The Death of Moses

Thus came Israel out of Egypt; and the armies of Pharaoh were to trouble them no more. But his hand was mighty and this blow to his pride bitter to bear. They made no delay therefore and set forward on their great pilgrimage. Even when there was nothing to impede or harass them, the movement of such a multitude was very tardy since the whole host was compelled to keep pace with the children and weaklings, their flocks and herds. They had but few beasts and were heavily burdened, and the day’s advance from one night’s encampment to the next was a distance seldom more than five miles.

Their course at first lay through the desert of Shur or Etham, a region of shifting sands along the eastern shore of the uppermost reaches of the Red Sea, where there is little green pasture and well-springs of water are few. Beyond this desert lay the wilderness of Sin. Here they turned eastward and came to Rephidim where they defeated the tribesmen of Amalek who had raided and pestered them on their way, and strove to prevent them from reaching the sweet waters of Paran.

They then advanced, ever ascending, towards the mountains of Sinai, through a country well-watered and fertile with groves of palm trees and acacias, and thickets of thorn and willow, the feathery tamarisk and the bright-leafed myrrh.

And when Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard that the Israelites were encamped at Sinai, forthwith he set out with his daughter Zipporah and her two sons to welcome Moses. And Moses went out to receive his father-in-law, and bowed himself before him and kissed him, and they rejoiced to meet again. And Moses brought his wife and his sons and Jethro to his tent, and there he told him of all that had passed since their last farewell. And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel. ‘Now I know,’ he said, ‘that the God you worship is greater than the Gods of Egypt and all gods beside.’ And he himself offered up sacrifice, and they feasted together, Moses and Aaron and the chief men of Israel.

By Jethro’s wise counsel, seeing that the labour of government and the dispensing of justice was too great a burden to be borne by one commander, Moses chose out the ablest men of Israel and made them leaders over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, and of fifties and of tens. And he made many laws and ordinances for the guidance of the people and decreed the penalties and punishment of any who should offend against them. In all small matters the rulers he had chosen sat in judgment over the people. Only causes of great moment and difficulty were brought before Moses himself.

The day came when Jethro must return to his own people, and he went his way. But the host of Israel remained encamped among the mountains of Sinai, amidst gigantic precipices of granite and porphyry. And in their presence, though they were forbidden to draw near beyond the bounds set for them, Moses ascended the sacred mountain called Horeb, on whose slopes, when he sat keeping Jethro’s sheep, he had seen the bush that had burned with flame yet was not consumed—the glory of the angel of the Lord.

Alone upon its summit he communed with God, and the utmost heights of the mountain were hidden in a veil of flaming splendour, and the mountain quaked, with thunderings and lightnings. There Moses remained in communion with the Lord forty days and forty nights, and there tablets of stone, inscribed with commandments for the obedience of Israel, were committed to his charge.

And because he tarried there so long, the people were afraid and began to murmur, believing that he had forsaken them and would return no more. They abandoned their faith in the Lord Jehovah. Even in the shadow of the mountain they gathered together the gold ear-rings worn by their wives and sons and daughters. And following the rites of the Egyptians who in the form of an ox worshipped a god named Ptah, Aaron himself set up the image of a golden calf. And on the morrow after it was made, they rose up early and offered sacrifice before it and prostrated themselves; and when they had made sacrifice, they sat down to feast, and rose up to dance and to chaunt wild songs before this golden calf, trusting in that for their salvation.…

  By PanEris using Melati.

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