Martha clucked at the children, but they laughed and ignored her admonitions.
Miri smiled. Her children were her pride and joy. She put aside her pens and sprinkled talc upon the wet ink, and then stood up.
Since their birth, her life had stopped its strange wobbling through the Universe, and she had settled on a small farm on the Eastern edge the Nile delta, in sight of the garrison town of Bilbeis, a short walk south east of Bubastis It was the first town in Egypt where she and Yusef and the twins had been welcomed. They had entered the Delta from the east and then travelled south along the most easterly tributary of the Nile There, they came upon Tel Basta, west of Bubastis, and because none knew them there, they rested for caring for the newborn twins was arduous on the road. It held a dear place in Miri’s heart for it was the first time she was allowed to relax and enjoy their presence. Until that time, it seemed she had not properly connected with her children. That first day, Miri and Yusef, and the camel boy who has insisted on changing his name to Yusef as well, sat to rest in the shade of a tree, and while Yusef and the children slept, Miri stayed awake and was content to watch over them. The camel sat irritatedly down, but then slipped into a contented cud chewing. Yusef, the younger, had called him Moses, for that was his name, and he thought that as he had taken on his new master’s name it was only fitting the camel take his. “After all,” he said, “I’m no longer using it, I’d hate to see it go to waste!”
The next day, because Yusef’s feet were swollen from the flight to Egypt, Miri left the twins with him, and walked to the village but the people of Tel Basta were suspicious of her presence and no one would sell her anything. As she walked back along the way empty-handed, a farmer, by the name of Aqloum, returning home from working his fields, stopped and asked why she was so downcast. Miri explained that they were Palestinians and were headed to join relatives in Alexandria, and that they were waiting for her husband’s feet to heal before taking to the road again. Aqloum insisted she take him to Yusef, and then invited them to his house to rest for the night, and they gratefully accepted his invitation.
The next day, he explained he was travelling to the festival in Bubastis to honour of Bastet, the cat-goddess, for he could ask good prices for his crops there. He offered to take her there to buy herbs for Yusef’s feet, for he had developed an infection in his blisters. While Yusef rested. Miri and Aqloun’s wife, Zara, were placed on a donkey cart with the twins, and Yusef loaded Moses with Alquom’s dates and a few sacks of chick peas, and they set off for Bubastis. The festival was loud and raucous, and Miri feared for the safety of her babies. Aqloum, a father himself, apologized for not thinking, and quickly agreed to a slightly lower price than he had desired for his produce, and made haste to leave. They split up for a moment, so that Miri could buy a few items in the market, and while he watched her move through the stalls, Aqloum overheard a Jew from Yerushalayim speaking to a Roman official about his guests, saying they were wanted in his native city for sedition against the Emperor, and he swiftly moved to spirit his guests away. They made good their escape from Bubastis, and for a day, Alqoum hid the family in a culvert in his fields, but no one had come for them. He and his wife, Zara sent them on their way the following day with fresh bread and cucumbers, so they could resume their journey.
But from there, they stopped in Bilbeis, and the town of Bilbeis welcomed them as honoured guests. There was a community of people who had already heard of Yeshua, and, though they did not recognize either Yusef or Miri, they welcomed them into their homes. Such was the hospitality of the people of Bilbeis, of every faith and belief, Miri remembered their kindness when she decided she would flee the tribulations in Alexandria.
Miri had been in Alexandria only a few months, when trouble erupted there. She had tried to remain anonymous, but there were many who remembered her. Cornelia, saw her in the park of Pan with her babies, and gushed all over them. She insisted upon being a godmother, and, just as Miri had predicted, she had married a man who, though he continually drove her insane, he had, incidentally, sired two lovely girls, Esperanza and Casta. Her old friends in Alexandria, in fact, had been a boon to her, as they knew her as Magadha, and she had a ready-made persona into which she could slip easily.
But unfortunately, it seemed that Aulis Avillia Flaccus had secured the governorship of Aegyptus because of his service to Tiberius under the aegis of his uncle Lucius Pomponius Flaccus. They had rather owed more allegiance to Sejanus, and after Sejanus was removed, Flaccus was as nervous as a cat. He immediately ceased any overt anti-Semitic movements as Pilatus had done. But he had conspired still against Agrippina and her sons, and his testimony along with his uncle’s had been pivotal in gaining the exile and subsequent deaths of both Agrippina and Nero. His uncle Pomponius had intercepted a Guardsman by the name of Drusus, and discovered that incriminating evidence remained in the hands of a Jewess in Tiberias in Palestine. He had sent an agent to Tiberias, but the woman who held the evidence had gone underground with a terrorist band of Jews.
. Word was, that the Jewess had fled to Alexandria, and was in hiding under an assumed name in the Jewish Quarter.
And just as Miri and Yusef arrived in Alexandria, the favourite son of Germanicus, Caligula had been acclaimed the new Emperor
When he heard that Gemellus, the grandson of Tiberius and his partner in the government had been put to death at the command of Gaius, Flaccus was terrified he would soon be in line for the executioner, and he panicked. Knowing the woman who held the evidence against him was in Alexandria, he was at a loss to decide on a way of finding her until the edict from Gaius demanding his statue be set up in every temple in the Empire.
It provided the excuse he needed to search out the woman He knew the Jews would resist the placing of the statues of Caligula in their meeting houses, he stretched the meaning of the edict and declared to those about him, that the synagogues were, in fact, places of worship, ergo, temples. He could not wait until the statues were commissioned, so he roused the Greeks against the Jews, and declared that as a god, Caligula could appear in any form, and so they should set up statues from other public places until the statues of Caligula could be manufactured.
Of course, the Rabbis and elders of the synagogues resisted the mobs that showed up to place idols in their meeting places, and full scale riots erupted in front of the suynagogues. The violence quickly spread, and Flaccus sent his secret police into the crowds and directed them against the wealthy merchants not living in the Jewish Quarter, and drove them like sheep into a small area where they could all be contained.
Yusef was caught in the Jewish Quarter, and defended the Alabarch as best he could, but they were forced to retreat before the crowds. Every house and shop owned by a Jew in Alexandria was systematically looted and every scroll including the Holy Books were lit and burned. So intent on his goal was Flaccus, that he ignored the violence of the pagans as they realized they had free reign in the city. Jewish and Eastern women were raped and tortured, children torn to pieces on the street. The crowds favourite method of execution was to loop a rope about a man’s foot and then drag him through the streets until the paving stones stripped and tore the flesh from his bones. Blood flowed down the streets, and pieces of men women and children clogged the sewers.
The whole city was besieged by a madness that directed an unbelievable fury at the Jews, and when most of the Jews had been driven into a single section of the Jewish Quarter, and the houses crammed with terrified refugees, the most virulent of the oppressors, urged on by Flaccus’ men, set fire to the buildings, and many actually laughed at the grisly spectacle of their victims screaming as the flames consumed them. Such was the horror that decent people simply stood and watched helplessly immobilized by the horror. Yusef managed to escape with the Alabarch and his family, and they arrived at Miri’s house, screaming and crying hysterically. She calmed them all so that they would not be discovered, and closed the shutters to the house.
A thousand shutters slammed shut that day, and the riots continued, as Flaccus pressed the massacre. The pogrom lost steam after three days, though the Jews had been confined by the violence to the Jewish Quarter known as “The Delta.” The Alabarch had appealed to Agrippa Herod, who had already been insulted grievously by the Alexandrians influenced by Flaccus, and Agrippa was already on his way to Rome, and the Alabarch’s brother, Philo, had been pressed to appeal also to the Emperor. It seemed Flaccus had decided that until every Jew was dead, he could not be safe from prosecution. His frame of mind was to prove his undoing, for, unknown to him, his acts against the Jews forced Miri’s hand.
It was time to fulfill her obligation to Agrippina and turn the documents over to her son. And at that moment, the opportunity presented itself. After it was decided Philo would lead the delegation to the Emperor, Miri approached him as he sat at her writing desk preparing his appeal to Gaius.
“I have something to deliver to Caligula,” she whispered, and drew out the scroll given to her by Agrippina wrapped with her letters. She had wrapped documents within a linen cloth, wrapped it with ribbon and sealed it with wax. “I think it will help rid us of Flaccus!”
“What is it?” Philo asked earnestly. He was a very thoughtful and intense man. He rarely took time to bathe unless it was for ceremonial purposes. And he had not cut his greying beard for some decades.
“It is best that you don’t know,” replied Miri, “But the Emperor will recognize the handwriting. Do not open it until you are in his presence and are ready to hand it over!”
Philo examined the wrapped documents in order to glean some indication of its contents, but there was nothing to give away the nature of the material inside.
“Say nothing of this to anyone!”
Philo was an extremely intuitive man, and after his examination of the package he stared at Miri. “These are the papers for which Flaccus is searching!” he said excitedly.
“The Emperor only!” said Miri. “Say nothing of this to anyone until you have delivered it!”
“What could it be that so many have died?” he asked.
Miri began to have doubts about Philo’s ability to deliver the message.
“Perhaps I should take it back!” She reached for the papers, but Philo held up a hand.
“I swear by the Power of Heaven, and the Souls of my forefathers, I shall deliver the package!”
Though many Jews had fled the city entirely, Yusef had opened his doors to the Alabarch and Philo and a number of other leading families of Alexandria. Their house was crowded, and they cowered in fear everytime a knock came on the door. It was decided that Philo would lead a delegation to Rome, and luckily, Annobal was docked in Alexandria at that time, and Eleazar was part of his crew. They were loading a cargo of grain for Rome and they agreed to take Philo and the other dignitaries on the voyage. Unfortunately some of the delegation was caught on the street by the crowds and they were stripped and beaten, and displayed in the theatre to be tried for treason against the Emperor. Philo and seven others managed to reach the docks and boarded the Phoencian cargo ship. As soon as Philo and his entourage were on board, the hawsers were slipped off the moorings and the black ship floated from its birth. With a great shout, the oarsmen raised their oars and the great paddles dipped into the water, and with a great heave, the ship surged forward.
Philo, the Alabarch and his ministers waved farewell to Miri and Yusef and the others in the dock. Martha’s eyes sparkled with tears as she watched her brother deftly coiling rope on the deck.
“May the Great Mother watch over thee!” she whispered, and at that very moment Eleazar looked up and smiled at her and waved.
They did not know it then, but they would not see Philo again.
Such was the danger in the city, they decided it would be advisable to leave Alexandria. Martha suggested Bilbeis for there were few Palestinians there, and they had been warmly received during their first visit. Yusef escorted her to Bilbeis and helped secure a small farm, and despite the danger, he returned to Alexandria for he had partnerships in many enterprises there, and was concerned that he would lose his investment if he were absent from them. And that is how Martha and Miri and the twins came to live in the sleepy little village of Bilbeis.
Though the labour on the farm was hard on her back and rough on her hands, she was grateful for the quiet of the countryside. Here, she had time to stop and listen to the crickets and the call of the birds. The farm work also allowed her time with her children, and they joined her and Martha in their work in the fields, helping with the hoeing or hindering it, as their mood changed. Their constant energy and curiosity was contagious, and Miri felt the darkness that wrapped from time to time about her heart, lift whenever they were near, and upon its return, the heaviness was never as great as before. The rising of the sun and its setting defined her days, and the change of seasons determined her actions, and she realized the stars above were shifting, for at the Solstice, the star of Ishtar was rising in the constellation of Pisces, and not in Taurus as the astrological scrolls described. A great change was on the way, both in the Universe and her own Soul, and she wondered, or more aptly hoped, that her new life would remain at the pace it had assumed in Bilbeis.
Yusef visited from Alexandria from time to time, but Miri and Martha spent their days in the slow course of running a tiny farm that supported them and the children, and, every year after the harvests, Alquom and Zara always made a point of visiting Miri and her niece. Bilbeis was removed from the world and both Miri and Martha settled contentedly into their new life.
“Mama, look!” cried Immanuel, “A frog!”
Miri smiled at the wonder he and his sister Emmanuelle found in such small wonders. “Just one?” she asked, her mind wandering to the tale of the plagues of Egypt, and she bent down to stare at the little green amphibian in her son’s outstretched palms. The tiny animal suddenly jumped from his hand and he and his sister screamed in surprise and delight, and they all scrambled to catch the little frog. They knocked over a bench and a water jar in their efforts to retrieve the escaped frog. Laughing, Miri finally cupped her hand over the fugitive and she held it from the reach of the excited children.
“We must let it go!” she told them, “She must return to her family before they miss her!”
Though she had called them both after the prophecy of Isaiah, the difficulty of having two relatively identical children with exactly the same name soon made it imperative they have determinant names, praenomina. Emmanuelle she called Sarai, and Immanuel, Avikai.
Avikai argued for keeping the little frog overnight, but Sarai sided with her mother and persuaded her brother to put the amphibian back by the irrigation canal that ran beside the farm. As they watched their little green companion hop across the mud and plop into the pond, they looked up at a visitor blocking the sun.
Miri shaded her eyes and shouted his name excitedly.
“Philip!” she cried, and leapt up to embrace the mason.
“It has been a long time, Miri!” he said. “No one would tell me of your whereabouts!”
“You must stay with us!” said Miri happily, “I have not spoken with any of our old congregation for some years! You have news of Yerushalayim?”
Philip smiled. “Of course! But I met someone who needs to speak with you!”
Miri’s heart pounded, for she had not been greatly welcomed by any of the new followers of Yeshua, and by many, shunned. They had not wanted to hear of the Yeshua she knew, or rather they urged her eagerly to reveal her knowing, then rejected her because she described a man and not a god. Alexandria became a dangerous place quickly, and she was sure that sooner or later she would be betrayed to the Roman officials, incarcerated, and executed like a common criminal. And she could not bear the thought that her children might witness her death, or even worse, be slaughtered before her own eyes. Under the Emporer Caligula, son of Germanicus, the gentile community in Alexandria had turned on the Jews on more than one occasion, while she lived there, and she was as afraid of the Kittim as she was of her own countrymen. Hence her withdrawal, shortly after the twins’ third birthday, to the quiet solitude of the Egyptian delta. A year later Caligula had been murdered and replaced by his uncle Claudius, but Miri had no wish to return to the dangerously volatile politics of Alexandria.
Yusef had thrived in Alexandria, and remained there, for he had kin in the City of Lights. He always covered his visits with a business trip elsewhere and made a detour with at least one cutback before stopping by, and took the same precautions on the way home. And now, she had not one, but two visitors.
“Do I know this person?” asked Miri.
“Not exactly,” admitted Philip, “But he knew his predecessor, Aristophanes. He says he was the ambassador to Alexandria. His name is Indikay, and he was a treasurer for the Kandake of Meroway.”
“Meroway!” said Miri in surprise, for she had not heard news of the Kandake’s realm for some time. “How did you meet this man?”
“I had to flee Yerushalayim for Saul has initiated a terrible Incrceration and Inquisition against the Sons of Light! One of the Saints, Kelil, you don’t know him, he was elected deacon, and then accused of treason for condemning the Sacrifice of the Lamb at the Temple. The people rose against the Kittim, and tow hundred were slaughtered. The wounded were dragged away and butchered. bHe was brought to trial by Saul and was sentenced to die, and such was the anger of the people who supported the Korban Rites, they cried out as with a single loud voice, and stopped their ears to his pleas, and ran upon him with one accord, and chased him out of the city, where they could legally stone him, and the witnesses against Kelil laid down their clothes at a Saul’s feet, and fought to throw the first stone, and they stoned Kelil! I myself witnessed the horror! He called upon God, and cried out, “Yeshua, receive my Spirit!” and then kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Adonai, lay not this sin to their charge, for they are led by the Priest of Evil! And after he spoke those words, he lay down under the hail of stones, and died quietly under the heels of Saul and his men!
We demonstrated against this iniquity as well as the death of Yeshua and the Kittim fell again upon the people! Hundreds were slaughtered and run through over the course of a day! Though I secreted myself and was saved, I was recognized by one of their number and Saul already aroused by the death of Brother Kelil, set the rabble upon me as well! And I ran from the city and made my escape, but the murder was the beginning of a great persecution against the congregation in Yerushalayim. The disciples all were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
For they defied the Temple and those devout men carried Kelil to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. But Saul ran amok, entering into every house, and seized men and women of the faithful and committed them to prison; the possessions of the church taken and sold, and their children condemned to slavery!
But of all of us who were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word of Yeshua.. And he led me to Shechem, the city of Samaria, and preached the coming of the Messiah to them!”
“You went to Shechem, on his bidding?” asked Miri.
“He came to me in a vision and asked me to travel to Mount Gerizim!”
Miri’s heart pounded heavily in her chest. “And what did he tell you to do there?”
Philip shrugged. “I awoke before I could know his desire!”
“Did you find anything there?” asked Miri.
“Find?” asked Philip, “There was nothing there but lost Souls! But the people there, with one accord, turned their ears to the prophecies I spoke, and under his name, I healed many there, and seeing my acts as miracles, many were purged of unclean spirits, and cried with loud voices as those spirits came out of many that were possessed with them. Even some and taken with palsies, or that were lame, were healed, and Yeshua delivered great joy in that city.
But there I was challenged by a prophet of the Samaritans, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, whereby they had come out in great numbers and slaughtered by Pilatus. At the time of my visit, he no longer called another the Taheb, but claimed that incarnation as his own and was giving out that himself was some great one!
To Simon they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, and many declared that this man is the great Power of God. And many regarded him as the Messiah, they who he had bewitched them with sorcery and false promises. But when they heard my testimony concerning the coming of the Messiah, many were baptized in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, both men and women. And though I had not expected such a miracle, but Simon himself believed also, and renounced himself as Taheb and confessed his sins and was baptized. That was the moment that I knew the true Power of Yeshua! Simon spoke with me of the Gospel, and I was filled with wonder, and we beheld miracles and were shown signs of his coming.
And when the news that Samaria had received the word of God was heard in Yerushalayim, the apostles which were at Jerusalem sent to us Shimeon Kefar and Yahn, brother of Yeshua and Yakov, and they prayed there with us! But Shimeon and Yahn argued with the meaning of such miracles, but Simon begged their forgiveness, and they were reconciled. But as for me, I was visited by a vision, wherein the angel of the Lord spoke to me, saying, ‘Arise, and go toward the south upon the road from from Yerushalayim to Gaza, which is desert, and that is where I encountered this man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under the Kandake of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of carrying a gift from her people to the Temple in Yerushalayim, and had come to the Holy City for to worship, and was returning, and when I came upon him, he was sitting in his chariot with a scroll of Isaiah the prophet, as his caravan sheltered at an oasis from the noon day sun.
And the Word of Yeshua whispered in my ear, Go near, and join yourself to this chariot. Without thinking further, I appraoched him, and he read the prophet Isaiah aloud, and asked him, “You understand the words you are reading?”
And he said, “ I do, yet the culture is unknown to me and I am sure that I do not appreciate the true meaning! I would wish that some man better vcersed in the land of Israel should guide me!” And he desired that I would come up and sit with him.
The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? His life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch asked me, ‘Of who does the prophet? Of himself, do you think, or of some other man?’
And I was granted an Epiphany, for I realized truly in both my heart and mind that the Scroll of Isaiah are truly the words of one struck by the Power and that the prophecies are of the coming of Yeshua!”
And where we sat, there was a pool of living water, and the eunuch said, ‘Here is water; is there any law that hinders me to be baptized?’
And it was clear to me that the man believed with all his heart, that Yeshua is the Son of God. And straightway, we both went down into the water, and I baptized him. And from there I traveled to Ashod with Indikay, and I spoke of you and he declared that he knew of you for you were honoured by the Kandake who had charged him with finding news of you whereabouts. When we came to Alexandria, we both prevailed upon Yusef to reveal your residence to us, and we both swore and oath to tell none but the Kandake of you condition!”
“And is he here now?” asked Miri.
“I have left him a day’s journey behind that I might get your permission that he know of you! He is doubly excited for he has been commanded by the kandake, and he is curious of your knowledge of Yeshua!”
At that moment, Martha, who had retired to the house, came to the garden and spied Phillip. She was ecstatic to see him, and immediately insisted upon cooking a great meal and baking new bread for Philip.
But Philip held up his hands for them to wait.
“I am sorry, but one of the reasons I wanted to speak with you needs to be spoken!”
Miri’s heart stopped again, and she desperately wanted no news, but braced herself.
“Speak!” she commanded their guest.
“For one main reason I have been searching for you.” He cast his eyes down. “Yakov is dead!”
“Oh Dear Mother!” whispered Miri, “What was his affliction?”
“His fellow man!” said Philip bitterly, “I should have told you as soon as I arrived! The new king, Agrippa, son of Aristobulus rescinded the pardons of Vitellius and condemned several followers of the Way, and at the Pesach, when many had gathered about the temple, he seized and tortured many of our brehren after Kelil, and Yakov, as the leader of our congregation he used Yakov as an example to the others and had him put to the sword. His head was severed and his body flayed!”
“O Dear Sweet Yakov!” declared Miri. Her stomach curdled into knots.
“After that, some renounced their belief in Yeshua as Messiah, and many who did not were executed, but it is a strange thing; his accuser, the man who testified against him suddenly, in the middle of Yakov’s testimony, declared he to believed Yeshua was the Messiah and they were beheaded together. We recovered his body by stealth, but because his bones would be burned by the authorities to ensure he would not rise against them, we secreted them and smuggled them from the country!”
“To where?” asked Martha.
“I think Iberia,” said Philip, “But no sailors but the Nabateans would transport his remains! They understood the importance of taking the bones to a safe harbour!”
“And the others?” asked Miri.
“Adam and Shimeon are still fishing on the Kinneret! Susanna, tended the tree until it was struck by lightning, but Benyamin married and she lives with him and his wife near your old estate.”
“Of course, you probably know there is a new king!” he said excitedly. “The more I think about Yeshua, the more I believe the world is ripe for his return. After the debacle with Aretas, Pilatus and Antipas were called to Rome and dragged across the coals! Antipas and Herodias were banished to Wiens. Pilatus was deprived of his pension, though I believe he has holdings in Campania near Rome, though I have hear he was given a lesser position in Pompeii. All who moved against Yeshua have been deposed! And such is the word in Yerushalayim and other places, many believe he will return any day!”
Miri darkened. “I am not sure that he will come! Not in the way they all think! He was never a warrior-king, and that is what they think he should be like!”
“Not all,” said Philip, “There are many in and around here who have taken him into their hearts!”
“I have met more than few!” said Miri, “But they are not speaking of the man I knew. They speak of him as though he were Adonis, the Good Shepherd! The Lamb of God! As though he is a sacrifice for their sins! He is a martyr to their sins, of that I have no doubt!”
“You must not think badly of them!” said Philip, “They mean well!”
“They mean well?” asked Miri, her blood rising, “Think again Phillip! You know what Yeshua’s last words were? ‘Forgive them father, for they know not what they do?’ Do you think he was speaking only of his accusers and prosecutors?”
“I can’t answer that, Miri!” said Philip, “But his life was an inspiration to me! I think he was sent by the Power to bring his Words to our ears and his Deeds to our hearts!”
At that moment Avikai and Sarai ran to their mother and collided in an explosion of irrepressible energy into Miri’s skirts. She laughed with them, and Philip stred at the children.
“These are yours?” he asked, and Miri instantly realized Philip had no idea they existed. She fretted instantly, for he had already deified her husband, and now her children stood before the apostle. Still, she would never deny them, and she answered truthfully.
Philip was overcome and fell to his knees. “Sweet Yeshua!” he declared, “I could never hope to see such beautiful children!”
Though Miri could not deny the truth of Philip’s words, she could not help to become defensive. His adoration seemed to emanate from the opening of his Soul, but the bliss that masked his face told her, he thought of them in greater terms than children.
His words confirmed her thoughts.
“A miracle!” declared Philip, and he bowed his head to the ground before the twins.
“Enough!” said Miri testily and lifted Philip’s shoulder, “We are alle qual here, Philip. Do you not remember Yeshua’s words that none shall rule over the other? My children are not gods to be worshipped, any more than Yeshua was more than a Man!”
“How can you say that?” asked Philip, “I saw him in Galilee!”
“How could that be?” asked Miri.
“He rose from the dead!” declared Philip, “Many have seen him since the crucifixion! That cannot be denied!”
“You must tell no one of this!” commanded Miri, unable to bring herself to argue with the apostle. Philip stayed for the evening meal and left early the next morning to escort Indikay, the Kandake’s minister to her home.
“I don’t like this!” muttered Miri as she and Martha watched Philip disappear along the road towards the delta.
Two days later, Philip arrived with Indikay. He introduced the Kandake’s attendant and excused himself that he could attend to his toilet. The Ethiopian was apologetic for his intrusion, but brought greetings from the Kandake of Meroway. He was gracious and quite dignified. He was very tall and extremely black. The twins were fascinated by him and followed him about, their eyes wide with wonder.
“They have never seen a black man before,” explained Miri.
Indikay laughed and turned to Sarai. He held out his arm. “Would you like to touch me?” he asked, “If you rub my arm it will bring you good luck!”
Sarai was too shy to answer and slipped behind Miri’s robes, but Avikai reached out and stroked Indikay’s smooth ebony skin, and smiled. Saria, seeing no harm had befallen her brother reached out to touch Indikay as well, and from that moment, he was hard pressed to keep them from climbing upon his knee at every opportunity. For many, children running about would have affected their dignity, but Indikay was enhanced by their presence. Miri shooed them away.
“Go and help your Aunt Martha!” she said, and they miraculously obeyed her and raced each other from the cool garden atrium into the back court where Martha fussed over the oven.
“I have heard much about your husband,” he said quietly, “And many people have commented on their loss at his parting! How much greater must yours be, that you loved him! I offer my prayers for you and your children. Know that the Kandake will offer you any assistance you may require. She has told me often that she will offer her hospitality to you should you wish!”
“Send Aminatare my thanks,” said Miri. “Is she in good health?”
“A ruler in ill health can no longer rule,” replied Indikay, “And her hand is still firm upon the yoke, though Sherkarer is fretting she has remained on the throne so long!”
His eyes flickered to the papyri on her writing table.
“Are those memoirs?” he asked eagerly, and leaned over to better peruse them. “You have written of the Messiah of whom Isaiah has written?”
Miri covered the scrolls “They are private papers,” she said quickly.
“I am sorry,” replied Indikay, “I should not be so inquisitive! I beg your pardon.”
“There is no need to apologize for an enquiring mind,” said Miri, “There are some things that I prefer not to reveal. I am not comfortable with Yeshua being called the Messiah. He denied being the Anointed One at every turn! It is his disciples whom declared him to be the Saviour!”
“You do not subscribe to such a thing?”
“He was the Light of my life, but he was not the Messiah the people were seeking.”
“How can that be?” asked Indikay, “From everything I have heard, he fits the Son of Man that Isaiah has described. Was he not born in the city of David, in Bethlehem?”
Miri smiled. “My children were born in that city, but Yeshua was born in a small village of the same name just a short journey, an afternoon’s walk from the city of Nazareth!”
“And that was the city of his father, Yusef, was it not?”
“Both his father and mother,” said Miri.
“Philip has said, Yusef the carpenter planted a garden to grow the wood for his trade, and it was he who made the cross from the trees that he planted.”
“His father died while Yeshua was young!” replied Miri, her ire bubbling. “It seems like a story only a Greek could appreciate! They enjoy a morbid twist in their tragedies!”
“Then Yeshua was not hung on that which he planted. There is a tale the tree was the Tree of Life, but I have seen it, and it was alive and well below the Mother of All Cataracts. I cannot think there is more than one such tree, though I have heard of more than one such tree!”
Indikay stared up at the date palms attending their conversation. “They feed us, and await our coming,” he said, “There is great wisdom in any tree. I have seen a banyan older than ten generations inhabited by an ancient spirit revered by all the tribes round about. Men came to ask it favour, and women to bless their unborn child!”
Philip, refreshed, entered the garden, and at the same time Martha bustled in from the courtyard,
“How is the new king?” asked Martha, as she spied Phillip.
“Agrippa,” said Philip, “He has ruled since the year you left Israel! He is more of the same! Though the names change, a Herod is still a Herod! Vitellius removed Caiaphas and replaced him with Yohannan. But changing the guard does not change the nature of the post! I cannot wrap my thoughts properly about how the events around us wrought such changes in Judea! Pilatus, Caiaphas, and Pilatus were all removed within a year of Yeshua’s death! There is a great change being forged about us! We must prepare for Yeshua’s return!”
Miri frowned. She was concerned over Philip’s ardent belief in the Messianic nature of Yeshua. She hoped that their visit would soon end, and she found she had no taste for any more conversation. Unfortunately there was no gracious way out of it. Luckily Martha was eager for gossip, no matter how depressing, and filled in the absence of Miri’s contribution.
It seemed a litany of despair. Matthaias, the servant of Yohannen the Priest, had been seized, tried and stoned. There was so little desire to destroy him, for he was popular and thought to be an ardent Templar, that most stones thrown landed at his feet. But a fanatic under the influence of Saul cut his head from his shoulders with a dagger, and the people about redirected the stones to the assassin himself.
And the atrocities were not limited to the Templars and the Kittim. There were many amongst the Followers of the Way, enraged by the grief and injustice, that many were suspected as being spies and murdered in their sleep, beaten by cudgels, cut open by daggers, throttled by ligatures, by hand and beaten by fists and feet. Stones were thrown repeatedly by one side or another, and violent anarchy boiled beneath the boots of the Legions, and the people of Israel set upon each other.
Miri was horrified by the descriptions of the violence, but she had seen it in the streets of Alexandria as the Greeks attacked the shops in the Jewish Quarter, and ransacked the synagogue, and the testimonies of the horror passed over her like ever rising waves in a rising flood. She slipped in and out of paying attention and listening to withdrawing from the words of the apostle Philip.
“We had many who joined our ranks, who were planted there by the Saducees and the Templars. They were easy to spot, for the true followers were inspired by the Word to contribute their holdings to the congregation. But the spies!” his eyes blazed, “I remember a man and wife! Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold their furniture to prove their worth, though I have heard they kept their house!
But from the sale of their possessions, they kept back part of the price, and word came that Ananaias and his wife also being privy to it, had brought only a certain part, and laid it at Shimeon Kefar’s feet. And this witnessed accused Ananaias on the spot, whereupon Shimeon Kefar asked Ananias, why the Adversary had so filled his heart to steal and lie to the Power, and to keep back part of the price of the land.
His ire rose within Shimeon, and he shouted out at Ananaias. ‘While you were in the Wilderness and remained outside the Way, this money was your own! Even after it was sold, it was still under your power? But to join us and present this gift as your pledge to God? Why would you conceive such a plot in your heart? You think to lie to men, but you have lied to God!’
And Ananias hearing these words fell down, at Shimeon’s feet to plead forgiveness, but there were many there who saw Ananaias was a spy for the Templars, and when Shimeon told them to take him away, several young men arose, and in their wrath, beat him though they denied it, and then wound him up in linens, and carried him out, and buried him. And later in the afternoon, after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Shimeon Kefar had been informed that their home had not been sold, only the furniture, and held up the bag containing the money for the furniture and demanded, “Tell me whether ye sold the land for this much only?’
And she said, ‘With the times, our estate was of no value!’ But Shimeon could see into her heart and knew she was lying as well. Then Shimeon Kefar accused her, and asked ‘How is it that ye have agreed with yyour husband to test the Spirit of the Lord?’ and he commanded she too should be sent to her husband, and she fell beneath the feet of the young men who buried her husband are at the door, and they beat her and cut her throat and she died quickly, and they buried her by her husband in the Kedron Valley amongst the detritus of the Temple Korban, for they thought such degradation fitting!”
Miri was furious. She leapt up and cried, “How can they do such things in the name of Yeshua? Do you think for a moment he would condone such things?”
“There are none that know of this deed!” said Philip, “Word was passed they were slain by the Wrath of God! It does not defile the Word of Yeshua, for none know the true nature of the execution!”
“But it does not change it’s nature!” cried Miri, “You speak of the return of Yeshua, but are you doing that which will cause him to desire it! How can you kill in his name!”
“I was not party to it!” shouted Philip, “I am describing the deed, not committing it!”
“That you are not condemning it, makes you an accomplice in the murder! Do you not see that?”
Philip, indeed, until that moment, such was his faith, had not seen complicity in the acts of the apostles, but within that moment the horror of the deed stood out against all the other horrors, for it was the Followers of the Way that had committed this atrocity, and he was deeply ashamed and hung his head.
Indikay, also was taken aback, for he had a gentle nature.
“Forgive me!” said Philip getting down upon his knees, “For I have betrayed his Word, and I have sinned against God! How can I even bear this iniquity?”
Miri, seeing Philip was truly torn apart, and placed her hand upon his head.
“Philip!” she whispered, “Philip, the Way is never easy! It has been many years, but I was baptized with Yeshua in the River Jordan, and he came into my heart, just as I entered his. We are all One!” She lifted him up and guided him through her fields to the edge of the arm of the Nile, where a huge sycamore grew and bent out over the powerful waters of the Nile.
“In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Mother, I ask your sins be forgiven!” And she led Philip into the living waters. She pushed his head under the waters, and they sank beneath the surface. With the living water filling her ears, her Soul joined Philip and they allowed the Soul of Yeshua to fill their Being, and wash away their sin. Whenthey surfaced, Philip’s own tears mingled with the waters of the Nile.
“Thank you, dear sweet Yeshua! Thanks to the Magdalene that preserves your memory! Praise be to God on High!”
Such was the emotion, that Indikay also wished to be baptized as well, for he had seen that true purity of thought was always ongoing, and that baptism was not just a once in a lifetime commitment. Once Indikay surfaced, both Sarai and Avikai plunged into the water, and they rejoiced together, and though they could not tempt Martha to immerse herself in the water, they decided to splash her where she stood upon the shore.
Philip left with Indikay, and both men left transformed. That in itself, was a wonder, but Miri also felt the transformation within herself. For some reason, her immersion in the water and reaffirmation of her baptism had changed her, and she felt as though Yeshua walked with her as she went about her day-to-day activities, and she found herself talking to him. “Look at how they play!” she would say to him as she her heart swelled with pride at the twins, or “Aren’t they beautiful?” and she would daily ask for his help when a task seemed to be getting the better of her, and knowing he was there brought her great comfort.