Into the Wilderness

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Logline or Premise
‘Into the Wilderness’ is a vivid re-imagining of the nation of Israel’s exodus from captivity in Egypt, and their journey into the wilderness. Journey with Joshua and experience miracles, the shimmering canopy of Yahweh’s presence, and the relentless attack of darkness which assailed his every step.
First 10 Pages

1. Pursuit

A shaft of light, like a gigantic fiery arrow, hurtled down from the heavens, struck the earth, and exploded outwards.

Thrown to the ground, I lay there, panting with fear. Holding my hand up to shield me from the glare, I screwed up my eyes and blinked hard, watching what looked like two enormous wings of a flaming celestial being, unfurling sideways. Blasts of thunder echoed around the mountains – back and forth, back and forth, causing my ears to throb in pain. I ducked down and covered them with my hands, but my attempts to block out the onslaught of noise were futile. They did nothing to drown out the screams of my fellow Hebrew runaways, or the shrieks of those who were hell-bent on pursing us.

I lay on my side, frozen in shock, staring at the havoc unfolding before me. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating so fast, it seemed to have lost all sense of rhythm. So I stayed, buried among the mass of bodies that littered the ground, and continued to watch in stunned silence. My position near the back of the multitudes of fleeing Israelites gave me an unhindered view of what was taking place behind us. It was a sight that would live in the recesses of my mind, continuing to haunt me, until my old age.

The Egyptian militia who, until that moment, had been relentlessly pursuing us, were now thrown into total disarray by the explosion of fire from heaven. Riders were flung from their horses as they reared up in terror, and the Egyptians’ usually ordered array of chariots rammed into each other as horses skidded to a halt. Many were overturned in the ensuing chaos. The majority of foot soldiers were thrown to the ground, some thrust into the path of the jagged knives that jutted out from the wheels of Pharoah’s plentiful chariots. Others were crushed to death by the sheer weight of the chariots as they drove over them.

The few who were lucky enough to be standing near the back, or on the outskirts of their formations, turned and fled from the blazing wall that loomed over them, without looking back. Most, however, were not so fortunate. Trapped among the swarming mass of chariots, horses, and men, they stared in terror at the mutilated bodies of their comrades who had been sliced in pieces or impaled on the jagged wheels of their own commanders’ chariots in a gory bloodbath. Scrambling to their feet, they ducked and dodged, climbing on top of each other in their desperation to find an escape route out of that hellish corral.

As slaves in Egypt, we were forced by pain of death to line the streets and applaud the Egyptian militia whenever they returned from one of their military campaigns. As much as I despised their heathen ways and arrogant temperaments, I couldn’t help but admire their military prowess as I watched row after row of chariots pass by, sparkling in the sunlight, their commanders decked out in full ceremonial dress, gold-edged cloaks rippling triumphantly behind them. Even their foot soldiers were majestic as they marched in perfect time through the streets of Egypt, their sandaled feet slapping on the stone slabs with striking uniformity. Eyes straight ahead, their leather helmet chin straps seemed to hide smug smiles, as if they knew how magnificent they looked.

I detested them.

But, despite my loathing, I could not deny that their formidable ranks were a thing of beauty.

This, however, was not that.

Gone were their flawless formations and intimidating attitudes and, in their place, I saw just men. Men like me. Men who feared. Men who screamed in agony as their bodies were hacked into pieces. Men who turned and fled from death, just as we had done.

Just men.

A vile smell filled my nose; I turned to see a man nearby vomiting as he watched the massacre of the Egyptian troops. Those near him retched and others joined him, spewing bile out of their mouths. I covered my nose and mouth to block out the smell, and watched breathlessly as the ever-widening fiery barricade continued spreading sideways, finally stretching the entire width of the valley, obscuring the Egyptians from our sight. As the rumble of thunder started to diminish, I became aware of the cacophony which it had been masking.

Children screaming.

Adults wailing, howling in terror.

Voices shouting out instructions.

The crash of waves breaking on the shore.

Tearing my eyes away from the wall of fire, I staggered to my feet and turned to look at the multitudes of people strewn across the shoreline as far as the eye could see. I took some deep breaths to try to slow my heart rate, watching my people cling to each other, gasping, staring first at the wall of fire behind them, then at the vast expanse of water in front of them.

The Red Sea.

‘We’re trapped!’ A cry went up, rippling through the crowds. I could see panic setting in as they evaluated their options: to die in the towering flames, be killed by the Egyptians, or drown in the Red Sea.

They were not good odds.

‘Why did we come this way?’ a woman cried out, trying in vain to quieten her screaming child.

‘Did Moses bring us here to die because there were no graves in Egypt?’ her companion asked, the whites of his eyes revealing his fear. ‘It would have been better if we had stayed in Egypt and died as slaves, rather than perish here in the wilderness.’

All around me, panic was turning to anger. I could feel it, a thread of dissidence that rippled through the crowds. They needed someone to blame, and who better than the man who had brought them here.


A voice shouted out, over and over, cutting through the noise of the brawling crowd. I turned around to find the source of the voice. He stood near the water’s edge; a man with a greying beard, not particularly striking or handsome, and not very tall in stature. In fact, you might be forgiven for disregarding him, were it not for the undeniable authority with which he spoke, and the staff that he held in his hand.

I knew that staff. I had seen what it could do – or what Yahweh could do through the man who wielded it.

My father, Nun, told me many stories about Moses. His parents had been friends of Moses’ parents, so the tales of how they hid Moses from the Egyptians in a reed basket on the river Nile, how he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and became a prince of Egypt, were well known to me. My father had been newly married when Moses fled Egypt as a younger man but, when he returned to Egypt nearly forty years later to free our people from slavery, my father was among the elders. He and the other leaders met with Moses and, not only did my father’s wisdom and leadership quickly gain him Moses’ trust, but I believe the stories he was able to tell Moses about his parents endeared him to our new leader.

The elders’ meetings were usually held in secret and only a select few were invited, so I never met Moses face to face. But, because my father and I were now all that was left of our family, he would tell me what was discussed at those meetings, and share with me his hopes and concerns for our people. I learned a lot about Moses through my father and now, looking at the man standing near the water’s edge, I felt like I knew him.

I could see Moses shouting to the people, but I was too far away to be able to hear what he was saying. Whatever he said, it was clearly not well received, because scornful shouts began to echo through the throngs. Moses’ brother, Aaron, stood by his side at the water’s edge, looking decidedly agitated. He leaned in to speak to his brother, but Moses shook his head, holding up his hand to silence him. So Aaron stood fidgeting by his side while Moses stared at the sea, his back to us.

The crowds were getting more and more aggressive. A couple of minutes passed. I saw Moses walk to the edge of the water and lift his staff above his head. The words he spoke were lost in the noise of the crowds and the waves but, only moments after he lifted his staff, a fearsome wind rushed across the beach. All around me, headscarves were torn off, clothes flapped wildly, and the small of stature found themselves on the ground. I struggled to keep hold of my head covering. I couldn’t turn away; I had to see what Moses was doing. Blinking repeatedly, I managed to pull my headscarf down enough to shield my eyes from some of the wind’s impact.

Peering out through a slit, I watched in breathless silence as a ferocious wind surged towards the Red Sea; wind and water collided in an epic showdown.

2. The Cloud

The waters of the Red Sea started to peel back, as if an invisible knife was cutting a pathway through the waves. Weeping and complaining turned into gasps of amazement as we stood, dumbfounded, watching the spectacle unfold in front of us. The roaring ‘whoosh’ of the wind put a stop to any conversation, so we watched and waited in awestruck silence.

Minutes passed, and still the turbulent wind continued to force its way through the swells of water, driving them back inch by inch, creating rippling watery walls that rose higher and higher on either side of the rift.

Above the place where Moses stood was the cloud that had converged, forming a canopy over us as we left Egypt. It was vast, covering the beach and spreading out over the Red Sea. It was unlike any cloud I had seen before. It oscillated constantly, swirling and undulating and, from time to time, it shimmered with sparks of light, as if celestial beings were flying within its midst. A large section of the cloud plunged down to the earth, creating a billowing pillar near the water’s edge that could be seen for miles around.

This was no ordinary cloud.

This was the cloud of Yahweh’s presence, a sign of the holy covenant He had made with His people to protect us, provide for us, and lead us into the land He had promised, the land of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: Canaan.

The cloud was miraculous and, from the moment I first saw it, it ignited a raw passion in my heart. Embers of hope that had long been dead had started to stir in me once again. Despite the chaos unravelling around me, I couldn’t help but smile to myself when the thought occurred to me that I had spent more time gazing up at the sky in the last couple of days than I had my whole lifetime. Our lives as slaves had been characterised by back-breaking labour, our days spent hunched over under the weight of huge boulders in the quarries of Egypt. There had been precious little time for staring up at the sky.

Until now.

I closed my eyes and breathed in. Putting my head back, I breathed out and gazed up at the cloud. But something was wrong. Up until now, the cloud had moved forward with us at a steady pace. But, while the wind continued to move forward, forging a pathway through the waters of the Red Sea, the cloud now seemed to be moving backwards, towards the place where I stood by the wall of fire which separated us from our former slave masters. The cloud’s appearance changed as it swirled overhead. Its iridescent form was darkening, and there was a murky denseness to it that I found disconcerting. I wasn’t the only one who had noticed.

‘Look!’ said a young man nearby, pointing to the cloud. ‘What’s happening?’

‘Why is it moving backwards?’ his companion said to no one in particular.

‘It’s getting dark. Why has it turned so dark?’ The first young man shivered, squinting in concentration. We watched the heavens with restless trepidation, huddling together as the cloud moved closer. Its massive form cloaked the hushed crowds in a shroud of darkness, like a thick blanket being pulled over a sleeping form. It moved closer and closer, the moody cloud dwarfing the rays of the sun, then extinguishing them from our sight altogether.

Darkness fell.

I held my breath, my eyes locked on the retreating cloud.

The silence was eerie and oppressive.

The cloud rolled over us and moved on towards the Egyptians amassed on the other side of the flaming wall. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw flickers of light – rays of sunlight glinting on the distant waters. The sun was once again shining down on those nearest to the sea as the cloak of darkness swept inland.

Now I understood.

Swivelling back to the fiery blockade behind me, I watched with bated breath as the cloud moved closer, creating a chilling canopy of darkness over the gridlocked Egyptians. The front edges of the thick cloud which usually formed the billowing pillar that went before us, cascaded down towards the ground, spreading out sideways and joining forces with the blazing wall to create an impenetrable barrier between Hebrew and Egyptian.

It took a matter of minutes for the cloud to complete its mission, and for me to feel the rays of the late afternoon sun on my back once again. I turned my attention to the sea as the wind continued its relentless assault on the waters. Once the chasm had widened to roughly nine chariots’ width, by my estimation, it no longer pushed the boundaries further. Instead, it seemed content to concentrate its might on holding the watery walls in place so that Yahweh’s people could cross over in safety.

But no one wanted to make the first move.

We waited and watched and, after a few moments, three figures approached the water’s edge. Moses, his brother, Aaron, and a woman who looked like his older sister, Miriam. ‘What are they doing?’ I muttered to myself, staring at the three diminutive figures in the distance. They walked towards the dried-up seabed. Not looking back, and without any hesitation whatsoever, they picked up their bundles and strode into the immense canyon which the retreating waters had created. Every eye was focused on Moses and his siblings. No one moved, but the tension in the air told me that everyone was poised for action.

I was right.

As soon as they determined it was safe, people surged towards the water’s edge, desperate to enter the canyon and get to the other side. It was like floodgates opening – floodgates that released not a flood of water, but a tidal wave of mankind. I grimaced at the mayhem that broke out as men, women and children swarmed towards the watery passageway, yanking their livestock behind them, or driving the reluctant animals in front of them.

Even those around me at the back of the multitude got caught up in the fresh wave of panic. Picking up their bundles, they ran as one, trying to force their way through the blockade of bodies in front of them. Shoving and pushing, they knocked each other over, some using their bags like battering rams to try to smash their way through the crowds. Children screamed, women were thrown to the ground and fists flew.

‘Stop!’ I shouted. ‘Stop this! Be still!’

While some of them paused to look at me, eyes wide with fear, the more desperate among them continued trying to bulldoze their way through. At times like this, my stature was a great advantage, and I used it now to its full effect. Wading over to where the main troublemakers were, I used my body as a barricade to stop them. Grasping hold of a man’s forearm, I shouted, ‘Restrain yourself!’ My voice stopped him in his tracks; he came to his senses, looking around him in confusion. I continued pinpointing disruptive individuals, confronting them with both my size and my voice. It worked. After a short while, it was quiet enough for me to speak again.

‘There is no purpose in this,’ I shouted. ‘Fighting among ourselves will only make things worse. It will take time for our people to move through the waters, and we must be patient.’ Speaking to the men in the crowd, I continued, ‘Sit down. Let your families rest while they can. We have a long walk ahead of us and we must be ready when the time comes. Sit. Give the children some food. Drink. Quench your thirst.’ I motioned to them with my hands and some sank gratefully down to the ground. ‘Rest now. We must be patient and wait until it is our time.’

And so we waited. Bloody noses were dabbed, cuts and bruises attended to. Bundles that had been ripped open in the kerfuffle were retied, and many were used as makeshift pillows as the exhausted sojourners stole a few blissful minutes of sleep. I scanned the shoreline, studying the movement of bodies. From where I stood at the back of the multitude, they looked like a swarm of ants.

‘Where are you?’ I mumbled, searching the crowds. But the evening was drawing in and the rays of the late afternoon sun blinded my eyes, stopping me from finding the ones I searched for. I quashed my frustration. I couldn’t start pushing my way through the people to try to find them now. I couldn’t do what I had just stopped everyone else from doing.

I would have to wait, just like them.

3. Walls of Water

We waited and waited, and waited yet more. The afternoon passed into evening, and evening into night, and still we watched and waited. Droves and droves of our people had walked into the riverbed and yet the blockade of bodies in front of us did not seem to move. Night had fallen, and those around me at the back of the throng were getting increasingly anxious about the crossing.

Although we could no longer see our pursuers, we could still hear them, and the noise of the Egyptian forces behind us added to the stress of our waiting. Every few minutes, we would hear the jarring shouts of Egyptian captains, followed shortly afterwards by the muffled sound of hooves, the frantic whinnying of horses, and the screams of their riders. It seemed Pharoah was not content for his legions to loiter behind the thick barrier of fire and cloud, but was forcing them, time and time again, to try to break through it. Despite repeated failures, he was intent on persisting in that suicidal mission.

The sense of relief when we were finally able to move was overwhelming. Not to be confined in that space, not to have to listen to the screams that penetrated the curtain of fire, was liberating. I woke those who had drifted off to sleep and helped them ready themselves. But, although I felt such a strong sense of relief at finally being able to move on, I also felt an unusual reluctance to leave the cloud. Even in its present dark, forbidding state, I was strangely drawn to it, and felt an overwhelming compulsion to stay with it.

‘Foolishness!’ I thought. To stay behind would be a death sentence. ‘And yet… I have no wish to leave you,’ I muttered, turning again to look at it. ‘Will you not come with us?’ I had no choice but to continue on, but every minute or so I turned to stare at the cloud, willing it to leave its assigned place and return to us. My heart felt bereft, as if grieving for the loss of a loved one. It weighed heavily on me and, as I walked, I mused to myself how I could have come to love Yahweh’s beautiful presence so profoundly in such a short time.

As we neared the water, those around me started to get increasingly agitated. From far away, the sight of the waters of the Red Sea held back by squalls of wind was wondrous and awe-inspiring. Up close, however, it was just terrifying. The walls of water which, from our vantage point near the fire barrier, had seemed just a few feet high, now towered above us, as tall as the edifices of Egypt which we had been forced to build.

Looking down at the fragile form of an elderly woman standing near me, I felt a surge of compassion. ‘Come,’ I said. ‘Yahweh has not brought us this far only to leave us to the mercy of the Egyptians. Let us walk through this pathway that He has laid out for us, and such stories we will have to tell on the other side, nu?’[1] She hesitated, looked back at the blazing wall, then turned to stare at the Red Sea. I waited, watching the trembling of her body as she wrestled with her fear. After a few moments she swallowed, nodded and stepped forward.

It was agonising. The walk from our location near the trapped Egyptians down to the water’s edge had been slow enough, but it was a gallop compared to this! On dry ground we could walk fairly steadily, albeit gingerly, while watching out for rocks that jutted out, or dips in the ground. Walking through the Red Sea bed, however, was far more precarious.

Our crossing took place within the late-night watches and, although the flaming wall behind us illuminated our way to some extent, the further away we went from it, the less we felt its effect. Some of us carried oil lamps or fire torches, but they only lit up a couple of feet around us and did little to help highlight the constant trip hazards. The ground was waterlogged, the slimy rocks and stones a constant menace.

The seabed had not dried out, as there had been no sun during the course of our crossing, and hundreds of thousands of our people had crossed over before us, as well as all their livestock and carts. By the time we made the crossing, the ground had been well and truly churned up and was more like a swamp-like bog than a seabed.

It took great strength and determination for the strong of limb to keep trudging on, but for the children and elderly, it was excruciating. Nevertheless, we plodded on, breathless and exhausted, slipping and sliding, our clothes splattered with mud and wet sand. We had no choice. The towering walls of sea water loomed on either side of us, an ever-present reminder of our predicament, and the flickering light of our lamps and torches illuminated strange-looking sea creatures that swam in the confined waters on either side of us. In the gloomy light, the fish, and all manner of creatures whose home was the sea, looked misshapen and hideous. Strands of seaweed transformed into monsters with tendrils that reached out to grab us and pull us into the water.

‘Do not look to the sides. Look at where you are going, yes?’ I urged a little girl after she had tripped again in fright after seeing a huge, distorted-looking fish flicking around the edge of the watery wall. Some of the children in our company cried out in fear of the sinister-looking sea creatures they saw, while others revelled in them, fascinated by this new phenomenon. Both groups stumbled on, regardless, until at last the shadowy figures we saw before us on the distant shores began to take shape.

As the last of the stragglers, we finally made our way onto solid ground, hugging each other in relief. But my eyes were instinctively drawn back to the cloud we had left behind. I drew my outer robe around me and rubbed my arms, suddenly aware of the cold breeze that surrounded us now that we were out in the open on the shore. I gazed into the distance, confused and not a little heartsore. The cloud of Yahweh’s presence had been with us for such a short time.

‘Why?’ I thought to myself. ‘Why will it not continue on this journey with us?’

As if to answer my question, the cloud’s formation started to change. To my astonishment, the pillar of cloud which had plunged down to form the wall, now rose up to meet the rest of the cloud that had formed the dark covering over the Egyptians. I stopped rubbing my arms and leaned forward, frozen in anticipation. Narrowing my eyes, I peered across the dark waters of the Red Sea.

Yes! I wasn’t imagining it!

The fire was dissipating, sparks flying left, right and centre; the mighty canopy was on the move again. The cloud’s density was breaking up and, as it started moving towards the Red Sea, I saw the familiar flickers of light within it which I loved so much. My heart thrilled within me and I turned to those around me.

‘It is coming!’ I jabbered, pointing at the cloud. ‘The cloud! It is coming back to us!’ Turning to another group nearby, I shouted again, ‘Look! The cloud! It comes! It has not left us; it is coming back!’ ‘Why are they not excited?’ I thought, confused at the appalled expressions on their faces. Offence rose up strong in me, coupled with anger. ‘Do they not want the cloud to come back to us?’ Swinging round to look again at the object of my devotion, my face fell as I realised why they were not celebrating with me. The cloud was now well on its way back to Yahweh’s chosen people, and the wall of fire had all but disappeared – leaving nothing to stop the Egyptians from resuming their reckless pursuit of their escaped slaves.

Yes, the cloud was coming.

But so were the Egyptians!

4. Shock

Silence, but for the sound of the waves and the eerie cries of circling gulls.

No one moved.

No one uttered a word.

The world seemed to hold its breath, paralysed by fear.

The screams of our oppressors still echoed in my ears.



The cries of men in terror and the tumultuous roar of the waves had bombarded my senses as the waters of the Red Sea hurtled back into place, crushing everything and everyone in their path. I watched, horrified, as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob annihilated the entire Egyptian army in one fell swoop. The waters of the Red Sea crashed down upon chariots and foot soldiers, and the might of Egypt disintegrated under the formidable hand of the God of Israel.

Then, there was nothing… except the rapid beating of my heart in my chest.



Bizarrely peaceful.

Waves broke on the shore. I was mesmerised by the sounds of silence that assaulted my senses. Looking down, I noticed waves lapping at my feet, like small forest creatures nibbling at their food, scampering away, then coming back for more.

A kind of numbness took hold of me.


I stood still, welcoming the naked simplicity of just breathing. I watched the frothy waves caressing my toes. Uncomplicated and innocent, they asked nothing of me but to be still and enjoy their ministrations.

And so I did.

In and out they scampered, nuzzling my toes with their foamy caresses, then withdrawing again. The gentle, rhythmic pattern of the waves worked its magic and I felt my heart rate slowing. As I came to myself again, there was one thing on my mind: the cloud of Yahweh’s presence. Lifting my head from its downward focus, I looked up to the heavens and my heart leapt to see the object of my desire. It was as beautiful as ever, resplendent in glory. Gone was the thick, dark cloak that had covered the Egyptian army and, in its place, glimmering flurries of light once again ruled the heavens. Tears came to my eyes. I quickly wiped them away. I didn’t like unnecessary shows of sentiment, especially at times when I felt I needed to be strong.

I gazed upward, noting the familiar sparks of light swirling within the cloud. The sun was rising and the underside of the cloud was tinged with light from the rays of the awakening orb. Its plumes were flushed with gold and pink, flecks of auburn and lilac that glinted in the light of the early morning sun.

A new day was dawning.

I looked down, captivated by the flashes of early morning light that glinted on the waves of the Red Sea. Revelling in the luxury of not having to do anything other than enjoy my surroundings, I stood for a while, just soaking it all in. We’d done it. We had actually done it. I felt those illusive tears come to my eyes again, and brushed them away impatiently. We’d made it across – or through – the Red Sea. How did this happen? My mind couldn’t comprehend it and I was too exhausted to continue trying to work it out. Glancing away from the sea, I turned to look instead at the sea of people behind me. The shore was littered with families clinging to one another in a tableau of shock.

Shock, yes, but not fear.

Disbelief, certainly. But not fear.

Confusion, absolutely. But not fear!

The savage rod of fear that had broken our backs for centuries now lay at the bottom of the vast expanse of sparkling water behind us. For the first time since leaving Egypt, I smiled. A real smile. A full-faced, eyebrow lifting, cheek-stretching smile! We had done it! Yahweh be praised, we had done it!

‘Joshua!’ I heard my name being called. I knew that voice! I scanned the crowds, and then I saw him. Indeed, it would have been hard to miss him! He ran towards me through the crowds, robes flapping around his legs, his tangled mass of dark hair bobbing up and down, headscarf trailing behind him and arms flailing as he yelled my name over and over.

Mesha. My closest friend, the brother of my heart. The brother I never had. He dodged clumps of people, jumping over bags that had been tossed on the ground, and hurled himself through the middle of a flock of rather bedraggled-looking sheep. ‘Joshua!’ he shouted again, laughing with joy as he flung himself into my arms.

‘Mesha!’ I laughed too, mostly with relief. We slapped each other on the back before kissing each other, first on one cheek and then the other. ‘I did not think you would find me in this crowd.’

‘Ech, it was easy,’ he shrugged. ‘All I had to do was look for a man who stood a foot taller than everyone else, and there you were! You will never be able to hide very easily, my friend.’ We laughed, then his smile changed to concern. ‘Are you well?’ he asked. ‘We lost you in all the chaos – what took place?’

‘Forgive me. A young couple were struggling with their goats – they were frightened by the fire, bleating, and trying to run away – and their children were screaming... so I went to help them. When I turned back, you had gone.’

‘We didn’t realise you were not with us until we sat down to wait for our turn to go through the waters, but by then it was getting dark. We couldn’t see clearly, we couldn’t move, and the – ’

‘Mesha,’ I put my hand on his chest and stopped him. ‘All is well now, nu?’

He smiled and relaxed his shoulders. ‘Amen. All is well. But… the waters?’ His eyebrows shot up to the top of his forehead, eyes opened wide. ‘The Red Sea! Did you see it? Never has Yahweh stretched out His hand like this. Never before! To witness this with our own eyes, it is… it is…’ All of a sudden Mesha became aware of his surroundings. ‘But come! Enough talk. We will have plenty of time to talk, yes?’ Picking up one of my bags, he flung it over his shoulder, grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘Let me take you back to the family – they are anxious to see you.’

We moved quickly through the crowds and, within minutes, I was reunited with my family – although they weren’t actually my family, not the family of my birth.

My family were dead. Every single one of them had now passed through this world into the next. My father, Nun, had been the last to go. It still hit me with a jolt of pain each time I remembered that he was no longer with me. Over the weeks since his passing, I would find myself looking for him in a crowd, or waiting for him to return home. I longed to look into his warm, wise old eyes just once more, to put my hand on his shoulders and kiss his soft, wrinkly cheeks. But it was not to be.

The abuse that my abba[2] had suffered over his three score and ten years in Egypt had finally caught up with him, and his heart started to fail. He was not morbid about death, neither was he afraid of dying. He spoke with great certainty about going to be with his fathers’ fathers, and was thankful that he had been given the privilege of meeting Moses and helping him with his mission to free our people from the tyranny of Egyptian oppression, before passing.

His only regret was leaving me without family, and so his last act on this earth was to rectify that. Mesha’s father, Jesher, had been steadfast friends with my father since their youth, and our families spent much time together. It seemed only natural then, that my friendship with Mesha should follow the pattern of close friendship and brotherhood that our fathers had enjoyed. Jesher had shared many an adventure with my father over the years, so it was only right for him to be with him on his last adventure before leaving this earth.

He sat with me by my abba’s side, hour after hour, holding his hand or praying. It was during that time that it happened. My father reached out and took Jesher’s hand in his, grasping mine with his other hand. Joining our hands together, he looked at me and said, ‘My son, Jesher is now your father.’ Turning to Jesher, he whispered, ‘This is your son.’

Jesher’s face crumpled and he fought back the tears as he whispered, ‘I will embrace him as one of my own.’

Abba nodded, a gentle smile on his lips, still holding both our hands in his. One of the last things he heard was the sound of a million or more frogs croaking as they launched a mass invasion of Egypt at the command of the Lord God. He looked at me with that familiar twinkle in his eye, and rasped, ‘Pharoah has seen nothing of the reach of Yahweh’s arm yet, nu?’ Shortly after that, he slipped quietly through the veil that separates this life from the next, a smile still on his lips.

And so now I call Jesher ‘abba’, and he is my father, for all intents and purposes. He is a good father, an honourable man who has loved me well through these first few weeks of my orphaned life.

Jesher was the first to greet me when Mesha and I returned. Striding up to me with a broad smile on his face, he held out his arms, hugged me fiercely, and kissed my cheeks. ‘Joshua!’ He looked at me with his dusky blue eyes. ‘We thought you were lost to us.’

‘I was, Abba,’ I replied. Love for this noble man rose up strong in me as I returned his gaze. ‘I was lost, but now I am found.’

[1] A Jewish expression

[2] Hebrew word for father.