Moses Mondays: The Hebrews

I believe Moses came from an exceptional family. After all, we have his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron, who becomes Israel’s first priest. However, as you could see from chapter two, his mother was no slouch. In some ways I sought to make Jochebed the prototypical Jewish mother, strong, resolute, with her children driving her every concern. In this chapter we also learn more about Miriam and see a little into the character of Nari, who will become a pivotal person in Moses’ development and a counter balance to his Egyptian priestly education. As I said before, I am looking forward to comments and suggestions and have incorporated several into the work so far.

See also Chapter 4: The Babe Discovered

Destiny’s Passage
Copyright 1993-2004 William G. Meisheid

Chapter 5: The Hebrew Village

As they traveled together, Miriam noticed that the Egyptian woman treated her without the common contempt that most of her countrymen displayed toward the children of Abraham. Unable to stifle her inquisitive nature, she waited impatiently for an opportunity to find out something about this curious woman. As soon as the guards had moved a short distance ahead Miriam began to probe.

“You are different than most Egyptians I have met,” she said.

“How is that?” Nari asked, a puzzled look crossing her face.

“Most treat me like I was the droppings off the rear end of a horse.”

Nari laughed quietly. She flashed Miriam a wry smile and said, “Not everyone believes the brothers of Joseph are an evil blight on the land of Egypt, child. Some know better than to listen to everything that the priests of Amen Ra say.”

Her cryptic response only increased Miriam’s desire to know more about her. She cautiously inquired, “Have you been with the princess a long time?”

“All her life, little one,” Nari said.

“That is a long time. Is it all right to ask how you came to be in the great house?”

“Yes my child, there is no harm. My family has always been in the service of the princess’ family. I was selected to care for her when she was born and I have been with the princess ever since.”

Gathering her courage, Miriam changed the direction of her probing to the real area of her concern. “You must know her very well,” she said. “May I ask why she wants this child so much?”

“You certainly are full of questions,” Nari replied. “Do you not know? All Egypt knows that her field has lain fallow for five years and that her husband complains unceasingly to the priests. She sees this baby boy as a gift from the gods to remove her reproach.”

The answer was everything Miriam could have had hoped for and more. She had to fight her excitement at Nari’s words. She thought to herself how much easier this journey seemed compared to the one she had made earlier. There was a joy to this trip that the other had lacked.

“The guards want to get home before the heat rises,” Nari said. “Is it much farther?”

“Not too far. Do you want me to carry him for a while?” Miriam said, hoping for a chance to hold her brother again.

“I am fine child,” Nari said as she shifted Moses to the other arm. Miriam noticed that there was a strange delight in the eyes of the Egyptian woman as she carried her brother. He seemed comfortable in her arms and had not cried once, even when, at the request of the guards, they had sped up their pace.

Most of the Hebrews were scattered in work camps throughout Pharaoh Seti’s construction sites in the delta. This made their vastly increased population easier to manage. A few like Miriam’s family had moved upriver to sites near Memphis to work on the new temple construction. They had been living in their current home for a little over a year while the Pharaoh built an addition to the temple of Ptah. Miriam’s father was an expert brick maker and mason.

As the party approached the Hebrew quarters, Miriam could hardly contain her growing exhilaration to tell her mother the news. Almost no men were in the village. They were either out making bricks, hauling stone or laboring at the construction site. Many of the women were also away, cutting straw and hauling it to the brick pits. There was no construction site in Egypt that did not have brick pits nearby. Egypt had become dependant on its Hebrew masons and brick makers.

Miriam, having thought about the possible hard feelings in the village, turned to Nari said, “Please wait here while I go and find a suitable wet-nurse.”

“Why don’t you want me to come?”

“I do not want you offended. There are many angry people here and I may have to ask more than one. Your presence would make it difficult.”

“Such wisdom for one so young. You reason with the heart of a diplomat my child. Do as you think best. We will wait here.”

Surprised at the easy approval of the woman’s words, Miriam wasted no time, but ran off to look for her real objective, her mother. Word of Egyptian guards escorting a woman carrying a baby spread throughout the houses almost faster than she could run. Miriam found her mother sitting in the shade behind their house. She was obviously tired, but was weaving a basket from the rushes she had cut that morning. Miriam’s brother Aaron was building a little city in the sand at her feet. Aaron had been fortunate. He had been born before the Pharaoh’s father had begun to enforce the edit. No one else was nearby.

As Miriam raced up half out of breath, the words began to flow like a flood from her mouth. “Mother, you won’t believe what has happened; it’s a miracle; you won’t believe it. I saw it and I can hardly believe it.”

Startled by her daughter’s appearance and the onrush of her excitement, Jochebed grabbed Miriam by the arm. “Slow down daughter. Tell me what happened. What has become of your brother?”

Miriam took a deep breath to gather her thoughts. Then looking into her mother’s anguished eyes she said, “I watched just like you told me to, but I didn’t have to wait very long. The Pharaoh’s sister, Princess Asati, came to the river to bathe and she found him right away. Don’t worry. She doesn’t have any children and she thinks he’s a gift from her Nile god. Oh mother, she wants to keep him and even named him Moses. Isn’t it wonderful?” Miriam’s intensity, once started, ran on, not even stopping for a decent breath. “At first I didn’t believe it. But that’s not all. She saw me by the river and sent me with her servant and my brother to find him a wet-nurse. So I came straight to you. Momma, she’s even going to pay us.”

Jochebed suddenly felt light-headed. Letting go of Miriam, she fell back against the wall. Her mind was a tangle of thoughts; her heart pounded uncontrollably in her chest. If this was true it was a miracle beyond all her hopes. She grasped Miriam’s hand and all the doubt, fear, and agony of the previous year escaped its bindings and poured out of her heart in a series of wrenching sobs. Rocking back and forth, she kissed her daughter’s hand over and over as the emotion surged, crested and then gradually ebbed away. Turning her eyes to the clear morning sky, she thanked the God of Abraham for protecting her son. She had never imagined she would have a chance to see him again, let alone nurse him. Exhausted and elated she asked, “Where are they?”

“By the Memphis road. There…there are two soldiers with them,” Miriam said.

“Take me there. We will leave Aaron with my sister. But you can’t let them know I’m your mother. It would arouse too many questions.”

As they turned away from the house and Miriam took Aaron by the hand, she had to stop her legs from skipping along in sheer pleasure. This was truly a wondrous day. It warmed her heart with the hope that the God of their fathers was still hearing their prayers, that the words were not spoken into an empty void.

Jochebed, still recovering from the shock of the announcement, used the walk to her sister’s house to transform herself into a disaffected and somewhat disinterested wet nurse.

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