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Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster [1899], at


XLIII. (1) In the 130th year after the Israelites had gone down to Egypt, Pharaoh dreamt a dream. While he was sitting on the throne of his kingdom he lifted up his eyes, and beheld an old man standing before him. In his hand he held a pair of scales as used by merchants. The old man then took the scales and, holding them up before Pharaoh, he laid hold of all the elders of Egypt and its princes, together with all its great men, and, having bound them together, placed them in one pan of the scales. After that he took a milch goat, and, placing it in the other pan, it outweighed all the others. Pharaoh then awoke, and it was a dream.

(2) Rising early next morning, he called all his servants, and told them the dream. They were sorely frightened by it, and one of the king's eunuchs said, 'This is nothing else than the foreboding of a great evil about to fall upon Egypt.' On hearing this the king said to the eunuch, 'What will it be?' And the eunuch replied, 'A child will be born in Israel, who will destroy all the land of Egypt.

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[paragraph continues] If it is pleasing to the king, let the royal command go forth in all the land of Egypt that every male born among the Hebrews should be slain, so that this evil be averted from the land of Egypt.

(3) The king did so, and accordingly sent for the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shifrah, and another Puah, and said to them, 'When the Hebrew women give birth, and ye see upon the stools that it is a son, ye slay it; but if a daughter, then let it live.' But the midwives feared God, and did not act according to the king's word, but let the males live. The king, therefore, summoned the midwives, and said to them, 'Why have ye done this thing, and kept the males alive?' And the midwives answered Pharaoh, saying, 'The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are like the free animals of the field which do not require midwives; before the midwives come to them the children are born.'

(4) When Pharaoh saw that he could not do anything with them, he commanded all his people, saying, 'Every male that is born ye shall cast into the river; but all the females ye shall keep alive.' When the Israelites heard this command of Pharaoh to cast their males into the river, some of the people separated from their wives, while others remained with them. It came to pass, about the time of childbirth, that the women went out into the field, and the Lord, who swore to their ancestors that He would multiply them, sent them an angel, one of his ministers, who was appointed over childbirth, to wash it, and rub it with salt; and the angel bound it in swaddling clothes, and placed in the child's hand two smooth stones, from the one of which it sucked milk, and from the other honey. God also caused its hair to grow down to its knees, so as to be well covered by it; and the angel rocked it caressingly.

(5) And when God had compassion upon them and sought to increase them upon the face of the whole land, He commanded the earth to swallow the children up, and protect them until they grew up, after which time it should open its mouth and let them go forth so that they should

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sprout as the grass of the field, and as the young trees of the forest. Then they would return to their families, and to the house of their fathers, where they would remain. (6) Accordingly, it happened that after the earth had swallowed up, through the mercy of God, the males born of the house of Jacob, that the Egyptians went out into the field to plough with teams of oxen and with the ploughshare. They worked (ploughed) upon them as the spoiler in time of the harvest. But although they ploughed never so hard they were unable to injure them, and thus they increased abundantly.

[Another Version.—It came to pass at the time of birth that they left their children in the field, and the Lord, who swore to their ancestors that He would cause them to inherit the land, tamed for them the beasts of the field, and sustained and reared them, as it is said, 'And the beasts of the field were at peace with thee.' When the Egyptians saw that they (the Israelites) left their sons in the field, and that the wild beasts helped them, and led them in the forests until they had grown to manhood, they said, 'These have surely reared them in the caverns and vaults of the earth,' and each of them brought their ploughshare and their plough, and ploughed above them, etc.]

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