They cut canals and built dams, by means of which the waters of the great river of Egypt were heaped up to higher levels for the irrigation of the soil. They dug ditches and made conduits, and raised water from one conduit to another by means of buckets fixed to a pole hung upon an axle between two posts—filling and emptying, filling and emptying from morn to eve, to water the Egyptians’ crops, to replenish their fish-ponds, and flush the conduits in their gardens and orchards.

In the glare and heat of the sun they laboured all day in the desert quarries. They hewed and cut and dragged away over wooden rollers or on sleds huge ponderous blocks of marble and granite to serve for the building of Pharaoh’s temples to the strange gods of Egypt. For monument and sculpture also—gigantic images and obelisks fretted with hieroglyphs proclaiming the valour, glory and wisdom of the king.

But for the most part these slave-gangs were set to the making of bricks. Some dug out the silt or mud. Others carried water in their water-jars from the tanks or cisterns to moisten it. Yet others kneaded the mud, trampling it with their feet until it was smooth and fit for use, and mixing with it chopped-up straw to bind it together. The more skilled among them then shaped the mud thus prepared by forcing it into great sanded moulds stamped within with the symbol of the king.

The bricks thus shaped, while still soft, were carried off on a framework of wood, slung from a yoke over the shoulders, and were stacked in rows one above the other, with chinks for air between them, and straw to prevent them from sticking together. There they lay until they were baked dry and black in the blazing heat of the sun.

Such were the labours of the Hebrews—the men of Israel—under Pharaoh, which they were compelled to endure without complaint; wageless, hopeless and ill-fed. Yet, the more bitterly they were oppressed and afflicted, the more they increased in numbers and the further they spread; and the Egyptians came to look on them with loathing and contempt.

Seeing at last that no toil or hardship he had devised could keep them in subjection, Pharaoh decreed that of all the children born to the women of the Hebrews only their daughters should be allowed to live. Their sons, their men-children, were to be snatched away at birth from their mothers’ breasts, and flung into the Nile. As he commanded, so it was done. There was lamentation and weeping in Goshen. And for this, beyond all else, the people of Israel feared and hated Pharaoh and his overseers; but were powerless to revolt.

None the less in spite of this decree there came about the deliverance of Israel; for the Lord raised up a leader among them whose name has been famous throughout the ages and even to this day.

There was a woman of the family of Levi whose name was Jochabed. She was a widow when her husband had taken her to wife, and she already had two children, a daughter named Miriam, and a son, but three years old, called Aaron. She was of a quick and fearless spirit, and when a second son was born to her, she hid him away. He was fair in face beyond any child in Israel, strong and comely, and she counted her own life as nothing so long as he was safe. For three whole months she nursed and tended him and kept him hidden, though every passing footfall and his least little cry filled her with terror that her secret might be discovered.

When she could hide him no longer, she began to think within herself what she should do to keep him safe. And there came a bold device into her mind. She went down one evening to the brink of the river, and gathered there a bundle of the long flowery-tufted reeds or bulrushes, that grew in its shallows. Of these she made a little ark or coffer or jonket, hollow within and rounded without, and woven close. And she plaited a roof or lid to it, on a hinge.

When the ark had been securely woven together in the fashion of basket-makers, she daubed it over with slime and pitch to make it water-tight, even as long ages before had been the great ark of Noah himself; and she left it to dry.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.