog, and then a house, a pyramid, and finally there he was before its massive vertical rise.
As he looked around him, Aaron was the first to spot a cluster of fellow travelers. He hadn't seen another human for days. Sitting on a boulder at the foot of the great mountain, Aaron wondered if he should run over to them, or wait to see if they would come towards him. The scorching heat from the noonday sun forced him to stay and wait.
Perambula and Gracefeld were proud of their accomplishment. Bringing these two tiny flecks in this vast terrain together took angelic skill of the highest magnitude. God knew who He could trust to do the job and he was right. Perambula wondered if there would be a reward and what it could be. Gracefeld looked forward to the next challenge, which would be to guide the entire Hebrew population on its Exodus from Egypt.
For Aaron, the image of the travelers became more clear. He could see a large man followed by a boy and a donkey, and then a woman and a boy. 'It must be a family on a journey to Egypt' thought Aaron.
Moses saw the isolated man in the distance staring at him and his family. He instinctively knew the man was no threat to them by the way he sat still and open, curious.
Gracefeld flew up and whispered into Moses' heart, "That man is your brother Aaron. God has sent him to you. Go to greet him."Moses was astonished at this revelation. He stood still for several moments staring at this figure in the distance. The distance that would soon close until the two brothers became as one instrument of God.
Perambula echoed the introduction to Aaron who didn't stop for a moment to think, but instead rushed over to the Moses of all his hopes, his idol of a brother.
Because Moses was more aware of God's need for this meeting than Aaron, who all along thought that his escape was self initiated, no human being on earth or in heaven or above the heavens was more flabbergasted to see the subject of his trek running towards him. If he hadn't been breathing so hard, Aaron surely would have been shouting.
Instead, he heard the man Moses calling him as they got within earshot of each other. "Aaron! Aaron! My Aaron!" The two octogenarian brothers started to run as fast as any healthy old man could run, and as awkwardly .
When finally the elderly brothers met, Moses hugged and kissed Aaron, who by then was reduced to tears. His sentiment was infectious causing Moses to grow teary eyed too. The embrace lasted only for a moment because both men wanted to take a good long look at each other. They peered deep into each other's faces for evidence of familiarity. Aaron saw hints of his father and of Miriam in Moses. Moses noticed his son Eliazer's dimple in Aaron's chin.
While the brothers explored each other, the rest of the family caught up.
"Sepphora, this is my brother. And Aaron, these are my sons Gersam and Eliezer."