‘Go,’ he said, ‘and serve the Lord your God, even as you have said it is required of you.’ He turned, stooping, then raised his haggard face and looked earnestly on Moses. ‘As for thee,’ he said, ‘I entreat thee to give me thy blessing in the mercy of thy God, for the bitterness of death is come upon me.’

He commanded that all things that might be required should be given to the elders without stint, and that Moses himself should be obeyed in everything as he might direct. Word was instantly sent to every household in Israel. But all were in readiness.

They divided what they had to carry away with them between those who could bear it best. Their beasts of burden were already fed and watered, saddled and laden. They took the raw dough they had prepared for baking, they wrapped up their kneading-bowls in the woollen mantles they wore upon their shoulders, and which would serve them as a covering by night. They gathered their children together, and with their asses, their flocks and their herds, assembled in companies, each man in the place that had been appointed him beforehand, under his own chief or elder.

Though the moon gave light in abundance, torches flared; the night was thronged with their host. And the Egyptians—those who dwelt round about Goshen and in its chief city—far from attempting to stay or hinder them in their flight, urged them on. They left their dead, and with terror knocking at their hearts, adjured the Hebrews to intercede between them and the vengeance of Jehovah. Throughout their lives these Hebrews had been reviled and scorned and hated. Now the Egyptians loaded them with gifts and whatever might prove of service to them. They bribed them with their most precious possessions—jewels of silver and jewels of gold, vessels and fine raiment, their ear-rings, amulets, bracelets, and golden fillets. Their one desire was only to persuade and to incite them to be gone. ‘Else,’ they cried one to another, ‘we be all dead men!’

At break of dawn on the fifteenth day of the first month and in the springtime of this their first new year appointed by Moses, the whole host of Israel, men, women and children, in their thousands, and in their clans and tribes, began their march. They went up armed and with a high hand out of Egypt. And a multitude went with them—Egyptians who had intermarried with them, and prisoners taken in the frontier wars who had shared in the labours of the slave gangs. The earth shook with their trampling, and the cold air of day break was filled with the bleating and bellowing of their flocks and cattle and the sound of their chantings as they marched on.

Thus was fulfilled the vision which comforted Jacob when he dreamed that night long gone at Beersheba on his journey into Egypt. So Joseph himself had foreseen and foretold in the hour that comes before death. Nor was the solemn oath that had been sworn to him forgotten. All these years his bones—Pharaoh’s ring upon his finger, the necklet of gold on his breast—had lain close-swathed and embalmed in spices in the painted and gilded coffin that had been prepared for it by the most skilful of the embalmers in the service of the king, his master. The bearers chosen by Moses himself lifted it from its abiding- place in Goshen and bore it away, to keep it in safe charge until they should come at length into Canaan, the land of his desire. There to lay it to rest for ever in Shechem, in the tomb that had belonged to his father Jacob.

They pressed on—an exceeding great multitude—by way of the long, narrow, cultivated strip of land that lay eastward of Goshen; from Rameses on to Succoth or Pithom, the great cities which the Hebrews themselves had built during their long bondage in Egypt. Thus they followed the canal of fresh water between the Nile and the sea which had been made by the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt when Moses was a child. It was a full four days’ journey. Each nightfall they pitched their camp, and with every dawn prepared to continue on their way. They made what speed they could, but were compelled to keep pace with their flocks and herds, and were encumbered with heavy burdens.

And the angel of the Lord went before them, by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them the way, and by dark in a pillar of fire to give them light. Thus was the angel of the Lord continually their beacon, by day and by night, in cloud or fire.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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