TITLE: The Power of God
By Lauren Dahl
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The gods- no, the one true God- must surely have favored me that he allowed me to live in such a time. For I live in a time of wonders and miracles such as never have been or ever will be again.
It all began the day Moses returned to Egypt. I knew of Moses, that he was one of the Israelites, that Pharaoh’s daughter had adopted him and he had killed an Egyptian and run away when his deed was discovered, but he had left Egypt before I was born and so his story was only history to me.
I did not at recognize him when I saw him, nor did I have any idea who he might be. I had only noticed a stir among the Israelites and ventured into Goshen to find out what was happening. This was nothing unusual for me, I often went among them since we, my mother and I, lived nearby with my uncle and his wife. I had often been told to leave them alone, but my curiosity held more weight than the warning did.
I wove my way through the press of people and no one noticed me for I was wearing their sort of clothes. When I finally arrived at the source of the confusion, I was disappointed to find only two men in their eighties. However, the force of the crowd kept me from leaving so I listened to what one of the men had to say. He said that a god told the other man to go and bring the Israelites out of Egypt. He took a staff from the other and performed many strange wonders with it. All about me tears were streaming down dusty faces and people were throwing themselves upon the ground and worshipping the god, whom they called the LORD. What I had witnessed troubled and confused me, and as I made my way back through the streets, I pondered the meaning of it.
Before returning home, I took off my Israelite clothes and hid them, for I new that mother would not be pleased if she knew I had them. It was only later, at night when I had time to think of all I’d heard that I realized who the silent man was. He was Moses.
Not long after, all the tongues of Egypt were set wagging by Moses. He and his brother, Aaron, had gone directly to Pharaoh himself and demanded that he let the Israelites go and worship their God in the desert. Pharaoh had responded by ceasing the supply of straw for the bricks they had to make. Now the question was: how would Moses respond?
I knew more of the story than most people, for I knew the Israelite side. The people, at least the foremen, were beginning to turn against Moses asking him why he would bring such trouble on them. Moses responded with strange words that he claimed to have received from his God. Here they are as best as I remember: “This is what the LORD says, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: he will let you go, he will drive you out. I am the LORD. I revealed myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the Almighty, not by my name, the LORD. I established a covenant with them, to give them Canaan. I have heard the cries of Israel because of the Egyptians and I remembered my covenant. So now I tell Israel I am the LORD. I will bring you out of slavery to the Egyptians. I will free you and redeem you. You will be my people and I will be your God. You will know I am the God who freed you. I will bring you to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and I will give it to you. I am the LORD.’” The words woke within me a longing to know who this God was who called himself the LORD, but they did not change the hearts of the people. I also found that Moses was not the speaker his brother was.
After this, Moses and Aaron went again to Pharaoh. I am told that there Aaron’s staff was transfigured into a snake and that it ate the snakes produced by Pharaoh’s magicians. A wondrous sign this appeared to me, but Pharaoh did not relent.
The day after this I was making bread. When I drew water out of a jar to use in the dough I found it to be red. This I found very odd and I dipped my finger in to taste it, which was not a good idea, and found it to be blood. I screamed and dropped the jar. Blood spread all over the floor. My aunt, who was then with child, her first for both she and my uncle were young, hurried in from her side of the house. She gasped and turned to me. “Oh, Nala what happened? You are hurt?”
I fled into her arms and found myself crying as I tried to explain. I have never had a good stomach for blood. When I had clamed down sufficiently, we checked the rest of the water jars and found them to be all filled with blood. We made our way outside, trying to discover what sort of joke this was. Coming from the other houses, our neighbors to were finding their way to the street. The general movement of the crowd was toward the Nile, though few knew why. As we approached the air smelt of blood and dead fish. I made Monola turn back with me, for I did not think I could keep my breakfast much longer.
It turned out that Moses had turned all the water in Egypt into blood, or at least his God had, but I do not think that Goshen was at all touched by this.
I have neither room nor time to describe in detail the plagues, we named them plagues, that followed, but I shall put them down succinctly. The blood was followed by horrid frogs everywhere. Never have I seen so many, you could not walk without stepping on them except in Goshen, where there were none. After the frogs came gnats, then flies, then some sort of pestilence that killed all of Egypt’s livestock. Each time Pharaoh promised to let Israel go if Moses prayed and put an end to it and each time Pharaoh lied. After the death of our livestock boils-horrid, ugly, painful boils- were inflicted on us. Then hail came, but we had warning and all of us stayed inside except my uncle who called us superstitious women. He was soon driven in with the rest of us. Locust came upon the land and destroyed all that remained of the small garden I had planted. All this time the Israelites were not afflicted.
Three days of total darkness came upon us and torches hardly seemed to penetrate the dark mist that held us trapped in our houses. It was during that time that Monola delivered a beautiful baby boy whom my uncle, Sutuc, named Ramos.
The tenth and last plague I must describe more in detail. The darkness had passed and we were all wondering what would come next. I had gone again into Goshen, hoping to get some idea of the future when I witnessed something strange being done, though I could not tell what. It was then I went to Hannah, an old women who became known to me during one of my earliest excursions, she had helped me up and been kind to me when I fell. I asked her what was happening. Here is her reply, as I remember it. “Ah, child, and great tragedy is to befall Egypt for the LORD has said, ‘I will go throughout Egypt and every firstborn son will die. There will be loud wailing in Egypt- worse than ever before of after. And once this is done, Pharaoh will free you.’”
On hearing this I wept and asked, “Is there nothing to be done to appease this LORD who has brought such tragedy on Egypt? Can nothing turn aside his wrath?”
She said to me, “Child, your heart is in the right place. Take this goat from me, he is one year old and without defect, and kill him at twilight. Take some of his blood and dip a bunch of hyssop in it and put it on the doorframe of your house- both the top and sides. The destroyer will not come to your house.”
I thanked her and kissed her dear old face and took the goat back with me. I ventured to speak to my uncle of the matter, but he forbade me to do it. I begged and pleaded, but he was stubborn, “we have a legion of gods, what can one god of slaves do?” When twilight had passed, I and the goat were in my room.
I stayed awake all night that night, terrified, praying a silent, wordless prayer to the God of the Israelites. It was a prayer of fear and hope and desperation. When I put words to it, they came out like this, “God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses,” for I could not remember Jacob, “ LORD of the Israelites have mercy on us and don’t kill us. Please let me live. Please let Ramos live. I’ll be good and kind and follow your commands only don’t kill us.” The terror in me was mostly because I was an only child. I was not a firstborn son, but I was a first born daughter. Around midnight, I felt a presence in the house and I cried out and wept and begged for mercy for I knew it was the destroyer. When he was gone I crept from my room and found that Ramos was dead. Shaking, I made my way back and spent the rest of the night pleading for mercy for Egypt.
Early in the morning, before the rest of the household was up, I rose from the floor where I’d thrown myself, and collected my few possessions, left a note to tell the others where I’d gone (my father had been a scribe and taught me to read and write), and I left. The Israelites would leave today to worship their God and I would go with them. I left before I had to hear the wailing for the dead.
Though my heart was burdened with sorrow, joy also rose within me as I left with the jubilant Israel. They had truly been driven from Egypt, and with most of our gold and silver too. The LORD had proven himself faithful and shown his power to the nations. It did not seem a lesson anyone could soon forget.
There is more to tell, much more, but the place is not here and the time is not now. My tale is done, and I’ve tried to tell it true, farewell, my friends, and God be with you!
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