The Petition to Pharaoh

Moses went down into the valley and gathered together his flock and led them back across the desert to Jethro. He said nothing of what had passed during the days of his absence. His face was changed. The vision he had seen haunted his eyes. He spoke like one who has been very near to death and what lies beyond it, and whose mind is far away. He told Jethro that he wished to leave his service awhile, and to return into Egypt. ‘Let me go, I pray thee,’ he said, ‘so that I may visit my own people again and those near and dear to me in my own country, for I know not even if they are still alive.’

Jethro was very gracious to him; the years they had spent together had deepened their affection one for another. He could see that some strange event of which he himself had no knowledge had deeply moved and troubled Moses, and he divined a little of what was in his mind. He asked no questions, but fondly embraced him. ‘Go in peace,’ he said, ‘and may all things be well with thee and with thy brethren from whom thou hast been parted so long.’

When they had first met together, Moses had been a stranger, friendless and solitary, his very life in danger. The day was soon to come when he would return into Midian and to Mount Horeb, and they would meet again, but he himself would then no longer be a shepherd of sheep, but the leader and commander of the whole host of Israel.

Having bidden his wife and his two sons farewell, Moses set out on his journey. And while he was passing through the wilderness at the foot of Mount Horeb he met his brother Aaron who was himself come to visit him. He kissed him and great was their happiness. They had much to tell one another; and as they slowly paced along side by side through the parched flats and sandhills of the desert towards Goshen, or sat at evening in the camping-place where they were to sleep, Moses shared with his brother the anxious thoughts that filled his mind. He told him of the wonder of the burning bush and all that the Lord had bidden him do in Egypt, and of the signs and portents that were to be revealed. And they faced together the supreme ordeal that lay before them, giving one another confidence and resolution.

When they came into Goshen, they called together the elders or chief men of Israel, and Aaron revealed to them everything that Moses had told him concerning his communion with the Lord on the sacred mountain of Horeb, and Moses himself showed them the signs and wonders of the Lord. The people believed. The Lord God had seen their sorrow and was compassionate. Their hearts were filled with joy and longing and ardour; they bowed their heads and worshipped.

On a day appointed by Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron and the elders of Israel were brought into the hall of audience in the palace of the king to present their petition. They prostrated themselves before him and made obeisance. And Pharaoh demanded what reason they had for appearing before him.

They answered him: ‘We come not as suppliants before Pharaoh, but have been sent hither by the Lord, the God of Israel. Our words are his words, and it is his command that we bring to the king. Thus saith the Lord: “Let my people go out of Egypt that they may make a pilgrimage into the wilderness, and there keep a solemn feast and offer sacrifice to their God.” ’

As he listened, the face of Pharaoh darkened with scorn and derision. ‘And who is this God,’ he said, ‘that I should regard him? I neither know nor heed him. Nor will I let the Hebrews go.’

They answered him: ‘We entreat thee to have patience and to listen to our petition, seeing that it is not merely we, thy servants, who plead before thee, but the Lord God of the Hebrews who hath made known his will unto us. It is little that we ask: only that our people may be granted a brief respite from their toil in the king’s quarries and brick-fields, and may go forth on a three days’ pilgrimage into the wilderness there to sacrifice to their God. Else peradventure some great evil may befall them—pestilence or the sword.’

‘I say unto thee,’ said Pharaoh in his wrath, ‘I neither know this God nor heed him. If God he be, what sign or token canst thou show that he has sent thee? The Gods are mighty, and manifest themselves

  By PanEris using Melati.

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