Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Day of Reckoning

Did they think he was a fool? Did they think their silly magic tricks would let him relinquish such a valuable asset? Say what they would about going three days into the desert to worship their God, they weren’t fooling him. Out of sight, and they would vanish faster than the morning dew in the desert air! He was Pharaoh, not some peasant to be taken in by a good story, and they were a race of slaves, born to serve. Without their labour, all his building projects would never get done. Why would he give away such a valuable asset? They might as well ask him to give away the River Nile, or the sun in the burning sky! But the River Nile knew its place and flowed between its banks, overflowing them once a year at just the right time so that the land of Egypt stayed fertile and prosperous. Certainly it had turned to blood that time, but that was just a magic trick, and, after all, it didn’t last. A bit unpleasant at the time, sure (ok, it was downright nasty) but no harm done in the long run. The Nile knew its place, and the blazing sun, Amun-Ra, knew his rightful place and stayed there, god though he was. Only this Moses, his brain obviously addled by too many years under the desert sun, kept coming back with this insane demand, “Let my people go!”

Yes, he had to admit it had been a bad year: locusts, hail, cattle plague, even that period of darkness which had terrified some of the priests and magicians and set them imagining all sorts of dreadful portents. Bad years happen. Hadn’t there been that time, way, way back in the mists of history, when they had famine for seven years? Terrible, yet Egypt had survived. He was Pharaoh, secure in his palace where no hurt could reach him. If a few peasants died, starved, suffered, well, that was the lot of peasants everywhere. He was tired of these Hebrews trying to gain credit for their futile cause from every misfortune that happened. If their God (who didn’t even seem to have a name or an image) were really so powerful, why would they be a race of slaves?

And now the latest news was that they had all been killing lambs from their flocks and painting blood on their doorways. What kind of slavish superstition was that? And so unhygienic! Actually, he’d better make a note to get the overseers to make them clean up before some sort of plague broke out among them. It would serve them right, of course, but he needed able-bodied slaves right now. Odd, wasn’t it, that none of those plaguey misfortunes that had racked Egypt lately seemed to have affected them?

It really was time he went to bed and stopped letting those slaves keep him from his rest. They really weren’t worth it! It must be nearly midnight. It was a mild night, he wandered out to the balcony, still unable to get them out of his head. And then, it was if a loud cry went out all over Egypt, as if some terrible calamity had happened in every home at once. And then, before he had time to begin to understand, a terrible keening cry rose up from within the palace, from the quarters of his eldest son, his beloved heir. What could possibly have happened?

No comments: