He always knew that he was different – he just never knew why. For the most part he thought it was because his mother was the king’s daughter. She dotted over him so much that sometimes it seemed hard to breath. Because of how clingy she was, he had always found himself more comfortable in the presence of his nanny, Jochebed.
This Hebrew slave was soft, and gentle and kind and loving. She raised him like he was her own. And he loved her like she was his own. Her spirit was calm and her soul familiar. They had private moments, private jokes, and an intense connection from as early as he could remember. Long after she should have been released as his nurse, his mother kept Jochebed as his nanny. She (his mother) always seemed a little scared of him. He wondered why growing up she loved him intently. So intently that he sometimes thought that if she loved him any more, he would break. At least that’s how she looked at him – and that’s what her eyes told him.
But Jochebed would spank and caress and scold and hug all in the same breath. He learnt from an early age not to tell his mother of the spankings. The one time he told, she had spanked him because he had been belligerent and commanded her to bow before him as a prince and she as a slave. All the other slaves fell to their knees, noses touching the ground. But not her. The fury in her eyes told her immediately that he was in trouble. When the spanking was done, she tried to speak to him in a gentle but firm voice. But his pride was wounded. He marched straight to his mother and told her. What followed next, he would regret for the rest of his life. Jochebed was summoned, bound and flogged. The thirty lashes (although he lost count too early to confirm them) were horrible. With each lash they tore her skin and came away with some flesh. With each lash his shame at his actions grew, as did his anger at the severity of the punishment. It most certainly did not fit the crime. With each lash, he became more aware of the social inequality between master and slave and more saddened by the foundation upon which this system was based: some humans were less important and significant than others hence could be used, commanded and treated like animals. From that day on, he treated Jochebed with more respect than he ever would his mother, because no matter how much he begged her to ask the task master to stop, she only became more angry and determined. It was not until decades later that he would learn the truth – that he had experienced his first bitter taste of jealousy. His mother, was jealous of a slave.
For days after that incident, Jochebed was unable to leave her quarters [and as he soon found out, her bed as well]. She was unable to lift herself or lie on her side and / or back. She lay on her stomach and her daughter Miriam attended to her. Miriam had been summoned to come and tend to her mother. She had always been caring and friendly towards him but that incident changed their relationship forever. She was angry at him when he finally managed to sneak away from his wing and find his way to Jochebed’s side. She pushed him away and spoke sharply with fire in her eyes. For the most part he did not understand what he was saying but he heard the word Baby over and over again because Jochebed had called him that since before he could speak or understand. But Miriam did not pronounce it lovingly and he knew it was not a term of endearment in this context. Jochebed finally managed to silence her and summon him to sit beside her on her mat. He wept like a child for the first time in all his 12 years. He had always been scared to cry in front of his mother because as soon as he showed any sign of weakness or sickness an army of doctors, diviners, witches, wizards, philosophers and star gazers were assembled to find out what this could mean. But that day, he curled himself into a helpless heap and wept for this woman who had raised him like she was his own mother. He wept for his relationship with Miriam which he somehow sensed would never be the same again. He wept for his mother who knew so little about love that she thought she was protecting him by almost killing his nanny. He wept for the Hebrew people and how much whipping they had endured since before his birth. He wept for how powerless and helpless they were and how powerless and helpless he felt. From that day forth he determined to be a fair, just and compassionate prince. One who would listen to reason and not one who blindly followed what must be done for the greater good of the master at the expense of the servant.
Soon after Jochebed was able to resume to her post, his mother made an executive decision to relieve her of her duties and send her back into the sand pit to gather straw and make bricks. No amount of pleading would convince her otherwise. In fact, the more he pleaded, the more his mother pushed for her to be given harder tasks and put in the sun and as far away from the palace as possible. The more his mother punished her, the more his heart hardened towards his mother. He never forgave her and their relationship never recovered. For the first time and without knowing why, he felt like an orphan.
He began to spend more time with his cousin Ramases – the heir to the throne. They were schooled together and played together. They hunted together and explored together. But in the evenings, when no-one was watching, he would sneak away, disguise himself and creep into Goshen in the hopes of seeing Jochebed. He soon learned the ins and outs, the main ways and back alleys of this city. He never knew how large it was before now or how many slaves it held in its bowels. He would sometimes find a fire with men sitting around it and discussing the politics of the day. He would sit in the background, anonymous, with his head covered and his back hunched over and listen to the strange tongue in which they spoke. He learned Hebrew by sitting and listening. The more time he spent there, the more he learned not just their language but their culture and traditions as well. Of all the things he learned about this great multitude, the one thing that continued to intrigue him was their God. The one they leaned on, the one they feared, the one they called to and the one who apparently was a God of judgement. He never understood why a people would serve one God when many gods could better serve a people. But their love for and reverence of this God of all creation as they called him intrigued him more and more daily. As he grew into a man, he felt his convictions change and his heart soften more towards these people. He always knew he was different in the palace and now he felt even more different in the streets. He was always a man conflicted against his base nature, not knowing where he belonged but somehow sensing that his life had just began. This un-ease area year by year – he never knew why. He just knew that something had to change. He was a walking shell of a man with everything at his disposal but nothing alive on the inside. He was a Prince in Egypt but felt better as a man in Goshen.
… … … To Be Continued … … …
Beautiful – Empowered – Visionary