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Moshe Rabeinu, King of Ethiopia

The kingdom of Ethiopia is ancient, with a civilization dating back many centuries. More than 3,000 years ago there ruled over this land a young king who was only 27 years old. This king ruled for 40 years and helped make Ethiopia a great power. His Name? Moshe Rabeinu, Moses our teacher.

No, this is not a typographical error. The same Moshe of Biblical fame, the same man who led the Jews from bondage in the land of Egypt and who gave them the Torah at Mount Sinai, was also King of Ethiopia.

How did he get there and when did it happen? Here is the story of Moses, King of Ethiopia.

Nikanos Goes To Battle

In ancient times, the land of Ethiopia was ruled by a mighty king by the name of Nikanos. He had conquered many nations, all of whom were forced to pay tribute to him in the form of very heavy taxes.

Naturally these nations chafed under the heavy yoke of the Ethiopians, and it was only natural that sooner or later several of them decided to revolt.

When Nikanos heard this he was furious. Gathering together a mighty army he vowed to punish the rebels without mercy. It so happened that the prime minister of Ethiopia was none other than the wicked Balaam, who, together with his two sons, were the trusted advisors and confidants of the king.

“I am going to battle against the nations of the East,” Nikanos told Balaam. “While I am gone, I leave the capital city in your care. Make sure that no enemy succeeds in attacking while I and the army are away.”

Treacherous Balaam

The wily Balaam assured the king that all would be well in his absence and wished him success in the battle. In reality, however, Balaam saw an opportunity to take the capital city into his own hands and become its king.

As soon as the king and his army had left, Balaam hastily gathered the leaders of the city together and said:

“Why shall we serve Nikanos? I have a plan which will rid us of this tyrant and assure ourselves of a life of leisure and peace.”

“What do you propose, Balaam?” the elders asked.

“I suggest that we fortify the city wall and barricade its gates so that Nikanos, should he return from the wars, will be unable to enter.”

“This is well and good,” replied the elders, “but we shall need a new king who will lead us and guide us.”

Balaam Chosen King

The clever Balaam naturally expected this and he carefully answered.

“That is true. Select yourselves, therefore, a man to be your new king, who will lead you into an era of plenty.”

“There is little doubt that you alone can be our new king,” the leaders answered.

“I will do so only if you swear to obey me and follow my commands all the days of your lives.”

The people shouted their agreement and the move was made. Balaam was proclaimed the new king of Ethiopia.

Balaam Fortifies The City

Balaam wasted little time in fortifying his city in the event that Nikanos returned. He raised the wall higher on the east and west. On the north of the city he had great moats and ditches built and diverted the water of the river into them until the entire side was a great mass of water. Then, using his magical powers, he succeeded in gathering together – on the south side – all manner of poisonous serpents and scorpions. From all sides, the city was now surrounded by defenses and thus it stood – no one could enter and no one could leave.

Nikanos Returns

Nikanos, meanwhile, had dealt a mighty blow to the rebels and returned home flushed with triumph. Imagine his astonishment, however, as he beheld the height of the walls.

“Balaam has raised the walls many feet. Undoubtedly, he feared that my long absence meant that I had been defeated and was afraid of attack.”

Approaching the mighty walls, Nikanos cried out: “Open up! It I, Nikanos, the king returning from battle.”

The guards however, refused, saying:

“You are no longer king here. We take orders only from the new king Balaam.”

Nikanos Is Frustrated

Nikanos grew livid with anger.

“Scale the walls!” he cried to his men. This, however, was easier said then done. The height of the walls made it simple for the defenders to throw arrows and spears down upon the climbing attackers and Nikanos lost 130 men.

Seeing that it would be impossible to scale the walls, he now ordered the army to attack the unfortified north side. Charging ahead at full speed the unsuspecting cavalry plunged headlong into the deep waters that had been drawn into the hidden moats, and 30 chariots, together with horses and men drowned.

Nikanos was flabbergasted by this and now turned to the south only to meet a terrible disaster as the hordes of snakes and scorpions wreaked havoc on his foot soldiers. The king realized that the clever Balaam had succeeded in fortifying his city so well that it was impregnable. There was only one thing to do – lay siege to the city.

Moshe Rabeinu

The siege lasted for many years when suddenly there appeared a stranger in a camp.

“Who are you?” demanded Nikanos as the man was taken before him.

“My name is Moshe,” replied the stranger. “I am a fugitive from Egypt, and I seek refuge with you, mighty Nikanos.”

Ethiopia had always been a bitter enemy of Egypt, and Nikanos was always ready to welcome its refugees. In this case he was especially taken with the handsome man whose stature was as that of a palm tree and whose face shone with a strange light. Above all, he showed himself to be a man of great wisdom.

Many nights he would sit up with the stranger and listen to things that he had never heard of before. He heard him tell of a G-d who could not be seen but Who had Created all from nothing. He sat in amazement listening to the story of a Hebrew by the name of Abraham, who had left his motherland and the land of his fathers to go to a strange country and there had established an inn where he gave men physical and spiritual nourishment.

He heard new ideas – of love and brotherhood of all men; of the terrible sin of human sacrifice. All this he heard, and he grew to respect this young man and listened to his advice on all things. But Nikanos was an elderly man and as the siege went into its ninth year, he grew ill and died suddenly.

The army of Nikanos was now in a quandary. Calling a meeting of the generals, they posed the question:

“What are we to do now? We cannot attack the city directly, and this interminable siege can last for another hundred years.”

“This is not necessarily so,” said one of the generals. “Perhaps it was the fact that Nikanos was already an old man and weak that has prevented us from conquering the city.

“Let us choose for ourselves a new king, one who is strong and wise, and perhaps he will succeed where Nikanos failed.”

The New King

“A splendid idea,” cried the soldiers. “There is only one man who is so powerful and so wise to do this. Let us appoint the Hebrew, Moshe, to be our new king.”

And so, they threw off their cloaks in a token of submission and built a great throne. To the noise of the ram’s horn, the soldiers carried Moshe to the throne as the multitude cried out:

“Long live the King – Moshe!”

And Moshe, now 27 years old, turned to the people and said:

“Listen, my subjects. This long siege will soon be at an end. With the aid of G-d, I have a plan which will succeed in capturing the city.”

(To be continued)


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