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Jethro - Priest of Midian
By James Vasquez
As priest of Midian I was known,
Revered from coast to plain,
But for my seven daughters did
I true distinction gain.
They tended all my sheep by day,
'Neath sun or rain-filled skies.
They lost not one watched closely by
Their keen and lovely eyes.
Well, on a day some years now past,
A tired man appeared,
And dust clung tight to sweaty skin
As step by step he neared.
'Twas clear he was of foreign birth,
His gait, his regal mien,
His soiled garb of special weave,
At once were clearly seen.
And when he spoke an accent told
Just where the man was from,
Great Egypt was his homeland and
From that far place he'd come.
And on that day he lent a hand
To my good daughters there,
Protecting them from shepherds who
Would take from them their share
Of waters that ran sweet and cold,
For sheep to satisfy
Their thirst each day and without which,
They would but lapse and die.
They brought the man into my home,
We talked and soon I learned,
He was of Hebrew stock and from
Egyptian ways had turned.
In Pharoah's home he had been raised,
At length he calmly said.
But on this point I thought from truth
He'd turned aside instead.
Yet I had need of such a man,
Mature in brawn and brain,
And confidently then I asked
If with us he'd remain.
As priest of Midian, I have said,
Was how I served my clan,
But o'er the years this Moses stayed,
I never changed the man.
He trusted in the Hebrew god,
And thought that greater good
Would from his god be given him,
Than Egypt ever could.
I pondered oft this question, then,
To which god of the two,
The god I served or Moses' god,
Was praise most rightly due?
And forty years he stayed with me,
A daughter took to wife,
Zipporah was her name and then,
Two sons they brought to life.
Now Moses cared for all my sheep,
He took them far afield,
To find some hilltop pasture land,
Or in some glen concealed.
From such a trip he came one day,
I knew with but a look
Some specter or some ghost he'd seen,
For all his semblance shook.
Some distant vision held his eyes,
As if a call he heard,
And some great task or chore was his,
Which all his spirit stirred.
Yet naught of this he spoke to me,
But of his people there,
And if in Egypt's land they yet
Their hostage lives could bear.
He asked that he might take his leave,
And sojourn to that land.
Their saddened plight or blessed state,
He sought to understand.
He left with wife and sons that day,
He wished not to demur.
In Egypt he would find some cause
And all his longing cure.
Now shortly I began to hear
Of wonders in that land,
Of mighty portents daily wrought,
And done at his command.
Indeed, the tales that reached my ears
I hardly had believed,
Had not the bearers of such tales
Those wonders all perceived.
For Moses gave the word and crops
Lay strewn in every place.
He met the king's magicians and
He put them in disgrace.
He filled the land with frogs and blood,
With gnats and swarming flies,
He called forth hail as never seen,
And darkness filled the skies.
His word to Pharoah through it all:
"Now let my people go!"
But Pharoah's heart was hardened and
This kindness would not show.
But with a final punishment,
This Moses yet was armed,
For only 'mongst his people would
The first-born not be harmed,
When the destroying angel made
Each house a ghostly tomb,
And took the lives of first-born sons
Proceeding from the womb.
'Twas then this king, this ruler of
Great Egypt's shattered land,
Sent Moses forth to freedom by
His curt and harsh command.
And need I tell you, yet again
The heart of Pharoah changed?
He sent his army in pursuit
As far as Israel ranged.
And one more mystery will I tell,
For Moses crossed a sea,
His god the waters parted that
In safety they might flee.
And this disgrace, a final one,
Did Pharoah suffer then,
For in those waters Pharoah knew
The loss of all his men.
And what was I to think of this?
For Moses by his god,
Had brought to nothing Pharoah's might
And all the world awed.
I had not seen my god perform
Such wonders I had bid,
As those these tale-bearers daily brought,
And nothing from me hid.
And through the desert wastes this god
To Israel showed his might.
He led them with a cloud by day,
A pillar of fire by night.
And then my daughter with her sons
Returned to me one day,
Confirming all that I had heard
With even more to say.
I left my home, departing for
The desert place I knew
This Moses would be found in hopes
Our discourse to renew.
He greeted me, embracing, and
Bestowed on me a kiss.
I hardly could have hoped to have
A welcome such as this!
He took me to his tent and there
Recounted wonders done
By Israel's god until at last
Their freedom they had won.
I marveled at the mighty works
This Moses had to tell,
But so much more I marveled at
The god who served them well.
He brought them out from Egypt and
All Pharoah's power made naught,
Enriching them with spoils and
A nation then begot!
And then, for once, I praised their God,
With him none could compare,
For his great might to Israel shown,
And all his eager care.
I offered there a sacrifice
Before I bid farewell,
And in his very presence did
I feast with elders well.
Now "priest of Midian" call me not,
A greater God I've found,
And in my land they soon will know
That to his ways I'm bound.
from the April Passover 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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