Bithiah looked down from her balcony in the palace of Pi-Ramses. Below her, the Apiru scurried about like ants, building her brother’s city – a city worthy of a living god. It was not love, dedication, or loyalty that inspired the hard work, instead it was fear of the ready whip that kept the slaves moving.
The Pharaoh’s daughter watched as a young lad, carrying a load of brick far too heavy for his small size, stumbled and fell. Bricks scattered across the street, landing at the feet of one of the taskmasters. The big man lumbered over to the cowering child and kicked him squarely in the ribs. With his meaty hand, the large Egyptian unfurled the whip he carried at his side. Bithiah closed her eyes, but the sound of the whip and the cries of the slave echoed in her ears. A silent tear slid down her cheek. Her brother’s harsh laugh punctuated her distress.
“You’re soft.” Ramses said. He pulled her chin up, forcing her look at him.
“And you are overly harsh with the Apiru.” Bithiah bit back.
“Slaves are lazy. If my taskmasters cease tickling their backs with the whips, the Apiru would not work.”
“But the boy that your man just beat was no older than Amun-her-wenemef. What would you do if someone did that to him, your eldest son?”
“I would execute him – slowly.”
Bithiah turned away from him in disgust.
“Now, sister. Don’t be angry with me. Your love for those Apiru is clouding your judgment. You spend far too much time talking with the slaves. I know that father has condoned your behaviour, but I don’t. I command you to stay away from those people. Do you hear me?”
“I hear you, but I am not listening. You may be Pharaoh, Ramses, but you are still only Co-regent. As long as Father rules this country with you, I will follow his word concerning the Apiru. I long to hear more about their God, Yahweh. They say that He is the maker of the world. I won’t be kept from speaking with them, little brother.”
“You play a dangerous game, Bithiah. Make sure that you are aligning yourself with the right side. Father won’t be around forever.”
The threat hung like smoke in the air, long after the young man swept out of the room, leaving Bithiah with her maidens. As if sensing her discomfort, Bithiah’s maidens suggested a diversion.
“Perhaps our lady would enjoy bathing in the river.”
A cool dip in the Nile would do much to ward off the heat, and improve Bithiah’s mood. If only she could wash away her brother’s words as easily.
The water was cool against Bithiah’s feet as she walked into the shallows of the river. The thick stand of reeds provided a feeling of seclusion at this part of the river which Bithiah enjoyed. She submerged her arms in the water, enjoying the caress of the current as it pulled the sand off of her skin. Bithiah closed her eyes and listened to the conversation of the river over the rocks, the song of the reeds, and the buzz of the insects that lived among them. There was another sound, a sound that didn’t belong.
“Do you hear that?” Bithiah asked. “Find what is making that sound and bring it to me.”
The maidens rushed to do Bithiah’s command. Before long, one of the maidens emerged from the reeds carrying a rush basket.
“Pull back the cover.”
A lusty cry came from the small, unhappy baby within the basket.
“It’s one of the Apiru babies,” Bithiah said. Her heart went out to the sad little thing.
“Excuse me,” a small girl said, peeking from between the reeds. “Shall I get one of the Apiru women to nurse the baby for you?”
“Yes, go.” Bithiah ordered, taking the baby up in her arms, trying to calm its pitiful cries.
Only moments later, the child returned with a woman in tow. Bithiah handed the child to the woman’s willing hands and the crying immediately ceased.
“Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” Bithiah kissed the downy head and dismissed the woman.
“The child will be my son,” she spoke to her maidens. “His name will be Mosheh and no whip will ever fall on his back.”
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