HOUSANDS OF YEARS ago, many years before David lived, there was a very wise and good man of his people who was a friend and adviser of the king of Egypt. And for love of this friend, the king of Egypt had let numbers of the Israelites settle in his land. But after the king and his Israelitish friend were dead, there was a new king, who hated the Israelites. When he saw how strong they were, and how many there were of them, he began to be afraid that some day they might number more than the Egyptians, and might take his land from him.
Then he and his rulers did a wicked thing. They made the Israelites slaves. And they gave them terrible tasks to do, without proper rest, or food, or clothes. For they hoped that the hardship would kill off the Israelites. They thought the old men would die and the young men be so ill and weary that they could not bring up families, and so the race would dwindle away.
But in spite of the work and suffering, the Israelites remained strong, and more and more boys grew up, to make the king afraid.
Then he did the most wicked thing of all. He ordered his soldiers to kill every boy baby that should be born in an Israelitish family; he did not care about the girls, because they could not grow up to fight.
Very soon after this wicked order, a boy baby was born in a certain Israelitish family. When his mother first looked at him her heart was nearly broken, for he was even more beautiful than most babies are,-so strong and fair and sweet. But he was a boy! How could she save him from death?
Somehow, she contrived to keep him hidden for three whole months. But at the end of that time, she saw that it would not be possible to keep him safe any longer. She had been thinking all this time about what she should do, and now she carried out her plan.
First, she took a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it all over with pitch, so that it was water-tight, and then she laid the baby in it; then she carried it to the edge of the river and laid it in the flags by the river's brink. It did not show at all, unless one were quite near it. Then she kissed her little son and left him there. But his sister stood far off, not seeming to watch, but really watching carefully to see what would happen to the baby.
Soon there was the sound of talk and laughter, and a train of beautiful women came down to the water's edge. It was the king's daughter, come down to bathe in the river, with her maidens. The maidens walked along by the river side.
As the king's daughter came near to the water, she saw the strange little basket lying in the flags, and she sent her maid to bring it to her. And when she had opened it, she saw the child; the poor baby was crying. When she saw him, so helpless and so beautiful, crying for his mother, the king's daughter pitied him and loved him. She knew the cruel order of her father, and she said at once, "This is one of the Hebrews' children."
At that moment the baby's sister came to the princess and said, "Shall I go and find thee a nurse from the Hebrew women, so that she may nurse the child for thee?" Not a word did she say about whose child it was, but perhaps the princess guessed; I don't know. At all events, she told the little girl to go.
So the maiden went, and brought her mother!
Then the king's daughter said to the baby's mother, "Take this child away and nurse it for me, and I will give thee wages."
Was not that a strange thing? And can you think how happy the baby's mother was? For now the baby would be known only as the princess's adopted child, and would be safe.
And it was so. The mother kept him until he was old enough to be taken to the princess's palace. Then he was brought and given to the king's daughter, and he became her son. And she named him Moses.
But the strangest part of the whole story is, that when Moses grew to be a man he became so strong and wise that it was he who at last saved his people from the king and rescued them from the Egyptians. The one child saved by the king's own daughter was the very one the king would most have wanted to kill, if he had known.