Legends of Old Testament Characters/Chapter 32




AFTER the death of Jacob, his descendants were drawn into servitude by soft and hypocritical speeches. Fifty-four years had passed since the death of Joseph.

Joseph had had the good fortune to acquire the favour of Mechron, the son and successor of that Pharaoh who had raised him from the dungeon to be second in the kingdom. Almost all the inhabitants of Egypt had loved Joseph; only a few voices were raised in murmurs at a foreigner exercising such extensive powers.

The successors of the patriarchs mingled among the people of the land and learned their ways; and many of them abandoned the rite of circumcision, and spoke the language of Mizraem.

Then God withdrew His protection for a while; and the former love of the Egyptians towards the Hebrews was turned into implacable hatred. By degrees the privileges of the children of Israel were encroached upon, and they were oppressed with heavy taxes, from which hitherto they had been held exempt.

Afterwards the king exacted from them their labour without pay; he built a great castle, and required the Hebrews to erect it for him at their own cost.

Twenty-two years after the death of Joseph, Levi died, who had outlived all his other brothers.

Fields, vineyards, and houses, which Joseph had given to his brethren, were now reclaimed by the natives of Egypt, and the children of Israel were enslaved.

The Egyptians, effeminate, and hating work, fond of pleasure and display, had envied the prosperity of the Hebrews, who had thriven in Goshen, and whose wives bore sometimes six and sometimes twelve infants at a birth.

They also feared lest this people, increasing upon them, should become more numerous than they, and should seize upon the power, and enslave the native population.

Nine years after the death of Joseph, King Mechron died, and was succeeded by his son Melol.

But before pursuing the history of the oppression of the Hebrews, we must relate some events that had occurred before this time.

When the body of Jacob, according to his last will, had been taken to the cave of Machpelah, Esau and his sons and a large body of followers hastened to oppose the burial of Jacob. After the death of Isaac, Esau and Jacob had come to an agreement, by which all the moveable property of the father was made over to Esau, and all that was immoveable, especially the burial cave, was apportioned to Jacob. But now Esau desired to set aside this agreement, and, as first-born, to claim the tomb as his, trusting that the sons of Jacob could not prove the agreement.

But no sooner had he raised this objection, than Naphtali, who was swift of foot, ran into Egypt, and returned in a few hours with the writing of agreement.

Esau, seeing himself baffled, had recourse to arms; and a fight took place, in which Esau was killed, and his followers were put to flight or taken as captives to Egypt, where they became the slaves of the Israelites. Amongst these captives was Zepho, son of Eliphaz, son of Esau.

Even in Joseph's lifetime, the Edomites made incursions into Egypt to recover their captive relatives, but their attempts led to no other result than the tightening of the chains which bound the captives. Later, however, Zepho succeeded in effecting his escape, and he took refuge with Angias, king of Dinhaba (Ethiopia), who made him chief captain of his host.

Zepho persuaded the king to make war upon Egypt. Among the servants of Angias was a youth of fifteen, named Balaam, son of Beor, very skilful in the arts of witchcraft. The king bade the youthful necromancer divine who would succeed in the proposed war. Balaam formed chariots and horses and fighting men of wax, plunged them in water, which he stirred with palm twigs; and it was seen by all who stood by, that the men and horses representing the Egyptians and Hebrews floated, whereas those representing the Ethiopians sank.

Angias, deterred by this augury, refused to have anything to do with a war against Egypt. Then Zepho left him, and betook himself to the land of the Hittites, and he succeeded in combining that nation, the Edomites, and the Ishmaelites together in making an invasion of Egypt.

To repel them, the Hebrews were summoned from the land of Goshen, but the Egyptians would not receive their allies into the camp, fearing lest they should unite with their kindred nations, and deliver them up to destruction.

Zepho now asked Balaam, who had followed him, to divine the end of the battle, but the attempt failed; and the future remained closed to him. But Zepho, full of confidence, led the combined army against the Egyptians, repulsed them at every point, and drove them back upon the camp of the Hebrews. Then the Israelites charged the advancing forces flushed with victory, who, little expecting such a determined onslaught, were thrown into confusion, and routed with great loss. The Hebrews pursued them to the confines of Ethiopia, cutting them down all along the way, and then they desisted and returned: and on numbering their band—they were but a handful—they found that they had not lost one man. They now looked out for their allies, the Egyptians, and found that they had deserted and fled; therefore, full of wrath, they returned to Goshen in triumph, and slew the deserters, with many words of contempt and ridicule.[2]

Thus the Hebrews were puffed up with pride, regarding themselves as invincible; and the Egyptians were filled with dread, lest this small people should resolve on seizing upon the supremacy, and should subjugate them.

Therefore the reigning Pharaoh and his council assembled to consult what should be done; and this was decided:—"The cities Pithom and Rameses (Tanis and Heliopolis) are not strong enough to withstand a foe, therefore they must be strengthened." And a royal decree went forth over all the land of Egypt and Goshen, commanding all the inhabitants, both Egyptians and Hebrews, to build. Pharaoh himself set the example by taking trowel and basket in hand, and putting a brick mould on his neck. Whoever saw this hastened to do likewise, and all who were reluctant were stimulated by the overseers with these words, "See how the king works. Will you not imitate his activity?"

Thus the Israelites went to the work, and laid the mould upon their necks, little suspecting the guile that was in the hearts of the king and his councillors.

At the close of the first day, the Hebrews had made a large number of bricks; and this number was now imposed upon them as the amount of their daily task.

Thus passed a month, and by degrees the Egyptian workmen were withdrawn, yet the Hebrews were paid the regular wage.

When a year and four months had elapsed, not an Egyptian was to be seen making bricks and building; and the wage was stopped for the future, but the Hebrews were kept to their work.

The harshest and most cruel men were appointed to be their overseers, and if one of the Israelites asked for his wage, or fainted under his burden, he was beaten or put in the stocks.

When Pithom and Rameses were walled, the Israelites were employed to strengthen with forts all the other cities of Egypt, then to build storehouses and pyramids, to dig canals for the Nile, and to rear dykes against the overflow. They were also employed to dig and plough the fields, to garden and prune the fruit-trees, and to exercise trades. They were engaged from early dawn till late at night, and because the way from their homes was often far, they were forced to sleep in the open air, upon the bare ground.[3]

As the life of the Israelites became embittered to them, they called the king Merer, "the embitterer," instead of Melol, "the grinder," though that was appropriate enough, one would have supposed.[4]

But matters grew worse; the Edomites and Hittites again threatened Egypt, and Pharaoh ordered a closer guard to be kept, and heavier tasks to be laid upon the Hebrews.

Notwithstanding all attempts to crush the spirit of this unfortunate people and to diminish their numbers, they were sustained by hope in God, for a voice was heard from heaven, "This people shall increase abundantly, and multiply."

Whilst the men of Israel slept exhausted after their unspeakable oppression of mind and body, the faithful women laboured to relieve and strengthen them. They hastened to the springs to bring pure water to their husbands to drink, and, by the mercy of the All Merciful, it fell out that their pitchers were found, each time, to contain half water and half fish.

These gentle and diligent women dressed the fish, and prepared other good meats for their husbands, and they sought them at their work with the food, and with their cheerful words of encouragement. This loving attention of the women soothed the hearts of the men, and gave them fresh energy.

When 125 years had elapsed since Jacob came into Egypt, the fifty-fourth year after Joseph's death, the elders and councillors of Egypt presented themselves before Pharaoh, and complained to him that the people increased and multiplied and became very great in the land, so that they covered it like the bushes in the wood; and two of the king's councillors, of whom one was Job of Uz, said to Pharaoh, "It was well that heavy tasks were laid upon the Hebrews, but that doth not suffice; it is needful that they should be diminished in number as well as enslaved. Therefore give orders to the nurses to kill every male child that is born to the Hebrews, but to save the women children alive."

This counsel pleased the king well; and what Job had advised was put in operation.

Pharaoh summoned the two Hebrew midwives before him; they were mother and daughter; some say their names were Jochebed and Miriam, but others Jochebed and Elizabeth. Now, Miriam was only five years old, nevertheless she was of the greatest assistance to her mother in nursing women. Both showed the utmost kindness to the new-born children, washed and brushed them up, said pretty things to them, and strengthened the mothers with cordials and tonic draughts. To their care the Israelites were indebted for the graceful and vigorous forms of their children; and the two women were such favourites with the people, that they called the one Shiphrah (the soother or beautifier) and the other Puah (the helper).

When they appeared before the king, and heard what he designed, Miriam's young face flushed scarlet, and she said, in anger, "Woe to the man! God will punish him for his evil deed."

The executioner would have hurried her out, and killed her for her audacity, but the mother implored pardon, saying, "O king! forgive her speech; she is only a little foolish child."

Pharaoh consented, and assuming a gentler tone, explained that the female children were to be saved alive, and that the male children were to be quietly put to death, without the knowledge of the mothers. And he threatened them, if they did not obey his wishes, that he would cast them into a furnace of fire. Then he dismissed them. But the two midwives would not fulfil his desire.

And when Pharaoh found that the men-children were saved alive, he shut up the two midwives, that the Hebrew women might be without their succour. But this availed not. And God rewarded the midwives; for of the elder Moses was born.

Five years passed, and Pharaoh dreamed that, as he sat upon his throne, an old man stood before him holding a balance. And the old man put the princes, and nobles, and elders of Egypt, and all its inhabitants into one scale, and he put into the other a sucking child, and the babe outweighed all that was in the first scale.[5]

When Pharaoh awoke, he rehearsed his dream in the ears of his wise men and magicians and soothsayers, and asked them the interpretation thereof.

Then answered Balaam, who, with his sons Jannes and Jambres, was at the court, and said, "O king, live for ever! The dream thou didst see has this signification. A child shall be born among the Hebrews who shall bring them with a strong hand out of Egypt, and before whom all thy nations shall be as naught. A great danger threatens thee and all Egypt."

Then said Pharaoh in dismay, "What shall we do? All that we have devised against this people has failed."

"Let the king suffer me to give my advice," said Jethro, one of his councillors. And when Pharaoh consented, he said, "May the king's days be multiplied! This is my advice; the people that thou oppressest is a great people, and God is their shield. All who resist them are brought to destruction; all who favour them prosper. Therefore, O king, do thou withdraw thy hand, which is heavy upon them; lighten their tasks, and extend to them thy favour."

But this advice pleased not Pharaoh nor his councillors; and his anger was kindled against Jethro, and he drove him from his court and from the country. Then Jethro went with his wife and daughter, and dwelt in the land of Midian.

Then said the king, "Job of Uz, give thy opinion."

But Job opened not his lips.

Then rose Balaam, son of Beor, and he said, "O my king, all thy attempts to hurt Israel have failed, and the people increase upon you. Think not to try fire against them, for that was tried against Abraham their father, and he was saved unhurt from the midst of the flames. Try not sword against them, for the knife was raised against Isaac their father, and he was delivered by the angel of God. Nor will hard labour injure them, as thou hast proved. Yet there remains water, that hath not yet been enlisted against them; prove them with water. Therefore my advice is—cast all their new-born sons into the river."[6]

The king hesitated not; he appointed Egyptian women to be nurses to the Hebrews, and instructed them to drown all the male children that were born; and he threatened with death those who withstood his decree. And that he might know what women were expecting to be delivered, he sent little Egyptian children to the baths, to observe the Hebrew women, and report on their appearance.

But God looked upon the mothers, and they were delivered in sleep under the shadow of fruit-trees, and angels attended on them, washed and dressed the babes, and smeared their little hands with butter and honey, that they might lick them, and, delighting in the flavour, abstain from crying, and thus escape discovery. Then the mothers on waking exclaimed:—"O most Merciful One, into Thy hands we commit our children!" But the emissaries of Pharaoh followed the traces of the women, and would have slain the infants, had not the earth gaped, and received the little babes into a hollow place within, where they were fed by angel hands with butter and honey.

The Egyptians brought up oxen and ploughed over the spot, in hopes of destroying thereby the vanished infants; but, when their backs were turned, the children sprouted from the soil, like little flowers, and walked home unperceived. Some say that 10,000 children were cast into the Nile. They were not deserted by the Most High. The river rejected them upon its banks, and the rocks melted into butter and honey around them and thus fed them,[7] and oil distilled to anoint them.

This persecution had continued for three years and four months, when, on the seventh day of the twelfth month, Adar, the astrologers and seers stood before the king and said, "This day a child is born who will free the people of Israel! This, and one thing more, have we learnt from the stars, Water will be the cause of his death;[8] but whether he be an Egyptian or an Hebrew child, that we know not."

"Very well," said Pharaoh; "then in future all male children, Egyptians as well as Hebrews, shall be cast indiscriminately into the river."

And so was it done.[9]


Kohath, son of Levi, had a son named Amram, whose life was so saintly, that death could not have touched him, had not the decree gone forth, that every child of Adam was to die.

He married Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, his aunt, and by her he had a daughter Miriam; and after four years she bore him a son, and he called his name Aaron.

Now when it was noised abroad that Pharaoh would slay all the sons of the Hebrews that were born to them, Amram thrust away his wife, and many others did the same, not that they hated their wives, but that they would spare them the grief of seeing their children put to death.[10] After three years, the spirit of prophecy came on Miriam, as she sat in the house, and she cried, "My parents shall have another son, who shall deliver Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians!" Then she said to her father, "What hast thou done? Thou hast sent thy wife away, out of thine house, because thou couldst not trust the Lord God, that He would protect the child that might be born to thee."

Amram, reproved by these words, sought his banished wife; the angel Gabriel guided him on his way, and a voice from heaven encouraged him to proceed. And when he found Jochebed, he led her to her home again.[11]

One hundred and thirty years old was Jochebed, but she was as fresh and beauteous as on the day she left her father's house.[12] She was with child, and Amram feared lest it should be a boy, and be slain by Pharaoh.

Then appeared the Eternal One to him in a dream, and bade him be of good cheer, for He would protect the child, and make him great, so that all nations should hold him in honour.

When Amram awoke, he told his dream to Jochebed, and they were filled with fear and great amazement.

After six months she bore a son, without pain. The child entered this world in the third hour of the morning, of the seventh day of the month Adar, in the year 2368 after the Creation, and the 130th year of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. And when he was born, the house was filled with light, as of the brightest sunshine.

The tender mother's anxiety for her son was increased when she noted his beauty, he was like an angel of God, and his great height and noble appearance. The parents called him Tobias (God is good) to express their thankfulness, but others say he was called Jokutiel (Hope in God). Amram kissed his daughter, Miriam, on the brow, and said, "Now I know that thy prophecy is come true."[13]

Jochebed hid the child three months in her chamber where she slept. But Pharaoh, filled with anxiety, lest a child should have escaped him, sent Egyptian women with their nurslings to the houses of the Hebrews. Now it is the custom of children, when one cries, another cries also. Therefore the Egyptian women pricked their babes, when they went into a house, and if the child were concealed therein, it cried when it heard the Egyptian baby scream. Then it was brought out and despatched.

Jochebed knew that these women were coming to her house, and that, if the child were discovered, her husband and herself would be slain by the executioner of Pharaoh.

Moreover they feared the astrologers and soothsayers, that they would read in the heavens that a male child was concealed there. "Better can we deceive them," said Amram, "if we cast the child into the water."

Jochebed took the paper flags and wove a basket, and pitched it with pitch without, and clay within, that the smell of the pitch might not offend her dear little one; and then she placed the basket amongst the rushes, where the Red Sea at that time joined the river Nile.

Then, weeping and wailing, she went away, and seeing Miriam come to meet her, she smote her on the head, and said, "Now, daughter, where is thy prophesying?"

Miriam followed the little ark, as it floated on the wash of the river, and swam in and out among the reeds; for Miriam was wondering whether the prophecy would come true, or whether it would fail. This was on the twenty-first of the month Nisan, on the day, chosen from the beginning, on which in after times Moses should teach his people the Song of Praise for their delivery at the Red Sea.[14]

Then the angels surrounded the throne of God and cried, "O Lord of the whole earth, shall this mortal child fore-ordained to chant, at the head of Thy chosen people, the great song of delivery from water, perish this day by water?"

The Almighty answered, "Ye know well that I behold all things. They that seek their salvation in their own craftiness and evil ways shall find destruction, but they who trust in Me shall never be confounded. The history of that child shall be a witness to My almighty power."

Melol, king of Egypt, had then only one daughter, whom he greatly loved; Bithia (Thermutis or Therbutis)[15] was her name. She had been married for some time to Chenephras, prince of a territory near Memphis, but was childless. This troubled her greatly, for she desired a son who might succeed her father upon the throne of Egypt.

At this time God had sent upon Egypt an intolerable heat, and the people were affected with grievous boils.[16] To cure themselves, they bathed in the Nile. Bithia also suffered, and bathed, not in the river, but in baths in the palace; but on this day she went forth by the Nile bank, though otherwise she never left her father's palace. On reaching the bathing-place she observed the ark lodged among the bulrushes, and sent one of her maids to swim out and bring it to her; but the other servants said, "O princess, this is one of the Hebrew children, who are cast out according to the command of thy royal father. It beseems thee not to oppose his commands and frustrate his will."

Scarcely had the maidens uttered these words than they vanished from the surface of the earth. The angel Gabriel had sunk them all, with the exception of the one who swam for the ark, into the bosom of the earth.

But the eagerness of the princess was so great, that she could not wait till the damsel brought her the basket, and she stretched forth her arm towards it, and her arm was lengthened sixty ells, so that she was able to take hold of the ark and draw it to land, and lift the child out of the water.

No sooner had she touched the babe, than she was healed of the boils which afflicted her, and the splendour of the face of the child was like that of the sun.[17] She looked at it with wonder, and admired its beauty. But her father's stern law made her fear, and she thought to return the child to the water, when he began to cry, for the angel Gabriel had boxed his ears to make him weep, and thus excite the compassion of the princess. Then Miriam, hid away among the rushes, and little Aaron, aged three, hearing him cry, wept also.

The heart of the princess was stirred; and compassion, like that of a mother for her babe, filled her heart. She felt for the infant yearning love as though it were her own. "Truly," said Bithia, "the Hebrews are to be pitied, for it is no easy matter to part with a child, and to deliver it over to death."

Then, fearing that there would be no safety for the babe, if it were brought into the palace, she called to an Egyptian woman who was walking by the water, and bade her suckle the child. But the infant would not take the breast from this woman, nor from any other Egyptian woman that she summoned; and this the Almighty wrought that the child might be restored to its own mother again.

Then Miriam, the sister, mingled with those who came up, and said to Bithia, with sobs, "Noble lady! vain are all thine attempts to give the child the breast from one of a different race. If thou wouldst have a Hebrew woman, then let me fetch one, and the child will suck at once."[18]

This advice pleased Bithia, and she bade Miriam seek her out a Hebrew mother.

With winged steps Miriam hastened home, and brought her mother, Jochebed, to the princess. Then the babe readily took nourishment from her, and ceased crying.

Astonished at this wonder, the king's daughter said, but unawares, the truth, for she spake to Jochebed, "Here is thy child; take and nurse the child for me, and the wage shall be two pieces of silver a day."

Jochebed did what she was bidden, but better reward than all the silver in Pharaoh's house was the joy of having her son restored to his mother's breast.

The self-same day the soothsayers and star-gazers said to Pharaoh, "The child of whom we spake to thee, that he should free Israel, hath met his fate in the water."

Therefore the cruel decree ordering the destruction of all male infants was withdrawn, and the miraculous deliverance of Moses became by this means the salvation of the whole generation. In allusion to this, Moses said afterwards to the people when he would restrain them (Numbers xi.): "Verily ye number six hundred thousand men, and ye would all have perished in the river Nile, but I was delivered from the water, and therefore ye are all alive as at this day."

After two years Jochebed weaned him, and brought him to the king's daughter. Bithia, charmed with the beauty and intelligence of the child, took him into the palace, and named him Moses (he who is drawn out of the water). Lo! a voice from heaven fell, "Daughter of Pharaoh! because thou hast had compassion on this little child and hast called him thy son, therefore do I call thee My daughter (Bithia). The foundling that thou cherishest shall be called by the name thou gavest him—Moses; and by none other name shall he be known, wheresoever the fame of him spreads under the whole heaven."

Now, in order that Moses might really pass for the child of Bithia, the princess had feigned herself to be pregnant, and then to be confined; and now Pharaoh regarded him as his true grandchild.

On account of his exceeding beauty, every one that saw him was filled with admiration, and said, "Truly, this is a king's son." And when he was taken abroad, the people forsook their work, and deserted their shops, that they might see him. One day, when Moses was three years old, Bithia led him by the hand into the presence of Pharaoh, and the queen sat by the king, and all the princes of the realm stood about him. Then Bithia presented the child to the king, and said, "Oh, sire! this child of noble mien is not really my son; he was given to me in wondrous fashion by the divine river Nile; therefore have I brought him up as my own son, and destined him to succeed thee on thy throne, since no child of my body has been granted to me."

With these words Bithia laid the boy in the king's arms, and he pressed him to his heart, and kissed him. Then, to gratify his daughter, he took from his head the crown royal, and placed it upon the temples of Moses. But the child eagerly caught at the crown, and threw it on the ground, and then alighting from Pharaoh's knee, he in childish fashion danced round it, and finally trampled it under his feet.[19]

The king and his nobles were dismayed. They thought that this action augured evil to the king through the child that was before them. Then Balaam, the son of Beor, lifted up his voice and said, "My lord and king! dost thou not remember the interpretation of thy dream, as thy servant interpreted it to thee? This child is of Hebrew extraction, and is wiser and more cunning than befits his age. When he is old he will take thy crown from off thy head, and will tread the power of Egypt under his feet. Thus have his ancestors ever done. Abraham defied Nimrod, and rent from him Canaan, a portion of his kingdom. Isaac prevailed over the king of the Philistines. Jacob took from his brother his birthright and blessing, and smote the Hivites and their king Hamor. Joseph, the slave, became chief in this realm, and gave the best of this land to his father and his brethren. And now this child will take from thee the kingdom, and will enslave or destroy thy people. There is no expedient for thee but to slay him, that Egypt become not his prey."

But Pharaoh said, "We will take other counsel, Balaam, before we decide what shall be done with this child."

Then some advised that he should be burnt with fire, and others that he should be slain with the sword. But the angel Gabriel, in the form of an old man, mingled with the councillors, and said, "Let not innocent blood be shed. The child is too young to know what he is doing. Prove whether he has any understanding and design, before you sentence him. O king! let a bowl of live coals and a bowl of precious stones be brought to the little one. If he takes the stones, then he has understanding, and discerns between good and evil; but if he thrusts his hands towards the burning coals, then he is innocent of purpose and devoid of reason."[20]

This advice pleased the king, and he gave orders that it should be as the angel had recommended.

Now when the basins were brought in and offered to Moses, he thrust out his hand towards the jewels. But Gabriel, who had made himself invisible, caught his hand and directed it towards the red-hot coals; and Moses burnt his fingers, and he put them into his mouth, and burnt his lips and tongue; and therefore it is that Moses said, in after days, "I am slow of lips and slow of tongue."[21]

Pharaoh and his council were now convinced of the simplicity of Moses, and no harm was done him. Then Bithia removed him, and brought him up in her own part of the palace.

God was with him, and he increased in stature and beauty, and Pharaoh's heart was softened towards him. He went arrayed in purple through the streets, as the son of Bithia, and a chaplet of diamonds surrounded his brows, and he consorted only with princes. When he was five years old, he was in size and knowledge as advanced as a boy of twelve.

Masters were brought for him from all quarters, and he was instructed in all the wisdom and learning of the Egyptians; and the people looked upon him with hope as their future sovereign.[22]


Moses, as he grew older, distinguished himself from all other young men of Egypt by the conquest which he acquired over himself and his youthful passions and impetuous will. Although the life of a court offered him every kind of gratification, yet he did not allow himself to be attracted by its pleasures, or to regard as permanent what he knew to be fleeting. Thus it fell out, that all his friends and acquaintances wondered at him, and doubted whether he were not a god appeared on earth. And, in truth, Moses did not live and act as did others. What he thought, that he said, and what he promised, that he fulfilled.

Moses had reached the summit of earthly greatness; acknowledged as grandson to Pharaoh, and heir to the crown. But he trusted not in the future which was thus offered to him, for he knew from Jochebed, whom he frequently visited, what was his true people, and who were his real parents. And the bond which attached him to his own house and people was in his heart, and could not be broken.

Moses went daily to Goshen to see his relations; and he observed how the Hebrews were oppressed, and groaned under their burdens. And he asked wherefore the yoke was pressed so heavily on the neck of these slaves. He was told of the advice of Balaam against the people, and of the way in which Pharaoh had sought the destruction of himself in his infancy. This information filled Moses with indignation, and alienated his affections from Pharaoh, and filled him with animosity towards Balaam.[23] But, as he was not in a position to rescue his brethren, or to punish Balaam, he cried, "Alas! I had rather die than continue to behold the affliction of my brethren." Then he took the necklace from off him, which indicated his princely position, and sought to ease the burden of the Israelites. He took the excessive loads from the women and old men, and laid them on the young and strong; and thus he seemed to be fulfilling Pharaoh's intentions in getting the work of building sooner executed, whereas, by making each labour according to his strength, their sufferings were lightened. And he said to the Hebrews, "Be of good cheer, relief is not so far off as you suppose—calm follows storm, blue sky succeeds black clouds, sunshine comes after rain. The whole world is full of change, and all is for an object."

Nevertheless Moses himself desponded; he looked with hatred upon Balaam, and lost all pleasure in the society of the Egyptians. Balaam seeing that the young man was against him, and dreading his power, escaped with his sons Jannes and Jambres to the court of Ethiopia.

The young Moses, however, grew in favour with the king, who laid upon him the great office of introducing illustrious foreigners to the royal presence.

But Moses kept ever before his eyes the aim of his life, to relieve his people from their intolerable burdens. One day he presented himself before the king and said, "Sire! I have a petition to make of thee."

Pharaoh answered, "Say on, my son."

Then said Moses, "O king! every labourer is given one day in seven for rest, otherwise his work becomes languid and unprofitable. But the children of Israel are given no day of rest, but they work from the first day of the week to the last day, without cessation; therefore is their work inferior, and it is not executed with that heartiness which might be found, were they given one day in which to recruit their strength."

Pharaoh said, "Which day shall be given to them?"

Moses said, "Suffer them to rest on the seventh day."

The king consented, and the people were given the Sabbath, on which they ceased from their labours; therefore they rejoiced greatly, and for a thousand years the last day of the week was called "The gift of Moses."[24]

As the command to destroy all the male children had been withdrawn the day that Moses was cast into the Nile, the people had multiplied greatly, and again the fears of the Egyptians were aroused. Therefore the king published a new decree, with the object of impeding the increase of the bondsmen.

He required the Egyptian task-masters to impose a tale of bricks on every man, and if at evening the tale of bricks was not made up, then, in place of the deficient bricks, even though only one brick was short, they were to take the children of those who had not made up their tale, and to build them into the wall in place of bricks.[25] Thus upon one misery another was piled.

In order that this decree might be executed with greater certainty, ten labourers were placed under one Hebrew overseer, and one Egyptian task-master controlled the ten overseers. The duty of the Hebrew overseers was to wake the ten men they were set over, every morning before dawn, and bring them to their work. If the Egyptian task-masters observed that one of the labourers was not at his post, he went to the overseer, and bade him produce the man immediately.

Now one of these overseers had a wife of the tribe of Dan, whose name was Salome, daughter of Dibri. She was beautiful and faultless in her body. The Egyptian task-master had observed her frequently, and he loved her. Then, one day, he went early to the house of her husband, and bade him arise, and go and call the ten labourers. So the overseer rose, nothing doubting, and went forth, and then the Egyptian entered and concealed himself in the house. But the overseer, returning, found him, and drew him forth, and asked him with what intent he had hidden himself there; and Moses drew nigh. Now Moses was known to the Hebrews as merciful, and ready to judge righteously their causes; so the man ran to Moses, and told him that he had found the Egyptian task-master concealed in his house.

And Moses knew for what intent the man had done thus, and his anger was kindled, and he raised a spade to smite the man on the head and kill him.

But whilst the spade was yet in his hand, before it fell, Moses said within himself, "I am about to take a man's life; how know I that he will not repent? How know I that if I suffer him to live, he may beget children who will do righteously and serve the Lord? Is it well that I should slay this man?"

Then Moses's eyes were opened, and he saw the throne of God, and the angels that surrounded it, and God said to him, "It is well that thou shouldst slay this Egyptian, and therefore have I called thee hither. Know that he would never repent, nor would his children do other than work evil, wert thou to give him his life."

So Moses called on the name of the Most High and smote; but before the spade touched the man, as the sound of the name of God reached his ears, he fell and died.[26]

Then Moses looked on the Hebrews who had crowded round, and he said to them, "God has declared that ye shall be as the sand of the sea-shore. Now the sand falls and it is noiseless, and the foot of man presses it, and it sounds not. Therefore understand that ye are to be silent as is the sand of the sea-shore, and tell not of what I have this day done."

Now when the man of the Hebrews returned home, he drove out his wife Salome, because he had found the Egyptian concealed in his house, and he gave her a writing of divorcement, and sent her away. Then the Hebrews talked among themselves at their work, and some said he had done well, and others that he had done ill. There were at their task two young men, brothers, Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, of the tribe of Reuben, and they strove together on this subject, and Dathan in anger lifted his hand, and would have smitten Abiram. Then Moses came up and stayed him, and cried, "What wickedness art thou doing, striking thy comrade? It beseems you not to lay hands on each other."

Boldly did Dathan answer: "Who made thee, beardless youth, a lord and ruler over us? We know well that thou art not the son of the king's daughter, but of Jochebed. Wilt thou slay me as thou didst the Egyptian yesterday?"

"Alas!" said Moses, "now I see that the evil words, and evil acts, and evil thoughts of this people will fight against them, and frustrate the loving-kindness of the Lord towards them."

Then Dathan and Abiram went before Pharaoh, and told him that Moses had slain an Egyptian task-master; and Pharaoh's anger was kindled against Moses, and he cried, "Enough of evil hath been prophesied against thee, and I have not heeded it, and now thou liftest thy hand against my servants!"

For he had, for long, been slowly turning against Moses, when he saw that he walked not in the ways of the Egyptians, and that he loved the king's enemies, and hated the king's friends. Then he consulted his soothsayers and his councillors, and they gave him advice that he should put Moses to death with the sword. Therefore the young man, Moses, was brought forth, and he ascended the scaffold, and the executioner stood over him with his sword, the like of which was not in the whole world. And when the king gave the word, the headsman smote. But the Lord turned the neck of Moses into marble, and the sword bit not into it.

Instantly, before the second blow was dealt, the angel Michael took from the executioner his sword and his outward semblance, and gave to the headsman the semblance of Moses, and he smote at the executioner, and took his head from off his shoulders. But Moses fled away, and none observed him. And he went to the king of Ethiopia.[27]

Now the king of Ethiopia, Kikannos (Candacus) by name, was warring against his enemies; and when he left his capital city, Meroe, at the head of a mighty army, he left Balaam and his two sons regents during his absence.

Whilst the king was engaged in war, Balaam and his sons conspired against the king, and they bewitched the people with their enchantments, and led them from their allegiance, and persuaded them to submit to Balaam as their king. And Balaam strengthened the city on all sides. Sheba, or Meroe, was almost impregnable, as it was surrounded by the Nile and the Astopus. On two sides Balaam built walls, and on the third side, between the Nile and the city, he dug countless canals, into which he let the water run. And on the fourth side he assembled innumerable serpents. Thus he made the city wholly impregnable.

When King Kikannos returned from the war, he saw that his capital was fortified, and he wondered; but when he was refused admission, he knew that there was treason.

One day he endeavoured to surmount the walls, but was repulsed with great slaughter; and the next day he threw thirty pontoons across the river, but when his soldiers reached the other side, they were engulfed in the canals, of which the water was impelled with foaming fury by great mill-wheels. On the third day he assaulted the town on the fourth side, but his men were bitten by the serpents and died. Then King Kikannos saw that the only hope of reducing the city was by famine; so he invested it, that no provisions might be brought into it.

Whilst he sat down before the capital, Moses took refuge in his camp, and was treated by him with great honour and distinction.

As the siege protracted itself through nine years, Kikannos fell ill and died.

Then the chief captains of his army assembled, and determined to elect a king, who might carry on the siege with energy, and reduce the city with speed, for they were weary of the long investment. So they elected Moses to be their king, and they threw off their garments and folded them, and made thereof a throne, and set Moses thereon, and blew their trumpets, and cried "God save King Moses!"[28]

And they gave him the widow of Kikannos to wife, and costly gifts of gold and silver and precious stones were brought to him, but all these he laid aside in the treasury. This took place 157 years after Jacob and his sons came down into Egypt, when Moses was aged twenty-seven years.

On the seventh day after his coronation came the captains and officers before him, and besought of him counsel, how the city might be taken. Then said Moses, "Nine years have ye invested it, and it is not yet in your power. Follow my advice, and in nine days it shall be yours."

They said, "Speak, and we will obey."

Then Moses gave this advice, "Make it known in the camp that all the soldiers go into the woods, and bring me storks' nests as many as they can find."

So they obeyed, and young storks innumerable were brought to him. Then he said, "Keep them fasting till I give you word, and he who gives to a stork food, though it were but a crumb of bread, or a grain of corn, he shall be slain, and all that he hath shall become the king's property, and his house shall be made a dung-heap."

So the storks were kept fasting. And on the third day the king said, "Let the birds go."

Then the storks flew into the air, and they spied the serpents on the fourth side of the city, and they fell upon them, and the serpents fled, and they were killed and eaten by the storks or ever they reached their holes, and not a serpent remained. Then said Moses, "March into the city and take it."

And the army entered the city, and not one man fell of the king's army, but they slew all that opposed them.

Thus Moses had brought the Ethiopian army into possession of the capital. The grateful people placed the crown upon his head, and the queen of Kikannos gave him her hand with readiness. But Balaam and his sons escaped, riding upon a cloud.

Moses reigned in wisdom and righteousness for forty years, and the land prospered under his government, and all loved and honoured him. Nevertheless, some thought that the son of their late king ought to ascend the throne of his ancestors;—he was an infant when Moses was crowned, but now that he was a man, a party of the nobles desired to proclaim his right.

They prevailed upon the queen to speak; and when all the princes and great men of the kingdom were assembled, she declared the matter before all. "Men of Ethiopia," said she, "it is known to you that for forty years my husband has reigned in Sheba. Well do you know that he has ruled in equity, and administered righteous judgment. But know also, that his God is not our God, and that his faith is not our faith. My son, Mena-Cham (Minakros) is of fitting age to succeed his father; therefore it is my opinion that Moses should surrender to him the throne."

An assembly of the people was called, and as this advice of the queen pleased them, they besought Moses to resign the crown to the rightful heir. He consented, without hesitation, and, laden with gifts and good wishes, he left the country and went into Midian.[29]

Moses was sixty-seven years old when he entered Midian. Reuel or Jethro,[30] who had been a councillor of Pharaoh, had, as has been already related, taken up his residence in Midian, where the people had raised him to be High Priest and Prince over the whole tribe. But Jethro after a while withdrew from the priesthood, for he believed in the one True God, and abhorred the idols which the Midianites worshipped. And when the people found that Jethro despised their gods, and that he preached against their idolatry, they placed him under the ban, that none might give him meat or drink, or serve him.

This troubled Jethro greatly, for all his shepherds forsook him, as he was under the ban. Therefore it was, that his seven daughters were constrained to lead and water the flocks.[31] Moses arrived near a well and sat down to rest. Then he saw the seven daughters of Jethro approach.

The maidens had gone early to the well, for they feared lest the shepherds, taking advantage of their being placed under ban, should molest them, and refuse to give their sheep water. They let down their pitchers in turn, and with much trouble filled the trough. Then the shepherds came up and drove them away, and led their sheep to the trough the maidens had filled, and in rude jest they would have thrown the damsels into the water, but Moses stood up and delivered them, and rebuked the shepherds, and they were ashamed.

Then Moses let down his pitcher, and the water leaped up and overflowed, and he filled the trough and gave the flocks of the seven maidens to drink, and then he watered also the flocks of the shepherds, lest there should be evil blood between them.

Now when the maidens came home, they related to their father all that had taken place; and he said, "Where is the man that hath shown kindness to you?—bring him to me."

So Zipporah ran—she ran like a bird—and came to the well, and bade Moses enter under their roof and eat of their table.

When Moses came to Raguel (Jethro), the old man asked him whence he came, and Moses told him all the truth.

Then thought Jethro, "I am fallen under the displeasure of Midian, and this man has been driven out of Egypt and out of Ethiopia; he must be a dangerous man; he will embroil me with the men of this land, and, if the king of Ethiopia or Pharaoh of Egypt hears that I have harboured him, it will go ill with me."

Therefore Raguel took Moses and bound him with chains, and threw him into a dungeon, where he was given only scanty food; and soon Jethro, whose thoughts were turned to reconciliation with the Midianites, forgot him, and sent him no food. But Zipporah loved him, and was grateful to him for the kindness he had showed her, in saving her from the hands of the shepherds who would have dipped her in the watering-trough, and every day she took him food and drink, and in return was instructed by the prisoner in the law of the Most High.[32]

Thus passed seven, or, as others say, ten years;[33] and all the while the gentle and loving Zipporah ministered to his necessities.

The Midianites were reconciled again with Jethro, and restored him to his former position; and his scruples about the worship of idols abated, when he found that opposition to the established religion interfered with his temporal interests.

Then, when all was again prosperous, many great men and princes came to ask the hand of Zipporah his daughter, who was beautiful as the morning star, and as the dove in the hole of the rock, and as the narcissus by the water's side. But Zipporah loved Moses alone; and Jethro, unwilling to offend those who solicited her by refusing them, as he could give his daughter to one only, took his staff, whereon was written the name of God, the staff which was cut from the Tree of Life, and which had belonged to Joseph, but which he had taken with him from the palace of Pharaoh, and he planted it in his garden, and said, "He who can pluck up this staff, he shall take my daughter Zipporah."

Then the strong chiefs of Edom and of Midian came and tried, but they could not move the staff.

One day Zipporah went before her father, and reminded him of the man whom he had cast into a dungeon so many years before. Jethro was amazed, and he said, "I had forgotten him these seven years; he must be dead; he has had no food."

But Zipporah said meekly, "With God all things are possible." So Jethro went to the prison door and opened it, and Moses was alive. Then he brought him forth, and cut his hair, and pared his nails, and gave him a change of raiment, and set him in his garden, and placed meat before him.

Now Moses, being once more in the fresh air, and under the blue sky, and with the light of heaven shining upon him, prayed and gave thanks to God; and seeing the staff, whereon was written the name of the Most High, he went to it and took it away, and it followed his hand.

When Jethro returned into the garden, lo! Moses had the staff of the Tree of Life in his hand; then Jethro cried out, "This is a man called of God to be a prince and a great man among the Hebrews, and to be famous throughout the world." And he gave him Zipporah, his daughter, to be his wife.[34]

One day, as Moses was tending his flock in a barren place, he saw that one of the lambs had left the flock and was escaping. The good shepherd pursued it, but the lamb ran so much the faster, fled through valley and over hill, till it reached a mountain stream; then it halted and drank.

Moses now came up to it, and looked at it with troubled countenance, and said,—

"My dear little friend! Then it was thirst which made thee run so far and seem to fly from me; and I knew it not! Poor little creature, how tired thou must be! How canst thou return so far to the flock?"

And when the lamb heard this, it suffered Moses to take it up and lay it upon his shoulders; and, carrying the lamb, he returned to the flock.

Now whilst Moses walked, burdened with the lamb, there fell a voice from heaven, "Thou, who hast shown so great love, so great patience towards the sheep of man's fold, thou art worthy to be called to pasture the sheep of the fold of God."[35]


One day that Moses was keeping sheep, his father-in-law, Jethro, came to him and demanded back the staff that he had given him. Then Moses cast the staff from him among a number of other rods, but the staff ever returned to his hand as often as he cast it away. Then Jethro laid hold of the rod, but he could not move it. Therefore he was obliged to let Moses retain it. But he was estranged from him.

Now Pharaoh was dead. And when the news reached Moses in Midian, he gat him up, and set his wife Zipporah and his son Gershom on an ass, and took the way of Egypt.

And as they were in the way. they halted in a certain place; and it was cloudy, and cold, and rainy. Then they encamped, and Zipporah tried to make a fire, but could not, for the wood was damp.

Moses said, "I see a fire burning at the foot of the mountain. I will go to it, for there must be travellers there; and I will fetch a brand away and will kindle a fire, and be warm."

Then he took his rod in his hand and went. But when he came near the spot, he saw that the fire was not on the ground, but at the summit of a tree; and the tree was a thorn. A thorn-tree was the first tree that grew, when God created the herb of the field and the trees of the forest. Moses was filled with fear, and he would have turned and fled, but a voice[36] called to him out of the fire, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here am I." And the voice said again, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." This was the reason why he was bidden put off his shoes; they were made of asses' hide, and Moses had trodden on the dung of his ass as he followed Zipporah and Gershom.

Then God gave Moses his commission to go into Egypt, and release His captive people. But Moses feared, and said, "I am of slow lips and tongue!" for he had burnt them, with his finger, when he took the live coal before Pharaoh, as already related. But God said to him, "I have given thee Aaron thy brother to speak for thee. And now, what is this that thou hast in thy hand?"

Moses answered, "This is my rod."

"And to what purpose dost thou turn it?"

"I lean on it when I am walking, and when I come where there is no grass, I strike the trees therewith, and bring down the leaves to feed my sheep withal." And when he had narrated all the uses to which he put the staff, God said to him, "With this staff shalt thou prevail against Pharaoh. Cast it upon the ground." And when he cast it down, it was transformed into a serpent or dragon, and Moses turned his back to run from it; but God said, "Fear not; take it up by the neck;" and he caught it, and it became a rod in his hands. Then said the Most Holy, "Put thy hand into thy bosom." And he did so, and drew it forth, and it was white, and shining like the moon in the dark of night.

Then Moses desired to go back to Zipporah his wife, but the angel Gabriel retained him, saying, "Thou hast higher duties to perform than to attend on thy wife. Lo! I have already reconducted her to her father's house. Go on upon thy way to Pharaoh, as the Lord hath commanded thee."

The night on which Moses entered Egyptian territory, an angel appeared to Aaron in a dream, with a crystal glass full of good wine in his hand, and said, as he extended it to him:—

"Aaron, drink of this wine which the Lord sends thee as a pledge of good news. Thy brother Moses has returned to Egypt, and God has chosen him to be His prophet, and thee to be his spokesman. Arise, and go forth to meet him!"

Aaron therefore arose from his bed and went out of the city to the banks of the Nile, but there was no boat there by which he could cross. Suddenly he perceived in the distance a light which approached; and as it drew nearer he saw that it was a horseman. It was Gabriel mounted on a steed of fire, which shone like the brightest diamond, and whose neighing was hymns of praise, for the steed was one of the cherubim.

Aaron at first supposed that he was pursued by one of Pharaoh's horsemen, and he would have cast himself into the Nile; but Gabriel stayed him, declared who he was, mounted him on the fiery cherub, and they crossed the Nile on his back.

There stood Moses, who, when he saw Aaron, exclaimed, "Truth is come, Falsehood is passed." Now this was the sign that God had given to Moses, "Behold he cometh to meet thee."[37] And they rejoiced over each other.

But another account is this: Moses entered Memphis with his sheep, during the night. Now Amram was dead, but his wife Jochebed was alive. When Moses reached the door, Jochebed was awake. He knocked at the door; then she opened, but knew him not, and asked, "Who art thou?"

He answered, "I am a man from a far country; I pray thee lodge me, and give me to eat this night."

She took him in, and brought him some meat, and said to Aaron, "Sit down and eat with the guest, to do him honour." Aaron, in eating, conversed with Moses and recognized him.

Then the mother and sister knew him also. And when the meal was over, Moses acquitted himself of his mission to Aaron, and Aaron answered, "I will obey the will of God."[38]

Moses spent the night, and the whole of the following day, in relating to his mother the things that had befallen him.

And on the second night, Moses and Aaron went forth to Pharaoh's palace. Now the palace had four hundred doors, a hundred on each side, and each door was guarded by sixty thousand fighting men. The angel Gabriel came to them and led them into the palace, but not by the doors.

When they appeared before Pharaoh, they said: "God hath sent us unto thee to bid thee let the Hebrews go, that they may hold a feast in the wilderness."

But Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go."[39]

Tabari tells a different story. Moses and Aaron sought admittance during two years. Now Pharaoh gave himself out to be a god.

But Moses and Aaron, when they spake at the door with the porters, said, "He is no god." One day the jester of Pharaoh heard his master read the history of his own life, and when he came to the passage which asserted he was a god, the jester exclaimed, "Now this is strange! For two years there have been two strangers at thy gate denying thy divinity."

When Pharaoh heard this, he was in a fury, and he sent and had Moses and Aaron brought before him.

But to return to the Rabbinic tale. Moses and Aaron were driven out from the presence of Pharaoh; and he said, "Who admitted these men?" And some of the porters he slew, and some he scourged.

Then two lionesses were placed before the palace, to protect it, and the beasts suffered no man to enter unless Pharaoh gave the word.

And the Lord spake to Moses and Aaron, saying, "When Pharaoh talketh with you, saying, Give us a miracle, thou shalt say to Aaron, Take thy rod and cast it down, and it shall became a basilisk serpent; for all the inhabitants of the earth shall hear the voice of the shriek of Egypt when I destroy it, as all creatures heard the shriek of the serpent when I stripped it, and took from it its legs and made it lick the dust after the Fall."[40]

On the morrow, Moses and Aaron came again to the king's palace, and the lionesses would have devoured them. Then Moses raised his staff, and their chains brake, and they followed him, barking like dogs, into the house.[41]

When Moses and Aaron stood before the king, Aaron cast down the rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent, which opened its jaws, and it laid one jaw beneath the throne, and its upper jaw was over the canopy above it; then the servants fled from before it, and Pharaoh hid himself beneath his throne, and the fear it caused him gave him bowel-complaint for a week. Now before this Pharaoh was only moved once a week, and this was the occasion of his being lifted up with pride, and giving himself out to be a god.[42]

Pharaoh cried out from under the throne, "O Moses, take hold of the serpent, and I will do what you desire."[43]

Moses took hold of the serpent, and it became a rod in his hands. Then Pharaoh crawled out from under his throne, and sat down upon it. And Moses put his hand into his bosom, and when he drew it forth, it shone like the moon.

The king sent for his magicians, and the chief of these were Jannes and Jambres. He told them what Moses had done.

They said, "We can turn a thousand rods into serpents."

Then the king named a day when Moses and Aaron on one side should strive with Jannes and Jambres[44] and all the magicians on the other; and he gave them a month to prepare for the contest.

On the day appointed—it was Pharaoh's birthday—all the inhabitants of Memphis were assembled in a great plain outside the city, where lists were staked out, and the royal tent was spread for the king to view the contest.

Moses and Aaron stood on one side and the magicians on the other.

The latter said, "Shall we cast our rods, or will you?"

Moses answered, "Do you cast your rods first."

Then the magicians threw down a hundred ass-loads of rods, tied the rods together with cords, and by their enchantment caused them to appear to the spectators like serpents, leaping and darting from one side of the arena to the other. And all the people were filled with fear, and the magicians said, "We have this day triumphed over Moses."

Then the prophet of God cast his rod before Pharaoh, and it became a mighty serpent. It rolled its tail round the throne of the king, and it shot forth its head, and swallowed all the rods of the enchanters, so that there remained not one.

After that all had disappeared, Moses took the serpent, and it became a rod in his hand again, but all the rods of the magicians had vanished.

And when the magicians saw the miracle that Moses had wrought, they were converted, and worshipped the true God. But Pharaoh cut off their hands and feet, and crucified them; and they died. Pharaoh's own daughter Maschita believed; and the king in his rage did not spare her, but cast her into a fire, and she was burnt. Bithia was also denounced to him, and she was condemned to the flames, but the angel Gabriel delivered her. The Mussulmans say that he consoled her by telling her that she would become the wife of Mohammed in Paradise, after which he gave her to drink, and when she had tasted, she died without pain.

Then Moses and Aaron met Pharaoh in the morning as he went by the side of the river, and Moses said to the king, "The Lord of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness."

But Pharaoh would not hearken to him. Then Aaron stretched out his rod over the river, and it became blood.

All the water that was in the vessels also became blood, even the spittle that was in the mouth of the Egyptians. The Rabbi Levi said that by this means the Israelites realized large fortunes; for if an Israelite and an Egyptian went together to the Nile to fetch water, the vessel of the Egyptian was found to contain blood, but that of the Israelite pure water; but if an Israelite brought water to the house of an Egyptian and sold it, it remained water.[45]

But Pharaoh's heart was hard; and seven days passed, after that the Lord had smitten the river.

Then went Moses and Aaron to him. But the four hundred doors of the palace were guarded by bears, lions, and other savage beasts, so that none might pass, till they were satisfied with flesh. But Moses and Aaron came up, collected them together, drew a circle round them with the sacred staff, and the wild beasts licked the feet of the prophets and followed them into the presence of Pharaoh.[46]

Moses and Aaron repeated their message to Pharaoh, but he would not hearken to them, but drove them from his presence. Aaron smote the river; but Moses on no occasion smote the Nile, for he respected the river which had saved his life as a babe.[47] Then the Lord brought frogs upon the land, and filled all the houses; they were in the beds, on the tables, in the cups. And the king sent for Moses and said: "Intreat the Lord, that He may take the frogs from me and from my people." So the Lord sent a great rain, and it washed the frogs into the Red Sea.

The next plague was lice.[48]

The fourth plague was wild beasts.

The fifth was murrain.

The sixth was boils and blains upon man and beast.[49]

The seventh was hail and tempest. Now Job regarded the word of Moses, and he brought his cattle within doors, and they were saved; but Balaam regarded it not, and all his cattle were destroyed.[50]

The eighth was locusts; these the Egyptians fried, and laid by in store to serve them for food; but when the west wind came to blow the locusts away, it blew away also those that had been pickled and laid by for future consumption.[51]

The ninth plague was darkness.

The tenth was the death of the first-born.

The Book of Jasher says that, the Egyptians having closed their doors and windows against the plagues of flies, and locusts, and lice, God sent the sea-monster Silinoth, a huge polypus with arms ten cubits long, and the beast climbed upon the roofs and broke them up, and let down its slimy arms, and unlatched all the doors and windows, and threw them open for the flies and locusts and lice to enter.[52]

But the Mohammedans give a different order to the signs:—(1) the rod changed into a serpent; (2) the whitened hand; (3) the famine; (4) a deluge, the Nile rose over the land so that every man stood in water up to his neck; (5) locusts; (6) anommals,—these are two-legged animals smaller than locusts; (7) blood; (8) frogs; (9) every green thing throughout the land, all fruit, all grain, eggs, and everything in the houses were turned to stone.[53]

After the plague of the darkness, Pharaoh resolved on a general massacre of all the children of the Hebrews. The Mussulmans put the temporary petrifaction of all in the land in the place of the darkness. The Book of Exodus says that during the darkness "they saw not one another; neither rose any from his place;" but the Arabs say that they were turned to stone. Here might be seen a petrified man with a balance in his hand sitting in the bazaar; there, another stone man counting out money; and the porters at the palace were congealed to marble with their swords in their hands.[54] But others say that this was a separate plague, and that the darkness followed it.

And now Gabriel took on him the form of a servant of the king, and he went before him and asked him what was his desire.

"That vile liar Moses deserves death," said Pharaoh.

"How shall I slay him?" asked Gabriel.

"Let him be cast into the water."

"Give me a written order," said the angel. Pharaoh did so.

Then Gabriel went to Moses and told him that the time was come when he was to leave Egypt with all the people, for the measure of the iniquity of Pharaoh was filled up, and the Lord would destroy him with a signal overthrow.


The Israelites had made their preparations to depart out of Egypt a month before the call came to escape.

And when all was ready, Moses called together the elders of the people and said to them, "When Joseph died, he ordered his descendants to take up his bones, or ever they went out of the land, and to bear them to the cave of Machpelah, where lie the bones of his father Jacob. Where are the bones of Joseph?"

The elders answered him, "We do not know."

Now there was an old Egyptian woman, named Miriam, and she believed in the Lord. She said to Moses, "I will show thee where is the tomb of Joseph, if thou wilt swear unto me that thou wilt take me with thee from Egypt, and that thou wilt ask the Most High to admit me into Paradise."

Moses said, "I will do these things that thou askest."

Then the woman said, "The tomb of Joseph is in the middle of the river Nile, which flows through Memphis, at such a spot."

Moses prayed to God, and the water fell till the bed of the river was left dry; and then he and the woman went into it, and came on the tomb of Joseph; it was a sarcophagus of marble without joints.[55]

Moses made preparations for departure, and said to the children of Israel, "God will destroy the Egyptians, and will give you their precious things."

Then every one among the Hebrews who had an Egyptian neighbour said to him, if he was rich: "I am going to a feast in the country, I pray thee lend me jewels of gold and silver to adorn my wife and children."

The Egyptians lent their precious things, and the Israelites by this means found themselves possessed of borrowed jewels in great abundance. Then Moses said, "We will leave Egypt this night when the Egyptians are asleep. Let every housekeeper softly desert his house, and bring with him his precious things, and meet outside the town. And let every one slay a lamb, and sprinkle with the blood the lintel and door-posts of the house, that the neighbours may know, when they see the blood, that the house is empty."

When the middle of the night was passed, the Israelites were assembled outside Memphis, at the place which Moses had appointed. Then the host was numbered, and it contained six hundred thousand horsemen, not including those who were on foot, the women, the children, and the aged. All who were under twenty were accounted infants, and all who were over sixty were accounted aged.

After that, Moses placed Aaron in command of the first battalion, and he said to him, "March in the direction of the sea, for Gabriel has promised to meet me on its shores." At that time one branch of the Nile (the Pelusiac branch) flowed into the Red Sea, which extended over where is now sandy desert to Migdol.

Moses made the host follow Aaron, troop by troop, and tribe by tribe; and he brought up the rear with a strong guard of picked men.

It was dawning towards the first day of the week when Israel escaped out of Egypt.

And when day broke, behold, they were gone away. Then the Egyptians came and told Pharaoh. He sent to search all the houses of the Israelites, but they were all empty, only their lamps were left burning. Pharaoh said, "We will pursue them." The Egyptians said, "They have borrowed our jewels; we must follow after them, and recover what is our own."

Now Moses had used craft touching these ornaments, in order that the Egyptians might be constrained to follow. For if the Israelites had gone without these, the Egyptians would have rejoiced at their departure. But because they had borrowed of the Egyptians, therefore the Egyptians went after them to recover their ornaments, and by this means rushed into destruction.

And Israel marched all day through the wilderness protected by seven clouds of glory on their four sides: one above them, that neither hail nor rain might fall upon them, nor that they should be burned by the heat of the sun; one beneath them, that they might not be hurt by thorns, serpents, or scorpions; and one went before them, to make the valleys even, and the mountains low, and to prepare them a place of habitation.[56]

Also, when the morning dawned, there was not a house in all Egypt in which there was not a first-born dead. And this delayed the people from pursuing after the Israelites; for they were engaged in bewailing their dead, and in digging graves for them. Thus they were not at leisure to follow after their former slaves, till they had escaped clean away.

Also that night was every metal image in Egypt molten, and every idol of stone was broken, and every idol of clay was shattered, and every idol of wood was dissolved to dust.[57]

The same day Pharaoh sent into all the cities of Egypt and collected an army. When even was come the whole army was assembled about the king, and Pharaoh said to Dathan and Abiram, who had remained behind,[58] "The Israelites are few in number, they are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in." For all the way was full of marshes and canals of water and desert tracts. "They have acted wrongly by us, for they have carried away the ornaments and jewels of our people; and Moses, by magic, has slain all our first-born, so that there is not a house in which there is not one dead."

On the morrow—it was the second day of the week—the army was reviewed, and Pharaoh numbered the host, and he had six hundred chosen chariots, and two million foot soldiers, and five million horsemen, and, in addition, there were one million seven hundred thousand horses, and on these horses were black men.

When the sun rose on the third day, Pharaoh marched out of Memphis, and he pursued for half a day with forced marches. At noon, Pharaoh had come up with Moses, and the fore-front of Pharaoh's army thrust the rear-guard of the army of Moses. Then the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, and they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?"

They were divided into four opinions. One set said, "Let us fling ourselves into the sea." Another set said, "Let us return and surrender ourselves." The third set said, "Let us array battle against the Egyptians." The fourth recommended, "Let us shout against them, and frighten them away with our clamour."[59]

And Moses said unto the people, "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."[60]

Then Moses raised his rod over the sea, and it divided, and let twelve channels of dry land appear traversing it, one for each of the twelve tribes. "When Moses had smitten," says the Koran, "the sea divided into twelve heaps, and left twelve ways through it, and each heap was as a great mountain."[61]

The Israelites hesitated to enter; for they said, "O Moses! the bottom of this sea is black mud, and when we place our feet on it we shall sink in and be swallowed up."

But Moses prayed to God, and He sent a wind and the rays of the sun, and the wind and the sun dried the mud, and it became as sand.

Then Gabriel and Michael appeared to Moses, and said, "Pass on, and lead the people through. As for us, we have orders to tarry for Pharaoh." So Moses galloped forward into the sea, crying, "In the name of the merciful and glorious God!" and all the people went in after him. But as they marched by twelve ways, and there were walls of water between, they could not see each other, and they were in fear; therefore Moses prayed to the Lord, and the Lord made the water-heaps rise and arch over them like bowers, and shelter them from the fire of the sun; and He made the watery walls so clear they were as sheets of glass, and through them the columns of the advancing army were visible to each other.

Moses traversed the sea in two hours, and he came forth with all the people on the other side.

Then Pharaoh and his host came to the water's side, but he feared to enter in. Now Pharaoh was mounted on an entire horse of great beauty. He reined in his steed and would not go forward, for he thought that this was part of the enchantment of Moses.

But now Gabriel appeared mounted on a mare, and this was the cherub Ramka.[62] And when the horse of Pharaoh saw the mare of Gabriel, he plunged forward and followed the mare into the sea. Then, when the Egyptian army saw their king enter fearlessly into one of the channels, they also precipitated themselves into the ways through the deep.

They advanced till they reached the middle of the Red Sea, and then Gabriel reined in and turned and unfurled before Pharaoh the order he had given for the destruction of Moses in the water, and it was signed by Pharaoh and sealed with his own signet.

"See!" exclaimed the angel. "What thou wouldest do to Moses, that shall be done to thee; for thou art but a man, thou who fightest against God."

Then the twelve heaps of water overwhelmed the host. But Pharaoh's horse was so fleet of foot that he outfled the returning waters, and he brought the king to the shore. He would have been saved, had not Gabriel smitten him on the face, and he fell back into the sea and perished with the rest. Then said Miriam, as he sank, "Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea."[63]

Another curious incident is related by Tabari. When the water reached Pharaoh, and he knew that he must perish, he cried out, "I believe in the God of Israel!" Gabriel, fearing lest Pharaoh should repeat these words, and that God in His mercy should accept his profession of faith, and pardon him, passed his wing over the bottom of the sea, raised the earth, and threw it into the mouth of Pharaoh so as to prevent him from swallowing again, and said, "Now thou believest, but before thou wast rebellious; nevertheless, thou art numbered with the wicked."[64]

It was the ninth hour of the day when the children of Israel stood on dry land on the further side of the sea.

On the morrow, the children of Israel assembled around Moses, and said to him, "We do not believe that Pharaoh is drowned, for he had peculiar power. He never suffered from headache, nor from fever, nor from any sickness, and was internally moved but once a week."

Then Moses clave the sea asunder with his rod, and they saw Pharaoh and all his host dead at the bottom of the sea. The bodies of the Egyptians were covered with armour and much gold and silver, and on the corpse of Pharaoh were chains and bracelets of gold. The children of Israel would have spoiled the dead, but Moses forbade them, for he said, "It is lawful to spoil the living, but it is robbery to strip the dead." Nevertheless many of the Hebrews went in and took from the Egyptians all that was valuable. Then God was wroth, because they had disobeyed Moses, and the sea was troubled, and for ten days it raged with fury, and even to this day the water is not at rest where the Israelites committed this sin. And the name of that place at this day is Bab el Taquath."[65]


As long as Moses was with them, the Israelites did not venture to make idols, but when God summoned Moses into the Mount to talk with Him face to face, then they spake to Aaron that he should make a molten god to go before them.

Aaron bade them break off their earrings and bracelets and give them to him, for he thought that they would be reluctant to part with their jewels. Nevertheless the people brought their ornaments to him in great abundance, and one named Micah cast them into a copper vessel; and when the gold was melted, he threw in a handful of the sand which had been under the hoof of Gabriel's horse, and there came forth a calf, which ran about like a living beast, and bellowed; for Sammael (Satan) had entered into it. "Here is your god that shall go before you," cried Micah; and all the people fell down and worshipped the golden calf.[66]

And when Moses came down from the Mount and drew near to the camp, and saw the calf, and the instruments of music in the hands of the wicked, who were dancing and bowing before it, and Satan among them dancing and leaping before the people, the wrath of Moses was suddenly kindled, and he cast the tables of the Commandments, which he had received from God in the Mount, out of his hand and brake them at the foot of the mountain; but the holy writing that was on them flew, and was carried away into the heavens; and he cried, and said, "Woe upon the people who have heard from the mouth of the Holy One, 'Thou shalt not make to thyself any image, a figure, or any likeness;' and yet at the end of forty days make a useless molten calf!"

And he took the calf which they had made, and burned it with fire, and crushed it to powder, and cast it upon the face of the water of the stream, and made the sons of Israel drink; and whoever had given thereto any trinket of gold, the sign of it came forth upon his nostrils.[67]

Of all the children of Israel only twelve thousand were found who had not worshipped the calf.[68]

The Mussulmans say that the Tables borne by Moses were from ten to twelve cubits in length, and were made, say some, of cedar wood, but others say of ruby, others of carbuncle; but the general opinion is that they were of sapphire or emerald;[69] and the letters were graven within them, not on the surface, so that the words could be read on either side. When the golden calf had been pounded to dust, Moses made the Israelites drink water in which was the dust, and those who had kissed the idol were marked with gilt lips. Thus the Levites were able to distinguish them; and they slew of them twenty and three thousand.[70]

It is a common tradition among the Jews that the red hair which is by no means infrequently met with in the Hebrew race is derived from this period; all those who had sinned and drank of the water lost their black hair and it became red, and they transmitted the colour to their posterity.

Another version of the story is as follows. Samiri (Micah), who had fashioned the golden calf, was of the tribe of Levi. When Moses came down from the Mount, he would have beaten Aaron, but his brother said, "It is not I, it is Samiri who made the calf." Then Moses would have slain Samiri, but God forbade him, and ordered him instead to place him under ban.

From that time till now, the man wanders, like a wild beast, from one end of the earth to the other; every man avoids him, and cleanses the earth on which his feet have rested; and when he comes near any man, he cries out, "Touch me not!"

But before Moses drave Samiri out of the camp, he ground the calf to powder, and made Samiri pollute it; then he mixed it with the water, and gave it to the Israelites to drink. After Samiri had departed, Moses interceded with God for the people. But God answered, "I cannot pardon them, for their sin is yet in them, and it will only be purged out by the draught they have drunk."

When Moses returned to the camp, he heard a piteous cry. Many Israelites with yellow faces and livid bodies cast themselves before him, and cried, "Help! Moses, help! the golden calf consumes our intestines; we will repent and die, if the Lord will pardon us."

Some, really contrite, were healed. Then a black cloud came down on the camp, and all those who were in it fought with one another and slew one another; but upon the innocent the swords had no power. Seven thousand idolaters had been slain, when Moses, hearing the cry of the women and children, came and prayed; and the cloud vanished, and the sword rested.[71]

According to some, the complaint caused by swallowing the dust of the calf was jaundice, a complaint which has never ceased from among men since that day. Thus the calf brought two novelties into the world, red hair and jaundice.

And Moses went up again into the Mount, and took with him seventy of the elders. And he besought the Lord, "Suffer me, O Lord, to see Thee!"[72] But the Lord answered him, "Thinkest thou that thou canst behold Me and live?" And He said, "Look at this mountain; I will display Myself to this mountain."

Then the mountain saw God, and it dissolved into fine dust. So Moses knew that it was not for him to see God, and he repented that he had asked this thing.[73] After that he went with the seventy elders to Sinai, and a cloud, white and glistening, came down and rested on the head of Moses, and then descended and wholly enveloped him, so that the seventy saw him not; and when he was in the cloud, he received again the Tables of the Commandments, and he came forth out of the cloud. But they murmured that they had not also received the revelation. Then the cloud enveloped them also, and they heard all the words that had been spoken to Moses; and after that they said, "Now we believe, because we have heard with our own ears."

Then the wrath of God blazed forth, and a thundering was heard so great and terrible that they fainted and died. But Moses feared, and he prayed to God, and God restored the seventy men to life again, and they came down the Mount with him.[74]

And it was at this time that the face of Moses shone with the splendour which had come upon him from the brightness of the glory of the Lord's Shekinah in the time of His speaking with him. And Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, and, behold, the glory of his face was dazzling, so that they were afraid to come near to him. And Moses called to them, and Aaron, and all the princes of the congregation; and he taught them all that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. And when Moses spoke with them, he had a veil upon his face; and when he went up to speak with the Lord, he removed the veil from his countenance until he came forth.[75]

This was the reason why the face of Moses shone. He saw the light which God had created, whereby Adam was enabled to see from one end of the earth to the other. God showed this light now to Moses, and thereby he was able to see to Dan.[76]

When Moses went up into the Mount, a cloud received him, and bore him into heaven. On his way, he met the doorkeeper Kemuel, chief of twelve thousands of angels of destruction; they were angels of fire; and he would have prevented Moses from advancing: then Moses pronounced the Name in twelve letters, revealed to him by God from the Burning Bush, and the angel and his host recoiled before that word twelve thousand leagues. But some say that Moses smote the angel, and wounded him.

A little further, Moses met another angel; this was Hadarniel, who had a terrible voice, and every word he uttered split into twelve thousand lightnings; he reigned six hundred thousand leagues higher than Kemuel. Moses, in fear, wept at his voice, and would have fallen out of the cloud, had not God restrained him. Then the prophet pronounced the Name of seventy-two letters, and the angel fled.

Next he came to the fiery angel Sandalfon, and he would have fallen out of the cloud, but God held him up. Then he reached the river of flame, called Rigjon, which flows from the beasts which are beneath the Throne, and is filled with their sweat; across this God led him.[77]

It is asserted by the Rabbis that Moses learnt the whole law in the forty days that he was in the Mount, but as he descended from the immediate presence of God, he entered the region where stood the angels guarding the Mount, and when he saw the Angel of Fear, the Angel of Sweat, the Angel of Trembling, and the Angel of Cold Shuddering, he was so filled with consternation, that he forgot all that he had learnt.

Then God sent the Angel Jephipha, who brought back all to his remembrance; and, armed with the law, Moses passed the ranks of all the angels, and each gave him some secret or mystery; one the art of mixing simples, one that of reading in the stars, another that of compounding antidotes, a fourth the secret of name, or the Kabalistic mystery.[78]

It is said by the Mussulmans, that when the law was declared to the children of Israel by Moses, they refused to receive it; then Mount Sinai rose into the air, and moved above them, and they fled from it; but it followed them, and hung over their heads ready to crush them. And Moses said, "Accept the law, or the mountain will fall on you and destroy you."

Then they fell on their faces and placed the right side of the brow and right cheek against the ground and looked up with the left eye at the mountain that hung above them, and said, "We will accept the law." This is the manner in which the Jews to this day perform their worship, says Tabari; they place the brow and right cheek and eye upon the ground, and turn the left cheek and eye to heaven, and in this position they pray.[79]

7. THE MANNA. (Exod. xvi.)

All the time that Israel wandered in the wilderness they were given manna, or angels' food. This food is ground by the angels in heaven, as Moses saw when he was there. For when Moses was in heaven, he knew not when it was night and when it was day, till he listened to the song of the angels; and when they sang "Holy God," then he knew it was morning below on earth; and when they sang "Blessed be thou," he knew it was evening below. Also he observed the angels grinding the manna and casting it down; and then he knew it was night, and they were strewing it for the Israelites to gather in the morning.[80] It is in the third firmament, called Schechakim (clouds), that the mills are in which manna is ground.[81] Along with the manna fell pearls and diamonds, and on the mountains it was heaped so high that it could be seen from afar.[82]

And the manna, this bread from heaven, contained in itself all sweetness; and whatsoever any man desired to eat, the manna tasted to him as if it were that food.[83] Thus, if any one said, "I wish I had a fat bird," the manna tasted like a fat bird. But usually it had the taste of cakes made of oil, honey, and fine flour, according to the words of the Lord, "My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey wherewith I fed thee" (Ezek. xvi. 10).[84] The Targum of Palestine thus describes the fall of the manna:—In the morning there was a fall of holy dew, prepared as a table,[85] round about the camp; and the clouds ascended and caused manna to descend upon the dew; and there was upon the face of the desert a minute substance in lines, minute as the hoar frost upon the ground. And the sons of Israel beheld, and wondered, and said to one another, "Man hu?" (What is it?) for they knew not what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread which hath been laid up for you from the beginning in the heavens on high, and now the Lord will give it you to eat. This is the word which the Lord hath dictated: You are to gather of it; every man according to the number of the persons of his tabernacle."

And the children of Israel did so, and gathered manna more or less. And Moses said to them, "Let no man reserve of it till the morning."

But some of them, Dathan and Abiram, men of wickedness, did reserve of it till the morning; but it produced worms, and putrefied. And they gathered from the time of the dawn until the fourth hour of the day; when the sun had waxed hot upon it, it liquefied and made streams of water, which flowed away into the great sea; and wild animals that were clean, and cattle, came to drink of it; and the sons of Israel hunted, and ate them.[86]

Some of the Gentiles, the Edomites and Midianites, came up, and, seeing the chosen people eating, they also gathered of the manna and tasted, but it was to them as wormwood.[87]

8. THE SMITTEN ROCK. (Exod. xvii. 1-7.)

And all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed from the desert of Sin and encamped in Rephidim, a place where their hands were idle in the commandments of the law, and the fountains were dry, and there was no water for the people to drink.

And the wicked of the people contended with Moses, and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why contend ye with me? Why tempt ye the Lord."

But the people were athirst for water, and the people murmured against Moses and said, "Why hast thou made us come up out of Egypt to kill us, and our children, and our cattle, with thirst?"

And Moses prayed before the Lord, saying, "What shall I do for this people? Yet a little while, and they will stone me."

And the Lord said to Moses, "Pass over before the people, and take the rod, with which thou didst smite the river, in thine hand, and go from the face of their murmuring. Behold, I will stand before thee there, on the spot where thou sawest the impression of the foot on Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock with thy rod, and therefrom shall come forth waters for drinking, and the people shall drink."

And Moses did so before the Elders of Israel. And he called the name of that place Temptation and Strife; because the people strove with him there, and tempted God.[88]

Tabari gives these particulars concerning the smitten rock. In the desert there was no water. Moses prayed to God, and He commanded him to strike a rock with his staff.

Some say that this was an ordinary stone in the desert, others that it was a stone from Sinai which Moses carried about with him that he might stand on it whenever he prayed. Moses struck the rock, and twelve streams spouted from it.

Then Moses said, "You have manna and quails in abundance, gather only sufficient for the day, and you shall have fresh on the morrow." But they would not obey his word; therefore the Lord withdrew the birds, and the people were famished. Then Moses besought the Lord, and the quails were restored to them. And this is how the quails fell in the camp.[89] A wind smote them as they flew over the camp, and broke their wings.

Then the people murmured again, and said to Moses, "The heat is intolerable, we cannot endure it."

So he prayed, and God sent a cloud to overshadow Israel; and it gave them cool shade all the day.[90]

After that, they complained, "We want clothes." Then God wrought a marvel, and their clothes waxed not old and ragged, nor did their shoes wear out, nor did dirt and dust settle on their garments.[91]

It is also commonly related that the rock followed the Israelites, like the pillar of fire and the manna, all the time they went through the wilderness; to this tradition S. Paul alludes when he says, "They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ."[92]


One day, say the Mussulmans, Moses boasted before Joshua of his wisdom. Then said God to him, "Go to the place where the sea of the Greeks joins the Persian Gulf, and there you will find one who surpasses you in wisdom."

Moses therefore announced to the Hebrews, who continued their murmurs, that, in punishment for their stiffneckedness and rebellion, they were condemned by God to wander for forty years in the desert.

Then having asked God how he should recognize the wise man of whom God had spoken to him, he was bidden take a fish in a basket; "and," said God, "the fish will lead thee to my faithful servant."

Moses went on his way with Joshua, having the fish in a basket. In the evening he arrived on the shore of the sea and fell asleep.

When he awoke in the morning, Joshua forgot to take the fish, and Moses not regarding it, they had advanced far on their journey before they remembered that they had neglected the basket and fish. Then they returned and sought where they had slept, but they found the basket empty. As they were greatly troubled at this loss, they saw the fish before them, standing upright like a man, in the sea; and it led them, and they followed along the coast; and they did not stay till their guide suddenly vanished.

Supposing that they had reached their destination, they explored the neighbourhood, and found a cave, at the entrance to which were inscribed these words, "In the Name of the all-powerful and all-merciful God." Joshua and Moses, entering this cavern, found a man seated there, fresh and blooming, but with white hair and a long white beard which descended to his feet. This was the prophet El Khoudr.

Some say he was the same as Elias, some that he was Jeremiah, some that he was Lot, and some that he was Jonah. The greatest uncertainty reigns as to who El Khoudr really is. All that is known of him is that he went with Alexander the Two-horned, to the West, and drank of the fountain of immortality, and thenceforth he lives an undying life, ever fresh, but also marked with the signs of a beautiful old age.

El Khoudr derives his name from the circumstance of his having sat on a bare stone, and when he rose from it the stone was green and covered with grass.[93]

In later times he was put to death for the true faith with various horrible tortures, by an idolatrous king, but he revived after each execution.

The explanation of the mystery of El Khoudr is this. He is the old Sun-god Thammuz of the Sabæans, and when he was dethroned by Mohammed, he sank in popular tradition to the level of a prophet, and all the old myths of the Sun-god were related of the prophet.

His wandering to the West is the sun setting there; his drinking there of the well of immortality is the sun plunging into the sea. His clothing the dry rock with grass is significant of the power of the sun over vegetation. His torments are figures of the sun setting, in storm, in flames of crimson, or swallowed by the black thunder-cloud; but from all his perils he rises again in glory in the eastern sky.[94]

Moses said to El Khoudr, "Take me for thy disciple, permit me to accompany thee, and to admire the wisdom God hath given thee."

"Thou canst not understand it," answered the venerable man. "Moreover, thy stay with me is short."

"I will be patient and submissive," said Moses; "for God's sake, reject me not."

"Thou mayest follow me," said the sage. "But ask me no questions, and wait till I give thee, at my pleasure, the sense of that which thou comprehendest not."

Moses accepted the condition, and El Khoudr led him to the sea, where was a ship at anchor. The prophet took a hatchet, and cut two timbers out of her side, so that she foundered.

"What art thou doing?" asked Moses; "the people on board the ship will be drowned."

"Did I not say to thee that thou wouldst not remain patient for long?" said the sage.

"Pardon me," said Moses; "I forgot what I had promised."

El Khoudr continued his course. Soon they met a beautiful child who was playing with shells on the sea-shore. The prophet took a knife which hung at his girdle, and cut the throat of the child.

"Wherefore hast thou killed the innocent?" asked Moses, in horror.

"Did I not say to thee," repeated El Khoudr, "that thy journey with me would be short?"

"Pardon me once more," said Moses; "if I raise my voice again, drive me from thee."

After having continued their journey for some way, they arrived at a large town, hungry and tired. But no one would take them in, or give them food, except for money.

El Khoudr, seeing that the wall of a large house, from which he had been driven away, menaced ruin, set it up firmly, and then retired. Moses was astonished, and said, "Thou hast done the work of several masons for many days. Ask for a wage which will pay for our lodging."

Then answered the old man, "We must separate. But before we part, I will explain what I have done. The ship which I injured belongs to a poor family. If it had sailed, it would have fallen into the hands of pirates. The injury I did can be easily repaired, and the delay will save the vessel for those worthy people who own her. The child I killed had a bad disposition, and it would have corrupted its parents. In its place God will give them pious children. The house which I repaired belongs to orphans, whose father was a man of substance. It has been let to unworthy people. Under the wall is hidden a treasure. Had the tenants mended the wall, they would have found and kept the treasure. Now the wall will stand till its legitimate owners come into the house, when they will find the treasure. Thou seest I have not acted blindly and foolishly."

Moses asked pardon of the prophet, and he returned to his people in the wilderness.[95]

The same story, with some variation in the incidents, is related in the Talmud.

God, seeing Moses uneasy, called him to the summit of a mountain, and deigned to explain to him how He governed the world. He bade the prophet look upon the earth. He saw a fountain flowing at the foot of the mountain. A soldier went to it to drink. A young man came next to the fountain, and finding a purse of gold, which the soldier had left there by accident, he kept it and went his way.

The soldier, having lost his purse, returned to search for it, and demanded it of an old man whom he found seated by the spring. The old man protested that he had not found it, and called God to witness the truth of his assertion. But the soldier, disbelieving him, drew his sword upon him and killed him.

Moses was filled with horror. But God said to him: "Be not surprised at this event; this old man had murdered the father of the soldier; the soldier would have wasted the money in riotous living; in the hands of the youth it will serve to nourish his aged parents, who are dying of poverty.[96]

10. THE MISSION OF THE SPIES. (Numb. xiii. xiv.)

And the Lord spake with Moses, saying, "Send thou keen-sighted men who may explore the land of Canaan, which I will give to the children of Israel; one man for each tribe of their fathers shalt thou send from the presence of all their leaders."

And Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran; all of them acute men, who had been appointed heads over the sons of Israel. And Moses said to them, "Go up on this side by the south, and ascend the mountain, and survey the country, what it is, and the people who dwell in it; whether they be strong or weak, few or many; what the land is in which they dwell, whether good or bad; what the cities they inhabit, whether they live in towns that are open or walled; and the reputation of the land, whether its productions are rich or poor, and the trees of it be fruitful or not; and do valiantly, and bring back some of the fruit of the land."

And the day on which they went was the nineteenth of the month Sivan, about the days of the first grapes. They came to the stream of the grapes in Eshkol, and cut from thence a branch, with one cluster of grapes, and carried it on a rod between two men; and also of the pomegranates and of the figs; and the wine dropped from them like a stream.[97]

And when they returned, they related, "We have seen the land which we are to conquer with the sword, and it is good and fruitful. The strongest camel is scarcely able to carry one bunch of grapes; one ear of corn yields enough to feed a whole family; and one pomegranate shell could contain five armed men. But the inhabitants of the land and their cities are in keeping with the productions of the soil. We saw men, the smallest of whom was six hundred cubits high. They were astonished at us, on account of our diminutive stature, and laughed at us. Their houses are also in proportion, walled up to heaven, so that an eagle could hardly soar above them."[98]

When the spies had given this report, the Israelites murmured, and said, "We are not able to go up to the people, for they are stronger than we."

And the spies said, "The country is a land that killeth its inhabitants with diseases; and all the people who are in it are giants, masters of evil ways. And we appeared as locusts before them."

And all the congregation lifted up their voices and wept; and it was confirmed that that day, the ninth of the month Ab, should be one of weeping for ever to that people; and it has ever after been one of a succession of calamities in the history of the Jews.

"Would that we had died in the land of Egypt," said the people; "would that we had died in the wilderness. Why has the Lord brought us into this land, to fall by the sword of the Canaanites, and our wives and little ones to become a prey?"[99]

Then the Lord was wroth with the spies, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, saving only Joshua and Caleb, who had not given an evil report of the land.[100]

The account of the Targum of Palestine is different. The Targum says that the men who had brought an evil report of the land died on the seventh day of the month Elul, with worms coming from their navels, and with worms devouring their tongues.[101]

The Rabbis relate that though for the wickedness of men the fruitfulness of the Holy Land diminished, yet in places it remained as great as of old. "The Raf Chiji, son of Ada, was the teacher of the children of the Resch Lakisch; and once he was absent three days, and the children were without instruction. When he returned, the Resch Lakisch asked him why he had been so long absent. He answered, 'My father sent me to his vine, which is bound to a tree, and I gathered from it, the first day, three hundred bunches of grapes, which gave as much juice as would fill two hundred and eighty and eight egg-shells (three gerabhs). Next day I cut three hundred bunches, of which two gave one gerabh. The third day I cut three hundred bunches, which yielded one gerabh of juice; and I left more than half the bunches uncut.' Then said the Resch Lakisch to him, 'If thou hadst been more diligent in the education of my children, the vine would have yielded yet more.'

"Rami, son of Ezechiel, once went to the inhabitants of Berak, and saw goats feeding under the fig-trees, and the milk flowed from their udders, and the honey dropped from the figs, and the two mingled in one stream. Then he said, 'This is the land promised to our forefathers, flowing with milk and honey.'

"The Rabbi Jacob, son of Dosethai, said that from Lud to Ono is three miles, and in the morning twilight I started on my way, and I was over ankles in honey out of the figs.

"The Resch Lakisch said that he had himself seen a stream of milk and honey in the neighbourhood of Zippori, sixteen miles long and the same breadth.

"The Rabbi Chelbo and Rabbi Avera and Rabbi Jose, son of Hannina, once came to a place where they were offered a honeycomb as large as the frying-pan of the village Heiro; they ate a portion, they gave their asses a portion, and they distributed a portion to any one who would take it.

"Rabbi Joshua, son of Levi, once came to Gabla, and saw grape-bunches in a vineyard as big as calves, hanging between the vines, and he said, 'The calves are in the vineyard.' But the inhabitants told him they were grapes. Then said he, 'O land, land! withdraw thy fruits. Do not offer to these heathen those fruits which have been taken from us on account of our sins.'

"A year after, Rabbi Chija passed that way, and he saw the bunches like goats. So he said, 'The goats are in the vineyard.' But the inhabitants said, 'They are grape-bunches; depart from us and do not unto us as did your fellow last year.'"[102]


And the Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the sons of Israel, and bid them make fringes not of threads, nor of yarn, nor of fibre, but after a peculiar fashion shall they make them. They shall cut off the heads of the filaments, and suspend by five ligatures, four in the midst of three, upon the four corners of their garments, and they shall put upon the edge of their garments a border of blue (or embroidery of hyacinth)."[103]

But Korah, son of Ezhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, refused to wear the blue border.

Moses had said, "The fringes are to be of white, with one line of blue;" but Korah said, "I will make mine altogether of blue;" and the two hundred and fifty men of the sons of Israel, who had been leaders of the congregation at the time when the journeys and encampments were appointed, supported Korah.[104]

Korah was a goldsmith, and Moses greatly honoured him, for he was his cousin, and the handsomest man of all Israel. When Moses returned from the Mount, he bade Korah destroy the calf; but the fire would not consume it. Then Moses prayed, and God showed him the philosopher's stone, which is a plant that grows in great abundance by the shores of the Red Sea, but none knew of its virtues before. Now, this plant turns metals into gold, and also if a twig of it be cast into gold, it dissolves it away. Moses instructed Korah in the virtues of this herb. Then Korah dissolved the calf by means of it, but he also used it to convert base metals into gold, and thus he became very rich.

Korah had great quantities of this herb, and he made vast stores of gold. He accumulated treasures. What he desired he bought, and he surrounded himself with servants clad in cloth of gold. He built brick houses with brass doors, and filled them to the roof with gold, and he made his servants walk before him with the keys of his treasure-houses hung round their necks. He had twenty men carrying these keys; and still he increased in wealth, so he placed the keys on camels; and when he still built more treasuries and turned more substance into gold, he increased the number of keys to such an extent that he had sixty camel loads of them. Moses knew whence Korah derived his wealth, but the rest of the congregation of Israel knew not.

After that, Korah did that which was wrong, and he broke the commandment of Moses, and would have no blue border on his servants' tunics, but habited them in scarlet, and mounted them on red horses. Neither did he confine himself to the meats which Moses permitted as clean.

Then God ordered Moses to ask Korah to give one piece of money for every thousand that he possessed. But Korah refused. This state of affairs continued ten years. When his destiny was accomplished, he was lifted up with pride, and he resolved to humble Moses before all the people.

Now, there was among the children of Israel a woman of bad character. Korah gave her large bribes, and said to her, "I will assemble all the congregation, and bring Moses before them, and do thou bring a false accusation against him."

The woman consented.

Then Korah did as he had said; and when all the assembly of Israel was gathered together, he spake against Moses all that the lying witness had invented. Then he brought forth the woman. But when she saw all the elders of the congregation before her, she feared, and she said, "Korah hath suborned me with gold to speak false witness against Moses, to cause him to be put to death."

And when Korah was thus convicted, Moses cried, "Get yourselves up and separate from him." Then all the people fled away from him on either side. And the earth opened her lips and closed them on Korah's feet to the ankles.

But Korah laughed, and said, "What magic is this?"

Moses cried, "Earth, seize him!"

Then the earth seized him to his knees.

Korah said, "O Moses! ask the earth to release me, and I will do all thou desirest of me."

But Moses was very wroth, and he would not hearken, but cried, "Earth, seize him!"

Then the earth seized him to the waist.

Korah pleaded for his life. He said, "I will do all thou desirest of me, only release me!"

But Moses cried again, "Earth, seize him!"

And the earth gulped him down as far as his breast, and his hands were under the earth.

Once more he cried, "Moses! spare me and release me, because of our relationship!"

Moses was filled with bitterness, and he bade the earth swallow him; and he went down quick into the pit, and was seen no more.

Then, when Moses was returning thanks to God, the Lord turned His face away from him and said, "Thy servant asked of thee forgiveness so many times, and thou didst not forgive him."

Moses answered, "O Lord, I desired that he should ask pardon of Thee and not of me."

The Lord said, "If he had cried but once to Me, I would have forgiven him."[105]

The earth swallowed Korah and seventy men, and they are retained in the earth along with all his treasures till the Resurrection Day.

Every Thursday, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram go before the Messiah, and they ask, "When wilt Thou come and release us from our prison? When will the end of these wonders be?"

But the Messiah answers them, "Go and ask the Patriarchs;" but this they are ashamed to do.[106]

They sit in the third mansion of Sheol, not in any lowest one; nor are they there tormented, because Korah promised to hear and obey Moses, as he was being engulfed.[107]

The Arabic name for Korah is Karoun, and under this name he has returned to Rabbinic legends, and the identity of Korah and Karoun has not been observed.

The Rabbis relate of Karoun that he is an evil angel, and that Moses dug a deep pit for him in the land of Gad, and cast him into it. But whenever the Israelites sinned, Karoun crept out of his subterranean dwelling and plagued them.[108]

This is a curious instance of allegorizing upon a false interpretation of a name. The Karoun of the Mussulmans is clearly identical with Korah, but Karoun in Hebrew means Anger, and Karoun was supposed to be the Angel of the Anger of the Lord, and the story of his emerging from his pit to punish the sinful Israelites is simply a figurative mode of saying that the anger of the Lord came upon them.


The children of Israel had many foes to contend with. Amongst these were the Amorites. They hid in caves to form an ambuscade against the people of God, intending, when the Israelites had penetrated into a defile between two mountains, to sally forth upon them and to overthrow them. But they did not know that the ark went before Israel, smoothing the rough places and levelling the mountains.[109] Now, when the ark drew near the place where the ambush was, the mountains fell in upon the Amorites, and the Israelites passed on, and knew not that they had been delivered from a great danger. But there were two lepers named Eth and Hav, who followed the camp, and they saw the blood bubbling out from under the mountain; and thus the fate of the Amorites was made known.[110]

The Israelites found a redoubtable enemy in Og, king of Bashan, who was one of the giants who had been saved from the old world by clambering on the roof of the ark; but his weight had so depressed the vessel, that Noah was obliged to turn out the hippopotamus and rhinoceros to preserve the ark from foundering.

Og determined to destroy Moses. Moses was ten cubits in height, and when Og came against him, he took a hatchet of ten cubits' length, and he made a jump into the air, and hit Og on the ankle. Og tore up a mountain, and put it on his head to throw it upon Moses; but the ants ate out the inside of the mountain, and it sank over Og's head to his neck, and he could not draw his head out, for his teeth grew into tusks and thrust through the mountain, and he was blinded and caught as in a trap. Thus Moses was able to slay him.[111]

Some further details on Og, furnished by the Rabbis, will assist the reader in estimating the powers of Moses.

At one meal, Og ate a thousand oxen and as many wild roes, and his drink was a thousand firkins; one drop of the sweat from his brow weighed thirty-six pounds.[112] Of his size the following authentic details are given. The Rabbi Johanan said, "I was once a grave-digger, and I ran after a deer, and went in at one end of a shin-bone of a dead man, and I ran for three miles and could not catch the deer or reach the end of the bone. When I went back, I inquired, and was told that this was the shin-bone of Og, king of Bashan."[113] The sole of his foot was forty miles long. Once, when he was quarrelling with Abraham, one of his teeth fell out, and Abraham made a bed out of the tooth, and slept in it; but some say he made a chair out of it.[114]

When the Israelites came to Edrei and fought against it, in the night Og came and sat down on the wall, and his feet reached the ground. Next morning Moses looked out and said, "I do not understand how the men of Edrei can have built a second wall so high during the night."

Then it was revealed to him that what he had taken for a wall was Og.[115] Og had built sixty cities, and the smallest was sixty miles high. These cities were in Argob.[116]

The Moabites also resisted Israel, and they were encouraged by Balaam the son of Beor.

Balak, king of Moab, sent to Balaam to curse Israel. Then Balaam rose in the morning and made ready his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. The Mussulman account is that Balaam, having been told by God not to go, resolved to obey, but the princes of Moab bribed his wife, and she gave him no peace till he consented to go to Balak with his messengers.[117] But the anger of the Lord was kindled, because he would go to curse them, and the angel of the Lord stood in the way to be an adversary to him. But he sat upon his ass, and his two sons, Jannes and Jambres, were with him.

And the ass discerned the angel of the Lord standing in the way with a drawn sword in his hand, and the ass turned aside out of the road to go into the field; and Balaam smote the ass. And the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path that was in the midst between the vineyards, in the place where Jacob and Laban raised the mound, the pillars on this side and the observatory on that side,[118] that neither should pass the limit to do evil to the other. And as the ass discerned the angel of the Lord, and thrust herself against the hedge, and bruised Balaam's foot by the hedge, he smote her again. Ten things were created after the world had been founded at the coming in of the Sabbath between sunset and sunrise,—the manna, the well, the rod of Moses, the diamond, the rainbow, the cloud of glory, the mouth of the earth, the writing on the tables of the covenant, the demons, and the speaking ass.

Then the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to thee, that thou hast smitten me twice?"

And Balaam said to the ass, "Because thou hast been false to me; if there were now a sword in my hand, I would kill thee."

And the ass said to Balaam, "Woe to thee, wanting in understanding! Behold, thou hast not power with all thy skill to curse me, an unclean beast, which am to die in this world and not to enter the world to come; how much less canst thou curse the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, on whose account the world was created?"[119]

Balaam finding that he could not curse the people, and that they were under the protection of the Most High, saw that the only way to ruin them was by leading them into sin. Therefore he advised Balak, and the king appointed the daughters of the Midianites for the tavern-booths at Beth Jeshimoth, by the snow mountain, where they sold sweetmeats cheaper than their price. And Israel trafficked with them for their sweet cakes; and when the maidens brought out the image of Peor from their bundles, the Israelites did not notice it to take it away, and becoming accustomed to it they went on to sacrifice to it.[120]

And Moses saw one of the sons of Israel come by, holding a Midianitess by the hand, and Moses rebuked him. Then said the man, "What is it that is wrong in this? Didst not thou thyself take to wife a Midianitess, the daughter of Jethro?"

When Moses heard this, he trembled and swooned away. But Phinehas cried, "Where are the lions of the tribe of Judah?" and he took a lance in his hand and slew the man and the woman.

Twelve miracles were wrought for Phinehas; but they need not be repeated here.[121]

Then all the Israelites went forth against the Midianites and defeated them; and when they numbered the slain, Balaam and his sons were discovered among the dead.

13. THE DEATH OF AARON. (Numb. xx. 22—29.)

Moses was full of grief when the word of the Lord came to him that Aaron, his brother, was to die. That night he had no rest, and when it began to dawn towards morning, he rose and went to the tent of Aaron.

Aaron was much surprised to see his brother come in so early, and he said, "Wherefore art thou come?"

Moses answered, "All night long have I been troubled, and have had no sleep, for certain things in the Law came upon me, and they seemed to me to be heavy and unendurable; I have come to thee that thou shouldest relieve my mind." So they opened the book together and read from the first word; and at every sentence they said, "That is holy, and great, and righteous."

Soon they came to the history of Adam; and Moses stayed from reading when he arrived at the Fall, and he cried bitterly. "O Adam, thou hast brought death into the world!"

Aaron said, "Why art thou so troubled thereat, my brother? Is not death the way to Eden?"

"It is however very painful. Think also, that both thou and I must some day die. How many years thinkest thou we shall live?"

Aaron.—"Perhaps twenty."

Moses.—"Oh no! not so many."

Aaron.—"Then fifteen."

Moses.—"No, my brother, not so many."

Aaron.—"Then ten years."

Moses.—"No, not so many."

Aaron.—"Then surely it must be five."

Moses.—"I say again, not so many."

Then said Aaron, hesitating, "Is it then one?"

And Moses said, "Not so much."

Full of anxiety and alarm, Aaron kept silence. Then said Moses gently, "O my beloved! would it not be good to say of thee as it was said of Abraham, that he was gathered to his fathers in peace?" Aaron was silent.

Then said Moses, "If God were to say that thou shouldst die in a hundred years, what wouldst thou say?"

Aaron said, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works."

Moses.—"And if God were to say to thee that thou shouldst die this year, what wouldst thou answer?"

Aaron.—"The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works."

Moses.—"And if He were to call thee to-day, what wouldst thou say?"

Aaron.—"The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works."

"Then," said Moses, "arise and follow me."

At that same hour went forth Moses, Aaron, and Eleazer, his son; they ascended into Mount Hor, and the people looked on, nothing doubting, for they knew not what was to take place.

Then said the Most High to His angels, "Behold the new Isaac; he follows his younger brother, who leads him to death."

When they had reached the summit of the mountain, there opened before them a cavern. They went in, and found a death-bed prepared by the hands of the angels. Aaron laid himself down upon it and made ready for death.

Then Moses cried out in grief, "Woe is me! we were two, when we comforted our sister in her death; in this, thy last hour, I am with thee to solace thee; when I die, who will comfort me?"

Then a voice was heard from heaven, "Fear not; God himself will be with thee."

On one side stood Moses, on the other Eleazer, and they kissed the dying man on the brow, and took from off him his sacerdotal vestments to clothe Eleazer his son with them. They took off one portion of the sacred apparel, and they laid that on Eleazer; and then they removed another portion, and laid that on Eleazer; and as they stripped Aaron, a silvery veil of cloud sank over him like a pall and covered him.

Aaron seemed to be asleep.

Then Moses said, "My brother, what dost thou feel?"

"I feel nothing but the cloud that envelopes me," answered he.

After a little pause, Moses said again, "My brother, what dost thou feel?"

He answered feebly, "The cloud surrounds me and bereaves me of all joy."

And the soul of Aaron was parted from his body. And as it went up Moses cried once more, "Alas, my brother! what dost thou feel?"

And the soul replied, "I feel such joy, that I would it had come to me sooner."

Then cried Moses, "Oh thou blessed, peaceful death! Oh, may such a death be my lot!"

Moses and Eleazer came down alone from the mountain, and the people wailed because Aaron was no more. But the coffin of Aaron rose, borne by angels, in the sight of the whole congregation, and was carried into heaven, whilst the angels sang: "The priest's lips have kept knowledge, have spoken truth!"[122]

The Mussulman story is not quite the same.

One version is that both Moses and Aaron ascended Hor, knowing that one of them was to die, but uncertain which, and they found a cave, and a sarcophagus therein with the inscription on it, "I am for him whom I fit."

Moses tried to lie down in it, but his feet hung out; Aaron next entered it, lay down, and it fitted him exactly.

Then Gabriel led Moses and the sons of Aaron out of the cave, and when they were again admitted Aaron was dead.[123]

Another version is this: God announced to Moses that he would call Aaron to Himself. Then Moses took his brother from the camp, and they went into the desert, till they came to a tree. When Aaron saw the shadow, he said, "O my brother, whose tree is this?"

Moses said, "God alone knows."

Then spake Aaron, "I am weary, and the shadow is cool; suffer me to repose a little while under the tree."

Moses said, "Lie down, my brother; and may thy rest be sweet."

Aaron lay down, and Moses sat beside him till he died.

Then suddenly the tree, the shadow, and Aaron vanished; and Moses returned alone to the Israelites. They were angry with him, that he had not brought back Aaron, and they took up stones against him. But Moses cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed them Aaron on a bed, and he was dead; and the people looked, and wondered, and wept: then said a voice from heaven, "God hath taken him." The people bewailed him many days.[124]


When the time came for Moses to die, the Lord called Gabriel to Him, and said, "Go and bring the soul of My servant Moses to Paradise."

The angel Gabriel answered in astonishment, "Lord, Lord, how can I venture to give death to that man, the like of whom all generations of men have not seen?"

Then the Most High called to Him Michael, and said, "Go and bring the soul of My servant Moses to Paradise."

The angel Michael answered in fear, "Lord, Lord, I was his instructor in heavenly lore! How can I bear death to my pupil?"

Then the Most High called to Him Sammael, and said, "Go and bring the soul of My servant Moses to Paradise."

The angel Sammael flushed red with joy. He clothed himself in anger, and grasped his sword, and rushed down upon the holy one. But he found him writing the incommunicable name of God, and he saw his face shine with divine light. Then he stood irresolute, and his sword sank with the point to earth.

"What seekest thou?" asked Moses.

"I am sent to give thee death," answered the trembling angel. "All mortals must submit to that."

"But not I," said Moses, "at least from thee; I, consecrated from my mother's womb, the discloser of divine mysteries, the mouthpiece of God, I will not surrender my soul into thy hand."

Then Sammael flew away.

But a voice fell from heaven, "Moses, Moses, thine hour is come!"

"My Lord," answered Moses, "give not my soul into the hands of the Angel of Death."

Then the Bath-kol, the heavenly voice, fell again, "Be comforted. I myself will take thy soul, and I myself will bury thee."[125]

Then Moses went home, and knocked at the door. His wife Zipporah opened; and when she saw him pale and trembling, she inquired the reason.

Moses answered, "Give God the praise. My hour of death is come."

"What! must a man who has spoken with God die like ordinary mortals?"

"He must. Even the angels Gabriel, Michael, and Israfiel must die; God alone is eternal, and dies not."

Zipporah wept, and swooned away.

When she recovered her senses, Moses asked, "Where are my children?"

"They are put to bed, and are asleep."

"Wake them up; I must bid them farewell."

Zipporah went to the children's bed and cried, "Arise, poor orphans! arise, and bid your father farewell; for this is his last day in this world, and the first in the world beyond."

The children awoke in terror, and cried, "Alas! who will pity us when we are fatherless? who will stand protector on our threshold?"

Moses was so moved that he wept. Then God said to him, "What mean these tears? Fearest thou death, or dost thou part reluctantly with this world?"

"I fear not death, nor do I part reluctantly with this world; but I lament these children, who have lost their grandfather Jethro and their uncle Aaron, and who now must lose their father."

"In whom then did thy mother confide, when she cast thee in the bulrush ark into the water?"

"In Thee, O Lord."

"Who gave thee power before Pharaoh? who strengthened thee with thy staff to divide the sea?"

"Thou, O Lord."

"Who led thee through the wilderness, and gave thee bread from heaven, and opened to thee the rock of flint?"

"Thou, O Lord."

"Then canst thou not trust thy orphans to Me, who am a father to the fatherless? But go, take thy staff, and extend it once more over the sea, and thou shalt have a sign to strengthen thy wavering faith."

Moses obeyed. He took the rod of God in his hand, and he went down to the sea-beach, and he lifted the rod over the water. Then the sea divided, and he saw in the midst a black rock. And he went forward into the sea till he reached the rock, and then a voice said to him, "Smite with thy staff!" And he smote, and the rock clave asunder, and he saw at its foundations a little cavity, and in the cavity was a worm with a green leaf in its mouth. The worm lifted up its voice and cried thrice, "Praised be God, who doth not forget me, though I, a little worm, lie in loneliness here! Praised be God, who hath nourished and cherished even me!"

When the worm was silent, God said to Moses: "Thou seest that I do not fail to consider and provide for a little worm in a rock of which men know not, far in the depths of the sea; and shall I forget thy children, who know Me?"

Moses returned with shame to his home, comforted his wife and children, and went alone to the mountain where he was to die.[126]

And when he had gone up the mountain, he met three men who were digging a grave; and he asked them, "For whom do you dig this grave?"

They answered, "For a man whom God will call to be with Him in Paradise."

Moses asked permission to lend a hand to dig the grave of such a holy man. When it was completed, Moses asked,

"Have you taken the measure of the deceased?"

"No; we have quite forgotten to do so. But he was of thy size; lie down in it, and God will reward thee, when we see if it be likely to suit."

Moses did so.[127]

The three men were the three angels Michael, Gabriel, and Sagsagel. The angel Michael had begun the grave, the angel Gabriel had spread the white napkin for the head, the angel Sagsagel that for the feet.

Then the angel Michael stood on one side of Moses, the angel Gabriel on the other side, the angel Sagsagel at the feet, and the Majesty of God appeared above his head.

And the Lord said to Moses, "Close thine eyelids." He obeyed.

Then the Lord said, "Press thy hand upon thy heart." And he did so.

Then God said, "Place thy feet in order." He did so.

Then the Lord God addressed the spirit of Moses, and said, "Holy soul, my daughter! For a hundred and twenty years hast thou inhabited this undefiled body of dust. But now thine hour is come; come forth and mount to Paradise!"

But the soul answered, trembling and with pain, "In this pure and undefiled body have I spent so many years, that I have learned to love it, and I have not the courage to desert it."

"My daughter, come forth! I will place thee in the highest heaven beneath the Cherubim and Seraphim who bear up My eternal throne."

Yet the soul doubted and quaked.

Then God bent over the face of Moses, and kissed him. And the soul leaped up in joy, and went with the kiss of God to Paradise.

Then a sad cloud draped the heavens, and the winds wailed, "Who lives now on earth to fight against sin and error?"

And a voice answered, "Such a prophet never arose before."

And the Earth lamented, "I have lost the holy one!"

And Israel lamented, "We have lost the Shepherd!"

And the angels sang, "He is come in peace to the arms of God!"[128]

But the Mussulmans narrate the last scene differently.

They say that the Angel of Death stood over Moses, as he lay in the grave, and said, "Prophet of God, I must take thy soul."

"How wilt thou take it?"

"From thy mouth."

"Thou canst not, for my mouth hath spoken with God."

"Then from thine eyes."

"Thou canst not, for my eyes have seen the uncreated Light of God."

"Then from thy ears."

"Thou canst not, for my ears have heard the Voice of God."

"Then from thy hands."

"Thou canst not, for my hands have held the diamond tables, on which was engraven the Tora."

Then God bade the Angel of Death obtain from Rhidwan, the porter of Paradise, an apple from the garden, and give it to Moses to smell.

Moses took the apple out of the hand of the Angel of Death, and smelt at it; and as he smelt thereat, the angel drew his soul forth at his nostrils.

None know where is the grave of Moses, save Gabriel, Michael, Israfiel, and Azrael, for they buried him and defend his grave to the Judgment Day.[129]

By Nebo's lonely mountain,
On this side Jordan's wave,
In a vale in the land of Moab
There lies a lonely grave.
And no man knows that sepulchre,
And no man saw it e'er,
For the angels of God upturned the sod,
And laid the dead man there.

That was the grandest funeral
That ever passed on earth;
But no man heard the trampling,
Or saw the train go forth—
Noiselessly as the daylight
Comes back when night is done,
And the crimson streak on Ocean's cheek
Grows into the great sun;

Noiselessly as the spring-time
Her crown of verdure weaves,
And all the trees on all the hills
Open their thousand leaves;
So without sound of music,
Or voice of them that wept,
Silently down from the mountain's crown
The great procession swept.


And had he not high honour—
The hill-side for a pall,
To lie in state, while angels wait
With stars for tapers tall;
And the dark rock-pines, like tossing plumes,
Over his bier to wave,
And God's own hand in that lonely land
To lay him in the grave?[130]

Once when the Persian Empire was at the summit of its power, an attempt was made to discover the body of Moses. A countless host of Persian soldiers was sent to search Mount Nebo. When they had reached the top of the mountain, they saw the sepulchre of Moses distinctly at the bottom. They hastened to reach the valley, and then they clearly distinguished the tomb of Moses at the summit. Thus, whenever they were at the top, they saw it at the foot; and when they were at the foot, it appeared at the top; so they were forced to abandon the prosecution of their search.[131]

The incident of the contention of Michael with Satan for the body of Moses mentioned by S. Jude is contained in the apocryphal "Assumption of Moses," now lost, but which has been quoted by Origen and other Fathers.

  1. The early portion of the life of Moses has been elaborated from Rabbinic sources by Dr. B. Beer. Unfortunately he died before the work was completed, and it has been published as a fragment by his friend, G. Wolf. It extends only as far as his marriage with Zipporah. (Leben Moses nach Auffassung der Jüdischen Sage, von Dr. B. Beer; ein Fragment. Leipzig, 1863.) It is, for the most part, compiled from the Sepher Hajasher, or Book of Jasher.
  2. Yaschar, pp. 1241-53. The history of Zepho is quite a romance, too long for insertion here.
  3. Yaschar, pp. 1248, 1249; 1253, 1254.
  4. Ibid., p. 1255.
  5. Midrash, fol. 51; Yaschar, p. 1157.
  6. Midrash Jalkut, fol. 52; Yaschar, pp. 1257-9.
  7. The curious passages, Isaiah vii. 15, 22, may allude to this tradition.
  8. Moses's life was shortened because he brought water out of the rock contrary to God's command (Numb, xxvii. 14), striking the rock instead of speaking to it.
  9. Beer, pp. 112-6.
  10. Some authorities say that Jochebed, when thrust away, married Eliphazan, the son of Parnach (Numb, xxxiv. 25), and bare him two sons, Eldad and Medad (Numb. xi. 25); but others, with more probability, assert that she married Eliphazan after the death of Amram. (Yaschar, p. 1259.)
  11. Yaschar, p. 1260.
  12. Targum of Palestine, i. p. 446.
  13. Rabboth, fol. 118a.
  14. Exod. xv. 1.
  15. The Arabic name for her is Asia; Yaschar, p. 1261.
  16. Targum of Palestine, i. p. 446; Yaschar, p. 1261.
  17. Midrash, fol. 51.
  18. Midrash, fol. 51; Yaschar, p. 1262.
  19. Midrash, fol. 52; Yaschar, p. 1263.
  20. According to another version, it was Jethro who advised that the child should be proved with the basins of rubies and coals. (Rabboth, fol. 118b; Yaschar, pp. 1263, 1264.)
  21. Exod. iv. 10.
  22. Beer, pp. 26-42. Almlfaraj says that Jannes and Jambres were the tutors of Moses in his youth (Hist. Dynast., p. 17).
  23. Yaschar, p. 1265.
  24. Yaschar, p. 1265.
  25. Yaschar, p. 1263.
  26. Parascha of R. Solomon Jaschi, on Exod. ii. 12; also Targums of Palestine and Jerusalem, i. p. 447; Yaschar, pp. 1265, 1266.
  27. Pirke R. Eliezer, c. 40; Rabboth, fol. 119a; Yaschar, p. 1266.
  28. This illustrates the passage 2 Kings ix. 13.
  29. Midrash, fol. 52; Yaschar, pp. 1265—1274.
  30. These were two of his seven names.
  31. It may be noticed in this as in several other instances, such as those of Rebekah and Rachel, the Rabbis have invented stories to explain the circumstance of the damsels watering the flock, which they supposed derogated from their dignity. This indicates the late date of these traditions, when the old pastoral simplicity was lost.
  32. Pirke R. Eliezer, c. 40; Yaschar, p. 1274.
  33. The Targum of Palestine, "ten years;" i. p. 448.
  34. Beer, pp. 42-62; Pirke R. Eliezer. The Targum of Palestine says the rod was in the chamber of Jethro, not in the garden; i. p. 448. Yaschar, pp. 1277, 1278.
  35. Rabbot., fol. 120a. It is possible that our Blessed Lord's parable of the Good Shepherd may contain an allusion to this popular and beautiful tradition.
  36. Gen. iii. 4. It was the angel Zagnugael who appeared and spoke to him from the bush. (Targum of Palestine, i. p. 449; Abulfeda, p. 31.)
  37. Exod. iv. 14.
  38. Tabari, i. c. lxxiii. p. 24.
  39. Midrash, fol. 54.
  40. Targum of Palestine, i. p. 460.
  41. Yaschar, p. 1280.
  42. Tabari, p. 326.
  43. Some say that Pharaoh entreated Moses to spare him for the sake of Asia (Bithia), and that at the mention of his name Moses was softened. (Weil, p. 159.)
  44. In Arabic, Risam and Rijam; and Shabun and Gabun, in Persian.
  45. Midrash, fol. 56. The Targums say that the enchanters turned the water of Goshen into blood, so that there was no water to the Israelites as to the Egyptians; i. p. 462.
  46. Midrash, fol. 55.
  47. Targum of Palestine, i. p. 463.
  48. Venomous insects (Kalma), gnats (Kinnim). See Wisdom xvi. 1, 3.
  49. Targums, i. 464.
  50. Targums, i. p. 467.
  51. Ibid., i. p. 471.
  52. Yaschar, p. 1283.
  53. Tabari, i. p. 338.
  54. Weil, p. 165.
  55. Talmud, Sota, fol. 13.
  56. Targum of Palestine, i. p. 478.
  57. Targums, i. p. 475.
  58. Ibid., i. p. 485.
  59. Targum of Jerusalem, i. p. 488; Yaschar, p. 1287.
  60. Exod. xiv. 13, 14.
  61. Koran, Sura xxvi. v. 63.
  62. Weil, p. 168; see also Midrash, fol. 176.
  63. Exod. xv. 21.
  64. Tabari, p. 350.
  65. Ibid. i. p. 355.
  66. Both the Rabbis and the Mussulmans lay the blame, not on Aaron, but on another. The Rabbis say it was Micah who made the calf; the Mussulmans call him Samiri. (Weil, p. 170.)
  67. Targum of Palestine, i. p. 552.
  68. Tabari, i. p. 362.
  69. Targum of Palestine, ii. p. 685.
  70. Pirke R. Eliezer, c. 45.
  71. Weil, pp. 172, 173.
  72. Koran, Sura vii. v. 139.
  73. Tabari, i. p. 364.
  74. Ibid., i. c. lxxv.
  75. Targum of Palestine, i. p. 561
  76. Jalkut Rubeni, fol. 117, col. 1.
  77. Jalkut Rubeni, fol. 107, cols. 2, 3.
  78. Ibid., fol. 107, col. 3.
  79. Tabari, i. p. 371; also Midrash, fol. 30.
  80. Parascha R. Bechai, fol. 116.
  81. Talmud, Tract. Hajada, fol. 12, col. 2.
  82. Talmud, Tract. Joma, fol. 75, col. 1.
  83. This is sanctioned by Scripture: "Thou feddest Thine own people with angels food, and didst send them from heaven bread prepared without their labour, able to content every man's delight, and agreeing to every taste." (Wisdom, xvi. 20.)
  84. Talmud, Tract. Joma, fol. 75, col. 1; Schemoth Rabba, fol. 115, col. 4.
  85. To this tradition perhaps David refers, Ps. xxiii. 5, lxxviii. 19.
  86. Targum of Palestine, i. pp. 499, 500.
  87. Jalkut Shimoni, fol. 73, col. 4.
  88. Targum of Palestine, i. pp. 501, 502.
  89. Tabari, i. p. 393.
  90. Koran, Sura ii. v. 54.
  91. Tabari, i. p. 394; but also Deut. viii. 4, Nehemiah ix. 21.
  92. 1 Cor. x. 4.
  93. Tabari, i. p. 373.
  94. See my "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages," article on S. George. I have no doubt whatever that El Khoudr, identified by the Jews with Elias, is the original of the Wandering Jew. I did not know this when I wrote on the "Wandering Jew" in my "Curious Myths," but I believe this to be the key to the whole story.
  95. Weil, pp. 176-81; Tabari, i. c. lxxvi.; Koran, Sura xviii.
  96. Voltaire has taken this legend as the basis of his story of "Zadig."
  97. Targums, ii. pp. 380, 381.
  98. Weil, p. 175.
  99. Targums, ii. p 382.
  100. Weil, p. 176.
  101. Targums, ii. p. 386.
  102. Tract. Kethuvoth, fol. 111, col. 2.
  103. Targum of Palestine, ii. p. 390.
  104. Targums, ii. p. 391.
  105. Tabari, i. c. lxxvii.; Weil, pp. 182, 183; Abulfeda, p. 33.
  106. Eisenmenger, ii. p. 305. Possibly the passage Zech. ix. 11, 12, may contain an allusion to this tradition.
  107. Ibid., p. 342.
  108. Pirke R. Eliezer, c. 45.
  109. Perhaps the passage Isai. xl. 4 may be an allusion to this tradition.
  110. Talmud, Tract. Beracoth, fol. 54, col. 2; Targum of Palestine, ii. pp. 411-13.
  111. Talmud, Tract. Beracoth, fol. 54, col. 2; Targums, ii. p. 416; Yaschar, p. 1296.
  112. Talmud, Tract. Sopherim, fol. 14, col. 4.
  113. Ibid., Tract. Nida, fol. 24, col. 2.
  114. Jalkut Cadasch, fol. 16, col. 2.
  115. Eisenmenger, i. p. 389.
  116. Talmud, Tract. Sopherim, fol. 14, col. 4.
  117. Tabari, i. p. 398.
  118. Gen. xxxi. 51.
  119. Targums, ii. pp. 419-21.
  120. Targums, ii. pp. 432-3.
  121. Ibid., pp. 434-5.
  122. Jalkut, fol. 240; Rabboth, fol. 275, col. 1; Midrash, fol. 285.
  123. Weil, p. 185.
  124. Tabari, i. c. lxxix.; Abulfeda, p. 35.
  125. Rabboth, fol. 302 b; Devarim Rabba, fol. 246, col. 2.
  126. Weil, pp. 188, 189.
  127. Weil, p. 190.
  128. Rabboth, fol. 302 b.
  129. Weil, pp. 190, 191.
  130. Lyra Anglicana, London, 1864, "The Burial of Moses."
  131. Talmud, Tract. Sota, fol. 14 a.