From rudimentary curls to chubby bare feet, he was enveloped in his mother’s arms.
Softly into his neck she crooned repeatedly, ‘Shalom aleichem ben yamin.’ Welcome home, my dearest son.
The soldiers outside the shack paced uncomfortably. Just last week they had searched this very house for male infants to toss to the crocodiles, feeding their god-king’s appetite for power. Now they were under royal command to protect the little wretch.
Inside, Jochabed continued to smother her child with kisses. For three desperate months she had concealed him, leaving his seven-year-old sister in charge when the slave-masters rounded up the work-detail each morning.
‘In the last resort,’ Jochabed had told her, ‘drop some honey onto his tongue, and hide him in a cooking pot. And pray.’
But the time had come when the child was too noisy to remain hidden any longer. With trembling hands, Jochabed had taken papyrus and pitch, constructing a tiny floating ark for one. Under a moonless sky, she had consigned him to the river. ‘Ye'varech'echa Adonoy ve'yish'merecha.’ May God bless you and watch over you.
And in the mercies of the Lord, he had been discovered and adopted by one of Pharaoh’s daughters. One day he would be a prince in her palace.
But for now, Jochabed was his wet nurse, and her son was home again.
Suddenly, she drew back a little, her eyes focussing on deeper truth.
‘Moses,’ she whispered, ‘the Lord has a purpose for you. B'sha-ah tovah. Ve'imru omeyn.’ All things take place in God’s good time. So be it.
Forty years later
Moses side-stepped lightly to avoid a sharp stone. He should have worn sandals. His bare feet were more accustomed to marble floors than Pharaoh’s slave fields. Just lately, though, some compulsion had drawn him here, again and again, to watch.
The field reeked of human misery: two hundred bent Hebrew backs under the merciless sun; a dozen supervisors flashing their whips indiscriminately.
Anger flared in his stomach. Who did these Egyptians think they were, treating his people like that? Last year his own mother had fallen in this field, driven to her death.
His lips quirked as he fingered the ragged edge of a fingernail. That Egyptian hadn’t seen it coming, he was so engrossed in beating the old man. How easy it had been to find a heavy stone and enact vengeance.
But burying him had been a terrible struggle. He’d had no idea of the weight of a man.
He calculated that the Hebrews out-numbered their overseers by around 20 to one. Last week he’d visited the brick factories and the ratio was similar.
All they needed was a leader. A man of education and resource. A proven man of action. They should no longer abide these intolerable conditions.
Nearby, a scuffle had broken out between two slaves. Waving away an approaching overseer, Moses sauntered over.
‘Now, then, men. What’s all this about? You’re brother Hebrews. There should be no quarrel between you!’
Their arms hung slack, their jaws agape.
‘Who are you, ordering us about? You’re no Egyptian!’
‘He’s no Hebrew neither.’
‘Tell you what he is,’ his friend replied, ‘he’s a murderer. That’s what he is.’
‘Ooh, scary! Praps he’ll do us in, too!’
‘Like that Egyptian yesterday!’
‘Creep up and strangle us in our sleep!’
But their derision was unheard. Heedless of stone and thorn, Moses was running, as fast as his soft feet would carry him.
Forty years later
Barefoot, he quivered, longing for the Voice to speak again. The mountainside itself seemed hushed, expectant.
He had been drawn by the sight of a shrub, crackling with fire, yet still green. Now all he cared about was the Voice.
‘Moses!’ The Voice was soft and deafening; tender and formidable.
Yes, he had been ‘Moses’, a life-time ago. When he was a pampered lordling in Egypt.
In the days when he thought he had a mission.
Decades spent chasing pasture around the desert had cured him of that notion. He was old and tired. Whose was this Voice, awakening memories of evaporated dreams?
‘I AM the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.’
For a dreadful, hideous moment he was paralysed.
Run! Where to?
There could be no escape. There is no escape from a god. He crushed himself onto the ground and wished for death.
‘The cries of my enslaved people have risen to heaven. I have a job for you to do.’
Story inspired by Exodus 2 and 3, and Heb 11 v 23 (NIV):
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.
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