Cursed (Part I)
By G. M. Matheny
There was a treasure at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 33:6 & Genesis 15:14)
It was the largest in the world. (Exodus 12:36-37)
This treasure was buried under the Tabernacle. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Exodus 33)
When I was five years old something happened one day that caused me to have my only recurring nightmare. There is not much I remember before I was five, but I remember several things that happened that day. My friend and his mom, plus about six other boys and girls and some of their moms, went on a field trip to the state capital. We were going to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, followed by a side trip to the State Museum.
I enjoyed going places, and with the other children all excited as I was about our trip, it seemed like it would be a perfect day. We first went to this old-style movie theater, which to me, as a five year old, seemed huge. It had two staircases going up to the balconies, and under each was a concession stand. I was captivated by the architecture. Some of the other children were running around, and some were waiting in line to spend their coins at the snack bar. But I was standing almost in the middle of the entry hall, trying to remember its detail. I had never seen anything like it and I loved it!
After the film, we crammed into the two cars we had come in and set off for the State Museum. Everyone, except maybe the moms, seemed excited, but I did not even know what a museum was. I didn’t talk to anyone in the car but kept going over in my mind about Snow White and her seven dwarfs.
Once at the museum, there were many things to see—things that I had never even heard the names of before, and the place was filled with these items. A number of times, my friend’s mom hollered at me, "Bret, keep up with the rest of the group." I was trying to take it all in, but it was just not possible. So I decided to just look and hoped someday I could come back and take the time to examine everything till my curiosity was satisfied.
There were four things that stood out to me that afternoon at the museum. The first was an ant case on a landing of the stairs that went up to the second floor. This case sat on the windowsill and was about an inch thick, with glass on both sides so you could look into the ants’ world with its tunnels and miniature caverns. I became separated from the rest of the group because I was spending too much time watching the ants. But I could hear the other children making a lot of noise at the top of the stairs. I thought I would catch up, and see what all the excitement was about.
They were all holding hands in a circle, jumping up and down and screaming, especially the girls. There were also some other children there I did not recognize. One of them said I should try it. “Try what?” I asked “Hold hands in our circle,” someone said. I did, and the next thing I knew I was shocked! There was this electric crank on the wall that produced low voltages of electricity with two wires hanging off it. We formed a circle, with those on the two ends each holding one of the wires, while another cranked. Everyone thought it was fun, but I could not stand it. I was the first to let go. They were upset that I did not hang on longer, so they could get a bigger shock.
I was determined to try one more time, especially because I did not like the thought of them being able to resist the shock longer than I could. So again I held their hands and again I was the first to let go. (I do not know if it is true, but I have been told that the one who is in the middle, where I was standing, will get the biggest shock.) I did not like it at all and could not understand how they could all be laughing about it.
I left them there and began to walk down the halls of the museum by myself, which was a mistake. I didn’t know where the moms were, perhaps having a coffee break. But I decided to “explore.” A few minutes later, I found myself in the middle of a hall with masks of different countries on both sides. Looking back now, it seems these masks must have been from Africa. They all had scary faces, and I thought they were all staring at me! I could no longer hear the boys and girls giving out screams from the electrical shock and I felt all alone with those scary masks.
I did my best to look straight ahead, staying in the middle of the hall and walking fast so I could get out of there. This hall with the masks was the third thing I remember about the museum, and I liked it less than getting the electrical shock. It seems odd now, but the thing that was the most interesting to me in the museum, which was filled with foreign artifacts and artwork, was the ant case, which was all by itself on the landing of the stairs between the first and second floors. But the fourth thing that stands out to me about that museum was the next thing I saw, and it was unexpected.
I had hurried down that hall passed the masks to an opening in the middle of the hallway and was glad that the masks were now behind me. The opening was to my right. In the middle of it sat this large black stone statue of a man’s body but with the head of a dog. I could hardly believe I was seeing it. It was larger than life size, or at least that is how it seemed to me, at five years of age. But I could not understand why such a thing had been made. Why would anyone even want to make it? People did not look like that with animal heads, nor were there animals with human bodies. It was the ugliest and strangest thing I had ever seen. I later found out it was an idol named Anubis, one of the pantheon of Egyptian gods. But to me it was hideous! Yet I walked up to it to get a better look. That’s when something happened that was even harder to understand than why someone would make such an object.
I started to feel a tingling sensation around my heart; it was similar to the electrical shock I had just received with the other children. But I was not holding anyone’s hand with electrical current going through it. I was in fact the only one in that area, just me and the idol. I put my hands up to my heart and the sensation was still there. I was totally unable to understand all this. I guessed it was coming from the statue. I took a step forward toward the idol and the tingling sensation became even stronger. There was no longer any doubt where it was coming from; this scared me, and I quickly walked off. I must have gone about ten steps down the hallway when I stopped and asked myself, “How is all this possible?” A stone cannot possibly do anything like this, can it? I was determined to go back and look at it again, just as I had been determined to try and hold hands one more time with the boys and girls who received the electrical shock.
Up to the idol I came, and again the tingling sensation was all around my heart. But I pressed forward, asking myself, “How could this possibly be?” The electrical shock, or something like an electrical shock, was definitely around my heart area and it was strong; I ran away! Thus began a cycle of the only recurring nightmare I have ever had. Asleep in my room I would begin to dream about a background noise coming from boys and girls, and then walking down a hallway with masks that seemed to come off the wall and stare at me. Before I came to the opening where the idol was, I already knew in advance there was something there I did not want to see. In my dream I found myself trying to hide from it. I would sometimes wake up in the night after having this dream, afraid to go back to sleep, lest I dreamed it again. I told my mom about it and she said, “Just forget it, you will get over it.”
In third grade we took a field trip, again to the State Museum. But the bus broke down on the way. Because of the time needed for repairs, we had to visit another place closer by. I had forgotten about the museum being the place where I got the nightmare. A couple of times I had reflected on the how lucky it was that the bus had broken down. For I knew I was too inquisitive for my own good; “Curiosity killed the cat.” As I grew older, I heard about séances and cultic practices. I asked my mom about them and she said, “It’s all foolishness; none of it is true.” Though she was only partly right, still I am glad she told me that, for it kept me from being too interested in such things. My nightmare would come about three or four times a year. But now it has been about three years since I stopped having it. I was free from it, or so I thought.
A New Job
I was standing outside a bar, waiting for my friend, Eric, to get my coat, which I had left inside. I had been in a fight which had been broken up twice already, and Eric told me to wait outside while he got my coat, rather than take a chance the fight might get started up again. While I was waiting, out came a friend of the guy I had been in a fight with, and he told me to leave.
I said, “Not until I get my coat.”
And then he said, “I ought to fight you myself.”
“Well, here I am,” I responded, and got ready to fight. He just looked down at the ground and went back inside.
Out of the bar came Eric, without my coat.
“Where’s my coat?” I asked.
“We are not getting it; we got to go Bret!” he replied.
I told him, “I’m getting my coat,” and he said, “No, you’re not! They are all coming out after us!” And he grabbed me by the arm and turned me down the street in the direction he was going. There were four of them, and two of them were bigger than we were. The one I had fought, who was the biggest, was in the back, so I figured he was hurt. Down the street we went, walking fast! The one who had told me to leave was leading them and he had the biggest mouth. He was encouraged now with his buddies in back of him, trying to get us all into a fight. They were cursing us and calling us names. The one with the mouth said, “Say you eat dirt, and we will let you alone!”
My friend Eric turned around and said, “Yeah, I eat dirt.” But that was not good enough. The guy with the mouth said, “What about the other guy? (referring to me) He has to say it!” I turned around while I was walking and with a defiant face shook my head no! I then turned back and kept up the fast pace. I was thinking, “We are not going to get out of this.”
So I looked for the best place to fight. There was a row of shops on our right and a row of cars on our left. There was also a palm tree about 20 feet in front of us, and it seemed like the best place to take a stand. The sidewalk narrowed there by the palm tree and would only allow two of them at a time to get to us. I ran up the few feet to the palm tree and turned around and got ready to fight. Eric also turned. But to my surprise he said, “Hey, guys, count me out of this.”
So, my “good buddy” was leaving me there to get beat up! I gave him the dirtiest look I have ever given anyone. The four that were pursuing us all laughed and seemed content with that, and they turned and went back to the bar. I turned and walked off in the direction Eric had taken. He wasn’t going to help with this fight, but at least he did not let me go back into the bar to get my coat, for it would have been a bad situation for me. I had been foolish to get in the fight in the first place, and perhaps Eric thought, “Why should I get in a fight I did not start?” But I decided I was going to get a new friend!
About a week before, I had run into one of my old navy buddies, Jim. He had told me about a job overseas with good pay. But I turned him down because he was a Christian. He was likeable, but I felt convicted being around him, because he was living for God, and I was living for myself. Now I decided to give him a call and to meet with him and discuss the job. We met at a coffee shop and he told me the job was in Egypt. He also talked about the good pay. Both of these things I already knew, but I wanted to know more.
“What exactly would we be doing?” I asked.
Jim said, “We get to look for ancient artifacts and we get bonuses for each one we find! It will be fun!”
“But we are not archaeologists! Why would they want us?”
His countenance changed some when I asked him that. He glanced around the room and said, “Because they don’t want archaeologists or anyone who is an Egyptian working with them.” He could read the look on my face, which was, “Why?” He said, “Look, there is a possibility that the area we will be searching may have been where the children of Israel were during their exodus out of Egypt. And they don’t want it getting out till they are sure. There is an American archaeologist who will oversee the excavation and everything will be done with proper permission. But the man who is in charge has a lead, and he told me that until he is sure, he does not want people snooping around and criticizing the work who are not believers in the Bible.”
I stared at him for a moment and said, “Jim, you know I go to church (at Christmas and Easter) and believe there is a God, but I know nothing of the Bible.”
He sat back in his chair and said, “It’s a good opportunity. Do you want in or not?”
I did want “in,” and traveling to Egypt seemed like an adventure to me. But, before I could respond, a waitress walked up to our table. She was not the waitress who had served us, and I recognized her immediately. It was Ann, a friend of Jim’s.
"Hi, Ann!” I said. “Remember me? I saw you here last week with your boyfriend, Jim.”
She laughed and said, “Jim is not my boyfriend. And yes, I do remember you, Bret.” I liked her, though I had only talked to her once before. I was glad to hear Jim was not her boyfriend and she remembered my name.
“Jim is telling me about a job in Egypt where we get to look for ancient artifacts.” When I said that, Jim was smiling, glad to hear I was going.
“Sounds interesting,” she said and added, “Two of my girlfriends are planning a trip there to Cairo to see the pyramids.”
I was going to make a big deal out of it, to try and impress her. But before I could explain what we would be doing, Jim interrupted and said, “Yeah, we get to help out on some surveys in the desert for a few weeks. And then we will be back.”
“I will pray for you, Jim! You too, Bret! I have to go now. There are tables waiting on me!” and she rushed off.
I liked the idea of her praying for me. I thought how nice it would be to have a girlfriend who knew the Lord and would pray for you. And besides being nice to look at, she had a chaste look about her. After she walked off I said to Jim, “So, we are doing surveys now?”
“We will be surveying the site for artifacts,” he said.
“It sounds secretive,” and I added, “What is this about them not wanting Egyptians to work the site?”
Jim said, “There is a concern that they will talk to those who might be interested and make it harder to get the proper paperwork. Because those who give the permission do not even believe Israel was ever in Egypt. Our boss does not want to wait forever for them to sign off on this.” He added, “It is like the military, just do your job, and don’t talk about what we are doing. But in this case, we get paid well!”
When he said that, I thought about Jim’s pastor, Mr. Brown. He had talked to me one time, and had asked what I wanted out of life. I had said, “Money, and lots of it.”
Pastor Brown laughed and said, “Well you know what they say, ‘Money isn’t everything.’”
I half-jokingly said, “Well, it is way ahead of whatever is in second place.”
My thoughts changed as I looked over at Ann serving tables. She was smiling at those she was waiting on. And I was smiling looking at her. “Bret! Hey, Bret!” Jim said.
“Yeah, what?” I said as he got my attention.
“We fly out tomorrow! But before we do, the boss, his name is Mr. Dusty Carter, will need to talk to you.”
While driving in Jim’s car to go see Mr. Carter, I asked him about Ann and what she was like. He laughed and kidded me about her. He told me she was a Christian and went to his church. Jim also said he had already told Mr. Carter I would probably say yes to going on this job, and that he had built me up as a good worker, and because I had been in the navy, I could take orders. We met Mr. Carter outside his home. He had just said goodbye to a man who had bought some items we would need for the trip. Jim introduced us, and Mr. Carter said I could call him, “Dusty.”
He said to me, “Well Bret, Jim has told me a lot about you. You’re ‘one lean mean machine’ if I heard it right?” We all laughed. “I understand you had a security clearance while in the navy, is that correct?”
“Yes, we both did,” I said.
“Well, that is good. I am sure Jim has told you we want to keep a low profile and not draw any attention to ourselves.” He then paused and waited for me to respond.
I said, “Yes, I understand.”
“Good,” he said, and added, “Here is what we are doing in a nutshell. Not sure if you know, but there are presently over 20 possible sites for Mount Sinai! At one of these sites, an artifact has recently been found. It was a sort of armband made out of onyx stones. On one of these stones was found written the name ZPRH. This was written in something called Paleo-Hebrew, which is believed to be an ancient form of the Hebrew language, and the one the Israelites would have used during the Exodus.” He went on and explained the ancient Egyptian and Hebrew languages were written without vowels, and that ZPRH is believed to be the consonantal spelling for Zipporah, who was the wife of Moses. Then he added, “It’s not much to go on, Bret, but then you don’t get much in these types of digs. Well, do you want to go?”
I said, “I’m going now to pack my bags!”
Out on the desert at the work site.
On the flight to Egypt, I found myself thinking about Ann. She had come to the airport to see us off. At first I had imagined she was doing it for me. She had point-blank asked me at the airport if I was a Christian. I told her I went to church, my usual response for those I considered “fanatics.” But I did not consider her a fanatic, yet I knew nothing else to say. I remembered Jim had said she only dates Christians, but I was hoping she would let me have a date with her. She followed up her question with another. “Do you know how to be saved?” Ann seemed genuinely concerned for my soul. How can you be rude to someone like that? “You just trust Jesus Christ, God’s son, and He will save you,” she said.
I thought, “How ridiculous! I am just to trust Jesus and I get to go to heaven?”
But I said, “Yeah, I believe in God.”
She then gave me a booklet about salvation and asked me to read it while I was in Egypt, adding she would be asking me what I thought about it when I returned. She seemed thorough in what she was trying to do, not giving me any way to get off the hook. During our trip to Egypt, Jim had asked me if I was thinking about Ann. He seemed to enjoy teasing me about her. I said, “No. Besides, she’s not interested in me.”
We landed in Hurghada, Egypt, known as the Red Sea Riviera. There were five-star hotels and lots of giant swimming pools. But we were not to stay at any of them. Mr. Carter, or Dusty as he asked to be called, wanted us all to stay out on the desert together, so as not to mix with the local population and take the chance we might inadvertently give out what we were doing there, which all seemed overcautious to me. In the airport, we were met by a girl named Miss Allison. She knew Dusty and said she had the supplies he had asked for. She also had rented a four-wheel drive for the trip to our desert encampment. She was attractive and I was hoping to get her attention. She walked up to us and said, “You two must be Bret and Jim, right?” She then handed us each an envelope with some spending money in it, in Egyptian pounds. She also gave us her phone number and said if we had any problems we were to call her. This was the first hint we had that Dusty was not in charge, perhaps just the man who oversaw the work site.
We then walked outside the airport to our four-wheel drive vehicle. It was hot which felt good, especially compared to the climate we had just come from. Miss Allison knew I was watching her, and I thought she liked the attention. But when she handed the keys to Dusty, she only smiled and said, “Have fun out on the desert, boys.”
It was a three-hour trip in our four-wheel drive, and only one hour of it was on the road. The last two hours we traveled only 25 miles on the desert sand and gravel. There were countless dry creek beds, “wadys” they were called, we had to cross. And it made the going slow. On the way out there, Dusty filled us in on the reasons why the mountain we were going to was believed to be Mount Sinai and he told us its present name was Gebel Gharib. He also informed us we would meet three other people at the campsite. One was an American archaeologist named Scotty, second, the Bedouin, who had originally found the bracelet with the name of Zipporah on it; and third, a translator.
The campsite was nestled in a gully that came down from the mountain. I had done a lot of hiking when I was a kid, and this mountain was impressive! I used to love camping and exploring. So for me, I was right at home, except for the desert sand in place of the forest.
We first met the translator who was at the camp-site. His name was Abraham, which we shortened to Abe. He had a nice smile, friendly and willing to help. The Bedouin was the next person we met. He spoke no English and apparently little Arabic (the Bedouin language is not the same as the Arabic). He could neither read nor write, but he carried a cell phone. Even many of the Bedouins who rode camels carried cell phones, even though most of the desert had no coverage.
Then we met Scotty. He was not at all what I thought an archaeologist would be. He was really a mixed bag. Scotty liked to tell jokes, and when he was not telling a joke, he liked to argue some theory of archeology. These theories were mostly his own. And some of his fellow archaeologists have even called him a "heretic" for his radical ideas. But Dusty liked Scotty, saying he could think outside the box, and that he could get us both special equipment and governmental permission in a short time.
Scotty was tall, almost six foot three, overweight and balding on top, which he told us was because his “brains were pushing up.” He also had a handlebar mustache, which he liked to curl when he was making some point about archaeology. And he wore these Coke-bottle thick glasses, which made his eyes look bigger than they actually were. Jim had said that God must have taken all the leftover parts when he made mankind, and then formed Scotty. He also had a couple of bad habits. For one thing, he liked to make loud entrances, charging into rooms with his chest stuck out and wearing a big smile. I guess he wanted everyone to know he was there. And when he told the punch line to one of his joke, he would either slap you on the back or poke you in the ribs to get you to laugh with him. This usually seemed to have the opposite effect on the person he did this to. He got away with this partly because of his size, and partly because he really meant no harm. Those who knew him would take a step back when he told a joke, watching the expression of the unsuspecting person who would receive Scotty’s elbow. And then laugh, not at the joke, but at the expression of the one who was hit!
There were the six of us: Dusty, Jim, Scotty, Abe, the Bedouin and myself. Then there was one more person whom we were told was the man in charge, a Mr. Moshe. He seemed to be in a hurry and wanted to talk to Dusty and Scotty in the largest of the tents. Dusty had told us to get unpacked and get settled in our tents. When we were done, Jim and I looked around at the scenery, and it was beautiful. A couple of times I was distracted by what I thought were raised voices coming from the tent where Mr. Moshe, Dusty and Scotty were. But no one was coming out, so we continued to look around.
A few minutes passed, and we heard some steps coming up behind us. We turned around to meet, for the first time, Mr. Moshe. He was by himself, and he shook our hands and introduced himself. I had never before met anyone like him. I had known some people in the military who seemed to command respect as they say, but Mr. Moshe went beyond that. He was short, only about five foot six, yet his demeanor and tone of voice told you immediately he was in charge, and he seemed to lack any fear. One would have to have listened to him talk to appreciate what I meant, and I found myself wanting to gain his respect. He wanted to know if we had met Miss Allison. He told us Scotty was getting things lined up for us, and that if we had any problems, to tell Dusty. Or, he said, if we could not get hold of Dusty, to contact Miss Allison. He then went off in the direction of the translator’s tent, where he stayed a few minutes. Then he and his chauffeur drove off in another four-wheel drive.
Later, when Jim and I were alone, I asked, “All we are supposed to be doing is looking for artifacts? Right!?”
“Yes,” Jim said slowly, and then asked, “Why?”
“Because I never met anyone like that guy Moshe. He doesn’t seem like the type of person who would be interested in a few old artifacts.” Jim gave no response.
I was not free!
That night, Dusty met with us all and organized us into groups of two persons each, telling us we would split up the next day to get more done. Later, I found out from Scotty what the raised voices were about. It was from the discussion that I had heard when he, Dusty, and Mr. Moshe met. Mr. Moshe was upset that everything was not as ready as he had been led to believe. The translator was to go with the Bedouin and get workers for the excavation. But Dusty wanted them to be only other Bedouins who lived out on the desert, again to prevent the possibility of spreading around what we were doing.
Jim was to stay at the campsite and help Dusty set up some more tents and equipment, while Scotty and I were to go to Cairo and get something called “ground-penetrating radar.” We were told it has the ability to see what is under the ground up to a few yards deep and thus save us from digging in the wrong area. We also still needed the final permission from the Egyptian government for the excavation. We were told Miss Allison should have it waiting for us once we arrived in Cairo. I wasn’t sure how I would get along with Scotty, but the idea of seeing Cairo and Miss Allison appealed to me. Scotty said we might need to split up while we were in Cairo. He then handed me a cell phone in case we needed to contact each other.
The next morning, Scotty and I left before sunrise. We drove out a different direction from the one we had come in on. Within half an hour, the sun was coming up and it was quite a sight. The mountains we were driving between rose up straight out of the desert floor: some to a few hundred feet, and some to a few thousand. Between these rocky hills and mountains were flatbeds of sand, some as much as a mile wide and other places as little as a few feet. In a few spots there was just enough room to drive between the hills. There were few wadys on this new way we were on, and it was possible to drive up to forty miles per hour out on these sand beds, which seemed faster than it was, and I was enjoying it! All this was done with no roads, no signs, and only a few camel paths. Thankfully, Scotty seemed to know right where to go. Within a couple of hours, we made it to a road going straight across from the Gulf of Suez to the Nile, which had several checkpoints on it, apparently, to check for terrorists.
On the way, Scotty wanted to tell me some of his jokes. Then he filled me in on what to expect at Cairo. He said we would be stopping at a conference of archaeologists during their lunch break because he needed to make a few contacts there. Surprisingly, he called the archaeologists at the conference a “bunch of stuffed shirts.” I thought this odd, since he was an archaeologist. He said they were full of “intellectual pride,” still, he admitted, “There are some smart ones.”
He paused for a few seconds and said, “And a few of them I like.”
“OK.” I said, trying not to laugh. I could tell it meant a lot to him to be accepted by this group of archaeologists.
He told me that after the meeting we would have to split up to make the best use of our time. He would go after the ground-penetrating radar, while I was to meet Miss Allison at the Cairo Museum, to get the final paperwork she had for what he called “the dig.” I thought this might not be a bad day. I was looking forward to seeing Miss Allison, and going to a conference of archaeologists sounded fun. Especially because Scotty said we were going to “get them!”
Scotty could hardly wait to get to the conference. When we arrived, he hurriedly parked our vehicle and rushed in. I followed him into the conference hall, where there were more than a hundred people standing around in little groups. They were fellowshipping one with another, and there was a large banquet table spread with all sorts of food and beverages. Scotty was beaming, grinning from ear to ear. He was like a kid in a sandbox. As we came in, I heard someone say, “Oh no, look who’s here!”
Scotty walked right up to the first group of four men who were nearest us. They were discussing the higher cost of everything, from equipment to taxes. A couple of them shook hands with Scotty, but the other two barely acknowledged his presence. The one man, whom he had interrupted when he walked up, started speaking again. “As I was saying, everything costs more! It costs to be born, and it costs to die! And in fact, it costs even more to die!” Scotty interrupted and said, “Well, in that case, it would be better if we don’t die!” He then let out a big belly laugh and slapped the man on the back who was talking. The man had been bringing his pipe to his mouth to puff on it, but Scotty’s slap on his back caused him to drop the pipe, which resulted in Scotty laughing even more. Needless to say, the man he slapped on the back was not laughing. His eyes were bugged out, and another man standing next to him looked indignant. But the two other bystanders could not keep themselves from laughing. And with this, off went Scotty to“get” someone else.
I went over to the table for some refreshments and looked around to see who Scotty was “getting.” But he looked like he was having a normal conversation with some men. Scotty actually had an intellectual look about him (he was curling his mustache), but in a few minutes, he was raising his voice. I thought it might be good to go over, lest he got carried away with his emotions.
They were arguing over the Sphinx, with Scotty saying the head of the Sphinx was not made out of the same stone the body was carved from. But those in this group were not agreeing with him. He even got a few more to come around and listen to his new theory. Scotty said it was obvious the head of the Sphinx was made out of a different stone, as it was a different color and hardness. But they were telling him this was normal at a rock quarry because when you dig farther down, the stone becomes softer.
However, Scotty insisted. “If you just look at the neck of the Sphinx, you can see that the lighter-colored stone goes all the way up to the bottom of the chin, while the headdress of the Sphinx, which is the same darker color as the face, goes down on both sides of the neck.” He went on to explain that if this was only a matter of softer stone the deeper down one dug, then why would the lighter-color stone fit so neatly inside the headdress? And he added, “The head of the Sphinx is above the Giza Plateau! Are we to believe that the whole Giza Plateau had been quarried down to the neck of the Sphinx?” A couple of them were listening but most were not buying it. And it occurred to me this might be the reason he was so frustrated with them, because they were not agreeing with his theories.
I wandered off to look around. Later, Scotty came up to me and announced in a huff, “We’re going!” On the way to the museum, he managed to shake off his frustration. He began to talk about the importance of the paperwork I was to get from Miss Allison. “Don’t lose it,” he said, “and if there are any problems, call me immediately.” He added, “Miss Allison is cute, isn’t she?” It was funny how he could change the subject so quickly, but I was enjoying listening to him.
“Yeah, she is cute,” I said. He told me that after he was done with his errands, he would meet me later at the apartment we had rented in Cairo. “With a little luck, you might get Miss Allison to take you there. If not, take a cab!” Scotty dropped me off at the Cairo Museum. He told me I could find Miss Allison at the information desk in the main lobby.
Something happened that afternoon that made me wish I had not come to the museum. In fact, it made me wish I was still back home in the states. A woman at the information desk said she had a note from Miss Allison. It read, “I have been delayed but will come as soon as I can. Enjoy the museum! Miss Allison.” So I thought I would look around. There was an endless supply of pharaohs and gods (idols). I was surprised how many of them had animal heads! For a moment I thought of Anubis, who had caused my childhood nightmare. But I was not afraid, priding myself in overcoming that dream.
There were so many things to look at. I found myself on the second floor being mesmerized by some of the golden masks from the tombs of pharaohs. While on the second floor, I approached an opening that was to my left, where there was a display of all the artifacts that had been found from one particular dynasty. Before I came into the opening, I saw what looked like the toe of a boot sticking out from around the corner, but it was at the height of my head. I was curious to see what it could be. But I heard my name called out. “Bret! It’s me! Miss Allison.”
I turned toward her as she walked up to me with a nice smile, and she asked, “Enjoying yourself?”
“Yes!” I said. “But I would rather look at you.”
“All right now!” she said. “Maybe the hot desert sun was too much for you.” And she handed me a packet with the paperwork in it from the Ministry of Antiquities. I asked her what she was doing and she said, “Sorry, I’ve got to go now! But I would love to spend some time with you. Perhaps next time you’re in Cairo?”
I said, “Whoa, what’s the rush?”
“I have to run more errands for Mr. Moshe, but we will see each other again.” And she added, “Make sure you give this packet to Dusty Carter.”
“Yeah, Scotty was concerned about it also. I get the feeling it is more important than I am.”
She just laughed and said, “Without this permission, they would consider us treasure hunters. And there are big fines for that!”
“By the way, what are we really doing out there? I mean, it seems like a big to-do about nothing,” I said.
“Does it really matter?” she said this without a smile.
I looked right in her face and repeated her words back but with more emphasis, “Does it matter?”
She stepped up closer to me and said, “You’re getting paid, and you have the paperwork to show it’s legal. What else is there?!”
She was studying my face to see if I had any problem with it. I had started down this path, and I figured I could get out of it if I really wanted to. So I said, “Sure!” I smiled at her, as if I was more interested in her than what we were doing. But the truth was, at that moment I had lost all interest in her.
“Good, Bret!” she said. She gave me one last glance, then turned around and went down the stairway, smiling.
I tucked all that away in the back of my mind, thinking I might need to be a little more careful about looking out for myself and the questions I asked. As far as any uncertainty about what we were doing, well, I prided myself in being able to get out of bad situations. Just then I remembered the boot, or what looked like a boot, sticking out around the corner. I turned to see what it was, and I was staring at Anubis!
After my childhood experience with Anubis, I had seen a couple of pictures of this idol in a textbook and knew what it was. I had even covered the picture of it up quickly, as it bothered me, but I had not seen another statue of it since I was standing before it as a five-year-old at the State Museum. I was only a couple of feet from its face. In fact, the whole time I had been talking to Miss Allison, it had been right in back of my head, staring at me. It was all jet black and had these huge ugly ears that pointed straight up. The “toe of the boot” that I thought I saw was its snout, which was pointed right at my face, and I felt like his eyes were staring right into my soul.
I was completely in fear and began immediately to walk backward! I first bumped into a lady who said something to me in Arabic. I looked momentarily at her but turned back to face Anubis, still walking backward when I knocked a small girl on the ground, who began to cry out for her mother. It was all I could do not to step on her as I tried to keep one eye on Anubis. Someone hollered at me to be more careful. I spun around and with both hands grabbed hold of the railing that led to the stairs, almost falling over it, half tripping, half skipping steps as I went down to the ground floor.
At the bottom of the stairs, I thought I could look up, but now it seemed every idol in the museum was looking at me and they were all around! I had to look down at the ground just to get out of there! Once outside, I tried to gather my composure and headed for the road. I would have gone right out into the street without looking, but a taxi driver asked, “Want a ride?” I got in and found myself unable to talk properly. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a card from the hotel where we were staying, and handed it the taxi driver.
At the hotel, I got to my room and locked the door! I sat on my bed telling myself, “It’s just a piece of stone!” I could not understand why it had such an effect on me. It was not doing this to anyone else in the museum. That’s when my cell phone rang, and it was Scotty. “Bret, you there?” he asked.
I was still not talking properly but managed to say “Yeah” as best I could. He began to tell me he would be late and perhaps not show up till the morning. He was having a problem with the equipment he was securing. And then he said, “Just hang on to the paperwork!” and hung up.
I thought myself lucky not to have had to carry on a conversation with him, but was annoyed that I was being treated as a child about their precious paperwork. That’s when I realized, to my horror: I didn't have it! “Oh no!” I said out loud. I looked quickly around the room, but the paperwork was not there. I thought, “I must have left it in the taxi!” Though I was worried about the packet, I still felt relieved that the fear of Anubis had momentarily left me, like a great stone had been rolled off me. I could live with this problem of the packet because, I told myself, “I will find it!” And as for Anubis, I was sure it was just some crazy thing and, “It will never happen again.”
I hurriedly began to look in my wallet for the card of the cab company. Then I realized where the packet really was! I sat on the bed again and the fear that had left me came back, but even stronger. I had left the packet at the museum! I had put both hands on the railing at the museum so I must have droped it just beofre then when I had knocked the little girl on the ground. And I then remembered seeing it there on the floor. But the fear of that deaf and dumb stone had captivated all my attention, so that I was only interested in one thing: getting out of there.
I liked getting a job done no matter how hard it was, but this was a simple task, and they were all expecting me with the packet tomorrow morning. How could I explain to them that I was afraid of a stone? I could not imagine myself going back into that museum, especially on the floor where Anubis was. I was staring at the wall wondering how all this could have happened, and more importantly, “How I was going to get out of it?” when the thought came to me. “Maybe I will begin to have that nightmare again.” I had felt so on top of the world this morning, but now I was afraid, afraid to go out of my room or even to fall asleep!
I was barely alert to the ringing of the phone in my apartment. I’m not sure why I did not go over and answer it. I just looked at it and it seemed to get louder and it just kept ringing! Finally, I picked up the receiver. I heard a voice I never thought I would hear on the other end. “Bret, is that you?” It was Ann!
“Yes!” I said. I loved her voice. I had no idea how she got my room number, especially here in Cairo. I only knew I did not want her to stop talking to me.
“Bret, are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah.” I stumbled a little as I spoke. But the more she talked, and the more I tried to talk, the better it was.
“You’re okay?” she asked again.
“Yes, sure. Why?” I responded. I could not bring myself to tell her, or anyone, I was backed down by a statue.
“You just came to my mind, and I felt like God wanted me to call you. I got the number of the hotel from Jim. They said at the reception desk that the only Americans were in room forty-three. So well, here I am calling Cairo. I feel stupid calling you if it wasn’t needed.” While she was talking I had tears in my eyes. “You still there, Bret? Can you hear...?”
“Yeah, I’m here.” Saying it in the best voice I could manage, so as not to give away that I was crying. We talked for about five minutes, with me telling her how good her voiced sounded to me and that I was only having some small troubles with work.
When she said good-bye, she told me she was going to pray for me. I said “Good!” It was the best phone call I had ever had! I was still afraid of Anubis, but with more composure, and with Ann’s concern for me, it was as if someone was trying to throw me a life preserver. I wanted to go back over her words, as they helped so much. But I still had a real problem. No packet! I tried to work this out through the phone, but the operators spoke Arabic. Finally, one of the operators spoke English and called the museum for me. They told me they had not found any such packet, but would look for it. The operator had told them my room number and how to get hold of me. I was not sure I could trust all this, but what was I to do? I could not go back there! Then the phone in the room rang again.
This time I went right over to it, expecting to hear Ann’s voice. But it was Pastor Brown! Jim’s pastor back in the states. And he asked me the same thing Ann did “Bret, are you okay?”
I hesitated for a minute, but answered, “Pastor Brown, I do not know why you called. But I’m glad you did. I guess I am having some sort of problem.” That was the best I could bring myself to explain it. “But I must ask you something. How did you get my number? Have you talked to Ann?”
“No.” he replied.
“Well, sir, how could you know I was having a problem?”
He told me he had been praying in his daily devotions and my face came to his mind. He said that when something like this happened, there was always some need. So he called me! He had found my number the same way Ann did, through Jim. Here were two people, who I had only met a few times, concerned for me. And somehow knowing I had a real need! I thought, “This is God! Only He could have done something like this!”
I figured I could trust this preacher with my problems. So I said, “If you will give me a few minutes, I’ll try and explain it.” I gave him a short version of what had happened. And I told him about my experience as a child with Anubis. He asked me about the tingling sensation I had felt around my heart as a five-year-old. He wanted to know if I felt that today at the museum. I told him, “No.” It was not the same, at least in that respect. He went on to explain that the Bible said idols have no power in themselves to do good or bad (Jeremiah 10:5), regardless if they are made out of stone, wood, or plastic. He said it was possible that when I was a child, there may have been an evil spirit or spirits lingering around that idol, possibly to possess someone. He then said, “Bret, you need Jesus Christ!”
I asked, “Do you think I am possessed?”
“No, I didn't mean that. Unless you gave yourself over to them, it’s not likely. And you said you fled from it.” He ended up giving me some Bible verses to look up. He said I needed to start reading the Bible. He also prayed for me over the phone. When he prayed, he actually talked to God! He was not just repeating some words he had read in a book.
I was so impressed that Ann and her pastor had called. For a few minutes I forgot about my problem and fear. I did not know how my problem with the packet would end, but somehow I believed it would end up all right. I liked the idea that Pastor Brown had about reading the Bible. But I had no Bible. Then I remembered that the Gideons place Bibles in hotel rooms and thought, “Could it be possible that here in a country that was 90 percent Muslim, I would find a Bible right in my room?” But right there in the top drawer was a Bible! I opened it up, but it was in Arabic. I thumbed through it, and in the back of the book, the last half was in English, and it was the New Testament! I started in the book of John because Pastor Brown had told me that was a good place to start. That night, I fell asleep reading the Bible.
A sign from the past
That morning, I was awakened early by Scotty. “Wake up! We got to go!” Then he said, “I didn’t know you read the Bible?”
“What?” I said, and I saw the Bible lying on my chest. “Well, I don’t read the Bible, not usually.”
“So what were you doing with it? Using it as a pillow? By the way, that was good thinking putting that packet in the hotel safe!”
“The hotel safe?” I said.
“Yes, the man at the reception desk gave it to me as I walked in.”
“Oh, good,” I said. I had no idea how it got there, but he was holding it in his hand. And I was out of trouble! Or at least I hoped I was.
We got in our four-wheel drive and headed to the campsite. I had expected Scotty to ask me what I was thinking about, but he seemed as preoccupied as I was. I was going over in my mind the events of yesterday. And I thought maybe some of the “lucky” things that had happened in my life were not accidents, and that I had taken credit for things that had worked out well, when it was really God’s doing. Though I was still in turmoil about what had happened at the museum, I couldn’t get over the fact that both Ann and her pastor had called and right when I needed it.
At the work site, things were busy, even if unorganized. About twenty Bedouins had showed up wearing their turbans and robes, some of them were only teenagers. Abe, the translator, was trying to communicate to the Bedouins what Dusty wanted them to do. They were told they would receive a bonus for every artifact they brought him. Scotty told me they would pay the going rate, for the Bedouins knew what they could get on the black market, and if they felt cheated, they would hold back their finds. They were not told about the possibility of finding any artifact from the time of Moses or the children of Israel. Only that another Bedouin had found the bracelet.
But before Scotty talked to the Bedouins, he told them one of his jokes. The joke ended up being a joke in itself. Telling a funny story in another language is one thing, but a joke with a punch line is something else. If one tells a joke to the translator beforehand he will think about how to say it in his language. Otherwise, the translator will give word for word what one says. But because of the grammar difference, the punch line and meaning as well as the timing will not work, and a play on words is just not possible. But Scotty was determined to do this in spite of Abe, the translator, telling him he felt it best not to. So all the Bedouins had to listen to Scotty tell them the same joke three times! And of course Scotty hit unsuspecting Abe on his back the first time he told the joke. The second and third time he tried to tell his joke, Abe had kept his distance from him, even holding out his hand one time to motion Scotty to stay where he was.
The teenage Bedouins were the first to laugh, followed by Jim and I. Soon, all the Bedouins began laughing, not laughing at the joke but at watching Abe getting frustrated at Scotty! And Scotty getting furious at Abe for “not telling it right!” Later that same day, it was necessary for Scotty to talk to them all again about the excavation. But, before he started talking, one of the teenage Bedouins stood up and said something to Abe. Then all the Bedouins laughed out loud. Then Abe, sheepishly, said to Scotty, “They want you to tell them another joke!”
There was a problem determining exactly where the bracelet that the Bedouin had found had been buried originally, because a wady had cut through the gravel and sand deposits from the runoff of the mountain. It rarely rains in the Eastern Desert of Egypt but when it does, it pours. And three months before there had been a storm. A month later, the Bedouin had found the bracelet. It had taken that long for the find, and what was written on it, to circulate around till somebody who was interested enough to make an investment got the project moving forward. The problem with finding the bracelet was they were not sure at what depth it had been washed into the wady. And the surrounding deposits of gravel were too deep to effectively use the ground-penetrating radar.
Jim, Abe the translator, and I had been told to get the Bedouins moving sand and gravel from the area most likely where the bracelet had been washed into the wady. The first day was mostly guesswork as to what area we should be digging in, and we tried to get everyone into to some sort of organized groups.
They told us that night they had ordered some tractors. They would be brought in on a flatbed truck first thing in the morning to help move the sand. I had doubted they would come so quickly, but the next morning the tractors came in over the desert by themselves, as the flatbed truck had gotten stuck in some soft sand. I was impressed with how fast they could get things to this location, especially because there were no roads there. One thing Dusty did have was a satellite phone for our cell phones could get no reception.
Work must be therapeutic, because it helped with my anxiety over Anubis. And being out on the desert all day away from civilization gave me more time to reflect. I was not able to communicate with the Bedouins except for a few words. Mostly just pointing to what I wanted done, saving problem situations for Abe. When I had talked to Jim’s pastor over the phone, he told me that because of my encounter as a child with Anubis and possibly evil spirits, I should avoid being around anything that might trigger this again, especially Anubis, which I was happy to do! But I was not sure what I would say if called upon to go back to the museum.
I also found myself enjoying reading the Bible and asking Jim questions about certain passages. Jim was glad I had started to read the Bible. And because he had given both Ann and his pastor our hotel phone number, he knew they would have been the ones who encouraged me to read it. But he did not know about what had happened at the museum. And surprisingly, he did not ask about why Ann and his pastor were concerned for me. But, just as surprisingly, Jim wanted to know if I was getting along with Miss Allison. I could tell he did not mean whether I liked her or not. I said, “Yeah, why?” His only response was, “Just wondering.”
On the second and third day at the campsite, lots of gravel and sand was moved, especially by the tractors. Both Dusty and Scotty seemed happy with the results, even though nothing had been found. Jim and I had already gotten the impression that this was not going to be a normal excavation. Not like using brooms and spoons to pick through the rubble, but of moving the topsoil and doing it fast. Scotty and Dusty had been using the ground radar each day at different locations, hoping to pick something up, leaving little red flags at different locations that seemed promising. It seemed they had found something, as they kept going back to this one area. They were having lengthy conversations about what they had picked up on the ground radar.
At the end of the third day’s dig, they were still out on the sand testing this one area. They had brought in one of the tractors to clear away the sand from around this location. After that, Jim and I brought some Bedouins to help us clear away the sand, first by shovel and then by hand. And we found something! It was a stele (a flat stone with writing on it). Both Dusty and Scotty were excited about it, though neither one could read it. Dusty got right on his satellite phone and called Mr. Moshe. And he got out his textbooks of ancient writing, trying to decipher the stele, but not having much luck. The only thing they knew for sure was that it was written in Paleo-Hebrew, the same language used on the bracelet. I heard Scotty tell Dusty, “We are going to be famous!” And I was happy for Scotty.
About 11:00 am the next morning, Mr. Moshe and three other men arrived at the campsite. One was a Jewish priest, one in office clothes and a Kippah, a Jewish head covering, and the third was a field archaeologist who Scotty knew. All of them were excited to see this stele and started immediately to decipher the stone.
It was not long before they were no longer excited. I saw Scotty leave the tent where they were working, wearing a sober face, which I had not seen on him before. He went to his tent and brought back some books to where the others were with the stele. I had tried to go into the tent, but was asked to wait outside.
In a few hours, they were ready to leave. But they left the stele, only taking pictures of it. They also made some calls on the satellite phone. I overheard Mr. Moshe tell Dusty he would send some men to help watch the stele. He said he would be back as soon as he learned something. When they left, Jim and I walked into the tent where Dusty, Scotty, and the stele were. They both just looked at us and said nothing. “What’s going on?” I said. And Jim asked, “Were you able to translate the stele?”
Dusty responded that they still needed to do some more studying to confirm their translation. I said, “All of them were speaking another language when they left here, including Mr. Moshe. It sounded like Hebrew to me.” And I added, “They are all going to Israel, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they’re going to Israel,” Scotty said. And with that, Dusty walked over to the tent door and looked around. He then zipped it shut and came back and said, “We’re not trying to confirm if Mount Gharib is Mount Sinai; we already believe that. But we’re here looking for the treasure that Moses buried.”
The Valley of the Kings
Scotty grabbed the satellite phone and made a call. Dusty took us and the stele to his tent, where he started telling us the story of the treasure of Moses. He shared three references about it, two right out of the Bible. “And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb” (Exodus 33:6). He explained to us that there had been 600,000 men, plus women and children. And that they had taken plenty of gold, silver, and precious stones from the Egyptians (Genesis 15:14). He showed us a copy of a translation from Aramaic that had come from an ancient Jewish text, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, which said, “And Mosheh took and hid them [their ornaments] in his tabernacle of instruction.” It was explained that the tabernacle, where the treasure was buried, was believed to be Moses’s own tent. For it had been moved outside the congregation (Exodus 33:7), and this was done before they had built the main tabernacle in Exodus 35.
Dusty told us that such a treasure would be by far the largest ever found! He estimated that even if each person’s ornaments could be wadded up into a three-inch cube, times two million (which he said was a conservative number), that it would take an area of 35 feet by 35 feet by 25 feet deep, filled solid, to hold it all! He added that just the antiquity value of it would be priceless! While he was talking, I was thinking about my heart’s desire to be rich, and now I was only a short distance away from the largest treasure ever found and my heart was racing. That’s when Jim asked a question that brought me back to reality. “Why wasn’t everyone happy, then?”
“That’s right!” I said, and added, “When Moshe and the others left, all your excitement was gone!”
“Moses placed a curse on it. That’s what was on the stele.”
Jim and I both said, “A curse?”
“Yes, a curse,” he repeated and said, “You can’t say anything to the translator or the Bedouins about this, especially about the curse.”
I was still gasping, trying to take all this in, when I asked, “But you don’t believe in a curse, do you?”
Dusty did not respond immediately but pointed to the Bible and said, “There is a passage (Joshua 6:26) that talks about Joshua cursing the city of Jericho, saying that whoever rebuilt the city would lose both his first-born and last-born son, then years later, it happened” (I Kings 16:34). Then he added, “And I believe that if Moses cursed something, it is cursed. It may be the reason the treasure has remained till today. There was speculation that such a treasure would have been stolen before now by those of the area who could have known of it, or even some of the Israelites who would have gone back for it. At any rate whatever is underneath that stone is cursed!”
Jim said, “So, that’s it? We can‘t get to it?”
“The stele had some sort of riddle on it that might give us an open door, if we could understand it. We need further work on the translation, but as we understand it now, it was, "I MOSES, DECLARE A BLESSING TO THOSE WHO ARE WORTHY TO TAKE THESE ORNAMENTS AND A CURSE TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT WORTHY. THE WORTHY ONES ARE THOSE WHO HAVE WALKED ON THE LAND THAT HAS NEVER SEEN THE SUN SHINE."
“So whoever takes it gets cursed, unless as it said, he is worthy. Until we are sure what all this means, we will not go forward on removing it. No one wants to be the first person to touch that treasure.”
“That’s it? We are a few feet away from all that treasure and we are going to sit here?” I said.
“But what is this about people who have never seen sunshine?” Jim asked.
“No,” Dusty said. “That’s not what it said. It said the only people who were worthy are those who walked on the 'land' that never saw the sun shine. Some land where the sun has never shined.”
“Where is that?” I said, exasperated. “The sun shines everywhere!”
“We don’t know,” he said. “Neither do the archaeologists and priest who were here, and until we do, we are not putting in one more shovel.”
“Figure it out later,” I said, “but for now, let’s go see what it is that’s waiting for us under that sand!”
Dusty said, “Bret, how would you like to be cursed by Moses?” I was thinking about Anubis when he said that, but I just turned around and went for the tent door. Dusty hollered at me, “Bret, remember what I said about not talking to anyone on this!” I just nodded and walked to where Scotty was.
When I came into Scotty’s tent, he was reading a textbook and looked up, but said nothing. I blurted out, “You don’t really believe in curses, do you?”
“The ancient Egyptians did!” Scotty answered.
“Yes,” I said, “and they also worshiped animals! Look, if all that treasure is there-”
But Scotty cut me off and said, “Get your bag. We are leaving to go to Luxor. You will have to help me drive as it will take all night.”
“Where is this we’re going?” I asked.
Scotty said, “It is a town by the Valley of the Kings. Where King Tut’s tomb was found.”
“Scotty, is there any treasure there for us? No!” I said, “So what are we doing leaving here?”
But Scotty just grabbed my arm and pushed me out the door. I threw my arm up to shake his hand off me and turned toward him, but then he stuck his face in my face and said, “Get your bag!” Then he turned around and went back to his tent. Ten minutes later, we were driving through the desert.
It was an all-night drive to Luxor. It wasn’t till the sun came up that we crossed the bridge over the Nile nearby the Valley of the Kings. But we had not been more than a few minutes from the camp when I started telling Scotty what I thought of all this. “So let me get this straight. We are doing all this so we can give it all away to Israel? Is that right? Nothing against them, but why should they get it all? They’re not the ones out here on the desert doing anything.”
“Look, kid! It’s Israel that is paying for all this!” Scotty said.
“Thanks for telling me, gramps!”
Scotty got mad and turned to me instead of looking down the road. “Don’t call me gramps!
I shot back. “Don’t call me kid!” He was steaming but looked back down the road and said nothing. I didn’t care. I just looked out the window.
Before long, Scotty said, “The reason you and Jim and Dusty, as well as myself, were chosen was because we are all Americans. Even if I could have gotten the permission for the Israelis to do the dig, it would have taken forever. And they would have wanted to know why they were here.”
“What do the Egyptians care about the Jews?” I asked.
Scotty responded, “Were you born stupid, or do you have to work at it? They are enemies! Didn’t you know they have had wars?”
Now I was mad and stared out the window. A few minutes went by, and I started to laugh. Scotty looked at me as if to say, “What?”
“I loved that joke of yours!” I said.
“Really, which one?”
"The one that the translator was never able to explain to the Bedouins!”
He was still embarrassed by it but started to laugh also. And he said sarcastically, “You must be right! They wanted me to tell them another one!”
We both laughed. And I asked Scotty, “Don’t get upset, but what are you getting out of this?”
“Well, in a word, a name. Many of those archaeologists do not even believe Israel was ever in Egypt. I can hardly wait to tell them that I found the oldest known Hebrew writing in existence! And it was written by Moses himself! Plus, I can have part credit for finding the largest treasure ever! My name will be larger than Howard Carter's.”
“Who?” (Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb.)
Being famous was as important to Scotty as being rich was to me. I was starting to feel better now. The fear of Anubis seemed like a thing of the past, though the whole thing of the treasure was now bothering me. I asked Scotty about the Egyptian government, if they would not be upset once they found out. His response was, “According to the Bible, they gave all that treasure to the Israelites when they left Egypt (Exodus 3:21-22, and 11:1-2), and at that time the Eastern desert was not part of Egypt. Besides, it’s got a curse on it and would not help them, not help anyone, except the Israelis.” He said it was his opinion, as well as others’, that God had given the spoil to Israel for all their years of free labor as slaves to the Egyptians. “You're assuming then that Israel walked on land that has never seen the sunshine?”
Scotty responded, “It makes sense to me that God would want them to have it. After all, it was theirs to begin with and who else would God want to have it?”
“Yeah, but Scotty, the sun shines in Israel!”
He halfway laughed and said, “Well, of course we have to figure that out first.” And he asked, “Who do you think it means?”
“I don’t care about that Scotty. It’s nothing but a bunch of hocus-pocus!” And I said, “Hard to believe all this came about from an armband with the possible name of Zipporah on it.” Then to my surprise, Scotty started telling me this story about something else that was found here, something he had kept to himself. And he was as excited about it as the stele they had found. He told me about some blue material he said was connected to the tabernacle that was in the wilderness from the time of Moses. I had not seen his face light up like this before. Scotty said, “There was a special blue material made for the wilderness tabernacle and for the garment that the high priest wore (“robe of the ephod” Exodus 28:31). Which was said to be thick at the edges, with twined lined and then a covering. The edges were thick so not to tear, and the ephod was said to be of one color, blue.”
“And that is the big proof?” I said.
But Scotty responded, “Have you seen anything of color around here? The nearest Bedouins are over five miles from here, and none of them wear anything with color except gray, tan, or black. I saw it below where I was standing smashed between two large boulders—the boulders were so big I could not put my arms around them. It looked so out of placed there with this bright-blue color. There was a side of the mountain that had come down where I found this, evidently from an earthquake. So I later searched the records for earthquakes on the Red Sea coast, but from the time they have been keeping records of earthquakes, none seemed large enough to have brought down part of the mountain.”
“What has this got to do with anything?” I asked.
Scotty responded, “It was so thick and stiff that I at first thought it had wicker for a backing, but it was this very old twined material.”
“Stop.” I said. “You said it was bright blue, yes? So how could it be from the time of Moses. It would have faded, right? That would be over three thousand years ago?”
“Actually, it is closer to three thousand five hundred years old. But here is the best part. Jewish tradition teaches that it was a special blue dye called ‘tekhelet,’ which they used that would not fade!” (Menachot 43a, Hilchot Ttsitsit, 2:1). When I shared all this to the Israeli Antiquities Department, I got their attention, let me tell you. They gave me real respect! There is no other ancient dye that could have lasted that long without fading.”
I could not help but ask him, though it seemed off the subject, “Why do you need their respect, Scotty?” My words came out slowly.
“Why do you want riches?” he responded. I gave no answer, for I had never been able to justify it.
“Do you understand the implications of all this? There are legends of Jeremiah the prophet burying the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant at Mount Sinai before the destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar.”
“Slow down, Scotty, I heard there are legends of the Ark being buried everywhere.”
Then the countenance of his face changed, and he clenched his teeth and said, “They won’t give me back that blue material I found!”
I asked him, “What are you telling me? Are we here for something other than ornaments?”
Scotty still had this frustrated look on his face and said, “They are here for the ornaments or for what they can get out of them, but not me! And they won’t give me back that blue cloth I found. When I showed them where I had found the garment, they took it out from between the two boulders and kept that also. They made a search for other possible artifacts from the tabernacle but found nothing. But I am telling you there is something else here, and when I find it, the whole world is going to know about me!”
“So, Scotty,” I said, “this is all about you getting recognition?”
“Why not?! You think you can buy happiness with riches!” We both thought each other was living for something that was pointless. And the thought occurred to me maybe we were both walking down a dead end street.
“Anyhow,” he said with a grin. “When they get what they came for, I am coming back and looking for what I really want!”
“And what would you do if you did find the Ark of the Covenant?” I asked. “It belongs to Israel. Any person or other country that knowingly had it would be plagued like the Philistines were when they had it” (I Samuel 5). “Maybe Israel will set up a tabernacle for it until they build a temple, like King David did until the temple of Solomon was built” (I Chronicles 16:1). I stared at him for a moment and then said sarcastically, “Well, I am happy for you, Scotty.”
After that, we traded off driving so we each could get some sleep before we arrived at Luxor. When we arrived at the Valley of the Kings, Scotty went off to find an archaeologist he knew while I waited for him. It had not occurred to me to ask why we were making this trip. I had to wait more than an hour before Scotty came back. He introduced me to an archaeologist that he said was an expert on spells. Then off we went to one of the sixty-three known tombs or tunnels in the Valley of the Kings. We entered into one that went back two-hundred yards in the mountain and was sectioned off because of falling rock. So I really don’t know how far back in it went.
The only thing in it was this gigantic sarcophagus made out of granite, sitting most of the way down the tunnel. Because of its size, everyone had left it there, from the grave robbers, who had plundered this tomb, to the archaeologists who discovered it. It was taller than my head by about two and a half feet, with the width and the length being longer. The lid of this stone coffin had never been taken off, not even by the grave robbers. It was simply too heavy. Instead, they entered in through the side of the sarcophagus, busting through the wall of it with sledgehammers till they had a large enough opening to bring out the inner casket. Other than that, there was nothing in this tomb except hieroglyphics on the wall. And, what seemed out of place, a red fire extinguisher in the corner.
The archaeologist pointed to some hieroglyphics, and Scotty seemed to be able to read them. Then he showed us some Phoenician letters that looked as though they had been made by the hand of those who carved the hieroglyphics. The archaeologist said these writings were spells against snakes which the ancient Egyptians had gotten from the Phoenicians. It was believed that these spells would keep out the snakes, which seemed odd as this tomb was filled with drawings of snakes.
The whole thing of spells and curses seemed silly to me. Scotty asked the other archeologist why the spells were in Phoenician and not Egyptian hieroglyphics, and I interrupted and said, “Maybe the snakes can only read Phoenician.” Scotty gave me an irritated look, but the archaeologist said it was believed the spells had more power if left in their original language. Then Scotty asked how one would go about breaking a spell, and the archaeologist gave his theories.
I had walked off and started looking at all the writings on the walls of the tomb, when I came face to face with a large carving of Anubis! I had not overcome this problem! For my fear was back, though not as bad. Still, it was only a carving on the wall, not a statue. The anxiety made me want to do only one thing, leave! Which I did. Over an hour went by, and when Scotty came out, he was having an argument with the archaeologist, all the way back to our four-wheel-drive, not about spells or curses, but about the Queen of Punt.
Apparently, her picture was carved on the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. The Queen of Punt was an obese woman with a hip problem. Scotty insisted this was Queen Hatshepsut! The archaeologist said the clothes of this lady were not the clothes of an Egyptian queen, and that it was now believed by some that this lady was only a drawing to represent people of all countries. Scotty said, “I have never seen any such person in all my life, have you?”
The archaeologist said, “But, we know what Queen Hatshepsut looked like from the statues of her we have found.”
Scotty responded, “Those are from when she was younger. In 2007 they opened up Queen Hatshepsut’s coffin and made a positive ID by a tooth fragment they had found in a canopic jar (a small vase), and they made two comments about her body. Do you know what they were?”
“No, please tell me!” the archaeologist said sarcastically.
Scotty said, “That Queen Hatshepsut was obese and had a hip problem!” The archaeologist seemed to be listing to him. “By the way, next time you’re at Queen Hatshepsut temple look at the wall carving there of the Queen of Punt. There are chisel marks on her backside, exactly where the bulls tail (the symbol of a pharaoh’s authority) would have been.”
The archaeologist sarcastically said, “Well, Scotty, that is all very interesting.” And we left him there.
I asked Scotty to drive, saying I did not feel well. I do not know if Scotty had learned anything of any value, but I was more concerned about where my fear and anxiety would lead. He needed a way around this curse of Moses, and I needed to get over Anubis. This whole trip to Egypt had turned into an emotional roller coaster for me. All I wanted to do was to get back to normal. To make matters worse, there was no one I could talk to about it, except may be God. Which was what I was thinking about doing.
A Suspicious Meeting
It was after sunset when we got to the camp and we met three new men at the site, all of them from Israel. They were there to guard the stele. They were not wearing military uniforms but gave the appearance of being in the military, short hair cuts, young and sturdy. They had a metal suitcase that they said would help them communicate with Mr. Moshe on a daily basis. Jim thought it suspicious, as we had a satellite phone already. I was wondering how they had got that equipment onto a plane and off at the airport without drawing attention to themselves.
But the camp was strangely quiet with no activity. Abe the translator and all the Bedouins were gone! Scotty asked about them, and we were told someone had let slip that there was a curse on the stele, and they all took off. And Abe had been let go, as his services were no longer necessary without the Bedouins.
Jim and I walked to where they had found the stele. The tractors had cleared away a larger area around that location and dug it out a meter deeper in depth. There were four tractors in all, and they were parked by the area they had been clearing. I asked Jim where the drivers were, and he replied, “Dusty sent them off till we need them again. There is nothing we can do until they get some answers to that curse that was on the stele.”
I told Jim about my trip to Luxor. I thought for a moment about telling him of the problem I was having, but I was afraid he would think I was nuts. That’s when Scotty came out to the site and looked around and started talking about the “stars and moon.” As soon as he said that, Jim started laughing. He asked him what great theory he had for us about the universe. Scotty was trying to explain to us about the crescent moon that the Arabs used for their symbol - that it was lying on its bottom, not on its side, as we see the moon in the states. He explained that in this part of the world, the moon was on its bottom, and all the stars were rotated into different locations. He pointed to the constellation Orion and said, “Look,” showing us it was on its side, not standing upright as we would see it from our hemisphere. He explained, “Everything down here is catawampus,” but it was “right in America.” I could not tell if he was serious, but he was funny.
Jim said to Scotty, “I was thinking about the stele and what it said about some place where the sun has never shined, and couldn’t that be like a cave?”
But Scotty didn’t think so and said, “It was talking about a 'people,' and the archeologist said that word meant a race of people, like a nation. No room in a cave for a nation.”
Jim asked, “Do you want to hear my other theory? I thought it might be extraterrestrials. Think about it. Where in the world does the sun not shine? It shines everywhere. So maybe these ETs had their sun burn out and they came to earth to enjoy the sunshine. What do you think?” And we all laughed.
After that I was tired and left them there and went off to my tent, but before I could get there, Dusty came up to me and handed me a message. It was from Ann! I was to contact her immediately. He let me use the satellite phone, but with the usual “Hurry up! It is costing us and I am expecting a call from Mr. Moshe.”
I was glad for the message but hoped there was nothing wrong with her. When I called, she asked how I was doing. I thought she might be referring to what had been bothering me, and I said I was doing fine. I asked if she had talked to Pastor Brown, and she said no. When I asked why she called, she said, “I would like to see you. I will be coming to Egypt, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get together.”
I said, “But I thought you only dated Christians?”
She replied, “I do not date at all! Three other girls will be with me, and I wanted to give you the address of where we will be staying.” I took it down but told her I was not sure I could get off from my job, though I definitely wanted to see her.
When I turned around to go into the tent, Dusty was standing behind me with the keys to the four-wheel drive! “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear you talking to your girl. And until we hear back from Mr. Moshe, we have little to do here. Actually, I would like you to do something for me in Cairo. Give this packet to Miss Allison.”
He told me to be sure and check in each day by phone and that I would probably have at least two days off, if not more. This was a dream come true after the nightmare of the week I had gone through. I was no longer tired but excited about seeing Ann and gathered my things and left a note for Jim. I took off that night without any sleep, as Ann’s flight was due in that next morning.
I arrived at the Cairo Airport a few minutes before Ann’s flight, and while waiting I unexpectedly spotted Miss Allison! She was coming out of the arrival section with three men, none of whom I recognized, and she was leading them. I was curious to see what she was doing, so I watched them from a distance. They entered a lounge area and sat down. Miss Allison handed one man a packet, which he opened and pulled out what looked like a map. I thought perhaps Moshe had sent them, as he did the three men to watch the stele. But they did not give the appearance of being military and they did not seem the types who would be doing our excavation at Mount Gharib.
They talked for a few minutes, and the man who received the packet from Miss Allison reached for his briefcase. He opened it up, pulled out a small envelope, and handed it to her. She opened the envelope but pulled nothing out. The look on her face was not a happy one. She asked something and the man made a reply, but whatever they had talked about had made Miss Allison visibly upset. While the man with the map was sitting back in his lounge chair smoking, she stood up, said some last few words, and walked off briskly.
I thought it best to give her the packet I had from Dusty while she was still here. I waited till she rounded the corner and then came around the other way, so as not to give the impression I had seen her. When I walked up to her, I could tell she was still upset. She would have gone by me without noticing me had I not said something. I was still going over in my mind what could have been said that made her so upset. I was thinking it did not appear like a “customer service relationship problem.” I was interested to see how she would respond to seeing me unexpectedly, right after speaking to those men, and said, “Miss Allison, it’s good finding you here!”
It was obvious she was shocked to see me. She immediately looked back to the corner she had just rounded, then back to me. “Bret, what a surprise! How did you know to find me here?”
“Well, I didn’t. It just happened that I’m meeting someone from the states here,” I said.
“Oh, why?” And in the same breath she asked, “How long have you been waiting here?” It was funny to see her so off-balance.
“I just got here,” I said.
She was studying my face to see if I was telling the truth. She made a funny face and said, “Oh.” She took one step toward me. I remembered her doing the same thing at the Cairo Museum, but now she had a nice smile on her face. She almost got me with it; she was acting like she was interested in me. Just like when I was at the museum, doing the same thing to her. The thought occurred to me, if I knew she was not interested in me, perhaps she knew I was not interested in her. She placed her hand on my arm. I almost laughed, knowing she did not care for me. But what she said next opened my eyes. “I’m the one who saved you!”
“What?” I asked.
“The packet, remember?” And I reached for the packet that Dusty had given me to give her. She looked at it and took it, but said, “No, not that one! The one you dropped at the Cairo Museum. You remember that one, don’t you?” She was no longer giving me a nice little smile but a creepy look, and for a moment I thought it had something to do with Anubis.
“You found the pacekt?”
“Who else?” she responded.
I had thought perhaps the museum staff brought it to the hotel where I was. But it was clear now that she had done it. She asked, “Why were you so afraid when you almost tripped down the stairs?” She had put the emphasis on “tripped,” giggling as she said it.
“You saw me?”
“Everyone saw you, Bret.” She was belittling me. It was as if she wanted me to know she had something on me and said, “But we won’t let your phobias interfere with our relationship, will we?” But there was no relationship between us. And she blew me a kiss, which meant as much to her as our nonexistent relationship did. She smiled one last time at me, as if to say, “There are still possibilities between us,” and she walked off.
I think I must have had my mouth open while she was talking to me; what she had said was so unexpected and it got me in trouble. For directly behind where she had been standing were Ann and her three friends! And none of them were smiling. One could see they all thought Miss Allison was my girlfriend, as she had just blown me a kiss, talking about our “relationship.”
“The cat is out of the bag”
“There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid” (Proverbs 30:18-19).
I walked up immediately to Ann and her friends and said, “Glad you’re here! Welcome to Egypt!” I also told Ann, in the hearing of her friends, that Miss Allison was somebody I worked with.
Ann said, “From the sound of it, I thought you were having a lovers’ quarrel.” I assured her there was nothing between us, and that we just did not get along. I took a step toward her, and she shoved a book in my stomach with a good deal of force. “This is for you,” she said bluntly.
Please go to "Great Stones" and "Stuff" at the top of the page and click on Cursed part II
by G. M. Matheny