Egypt is Afraid

Days and weeks passed by, yet reports continued to reach the king of the havoc to the crops and the loss of life and property that had been caused by the tempest and the pestilence and the disasters that had gone before. His realm was seething with discontent. Rumours that Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, was the cause of their troubles had filled the people with fear and dark forebodings. The whole traffic and commerce of the country was almost at a standstill and its market-places were deserted and empty of merchandise. Moreover, report of the fatalities that had fallen upon Egypt had already spread far beyond its confines and among kings and nations ever awaiting an opportunity to assail her when she showed signs of weakness or was divided against herself. In the midst of these cares and anxieties, Moses appeared yet again in the presence of Pharaoh. He was received in one of the lesser rooms of the palace and but a few of the king’s most confidential advisers were in attendance upon him.

‘Thou hast seen. Thou hast heard,’ said Moses. ‘Thou knowest the evils that have come upon Egypt. At the mere nod of thy head my people could go free to worship their God. Yet again, and yet again, hast thou withdrawn the solemn word spoken with thine own mouth. Take warning, O king, while still there is time. Heed now, though it be late, the will of God that I have made known to thee, lest his judgment fall upon thee yet more heavily and thou cry unto him, but in vain, in despair and remorse. For I say unto thee, if still thou art obdurate, after the tempest shall come the locusts. They shall descend upon Egypt and shall devour every green thing growing that has escaped the hail. Their destruction shall be such as none alive has witnessed since the day that he was born!’

When he had withdrawn from the presence of the king, his nobles and counsellors began to murmur among themselves. They had the welfare of Egypt at heart. And though few of them were yet convinced that the calamities which had befallen the country were due to the intervention of a God they neither knew nor reverenced, they had themselves seen the bitter humiliation of Pharaoh’s priests and magicians. They had learned also that this detested leader of the Hebrews was a man to whom all their abstruse and secret learning was an open book; that his deed assuredly followed his word; and that he was possessed of powers against which Pharaoh’s craft and obstinacy might serve him for a while but which would at last overwhelm him in defeat.

They spoke openly. ‘How long,’ they said to Pharaoh, ‘shall this man be allowed to entice us on from one destruction to another? The whole country has been laid waste by him and is rank with discontent. Pharaoh’s enemies exult at news of it. And now this traitor threatens us with yet another plague that will destroy the little that remains to us of our fruit, our crops, our very bread. Famine will surely follow. Our foes will descend on us and the glories and conquests even of the king, thy father, be wiped clean away. These Hebrews ask nothing more than a brief respite from their labours that they may sacrifice to their God. We beseech thee then to placate them and to let them go. The hand of Pharaoh is mighty; he can afford to relax it a little that at his own chosen moment he may clench it the more irresistibly.’

But there were others of his counsellors who believed that the appeal made by Moses was merely a device, and that as soon as the Hebrews were released from the discipline and control of their overseers and taskmasters, his design was to lead them in open rebellion against the lordship of Egypt. Pharaoh wavered between the one faction and the other. In spite of what had gone before, he paid little regard to Moses’ threat, for locusts were seldom seen in Egypt and seemed to him of small account. But he thought to gain his own ends by compromise and craft. He sent again for Moses and Aaron and those of the elders of Israel who were with them.

‘It must by now,’ said Pharaoh when they were come before him, ‘have been made plain to you that menaces are powerless to move me. It has never been my desire to refuse whatever may be just and right. In stubborn folly you thought to defy me, and clemency alone has prevented my vengeance from falling not only on you yourselves but on your people. They shall make their pilgrimage; they shall keep their feast in the desert. But first let me know which among them shall be chosen to go, and which of them shall remain in Goshen?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter 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.