Translated from the edition published by Adolph Jellinek, ed., Bet ha-Midrasch: Sammlung kleiner Midraschim und vermischter Abhandlungen aus der jüdischen Literatur (6 vols.; Leipzig, 1853-77; repr., Jerusalem: Bamberger & Wahrmann, 1938), 2:1-11; for a variant version (Oxford Bodleian Ms. Heb. d. 11 ), see Avigdor Shinan, “Divrey ha-yamim shel Mosheh rabbenu,” Hasifrut 24 (1977): 100-116 = Eli Yassif, ed., Sefer ha-Zikronot hu’ Divrey ha-Yamim le-Yerahme’el (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 2001), 158-72. Note also Oxford Bodleian Ms. Heb. 2196 which is a fifteenth-century Syrian manuscript of this work; Ms. Parma (Biblioteca Palatina 2269 = De Rossi 473) fols. 13r-21v (fifteenth-century); and Ms. Parma (Biblioteca Palatina 2294 = De Rossi 194) fols. 1r-6r (sixteenth-century). For the latter two sources, see Hebrew Manuscripts in the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma: Catalogue (ed. Benjamin Richler and Malachi Beit-Arié; Jerusalem: Jewish National and University Library, 2001), 146, 148.
In the 130th year after the descent of the children of Israel to Egypt, at the conclusion of the sixtieth year after the death of Joseph, Pharaoh dreamed a dream. An old man was standing in front of him in the dream with a pair of scales in his hand. In one pan of the scales he placed all the inhabitants of Egypt—men, women, and children—and in the other pan he set only one child, and that child was equal to (lit. ‘balanced’) the entire population of Egypt. He (Pharaoh) was astonished and disturbed at this wonder, and he marveled at this great sight, and then Pharaoh awoke and realized that it was a dream. He assembled all the sages of Egypt and all of its diviners, and recounted to them the (details of) the dream. Everyone was very much awestruck by the dream, until one of the princes came before the king and said to him, ‘This dream portends a mighty and terrible evil for Egypt!’ The king said, ‘How so?’ He responded, ‘A son will be born among the children of Israel who will destroy all of Egypt. And now, my lord king, allow me to offer you some good advice. You should issue orders that they should kill every son who is born among the children of Israel. Then perhaps this dream will not come true.’
This word (of advice) pleased Pharaoh and his attendants, and so the king of Egypt summoned the Hebrew midwives ‘one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, (and commanded) “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives, and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and are delivered before the midwife comes to them (Exod 1:15-19)—they are vigorous (means) like wild animals who have no need for midwives!”’ So Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born (to the Israelites) you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live’ (Exod 1:22).
When the Israelites learned of this decree which Pharaoh had commanded—namely, to cast their newborn sons into the Nile—some of them separated themselves from their wives, but some of them continued (normal sexual activity) as before, and their wives gave birth to sons. They would leave their children in the field, and the Lord who swore an oath to their ancestor to make his descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth sent down angels to wash them, anoint them with oil, and swaddle them. They set down two smooth pebbles next to them: from one they could suck milk, and from the other eat honey. (The angels) caused their hair to grow so that it came down to their knees and covered them. They played with them and pampered them for God had pity on them. Out of His pity for them He determined to increase their number on the surface of the entire world, and so He commanded the earth to receive them and protect them until they matured. Eventually the earth would open and regurgitate them and they would flourish like the grass of the field (cf. Ps 72:16), and be reunited with father and family.
Moreover, they constructed booths in the fields and concealed them (the infants) there, and the Egyptians were plowing over them (‘al gabbehem), but they were unable to injure them, as it is written, ‘on my back (‘al gabbay) the plowers plowed …’ (Ps 129:3).
There was a man in Egypt whose name was ‘Amram b. Qahat b. Levi b. Israel, and he took Yochebed his aunt as his wife. The woman conceived and bore a daughter, and she named her Miriam, because at that time the Egyptians, the descendants of Ham, began to embitter the lives of the children of Israel. She conceived again and bore a son, and named him Aaron, because it was during the time of the pregnancy that Pharaoh began to shed the blood of their male infants, some of whom he caused to be cast into the Nile. However the Lord showed favor to them: not a single one of those who were cast into the Nile perished, for they were revived by God. And whomever they cast out into the open field would be rescued and nurtured by the ministering angels, and they would return to their parents as mature young men.
When the royal decree and ruling concerning the throwing of newborn sons into the Nile was promulgated, many of the people separated themselves from their wives, and ‘Amram also parted from his wife. It came to pass after three years that the spirit of God came upon Miriam, and she prophesied in the house (saying), ‘At this time a son will be born to my father and mother who is destined to deliver the children of Israel from the power of Egypt!’ When ‘Amram heard the girl’s message, he rejoined his wife from whom he had previously separated at the time of the decree three years ago. Yochebed became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and at the moment of his birth the house was filled with a great light like the light of the sun and moon at the time of their rising. She perceived that the child was handsome and pleasing in appearance, and hid him for three months in her bedroom.
At that time the Egyptians had concocted a devious plan to destroy all the Israelite newborn sons. Egyptian women would come to the area of Goshen where the Israelites lived carrying upon their shoulders their own children who were not yet old enough to speak (intelligibly), in order to raise and educate them. Any Israelite woman who had borne a son hid her child from these Egyptians so as not to endanger him. However, when an Egyptian woman entered an Israelite home, the Egyptian infant would (often) stutter and gurgle, and the Israelite infant hidden in the bedroom would audibly respond in a similar manner. The Egyptian wives would then return and inform their husbands, who would in turn make a report to the king, and Pharaoh would send his officers to seize the boy.
Three months after Yochebed had given birth to the child, the matter became known to the palace, and so she acted quickly before the officers arrived. She took a reed-basket and placed the child inside it and set it on the bank of the Nile. She stationed his sister a short distance away … (Exod 2:4). And God sent intense heat and hot weather throughout the land of Egypt, and human flesh burned like the temperature of the sun when it is at its hottest, and they suffered on account of the great heat. The daughter of Pharaoh came down along with all the women of Egypt to the bank of the Nile in order to bathe as was their custom, and she saw the basket floating on the surface of the water. She dispatched her maid to retrieve it, and she opened (it) and saw the child. And when the women of Egypt who had come down to the Nile approached in order to nurse him, he refused to nurse from them, for the Lord did this in order to restore him to the breasts of his mother. His sister asked the daughter of Pharaoh, ‘Shall I go and summon for you a nursemaid from the Israelites?’ She responded, ‘Go!’ She went and summoned his mother. She (the daughter of Pharaoh) said, ‘Take the child and nurse him for me, and I will pay you a wage of two silver pieces daily.’ Two years later she brought him to the daughter of Pharaoh, and he became her son, and she named him Moses, ‘because I drew him up out of the water’ (Exod 2:10). His father named him Hever, because it was on his account that he was reunited with his wife; his mother named him Jekuthiel because she suckled him herself; his sister named him Jered because she descended to him at the river in order to learn his fate; Aaron named him Avi Zanoah because ‘my father abandoned my mother and then returned to her due to this (one)’; Qahat his grandfather named him Avi Gedor because it was due to him that God repaired a breach in (the security of) Israel, for the Egyptians would no longer cast their male infants into the Nile; his nanny named him Avi Soco because God concealed him in thatch-work from the enmity of the Egyptians (all of these names emanate from 1 Chron 4:18); and Israel named him Shemayah ben Natanel for it was in his time that God hearkened to their groans.
When he (Moses) was three years old, Pharaoh was seated at his table ready to eat. The queen was seated on his right, and Bityah his daughter was on his left side, and his officials and servants were seated before him. The little boy was sitting with Bityah the daughter of Pharaoh. He suddenly reached out his hand and snatched the crown off the king’s head and placed it on his own head. The king and his officials were startled by this action, and each looked at his neighbor in astonishment. Then Balaam the diviner, one of the royal officials and counselors, said: ‘Remember, my lord king, the dream which you dreamed and the interpretation which your servant provided you! Are you not aware that this child is one of the Israelite infants? The spirit of God is in him, and it is due to His wisdom that he has acted in this way. This must be he who will destroy Egypt. Now let the king act quickly and give the order to behead him!’ The advice pleased the king and his friends. However, the Lord dispatched the angel Gabriel, and he appeared to them in the guise of one of the royal officials and friends, and said: ‘No, my lord king, to put to death one who is innocent is not good advice! A mere child has no sense! Instead, let the king order to be brought before him a shiny precious jewel and a fiery coal. If he stretches out his hand to grab the precious jewel, then it is proven that he possesses sense and (therefore) deserves death or whatever judgment is meted out to him. If he reaches out and grabs the burning coal, then it is demonstrated that he has no sense and is innocent.’ All of the royal sages responded and said, ‘This is good advice.’
They thereupon brought before him (Moses) the precious stone and the burning coal. The boy reached out his hand in order to grab the jewel, but an angel shoved his hand and he picked up the coal and brought it toward his face, touching with it his lips and tongue, and was (hence) rendered ‘heavy of lips’ and ‘heavy of tongue’ (Exod 4:10). But by this (ruse) he was saved.
The king took counsel with his advisors, (saying) ‘What should we do about Israel, for they are becoming more numerous with each passing day!’ His wife told him, ‘Do whatever you like! Is not the entire land yours?’ Balaam then spoke up and said to the king, ‘Are you not aware that all the accomplishments of this nation (i.e., Israel) were effected via trickery and deception? Their ancestor Jacob tricked his brother Esau and took possession of the latter’s birthright, and he deceitfully approached his father and took away his blessing. Then he fled to Laban: he gave him two of his daughters in marriage, but he (Jacob) looted his flock and all the other creatures he owned! Their ancestor Isaac sojourned for a while in Gerar where he perpetrated a hoax on the men of the place by saying of his wife “She’s my sister.” (Using this trick) he acquired all their goods and their wealth, and then departed. The sons of Jacob behaved similarly with regard to Shechem and Hamor, for they told them they must have themselves circumcised, and they did so. But three days later while they were still disabled, they (the sons of Jacob) gathered against them, ran them through with their swords, and looted and pilfered all their property. Now, my advice if you decide to take it, would be to not kill them with weaponry, but to instead increase the severity of the sufferings which they are experiencing so that they eventually self-destruct.’ (This advice) was pleasing to Pharaoh and his servants.
Then Jethro the Midianite spoke up and said to him, ‘My lord king, surely you are aware that all who have threatened them with harm have not escaped punishment?! Do you not know (or) have you not heard what happened to Pharaoh for taking Sarah, the wife of Abraham (similarly with regard to Isaac)? Or also what happened to the four kings in the case of Abraham’s nephew (i.e., Lot)? Or what happened to Laban? No person who has threatened them with harm has escaped punishment!’ But the king burst out angrily against Jethro the Midianite, saying to him: ‘Get out! Depart to your place!’ So he left.
It came to pass after God had delivered the boy Moses that the Egyptians did not kill him, and he remained in the royal household clad in royal garments and wearing a jewel on his head. All the officers of the king would bear him (in a litter). After Moses had spent fifteen years growing up in Pharaoh’s household, the youth resolved to see the faces of his father and his mother. ‘He beheld their hard labors. He (also) beheld an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man, one of his kinsmen’ (Exod 2:11). It happened that when the victim saw Moses, he ran toward him in order to solicit his aid, for Moses was of high rank and very important in Pharaoh’s household. He said to him, ‘My lord! This Egyptian came to my house at night, tied me up, and sexually assaulted my wife in my presence! Now he is trying to kill me!’ When Moses heard this terrible thing, [he lost his temper]. ‘Turning this way and that and seeing that no one else was present, he struck down the Egyptian’ (Exod 2:12) and saved the Hebrew from the power of his assailant. Moses then returned to the royal palace, and the Hebrew man returned to his house. As soon as the man arrived home, he decided to divorce his wife since he was no longer prepared to have sexual relations with her after she had been defiled. The woman departed and informed her brothers, who thereupon sought to kill him, but he went inside his house and escaped.
The following day Moses went out to be among his kinsmen and view their hard labors (cf. Exod 2:11). He saw ‘two Hebrew men fighting, and he said to the aggressor, “Why are you hitting your friend?” He answered, “Who appointed you as an official or judge over us? Do you intend to kill me just as you killed the Egyptian?”’ (Exod 2:13-14). ‘Pharaoh heard about this matter and sought to kill Moses’ (Exod 2:15), and he handed him over to the executioner in order to put him to death, but the blade had no effect on him, for the Holy One, blessed be He, performed a miracle for him by making his neck like a marble column. This is what Moses was referring to when Eliezer was born (when he said) ‘for the God of my ancestors helped me’ (Exod 18:4), and this is what the Holy One, blessed be He, was talking about when he had refused His commission and said to Him, ‘Please send somebody else! (Exod 4:13). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: ‘Who put a mouth on the man?’ (Exod 4:11); that is to say, who instructed you what to say when you were on trial before Pharaoh about the (slain) Egyptian? ‘Or who makes (him) mute?’ (ibid.); that is to say, who muted Pharaoh so that he could not (vocally) insist on the command to execute you? ‘Or deaf’ (ibid.); i.e., (who made) his servants deaf so that they could not hear his decree regarding you to execute you? Who blinded them (cf. ibid.) so that they could not see you when you fled the palace and escaped? What did God do? He sent Michael, the prince of the celestial host, disguised as the captain of the guard. He used his sword to kill the (actual) captain of the guard, (and) then changed his (i.e., the guard’s) likeness to that of Moses. The angel then grasped the hand of Moses and conducted him out of Egypt, and led him beyond the Egyptian border a distance of three days’ journey.
Only Aaron remained behind, and he prophesied within Egypt and spoke to the children of Israel, saying: ‘”Each of you toss aside the abominations of his eyes” (Ezek 20:7); do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt!’ which accords with what is written, ‘and the house of Israel rebelled against Me, and they were unwilling to obey’ (Ezek 20:8); ‘so the Lord planned to destroy them were it not for Moses His chosen one’ (Ps 106:23), and (had He not) remembered the covenant with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The hand of Pharaoh took hold of them to afflict them, and (his oppression) of the children of Israel grew increasingly harsher. He continued to oppress them until the time He sent out His word (cf. Ps 107:20) and attended to them. And when Balaam saw that his advice was not being taken, and that no decree in line with the wicked plan which he concocted to effect the annihilation of the children of Israel had been issued, he left Egypt and traveled to King Nīqanōs, accompanied by two of his sons, Yanēs and Mamrēs. King Nīqanōs was the ruler of Edom. In those days there was a battle between Cush and the Qedemites, and he captured as a result of it a large group of prisoners, whom he made offer submission to Cush. Now while Nīqanōs had gone out to do battle with the Qedemites, he had left behind Balaam the diviner, the son of Laban the Aramaean, and his two sons Yanēs and Mamrēs to guard the city, and so they remained there, along with a fourth of the land’s population (?). Balaam advised the citizenry to rebel against King Nīqanōs and to not allow him to re-enter the city. The citizens of the land obeyed him and concluded an agreement with him, and they elevated him to be their king, whereupon he appointed his two sons to be generals at the head of the people. They raised the walls on two sides of the city. As for the third opposite side, they dug innumerable pits which they filled with water from the river which flowed all around the land of Cush. On the final side they collected together by means of their magical spells numerous adders and scorpions, so that no one was able to leave or enter the city (by that side without being stung). It came to pass that when Nīqanōs and all of the commanders of his forces were returning from battle, they lifted up their eyes and saw that the wall of the city was extremely high. Each was marveling to his neighbor, and they said among themselves: ‘The citizens of the city saw that we were delayed by the battle, and so they have raised the wall of the city and strengthened it so that the rulers of Canaan could not come among them!’ As they drew nearer to the city, they noticed that the gates of the city were closed. They cried out to the gatekeepers to open them in order to enter the city, but the gatekeepers refused to open them—following the directive of Balaam the diviner—and they would not allow them to enter the city. They fought a battle at the main gate, and one hundred and thirty troops belonging to Nīqanōs’s force fell (that day). On the second day, they fought on the side which had the river: thirty cavalrymen rode (their) horses along the valley road, but they sank among the pits and perished. The king ordered that rafts be constructed in order to effect a crossing by means of them, and they did so, but when they came to the places (where there were) pits, the waters surged (?), and there sank on that day another two hundred men.
On the third day they approached the side where the adders and vipers were, but they were unable to enter the city, and the serpents killed from among their number seventy-seven troops. They then ceased active military operations against Cush and instead laid siege to her for nine years: no one could depart or enter (her). It came to pass that it was during the siege of Cush that Moses fled from Egypt and arrived in the camp of Nīqanōs, king of Cush. Moses was thirty years old when he arrived in the camp of Nīqanōs: they were besieging Cush and the time already spent by Nīqanōs on the siege was nine years. As long as Moses continued with them, he found favor in their eyes: the king, all of the officers, and the whole military force loved him. He continually grew in (their) esteem, and he was handsome, (with) a stature like that of a palm tree. The king was very fond of him and appointed him commander over the army. They remained there for a long time, until King Nīqanōs contracted an illness and died. His servants said: ‘What will we do? If we go up from the city, they may pursue us and annihilate us! It would have been better for us to die during the siege than to return to our land like a people returning humiliated!’ They agreed with one another in raising Moses to the office of king, for there was no one else like him among the people. They did so, and gave him the queen, the wife of Nīqanōs, as wife, but Moses remembered the covenant of the Lord his God and did not approach her (sexually); he placed a sword (in the bed) between himself and her, and he did not sin with her. On the third day after becoming king, his servants said to him: ‘Give us some advice and say what we should do, for we have not seen our wives and our children this past nine years, and we want very much to see them (again)!’ Moses said to them: ‘If you obey my directives, you will free yourselves and return safely to your homes.’ They answered him: ‘Everything which you command us we will do!’ He said to them: ‘Go to the hill-country and each one of you take away a baby stork.’ They quickly went and did so. He said to them: ‘Teach them to hunt food like one teaches young hawks.’ They did so. He said to them: ‘Let everyone mount his horse, don his armor, and take up his weapons, and come opposite the side where the serpents are. When the serpents emerge, throw on them the young storks who will eat them. Then we will take the city!’ They did so, drew near to the city, and put it to the sword. When Balaam b. Be‘or saw that the city was captured, he pronounced a spell and conjuration: he and his two sons flew through the air and fled back to Egypt to Pharaoh and dwelt there with him. Each (of the victorious soldiers) returned (safely) to his house. When the people saw that the king had delivered them and that it was due to his good counsel that the city had been taken, they loved him very much. Moses continued revering the Lord his God and did not turn aside to the right or to the left from the statutes of his ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The time he ruled as king over Cush was forty years.
One day he was seated on his throne and the queen was seated at his side. The queen said to the officials, ‘Look, the ruler whom you installed as king over you this past forty years has never approached me (sexually). Install over you now a descendant of your lord Nīqanōs, for the kingdom is rightfully his, and do not let a foreigner rule over you.’ All of the military leaders said to Moses, ‘You have greatly pleased us; however, all of the populace are planning to coronate a descendant of their lord to rule over them. Pick out for yourself (some) riches and goods and depart from us and return to your homeland in peace.’ Moses left for the land of Midian ‘and he sat by the well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: they came, drew water, and filled the troughs in order to water the flock of their father. Some male shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses arose and delivered them, and he watered their flock. They returned to Re‘u’el their father, and he said, “How have you returned so quickly today?” They said, “An Egyptian rescued us from the bullying of the shepherds, and he moreover drew our water and watered the flock!” “So where is he?” he answered his daughters. “Why have you left this man behind? Invite him to dinner!” And Moses was content to stay with the man’ (Exod 2:15-21). Re‘u’el said to him: ‘From where do you come? What is your homeland and where are your people?’ He answered him, ‘I am Moses,’ and then recounted to him everything which happened to him in Egypt. Then Jethro thought, ‘This is the one who extended his hand for the king’s crown! I shall take him and hand him over to Pharaoh.’ He issued orders to maintain him on prison rations of bread and water. However, he (Moses) was viewed with favor by Zipporah his (Jethro’s) daughter, and every day she would periodically supply him with extra food. He remained there for seven years. At the conclusion of seven years, Zipporah said to her father, ‘Should you not entreat that prisoner and captive whom you threw into the pit so long ago? Every day he invokes his god against you; as a result you are guilty of wrongdoing.’ Jethro answered her, ‘Who has ever heard of such a thing?!? A man not eating for this many years, and yet he is still alive?’ They went to the prison and found him standing up praying to his god and effected his release from there.
Now during that time Jethro had issued a decree and circulated an announcement among all his lands that the person who could come and uproot the staff which was planted in his garden would be given his daughter Zipporah to wed. Kings, mighty princes, and warriors had been coming, but none (of them) had been able to pull up the staff. After Moses was released from prison, he was walking around in the garden, and he noticed the staff ‘stuck in the ground’: it was made of sapphire, and the Ineffable Name (of God) was engraved upon it. Moses put his hand on the staff and pulled it up from its place with ease, and the staff was in his hand. He returned to the house with the staff in his hand. When Jethro saw the staff in the hand of Moses, he was utterly amazed, and he gave him Zipporah his daughter to be his wife. She bore a son, whom he named Gershom. Moses was 77 years old when he came out of prison. Zipporah followed the pious examples of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, and she walked in the way of the Lord in accordance with how Moses her husband commanded her.
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, but the Lord intended to honor the oath which He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Lord, may He be praised, appeared to Moses in the bush, and (said ) He would send him as messenger to Pharaoh to perform signs and wonders. He returned to his father-in-law and said to him, ‘I must go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt.’ Moses took his wife. It came to pass while they were on the way at a lodging-place that the Lord attacked him because he had not remembered to circumcise his son. He collapsed before the angel, but Zipporah picked up a sharp rock and circumcised her son, thereby saving her husband and her son from the power of the angel. The Lord said to Aaron, ‘Go meet Moses in the desert,’ and so he rendezvoused with him at the mountain of God, and embraced him. Then Aaron lifted up his eyes and saw his sons and his wife. He said, ‘Who are they?’ Moses answered Aaron, ‘The children with whom God has favored me in the land of Midian.’ Aaron however viewed this circumstance with extreme disfavor, saying, ‘Have we not suffered enough for past troubles? Do you want to add to them?’ Moses told his wife to return to her father’s house, and she did so.
After this Moses and Aaron arrived in Egypt. They came to the palace of Pharaoh. Now at the gate of Pharaoh’s palace were stationed two lions for the purpose of preventing people from approaching the royal gate out of their fear of them, for they would tear apart whoever they saw before their keeper could come and remove them. When they heard that Moses and Aaron were coming, Balaam the diviner and the Egyptian sorcerers counseled the lion-keepers to release them and leave them by the portal of the gate. When Moses and Aaron came to the portal of the gate, Moses extended his staff toward the lions, and they (acted as if they) were glad to see him. They followed after them and frolicked before them like dogs frolic at the time when their masters come home from the field. When Pharaoh and his servants saw this, they became very afraid of them. They said to them: ‘What is (your) business here? What do you want?’ They responded: ‘The God of the Hebrews has summoned us to say, “Send away my people so that they might serve me!”’ Pharaoh said to them, “Come back to me tomorrow and I’ll provide you with an answer.’ They did so: they departed and left. After this Pharaoh summoned his sages, magicians, enchanters, and diviners, among whom was Balaam. Balaam said to them, ‘How were they able to approach the gate without the lions tearing them apart?!?’ Pharaoh said to him, ‘They entered and the lions did not do anything to them! They frolicked with them as if they were the ones who raised them, and they (the lions) were happy to be with them just like dogs are happy to be with the masters who have raised them from when they were puppies!’ Balaam said to him, ‘They are but (magicians) just like us! Now send someone to summon them to engage in a contest before you!’
He sent someone to summon them, and Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel came out and came into the presence of the king. They repeated to him the words which they had previously spoken to him, and the staff of God was in his hand. Pharaoh said to them, ‘Who is the one who trained you?’ Moses and Aaron came and did just what God had said to them: Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Pharaoh summoned his sages and magicians, and they also did the same thing: each one threw down his staff and they became serpents. Then Aaron’s staff set upon and swallowed the staffs of the magicians. Balaam and the magicians said, ‘It is no marvel, wonder, or unusual feat that your serpent should swallow our serpents, for it is simply a law of nature that a living being can swallow another living being. If you want us to acknowledge that the spirit of God (is working through you), throw down your staff on the ground, and if your staff while it remains wooden can swallow our staffs while they remain wooden, then we will acknowledge that the spirit of God is with you.’ They did so: each threw down his staff and they became serpents. But after they had reverted back into what they had previously been (i.e., wood), the staff of Aaron swallowed their staffs.
Then Pharaoh issued a command to bring all the books of Egypt and to search whether they might find (in them) the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He. They made search but did not find it, because they were books of idolatry. He said to them, ‘I’ve looked in all my books, but I can’t find the name of your god.’ They said, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has summoned us.’ Then Pharaoh said, ‘Who is this Lord whose voice I should heed?’ Moses answered, ‘He commanded that we should make a three day journey in order to make sacrifice to the Lord our God, for from the time that Israel descended to Egypt, we have not offered Him sacrifice. If you do not release (Israel), He will send upon you a number of terrible and great disasters and afflictions.’ He said to them, ‘What kind of power and strength does this god have?’ They answered him, ‘He is the maker of heaven and earth, of light and darkness, of sea and dry land, and of cattle and wild beasts, and the entire universe shakes and trembles before Him. He will take away your power and return you as dust to the ground!’ Then Pharaoh grew angry at them and said: ‘All those who are gods have been unable to accomplish what I have done! “My Nile is my own, and I have made it myself!” (Ezek 29:3).’ His rage grew and he drove them out and issued orders to make their yoke more onerous.
However, the Lord brought upon them ten great afflictions (so grievous) that they reckoned them as two hundred and fifty separate plagues. The first plague: the Holy One, blessed be He, brought on them blood because they were preventing the Israelites from practicing immersion—therefore He brought blood on them. The second plague: He brought frogs on them which fell into their dough-pans and the chambers of their shrines and their bedrooms. They hopped and croaked in the midst of their bowels, and so the plague of frogs was harsher than all of the others. The reason He brought frogs was because the Egyptians would say to Israel, ‘Go and catch fish for us!’—therefore He brought frogs upon them. The third plague: He brought lice upon them to the height of about a cubit above the ground. Whenever the Egyptians would put on clean clothes, they would immediately be filled with lice. This was because the Egyptians used to say to the Israelites, ‘Go and sweep and clean our houses, our courtyards, and our streets!’—therefore He transformed for them (their dirt) into lice. The fourth plague: He brought a mixed horde of ravenous animals upon them, consisting of lions, wolves, panthers, bears, and other wild carnivores. The Egyptians went into their houses and locked their doors, but the Holy One, blessed be He, sent a beast up from the ground called a siren (sylwnyt) and she entered through the windows and opened the doors, and the bears, panthers, lions, and wolves rushed inside and devoured the Egyptians and (their) infants in their beds. Why did He bring these upon them? Because the Egyptians used to say, ‘Go (and) tend to our cattle!’—for this reason He brought the mixed horde of ravenous animals upon them, as well as a pestilence through which all their cattle perished, and this (latter) was the fifth plague. The sixth plague: He brought boils upon them, on both human and beast. Why did He bring boils upon them? Because the Egyptians used to say, ‘Draw baths for us to soften our bodies and indulge us!’—therefore He brought boils upon them to scorch their flesh, and they were scratching their bodies due to the severe irritation. The seventh plague: He brought hail upon them. Why did He bring hail upon them? Because the Egyptians used to say to Israel, ‘Go and plow and sow our fields for us!’—for this reason He brought hail upon them in order to pulverize the trees and plants. The eighth plague: He brought the locust upon them … (?) …. Why did He bring the locust upon them? Because the Egyptians used to say to Israel, ‘Go and plant trees for us and guard their fruits!’—therefore He brought the locust upon them so that it would consume what the hail had left. The ninth plague: He brought upon them the darkness of Gehinnom. Whoever was sitting down was unable to stand up, and whoever was standing up was unable to sit down due to the intensity of the darkness. Why did He bring darkness upon them? Because there were apostates among Israel, and the Holy One, blessed be He, planned to kill them off during the three days of dense darkness so that the Egyptians would not notice those who had fallen among Israel and rejoice about them.
The tenth plague: this was the smiting of the first-born. Our Sages of blessed memory have taught: Before He brought this plague upon them, Moses came to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘Know that the first-born of Egypt will die tonight!’ He began to laugh at him and answered him, ‘How many first-born are there in Egypt? Barely three hundred?’ But the fools did not realize that every one of them were actually of first-born status because they were steeped in sexual infelicity: they were all of illegitimate birth, and each and every one of them was the ‘first-born’ of his father (by a different woman). So Moses went to the first-born and said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: at midnight I will come through Egypt and kill all the first-born of the land of Egypt!’ Immediately every one of them came to their parents (and said): ‘Know that every plague—every single one of them—that this Moses has mentioned has come to pass, and now he says that all the first-born in the land of Egypt will die!’ Their parents answered them, saying ‘Go to Pharaoh, for he (too) is of first-born status.’ They went at once to Pharaoh and said to him: ‘Send away this people, for if you do not get rid of them, tonight all the first-born of Egypt will perish!’ Pharaoh said to them, ‘Who told you to come and speak with me?’ They answered, ‘Our parents. They told us about this thing’ He said to them, ‘Everyone go and kill their father. I am thinking (that) either I or my enemy, Israel, will die. But you would counsel me to send them away?’ What did the first-born of Egypt do? Each one took up his sword in accordance with the command of the king Pharaoh and killed their father, as scripture states: ‘smiting Egypt with their first-born’ (Ps 136:10). And afterwards at midnight He (in turn) smote all the first-born, both human and animal. The Holy One, blessed be He, effaced even their figures which had been engraved (on monuments).
They (the Israelites) asked them (the Egyptians) for silver, gold, horses, clothing, and garments, just as the Holy One, blessed be He, had forecast to our ancestor Abraham: ‘moreover I will pronounce sentence upon the nation whom they serve, and afterwards they will depart with great wealth’ (Gen 15:14), and after this (the tenth plague) ‘He brought them out with silver and gold; none was a straggler among His tribes’ (Ps 105:37).
It came to pass as they were leaving Egypt that the Israelites remembered the oath which Joseph had made them swear, when he had said: ‘when God attends to you, you will bring up my bones from there with you’ (Gen 50:25; Exod 13:19). Moses wrote down the Ineffable Name (on an object) and threw it into the Nile, and he had written (as well) ‘Arise, O bull! Arise, O bull!’ (Gen 49:22). The casket floated up at once, and so they took the casket of Joseph with them. They also took up the caskets of the tribes (i.e., the tribal ancestors: Joseph’s brothers): each one of the tribes took the casket of its ancestor and departed with them to the wilderness. Numerous peoples left with them; large crowds of unruly folks left and dwelt with them in the wilderness. The mob said (among themselves), ‘Did Moses not say we would journey only three days into the wilderness? Now let us all get up early together tomorrow: if they begin the return journey, then well and good. But if not, we will fight a battle with them!’ When the morrow arrived, they said to Moses: ‘Today is one of feast-making’—for they had completed a three-day journey—‘then we will return!’ Moses answered them, ‘The Lord has told us “you will never see them any more again”’ (Exod 14:13). <They> said to <him>: ‘You have tricked <us> with your Lord!’ They immediately began fighting with them, but Israel then arose and effected a great slaughter among them. Those who were left returned to Pharaoh and informed him that the people had fled (Egypt).
The (Egyptian) people came down and overtook them (while) they were camped by the sea. The Israelites entered into the sea, (walking) on dry land, but when Pharaoh and all his army came after them, they sank into the sea, and the only one of them who survived was Pharaoh, king of Egypt, for which he offered thanksgiving to the Living God and became a believer in Him, as scripture attests: ‘The Lord is right, and I and my people are wrong’ (Exod 9:27). The Holy One, blessed be He, issued a command to the heavenly officials Michael and Gabriel, and they removed him from there and transported him to the great city of Nineveh, and Pharaoh ruled as king over Nineveh for four hundred years.
The children of Israel went into the wilderness, and ‘Amaleq b. Eliphaz b. Esau came against them to wage war with them. His people numbered 187,000 myriads, and all of them were skilled diviners, necromancers, and soothsayers, but the Lord delivered all of them into the hands of his servant Moses and his pupil Joshua, and they smote them with the edge of the sword. Then the Canaanite king of ‘Arad came and did battle with Israel, as well as Sihon and ‘Og, but all of them fell due to the power of Israel.
During the third month they came to Mount Sinai, and the Holy One, blessed be He, gave them His sacred Torah and He spoke with them from heaven. They constructed the desert sanctuary, the tent, the ark, the altar (for incense), and the altar for burnt offerings, and Aaron and his sons offered sacrifices and made atonement for the transgressions of Israel. They journeyed in the wilderness for forty years, (during which time) neither their garments nor their shoes wore out. They ate manna all of the days that they were in the wilderness—forty years. In that fortieth year, on the tenth day of the first month, Miriam died; may her memory be for a blessing! And Moses our teacher, upon whom be peace, died on the seventh day of the twelfth month at the age of 120 years. He buried him in a valley opposite Beth Pe‘or. The Lord installed Joshua as leader of Israel, the one who made Israel cross the Jordan and take possession of the land of thirty-one kings, and the one who apportioned it out to Israel.
(As for) the rest of the words of Moses and that which he accomplished, are they not recorded in the Book of the Words of the Upright?
The Chronicles of Moses our Teacher, upon whom be peace, are completed.