Christmas–10. Flight to Egypt

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas
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Flight into Egypt

  1. The little family was to leave Bethlehem on their return to Nazareth when Joseph awakened the next morning early and sat in silence until Mary opened her eyes. She saw the frown and asked if he was troubled. Yes, he said, he was. In the night he had had a dream. He saw an angel, the same one he had seen before. The angel was agitated. “Rise!” he commanded. “Take with you the hcild and his mother and flee into Egypt! Remain there until I give you further notice. Herod is on the point of searching for the child in order to take his life!” Mary had no doubt about the course they should pursue. They must hurry to Egypt. If an angel ordered this, then God had told the angel to do it. Joseph realized that Mary was right. He paid the innkeeper that day, and bought some food for the saddlebag, and stocked up with water. He told no one that he was leaving, or in which direction he would travel when he did. When the blue dark of night set in, Mary mounted the little ass, held her baby against her breast and the young man yanked the halter strap and started to plod along the white-stoned road south to Egypt.

  1. It seemed strange to Joseph, walking toward the great desert, that anyone would want to hurt a baby. Any baby. It seemed even stranger that God was keeping this one a secret. The only ones who knew that this tiny jostled, sleeping burden behind him was the Son of God were the despised and poor shepherds of the fields, and the despised and rich gentiles from Persia. The king of all Judea, Herod the Great, had heard about the infant Jesus, and his reaction, according to the angel, was to plot a murder. Why? Joseph begged to understand. Herod’s palace ws a place of splendid courtyards and many oil lamps on the west side of Jerusalem, about three hundred yards from a place called Golgotha, or Calvary. Men of importance were rushing, on this night, in and out of the palace. Herod the Great was in a towering rage. Many, he said, would pay for the trick which had been played upon him. Many would die.

  1. Spies had come to him from several quarters. The first ones said that the Magi had remained in Bethlehem two days and had left for Persia, skirting Jerusalem to the south. This showed that they had no intention of keeping their promise to return to the king with news of the new born messiah. Other spies had been sent at once to Bethlehem to find the baby and his parents and bring them to the august presence of Herod. But these had returned with bad news indeed: the little family, it seemed, had lived in a stable beneath the inn, and both stable and inn were now empty. Herod had ordered his soldiers to arrest the innkeeper and his wife, but torture could bring no further information than that they had no room at the inn for the expectant mother, and had permitted her to live in the stable with her husband and newborn. The king was seventy years of age, and very ill, but his rage enslaved him.

  1. The census, he roared. That would provide a solution to the problem of the make-believe messiah who had come to exact tribute from the gullible Jews. He called an aide and ordered him to go to the Roman tribune now in quarters at Fortress Antonia and to ask in the name of the king for the names of all families who had infants. “Wait,” Herod screamed, “We must first find out how old this particular baby is. Call my councilors!” The learned ones came in, their striped cloaks betraying the trembling of men underneath. How long, said Herod, had that accursed star been in the sky? No one knew. They had not looked for a star. Herod moaned and sobbed and pounded the wall with his withered fists. The soothsayers said that the strange bright star could not have been in the heavens long, or else astrologers among the Jews would have broadcast the news. They would also have made their own dire predictions about it. This, they reasoned, made it likely that the star was on a path across Persia toward Bethlehem and that it had begun its flight recently. “A year ago?” shouted Herod, “A week ago?” I must find out the age of his little majesty. The councilors looked at each other and said surely no more than a year. Probably far less.

  1. Herod sent the courier to the Roman tribune. He was to ask, in the name of the king, for a list of all Jewish familes who had male sons two years of age or less. The census would reveal the status of every family—how many members, what age. When the list was copied, he wanted it given to his chief of guards and he wanted squads of soldiers sent to Bethlehem, Jerusalem and every town and village in the area. The soldiers were under orders from the king to tear the babies from their parents and to either kill them on the spot with the short sword, or take them out in batches and cast them from the cliffs. There would be no exemptions, even among the babies of the soldiers themselves. This must be done at once, so that no spurious pretender to the throne could grow up and lift the scepter from Herod’s cold hands. In fact, while he thought about the matter, Herod the Great dwelled upon the idea of killing his own son, Herod Antipas. He too aspired to this throne, the throne on which none but the one Herod, the Great Herod, would sit. He said nothing at the moment, but mentally marked his son for death within the week.

  1. Within a few days, the slaughter of the innocents began. In every village, anguish and wailing followed the visit of death. In Jerusalem, some of Herod’s soldiers wept because they had to kill the babies of fellow soldiers. All up to the age to two were slain because to fail by one baby would have brought death to many soldiers. The news mollified King Herod. He asked many questions about the killings, and was pleased that his officers had done an efficient job. Surely the so-called baby king was among the many who died in the swift raids. For a while, his peave of mind improved his health. To celebrate this feeling of tranquility, the king ordered his son Antipater to be executed at once. When this was done, Herod felt even better because there was no one in all the nation who aspired to his throne. He was, for a time, almost benevolent. Then he was seized with a fit, and fell to the floor of his palace. His councilors and officers were summoned and they stood around in a little group and watched the king strangle slowly. There was nothing they could do to help him, and apparently, there was no wish to ameliorate his last hour. When Herod’s final gasp subsided in a gasp of resignation, the councilors moved to inform the nation, and Caesar Augustus in Rome, that the king was dead. He had followed the infants, but he did not join them.

Christmas Movie 6: The Adventure of the Penguins (Madagascar)

 

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