History of the Jews

Death of Israel and Joseph
Sufferings of Hebrews in Egypt
Moses flees Pharaoh
Miracle of the Burning Bush
Egypt's Ten Plagues and the Exodus
Parting of the Red Sea miracle


NOW when Jacob had lived seventeen years in Egypt, he fell into a disease, and died in the presence of his sons; but not till he made his prayers for their enjoying prosperity, and till he had foretold to them prophetically how every one of them was to dwell in the land of Canaan. But this happened many years afterward. He also enlarged upon the praises of Joseph how he had not remembered the evil doings of his brethren to their disadvantage; nay, on the contrary, was kind to them, bestowing upon them so many benefits, as seldom are bestowed on men's own benefactors. He then commanded his own sons that they should admit Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasses, into their number, and divide the land of Canaan in common with them; concerning whom we shall treat hereafter.

However, he made it his request that he might be buried at Hebron. So he died, when he had lived full a hundred and fifty years, three only abated, having not been behind any of his ancestors in piety towards God, and having such a recompense for it, as it was fit those should have who were so good as these were. But Joseph, by the king's permission, carried his father's dead body to Hebron, and there buried it, at a great expense. Now his brethren were at first unwilling to return back with him, because they were afraid lest, now their father was dead, he should punish them for their secret practices against him; since he was now gone, for whose sake he had been so gracious to them. But he persuaded them to fear no harm, and to entertain no suspicions of him: so he brought them along with him, and gave them great possessions, and never left off his particular concern for them.

Joseph also died when he had lived a hundred and ten years; having been a man of admirable virtue, and conducting all his affairs by the rules of reason; and used his authority with moderation, which was the cause of his so great felicity among the Egyptians, even when he came from another country, and that in such ill circumstances also, as we have already described. At length his brethren died, after they had lived happily in Egypt. Now the posterity and sons of these men, after some time, carried their bodies, and buried them at Hebron: but as to the bones of Joseph, they carried them into the land of Canaan afterward, when the Hebrews went out of Egypt, for so had Joseph made them promise him upon oath. But what became of every one of these men, and by what toils they got the possession of the land of Canaan, shall be shown hereafter, when I have first explained upon what account it was that they left Egypt.

Sufferings of Hebrews in Egyptian bondage

NOW it happened that the Egyptians grew delicate and lazy, as to pains-taking, and gave themselves up to other pleasures, and in particular to the love of gain. They also became very ill-affected towards the Hebrews, as touched with envy at their prosperity; for when they saw how the nation of the Israelites flourished, and were become eminent already in plenty of wealth, which they had acquired by their virtue and natural love of labor, they thought their increase was to their own detriment.

And having, in length of time, forgotten the benefits they had received from Joseph, particularly the crown being now come into another family, they became very abusive to the Israelites, and contrived many ways of afflicting them; for they enjoined them to cut a great number of channels for the river, and to build walls for their cities and ramparts, that they might restrain the river, and hinder its waters from stagnating, upon its running over its own banks: they set them also to build pyramids, and by all this wore them out; and forced them to learn all sorts of mechanical arts, and to accustom themselves to hard labor. And four hundred years did they spend under these afflictions; for they strove one against the other which should get the mastery, the Egyptians desiring to destroy the Israelites by these labors, and the Israelites desiring to hold out to the end under them.

While the affairs of the Hebrews were in this condition, there was this occasion offered itself to the Egyptians, which made them more solicitous for the extinction of our nation. One of those sacred scribes, who are very sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king, that about this time there would a child be born to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through all ages.

Which thing was so feared by the king, that, according to this man's opinion, he commanded that they should cast every male child, which was born to the Israelites, into the river, and destroy it; that besides this, the Egyptian midwives should watch the labors of the Hebrew women, and observe what is born, for those were the women who were enjoined to do the office of midwives to them; and by reason of their relation to the king, would not transgress his commands. He enjoined also, that if any parents should disobey him, and venture to save their male children alive, they and their families should be destroyed.

This was a severe affliction indeed to those that suffered it, not only as they were deprived of their sons, and while they were the parents themselves, they were obliged to be subservient to the destruction of their own children, but as it was to be supposed to tend to the extirpation of their nation, while upon the destruction of their children, and their own gradual dissolution, the calamity would become very hard and inconsolable to them. And this was the ill state they were in. But no one can be too hard for the purpose of God, though he contrive ten thousand subtle devices for that end; for this child, whom the sacred scribe foretold, was brought up and concealed from the observers appointed by the king; and he that foretold him did not mistake in the consequences of his preservation, which were brought to pass after the manner following: -

A man whose name was Amram, one of the nobler sort of the Hebrews, was afraid for his whole nation, lest it should fail, by the want of young men to be brought up hereafter, and was very uneasy at it, his wife being then with child, and he knew not what to do. Hereupon he betook himself to prayer to God; and entreated him to have compassion on those men who had nowise transgressed the laws of his worship, and to afford them deliverance from the miseries they at that time endured, and to render abortive their enemies' hopes of the destruction of their nation. Accordingly God had mercy on him, and was moved by his supplication. He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted him not to despair of his future favors.

He said further, that he did not forget their piety towards him, and would always reward them for it, as he had formerly granted his favor to their forefathers, and made them increase from a few to so great a multitude. He put him in mind, that when Abraham was come alone out of Mesopotamia into Canaan, he had been made happy, not only in other respects, but that when his wife was at first barren, she was afterwards by him enabled to conceive seed, and bare him sons. That he left to Ishmael and to his posterity the country of Arabia; as also to his sons by Ketura, Troglodytis; and to Isaac, Canaan. That by my assistance, said he, he did great exploits in war, which, unless you be yourselves impious, you must still remember.

As for Jacob, he became well known to strangers also, by the greatness of that prosperity in which he lived, and left to his sons, who came into Egypt with no more than seventy souls, while you are now become above six hundred thousand. Know therefore that I shall provide for you all in common what is for your good, and particularly for thyself what shall make thee famous; for that child, out of dread of whose nativity the Egyptians have doomed the Israelite children to destruction, shall be this child of thine, and shall be concealed from those who watch to destroy him: and when he is brought up in a surprising way, he shall deliver the Hebrew nation from the distress they are under from the Egyptians. His memory shall be famous while the world lasts; and this not only among the Hebrews, but foreigners also: - all which shall be the effect of my favor to thee, and to thy posterity. He shall also have such a brother, that he shall himself obtain my priesthood, and his posterity shall have it after him to the end of the world.

When the vision had informed him of these things, Amram awaked and told it to Jochebed who was his wife. And now the fear increased upon them on account of the prediction in Amram's dream; for they were under concern, not only for the child, but on account of the great happiness that was to come to him also. However, the mother's labor was such as afforded a confirmation to what was foretold by God; for it was not known to those that watched her, by the easiness of her pains, and because the throes of her delivery did not fall upon her with violence.

And now they nourished the child at home privately for three months; but after that time Amram, fearing he should be discovered, and, by falling under the king's displeasure, both he and his child should perish, and so he should make the promise of God of none effect, he determined rather to trust the safety and care of the child to God, than to depend on his own concealment of him, which he looked upon as a thing uncertain, and whereby both the child, so privately to be nourished, and himself should be in imminent danger; but he believed that God would some way for certain procure the safety of the child, in order to secure the truth of his own predictions.

When they had thus determined, they made an ark of bulrushes, after the manner of a cradle, and of a bigness sufficient for an infant to be laid in, without being too straitened: they then daubed it over with slime, which would naturally keep out the water from entering between the bulrushes, and put the infant into it, and setting it afloat upon the river, they left its preservation to God; so the river received the child, and carried him along.

But Miriam, the child's sister, passed along upon the bank over against him, as her mother had bid her, to see whither the ark would be carried, where God demonstrated that human wisdom was nothing, but that the Supreme Being is able to do whatsoever he pleases: that those who, in order to their own security, condemn others to destruction, and use great endeavors about it, fail of their purpose; but that others are in a surprising manner preserved, and obtain a prosperous condition almost from the very midst of their calamities; those, I mean, whose dangers arise by the appointment of God. And, indeed, such a providence was exercised in the case of this child, as showed the power of God.

Thermuthis was the king's daughter. She was now diverting herself by the banks of the river; and seeing a cradle borne along by the current, she sent some that could swim, and bid them bring the cradle to her. When those that were sent on this errand came to her with the cradle, and she saw the little child, she was greatly in love with it, on account of its largeness and beauty; for God had taken such great care in the formation of Moses, that he caused him to be thought worthy of bringing up, and providing for, by all those that had taken the most fatal resolutions, on account of the dread of his nativity, for the destruction of the rest of the Hebrew nation. Thermuthis bid them bring her a woman that might afford her breast to the child; yet would not the child admit of her breast, but turned away from it, and did the like to many other women. Now Miriam was by when this happened, not to appear to be there on purpose, but only as staying to see the child; and she said,

"It is in vain that thou, O queen, callest for these women for the nourishing of the child, who are no way of kin to it; but still, if thou wilt order one of the Hebrew women to be brought, perhaps it may admit the breast of one of its own nation."

Now since she seemed to speak well, Thermuthis bid her procure such a one, and to bring one of those Hebrew women that gave suck. So when she had such authority given her, she came back and brought the mother, who was known to nobody there. And now the child gladly admitted the breast, and seemed to stick close to it; and so it was, that, at the queen's desire, the nursing of the child was entirely entrusted to the mother.

Hereupon it was that Thermuthis imposed this name Mouses upon him, from what had happened when he was put into the river; for the Egyptians call water by the name of Mo, and such as are saved out of it, by the name of Uses: so by putting these two words together, they imposed this name upon him. And he was, by the confession of all, according to God's prediction, as well for his greatness of mind as for his contempt of difficulties, the best of all the Hebrews, for Abraham was his ancestor of the seventh generation. For Moses was the son of Amram,who was the son of Caath, whose father Levi was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham.

Now Moses's understanding became superior to his age, nay, far beyond that standard; and when he was taught, he discovered greater quickness of apprehension than was usual at his age, and his actions at that time promised greater, when he should come to the age of a man. God did also give him that tallness, when he was but three years old, as was wonderful. And as for his beauty, there was nobody so impolite as,when they saw Moses, they were not greatly surprised at the beauty of his countenance; nay, it happened frequently, that those that met him as he was carried along the road, were obliged to turn again upon seeing the child; that they left what they were about, and stood still a great while to look on him; for the beauty of the child was so remarkable and natural to him on many accounts, that it detained the spectators, and made them stay longer to look upon him.

Thermuthis therefore perceiving him to be so remarkable a child, adopted him for her son, having no child of her own. And when one time had carried Moses to her father, she showed him to him, and said she thought to make him her successor, if it should please God she should have no legitimate child of her own; and to him,

"I have brought up a child who is of a divine form, and of a generous mind; and as I have received him from the bounty of the river, in , I thought proper to adopt him my son, and the heir of thy kingdom."

And she had said this, she put the infant into her father's hands: so he took him, and hugged him to his breast; and on his daughter's account, in a pleasant way, put his diadem upon his head; but Moses threw it down to the ground, and, in a puerile mood, he wreathed it round, and trod upon his feet, which seemed to bring along with evil presage concerning the kingdom of Egypt. But when the sacred scribe saw this, (he was the person who foretold that his nativity would the dominion of that kingdom low,) he made a violent attempt to kill him; and crying out in a frightful manner, he said,

"This, O king! this child is he of whom God foretold, that if we kill him we shall be in no danger; he himself affords an attestation to the prediction of the same thing, by his trampling upon thy government, and treading upon thy diadem. Take him, therefore, out of the way, and deliver the Egyptians from the fear they are in about him; and deprive the Hebrews of the hope they have of being encouraged by him."

But Thermuthis prevented him, and snatched the child away. And the King was not hasty to slay him, God himself, whose providence protected Moses, inclining the King to spare him. He was, therefore, educated with great care. So the Hebrews depended on him, and were of good hopes great things would be done by him; but the Egyptians were suspicious of what would follow such his education. Yet because, if Moses had been slain, there was no one, either akin or adopted, that had any oracle on his side for pretending to the crown of Egypt, and likely to be of greater advantage to them, they abstained from killing him.

Moses' War with the Ethiopians

MOSES, therefore, when he was born, and brought up in the foregoing manner, and came to the age of maturity, made his virtue manifest to the Egyptians; and showed that he was born for the bringing them down, and raising the Israelites.

And the occasion he laid hold of was this: - The Ethiopians, who are next neighbors to the Egyptians, made an inroad into their country, which they seized upon, and carried off the effects of the Egyptians, who, in their rage, fought against them, and revenged the affronts they had received from them; but being overcome in battle, some of them were slain, and the rest ran away in a shameful manner, and by that means saved themselves; whereupon the Ethiopians followed after them in the pursuit, and thinking that it would be a mark of cowardice if they did not subdue all Egypt, they went on to subdue the rest with greater vehemence; and when they had tasted the sweets of the country, they never left off the prosecution of the war: and as the nearest parts had not courage enough at first to fight with them, they proceeded as far as Memphis, and the sea itself, while not one of the cities was able to oppose them.

The Egyptians, under this sad oppression, betook themselves to their oracles and prophecies; and when God had given them this counsel, to make use of Moses the Hebrew, and take his assistance, the King commanded his daughter to produce him, that he might be the general of their army. Upon which, when she had made him swear he would do him no harm, she delivered him to the king, and supposed his assistance would be of great advantage to them. She withal reproached the priest, who, when they had before admonished the Egyptians to kill him, was not ashamed now to own their want of his help.

So Moses, at the persuasion both of Thermuthis and the King himself, cheerfully undertook the business: and the sacred scribes of both nations were glad; those of the Egyptians, that they should at once overcome their enemies by his valor, and that by the same piece of management Moses would be slain; but those of the Hebrews, that they should escape from the Egyptians, because Moses was to be their general.

But Moses prevented the enemies, and took and led his army before those enemies were apprised of his attacking them; for he did not march by the river, but by land, where he gave a wonderful demonstration of his sagacity; for when the ground was difficult to be passed over, because of the multitude of serpents, (which it produces in vast numbers, and, indeed, is singular in some of those productions, which other countries do not breed, and yet such as are worse than others in power and mischief, and an unusual fierceness of sight, some of which ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air, and so come upon men at unawares, and do them a mischief,) Moses invented a wonderful stratagem to preserve the army safe, and without hurt; for he made baskets, like unto arks, of sedge, and filled them with ibes, and carried them along with them; which animal is the greatest enemy to serpents imaginable, for they fly from them when they come near them; and as they fly they are caught and devoured by them, as if it were done by the harts; but the ibes are tame creatures, and only enemies to the serpentine kind: but about these ibes I say no more at present, since the Greeks themselves are not unacquainted with this sort of bird.

As soon, therefore, as Moses was come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibes, and by their means repelled the serpentine kind, and used them for his assistants before the army came upon that ground. When he had therefore proceeded thus on his journey, he came upon the Ethiopians before they expected him; and, joining battle with them, he beat them, and deprived them of the hopes they had of success against the Egyptians, and went on in overthrowing their cities, and indeed made a great slaughter of these Ethiopians. Now when the Egyptian army had once tasted of this prosperous success, by the means of Moses, they did not slacken their diligence, insomuch that the Ethiopians were in danger of being reduced to slavery, and all sorts of destruction; and at length they retired to Saba, which was a royal city of Ethiopia, which Cambyses afterwards named Mero, after the name of his own sister.

The place was to be besieged with very great difficulty, since it was both encompassed by the Nile quite round, and the other rivers, Astapus and Astaboras, made it a very difficult thing for such as attempted to pass over them; for the city was situate in a retired place, and was inhabited after the manner of an island, being encompassed with a strong wall, and having the rivers to guard them from their enemies, and having great ramparts between the wall and the rivers, insomuch, that when the waters come with the greatest violence, it can never be drowned; which ramparts make it next to impossible for even such as are gotten over the rivers to take the city.

However, while Moses was uneasy at the army's lying idle, (for the enemies durst not come to a battle,) this accident happened: - Tharbis was the daughter of the King of the Ethiopians: she happened to see Moses as he led the army near the walls, and fought with great courage; and admiring the subtlety of his undertakings, and believing him to be the author of the Egyptians' success, when they had before despaired of recovering their liberty, and to be the occasion of the great danger the Ethiopians were in, when they had before boasted of their great achievements, she fell deeply in love with him; and upon the prevalence of that passion, sent to him the most faithful of all her servants to discourse with him about their marriage.

He thereupon accepted the offer, on condition she would procure the delivering up of the city; and gave her the assurance of an oath to take her to his wife; and that when he had once taken possession of the city, he would not break his oath to her. No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and consummated his marriage, and led the Egyptians back to their own land.

Moses flees Egypt for Midian

Now the Egyptians, after they had been preserved by Moses, entertained a hatred to him, and were very eager in compassing their designs against him, as suspecting that he would take occasion, from his good success, to raise a sedition, and bring innovations into Egypt; and told the King he ought to be slain.

The King had also some intentions of himself to the same purpose, and this as well out of envy at his glorious expedition at the head of his army, as out of fear of being brought low by him and being instigated by the sacred scribes, he was ready to undertake to kill Moses: but when he had learned beforehand what plots there were against him, he went away privately; and because the public roads were watched, he took his flight through the deserts, and where his enemies could not suspect he would travel; and, though he was destitute of food, he went on, and despised that difficulty courageously; and when he came to the city Midian, which lay upon the Red Sea, and was so denominated from one of Abraham's sons by Keturah, he sat upon a certain well, and rested himself there after his laborious journey, and the affliction he had been in. It was not far from the city, and the time of the day was noon, where he had an occasion offered him by the custom of the country of doing what recommended his virtue, and afforded him an opportunity of bettering his circumstances.

For that country having but little water, the shepherds used to seize on the wells before others came, lest their flocks should want water, and lest it should be spent by others before they came. There were now come, therefore, to this well seven sisters that were virgins, the daughters of Raguel, a priest, and one thought worthy by the people of the country of great honor.

These virgins, who took care of their father's flocks, which sort of work it was customary and very familiar for women to do in the country of the Troglodytes, they came first of all, and drew water out of the well in a quantity sufficient for their flocks, into troughs, which were made for the reception of that water; but when the shepherds came upon the maidens, and drove them away, that they might have the command of the water themselves, Moses, thinking it would be a terrible reproach upon him if he overlooked the young women under unjust oppression,and should suffer the violence of the men to prevail over the right of the maidens, he drove away the men, who had a mind to more than their share,and afforded a proper assistance to the women; who, when they had received such a benefit from him, came to their father, and told him how they had been affronted by the shepherds, and assisted by a stranger, and entreated that he would not let this generous action be done in vain, nor go without a reward.

Now the father took it well from his daughters that they were so desirous to reward their benefactor; and bid them bring Moses into his presence, that he might be rewarded as he deserved. And when Moses came, he told him what testimony his daughters bare to him, that he had assisted them; and that, as he admired him for his virtue, he said that Moses had bestowed such his assistance on persons not insensible of benefits, but where they were both able and willing to return the kindness, and even to exceed the measure of his generosity. So he made him his son, and gave him one of his daughters in marriage; and appointed him to be the guardian and superintendent over his cattle; for of old, all the wealth of the barbarians was in those cattle.

Miracle of the Burning Bush

NOW Moses, when he had obtained the favor of Jethro, for that was one of the names of Raguel, staid there and fed his flock; but some time afterward, taking his station at the mountain called Sinai, he drove his flocks thither to feed them. Now this is the highest of all the mountains thereabout, and the best for pasturage, the herbage being there good; and it had not been before fed upon, because of the opinion men had that God dwelt there, the shepherds not daring to ascend up to it; and here it was that a wonderful prodigy happened to Moses; for a fire fed upon a thorn bush, yet did the green leaves and the flowers continue untouched, and the fire did not at all consume the fruit branches, although the flame was great and fierce.

Moses was affrighted at this strange sight, as it was to him; but he was still more astonished when the fire uttered a voice, and called to him by name, and spake words to him, by which it signified how bold he had been in venturing to come into a place whither no man had ever come before, because the place was divine; and advised him to remove a great way off from the flame, and to be contented with what he had seen; and though he were himself a good man, and the offspring of great men, yet that he should not pry any further; and he foretold to him, that he should have glory and honor among men, by the blessing of God upon him. He also commanded him to go away thence with confidence to Egypt, in order to his being the commander and conductor of the body of the Hebrews, and to his delivering his own people from the injuries they suffered there:

"For," said God, "they shall inhabit this happy land which your forefather Abraham inhabited, and shall have the enjoyment of all good things."

But still he enjoined them, when he brought the Hebrews out of the land of Egypt, to come to that place, and to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving there, Such were the divine oracles which were delivered out of the fire.

But Moses was astonished at what he saw,and much more at what he heard; and he said,

"I think it would be an instance of too great madness, O Lord, for one of that regard I bear to thee, to distrust thy power, since I myself adore it, and know that it has been made manifest to my progenitors: but I am still in doubt how I, who am a private man, and one of no abilities, should either persuade my own countrymen to leave the country they now inhabit, and to follow me to a land whither I lead them; or, if they should be persuaded, how can I force Pharaoh to permit them to depart, since they augment their own wealth and prosperity by the labors and works they put upon them ?"

But God persuaded him to be courageous on all occasions, and promised to be with him, and to assist him in his words, when he was to persuade men; and in his deeds, when he was to perform wonders. He bid him also to take a signal of the truth of what he said, by throwing his rod upon the ground, which, when he had done, it crept along, and was become a serpent, and rolled itself round in its folds, and erected its head, as ready to revenge itself on such as should assault it; after which it become a rod again as it was before. After this God bid Moses to put his right hand into his bosom: he obeyed, and when he took it out it was white, and in color like to chalk, but afterward it returned to its wonted color again. He also, upon God's command, took some of the water that was near him, and poured it upon the ground, and saw the color was that of blood. Upon the wonder that Moses showed at these signs, God exhorted him to be of good courage, and to be assured that he would be the greatest support to him; and bid him make use of those signs, in order to obtain belief among all men, that

"thou art sent by me, and dost all things according to my commands. Accordingly I enjoin thee to make no more delays, but to make haste to Egypt, and to travel night and day, and not to draw out the time, and so make the slavery of the Hebrews and their sufferings to last the longer."

Moses having now seen and heard these wonders that assured him of the truth of these promises of God, had no room left him to disbelieve them: he entreated him to grant him that power when he should be in Egypt; and besought him to vouchsafe him the knowledge of his own name; and since he had heard and seen him, that he would also tell him his name, that when he offered sacrifice he might invoke him by such his name in his oblations. Whereupon God declared to him his holy name, which had never been discovered to men before; concerning which it is not lawful for me to say any more Now these signs accompanied Moses, not then only, but always when he prayed for them: of all which signs he attributed the firmest assent to the fire in the bush; and believing that God would be a gracious supporter to him, he hoped he should be able to deliver his own nation, and bring calamities on the Egyptians.

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh

SO Moses, when he understood that the Pharaoh, in whose reign he fled away, was dead, asked leave of Raguel to go to Egypt, for the benefit of his own people. And he took with him Zipporah, the daughter of Raguel, whom he had married, and the children he had by her, Gersom and Eleazer, and made haste into Egypt. Now the former of those names, Gersom, in the Hebrew tongue, signifies that he was in a strange land; and Eleazer, that, by the assistance of the God of his fathers, he had escaped from the Egyptians. Now when they were near the borders, Aaron his brother, by the command of God, met him, to whom he declared what had befallen him at the mountain, and the commands that God had given him. But as they were going forward, the chief men among the Hebrews, having learned that they were coming, met them: to whom Moses declared the signs he had seen; and while they could not believe them, he made them see them, So they took courage at these surprising and unexpected sights, and hoped well of their entire deliverance, as believing now that God took care of their preservation.

Since then Moses found that the Hebrews would be obedient to whatsoever he should direct, as they promised to be, and were in love with liberty, he came to the king, who had indeed but lately received the government, and told him how much he had done for the good of the Egyptians, when they were despised by the Ethiopians, and their country laid waste by them; and how he had been the commander of their forces, and had labored for them, as if they had been his own people and he informed him in what danger he had been during that expedition, without having any proper returns made him as he had deserved. He also informed him distinctly what things happened to him at Mount Sinai; and what God said to him; and the signs that were done by God, in order to assure him of the authority of those commands which he had given him. He also exhorted him not to disbelieve what he told him, nor to oppose the will of God.

But when the King derided Moses; he made him in earnest see the signs that were done at Mount Sinai. Yet was the King very angry with him and called him an ill man, who had formerly run away from his Egyptian slavery, and came now back with deceitful tricks, and wonders, and magical arts, to astonish him. And when he had said this, he commanded the priests to let him see the same wonderful sights; as knowing that the Egyptians were skillful in this kind of learning, and that he was not the only person who knew them, and pretended them to be divine; as also he told him, that when he brought such wonderful sights before him, he would only be believed by the unlearned. Now when the priests threw down their rods, they became serpents. But Moses was not daunted at it; and said,

"O king, I do not myself despise the wisdom of the Egyptians, but I say that what I do is so much superior to what these do by magic arts and tricks, as Divine power exceeds the power of man: but I will demonstrate that what I do is not done by craft, or counterfeiting what is not really true, but that they appear by the providence and power of God."

And when he had said this, he cast his rod down upon the ground, and commanded it to turn itself into a serpent. It obeyed him, and went all round, and devoured the rods of the Egyptians, which seemed to be dragons, until it had consumed them all. It then returned to its own form, and Moses took it into his hand again.

However, the King was no more moved when was done than before; and being very angry, he said that he should gain nothing by this his cunning and shrewdness against the Egyptians; - and he commanded him that was the chief taskmaster over the Hebrews, to give them no relaxation from their labors, but to compel them to submit to greater oppressions than before; and though he allowed them chaff before for making their bricks, he would allow it them no longer, but he made them to work hard at brick-making in the day-time, and to gather chaff in the night. Now when their labor was thus doubled upon them, they laid the blame upon Moses, because their labor and their misery were on his account become more severe to them.

But Moses did not let his courage sink for the king's threatenings; nor did he abate of his zeal on account of the Hebrews' complaints; but he supported himself, and set his soul resolutely against them both, and used his own utmost diligence to procure liberty to his countrymen. So he went to the king, and persuaded him to let the Hebrews go to Mount Sinai, and there to sacrifice to God, because God had enjoined them so to do. He persuaded him also not to counter the designs of God, but to esteem his favor above all things, and to permit them to depart, lest, before he be aware, he lay an obstruction in the way of the Divine commands, and so occasion his own suffering such punishments as it was probable any one that countered the Divine commands should undergo, since the severest afflictions arise from every object to those that provoke the Divine wrath against them; for such as these have neither the earth nor the air for their friends; nor are the fruits of the womb according to nature, but every thing is unfriendly and adverse towards them. He said further, that the Egyptians should know this by sad experience; and that besides, the Hebrew people should go out of their country without their consent.

The Ten Plagues of Egypt

BUT when the King despised the words of Moses,and had no regard at all to them, grievous plagues seized the Egyptians; every one of which I will describe, both because no such plagues did ever happen to any other nation as the Egyptians now felt, and because I would demonstrate that Moses did not fail in any one thing that he foretold them; and because it is for the good of mankind, that they may learn this caution - Not to do anything that may displease God, lest he be provoked to wrath, and avenge their iniquities upon them. For the Egyptian river ran with bloody water at the command of God, insomuch that it could not be drunk, and they had no other spring of water neither; for the water was not only of the color of blood, but it brought upon those that ventured to drink of it, great pains and bitter torment. Such was the river to the Egyptians; but it was sweet and fit for drinking to the Hebrews, and no way different from what it naturally used to be. As the King therefore knew not what to do in these surprising circumstances, and was in fear for the Egyptians, he gave the Hebrews leave to go away; but when the plague ceased, he changed his mind again, end would not suffer them to go.

But when God saw that he was ungrateful, and upon the ceasing of this calamity would not grow wiser, he sent another plague upon the Egyptians: - An innumerable multitude of frogs consumed the fruit of the ground; the river was also full of them, insomuch that those who drew water had it spoiled by the blood of these animals, as they died in, and were destroyed by, the water; and the country was full of filthy slime, as they were born, and as they died: they also spoiled their vessels in their houses which they used, and were found among what they eat and what they drank, and came in great numbers upon their beds.

There was also an ungrateful smell, and a stink arose from them, as they were born, and as they died therein. Now, when the Egyptians were under the oppression of these miseries, the King ordered Moses to take the Hebrews with him, and be gone. Upon which the whole multitude of the frogs vanished away; and both the land and the river returned to their former natures. But as soon as Pharaoh saw the land freed from this plague, he forgot the cause of it, and retained the Hebrews; and, as though he had a mind to try the nature of more such judgments, he would not yet suffer Moses and his people to depart, having granted that liberty rather out of fear than out of any good consideration.

Accordingly, God punished his falseness with another plague, added to the former; for there arose out of the bodies of the Egyptians an innumerable quantity of lice, by which, wicked as they were, they miserably perished, as not able to destroy this sort of vermin either with washes or with ointments. At which terrible judgment the King of Egypt was in disorder, upon the fear into which he reasoned himself, lest his people should be destroyed, and that the manner of this death was also reproachful, so that he was forced in part to recover himself from his wicked temper to a sounder mind, for he gave leave for the Hebrews themselves to depart.

But when the plague thereupon ceased, he thought it proper to require that they should leave their children and wives behind them, as pledges of their return; whereby he provoked God to be more vehemently angry at him, as if he thought to impose on his providence, and as if it were only Moses, and not God, who punished the Egyptians for the sake of the Hebrews: for he filled that country full of various sorts of pestilential creatures, with their various properties, such indeed as had never come into the sight of men before, by whose means the men perished themselves, and the land was destitute of husbandmen for its cultivation; but if any thing escaped destruction from them, it was killed by a distemper which the men underwent also.

But when Pharaoh did not even then yield to the will of God, but, while he gave leave to the husbands to take their wives with them, yet insisted that the children should be left behind, God presently resolved to punish his wickedness with several sorts of calamities, and those worse than the foregoing, which yet had so generally afflicted them; for their bodies had terrible boils, breaking forth with blains, while they were already inwardly consumed; and a great part of the Egyptians perished in this manner. But when the King was not brought to reason by this plague, hail was sent down from heaven; and such hail it was,as the climate of Egypt had never suffered before, nor was it like to that which falls in other climates in winter time, but was larger than that which falls in the middle of spring to those that dwell in the northern and north-western regions. This hail broke down their boughs laden with fruit. After this a tribe of locusts consumed the seed which was not hurt by the hail; so that to the Egyptians all hopes of the future fruits of the ground were entirely lost.

One would think the aforementioned calamities might have been sufficient for one that was only foolish, without wickedness, to make him wise, and to make him Sensible what was for his advantage. But Pharaoh, led not so much by his folly as by his wickedness, even when he saw the cause of his miseries, he still contested with God, and willfully deserted the cause of virtue; so he bid Moses take the Hebrews away, with their wives and children, to leave their cattle behind, since their own cattle were destroyed.

But when Moses said that what he desired was unjust, since they were obliged to offer sacrifices to God of those cattle, and the time being prolonged on this account, a thick darkness, without the least light, spread itself over the Egyptians, whereby their sight being obstructed, and their breathing hindered by the thickness of the air, they died miserably, and under a terror lest they should be swallowed up by the dark cloud. Besides this, when the darkness, after three days and as many nights, was dissipated, and when Pharaoh did not still repent and let the Hebrews go, Moses came to him and said,

"How long wilt thou be disobedient to the command of God? for he enjoins thee to let the Hebrews go; nor is there any other way of being freed from the calamities are under, unless you do so."

But the King angry at what he said, and threatened to cut off his head if he came any more to trouble him these matters. Hereupon Moses said he not speak to him any more about them, for he himself, together with the principal men among the Egyptians, should desire the Hebrews away. So when Moses had said this, he his way.

But when God had signified, that with one plague he would compel the Egyptians to let Hebrews go, he commanded Moses to tell the people that they should have a sacrifice ready, and they should prepare themselves on the tenth day of the month Xanthicus, against the fourteenth, (which month is called by the Egyptians Pharmuth, Nisan by the Hebrews; but the Macedonians call it Xanthicus,) and that he should carry the Hebrews with all they had. Accordingly, he having got the Hebrews ready for their departure, and having sorted the people into tribes, he kept them together in one place: but when the fourteenth day was come, and all were ready to depart they offered the sacrifice, and purified their houses with the blood, using bunches of hyssop for that purpose; and when they had supped, they burnt the remainder of the flesh, as just ready to depart.

Whence it is that we do still offer this sacrifice in like manner to this day, and call this festival Pascha which signifies the feast of the passover; because on that day God passed us over, and sent the plague upon the Egyptians; for the destruction of the first-born came upon the Egyptians that night, so that many of the Egyptians who lived near the king's palace, persuaded Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go. Accordingly he called for Moses, and bid them be gone; as supposing, that if once the Hebrews were gone out of the country, Egypt should be freed from its miseries. They also honored the Hebrews with gifts; some, in order to get them to depart quickly, and others on account of their neighborhood, and the friendship they had with them.

The Exodus

So the Hebrews went out of Egypt, while the Egyptians wept, and repented that they had treated them so hardly. - Now they took their journey by Letopolis, a place at that time deserted, but where Babylon was built afterwards, when Cambyses laid Egypt waste: but as they went away hastily, on the third day they came to a place called Beelzephon, on the Red Sea; and when they had no food out of the land, because it was a desert, they eat of loaves kneaded of flour, only warmed by a gentle heat; and this food they made use of for thirty days; for what they brought with them out of Egypt would not suffice them any longer time; and this only while they dispensed it to each person, to use so much only as would serve for necessity, but not for satiety. Whence it is that, in memory of the want we were then in, we keep a feast for eight days, which is called the feast of unleavened bread. Now the entire multitude of those that went out, including the women and children, was not easy to be numbered, but those that were of an age fit for war, were six hundred thousand.

They left Egypt in the month Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt. It was the eightieth year of the age of Moses, and of that of Aaron three more. They also carried out the bones of Joseph with them, as he had charged his sons to do.

But the Egyptians soon repented that the Hebrews were gone; and the King also was mightily concerned that this had been procured by the magic arts of Moses; so they resolved to go after them. Accordingly they took their weapons, and other warlike furniture, and pursued after them, in order to bring them back, if once they overtook them, because they would now have no pretense to pray to God against them, since they had already been permitted to go out; and they thought they should easily overcome them, as they had no armor, and would be weary with their journey; so they made haste in their pursuit, and asked of every one they met which way they were gone. And indeed that land was difficult to be traveled over, not only by armies, but by single persons.

Now Moses led the Hebrews this way, that in case the Egyptians should repent and be desirous to pursue after them, they might undergo the punishment of their wickedness, and of the breach of those promises they had made to them. As also he led them this way on account of the Philistines, who had quarreled with them, and hated them of old, that by all means they might not know of their departure, for their country is near to that of Egypt; and thence it was that Moses led them not along the road that tended to the land of the Philistines, but he was desirous that they should go through the desert, that so after a long journey, and after many afflictions, they might enter upon the land of Canaan. Another reason of this was, that God commanded him to bring the people to Mount Sinai, that there they might offer him sacrifices.

Now when the Egyptians had overtaken the Hebrews, they prepared to fight them, and by their multitude they drove them into a narrow place; for the number that pursued after them was six hundred chariots, with fifty thousand horsemen, and two hundred thousand foot-men, all armed. They also seized on the passages by which they imagined the Hebrews might fly, shutting them up between inaccessible precipices and the sea; for there was [on each side] a [ridge of] mountains that terminated at the sea, which were impassable by reason of their roughness, and obstructed their flight; wherefore they there pressed upon the Hebrews with their army, where [the ridges of] the mountains were closed with the sea; which army they placed at the chops of the mountains, that so they might deprive them of any passage into the plain.

When the Hebrews, therefore, were neither able to bear up, being thus, as it were, besieged, because they wanted provisions, nor saw any possible way of escaping; and if they should have thought of fighting, they had no weapons; they expected a universal destruction, unless they delivered themselves up to the Egyptians. So they laid the blame on Moses, and forgot all the signs that had been wrought by God for the recovery of their freedom; and this so far, that their incredulity prompted them to throw stones at the prophet, while he encouraged them and promised them deliverance; and they resolved that they would deliver themselves up to the Egyptians. So there was sorrow and lamentation among the women and children, who had nothing but destruction before their eyes, while they were encompassed with mountains, the sea, and their enemies, and discerned no way of flying from them.

But Moses, though the multitude looked fiercely at him, did not, however, give over the care of them, but despised all dangers, out of his trust in God, who, as he had afforded them the several steps already taken for the recovery of their liberty, which he had foretold them, would not now suffer them to be subdued by their enemies, to be either made slaves or be slain by them; and, standing in midst of them, he said,

"It is not just of us to distrust even men, when they have hitherto well managed our affairs, as if they would not be the same hereafter; but it is no better than madness, at this time to despair of the providence of God, by whose power all those things have been performed he promised, when you expected no such things: I mean all that I have been concerned in for deliverance and escape from slavery. Nay, when we are in the utmost distress, as you see we ought rather to hope that God will succor us, by whose operation it is that we are now this narrow place, that he may out of such difficulties as are otherwise insurmountable and out of which neither you nor your enemies expect you can be delivered, and may at once demonstrate his own power and his providence over us.

Nor does God use to give his help in small difficulties to those whom he favors, but in such cases where no one can see how any hope in man can better their condition. Depend, therefore, upon such a Protector as is able to make small things great, and to show that this mighty force against you is nothing but weakness, and be not affrighted at the Egyptian army, nor do you despair of being preserved, because the sea before, and the mountains behind, afford you no opportunity for flying, for even these mountains, if God so please, may be made plain ground for you, and the sea become dry land."

Miracle of Parting of the Red Sea

WHEN Moses had said this, he led them to the sea, while the Egyptians looked on; for they were within sight. Now these were so distressed by the toil of their pursuit, that they thought proper to put off fighting till the next day. But when Moses was come to the sea-shore, he took his rod, and made supplication to God, and called upon him to be their helper and assistant; and said

"Thou art not ignorant, O Lord, that it is beyond human strength and human contrivance to avoid the difficulties we are now under; but it must be thy work altogether to procure deliverance to this army, which has left Egypt at thy appointment. We despair of any other assistance or contrivance, and have recourse only to that hope we have in thee; and if there be any method that can promise us an escape by thy providence, we look up to thee for it. And let it come quickly, and manifest thy power to us; and do thou raise up this people unto good courage and hope of deliverance, who are deeply sunk into a disconsolate state of mind. We are in a helpless place, but still it is a place that thou possessest; still the sea is thine, the mountains also that enclose us are thine; so that these mountains will open themselves if thou commandest them, and the sea also, if thou commandest it, will become dry land. Nay, we might escape by a flight through the air, if thou shouldst determine we should have that way of salvation."

When Moses had thus addressed himself to God, he smote the sea with his rod, which parted asunder at the stroke, and receiving those waters into itself, left the ground dry, as a road and a place of flight for the Hebrews. Now when Moses saw this appearance of God, and that the sea went out of its own place, and left dry land, he went first of all into it, and bid the Hebrews to follow him along that divine road, and to rejoice at the danger their enemies that followed them were in; and gave thanks to God for this so surprising a deliverance which appeared from him.

Now, while these Hebrews made no stay, but went on earnestly, as led by God's presence with them, the Egyptians supposed first that they were distracted, and were going rashly upon manifest destruction. But when they saw that they were going a great way without any harm, and that no obstacle or difficulty fell in their journey, they made haste to pursue them, hoping that the sea would be calm for them also. They put their horse foremost, and went down themselves into the sea. Now the Hebrews, while these were putting on their armor, and therein spending their time, were beforehand with them, and escaped them, and got first over to the land on the other side without any hurt.

Whence the others were encouraged, and more courageously pursued them, as hoping no harm would come to them neither: but the Egyptians were not aware that they went into a road made for the Hebrews, and not for others; that this road was made for the deliverance of those in danger, but not for those that were earnest to make use of it for the others' destruction. As soon, therefore, as ever the whole Egyptian army was within it, the sea flowed to its own place, and came down with a torrent raised by storms of wind, and encompassed the Egyptians. Showers of rain also came down from the sky, and dreadful thunders and lightning, with flashes of fire. Thunderbolts also were darted upon them. Nor was there any thing which used to be sent by God upon men, as indications of his wrath, which did not happen at this time, for a dark and dismal night oppressed them. And thus did all these men perish, so that there was not one man left to be a messenger of this calamity to the rest of the Egyptians.

But the Hebrews were not able to contain themselves for joy at their wonderful deliverance, and destruction of their enemies; now indeed supposing themselves firmly delivered, when those that would have forced them into slavery were destroyed, and when they found they had God so evidently for their protector. And now these Hebrews having escaped the danger they were in, after this manner, and besides that, seeing their enemies punished in such a way as is never recorded of any other men whomsoever, were all the night employed in singing of hymns, and in mirth. Moses also composed a song unto God, containing his praises, and a thanksgiving for his kindness, in hexameter verse.

As for myself, I have delivered every part of this history as I found it in the sacred books; nor let any one wonder at the strangeness of the narration if a way were discovered to those men of old time, who were free from the wickedness of the modern ages, whether it happened by the will of God or whether it happened of its own accord; - while, for the sake of those that accompanied Alexander, King of Macedonia, who yet lived, comparatively but a little while ago, the Pamphylian Sea retired and afforded them a passage through itself, had no other way to go; I mean, when it was the will of God to destroy the monarchy of the Persians: and this is confessed to be true by all that have written about the actions of Alexander. But as to these events, let every one determine as he pleases.

On the next day Moses gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians, which were brought to the camp of the Hebrews by the current of the sea, and the force of the winds resisting it; and he conjectured that this also happened by Divine Providence, that so they might not be destitute of weapons. So when he had ordered the Hebrews to arm themselves with them, he led them to Mount Sinai, in order to offer sacrifice to God, and to render oblations for the salvation of the multitude, as he was charged to do beforehand.

Adapted from
Antiquities of the Jews
by Flavius Josephus
Creation of
the World
King Saul
conquers Amalekites
War with Syria Simon wars
with Trypho
Herod considers
suicide, sons killed
Abraham fights
King David
rules over Israel
Assyria wars
with Judah
Hyrcanus wars
with Aristobulus
Caesar taxes
Syria and Judea
Parting of
the Red Sea
against David
Babylon sets
up Judah's King
Herod the Great
spoils Jerusalem
King Agrippa
goes to Rome
Aaron's Priesthood King Solomon
King Cyrus frees
Jews from Babylon
The laws of
King Herod
Roman Senators
want democracy
Gideon delivers
Israel from Midianites
Kingdom of
Israel Splits
Esther saves
the Jews
King David's
tomb robbed
Claudius becomes
Roman Emperor
God destroys
the Philistines
Jews overcome
their enemies
Antiochus makes
war against Jerusalem
nine wives

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