1505 BC, Egypt
Pharaoh Amenemhat III surveyed the burnt-out fields and still-burning villages as his entourage made its way past. He was horrified.
The Ethiopians had invaded the country. It began with raids and skirmishes in the south. Then, when the Egyptian counterforces had been either slain or fled the battle, the encouraged Ethiopians had launched a full-scale invasion. The entire southern half of the country quickly crumbled before the invaders. City after city had fallen. No-one could stand against them.
The Pharaoh, his family and his court had been forced to flee the capital, Shedet, shortly before it was captured by the Ethiopians. That had been a week ago. Now effectively on the run, he had received word of the fall of Memphis. In some parts of the country, the invaders had advanced as far north as the Mediterranean Sea! Egypt seemed doomed.
In the evening, as the large group of royals, courtiers and soldiers made camp, Amenemhat summoned the elderly but fit priest Jannes. "Consult your oracles, or your spirits, or whatever the hell you do. You and your priests. Find out how we are to save ourselves, if at all."
Jannes bowed with the reverence he had learned centuries ago to put on. "As you wish, Great Pharaoh."
Within half an hour, the priests were assembled inside the tent reserved as a temple. They began conducting their rituals as they strove to make contact with their familiar spirits.
During the course of the rituals, Jannes felt a new and unfamiliar spirit. A quick glance at the other priests – at the similar confused frowns on their faces – confirmed it wasn't just him. But it was what the spirit whispered to him that truly shocked him. Egypt would be saved if MOSES were to head the army?
Impossible, he told himself. But then his familiar spirits started confirming to him – almost fearfully – that the new spirit was correct! He groaned inwardly. This could be a major shame of face for him.
A little under 20 years ago, shortly after Pharaoh Senusret III's death (which Amenemhat and Jannes were rumoured to have helped along), Princess Sobekneferu had entered the court with a Hebrew toddler named Moses whom she had adopted. As Amenemhat had no sons or other male heirs, he had agreed to his daughter's suggestion that Moses be the heir to the kingdom.
However, as Amenemhat lovingly held Moses, Moses had reached up, grabbed Amenemhat's crown, and thrown it on the ground. He had then climbed down and trampled the crown underfoot!
Jannes immediately recognised that this was the feared and dreaded Delivered. He'd tried to warn Pharaoh; hell, he'd taken matters into his own hands and tried ot KILL the little brat! But Sobekneferu had been too quick, snatching Moses away. And while Pharaoh Amenemhat was clearly shaken by the event, he nonetheless failed to listen to Jannes. Moses had been raised in private by Sobekneferu as the heir. And he knew that the incident was still a sore spot with her.
Jannes' hatred of the Hebrews ran long and deep. The seed had been sown almost 400 years earlier, when Jannes had divined to Pharaoh Khufu that the mysterious ailment affecting his household was because his new wife Sarai was not just Abram's sister – as both had claimed – but also Abram's WIFE. The Hebrew God – Yehovah, or whatever He was called – was punishing Khufu. Jannes always resented Abram – Abraham, he was apparently later renamed – for that.
And that resentment increased to Abraham's descendants when his great-grandson – that prisoner upstart Joseph – showed up in court. For interpreting the pharaoh's dream (which Jannes and his priests had been unable to do), the prison brat was elevated above him – him, Jannes, the oldest and highest priest in the land – and made Governor of Egypt! And then he had brought in his entire family. Jannes had never forgiven Joseph – or the Pharaoh that elevated him, Amenemhat I, for that matter.
Thus, when Amenemhat I's maternal grandson (paternal stepgrandson) Amenemhat II lost Egypt's second consecutive war with Canaan many decades later, Jannes was one of the chief voices encouraging the Pharaoh to enslave the Hebrew vermin.
And then, decades after that, he had of course been the one to predict the Deliverer, who was now A PRINCE OF EGYPT AND THE HEIR TO THE THRONE! Another Hebrew to become Jannes' superior. It was so unfair. And now he was to be made General of the army, at Egypt's hour of darkest need?
But then, one of Jannes' familiar spirits whispered something to him. Something he'd forgotten. He grinned in fiendish delight.
Generals die in battle.
The next day
"I'm sorry, can you repeat that again?" Sobekneferu asked, her words laced with sarcasm.
Amenemhat sighed. He normally would not tolerate such insubordination. But now was not the time for political correctness. "The oracle says that if Egypt is to be saved, your adopted son Moses must head the army."
Sobekneferu turned to Jannes, who dreaded what would come next. "So, let me get this straight. Moses, whom you hate, whom you tried to kill, and whom you accuse of being the Deliverer – you now believe him to be Egypt's deliverer?"
Jannes swallowed. "Yes. That is what the spirits say."
"He's our only hope," Amenemhat added.
Sobekneferu looked between her father and the old priest who had served successive Pharaohs for who-knows-how-long. Focusing on her father she said, "Alright. I will summon Moses. But on one condition: you must swear to me that neither you nor anyone else will harm a hair on his head."
Amenemhat looked his daughter in the eye. "I swear it," he said with absolute conviction. Unlike Jannes, he simply did not hate his grandson.
"Very well," Sobekneferu replied, seeing the sincerity in Amenemhat's eyes. She then turned and went to fetch a messenger.
Jannes inwardly smiled.