The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, , at sacred-texts.com
JACOB lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years, and all the years of his life were one hundred and forty-seven.
And Jacob grew very sick, and being old and feeble, he sent for his son Joseph, and said to him:
"Behold, I am going to die. Listen, my son. The God of your fathers will surely visit you in the days to come, and carry back His people, as He has sworn, to the land which He has given to you and your descendants. Do not bury me in Egypt, but in the cave of Machpelah, in Hebron, in the land of Canaan, next to my parents."
Jacob made his sons swear to bury him as he had requested, and he said to them:
"Serve the Lord your God, and He will deliver ye from all trouble, even as He delivered your fathers." He bade them call all their children before him, and he blessed them and their fathers also, according to the blessings which are recorded in Holy Writ.
And Jacob said unto Judah:
"Thou, my son, art stronger than all thy brethren, and from thy loins will kings arise. Teach thy children how they may protect themselves from enemies and evil-doers." Then turning to his children, he said:
"Thus shall ye carry me, after my death, to my resting place in the cave of Machpelah. Ye, my sons, and not your children, shall bear me. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun shall
carry the eastward corner of my bier; Reuben, Simeon, and Gad shall carry at the south; Ephraim, Menasseh, and Benjamin at the western end; and Dan, Asher, and Naphtali to the north.
"Levi shall not carry or help to carry my bier, for his descendants will bear the ark of God's covenant through Israel's host; neither shall Joseph assist in carrying, for he is a king; his sons shall take his place, and walk beside his brother Benjamin. As I have spoken do; diminish not from my words.
"And it shall come to pass, if ye do as I have commanded, that God will visit ye with happiness and give peace to your children after ye.
"And now, my sons, honour one another, and live peacefully, family and family, together. Teach your children to love God, and observe His commandments, in order that their days may be prolonged, for God will guard those who do justly and walk in righteousness through all His ways."
And the sons of Jacob responded, "All that you have commanded us, our father, we will do. May God be with us."
And Jacob answered:
"The Lord will be with ye if ye depart not from His ways to the right hand or to the left. Behold. I know that great troubles will come upon ye, upon your children, and your children's children in this land of Egypt in the days to come. But serve God, and He will prove your salvation. He will bring ye out of Egypt, aye, back to the land of your fathers, to inherit it, and dwell therein in safety."
And when Jacob had finished these words he drew his feet into the bed, and was gathered unto his fathers.
And when Joseph saw that his father was dead he fell
upon the cold face, and wept bitterly, and cried aloud in anguish, "My father; oh, my father!"
And the family of Jacob, his sons, and their wives and children rent their garments and clothed themselves in sackcloth and ashes, and mourned for the patriarch. And the Egyptians who knew Jacob mourned for him also.
Then Joseph commanded the physicians to embalm his father's body, and he, with all his family and relatives and Egyptian friends, lamented for seventy days.
After these days of mourning Joseph approached Pharaoh the king, and said to him, "Let me go up, I pray thee, to bury my father; I will then return;" and Pharaoh answered, "Go in peace and bury thy father."
And Joseph arose and prepared with his brethren to carry their father's body to Canaan, as he had commanded them.
And Pharaoh issued a proclamation requesting the citizens of Egypt to honour Joseph by participating in Jacob's funeral, and showing the last marks of respect to him. And the citizens, in large numbers, acquiesced in the wishes of the king.
And there went up with Joseph and his brethren all the servants of Pharaoh and the elders of his house, and the elders of the land of Egypt, and the princes and noblemen, and all attached to Joseph's household.
And the sons of Jacob carried the bier on which rested their father's remains, as he had commanded. them, and there rested upon the bier a sceptre and a crown of gold.
And the troops of Egypt followed Jacob's body, infantry and cavalry, and the body-guard of Pharaoh, and Joseph's body-guard also.
And it came to pass, when the funeral train reached the threshing-floor of Atad, beyond the Jordan, they rested there, and mourned with great lamentation.
And when the kings of Canaan heard that the funeral cortege of Jacob was approaching, they started forth to meet the same, to express their grief and love for the departed patriarch.
And Esau, Jacob's brother, came also with his sons and the men of his belonging, and then the funeral proceeded to Hebron, to the cave of Machpelah.
But when they reached the cave, lo, Esau and his sons, and his followers, approached Joseph and his brethren, saying:
"Jacob shall not be buried here; this cave is ours and our father's."
Then Joseph and his brethren were very wroth, and Joseph said to Esau:
"What is this which thou hast spoken? Did not my father, Jacob, buy from thee, after the death of Isaac, all thy possessions in the land of Canaan, aye, five-and-twenty years ago, for a large sum of money, that it might be an inheritance to his children for ever? Why speakest thou in this manner?"
And Esau answered:
"I sold naught to Jacob."
"We have the deeds," returned Joseph, "and thine own signature shall prove that the truth is on our side."
"Bring me the deeds then," said Esau, "and all that I have written will I do."
Then Joseph called to him his brother Naphtali, who was more swift of foot than the roebuck, and so light of step that he could run over the tassel-topped corn and it would bend not beneath his tread.
And Joseph said to Naphtali:
"Get quickly to Egypt and bring to me the deeds for the
cave, also the deed whereby Esau sold his birthright to our father; get thee quickly, and return in haste."
And when Esau learned that Naphtali had departed upon this errand he stopped further proceeding in the funeral rites, and Joseph and his brethren guarded their father's body and the burial cave.
With the next day a fight began between the two factions; Esau and his retainers on the one side, and Joseph, the Hebrews, and those who had followed the funeral train from Egypt, on the other.
Now among this latter party was Hushim, the son of Dan. He was dumb, and was placed to keep watch over the coffin containing the remains of his grandfather. Though not in the conflict, he noticed that something unusual was occurring, and asking by signs of those who came near him why the dead was not buried, he learned of Esau's interference, and the stoppage of the rites.
It came to pass, when he fully understood this, that his anger was roused, and hurrying into the midst of the combat, he singled out Esau, and struck his head from his shoulders with one blow. Then the children of Jacob prevailed over their opponents. Of Esau's company forty men were killed, while the other party suffered no loss. So with the death of Esau the fears expressed by Rebecca when Esau intended to kill Jacob, "Why should I be deprived of both of you in one day?" (Gen. 32: 45), seemed to be verified.
Then Jacob was buried in the cave of Machpelah, and the sons of Esau witnessed the interment. For seven days Joseph and his brethren remained in their houses, mourning and attending not to their usual avocations; and after this, though they discharged their daily duties, they mourned for twelve months, and since that time such has been the custom of the Jews on the death of a near relative.
The defeated children of Esau fled with Eliphas, the son of Esau, carrying Esau's body with them. His head was buried in Hebron, where he fell, but his body they buried at the mount of Se’ir.
And it came to pass in the thirty-second year after the children of Israel had gone down into Egypt, that Pharaoh the friend of Joseph died. Joseph was then seventy-one years of age. Before his death, Pharaoh commanded his son who succeeded him, to obey Joseph in all things, and the same instructions he left in writing. This pleased the people of Egypt, for they loved Joseph and trusted implicitly in him. Thus while this Pharaoh reigned over Egypt the country was governed by Joseph's advice and counsel. The Lord was with him, and all his undertakings proved successful. His wisdom seemed to grow greater daily, and all Egypt delighted in showing him honour and respect. For eighty years Joseph ruled Egypt, and his brothers dwelt in Goshen in safety and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly; and they served the Lord in the manner which their father Jacob had taught them.
Joseph lived in Egypt ninety-three years, being as a prince of the country eighty years of that time; and then the days drew nigh when he felt the hand of death approaching. He sent for his brothers and all their children, and they drew around his bed.
"Behold," said he, "I am going to die, but God will surely visit ye and bring ye out from this land into the land which he hath sworn unto your fathers to give unto ye. And now when the Eternal thus visits ye and leads ye out from Egypt, take my bones away from here with ye."
Joseph made the children of Israel swear, for themselves and their descendants, to carry with them his bones when they should go up out of Egypt.
And Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years, in the seventy-first year after the children of Israel had entered Egypt, and his body was embalmed and afterwards laid in the ground near the banks of the river Nile. And all Egypt wept for Joseph seventy days, and his brethren mourned for him seven days as they did for Jacob his father.
Then Pharaoh took the dominion in his own hands, and governed the people wisely and in good faith.
In the same year Zebulun, the son of Jacob, died at the age of one hundred and fourteen years; and five years later Simeon died, aged one hundred and twenty years. Four years after this Reuben died, aged one hundred and twenty-five years; and Dan died the next year one hundred and twenty-four years old. Issachar died a year later, aged one hundred and twenty-two; and Asher followed him aged one hundred and twenty-three. Gad departed the next year, one hundred and twenty-five years old; and Judah the year following at the age of one hundred and twenty-nine years. Naphtali lived one year later, and died at the age of a hundred and thirty-two years; and Levi died the year after, one hundred and thirty-seven years of age, living to a greater age than that reached by any of his brethren.
After the death of Joseph and his brothers, the Egyptians began to afflict the Israelities, and they embittered their lives from that day even until the day when they went up out of the land. They deprived them of the fruitful land which Joseph had given them, and of the houses which they had built, and the homes they had made for themselves. The hand of the Egyptians grew constantly heavier upon the people till their lives became a burden to them.
In the hundred and second year after Israel went down to Egypt. Pharaoh the king and that whole generation of
people had died out, and a new king and a new people who knew not Joseph held possession of the land.
Young Pharaoh was forty-nine years of age when he was crowned, and as is customary upon the assumption of authority by a new ruler, his ministers came before him to tell of the doings and progress of his kingdom. And these spoke to him, saying:
"Behold these people, the children of Israel, are greater and mightier than we. Advise us, we pray, that we may destroy them gradually, lest they so increase in the land as to prove a snare and a stumbling-block to us. Perchance if war comes upon us they may add their strength to the ranks of our enemies and drive us out of our own country."
The king answered:
"This is my advice, and I bid ye heed it well. The fortresses, Pithom and Ra’amses, are not strong enough for their purpose of protection, they should be rebuilt and with greater care. Let us deal subtly. Issue a proclamation in my name, saying:
"'A decree of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Every dutiful citizen is requested to join in the rebuilding and strengthening of the fortresses Pithom and Ra’amses, that we may be prepared for enemies in time of war. Every citizen is called upon to obey this behest, and each day he shall receive from the treasury, wages for the work which he has done.'
"Then at the outset, ye, too, must go to work, and it shall come to pass when the Israelites come and join ye, that ye shall pay them, as we promise, each day their wages. Gradually ye and the other Egyptians may stay away from the work, until the Israelites are prosecuting it alone; then appoint Egyptian taskmasters over them; and, finally, when they come to ye one day for what they have earned, inform them that henceforth they must labour without payment. If
they refuse or rebel, be ready, and compel them to submit by force. Obey my words in every particular, and happiness to ye will be the result. Our country will be strengthened and the hard labour will reduce the numerical strength of this people."
This advice pleased the Egyptians greatly, and they followed it implicitly. The proclamation was issued, and all the Israelites, with the exception of the children of Levi, obeyed the orders. Many Egyptians took part in the work also, and daily received their wages, but they were gradually dismissed, until in about three months' time the Israelites were working alone. Then the taskmasters, who had been appointed over them, withheld from them their wages, and when they refused to work, compelled them by force to resume their labour.
Thus all the children of Israel, with the exception of those of the tribe of Levi, who saw the snare of the Egyptians, and who having refused to work for wages could not now be compelled to labour without payment, were kept steadily at this work, strengthening all the strongholds of Egypt, making bricks and labouring in the fields, until the Lord remembered them and delivered them from the land.
But the heavier the burden laid upon the Israelites, the more rapidly they appeared to increase in numbers. And in the hundred and twenty-fifth year after the sons of Jacob had entered Egypt, the inhabitants of the land saw that what they had intended by their oppression had failed; that Israel still increased. The elders and wise men therefore appeared again before the king, and said:
"O king, live for ever! According to the advice which thou didst give us concerning this people Israel, have we done, and yet it has proved unavailing. The more we have oppressed them, the greater has been their increase, and
now the land of Goshen is filled with them. To thy wisdom we, with all thy people, look for advice which shall reduce the number of these people."
The king answered:
"Let me hear from some of ye; give ye advice as to what can be done to them."
Then answered Job, from a country in the land of Uz, one of the king's counsellors, and said:
"If it be pleasing to the king, I will venture to speak. The advice which the king did give us concerning this people was good, and the course which we have pursued in its carrying out we will still continue, and the advice which I give now, with permission of the king, is but in addition to the same. Behold, we have been fearing for many years that a war may come upon us; we have been also fearing that the Israelites may so increase in the land and spread throughout it as to drive us from our own country. Now, if it please the king, let a royal order be issued, and let it be written among the laws of Egypt, that it may never be changed. Let this order decree the shedding of the life-blood of every male born to these Hebrews. If we follow this advice and destroy every male, we can have no cause to fear treason from this people in the future."
This advice met with the approbation of the king, his counsellors and wise men, and the king did as Job had recommended. A proclamation was issued throughout the land, dooming every male born to the Hebrews to immediate destruction.
There lived in the land of Egypt a man named Amram; he was the son of Kehath, the Son of Levi, the son of Jacob. This man married Yochebed, the daughter of Levi, his father's sister. And the woman bore a daughter, whom she called Mir’yam, for this was in the days when the Egyptians
embittered the life of the Hebrews. Afterwards she bore a son, and called him Aaron.
And it came to pass in the one hundred and thirtieth year after Israel had entered Egypt, that Pharaoh, the king of the land, dreamed that he was sitting on his throne, and raising his eyes, saw before him an old man holding in his hand a pair of large balances. The old man hung the balances, and taking all the elders of Egypt, her princes and officers, he bound them together and placed them on one of the balances; on the other he placed a lamb, and lo, to the wonder of the dreaming man, the lamb weighed heavier than all the mighty men of Egypt.
Pharaoh awoke, and sending for his officers, he related to them this dream, which caused them both fear and amazement. Now among the magicians of Egypt there was one whom the king considered especially wise, Bil’am, the son of Be’or. For him the king sent, and desired an explanation of the vision. "A great evil will befall Egypt in the latter days," replied Bil’am, the son of Be’or. "A son will be born in Israel who will destroy Egypt, kill its inhabitants, and carry his people out from among them. Now, oh lord and king, give heed to this matter, and destroy the power of the children of Israel and their future welfare, before this misfortune to Egypt buds."
"What can we do?" inquired Pharaoh; "we have tried many plans without success."
Bil’am answered, "Send for thy two nearest counsellors, and we will consult together."
And Pharaoh sent for Re’uël, the Midianite, and Job, his counsellors, and they appeared before him accordingly. Then said the king, "Ye have all heard my dream and its interpretation; now give me your advice; how may this people Israel be conquered ere this threatened evil falls upon us?"
Re’uël, the Midianite, answered and said:
"Oh king, live for ever! If it be pleasing in thy eyes, oh king, cease to afflict this people. They are the chosen of God from the olden days, and never have they been oppressed with impunity. Pharaoh of old was punished for Sarah's sake, as was also Abimelech the Philistine, for the same cause. Jacob was delivered from the toils both of Esau, his brother, and his uncle, Laban. Thy great-grandfather exalted their great-grandfather, Joseph, because he recognised the wisdom which God had implanted in him, and which saved the people of the land from starvation. Therefore, oh king, remove thy yoke from them and let them go hence to Canaan, the land of the sojournings of their forefathers."
These words of Re’uël, the Midianite, angered Pharaoh, and he sent him in shame from his presence. Re’uël went out from Egypt that day unto his own country, carrying with him the staff of Joseph.
The king then said to Job, his counsellor:
"What is thy opinion concerning these Hebrews?" And Job answered:
"Are not all the inhabitants of Egypt in the hands of the king? Whatever may be most pleasing in thy eyes, that do."
Then spoke Bi’lam, and said:
"None of the means proposed for the subduing of the Hebrews will prove successful. Fire cannot prevail over them, for Abraham was delivered from its power; the sword will fail, for Isaac was delivered from its edge, and a ram killed in his stead; they cannot be exterminated by rigorous labour, for Jacob worked day and night for Laban, and yet prospered. Listen, oh king, to the advice which I shall give thee. By this means only wilt thou be able to
prevail over them. Command that all the male children born to these Hebrews be cast into the river, for none of their ancestors ever escaped from the death in the water." 1
This advice pleased Pharaoh, and his princes and the king did according to the words of Bi’lam. A proclamation was issued, and Pharaoh sent his officers through the land of Goshen where the Israelites dwelt, to see that all the male children were cast into the river on their birth, while the female infants were kept alive.
It came to pass about this time that Miriam, the daughter of Amram, the sister of Aaron, prophesied and said, "A second son will be born to my father and mother, and he will deliver the Israelites from the Egyptian power."
A second son was born to them according to her words, and when his mother saw he was a goodly child of handsome appearance, she hid him for three months in her inner chamber.
Now in those days strict search was made in the houses of the Hebrews for male infants, and many means were used to ascertain the places where their parents concealed them. Egyptian women carried infants into the houses in Goshen, and making these babies cry, the hidden infants would cry also, thus discovering their place of hiding. The women would then report to Pharaoh, and officers would seize the babe which parents had vainly endeavoured to save.
And it came to pass after Yochebed had succeeded in
keeping her son concealed for three months, the fact of his birth became known in the above manner, and his mother taking the child quickly, before the officers arrived, hid him in a box made of bulrushes, and concealed the same carefully in the flax which grew along the Nile. She sent Miriam, her daughter, to watch the box from a distance, and observe what might happen to it.
And the day was hot and sultry, and the air oppressive, and many of the people came to find relief from the exhausting heat in the cooling waters of the Nile. Bathia, the daughter of Pharaoh, came with this purpose attended by her maidens, and entering the water she chanced to see the box of bulrushes, and pitying the infant she rescued him from death.
Many were the names given to the infant thus miraculously preserved. Bathia called him "Moses," saying, "I have drawn him from out the water;" his father called him "Heber," because he was reunited to his family; his mother called him "Yekuthiel," "for," said she, "I hoped in God," his sister called him "Yarad," saying, "I went down to the river to watch him;" Aaron, his brother, called him "Abigedore," for God had repaired the breach in the house of Jacob, and the Egyptians ceased from that time to cast the infants into the water; his grandfather called him "Abi Socho," saying, "for three months he was hidden," and the children of Israel called him, "Shemaiah Ben Nethanel," because in his day God heard their groaning and delivered them from their oppressors.
Moses became even as a son to Bathia, the daughter of Pharaoh, as a child belonging rightly to the palace of the king.
Now it came to pass when Pharaoh saw that the advice
of Bi’lam did not prove effective, but that the Israelites, on the contrary, seemed to increase and multiply even more rapidly than before, he laid additional labour upon them, and issued orders that if any man failed in accomplishing his full daily task, his children should be walled up alive in the building in which he worked. This order continued in effect for many years.
About this time, when Moses was three years old, Pharaoh sitting at his banquet table, with his queen upon his right, Bathia at his left, and his two sons, with Bi’lam and the princes of his realm about him, took Moses upon his lap. The child stretched forth his hand, and taking the royal crown from Pharaoh's head placed it upon his own.
In this action the king and the people around him imagined they saw a meaning, and Pharaoh asked:
"How shall this Hebrew boy be punished?"
Then said Bi’lam, the son of Be’or, the magician, "Think not, because the child is young, that he did this thing thoughtlessly. Remember, oh king, the dream which thy servant read for thee; the dream of the balances. The spirit of understanding is already implanted in this child, and to himself he takes thy kingdom. Such, my lord, hath ever been the way of his people, to trample down those who have dealt kindly with them, to deceitfully usurp the power of those who have reared and protected them. Abraham, their ancestor, deceived Pharaoh, saying of Sarah, his wife, 'She is my sister;' Isaac, his son, did the same thing; Jacob obtained surreptitiously the blessing which rightfully belonged to his brother; he travelled to Mesopotamia, married the daughters of his uncle, and fled with them secretly, taking large flocks and herds and immense possessions; the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph
into slavery; he was afterwards exalted by thy ancestor and made second in Egypt, and when a famine came upon the land, he brought hither his father with all his family to feed upon its substance, while the Egyptians sold themselves for food; and now, my lord, this child arises to imitate their actions. He mocks thee, oh king, thy elders and thy princes. Therefore, let his blood be spilled; for the future welfare of Egypt let this thing be done."
The king replied to the words of Bi’lam:
"We will call our judges together, and if they deem the child deserving of death he shall be executed."
When the judges and wise men assembled according to the order of the king, Jithro, the priest of Midian, came with them. The king related the child's action and the advice which Bi’lam had given him, requesting their opinions on the same.
Then said Jithro, desirous to preserve the child's life:
"If it be pleasing to the king, let two plates be placed before the child, one containing fire, the other gold. If the child stretches forth his hand to grasp the gold, we will know him to be an understanding being, and consider that he acted towards thee knowingly, deserving death. But if he grasps the fire, let his life be spared."
This advice met with the king's approval, and two plates, one containing gold, the other fire, were placed before the infant Moses. The child put forth his hand, and grasping the fire put it to his mouth, burning his tongue, and becoming thereafter "heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue," as mentioned in the Bible. Through this childish action the life of Moses was saved.
Moses grew up, a handsome lad, in the palace of the king; he dressed royally, was honoured by the people, and seemed in all things of royal lineage.
He visited the land of Goshen daily, observing the rigour with which his brethren were treated, and inquiring of them why they laboured and were so oppressed, he learned of all the things which had happened before his birth; all things concerning the children of Israel and all things concerning himself. Learning of Bi’lam's desire to have him destroyed in his infancy, he expressed enmity towards the son of Be’or, who fearing his power and his favour with the king's daughter, fled to Ethiopia.
Moses urged the king of Egypt to grant the men of Goshen one day of rest from their labour, in each week, and the king acceded to his request. 1
And the Lord was with Moses, and his fame extended through all the land.
When he was about eighteen years old, Moses visited his father and mother in Goshen; and going also where his brethren were working he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, and he killed the Egyptian and fled from Egypt, as the occurrence is related in the Bible.
It came to pass in those days that the Assyrians rebelled against Kikanus, the king of Ethiopia, to whom they were under tribute. Kikanus, appointing Bi’lam, the son of Be’or, who had fled from Egypt, to be his representative in his absence, marched forth with a large army and subdued the Assyrians, and imposed heavy taxes upon them.
Bi’lam, the son of Be’or, was unfaithful to his trust, and usurping the power he was delegated to protect, he induced the people of Ethiopia to appoint him their king in place of the absent Kikanus. He strengthened the walls of the capital, built huge fortresses, and dug ditches and pits between
the city and the river Gichon, which compassed all the land of Ethiopia.
When King Kikanus returned with his army, he was amazed to witness the preparations for defence which had been made during his absence, and he thought that the people had feared an attack from the kings of Canaan while he was away, and had prudently made ready for it. But when the gates of the city were closed against him, and he called in vain to have them opened, he joined battle with the adherents of Bi’lam. For nine years the war between Kikanus and Bi’lam continued, with severe losses to the former.
When Moses fled from Egypt he joined the army of Kikanus, and soon became a great favourite with the king and with all his companions.
And Kikanus became sick and died, and his soldiers buried him opposite the city, rearing a monument over his remains, and inscribing upon it the memorable deeds of his life. Then they said to one another, "What shall we do? For nine years we have been absent from our homes; if we attack the city it is likely we shall be again repulsed, and if we remain here, the kings of Edom, hearing that our leader is dead, will fall upon us and leave none alive. We had best appoint another king in the stead of Kikanus."
So the army appointed Moses to be their king and leader, in the hundred and fifty-seventh year after Israel went down into Egypt.
And Moses found favour in the eyes of the Lord, and he inspired his soldiers with courage by his voice and his example. He attacked the fortresses in mass, with the blowing of trumpets and great enthusiasm, and the city was delivered into his hands; eleven hundred of his opponents being slain in the battle.
But Bi’lam, the son of Be’or, escaped and fled back to Egypt, becoming one of the magicians mentioned in the Scriptures.
And the Ethiopians placed Moses upon their throne and set the crown of state upon his head, and they gave him the widow of Kikanus for a wife. Moses remembered, however, the teachings of his fathers--how Abraham made his servant swear that he would not bring a daughter of the Canaanites to be the wife of Isaac, and how Isaac had said to his son Jacob, "Thou shalt not take a wife from the daughters of the Canaanites, neither shalt thou intermarry with the descendants of Ham;" therefore the widow of Kikanus was a wife to Moses in name only.
When Moses was made king of Ethiopia the Assyrians again rebelled, but Moses subdued them and placed them under yearly tribute to the Ethiopian dynasty.
Now, it happened in the hundred and eightieth year after Israel had gone down into Egypt, that there arose thirty thousand men of the tribe of Ephraim, and formed themselves into companies. And they said:
"The time, mentioned by the Lord to Abraham at the covenant of the pieces (Gen. 15: 13), has arrived; we will go up out of Egypt." And trusting in their own might these men left Egypt.
They did not take any provisions with them, save what was necessary for a day's journey; they took naught but gold and silver, saying, "We shall be able to buy food of the Philistines."
As they travelled towards Gath, they met a party of shepherds and said to them, "Sell us your flocks, for we are hungry."
But the shepherds replied:
"The flocks are ours, and we will not sell them to you."
Then the men of Ephraim seized upon the flocks by force, and the shepherds made a great outcry, which reached the ears of the inhabitants of Gath, who assembled to ascertain its cause. And when the Gathites learned how their brethren had been treated, they armed themselves and marched forth to battle with the wrongdoers; and many fell from both parties. On the second day the men of Gath sent messengers to the cities of the Philistines, saying:
"Come and help us smite these Ephraimites, who have come up from Egypt, seized our flocks, and battled with us for no cause."
And the Philistines marched forth, about forty thousand strong, and they smote the Ephraimites, who were suffering from weariness and hunger, and there escaped from the death dealt out to Ephraim, only ten men.
Thus were the men of Ephraim punished for going up out of Egypt before the time appointed by the Lord.
The bodies of those who fell remained unburied in the valley of Gath, and their bones were the same bones which rose up, endowed with life, in the time of Ezekiel, as his prophecies record.
The ten who escaped returned to Egypt and related to the children of Israel what had occurred to them.
During this time Moses was reigning in Ethiopia in justice and righteousness. But the queen of Ethiopia, Adonith, who was a wife to Moses in name only, said to the people, "Why should this stranger continue to rule over you? Would it not be more just to place the son of Kikanus upon his father's throne, for he is one of you?"
The people, however, would not vex Moses, whom they loved, by such a proposition; but Moses voluntarily resigned the power which they had given him, and departed from
their land. And the people of Ethiopia made him many rich presents, and dismissed him with great honours.
Moses being still fearful of returning to Egypt, travelled towards Midian, and sat there to rest by a well of water. And it came to pass that the seven daughters of Re’uël (or Jithro) came to this well to water their flocks. The shepherds of Midian drove them away, designing to keep them waiting until their own flocks had been watered, but Moses interfered in their behalf, and they returned home early to tell their father what had occurred. Re’uël then sent for Moses, and the latter related to him all that had happened them since his flight from Egypt. And Moses lived with Re’uël, and he looked with favour upon Ziporah, the daughter of his host, and married her.
During this time the Lord smote Pharaoh, king of Egypt, with leprosy. The disease was exceedingly grievous, and the king suffered inexpressible agony. And the taskmasters who were placed over the Israelites complained to the king that the latter were neglecting their work and becoming lazy.
"They are taking advantage of my sickness," exclaimed the king, and ordering his chariot, he prepared to ride out himself to upbraid the workmen, and to see that they did not shirk their labour.
And it happened as he rode through a narrow pass his horses lost their footing, the chariot was overturned, the king was thrown into the road, and the wheels of the chariot passed over him. The tender flesh was torn from his body, and the bones, which had grown brittle with his disease, broke. His servants laid him upon a bier and carried him to his palace; but when they laid him upon his bed the king knew that his time to die had come. And his wife and his
princes assembled, weeping, around his bed, and Pharaoh wept with them; and his officers requested him to name his successor.
Now Pharaoh had two sons and three daughters. The eldest son was a man of foolish habits and excitable disposition, while the second, who was intelligent and versed in the sciences of his country, was yet a man of wicked imagination, disfigured, and a dwarf. Yet the king, taking into consideration his superior intelligence, named his second son to reign after him.
For three years Pharaoh suffered intense agony, then he died, and was buried in the place of the kings; but he was not embalmed, for his body was in too diseased a state to admit of manipulation.
In the two hundred and sixth year after Israel entered Egypt, this Pharaoh ascended the throne of the land. And he made the burden on the children of Israel heavy and oppressive; he would not continue to allow them the day of rest granted in his father's time, but made idleness during his father's sickness his excuse for depriving them of it.
And the children of Israel sighed in their heavy bondage, and cried unto the Lord. And God heard their voices, and remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
Now while Moses was living with Re’uël, the Midianite, he noticed a staff in the latter's garden, and he took it, to be a walking-stick in his hand. And this was the same staff, the staff of Joseph, which Re’uël carried away with him when he fled from Egypt. This same staff Adam carried with him out of Eden. Noah inherited it, and gave it afterwards to Shem, his son, It passed through the hands of Shem's descendants until it came into the possession of
[paragraph continues] Abraham. When Abraham left all his worldly goods to Isaac this staff was numbered with them, and when Jacob fled from his brother's anger into Mesopotamia, he carried this staff in his hand, and while residing in Egypt he gave it to Joseph, his son.
And it came to pass at the end of two years that the Lord again sent Moses unto Pharaoh to bring out the children of Israel from his land. And Moses spoke to Pharaoh all the words which the Lord had commanded, but Pharaoh would not hearken to them. Therefore the strength of God was wielded against the Egyptians, and He smote Pharaoh and his officers, and his people, with grievous plagues.
Through the hands of Aaron God changed the waters of Egypt into blood. They who drew water from a matting stream, looked into their vessels, and lo, their water was red blood; they who sought to drink and slake their thirst, but filled their mouths with blood, and they who used water in preparing bread, found blood mixed with the dough upon their kneading troughs.
Then the rivers brought forth frogs, and they entered into the houses of the Egyptians, into their feel and into their beds.
And still the Lord's arm was stretched forth in anger over Egypt, and He smote the land with the grievous plague of lice; lice on man and beast, on king and queen, and all the people of the land.
Then God sent against Egypt the wild beasts of the forest. And they entered the inhabited cities and destroyed men and cattle, and made great havoc in the land. And serpents, and scorpions, and all manner of reptiles, with mice. weasels, and all manner of vermin and flies, and
hornets, and all manner of insects filled the land of Egypt and fed upon it.
Then God sent a pestilence among the cattle; all but a tenth part of the cattle of the Egyptians died in one night; but the cattle belonging to the Israelites in Goshen were not affected; they lost not a single animal.
Then the bodies of the Egyptians became sore and full of boils, and noxious, and their flesh was greatly inflamed. Yet still the anger of God burned against them and His hand was still raised in wrath.
And God sent a hailstorm which destroyed the vines and trees, and green herbs and growing plants, and the people who ventured out of their houses, and the unsheltered cattle, were killed by the falling stones. Then great swarms of locusts filled the land, destroying all that the hail had spared.
And after this darkness covered all the land, and for three days and three nights the people could not see even their hands before them.
And during this period of darkness God smote those of the Israelites who were rebellious of heart, and who were not desirous of obeying his commands. In the darkness did God do this that the Egyptians might not rejoice thereat.
And after this God commanded Moses and Aaron to prepare the Passover sacrifice, saying, "I will pass over the land of Egypt and slay the first born, both of man and beast." The children of Israel did as they had been commanded, and it came to pass at midnight that the Lord passed over the land and smote the first born of Egypt both of man and beast.
Then there was a great and grievous cry through all the land, for there was not a house without its dead; and
[paragraph continues] Pharaoh and his people rose up in alarm and consuming grief.
And Bathia, the daughter of Pharaoh, went forth to seek Moses and Aaron, and she found them in their dwelling singing praises to the Lord. And Bathia addressed Moses, saying:
"Lo, I have nourished thee in my arms and loved thee in my heart even from thy infancy, and how hast thou rewarded my care and affection! Upon me, upon my people, and upon my father's house, thou hast brought calamity and affliction."
"Have any of the plagues troubled thee?" inquired Moses; "if so, tell me, I pray." And Bathia answered, "No." "Thou art also," continued Moses, "the first born of thy mother, and yet thou art here alive and well before me. Be comforted, not the slightest harm shall come to thee."
And Bathia answered:
"Such comfort cannot profit me, when I see this great misfortune bearing down the king my brother, his servants, and his house."
"They would not hearken to the voice of God," answered Moses, "and therefore is this punishment meted to them."
Then Pharaoh appeared before Moses and Aaron, and he cried to them:
"Arise, take thy brethren, their flocks and herds, and all they have; leave naught behind; go, but entreat the Lord for me."
And the Egyptians sent the children of Israel forth with great wealth, flocks, and herds, and precious things, even as the Lord had promised Abraham in his vision of the "covenant between the pieces."
The children of Israel did not leave Egypt that night, for
they said, "We are not men of secret ways, to hurry off at midnight." They waited until morning, obtaining gold and silver vessels from their late oppressors.
Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, and the others of the people carried up with them also the bones of Jacob's other sons.
And the children of Israel journeyed from Raämses to Succoth. Two hundred and ten years after their entrance into Egypt, the Israelites departed therefrom, six hundred thousand men, with wives and children.
For three days after the departure of the Israelites, the Egyptians were occupied in burying their dead, and after this they began to talk together, saying, "Moses and Aaron said to Pharaoh, 'We desire to go a three days' journey into the wilderness, to sacrifice unto the Lord our God;' now let us rise up early and follow after them. If they return to Egypt we shall know them for faithful men, but if they do not intend returning, we will bring them back by force."
A great host of the Egyptians followed after the Israelites, and came up with them while they were encamped before Pi Hachiroth, observing the festival of the Lord.
And the Egyptians called out to them:
"Ye have been gone from Egypt five days, and ye promised to return in three; do ye not intend to come back?"
Then Moses and Aaron answered, saying:
"The Lord hath commanded us to keep on our way, even to the land flowing with milk and honey, which He swore unto our ancestors to give to us."
When the Egyptians saw that the Israelites had determined to be independent of them, they arrayed themselves to fight against their fleeing servitors. But God strengthened
the hearts of His people, and the princes, of E«n pt fled before them back to their land.
And when Pharaoh learned what had happened to them, and how many of them had been slain, he exclaimed:
"We have acted foolishly in allowing these slaves to leave us. We shall miss their services in the manufacture of bricks, and in building up our fortresses. When our tributaries hear of this tiling, they will rebel against us, unless we take severe measures with these Israelites, for they will say, 'If slaves can successfully rebel against them, how much easier will it be for princes and rulers like ourselves to cast their yoke from off our necks.'"
Therefore Pharaoh assembled his wise men, his magicians, and his elders, and taking counsel together they resolved to pursue and recapture their bondsmen.
And Pharaoh issued a proclamation calling upon every fighting man to hold himself in readiness for the march, and the hosts of Egypt assembled accordingly.
Then Pharaoh opened his treasury and gave presents to every man according to his rank, and he spoke to them in urbane and gracious tones, saying:
"Behold, in wars, the soldier gains the spoil, but it belongs unto his king, such is the law; but in this instance I will divide equally with you.
"The law requires the soldier to advance in battle, even in the front of the conflict, but on this occasion I will lead and ye shall follow me. The law commands the king's servants to prepare his chariot, but see, this day I will pre pare it myself."
The words of Pharaoh pleased the soldiers, and they cheerfully armed themselves with swords and spears, with bows and arrows.
And the Israelites were encamped by the Red Sea, and
lifting up their eyes they beheld the Egyptians marching upon their rear. And their hearts became filled with terror, for the waters were before them and their enemies behind, and they cried aloud unto the Lord.
And there was great division of opinion among them. Those who differed divided themselves into four parties, and Moses replied to each of them in a suitable manner.
The first party, composed of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Issachar, wished to throw themselves into the sea, for they could see no hope of escape. But Moses said to them:
"Fear not; stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord that He will do for ye this day."
The tribes of Zebulun, Naphtali, and Benjamin favoured a return to Egypt. To them Moses said:
"As ye have seen the Egyptians this day, ye shall not see them again any more for ever."
The tribes of Judah and Joseph desired to meet the Egyptians and to fight with them. But Moses said:
"Keep your position; the Lord will fight for ye, and ye shall hold your peace."
The fourth party, the tribes of Levi, Gad, and Asher, counselled a sudden attack, a surprise, upon the Egyptians, thinking that it would confuse and weaken them, and to these Moses said:
"Move not; fear nothing; only call upon the Lord to deliver ye out of their hands."
And it came to pass after Moses had spoken these words that he rose up in the midst of the people, and he prayed unto the Lord, saying:
"I beseech thee, oh Lord God of the universe, to save this people which thou hast brought forth from Egypt. Let
not the Egyptians triumph, and say vauntingly, 'Our hand is strong.'"
And the Lord said to Moses:
"Wherefore cry unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel and bid them to go forward."
And Moses stretched forth his rod over the sea as God commanded and the waters were divided.
And the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea dryshod, and when they had passed through, the waters returned as before. And the waters closed over the Egyptians, and not one was saved of all their hosts.
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel unto the Lord in tones of gladness
125:1 The three counsellors of Pharaoh were dealt with by God according to their merits. Jithro (Re’uël), who desired to release and relieve them, was saved from destruction, and converted to Judaism; Job received the punishment mentioned in the book to which his name is given; and "Bi’lam, the son of Be’or, they killed him with the sword" (Num. 31 8).
129:1 Moses said: "If you compel them to labour steadily their strength will fail them; for your own benefit and profit allow them at east one day in the week for rest and a renewal of strength."