The Burning Bush

As Moses grew up, he revealed rare gifts of mind and spirit. He was by nature quiet and patient and not easily roused. But, once angered, his heart burned like a furnace, and when he was resolved on a thing no earthly power could turn him aside from it. His dark eyes were set deep beneath clear-cut brows and, unlike the young men of the Egyptians, a short square beard covered his cheek and chin.

What he gave his mind to he mastered; and though he was slow of speech, he was of a spirit that could persist, and press on through all dangers and hindrances. He was a born leader of men and of a will that commands armies. He became learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and while still in his youth was admitted to the college of the priests in On or Heliopolis, the City of the Sun, where the father of Joseph’s wife had been High Priest. There, as legend tells, he was known as Asrasif.

But though he was of the high-born company of the priests, he kept himself apart from their mysteries and rites in the vast and solemn temple of Osiris, mightiest of the divinities worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, and judge of the under-world of their dead. Like Joseph before him, he was faithful to the Lord God of Israel. He prayed to him in solitude under the open heavens, his face towards the east.

Obedient none the less to the severe discipline of the priests, he shared with them in all exercises of the mind, music and geometry and mathematics, and was familiar with the secret knowledge and magic of his own age, and the lore of the starry-minded Chaldeans, the Assyrians, and the Greeks.

He was skilled, too, it is recorded, in the strategy of war, and served as an officer in the armies of Egypt when they defeated the invading hordes of the Ethiopians. From childhood he had been accustomed to the graces and manners and luxury of an Egyptian palace, but he knew of what race he was, and that he owed his life and all that he had to his mother’s love, and his heart grieved continually over the tribulations of Israel.

When Moses was grown up and in the full years of his manhood, he set out one day, as was his custom, to visit his own people. And he came to where slavegangs of the Hebrews were at work under their foremen and an Egyptian overseer. By means of wooden rollers laid upon the sand, they were hauling a prodigious stone that had been hewn out of its quarry to the place where it was to be used for building.

The sun blazed down upon the tawny sands of the desert; the air shimmered like molten glass. These Hebrews, haggard and emaciated, stared like brute beasts; the hands of those as yet not broken in to the rope were blistered and bleeding. And as Moses watched them, they stayed a moment to recover their breath, panting with exhaustion, the sweat streaming down from their shaven heads and sun-scorched faces.

But the master of the slave-gang gave them no respite. With curses and lashes he drove them on, treating them with less forbearance than he would things without life. In compassion of their misery Moses could hardly restrain the anger that flamed up in him. He turned swiftly away and strode on.

Throughout the day their cowed and hopeless faces, the looks they had cast him, their weal-scarred shoulders, haunted his mind. He poured out his indignation to his elder brother, Aaron, sharing with him his shame and sorrow at the woes of Israel.

Still in this trouble of soul, he was returning alone a little before nightfall by the way he had come, when a cry of anguish suddenly pierced the quiet, so shrill and piteous that it might be that of a snared beast in the throes of death. He turned aside instantly out of the track. It was no beast that had uttered the cry, but a young Hebrew, one of his own kindred, who was pleading in vain for mercy against the cruelties of an Egyptian that stood over him.

Unseen of either, Moses drew swiftly near. He glanced hither and thither; a dreadful darkness had swept over his eyes. And like an angel of wrath he ran in upon the Egyptian, and smote him, and flung him lifeless to the ground. All sounds were hushed in the evening peace. Moses stooped; he was alone,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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