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Slender Reeds: Jochebed's Hope

By Texie Susan Gregory

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Prologue

Outside, the hot urgency of survival pulsed. But in the thatched hut, where only a stray sunbeam found entrance, all was quiet. The child slept, his stomach rising and falling with each breath, his chin promising dimples, his lips puckering gently.
Her son.
Son. A word once bursting with joy and celebration, now conjured specters of cold-eyed crocodiles and stone-faced guards – both demanding the destruction of her baby. This son was a birth she would not celebrate, a child she should not have, a secret she could not keep.
Pharaoh’s edict to his people—kill every male Hebrew infant—festered, choking the air like day-old fish until even her skin absorbed the putrid stench of fear. Each breath a reminder, each death another link in the chain: women large with child, heavy with fear; men lacerated with scorn, scarred with despair.
Mercy, Lord, mercy.
The puckered scabs from her last beating tore, a reminder that the child’s only hope for life depended on her skill and survival. Biting her lip to avoid crying out and disturbing the boy’s sleep, Jochebed pushed herself to continue work, to search for three strands of similar thickness and cut the tips to begin the next row of plaiting. If she failed to fill the quota again and was beaten to death, her child would die, too.
The basket formed slowly, for each time the child fussed Jochebed left her work to quiet him. With every unexpected sound she faltered…
Would he awaken and his cries summon death?
Nearby shouts – Egyptian voices – sent fear to her fingers making them stiff, awkward. Jochebed covered her mouth and gagged remembering yesterday’s violence.
Twin boys slung into the river…
A newborn slashed from his mother as she gave birth…
The hoarse screaming of the widow whose only son was ripped from her breast and murdered, the stain of his blood a memorial on the floor of their home.
Was this the day death raised its scaly head and dragged her infant to a muddy grave? Was this the morning an Egyptian would recall her swollen belly and question her about a birth? Was this the moment soldiers would crash through the door to seize her son?
How much longer could she evade discovery and hide this little innocent before time bled away, before there were no more chances? Surviving this relentless suspense ground her feelings into dust as she trampled a maze of ‘what if?’
Her son’s whimper exploded into Jochebed’s thoughts. Dropping the basket, she darted across the room in two steps. He must not fret, must not alert the world to his presence. Anything could betray them – a cry, a careless word, a vengeful neighbor.
Thankfully, as he settled in to nurse, he quieted. If only her fears would do the same! Jochebed bit down on her knuckles until she tasted blood. Her head throbbed with unleashed screams as she fought surrendering to the horror, the terror of her choices. If only she could turn to Mama and look in those eyes of deep wisdom, but there was no one she could trust. No one to help her. No one else would risk death for this small, sweet child.
Groping through her thoughts she searched for an answer. There must be a way to save her little boy. Something, like a stubborn fly, circled Jochebed’s mind…but try as she might, it could neither be caught nor dismissed.

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