The Antiquities of the Jews, 2.277–2.292

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

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2771. 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. 278Now 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. 279Now 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: 280to 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.

2812. 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, 282and 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. 283He 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.

2843. 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. 285And 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. 286But 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.” 287And 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.

2884. 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; 289and 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. 290But 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. 291So 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 counterwork 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 counterworked the divine commands should undergo, 292since 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.

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