Imagens das páginas

sent messengers to their powerful brother, with these words: “Thy father commanded before he died, saying, So shall you say to Joseph, O forgive, I pray thee, the trespass of thy brothers, and their sin; for they did to thee evil : and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. In order to strengthen their prayer, they came themselves, and fell down before him, saying, Behold, we are thy servants.' Joseph's reply was plain and humble, and yet embraced, with religious depth, the whole chain of events of his long career-• Fear not; for am I in God's stead? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to preserve much people. Now, therefore, fear not; I will nourish you and your

little ones. And he comforted them, and spoke kindly to them.

So they lived together in true brotherly friendship. Joseph was happy in his family; he saw his descendants grow up to the third generation, and died in peace, one hundred and ten years old. But before his death, he exacted from his kinsmen an oath, by which they pledged themselves to take his body with them, and to bury it in Canaan, whenever, by the mercy of God, they would be allowed to settle in the land of promise. They made the VOW ; and in order to enable their descendants to redeem it, they embalmed the body, and carefully preserved it in a chest.

Thus ended the life of Joseph, gently, peacefully, meekly; he died beloved by a great king, revered by the most learned nation of the ancient world, cherished by his own family, whose pride and support he had been, and who in Egypt were to increase and become a numerous people, to return, in due time, as conquerors, into the land of Canaan.




[Exop. I.]

The early generations of sturdy shepherd chiefs soon passed away. Indeed the whole scene changes, and the brilliant and prosperous days of the strangers, hospitably received in the strange land, become darkened and saddened by slavery and oppression.

The generous king who had honoured and exalted Joseph, had been gathered to his fathers, and was succeeded by another Pharaoh, who had never known Joseph, the benefactor of his country.

He felt no gratitude or goodwill towards the children of Israel, who had settled in one of the most fertile provinces of Egypt, and were growing alarmingly in number and power. God's blessing rested indeed upon the Hebrews, for from one family they rapidly increased into a nation.

Pharaoh looked with anxiety upon this foreign people, striking out their roots into the very heart of the country, and he summoned his counsellors to impart to them his apprehensions. • Behold,' said he, the children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we: come then, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass that when there happens any war, they join also


with our enemies, and fight against us, and go up out of the land. And so they did deal wisely with them, as they thought; for they converted a free people into slaves, and they set severe task-masters over them, who afflicted and weighed them down with burdens. Instead of tending their flocks and herds in the fragrant pastures, the children of Israel were compelled to toil and drudge under a burning sun, building for Pharaoh vast towns and stupendous monuments. Pithom and Raamses, two store cities of Egypt, and probably situated in the north of Goshen, were built by the labour of the Israelites. The Pharaohs had an inordinate love for grand works of architecture. Colossal size as essential to the Egyptians as beauty to the Greeks. Their cities, their temples, their palaces, their tombs, were all on a gigantic scale, and the huge gods of the Egyptians towering high above their temple gates, struck awe into the minds of the worshippers. Vast numbers of workmen were necessary to carry out such immense structures. By forcing the Hebrews into hard service, Pharaoh gained the double end of founding large cities or erecting magnificent monuments, and of crushing that healthful spirit of independence and freedom which was so dangerously active among the foreign shepherd race.

But the God of Abraham had not forsaken His people ; for the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied and spread, until they became a terror to the Egyptians. Then Pharaoh resorted to severer measures. He increased their labour, and made them work in the brick-kilns and the fields, under the tyranny of pitiless task-masters. He employed them for cutting canals, fortifying the cities with walls, raising dykes, and erecting pyramids.'

But still Pharaoh deemed the slaves too powerful for his safety, and he was resolved upon exterminating them. So he rigorously commanded the midwives to kill all the

new-born sons of the Hebrews, and to let only the daughters live. But this inhuman decree was not carried out; no murderous hand was uplifted against the infants of the Israelites: the midwives feared God and would not obey Pharaoh. Then the king laid his command upon the whole people, making every citizen responsible for its execution : ‘Every son that is born you shall cast into the Nile, but every daughter you shall save alive.'


[Exod. II.]

Such was the sad condition of the Hebrews when a child was born among them, who was destined to be the instrument of their deliverance. His parents were Amram and Jochebed, both descendants of Levi. They had two elder children, Miriam and Aaron; the former was already a young maiden, the latter three years old, when this third child, another son, was added to their family. The unfortunate mother was too well aware of Pharaoh's decree, but anxiously devised plans which left her some faint hope of saving her last-born. She hid him carefully for three months; but when she found it impossible to conceal him any longer, she exposed him among the flags at the banks of the Nile, in a chest of bulrushes, which she daubed with bitumen and pitch ; the bulrushes were as close and hard as wood, the bitumen from within was a protection from the spikes of the rushes, and the pitch from without was to seal the ark from the entrance of the water. When Jochebed had deposited the chest in the river, she bid her daughter Miriam remain at some distance, to watch over its fate.

It happened that, on that day, Pharaoh's daughter, accompanied by her maidens, walked down to the river's

side to bathe. Perceiving the ark among the flags, she sent one of her attendants to fetch it. As it was opened, she was startled by the cries of a weeping boy. The forlorn helplessness of the poor infant touched the heart of the princess ; she knew the cruel mandates of her father, and obviously disapproved of them. • This is one of the Hebrew children,' she exclaimed. Her voice must have been soft with pity, for the watchful sister of the child advanced and asked anxiously, “Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?' When Pharaoh's daughter consented, Miriam sped home to fetch her mother, who, soon arriving, was addressed by the princess with the welcome words : • Take this child away and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. Jochebed took the boy home again and nursed him. But when he grew and was weaned, the mother gave him back to Pharaoh's daughter, who adopted him as her son, and called his name Moses, saying, Because I drew him out of the water.'

So Moses was reared in the palace of the king of Egypt, in the midst of all that was learned and wise in that land of scholars. But he was not forgetful of his poor toiling brethren; he had a warm and loving heart, unspoiled by the luxuries and honours with which he was surrounded from his childhood. He did not keep aloof from his countrymen, but went out into the fields, and there witnessed their oppressive and exhausting labour. He once beheld an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew; it was more than his indignant spirit could bear; and with an impatient outburst of anger, he determined to punish the offender. They were alone and unwatched; and Moses slew the Egyptian, and buried him in the sand. On the following day, he returned again to the fields, and this time he found two Hebrews quarrelling. Moses had a strong sense of justice ; he said to the man he saw to be

« AnteriorContinuar »