Sunday, January 25, 2015

Parshat Beshallach: The Exodus: Egyptian Troop Movements, Nile Delta Military Command Area

“Needless to say, none of these events [i.e., Israelite enslavement and the Exodus] are corroborated by ancient Egyptian records, since the Exodus was a minor affair in Egyptian annals.”
--Peter Clayton, Chronicles of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson, 1994.

Egyptian Weekly Army Review
Troop Deployment Report

Year of Osiris, Akhet, Time-of-Nile-Rising,
Reign of His Gracious, Sun-in-His-Splendor-Rising,
Pharaoh Ramesses II

Item: Supply-Sergeant Khufu requisitioned six bows-and-quivers for use by Platoon 6, Chariot Squadron C, Regiment Horus-Hawk-of-Vengeance; three of six quivers were found to be of shoddy workmanship, and returned to the Nubian Factory for repair or replacement.

Item: Corporal Menkaure found to be drunk on barley-beer during 3rd Night Watch, sentenced to receive ten lashes and lose three-days’ pay, it being Middle-Level-Alert due to presence of Bedouin in Northern Boundary Area; sentence reduced by Provost Marshal Judge to five lashes, one day’s loss of  pay, Plea of Mercy, in light of Corporal’s recently losing his mother to Nile Fever; sentence under review.

Item: Troop Movements Yesterday, Nile Delta Military Command Area
Chariot Squadrons F & H, Regiment Osiris-Escort-of-Underworld, Lieutenants Userkaf & Huni Commanding; Capt. Kawab, Overall Commander, Reporting—

1 o’clock am—Sentries Privates Sahure and Waset, stationed on Signal-Tower #4, Eastern Boundary, Great Pyramid District, spot a Dust-Cloud in area of Goshen-Slave-Quarters. Fearful of spreading Plague, there being Reports of such in that area, Sentries wave Red Flags and light Watch-Fires to alert other Signal-Towers in Area.
Private Sahure: “They were Slave Rabble—those Hapiru folk; I do not speak their gibberish, my family being High Egyptian for generations—but I did make out Dancing and Singing amid their march.”
Private Waset: “I smelled some sort of bread baking; it smelled burnt, and they were carrying large boxes of gold and silver, which gleamed in the morning sun.”
Sentries estimate Size of Mob to be 6,000 Men, Women, & Children (Approx.).

2:30 am—Upon spotting the Signal-Fires of Tower #4, Adjutant Unas of Cavalry Troop 8 saddles a swift horse and reports to Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) Regiment Horus-Hawk-of-Vengeance, for Instructions, Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Shepses Commanding.

2:35am—LTCOL Shepses, having received no instructions from the Joint Egyptian Chiefs at Ramesses Palace in Memphis, sends messengers by swift horse to Chariot Squadrons F & H, advising them to “shadow the Hapiru,” and report back to him regarding “any suspicious movements.”

4am—Swift Horse Messenger Subaltern Neithi reports back, “Hapiru are moving towards Nile Delta, following a Flamelike Entity, which may be carried in a brazier. Visual Observation is unclear, there being a Heavy Morning Fog.”

4:10am—LTCOL Shepses orders the Reconnaissance to continue; orders Three Chariot Squadrons to close the distance between themselves and the Hapiru, intending Reconnaissance-in-Force.

5am—Hapiru halt on bank of Nile; their leader, one ‘Mses, is speaking to them. Squadrons draw closer.
Capt. Kawab orders Standard Cautious Battle Approach Drill to Begin: bowmen fit arrows to bows; spearmen unsheathe. Horses pulled back to jog-trot from gallop (See Cavalry Instructions Scroll XXXIV, 5th Ed., “Battle Approach, Cautious, Suspicious of Ambush,” Published by Egyptian War College, Reign of Pharaoh Horemheb.)

5:30am—Sky darkens; water appears to be sinking into the earth. Lieutenants Userkaf & Huni halt their Squadrons, on Capt. Kawab’s order; single horse-and-rider is ordered out to approach ‘Mses, in attempt to parley. Heavy Winds force Rider to return.

6am—Water continues flowing down, as in swamplike action, only much accelerated; Lt. Huni, who studied hydroponics in Pitome Agricultural Academy prior to Army Conscription, theorizes that it might be due to Underwater Seismic Action; his Adjutant, one Private Weni, testifies that he sees a River-Demon floating in the air over the area.
No Conclusion is reached by this Military Court of Justice.

6:15am—Hapiru cross over, dry-shod, through middle track of Nile, exposed through Unknown Means (See 6am Entry, above).

6:20am—Officers confer; Capt. Kawab orders a Volunteer Platoon to Recon the Hapiru Means of Crossing. Three Charioteer-Teams of Platoon 7 Volunteer, Staff Sgt. Renef Commanding, drive down the slope and into the marsh, but find their chariot-wheels caught in the quickly-rising-mud. Before Lt. Userkaf, their Commander, can organize a Rescue Squad, both horses and troops are overcome by Quicksand, and lost. Recommendation submitted for Army Scarab of Merit (Bronze) [Posthumous] to be awarded.
It is observed that, while this Tragic Accident is occurring, the Hapiru on the Opposite Shore are dancing and singing and playing timbrels and drums. Our men express a desire to wreak vengeance on them, but the waters have returned to previous depth, and they are unable to cross.

6:30am—Capt. Kawab orders an orderly withdrawal, and files his Report.

Item: Corporal Osorkon, for sneaking into Barracks late after a Romantic Liaison, is to be jailed for one month, and reduced in rank to Private. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bo--What exactly was the Secret Negotiation between Moses and Crown Prince Merneptah of Egypt on that Fateful Night, Prior to the Exodus?


Note: for the purpose of this week’s Drash/Commentary, the Reader must accept the possibility that the Pharaoh of the Exodus was the traditionally-accepted one, Ramesses II. I am positing that his son, Merneptah (who in actuality did not succeed his long-lived father until the son was in his sixties) grew up in the palace as a half-brother to Moses, and was by his embattled father, Ramesses’, side during the Period of the Plagues—though there is no evidence of this in the Torah, and certainly none in Egyptian records. The Egyptians were notoriously xenophobic—that is, having a fear of Outsiders, and the same Egyptian word for “stranger” also means “barbarian.”

Night in the Gardens of Luxor. The coolness of the palm trees and hanging plants does a great deal to refresh this man-made oasis amid the surrounding palace walls, following the heat of the day, where many cunningly-designed clay fountains, embellished with gleaming precious and semi-precious stones to reflect the moonlight, as well as mosaic tiles displaying various ritual and mythological symbols from Egyptian folklore and religion, create an exotic and mysterious atmosphere.
Crown Prince Merneptah is seated on a bench by one of the smaller fountains, watching as the multi-colored streams drip from plate to plate, from sphinx to griffin. Suddenly, he looks up, and his hand instinctively moves to the sharp bronze dagger at his belt: Moses suddenly, stealthily emerges from the space between the hanging bushes and the shorter palm trees on the periphery of the Garden. It is surely death on sight for him to be in the precincts of the Royal Egyptian Palace, since his last meeting with the Pharaoh did not end well. Moses enters cautiously, looking about, and prudently stops, about twenty feet from the man with whom he grew up, years ago, in this very Palace. He raises his right hand in salute:

Moses: Hail, Prince of Egypt!

Merneptah: Well. It’s you. Can’t say I’m surprised. Are you ready to surrender?

Moses: Same old Brother of mine. Seven plagues have thusfar occurred—your Mother Nile polluted, dead frogs attracting no end of creepy-crawlies, swarms of flies and locusts eating whatever’s left from the hailstorms my God, El-Shaddai, sent to batter you and your much-vaunted Household Guard into submission, and do I hear, “Take your slave rabble and go!” or--?

Merneptah: --or stay. Stay and die with us. You know, Moses, you never were a good loser.

Moses: You mean, winner. My God says, “Winner take all.” Before the game is done, I—that is, We, my God, my People, and I—will have your Country, your whole bloody Empire, Merneptah, beneath our liberated feet. And we will depart with a Mighty Hand and an Upraised Arm.

Merneptah: Depart? Which way? And how? You’ll have no food, no provisions, not even a safe route to escape on. You Slave Rabble are notoriously poor at logistical planning. That’s why my Army has a Quartermasters’ Corps. There’s no living off the land in the Desert Wilderness, my Hebrew Half-Brother—unless you can eat sand and gobble sunlight—those are the only two things you’ll have in plenty. What will you eat for bread? And where will you find water, if you’re constantly on the move, running away from my razor-scythed chariots, and my battle-hungry cavalry? Hmm? Have you thought that one through now, well, have you? (Pauses, but, when Moses is silent, he continues:) Moses?

Moses (slowly, choosing his words carefully): Our God has told us—me—that He makes us four promises: “And I will take you out—and I will save you from Pharaoh—and I will redeem you from Slavery—and I will take you to be My People.”

Merneptah (folding his arms, leaning back, patiently trying to explain Reality to this country dolt): M-hm. Only where, in that unspeakably dull Hebraic cavern-skull of yours, Moses, there amid the sheep and goats and donkeys and what-all You People find so much pleasure and seeming wealth in herding, did your Desert Deity stop to mention, “And I will feed you”? Hm? Don’t you think, Brother Mine, He might be playing a Monstrous Trick on you, to take you out, confuse you and kill you all in the Fearsome Desert, to take you out of Egypt—this veritable Eden (I believe you call it) of Onions, Leeks, and Garlic!—how much you will hurt your People, and how much they will bellyache and moan, if you dare to remove them from our secure, comfortable Egypt, the only home they’ve known for hundreds of years?

Moses (losing faith, doubting himself, beginning to stutter): But w-we are s-slaves h-here; we m-must leave; G-God has promised us f-f-freed….

(A crack of lightning splits the sky. A roll of thunder follows. Merneptah sighs, looks up.)

Merneptah: Oh, drat. More hail? Really, El-Shaddai. This is too much. Papa won’t be happy about this, I can tell. (Again, he reaches for his dagger, half-draws it, looks through slitted eyes at Moses, up at the darkening sky, thinks again, slides the knife back into its sheath. He sighs) Well. Let’s negotiate then, shall we? Suppose we reduce—yes, that’s it: cut back on working hours for you people. (Takes out a piece of papyrus and a stylus, and begins to calculate) Increase the food supply. We are about halfway through that big storehouse at Karnak—if your mud-and-straw-brick-roasters can just step up their number of bricks by—(does a quick calculation) about half again, we might be able to finish the entire treasure-city by early fall, just around the time that the barley-harvest is coming in—which means beer for both master and slave, doing a great deal to ease the pain of construction. Tell you what: I can’t promise anything, but on my say-so to Papa, you might possibly be crowned King of the Hebrews, around the same time that Papa is planning on making me the Military Governor of Goshen District. What do you say?

Moses: I, I….

(Another clap of thunder; the sky is now completely dark, and great drops of rain begin to fall)

Merneptah: Here: come see. I’ve just about figured the rough numbers. If you and I and your brother Aaron and one of my planners—that young scribe Nety, say; he’s got a good head on his shoulders—could come up with a decent plan that was a win-win, something I could bring before the Royal Privy Council, just to hush up all of this plaguey business, get our slaves—I mean, Workforce back, contented and quiet, why, then, once I’m secure as Governor of Goshen and Environs, I could possibly see my way to making you the first Egyptian Hebrew Ethnarch we’ve had since what’s-his-name—Joseph, that Tsafnat-Paanayach fellow you hold in such repute. Again, Moses: the choice is yours.

(Shadows are darkening across the Garden. Softly but persistently, cries are heard from a distance, across Egypt—the cries of children, and women, as if bereft. Moses hears, and smiles grimly. Merneptah may hear, but he chooses to ignore them)

Moses? Moses? Just come a little closer, read, and sign! By Osiris’s beard, I command you, sign!

(Moses holds back, clutching his shepherd’s crook a little tighter; he cannot speak; his stutter has overpowered him, but he moves back, toward the shadows)

Where are you going?

(Suddenly, loud voices; Soldiers and Servants bearing torches enter and  illuminate the scene: Messengers have entered, first among them, Nety, the Scribe, in full military rig)

Nety (saluting, arm-on-chest, which Merneptah returns): My Lord Prince Merneptah! The God-King Pharaoh Ramesses commands that you join us and our Royal Bodyguard, sent to guard you from Evil Spirits which are afoot in this Dark Infernal Night—for a Strange and Mysterious Plague, sent doubtless by that Hebrew God, El-Shaddai, is abroad in our Land—the Worst, and Most Evil Plague of All. The first-born, My Prince—the First-Born, as well as all our Egyptian boys, dead when the shadow of this horrific Hebraic God passed over them—

Merneptah (gripping Nety by the arm): What, my boy, too? My son, Seti?

Nety (bursting into tears): Yes, Milord Prince: the young Princeling Seti is dead, lies dead, dead….

Merneptah (turning to Moses, drawing and throwing his dagger, which thunks into a palm tree): Damn you to the Infernal Pit, Moses! Damn you for the Death of my son, my innocent Seti! Where are you? (He begins to sob, and falls to his knees)

(Moses is gone, vanished. Soon, from the Dark, come the Triumphant Voices of the Liberated Israelites, beginning their Preparations for the Exodus, baking Matzote, packing their bags to leave Egypt after 400 years. Their singing and rejoicing cannot drown out the tears and crying of their erstwhile neighbors, once their jailers, now their victims, the Egyptians….)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Vaera: In Moses's Shadow: The Words of Aaron, Miriam, Pharaoh, and the Chief Sorcerer.


Synopsis: Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh—which one? Ramsses II, Thutmose III, perhaps even Hatshepsut, the Woman Pharaoh—the actual identity is not important to the Torah Narrative, which never gives more details than are considered necessary to tell the Story. The Theme is Clash of the Titans, in this case between Adon-i, God of the Israelites, vs. Pharaoh, god of the Egyptians. Here are some of the Actors:

Pharaoh’s Chief Sorcerer: Since we represent Egypt, the foremost Nation in the World, we constantly meet Challengers to our Power, and then, it becomes necessary for us to show our Mastery over the Forces both Above and Below. We were not overawed by these two back-country shepherds, Moses and Aaron, but it was necessary for us to show immediately that we could overpower them, lest Rumor reach our Slaves, who might be inspired to Revolt.
When Moses, the Leader, cast down his Shepherd’s Crook and it became a Serpent, this was an easy Trick to copy—but we never counted on his Serpent swallowing up ours. Indeed, Sekhmet, our Eldest Sorcerer, remembered the Famous Dream of the Hebrew, Joseph, who had told us often of his Vision of Lean Cows swallowing Fat Ones—and, for no Clear Reason, we all began to tremble.
“This is the Finger of that Desert God, Adon-i!” Sekhmet warned His Majesty, who was too caught up in the Demands of the Shepherd-Brothers to much notice. He will learn, soon enough: these Hebrews are a Force to be Reckoned with. We Magicians know; we rule our lives by Signs and Portents….

Aaron, Brother of Moses: My Baby Brother was never one for putting himself forward—during the time he lived in Pharaoh’s Palace, he never spoke up, but was always in the Shadows, concealing his Hebrewness, passing himself off as an Egyptian; that is, a Quiet, unassuming one.
     The unfortunate Incident in which he slew an Egyptian Taskmaster was, in many ways, an Awakening for him. We did not see him for—how many?—perhaps five years, during which he fled to Midian, that desert village-nation, and made a life for himself there, marrying Tsipporah, the daughter of Jethro, the Village High Priest. He might have lived there, forever, but came back, one day, with a Haunted Look on his face.
“What brings you back to these parts, Brother?” I greeted him.
“You are to be my Spokesman,” he growled at me, and I was surprised at how he had changed; he had always been quiet, and smiling, whenever anyone did him a kindness; it was part of his being able to quickly fade into the Background of whatever place he found himself, sort of an Israelite Chameleon, almost.
“Spokesman for what?” I queried, and he took my arm—gripped it tightly, and  I wondered at how my soft little brother had suddenly changed, as if overnight, into a thin, hawk-nosed, rawboned shepherd, more accustomed to squinting at the sun to tell if a scarce springtime Sinai rain were about to fall, than smiling at a young Royal Lady-in-Waiting of the Royal Egyptian Court in which we both had been raised.
Moses looked at me—stared me down, actually, until I found it hard to stand and take his gaze. This was a man who had spoken with God more than with Mortals.
“We are prisoners here in Egypt, Royal Prisoners, but enslaved, all the same,” he said bluntly and whispering-like, “and I mean to set us free—you, me, Miriam, and the tribal God called Ehyeh-Ahshare-Ehyeh—‘He Who Is,’ He Who appeared to me in the Desert in the Heat of the Day, and gave me a Mission to carry out. Are you for me or for our Enemies, Brother Mine, Brother Aaron?”
“You know I am with you, Moses,” I stammered, frightened of his intensity and clarity of vision.
“Good!” he smiled suddenly, and clapped me on the shoulder, “Then we shall not fail. Come: the game’s afoot.”

Miriam: You may think of me as merely a tambourine-player, a dancing troubadour, chanting the praises of the Invisible God, while the lapping wavelets of the Sea of Reeds would later wash back-and-forth over the defeated Pharaoh’s broken and tossing chariot-wheels—but I worked harder and more diligently long before that. While my famous brother stalked about Egypt like a man possessed, I went about my Holy Work more quietly.
I am Miriam, eldest of Amram and Yocheved’s Family, the Fearless Girl-Woman who rescued her Baby Brother from drowning in the Nile, and who assured that he would have both Adoptive Mother and Natural Mother to raise him, living in the lap of luxury, there in the very Palace of his Greatest Enemy—for the God we worship is a Lover of Irony, as are we Hebrews.
All during the Period of the Plagues, I met and taught the Women and Children to carry on our Sacred Customs, those which had nearly been lost during the Debilitating and Demoralizing four-hundred-years of Slavery. I kept our Holy Traditions alive: the Sabbath, which was later perfected at Sinai; the Laws of Family Purity, almost lost when Men would slave all week, and never have a moment’s rest to be with the Chosen-Ones-of-Their-Hearts, their Wives, let alone their Children; and, finally, the Laws of Kashrut, which have kept our People Separate and Special, all through our Long History.
You cannot number Israel unless you Reckon my Work. I am Miriam, Teacher and Guide of Israelite Families. Mark me well, you so-called “Upright, Righteous, Learned Men” so Quick to Forget what you mock as “Women’s Work.”

Pharaoh: How can this Moses claim to speak for an Invisible God? There are no such things; I know, for I am a god myself, and was raised as such. I will battle his God with all the powers I possess, both magical and physical.
Let him smite Our Mother Nile; let him fill our houses and granaries with croaking Toads; let crawling Bugs infest our People and Beasts alike, Disease penetrate the Skin of our very Bodies. I stood on my Royal Balcony to catch a breath of Air, so stale and foul has the Palace stench become, from Dead Frogs and Stinking Skin-Infections….

The Weather is taking a Turn; a Storm of Hail is coming. O God of the Hebrew Tribes! I call You to Wage Open Battle with me! Shall I saddle my horse? Blow, rain! Come, wrack! If I must die, ‘twill be with Harness on my Back….

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Shemote: A Meeting of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III and His Security Services--Do the Hebrews Threaten Egypt?


Reign of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (1504-1450 BCE), possible Pharaoh of the Israelite-Slavery-Period. Meeting of the High Court Privy Council, consisting of Officers and Advisers to His Royal Majesty. Item One on the Royal Agenda this fine Spring Morning is Population Control: namely, the preponderance of Apiru’, or Israelites, a Foreign Nation once welcomed into Egypt by the Late Vice-Pharaoh Joseph, known as Tsafnat-Paanayach, Secretary of Agriculture and Plenipotentiary to an earlier Pharaoh, the only Female Pharaoh, possibly Hatshepsut (1498-1483 BCE). But Circumstances have changed, and the Stranger Apiru/Israelite/Hebrews are no longer welcome in the Kingdom.

Present at this meeting, in the Summer Palace, are

--Tuthmosis III, Pharaoh of Egypt; son of Hatshepsut, a vain but intelligent ruler concerned with keeping his subjects content and in thrall to his power, as well as retaining Egypt’s position as top Middle-Eastern-Northeast-African Power, against regional upstarts Hatti and Northern Syria
--Senenmut, Royal Steward, late adviser to Hatshepsut, and a holdover from her Administration;
--Unas, Minister of the Interior and Chief of the Security Services, a Secret Police Chief dedicated to the Survival of the Egyptian Empire, regardless of Methodology;
--General Kamose, Commander of the Royal Egyptian Army and Cavalry, a loyal career soldier; and
--Apophis, Minister of Census and Population Studies, whose Job it is to Number and Sort all Subjects of the Pharaoh—the Egyptians are notoriously xenophobic, which is to say they have a fear and suspicion of Outsiders, including the Hebrews, late their Neighbors and Friends, but not now; surely, not now….

Tuthmosis: What say you, Royal Steward Senenmut, about this Issue? We wait upon your words. As you advised our Mother, the late Empress Dowager Hatshepsut, so do we drink your words with eagerness (The Assembled Officers smile at His Majesty’s attempt at Wit, since the Chief Steward’s Official Duties include being Cup-Bearer, or Butler, to the Pharaoh.).

Senenmut: Your Majesty, I can only state now, as I did to your Mother, Osiris rest her Soul! That these Apiru, or Israelites as they term themselves, are a Blight and a Scourge upon the Land, and must be dealt with immediately, in no uncertain terms. Left alone, they might align themselves with an Invading Enemy, and fight with them against us. So much for their gratitude over our Benign Rule, and for all we did for their Forebear, that Joseph!

Unas (Secret Police Chief): I must say, Sire, that I disagree. These Hebrews, or Israelites, or whatever they or we choose to call them, are hardly warlike. My agents in the field tell me that they are quiet and peaceful, and wish only to be left to dwell among themselves in the Land of Goshen, the district which Tsafnat-Paanayach, their late leader whom you call Joseph—

Senenmut: So do they call him themselves, in their filthy tongue!

Unas: --so do I beg your pardon, Lord Steward; I was not yet done speaking, if you will grant me leave. (The Steward sits back, fuming) Well. I would advise that, if we view these People as a Threat to the Kingdom, we do as we have always done in such a Situation: I have already placed among them Spies—not only our own Secret Police Agents, but turncoats from among themselves—those Apiru whom we have compromised through money, threats, or quiet torture. They are our Eyes and Ears in their own community, bringing us any information we may require about possible revolts, revolutions, or resistance to our rule.

Tuthmosis: Hm. What is your thought, Commander of the Army?

Kamose (He is a burly, one-eyed, battle-scarred Warrior, wearing the back-and-breast body-armor of a charioteer, having only just come from Military Maneuvers on the Western Plain, and he speaks bluntly, as befits a Career Soldier): I have no time for subtleties, Your Grace. I have devoted my life’s blood to defending both my Sovereign, that is, Your Royal Self, and that of Mother Egypt (he sits up, and smites his left breast with his right hand), and will do whatever is necessary to bring these—what-d’ye-call-‘em? Ah-PEE-roos?—into line. I know well the Land of Goshen where they dwell, and I have already torched a score of their hovelly little shacks, before you could say, “Great Scarab Sun-Disk!” Just as a lesson to any of them, in case they might have thought of sabotaging a Pyramid or Sphinx or some such. My men and I have drilled a battle-line of Your Majesty’s finest chariots; we can draw up from twenty to fifty war-wagons within a quarter-hour, and then, Osiris help the rabble who stand in our way! As we smote the Hittites, as we ground the Syrian pike-bearers beneath our chariot-wheels—you recall, Sire, what a splendid day that was, although I lost my eye to an accidental arrow-shot, Ra save the mark!—I looked up at the clouds of heaven, and thought I saw a Divine Hawk, that of Horus himself, wheeling above, and screeching its plaudits to our brave boys! Why, I—

Tuthmosis (sarcastically): You wax fairly eloquent, General Kamose. Have you submitted this report to your regimental marching band, to have it set to music?

Kamose (embarrassed, he sputters, rises, salutes): I live only to serve my Liege Pharaoh and my Homeland. May Ra, the Sacred Sun-god, save Egypt! Save the Pharaoh! (He salutes again and again)

Tuthmosis: Be seated. Please. (Kamose sits, muttering. Tuthmosis turns back to Unas.) So, Milord Unas, do you think that Subjugation, a Separation Wall, perhaps, and an Increased Workload upon the Apirus will destroy this Scourge, this Curse that Ra has laid upon our Land? I wish only for a Sense of Security, so that Egypt may flourish. We do have an Image to Project upon the World. The Hittites and Syrians lie in wait; any Sign of Weakness, and they shall be upon us. Reputation, reputation, reputation! Egypt cannot afford to lose its reputation. Our power over Foreigners living in our Midst must, shall, be Absolute.

Unas: Oh, surely, we are proceeding, Your Grace. Spies, torture, increased labor. Prison for any and all Rabble-rousers. Everything and Anything to keep Civil Protest down and under control. General Kamose may trust in his Horses and Chariots; I call upon the Name of State Security, and believe we have suspended any legal niceties in dealing with these Barbarians; jail the Lot of them, I say. They are baking their mud bricks and building for us. It should bear rewards. Our Slavery regimen is going well; less food, more buildings; less freedom, more pyramids; less kindness, more treasure-houses. We are flourishing, while they must, and shall, diminish. Freedom for—what did Kamose call them, Ah-PEE-roo? Pah! I spit on them. They’re not like us; if they were, they would be Egyptian.

Apophis (Minister of Population, Main Office, Heliopolis): Oh, excuse me, M’lord Unas. Except for One Thing.

Tuthmosis: Ah, Population Minister Apophis! I have not heard from you, yet. What have you to add?

Apophis (he is a cheery old duffer, has served long in his office, and loves to contradict the younger men): In spite of the Lord Minister Unas’s plans about the tight screws he has placed on our Guests from Joseph’s Time—and I am older than you Gentlemen, including, pardon me, Your Majesty; I have Good Memories of the Fine Work that Joseph did for us, and for our Kingdom, during the Seven Years’ Famine. Yes, I can well recall when there was not a grain of wheat to be had, between here and Memphis—

Tuthmosis (The meeting is going on too long, and he has a polo match to participate in): What is your report, Lord Apophis? Give us your Report, if you please. Now.

Apophis (Coming back from his Memories): What? Report? Oh, yes. (Rustling his papyrus scrolls, and squinting down at them) M-h’m. Yes. Well. It seems that, in spite of Lord Unas’s best efforts at torturing, killing, and otherwise keeping down the Israelite—I continue to call them that; it’s more Respectful, y’know—Population, they are increasing. Gentlemen, the number of Israelites is growing, by leaps and bounds.

Tuthmosis: What?

Unas: Impossible!

Apophis (happily): No, the numbers don’t lie. And I was speaking to the Two Chief Midwives just yesterday. Delightful young women they are, too: lively, and full of life. What were their names—Pifra and Shuah? Something like that—

Unas: Well, this is Totally Unacceptable. I—that is, we—must take Stronger Measures.

Tuthmosis: Well, could you have a report ready for me—let’s say—tomorrow, at Noon? This meeting has already gone on far too long. Let’s see: you (pointing at Unas) and you, General, should get together with the Captain of the Guard, and see if you can get ahold of those midwives. What, only two? Then this problem should be manageable. But I must go; the horses won’t wait…. No, don’t get up—where’s my chariot? Guard!

(The Officers rise; Tuthmosis exits, in a swirl of Royal Robes, and leaving the faintest scent of sandalwood hanging in the air.)

Senenmut (smiling evilly at his younger colleagues): Well, there you are. So you thought you could dispose of the Apiru so easily? My Lady Hatshepsut couldn’t do it. I recall one night—

Unas: With all due respect, Milord Steward, could you keep your stories to yourself? We have a Real Problem, here, and not that much time to solve it in.

Senenmut: Let me finish. We were sitting—this was, what? Ten, twelve years ago? And Joseph had just died. Hatshepsut was not all that sad about it. Oh, certainly, Joseph had been a fine adviser, but he had had these—she used to call them, his “spells,” when he would get all, far-away-eyed, and she wouldn’t be able to speak to him. He explained to her that that was how his God spoke to him, how he would learn what to do. It always gave her the shivers; at least, that’s what she told me. That’s the thing with these Hebrews. You can’t just wish them away. There’s Something about them.

Unas (he has been only half-listening to Senenmut, that pest; now, he looks up, startled): What’s that you said?

Senenmut (crossly): I said you can’t just wish the Hebrews away. Why don’t you ever listen to me? You young people—

Unas: I thought you said, “wash them away.” That’s what we’ll do. General Kamose!

Kamose (he has been daydreaming, but is instantly alert): Here, Milord? Sir?

Unas: Assemble your officers and noncoms. Tell them there is a new Order of the Day, to be in effect until I, the Minister of Internal Security, rescind it. All male children of the Hebrews, as soon as they are born, are to be washed away—that is, tossed bodily into the Nile River, as—as—offerings.

Kamose: Drowned? Until dead?

Unas: Yes. Drowned. Is there any other way, you armored ox? (Offhandedly) You may let the girl-babies live. They are no threat to us.

Kamose (saluting): I live to serve (He exits).

Unas (turning to Senenmut and Apophis): And now, we shall see. I will set my wits against this People, this puzzle you and that Old, Dead Woman, your False Pharaoh (he says the name through clenched teeth, as though distasteful), Hatshepsut, found so Difficult. We at some time are masters of our Fates, and I will be Master, now. I will beat those Hebrews yet. Now, go!