« AnteriorContinuar »
( Exodus Ii. 5, 6.)
In the patriarchal ages, Egypt was visited by two remarkable providential occurrences. During seven years a superabundance of corn grew in that fertile "valley of the Nile;" which seven years were succeeded by an equal period of great dearth. This had been signified to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in two night visions; which none of his wise men could interpret. Joseph, however, who was at that time confined unjustly in the king's prison, was inspired by God to reveal the secret; and, being raised for his wisdom to the high post of governor of Egypt, he preserved the nation from the dire effects of the famine.
Pharaoh and his people were grateful for the services of Joseph. This was shown in various ways; but one of the most pleasing instances of the monarch's gratitude, is that in which he directed Joseph to send for his aged father, and his numerous descendants, out of Syria—where the effects of the famine were also felt—that they might enjoy "the good of all the land of Egypt." The father and the brethren of Joseph, therefore, went down to Egypt; and the rich pastures of the land of Goshen were assigned to them by the grateful monarch. But in process of time a Pharaoh, or king, ascended the throne of Egypt, who, unlike his predecessors, looked upon the Hebrews with a jealous eye, and commenced an iron rule over them. Conceiving their increasing numbers formidable to the future peace and prosperity of the Egyptian state, in order to reduce them he compelled them to relinquish their mode of life as tent-dwelling shepherds, and to cultivate that soil originally granted them for pasturage. He likewise required that they should make bricks, build towns, and perform many other works, both painful and hateful to a pastoral people. Like the Bedouins of the present day, indeed, they would not have executed such works, unless by coercion. Pharaoh knew this, and the execution of his will was confided to task-masters, who "made their lives bitter with hard bondage."
But the end was not accomplished. The more the Hebrews were oppressed the more they multiplied, and the more Pharaoh and his people were alarmed. A new expedient was, therefore, devised to check their increase. The Hebrew midwives were ordered to destroy all the male children that should be born; and they daring to disobey, an edict was issued by the cruel monarch, empowering and directing his own subjects to commit the dark crime.
This edict threatened to desolate the Hebrew race; but it proved the means of their deliverance. Jochebed, the wife of Amram, of the tribe of Levi, bare a son shortly after its promulgation, and the fond parents hazarded their safety by concealing him in the house three months. At length, however, it became impossible to hide the infant any longer; but his tender mother was unwilling to give him up to immediate death. In her extremity, she made a basket-work boat of bulrushes, or cyperus papyrus, coating it within and without with slime and pitch, mineral and vegetable productions, that it might float upon the water.
Thus was Moses, the future deliverer of Israel, committed to the waters of the Mle, that stream which abounded with the crocodile, remorseless as the monarch; and his sister was stationed near to watch the event. His death appeared to be certain. But, no! He who spread abroad the blue vault of heaven as a molten glass, He who created the stupendous globe on which we live, with all the diversified and wonderful divisions of the universe, cared for the tender babe. The daughter of the regal murderer came down to bathe in the waters of the Nile, and the directing hand of Providence gave the babe into her charge. The sacred historian says:—
"And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children."
Though the babe belonged to the despised Hebrew race, and though doomed to destruction by her tyrant father, as she saw the tears trickling down the face of the innocent, she resolved to be his protectress. Influenced by the tender sentiments of humanity, she called aloud for a nurse, and his sister, who had now mingled with her attendants, offered to recommend a Hebrew matron to undertake the charge. The offer was accepted, and his sister fetched the babe's own mother, who received him from the noble-minded princess, with a charge to nurse him for her, for wages.