Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
XLII. (1) From the time that Jacob and his sons came to the land of Goshen, there reigned in it certain shepherds, for the land of Egypt was divided into three kingdoms, viz., the land of Ramses, where the Tibei (###) reigned. This was situated at the extreme end of Egypt. The Israelites built this town, which was afterwards called Ramses on account of the evil (###, Rá) and the tribute (###) which were imposed upon the Israelites. The former name of the city was Heroēs (###). Another capital was Mof, that is Menfis (###), for Apis, King of Egypt, built it, and was made a god because Jovis, the god of Egypt, revealed himself to them in the form of a calf and a ram, and therefore they called him Sarapis. On this account shepherds were the abomination of Egypt in the land of Menfis, Nof, Pathros, and Taḥpanḥes, for the Egyptians did not eat sheep or rams because they worshipped them as gods. But the land of Goshen was the kingdom of the shepherds in honour of Joseph and Jacob and his sons, all of whom were shepherds.
(2) Now, a new king arose in Egypt who did not know
[paragraph continues] Joseph and his good deeds. This was Pharaoh Amenofis (###). In his days there arose in the air the likeness of an ox. On its right side it had a mark resembling the moon, from which there issued sparks. When it arose in the morning with the sun, it used to fly in the air of the heaven. All the Egyptians worshipped it, and praised it with every kind of song. When it moved they also moved, and when it stood they also stood. The ox used also to sing hymns. This it did once in each year. It became a festival day in Egypt, and they called it the day of Sarapis. On account of this, the Israelites afterwards made the calf in the wilderness, as it is said, 'And he passed through the sea of affliction.'
(3) Then he (Pharaoh) said to his people, 'Behold the people of Israel are becoming mightier and stronger than we; and the Egyptians envy and hate them on account of the multitude of their families, the greatness of their riches, and their mighty strength. Come, let us take counsel lest they multiply, and let us appoint rulers over Israel, and taskmasters over these rulers from among our own people, for the purpose of subjecting them to rigorous servitude, and let us further appoint tax-gatherers over them that they may be reduced to poverty.' And they built store-cities for Pharaoh, Pithom and Ramses, great cities which stood on the border of Pithom at the extremity of the land of Egypt, and Ramses at the other extremity. In these two cities were the stores of the king and his implements of war. They were built in such a manner that no one could possibly enter or go out of the land of Egypt without the king's knowledge. And the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites with rigour; they appointed taskmasters, who beat them to obtain the taxes. They embittered their lives with hard bondage, in that they had to dig all the channels in the land of Egypt, and to carry the manure upon their shoulders in pots and in baskets to manure the fields, as it is said, 'I shall remove the burden of manure from his shoulder, and his hands shall be removed from the pots.' They had to cleanse all the
channels of the land on account of the Nile, which filled them once in forty years.
(4) The Egyptians decreed three kinds of punishment against Israel. One was to embitter their lives; the second to impose upon them the slavery in the field; and the third to cast all their males into the river, for they said to King Pharaoh Amenofis, 'We shall slay the males that they may not increase, and allow the females to live to be our servants and our wives, and the males that we beget from them shall be our slaves.' On this account their misery went up before the Lord. And it came to pass when the time of the pregnancy of the women had almost come to an end, they went out in the field and there gave birth to their children, and they left them in the field. The Lord then sent an angel, who washed the children and placed in their hand two stones, from one of which they sucked milk, and from the other honey. When the children were weaned they returned to their father's house. When the Egyptians saw the children in the field, they tried to take them away, but the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up. The Egyptians brought their ploughshares and ploughed the field over them, but could not harm them, for the Lord had saved them.
(5) The elders and all the people then gathered together, wept and wailed, saying, 'It would have been better had our wives been barren, for the fruit of the womb has now been annihilated. Now let no man approach his wife for some time; for it is preferable to die childless than to see our children defiled by the Gentile, until we know what the Lord will do.' Now Amram answered and said, 'Are you willing to destroy by obstinacy or with premeditation the world? But even when misery has reached the bottom of the abyss the seed of Israel will not be destroyed; for the Lord has sworn to Abraham to afflict his seed for 400 years, and behold from the time of the covenant between the pieces which God made with Abraham, 350 years have already passed, and 130 years of these we have been slaves in Egypt. Now I shall not abide by your counsel, to fix a time
for God's intercession, and to restrain my wife from helping to people the world, for the anger of the Lord will not last for ever, nor will He forsake His people for ever, nor has He made the covenant with our ancestors in vain, neither has He increased the seed of Israel to no purpose.
(6) 'Now I shall therefore go to my wife according to the commandment of God, and, if it is pleasing to you, do you act likewise, and it shall come to pass when our wives shall conceive, that they shall conceal the fruit of their conception for three months, just as Tamar, our mother, did. She did not designedly go astray, for she said, "It is better for me to die than to mix with the heathen." She therefore concealed the fruit of her womb for three months and then confessed. Now let us do likewise, even we. And when the time of bearing comes to an end, we shall not withhold the fruit of our womb, for perchance the Lord will be zealous, and save us from our affliction.'
(7) The advice of Amram seemed good in the eyes of God, and He said to him, 'Thy words are pleasing in My sight. Therefore there shall be born to thee a son who shall be My servant for ever, who shall perform wonders in the house of Jacob, and signs and miracles among the people. And I shall show him My glory, and make My ways known to him. In him I shall cause My light to burn, and shall teach him My statutes and laws. I shall lead him on the high places of My righteousness and My judgments, and through him shall the light of the world be kindled. Of him have I thought from the beginning when I said, "My spirit shall not strive any longer with man, since he is to be in the flesh. His days shall be 120 years."'
(8) Amram, of the tribe of Levi, went forth and took Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, to wife. All the people likewise took to them wives. And Amram begat a son and daughter, Aaron and Miriam. And the spirit of the Lord came upon Miriam so that she had a dream in the night. She told her father, saying, 'In the night I saw a man clothed in fine linen. "Tell thy father and mother," he said, "that whatever is born to thee in the night will be
cast upon the waters, and by him the waters shall become dry. And through him shall wonders and miracles be performed, and he shall save My people Israel, and he shall be their leader for ever."' This dream Miriam told her father and mother. But they did not believe it.
(9) Now, Jochebed had conceived for six months, and in the seventh month she bore a son. They could no longer conceal him, for the Egyptians had made houses by which they knew of the birth of a child. They therefore made a little ark, and placed the child among the bulrushes. The elders then said to Amram, 'Did we not say to thee "It is better for us to die childless than to see the fruit of our womb cast into the sea"?' Then said Amram to his daughter Miriam, 'Where is thy prophecy?' So his sister stood a little distance off to know what would become of the child. And Pharaoh's daughter went down to wash. And she took the child and adopted him as a son.