The Legends of the Jews— Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus

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Author: Louis Ginzberg

The Flight

An angel of God took Moses to a spot removed forty days’ journey from Egypt, so far off that all fear was banished from his mind.[77] Indeed, his anxiety had never been for his own person, but only on account of the future of Israel. The subjugation of his people had always been an unsolved enigma to him. Why should Israel, he would ask himself, suffer more than all the other nations? But when his personal straits initiated him in the talebearing and backbiting that prevailed among the Israelites, then he asked himself, Does this people deserve to be redeemed?[78] The religious conditions among the children of Israel were of such kind at that time as not to permit them to hope for Divine assistance. They refused to give ear to Aaron and the five sons of Zerah, who worked among them as prophets, and admonished them unto the fear of God. It was on account of their impiety that the heavy hand of Pharaoh rested upon them more and more oppressively, until God had mercy upon them, and sent Moses to deliver them from the slavery of Egypt.[79]

When he succeeded in effecting his escape from the hands of the hangman, Moses had no idea that a royal throne awaited him. It was nevertheless so. A war broke out at this time between Ethiopia and the nations of the East that had been subject to it until then. Kikanos, the king, advanced against the enemy with a great army. He left Balaam and Balaam’s two sons, Jannes and Jambres, behind, to keep guard over his capital and take charge of the people remaining at home. The absence of the king gave Balaam the opportunity of winning his subjects over to his side, and he was put upon the throne, and his two sons were set over the army as generals. To cut Kikanos off from his capital, Balaam and his sons invested the city, so that none could enter it against their will. On two sides they made the walls higher, on the third they dug a network of canals, into which they conducted the waters of the river girding the whole land of Ethiopia, and on the fourth side their magic arts collected a large swarm of snakes and scorpions. Thus none could depart, and none could enter.

Meantime Kikanos succeeded in subjugating the rebellious nations. When he returned at the head of his victorious army, and espied the high city wall from afar, he and his men said: "The inhabitants of the city, seeing that the war detained us abroad for a long time, have raised the walls and fortified them, that the kings of Canaan may not be able to enter." On approaching the city gates, which were barred, they cried out to the guards to open them, but by Balaam’s instructions they were not permitted to pass through. A skirmish ensued, in which Kikanos lost one hundred and thirty men. On the morrow the combat was continued, the king with his troops being stationed on the thither bank of the river. This day he lost his thirty riders, who, mounted on their steeds, had attempted to swim the stream. Then the king ordered rafts to be constructed for the transporting of his men. When the vessels reached the canals, they were submerged, and the waters, swirling round and round as though driven by mill wheels, swept away two hundred men, twenty from each raft. On the third day they set about assaulting the city from the side on which the snakes and scorpions swarmed, but they failed to reach it, and the reptiles killed one hundred and seventy men. The king desisted from attacking the city, but for the space of nine years he surrounded it, so that none could come out or go in.

While the siege was in progress, Moses appeared in the king’s camp on his flight before Pharaoh, and at once found favor with Kikanos and his whole army. He exercised an attraction upon all that saw him, for he was slender like a palm-tree, his countenance shone as the morning sun, and his strength was equal to a lion’s. So deep was the king’s affection for him that he appointed him to be commander-in-chief of his forces.

At the end of the nine years Kikanos fell a prey to a mortal disease, and he died on the seventh day of his illness. His servants embalmed him, buried him opposite to the city gate toward the land of Egypt, and over his grave they erected a magnificent structure, strong and high, upon the walls whereof they engraved all the mighty deeds and battles of the dead king.

Now, after the death of Kikanos, his men were greatly grieved on account of the war. One said unto the other, "Counsel us, what shall we do at this time? We have been abiding in the wilderness, away from our homes, for nine years. If we fight against the city, many of us will fall dead; and if we remain here besieging it, we shall also die. For now all the princes of Aram and of the children of the East will hear that our king is dead, and they will attack us suddenly, and they will fight with us until not a remnant will be left. Now, therefore, let us go and set a king over us, and we will remain here besieging the city until it surrenders unto us."

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Chicago: Louis Ginzberg, "The Flight," The Legends of the Jews— Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus, trans. Rodwell, J. M. in The Legends of the Jews—Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus Original Sources, accessed July 5, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Z974YT81LY4KW5I.

MLA: Ginzberg, Louis. "The Flight." The Legends of the Jews— Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus, translted by Rodwell, J. M., in The Legends of the Jews—Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus, Original Sources. 5 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Z974YT81LY4KW5I.

Harvard: Ginzberg, L, 'The Flight' in The Legends of the Jews— Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus, trans. . cited in , The Legends of the Jews—Volume 2: From Joseph to the Exodus. Original Sources, retrieved 5 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Z974YT81LY4KW5I.