A lovely view of the city, isn’t it? This is your first trip here? Well, you have a great deal to see, for we have an extraordinary country.
I have seen the sun rise over the Nile and set over the vast deserts to the west. I know where the papyrus grows, waiting to be used by some priest for writing material or by some artisan for mats, ropes or sandals. I have traveled to the tombs of the ancient ones, to the city of the dead. I have wandered through Pharaoh’s palaces, partaken of his sumptuous feasts, and heard the whisperings of his servants and the secrets of his counselors.
I have seen Pharaoh with his architects and builders scanning the plans for his great pyramid. The inner walls will be covered with scenes of all his battles, his many victories over his enemies. When Pharaoh dies, his treasured possessions will be moved into the innermost chamber where his mummified body will await the time of reunion with his spirit. Images of the gods and goddesses of Egypt will hover over him for all eternity.
Meanwhile I have seen the people prostrate themselves in the very streets wherever Pharaoh travels, for they consider him a god. I have worshipped with him in his fabulous temples and I, too, have prayed to Egypt’s countless deities.
I have had my own servants and teachers. My cedar chests overflow with the best garments, rich in color and fabrics. In addition I have perfumes, spices and ointments from distant market places. My life is one of ease, riches and pure luxury.
I have seen the people in their daily struggles — the poor ever poor, it seems, and the wealthy so very wealthy. I have seen the slaves from Nubia in the slave markets. I weep for a society of silenced peoples. And then there is our rich area of Goshen, where a strange people dwell, the Hebrews. I have seen them toiling under their taskmasters. I understand they have not always been slaves, that they are the descendants of a mighty sheik, Israel, from Canaan. But now our nation is nervous that the Goshen area could be ripe for rebellion. So our leaders have taken control of the people there and forced them to build Pharaoh’s treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
The one called Mosheh? Yes, I know him. He grew up within these palace walls, from a toddler to a child to a young man, then an army officer and a brilliant commander of troops. He was educated in all the wisdom of our land. His men would follow him to the ends of our empire if he asked. Some think he could have been next on the throne. Do I sound proud? I suppose I am. You see, he is my nephew, though much older than I. Yet I know there have been whispers about him — this son of my eldest sister. Some say he is not really my relative, that my sister adopted him as an infant, that he is really Hebrew by birth.
I do miss him! He was always so much in our lives, so much a part of the daily reports. But he angered Pharaoh and fled the country years ago. We were told that he just vanished beyond the Nile. However, Pharaoh’s advisers report that he was sighted recently in Goshen — checking on “his family” and the slaves there. How can this be?
But, forgive me, I have rambled on and not even told you my name. I am Bithiah, youngest daughter of Pharaoh.
It has been months, my friend, since we met. I see your busy life has brought you back to our troubled city. Walk with me and I shall tell you of some very unusual events. Some of our people think the very gods are at war in our land. Look around you. This is not the rich land of your previous visit. Our land is ruined. Indeed, it seems there is one God, Yahweh, in control of our land. And He is not a god of Egypt at all!
You remember we talked about Mosheh, who led our armies and who mysteriously disappeared, like the desert winds? Well, we have learned for certain that he is not of Egyptian heritage, but born a Hebrew of Goshen. My eldest sister has told us of finding a baby in a basket floating in the Nile. She told of a little girl watching from the rushes, who offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse him. Why would a mother put a baby in a basket and set it afloat? I am ashamed to say. My people destroyed many male children of Israel in an attempt to limit their numbers. But she drew this child out of the water — my “nephew” — and she raised him as her own son. All the whispers were quite true.
Yes, he has returned to Pharaoh’s court. I have seen him. But he is nothing like his former self. He isn’t dressed as an Egyptian prince or general, and he has no titles or servants. He wears plain clothes, carryies a shepherd’s crook, and is accompanied by a man he calls his brother, Aaron. The two of them, looking like nomads, march right into the palace and the very throne room, as though they have authority to do so! And the demands they make! They claim Pharaoh must let the Hebrews leave Egypt to worship the God of their fathers. We have suffered terribly for refusing to bow to such demands. Have you not heard any reports? Ah, natural occurrences, you say. I think not! If you had been here you would know better, my friend.
Have you ever seen the waters of a river turned to blood? I did. Every living thing in the Nile died — what a stink! Then Aaron stretched his rod over the river and frogs came out. Do you have any idea, my friend, how high a frog can jump? They were everywhere, even in our beds and ovens! Yet Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews leave. While the stench of dead frogs was still over the land, there was another infestation. This one was gnats — fleas and lice, followed by swarms of filthy flies.
We kept wondering why Pharaoh just didn’t let these people go. Clearly the gods of Egypt were no match for the Hebrew God. All the priests’ prayers and ceremonies did no good. The misery continued with pestilence on the cattle and then boils on humans and cattle. What agony! Pharaoh promised to release the Hebrews, and then changed his mind. What kind of a man can experience such anguish and still think he and his gods are in command?
Mosheh had told Pharaoh and his officials that they and all Egypt would learn that the earth belongs to the LORD, Yahweh. He even says his God put Pharaoh on the throne so that the Name of the LORD would be proclaimed in all the earth.
What could Egypt’s gods do? They are worthless. But Pharaoh still refused to learn his lesson. And so more calamities came to our land: rain, huge hail, thunder and lightning. Then came the scourge of the desert — the locusts. The ground was black with their armies. They left absolutely nothing green. I saw it all. But still Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go to honor their God. The latest plague was only last week, my friend. Surely you heard of the thick darkness, like an enormous sandstorm, that swept through our land for three days. We couldn’t go anywhere or even see anyone. It was horrifying.
Pharaoh has told Mosheh and Aaron to get out of his sight and they have told him they will never appear before him again. However, there was one last dreadful message of doom, and we wait for it to fall. The firstborn of every household will die. This is because Pharaoh stubbornly refuses to release the LORD’s firstborn — these Hebrews — children of Israel. Pharaoh and all Egypt will then surely know the God of the slaves reigns supreme.
I have seen all of this. Now I wonder what else Yahweh will show us.
[Editor’s Note: How does Bithiah’s story end? We cannot know, but perhaps the “dull, dry” geneaology of 1 Chronicles 4:17,18 gives us a clue.]