"'Swish, swish, swish' says the broom in the corners;
'Slap, slap, slap' say the clothes on the stone..."
Two young girls turned the rope to the rhythm of the chant. A third skilfully jumped, a puff of dust marking each touchdown. The tang of wood smoke drifted on the breeze, emanating from hundreds of open-air stoves. Nearby a small boy wailed as his mother rubbed ash over his grimy body, and splashed cold water over him from a clay pot. The girls turned the rope faster.
"Tramp, tramp, tramp go the feet..."
"Oh, shut up! I hate that rhyme. I'm not playing this stupid game any more." Abruptly she gave a big bound, landed beyond the arc of the rope, and ran home.
"Whatever's up with her?"
"I've no idea. She never used to be like this. She's always crying these days but never says why."
"If she doesn't want to play, she can stay home and mind her whiny little brother. See if I care!"
'Tramp, tramp, tramp' go the feet of the soldiers,
'No, no, no' plead the mother's eyes...
Miriam woke up panting. She edged closer to her mother who lay curled on the mat beside her. She could just make out the form of her father and, beyond him, her young brother who had rolled off the mat onto the dirt floor. Between her parents lay the newest member of their family, and the reason for Miriam's recurring nightmares.
But the noises from the street left her no time to dwell on her own misgivings about her parents' crazy ideas. With trembling hands she shook her mother. "Mama, wake up! The soldiers are here."
Moments later the family was huddled together, listening to the fracas outside.
"Are you crazy?" Their old neighbour was past caring what the authorities thought of him. "You think this old crone is going to give me more babies? Get out and let a man sleep!" Amram knew the altercation was entirely for their sakes. He shuddered as he heard the thud of the soldier's truncheon on his neighbour's flesh.
Then their turn arrived.
"Open up! On the king's orders, I say, open up!"
The couple padded silently to the doorway. The children snuggled together on the mat. Between them slept their baby brother, hidden from view.
"No, sirs. Just two children, a girl of nine, a boy of three."
"Stand aside! We must see these children of yours."
"Certainly sir. But they're sleeping. If you'd mind not waking them... They've been having terrible nightmares..."
The soldiers shoved Amram and his wife aside, and shone their torches into the faces of the 'sleeping' children. Miriam felt a small foot kick her stomach. She groped for her brother's mouth and pushed her finger in, willing him to suck on it and go back to sleep. The soldier noticed the movement under the cover, and brought his torch closer to her face. She moaned and rolled over. Could she persuade the soldiers she had stirred in a dream? Too late she realised she had squashed the baby's hand. He let her finger go...
Miriam gave a blood-curdling scream and sat bolt upright, snatching the bedclothes to her stomach with the baby bundled among them. Aaron shot out of bed into his mother's arms.
"There, sirs! Two terrified children. We'll be hushing them till dawn now. Please, leave us be. You've seen what there is to see."
The soldiers glared sullenly at Miriam, then wordlessly turned and left. Miriam's screams continued until they heard the gruff orders at the next house, "Open up! On the king's orders..." Then Jochebed had her child latched onto her breast. He quieted as quickly as he had been roused, though Miriam and Aaron kept up the noise until the soldiers' footsteps were well beyond earshot.
Aaron eventually stopped sobbing and fell asleep. Miriam lay listening to her parents' whispered conversation.
"We can't go through this again. It's too dangerous. And it's not fair on the children. Miriam's a bag of nerves. She'll end up hating her own brother."
"Yet she's an amazing girl. Her quick wits saved us all tonight. You're right, hiding him is too risky. But what else can we do?"
"Well, I've been thinking. We obey the order. We put him in the Nile, but first I make a basket..."
At first light Jochebed was putting into action her desperate plan to save her child, believing he had a special place in God's design.
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Heb 11:23
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