Posted by: John-Paul | May 4, 2018

Joshua and Caleb – Chapter 1: Suzerainty Treaty with Egypt

Nineteen-year-old Hoshea ben Nun of the tribe of Ephraim looked from behind the shoulder of Bomani, his master, at the mix of officials and military officers gathered from various countries for this audience with Pharaoh. He saw their tension as they murmured to one another, shuffled their feet, and watched the Nubian embassage.

Would the new king from the country south of Egypt renew the treaty Pharaoh had held with his recently-deceased father or would he rebel and insult the lord of the Nile to his face? The Nubians were a proud people and only the might of Pharaoh’s father had conquered the dead king. No one could predict which way the southerner would turn.

The delegates from Libya on the left scowled at the black men. So long was their submission to the throne of Egypt that they considered any rebellion a criminal act. Next to them, the Hittites hoped to ally themselves with a country that could distract Pharaoh from their own plotting in the North.

The Nubians stood stiffly in the middle. Their king was a young man with brown skin, a smooth face, and full lips. A tall headdress of peacock feathers fanned up from the top of his head. A robe of lion skin covered his black body, the lion’s mane circling the back of his neck and flowing over his shoulders. The hair under his headdress was tightly curled into a springy mass. He stood serene at the front of his entourage, a mix of young, middle-aged, and elderly men. All wore soft skins of various animals – some of them predators. Hoshea had heard that these were deemed more ceremonial than their usual woven-fiber robes so he sought to quell a sneer of disdain. His admiration of their orderly ranks helped this effort.

The men and women of the Egyptian court lounged to the Nubians’ right. Softened by decades of prosperity and arrogant from their hold over their Hebrew slaves, the Egyptians wanted nothing to do with war. They shuffled their feet or spoke with exaggerated levity to the Canaanites on the far right.

Bomani’s troops stiffened as the ruler of Egypt strode in, leading his court officials and carrying his scepter with a lion’s tail tied to it. Hoshea immediately dropped to his knees and tapped his head against the floor as the rest bowed in respect.

Pharaoh stepped up on the raised platform that held his throne. He sat and everyone in the throne room stood upright.

An official at Pharaoh’s left spoke. “Your majesty, the new king of the Nubians begs you to hear his words.”

Pharaoh stared at the black men then nodded.

The southern king approached the dais. He removed his headdress and placed it before the dais then knelt and lowered his head three times to the floor. Straightening to face Pharaoh, he spread his hands apart, palms up.

“Hail, great Pharaoh! King of all Egypt! Lord of the Nile! You are the embodiment of Ra who has overcome the gods of our country and defeated our armies. We come to you seeking peace.

“O great Pharaoh, renew with us the treaty that you held with our old king so we might come under your protection and be your people. We will worship Ra as well as our own gods and pay tribute to you as his representative in the land.”

The black man stood, picked up the headdress and tucked it under his arm. He looked up and waited.

The Egyptians relaxed while the Libyans looked pleased and the Hittites scowled in their places. Several of the Canaanites shook their heads.

Pharaoh said, “I have heard you, O Nubia, and will make covenant with you to be your lord and protector. Hear again the words of the treaty which I made with your father and would renew with you.” He motioned to a priest holding a papyrus scroll.

The priest opened the scroll and read, “These are the provisions of the covenant: I am Ramses, son of Seti who made covenant with you and your people before his death. As you served him so shall you serve me. You shall have no other ruler over you.”

There followed a long recitation of the history between the two countries, including Nubia’s failed attempt to win its freedom. Then the priest of Ra read a longer list of stipulations required of the vassal Nubians.

Hoshea shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he waited behind his master, General Bomani of Pharaoh’s local army division. This reading of the treaty was taking long. Rather than give in to wishing his enslaved people had a similar vassal status under the Egyptians, the Hebrew took note of a huge, young soldier among the Canaanites. Something about the man made Hoshea’s skin crawl.

After a short statement of disposition – the treaty scroll would be housed in the temple of Ra – the priest read a rather short, vague list of blessings on the Nubians for obeying the terms of the treaty and an explicit list of curses for disobedience. Hoshea watched the Canaanite soldier stoop to murmur to the man next to him. They shared a chuckle.

Hoshea hoped the ceremony would finish soon. He still had much to oversee in preparation for the dinner his master would be giving for visiting military leaders that evening. The general relied more and more on the Hebrew’s organizational skills in running his household as well as in obtaining supplies for Pharaoh’s army and the garrison in Memphis. Seeing the youth’s intelligence and how he prepared stones for the defense of a backyard tomb, he had brought Hoshea into his home as a personal aide.

Hoshea had not wept or even looked back as he marched away. The indifference of Nun and Simichek in raising him had made him callous to others, intent only on getting tasks organized and completed.


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