The Feast of the Passover

He returned to Goshen. He knew that the long conflict of mind and will with Pharaoh was at an end. In the presence of his nobles and counsellors he had not only defied him face to face, but had forewarned him of a calamity compared with which the judgments that had already befallen Egypt would be as dust in the balance, and which would pierce the king himself to his very heart.

No further parleyings with Pharaoh were now conceivable. They were only once to meet again. And though not even the most headstrong and violent of the king’s advisers might dare counsel the king to arraign or destroy Moses openly, there were other methods of ridding Egypt of its enemies. Moses knew well that from this day forward his life would be in unceasing danger. But he gave no thought to it.

Since he had returned from his quiet and serene existence as a shepherd with Jethro the priest of Midian, he had known no release from care. Each day that passed had brought its own ordeal. But his diffidence and self-distrust had left him. He was filled with a great weariness, but his spirit was unshaken. He had come back to his own people after many years’ absence; and few had remembered him. Fewer still among the chief men of Israel had not in the long struggle wavered in their trust in him as their leader.

But now, though to all intents he might seem as yet to have failed in his mission, not only was his name a thing of dread in Egypt, but he was beloved and renowned among his own people, and he was hailed throughout Israel as the herald sent from the Eternal to free them from their woes.

When doubt assailed him, he had spent long hours of meditation in solitude on the fringes of the desert. In that silence, broken only by the night cries of beast and bird, he had watched the stars wheel onward to their setting, and in a voiceless communion of heart and soul he had learned all that the Lord God would require of him. He cast all thought of himself from out of his mind, and laboured fearlessly on in ardour for Israel. And he knew that the day of deliverance was at hand.

He called together the elders. They met by stealth and after nightfall, and Moses laid before them all that had passed during his last audience with the king. He warned them that in his fury Pharaoh might decree inhuman reprisals against the Hebrews to avenge the humiliation he had endured in the presence of his courtiers. He might endeavour by every crafty means he could devise to incite them to open revolt. But they must endure in patience whatever the day might bring forth. They must be strong and resolute; they must trust in the Lord God of Israel.

Egypt’s pride was soon to be broken; for what had now been demanded of the king was no longer a mere three days’ truce from their quarries and brickyards, but a release for evermore. They were about to set out on a journey from which there would be no turning back. Jehovah would scatter his enemies, and Israel would go free. Canaan, the land of promise, their predestined home—this must be the vision continually before their eyes. The whole world should hear that they were no longer a captive and helpless race enslaved by a tyrant, but a nation free among nations, the chosen people of God.

Many of those who listened were old men wasted with age and weariness. From childhood their days had been spent in a cowed and hopeless servitude. The lash had been their wages; sleep their only refuge from misery; and death their one assurance of release. Yet they had lived on and suffered and endured.

Others among them were in the flower of their strength and manhood, lean, scarred and ravaged with toil, hollow of cheek, but fierce-eyed, fanatical and on fire with hatred of their oppressors. And they too sat motionless and intent. One and all, they had listened in silence, and, except for the fleeting looks upon their faces and the light that burned in their eyes, had showed no sign of what was passing in their minds.

But in the pause that followed, there rose up from among them a murmur, a sigh, of joy and longing beyond all speech. The radiance of a hope no longer faint and far had broken in upon them as if with the light of the risen sun. Tears coursed down their cheeks, furrowed with woe and despair. They bowed their heads and worshipped.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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