Pursued by both fear and failure, he climbed over the next hill (was there no end to this wilderness?), and saw, to his great relief, that there was a well up ahead. Not till this moment had he dared admit to himself just how tired and thirsty he felt. Speed had been the imperative, to get out of Egypt before Pharaoh’s soldiers caught up with him. But they wouldn’t follow him here. He was far enough from the border’s now, even by the standards of his own fear, to know that no pursuit would follow him this far. Besides, by tomorrow, someone else would have claimed the focus of Pharaoh’s anger, and he would be forgotten about unless he drew someone’s attention to his existence. He wondered how, if at all, his own family would remember him? With his privileged upbringing in the palace, he had never really been one of them. His own riches and comfort had been a source of awkwardness whenever he visited them. He had wanted so badly to prove that he was one of them, that he cared. He had wanted to use his privilege to help his own people in their terrible bondage, but all he had succeeded in was a mean little murder and his own subsequent flight. He down near the well, in what shade he could find, and surrendered to his despondency.
He was startled into awareness by the sound of some young women bringing their flocks to be watered. For a moment he thought of revealing himself to them, but he was unsure of his reception, and stayed where he was. But no sooner had they settled to their task, drawing up water for the troughs the animals drank from than another group of shepherds turned up and drove them back, pushing them out of the way so that they could go first. The empty wilderness was becoming a very busy place!
This was too much for Moses! The same sense of justice which had got him into trouble in Egypt compelled him forward in the girls’ defence. The shepherds, who had been happy to bully a group of women, subsided quickly at the sight of one angry man, and let the delighted women complete their task, with his assistance. Then, while the girls returned to their father’s house, Moses sat down again and wondered which way he should go next.
But then the girls returned to invite him back to their home. Their father welcomed him with gladness, and, in the fullness of time, gave him one of his daughters in marriage. Moses had found a safe haven, a place where he could live and raise a family, telling himself that it was foolishness to expect to be something more than other men. He did not know then that after forty years he would be summoned back from these desert places that were breaking and remaking him, to walk back into the palace of a new Pharaoh, and to be caught up in a far more glorious unfolding of his people’s liberation and redemption than any he could have imagined on his own.