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William Shepard

The Bravery of Moses

Note: The story told in this chapter is not contained in the Bible, and Josephus probably derived it from traditionary sources.

When Moses had grown to be a man, a war broke out between the Egyptians and their neighbors the Ethiopians. A great battle was fought, in which the Ethiopians were successful. Being puffed up by this victory, they determined to conquer the whole land of Egypt. And they gathered together their armies and invaded Egypt. Now the Egyptians were in great terror, and they asked their priests and their wise men to pray to God and find out what they should do. Then the same wise man who had foretold the birth of Moses advised them to seek the assistance of Moses and make him the general of their armies. So Pharaoh commanded his daughter to produce him. Upon which, when she had made him swear he would do him no harm, she delivered him to the king. But she reproached the wise man who had before advised the Egyptians to kill him, and was not ashamed now to own their want of his help.

Then Moses went out at the head of a great army, and he surprised the enemy and attacked them before they knew he was coming. For they expected he would come against them by water, as the land was difficult to be passed over in many places, owing to the vast number of poisonous snakes that infested it. But Moses showed his wisdom in a wonderful manner. He took with him a number of birds called ibises, a sort of stork, who devour serpents and are their greatest enemies, so much so that the serpents are afraid of them, and glide away when they know they are coming. As soon, therefore, as Moses was come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibises, and by that means drove them away. And being thus enabled to come upon the Ethiopians before they were aware, and when they were not prepared for him, he attacked and beat them with great slaughter. And the Ethiopian army fled out of Egypt, and were pursued by Moses into their own country and defeated again, insomuch that they were in danger of being reduced to slavery and all sorts of destruction. And at length they retired to Saba, which was a royal city of Ethiopia. This place was very difficult to besiege, for it was built on an island in the river Nile, and was surrounded by a great wall. While Moses was uneasy at the army's lying idle on the banks of the river, for it seemed like madness to attempt crossing it when the enemy could fight against them from behind their fortifications and hurl their darts and javelins without any danger to themselves, it happened that the daughter of the king of the Ethiopians saw Moses in the distance, and fell in love with him on account of his beauty and his bravery. Therefore she sent to him the most faithful of all her servants to propose marriage. He accepted the offer, provided she would deliver up the city to him. No sooner was the agreement made than it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and celebrated his marriage. Then he led the Egyptians back to their own land.