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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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HOW MOSES FLED OUT OF EGYPT TO MIDIAN

[53] THE Egyptians, instead of being grateful to Moses for his success, hated him still more, partly because they were envious and partly because they were afraid he might take advantage of his good fortune and try to destroy their government. The king, also, was afraid of him, because of what the scribe had predicted. Moses, learning that there were plots against him to kill him, secretly made his escape. And when he came to a city called Midian, which lay near the Red Sea, he sat down by a certain well, and rested himself there after his long journey. Now water was very scarce in that country, and this well had been seized by some shepherds, who would not let any one else use it, for fear there would not be enough left for their own flocks. While Moses was resting, there came to the well seven sisters, daughters of a priest named Jethro, who wished to draw water there, but the shepherds drove them away. Then Moses rose and attacked the men and drove them away, and when he had done this he helped the flocks of the maidens to water. The sisters went home and told their father of the assistance a stranger had given them, and entreated that he would not let this generous action go without a reward. The father was well pleased with the gratitude of his daughters, and bade them bring Moses into his presence. And when Moses came, he thanked him for his kindness, and adopted him as his son, and gave him one of his daughters in marriage, and appointed him to be the guardian and superintendent over his cattle.

[54] One day Moses, going out to feed Jethro's flocks, took them up a mountain called Sinai. This was the highest of all the mountains there, and the best for pasturage, but the shepherds were afraid of ascending it because of the opinion men had that God dwelt there. And a wonderful prodigy happened to Moses. For a fire sprang up out of a thorn-bush, yet the green leaves and the flowers were not consumed by it. Moses was affrighted at this strange sight, and still more when a voice out of the fire called to him by name. The voice, however, bade him be of good cheer, and directed him to set out for Egypt, where he would be made the commander and conductor of the Hebrews.

"For," said the Lord, "they shall inhabit the happy land which your forefather Abraham inhabited, and shall have the enjoyment of all good things, and thou by thy prudence shalt guide them to those good things."

Then Moses, astonished, asked, "How shall I, a private man and of no abilities, persuade my countrymen to leave the land in which they dwell and follow me, or, if they should be persuaded, how can I force Pharaoh to permit them to depart?"

But God exhorted him to be courageous, and promised to be with him, and to assist him in his words when he was to persuade men, and in his deeds when he was to perform wonders. And as a sign that what He said was true, He bade him throw his rod upon the ground. And the rod became a serpent and rolled itself round in its folds, and erected its head as if to dart at any one that might attack. Then it became a rod again. After this God bade Moses put his right hand into his bosom, and when he took it out again it was white as chalk, but afterwards it returned to its natural color. Moses also, at God's command, took some of the water that was near him and poured it upon the ground, and the color was that of blood. Then God assured him that He would be a support to him, and bade him make use of [55] those wonders in order to obtain belief among men that he was sent by God and did everything according to His commands.

So Moses returned to Jethro, and obtained leave to go to Egypt for the benefit of his own people. He took with him his wife and his children, and when he came near the borders of Egypt, Aaron, his brother, met him. He told Aaron what had happened on the mountain, and of the commands of God. And soon after, reaching the place where the Israelites lived, he also told the chief men of these commands, and when they doubted, he showed them the signs that God had taught him. So they took courage and believed that the day of their deliverance was at hand.

Now the Pharaoh was dead in whose reign Moses had fled away into Egypt, and a new Pharaoh reigned in his place. Moses went at once to his palace, and reminded him of what he had done for the Egyptians in their war against the Ethiopians, and how he had received no reward for it. And he told the king what things had happened to him on Mount Sinai, and when the king denied him he made him see the signs. Then the king was angry, and called him a bad man, who had formerly escaped from his Egyptian slavery, and now came back with deceitful tricks and wonders and magical arts to astonish him. And when he had said this, he commanded the priests to let him see the same wonderful sights, knowing that the Egyptians were skilful in magic and cunning, and he told him he was not the only person who knew them and pretended them to be divine; but that he would only be believed by the unlearned. Now when the priests threw down their rods, they became serpents. But Moses was not daunted at it and said,—

"O king, I do not myself despise the wisdom of the Egyptians, but I say that what I do is as much superior to what these do by magic arts and tricks as divine power exceeds the power of man. But I will show that what I do is [56] not done by craft or deceit, but that these signs appear by the providence and power of God."

And when he had said this, he cast his rod down upon the ground, and commanded it to turn itself into a serpent. It obeyed him, and went all round, and devoured the rods of the Egyptians, until it had consumed them all. It then returned to its own form, and Moses took it into his hand again.

However, the king was no more moved than before; and becoming very angry, he told Moses that he should gain nothing by this his cunning and shrewdness against the Egyptians. And he commanded him that was the chief task-master over the Hebrews to give them no rest from their labors, but to compel them to submit to greater oppressions than before. And though he had allowed them straw before for making their bricks, he would allow it them no longer; but he made them work hard at brick-making in the day-time and gather straw in the night. Now when their labor was thus doubled upon them, they laid the blame upon Moses, and complained bitterly that he had done them no good, but only harm. Yet Moses did not let his courage sink for the king's threatenings, nor did he abate his zeal on account of the Hebrews' complaints, but he nerved himself, and set his soul resolutely against them both, and used his utmost diligence to procure liberty to his countrymen. So he went to the king, and besought him to let the Hebrews go. He warned him not to oppose the designs of God, for if he did he would bring down grievous punishments upon himself and his people, and he further told him that the Israelites would go out of the country even against the will of Pharaoh.


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