Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 




A Nativity Play 

Miryam     (Mir-YAM)    In her mid-teens. The mother of Yeshua, the Messiah.

Yosef     (Yo-SEF)     Miryam’s finance. In his thirties.

Yeshua     (Ye-SHU-a)     A life-sized newborn doll.

Natan     (Na-TAN)     Grandpa, an old shepherd.

Shimon     (She-MOWN) Grandson, a teenage shepherd.

Meshech     (MESH-shex)     The innkeeper, in his forties.

Pasach     (PA-sak)     Meshech’s slave, in his twenties.

Hephzibah     (Hef-ZEE-bah)     Meshech's slave, Moshe's nurse, in her twenties. 

Moshe     (Mo-SHAY)     Meshech's baby son. A life-sized six month old doll. 

Nakes     (NAK-us)     Act II and III. Trail boss of the Persian expedition. 

Koz        Act IV. Abad-DON of the King’s Guards. Koz rhymes with rose. Nakes can double.

Iddo     (EED-do)     Act IV. Guardsman. Pasach can double.

With doubling, this play has a cast of eight.

Version 58

Copyright (C) 2013, 2015 Jack Towe -- All rights reserved


Behind the Bethlehem Inn. An eighteen inch high feed trough runs across the Inn's backside. The base of the trough is eighteen inches above the ground. Above the trough at three-foot intervals are rings for tying donkeys.  In the back wall of the inn is an exit slit as well as a slit window above Yosef, Miryam, and Yeshua.

Program Insert

In this play, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, are known by their names in Hebrew: Yo-sef’, Mir-yam,’ and Ye-shu’a. Why use Hebrew names? Because we have many associations with “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” Using their Hebrew names helps us see them as real people.

In Epidemic of Angels, the name of the LORD (YHVH) is not spoken, nor is the word “G-d” used. Rather, He is called by other names: A-do-na'i, (Lords), El-o-him' (Gods or Powers), the Almighty, the Mighty One, the Most High, or El Shaddai.


Epidemic of Angels is faithfully based on Scripture—but violates our American Christmas legends, which tell us, for example, that Jesus was born in a shed or cave. However, Luke tells us only that his mother laid him in a manger (i.e. a feed trough.) In Epidemics, Yeshua is born in the open where the donkeys are tethered behind the Inn.

Christmas carols in church and the mall tell us the angels sang to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth, but in Luke 2:13 and 14, we read, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest,
 and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'" In Epidemics, angels speak; they do not sing. See the Commentary at the end for additional background.



At Rise

Dawn. Bring the lights up slowly. This opening scene takes about 90 seconds. MIRYAM and YOSEF are lying at the back of the Inn at upstage right. Each has a blanket, plus a feedbag for a pillow. YOSEF is asleep. MIRYAM holds Yeshua and feeds him. The feed trough is on the wall above their heads.

MIRYAM finishes feeding Yeshua. She is desperate for sleep, but is worried that she will roll over and crush her baby. She is groggy and has no energy left. She shakes YOSEF to wake him so he can take care of Yeshua. YOSEF grunts and rolls away from her without waking.

She realizes that YOSEF is no help. She looks around, wondering what to do with her baby, sees the feed trough over her head and gets and idea. She slowly, painfully pushes herself up to a kneeling position. She bundles Yeshua in his rags and bunches the hay to make a comfortable bed. She puts Yeshua in the hay and then fusses with him to make sure he’s resting well. This action is a great effort for her. She collapses, wraps the blanket around her and drops into sleep.

From downstage left, SHIMON runs in at full speed. He does not see MIRYAM, YOSEF or the baby. Instead, he runs across the stage and exits upstage right. Then NATAN enters, downstage left, using his shepherd’s staff as a cane. He is winded.

SHIMON returns. He still does not see the family. NATAN points to the baby in the feed trough. SHIMON and NATAN walk quietly to the trough, trying not to wake the sleeping parents. They stare at Yeshua. SHIMON leans over MIRYAM to look closely at the baby. MIRYAM senses his presence and wakes.



MIRYAM:  Hey, you! Get away from my baby!

(YOSEF wakes and gets up.)

NATAN:  Sorry, ma’am.

SHIMON:  No harm meant.

MIRYAM:  No harm!!?? You’re trying to steal my baby.

(MIRYAM reaches up, gets Yeshua out of the feed trough, and holds him.)

YOSEF:  What’re you doin’ here? Get out! She’s just had a baby. We’re exhausted. Leave us alone.

SHIMON:  But, just wanted to see baby.

NATAN:  Yes. Messenger said to come.

YOSEF:  What messenger? Who told you to come here?

MIRYAM:  Was it that innkeeper?

SHIMON:  No, no, friends told us.

YOSEF:  Don’t lie. Nobody would send—

SHIMON:  But true. Many, many—your friends. Ours.

YOSEF:  Not possible. We don’t know anyone around here.

NATAN:  Gave glorious message. “Don’t be scared. I’ve got good news. Today in Bethlehem—“

MIRYAM:  “Don’t be afraid.” Joe, maybe they’re talking about angels.

SHIMON:  Yup. Angels! Tell ‘em, Grandpa.

MIRYAM:  Angels! You saw angels?!!

NATAN:  Yes, ma’am.

YOSEF:  What’d they say?

NATAN:  At first there was only one. He said, “Don’t be scared. See! I’ve got good news—great joy for you. Joy for everybody--

SHIMON:  --today, a baby—born for you in Bethlehem. He’ll save you. He’s the Anointed One—"

MIRYAM:  Oh! Ooh! That’s wonderful. Oh, I’m sorry. I mean, I wasn’t trying to--  (MIRYAM shoves Yeshua into NATAN’s arms.)

(NATAN is astonished and nearly falls.)

YOSEF:  Careful.

NATAN:  Sorry! Well, ma’am, not mean to scare you.  (NATAN stares at the baby and plays with him gently.)

MIRYAM:  Oh, but you did scare me. I thought you were thieves, trying to steal my son.

SHIMON:  No, ma’am. Just shepherds.

YOSEF:  What else did the angel say? 

NATAN:  Strange. Angel told us, “Go to David’s town. A sign—baby wrapped in rags—baby in a feed trough.”  (NATAN returns Yeshua to MIRYAM.)

MIRYAM:  And so?

SHIMON:  We talked. My pa, Eli (Ah-LEE) took the sheep. We came here.

MIRYAM:  Well, soon as he can come, you send your pa too.

SHIMON:  Thanks, ma’am. We will.  (Beat)  Ma’am—

MIRYAM:  Hey, I’m no older than you. Call me Miryam.

SHIMON:  Alright. You had baby here?

MIRYAM:  Umm-hum.

SHIMON:  Terrible. Why not the Inn? Meshech wouldn’t rent to you?

YOSEF:  He wanted to, but all the stalls were filled—with donkey drivers and men here for the census. Also—

MIRYAM:  I wouldn’t stay in that place. It’d be like having a baby in the town square.

SHIMON:  Ox shed’s down the hill..

YOSEF:  We know. Meshech told us—

MIRYAM:  My water broke at the Inn, and the pain became strong here. I couldn’t go any farther.

SHIMON:  But weren’t –

MIRYAM:  We were fine. I wouldn't have picked this place for birthing, but—  (To the SHEPHERDS:)  You know, it’s funny, but you wouldn’t have found Yeshua if you—  (To YOSEF:)  woke up when I shook you.

YOSEF:  So?—

MIRYAM:  So after feeding Yeshua, I was exhausted. I was afraid I'd roll over and squash him in my sleep.  (To YOSEF:)  I shook you. I wanted you to take the baby. You grunted and rolled over—

NATAN:  Husbands often choose not to wake.

MIRYAM:  —so, I got on my knees, wrapped him in these rags, and put him in the hay. I was so tired. I thought I was going to pass out.  (To the SHEPHERDS:)  That’s why Yeshua was in the hay when you came.

SHIMON:  Like angel said—

NATAN:  The Almighty knew.  (Beat)  Now, how’ll we tell others?

SHIMON:  Who’d listen?

NATAN:  Dunno. Nobody pays us attention.

YOSEF:  Let the Most High worry about that. He knows what he’s doing.

MIRYAM:  You’re excited about the birth. And so am I. But I also worry.

SHIMON:  Why worry? Angels say your Son's the Anointed One. To rescue us.

MIRYAM:  Gabriel told me that Yeshua will get the throne of his father, David. There'll be no end to his kingdom.

YOSEF:  Herod won’t like this.

NATAN:  I s’pose Rome won’t either.

YOSEF:  Yes. Yeshua is just a baby. He has no position. No power. But he’s supposed to become King of Israel and throw out the Romans?

NATAN:  He’s our hope.

MIRYAM:  Many will see Yeshua as dangerous. Will they try to kill him?

YOSEF:  We can’t protect him.

MIRYAM:  His Father has to protect him.

SHIMON:  But you’re the father.

YOSEF:  No, the Almighty is his father.

SHIMON:  Really?

MIRYAM:  Yes, really.

SHIMON:  . . . You’re kidding.

MIRYAM:  No. His father is the Holy One.

SHIMON:  (SHIMON doesn’t know whether to believe her.)  Hummm.

NATAN:  No worries now. When people rise up, powers will tremble.

SHIMON:  Meantime, we pray.

MIRYAM:  Thanks. And now. Please. No more talking. I’m exhausted.  (MIRYAM pulls a feed sack to her and slides into sleep as she holds Yeshua.)

NATAN:  Right, m’am. We’re too excited. Unkind to you.

SHIMON:  Sorry.

NATAN:  Thank you, Miryam, thank you.

YOSEF:  (To the SHEPHERDS:)  May Adonai (A-doe-NAI) bless you on your way.  (YOSEF also lies down to sleep.)

(The SHEPHERDS start to exit.) 

MESHECH:  (He entera and shouts:)  Hey, Natan. Come here, thief.

(NATAN and SHIMON stop.)

NATAN:  Not thief, sir. Honest shepherd.

MESHECH:  Hah. There are no honest shepherds.

SHIMON:  No, sir. We honest.

MESHECH:  Then why do I lose something every time you two come to town?

NATAN:  Check your slaves.

MESHECH:  Nonsense. What’d you steal this time?

NATAN:  Nothing, sir. We came to see baby.


NATAN:  New baby—over there.

MESHECH:  Oh, the Galileans.  (MESHECH says it like, “Poor white trash." To the SHEPHERDS:)  You came to see the baby? Sure you did. Like always, you came to steal.

NATAN:  We steal nothing.

MESHECH:  Then why were you lurking around town at night?

SHIMON:  Messengers send us.

MESHECH:  Messengers? What messengers? I didn’t send any messengers. 

(The SHEPHERDS shrug. They know there’s no point in trying to explain anything to MESHECH.)

MIRYAM:  Can you please talk somewhere else? I’m trying to sleep. . . Angels told them about my baby.

MESHECH:  Angels!!!?? . . . Angels came to shepherds??!!! (MESHECH shakes with laughter.)  To goats maybe. Never to shepherds.

(During MESHECH's mirth, NATAN and SHIMON stand mute—angry, embarrassed, confused, and hurt.)

SHIMON:  (SHIMON steps upstage.)  Sir, can we come over here? The Mother’s tired. Let's not disturb her.

(MESHECH strides to SHIMON because MESHECH is riled, not because he’s considerate.)

MESHECH:  Think you’re clever, huh? Using “angels” as an excuse to lurk and steal.

SHIMON:  Angels told us about Yeshua, the Anointed One.

MESHECH:  Then, where are the others?

SHIMON:  Other angels?

MESHECH:  No, fool, other people.

SHIMON:  What—?

MESHECH:  Who else saw angels? If the sky was full of angels, this town would be buzzing.

YOSEF:  (He gets up.)  Nine months ago, the angel Gabriel appeared to my fiancée, and—

MESHECH:  You’re not married?

YOSEF:  Not completely . . . we’ll have the wedding when we return to Nazareth.

MESHECH:  I’ve heard that line before.

YOSEF:  The angel, Gabriel, appeared to Miryam. Another angel appeared to me. Each said the child would be the promised Anointed One.

MESHECH:  You’ve coordinated your stories. That’ll fool some people.

YOSEF:  But, you have to believe –

MESHECH:  No. No. NoNoNo. I’ll tell you what’s impossible to believe—that the baby behind my Inn will free us from Rome.

NATAN:  Why not? King David was a shepherd.

YOSEF:  And the Maccabees were Levites from a small town.

MESHECH:  No. NoNo. This makes no sense. The Most High would not send the Anointed One to a Galilean girl. He would not tell shepherds. And the Anointed would not be born behind my Inn. You’re all running a scam.  (MESHECH shouts.)  Pasach.  (PA-sak)  (MESHECH grabs NATAN's throat.)  Return what you stole, Natan, and you’ll only get a beating.

(NATAN chokes, drops his shepherd’s staff and tries to pry MESHECH's hands away.  SHIMON grabs the staff  to attack MESHECH.)

PASACH:  (He enters running.)  Here, sir. Where’s the baby?

MESHECH:  (MESHECH loosens his grip and looks at PASACH.)  The baby?

PASACH:  Yes. Yeshua—the Anointed One.

MESHECH:  The Anointed One? How do you know—?

PASACH:  I heard through the window.  (PASACH kneels by Yeshua.)  Hello, King Yeshua.

(Both MESHECH and NATAN stare in surprise at PASACH. MESHECH relaxes his grip.)

PASACH:  Yeshua, you're wonderful. You’re going to deliver us from Rome. King Yeshua, I'm ready to follow you.

MIRYAM:  You are the first to kneel. Thank you.

MESHECH:  You dolt, I’ll teach you to run off.  (MESHECH grabs PASACH to pull him to his feet, but suddenly gets an idea.)  Heeyyyy. If you'll believe this silly story on the say-so of two illiterate shepherds, then maybe ... maybe we’ve got something here.

YOSEF:  I assure you, sir, the shepherds are speaking the truth.

(PASACH stands.)

MESHECH:  Makes no difference. What matters is that people will believe the four of you. Everyone in Bethlehem knows Micah’s prophecy: "But you, Bethlehem Eph-ra-thah,' though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel.”

NATAN:  Yes, that’s—

MESHECH:  Think of the possibilities—  (To NATAN and SHIMON:)  What did the angels sing?

SHIMON:  They didn't sing. They spoke. Was beauti—

MESHECH:  That proves you're lying. Any fool knows that angels sing.

NATAN:  Nossir. Spoke—

MESHECH:  Doesn't matter. We'll get some sweet songs about angels singing at Bethlehem.  (To PASACH:)  Git.  

(PASACH exits.)

MESHECH:  (To YOSEF:)  People crave the Anointed One. They want him. They’re waiting. They’re ready. This baby’ll do as well as any other.

YOSEF:  David was his ancestor, both through my family and his mother’s.

MESHECH:  Even better. Tourists flooding Bethlehem—I'll be rich. I’ll put a brass plaque where the Anointed One was born. I’ll add a wing to the Inn, this time with rooms. I’ll build a horse stable—

YOSEF:  But, I don’t think that—

MESHECH:  --And souvenirs. They’ll want souvenirs to show they’ve been to Bethlehem—birthplace of the Anointed One. I’ll build a shop across the street. I can hire the whole town to make fake jewelry and candles and cheap junk—

YOSEF:  But—

MESHECH:  —Do you know that King Herod knows me by name? When it’s time to cut the ribbon for the new wing, I’ll invite him to the ded—  (Beat)  Oh no, King Herod.  (MESHECH doubles over and lurches offstage.)

NATAN:  (To YOSEF:)  What bothers him?

YOSEF:  Apparently, he remembered that the King is crazy.

SHIMON:  He is?

YOSEF:  Yes. Herod executed his Maccabee wife and sons—because he thought they were stealing the throne.

NATAN:  And?

YOSEF:  Meshech just realized he’s a dead man. Herod will think he's a conspirator.

NATAN:  But what if—

YOSEF:  When Mescech reacted, I realized—Yeshua committed treason by being born.

NATAN:  And penalty for treason—death.

YOSEF:  This town is dangerous—too near Jerusalem. We’ll make a quick trip to the Temple for Yeshua’s circumcision and dedication. Then we’ll leave. Just as soon as Miryam can travel safely.  (Beat)  Natan, I need to feed my donkeys, but I still have questions about your angels. Would you join me?

NATAN:  ‘Course.  (To SHIMON:)  Shimon, stay here. Watch over Miryam.

(YOSEF and NATAN exit.)

(SHIMON sits against the wall of the Inn and dozes. He does not see or hear the following events.)

(MESCHECH enters with a scroll and hands it to RUEL, who is in the wings.)

MESHECH:  And, Ruel, make sure King Herod himself gets this scroll. Tell the King that the scroll warns of a threat to his life and his kingdom. Got that? . . . Good.

(MESHECH has the satisfied look of a man who has just done a thoroughly good thing—protected himself. He has sacrificed the lives of YESHUA, YOSEF, and MIRYAM, but he is at ease. Causing the execution of a family doesn’t bother MESHECH.)

(He is about to leave, but then he stops. He thinks about the Galileeans. He doesn’t want them near the inn when Herod’s soldiers arrive.)

MESHECH:  Missy . . . Missy, are you awake?

MIRYAM:  Please go away. I need sleep.

MESHECH:  We need to talk. It’ll only take a moment. Are you awake?

MIRYAM:  (Big yawn)  Oooooh, I am now.  (MIRYAM drags herself to a half-sitting position.)

MESHECH:  It was terrible that you had to be out here for the birthing. If I'd realized that your son—

MIRYAM:  What?

MESHECH:  Well, now we know, we can make changes. I have a house on the edge of town. You can have it rent free.

MIRYAM:  You’re being nice. Why?

MESHECH:  Why shouldn’t I be generous to the Anointed One and his mother?

MIRYAM:  Why? Til now, you’ve only been rude. And, you don’t believe –

MESHECH:  Makes no difference. Your husband . . . your man . . . is a carpenter?

MIRYAM:  Uh-huh.

MESHECH:  Well, I’m sure he can make that house shine with a couple of days work. You can move there just as soon as you’re ready.

MIRYAM:  Please talk to Yosef about the house—not me.

MESHECH:  It’s not far, and I’ll have my men carry the baby and you—just like a princess.

MIRYAM:  Ohhhh. That’s silly.

MESHECH:  Generosity, ma’m. Your son is changing things here in Bethlehem.  (MESHECH helps MIRYAM get comfortable.)

MIRYAM:  No, really. Why do you want to give us a house?

MESHECH:  Wy, because you deserve it as mother of the Anointed One.

MIRYAM:  I heard you talk. You don’t believe my son is the Anointed.

MESHECH:  I already told you, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that others believe it. You should have a nice home. You can keep your baby warm—and receive visitors.

MIRYAM:  What visitors? We don’t know anyone—

MESHECH:  Don’t worry. The word is already getting around.  (Beat)  Also, I’ll send my slave, Heph-ZI-bah. She nurses my baby son, Moshe. (Mo-SHAY)  She can spend afternoons with you. She can take care of both babies, and that way, you can get some rest.

MIRYAM:  Wy, thank you. That’s kind, but—

MESHECH:  You’re welcome. And it’s not really safe for you to be here—behind the Inn. You need a house.

(SHIMON wakes and wanders offstage.)

MIRYAM:  (Beat)  You know, you don’t have to be afraid.

MESHECH:  Who’s afraid?

MIRYAM:  Aren’t you?

MESHECH:  No. NoNoNoNo. No.

MIRYAM:  I can understand why. Yeshua, my son, is scary. He’s just a baby boy, but he is also the promised Anointed One.

MESHECH:  That’s scary for you?

MIRYAM:  Of course. Every mother wants her son to grow up healthy and happy. But what does it mean to be the Anointed One? It’ll be dangerous.

MESHECH:  No doubt.

MIRYAM:  Y'all think Yeshua will liberate us from Rome. The Almighty may have other plans.

MESHECH:  What could be greater than our liberation from Rome?

MIRYAM:  Liberation from ourselves.

MESHECH:  Meaning?

MIRYAM:  (Beat)  Do you feel empty inside?

MESHECH:  Why should I feel empty? I have a fine baby son. And I’m the first man in Bethlehem. I own eighteen properties.

MIRYAM:  And your wife?

MESHECH:  She’s dead. . . Died when Moshe was born. . . Bled to death in my arms.

MIRYAM:  Oh, I’m so sorry. You poor man. Has the loneliness eased?

MESHECH:  Not much. Pain knifes me every day.  (Beat)  How’d you know I feel empty?

MIRYAM:  I dunno. I just knew.

MESHECH:  So what can you do about it?

MIRYAM:  Nothin. But, maybe my son can.

MESHECH:  Ridiculous.

MIRYAM:  Yes, it is ridiculous. But, try it. Try trusting that my son, Yeshua, is really the Anointed One.

MESHECH:  . . . I don’t know how to do that.

MIRYAM:  Mmmmmm. Maybe it'll help if I tell you my story.

MESHECH:  First tell me about Yosef. He tells me he’s not your husband.

MIRYAM:  He’s my betrothed husband. We’ll have our wedding when we return to Nazareth.

MESHECH:  But he’s the baby’s father.

MIRYAM:  He’s taking the responsibilities of the father.

MESHECH:  I mean, he is the father.



MIRYAM:  The Most High.

MESHECH :  Of course, He’s the Father of us all.

MIRYAM:  No, the Most High is Yeshua's blood father

MESHECH:  Nonsense.

MIRYAM:  I know. Nobody was more surprised than me—

MESHECH:  How . . . ?

MIRYAM:  Nine months ago, the angel Gabriel showed up while I was carding wool in Nazareth. I wasn’t praying at the time—just working. This huge, bright creature suddenly appeared. I stared and trembled, but he said, “Rejoice, favored woman. Elohim is with you. You are blessed among all women!”


MIRYAM:  I was scared and confused. The angel said, “Don’t be frightened, Miryam. The Almighty is blessing you.”


MIRYAM:  That was the amazing part. Gabriel said, “You will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a son. You shall call him ‘Yeshua’.”

MESHECH:  Yeshua The same name as Joshua. Y’ho-SHU-a. It means “Jah saves.”

MIRYAM:  Really?


MIRYAM:  Hmmm. . .Gabriel told more: “He will be great. He will be called the son of the Most High. Adonai will give him the throne of his father, David.”

MESHECH:  See, this baby is supposed to become king by freeing us from Rome.

MIRYAM:  Gabriel told me about a different Kingdom. He said that Yeshua would reign over the house of David forever. His Kingdom will never end.

MESHECH:  What does that mean?

MIRYAM:  Dunno. But that’s what Gabriel said.

MESHECH:  Didn’t you ask—

MIRYAM:  Of course. I had lots of questions. I said, “But how can I have a baby? I'm a virgin.”

MESHECH:  My question. And the angel—

MIRYAM:  Then it got weird. Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will overcome you. The power of the Most High will overshadow you. The baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the son of the Almighty.”

MESHECH:  Weird indeed. You think this baby is literally son of the Almighty? That Adonai is the Father?

MIRYAM:  Yes, I do. I not only think it, I know it.

(As MIRYAM and MESHECH converse, Heph-ZI-bah enters from the Inn. She carries MOSHE. Slowly, she walks to MESHECH and waits patiently.)

MESHECH:  Alright, I’ll play your game. Why would Adonai pick you?

MIRYAM:  I don’t know. I didn’t ask for it.

MESHECH:  Uh-huh. Why didn’t he pick my son?


MESHECH:  (To HEPHZIBAH:)  Not now.  (MESHECH does not look at HEPHZIBAH, who waits. MESHECH speaks to MIRYAM:)  Did you ever tell El Shaddai that you were willing to do anything he wanted you to do, go anywhere he wanted you to go?

MIRYAM:  Oh, yes, I’ve done that.

MESHECH:  Well, looks like maybe He answered you.

MIRYAM:  Why are we so surprised when our prayers are answered?


MESHECH:  I said, “Not now.”

MIRYAM:  Is this your son?

MESHECH:  (MESHECH turns and for the first time looks at HEPHZIBAH.)  Yes.

HEPHZIBAH:  Sir, your son has his first tooth.

MIRYAM:  How wonderful.

(HEPHZIBAH steps forward to show Moshe to MIRYAM, but she trips. MESHECH catches both HEPHZIBAH and Moshe.)

MESHECH:  Clumsy.

MIRYAM:  May I hold him?

HEPHZIBAH:  Oh, yes ma’am. May I hold the Anointed One?

MIRYAM:  Yes, here.

(MIRYAM and HEPHZIBAH exchange babies.)

HEPHZIBAH:  What a beautiful baby boy.

MESHECH:  How’d you know about this Anointed?

HEPHZIBAH:  Pasach told me.

MESHECH:  And you believed him?

HEPHZIBAH:  Why not, sir?

(SHIMON enters and sits. He ignores MIRYAM and MESHECH. SHIMON takes his knife from under his poncho and whittles. Still weary, he dozes off.)

(HEPHZIBAH's reply stumps MESHECH so he doesn't answer her, but speaks to MIRYAM.)

MESHECH:  Where were we? Oh yes. This angel told you about Yeshua, and then he disappeared?

MIRYAM:  Oh no, there’s more. Gabriel said that my cousin, Elizabeth, had become pregnant in her old age. He said, “Neighbors called her barren, but she is already in her sixth month. Nothing is impossible with the Almighty.”

MESHECH:  Why did he tell you about your cousin?

MIRYAM:  To convince me, I suppose. When Gabriel spoke, I had doubts, but they left. I told the angel, “I’m the Lord’s servant. I’ll accept whatever He wants. May everything you say come true.” Then he vanished.

MESHECH:  And your cousin, Elizabeth—

MIRYAM:  I saw her two weeks later. She and her husband Zechariah at Ai. (AH-ee)

MESHECH:  John’s parents?

MIRYAM:  Wy yes. Did you—

MESHECH:  (MESHECH speaks rapidly, with great excitement.)  Zach and Liz! I’ve known them all my life. Ai is two hours away. Zach couldn’t speak for nine months. Gabriel told you about them?


MESHECH:  So Yeshua and John are cousins?


MESHECH:  Of course.  (He snaps his finger.)  I knew I’d seen you before. You were that mouse in the corner at Elizabeth’s.

MIRYAM:  Yes. I saw you, but didn’t think you noticed me.

(SHIMON stands, stretches liesurely, and yawns.)

MESHECH:  (Excitedly)  All of us here know about John’s birth. So you and the shepherds have been telling the truth all along –

MIRYAM:  Of course—

MESHECH:  Yeshua really is the Anointed One!

MIRYAM:  Yes, it’s what we’ve been telling—

MESHECH:  I thought you rehearsed your story—and were conning me.

MIRYAM:  No, we never saw these shepherds before.

MESHECH:  I couldn’t believe it.  (Beat)  Oh. Oh. Oh. I’ve killed the Anointed One! I sent Ruel to the King. I’ve killed the hope of Israel.

(MESHECH exits, running.)   

(SHIMON hears MESHECH’s rantings, but misunderstands them. He sheathes his knife and runs to MIRYAM.)  

SHIMON:  Miryam, you alright?

MIRYAM:  Yes. But I’m tired. It’s Meshech who has the problem. He just yelled something about killing the Anointed One.

SHIMON:  Baby Yeshua?

MIRYAM:  Yes. Please get me some water.

SHIMON:  Yes ma’am. Right away.

(SHIMON exits swiftly, stage right.)

(MIRYAM and HEPHZIBAH exchange babies.)

HEPHZIBAH:  Thank you, ma’am, for letting me hold Yeshua.

MIRYAM:  You’re welcome. Thank you for letting me see Moshe.  (Beat)  But why do you call me, "ma’am?"

HEPHZIBAH:  The mother of our Anointed One must be a great lady.

MIRYAM:  Oh, no. I’m just a girl from Nazareth.

(HEPHZIBAH exits with Moshe.)

MIRYAM:  What does she know, Yeshua? Yes, you’re the Anointed One, but how does that make me different? Yes, I’m your mother, but I’m also still plain ol’ Miryam from Nazareth. An orphan. An outcast, until I was engaged to Joseph. And now, I'm pregnant and unmarried, so I'm still an outcast.

(MESHECH and PASACH enter upstage. MIRYAM listens to them.)

MESHECH:  (To PASACH:)  Catch Ruel. I gave him a scroll for King Herod. Bring Ruel and the scroll back here.

PASACH:  Yessir.

MESHECH:  Right. Now go. Run. All the way to Jerusalem.

(SHIMON enters with a gourd of water for MIRYAM. He sees and hears MESHECH telling PASACH to run.)

(PASACH exits at a lope, stage left.)

MESHECH:  (Shouting)  Run as if our lives depended on it—  (To himself:)  because they do.

SHIMON:  (To MIRYAM, as he shoves the gord into her hand.:)  Here’s water.  (SHIMON is now in a panic and yells offstage.)  Grandpa!

(YOSEF and NATAN hurry onstage.)

SHIMON:  (SHIMON whispers, so he won’t trouble MIRYAM.)  Meshech tries to kill Yeshua.

YOSEF:  How do you know?

SHIMON:  I saw Meshech send Pasach to Jerusalem—

YOSEF:  —to tell King Herod?


NATAN:  Come on!  (NATAN starts towards Jerusalem, stage left.)

YOSEF:  No. Let’s get the donkeys.

(YOSEF and NATAN exit quickly, stage right.)

SHIMON:  I get Pasach.

(SHIMON pulls the knife from his poncho and runs across the stage past MIRYAM. She reaches out her leg and trips him. He sprawls full length on the ground. The knife skids out of his hand.)

MIRYAM:  Where’re you going?

SHIMON:  To get Pasach. Kill him. Then Meshech.

(SHIMON scrambles to his knees and gets ready to start running again.)

MIRYAM:  Stop.                                    

(SHIMON is ready to lunge forward.)

MIRYAM:  Stop. Come here and sit down. . . .Listen. 

SHIMON:  You didn’t see—

(SHIMON picks up his knife and sheathes it as he flops down beside MIRYAM.)

MIRYAM:  Oh, but I did see. You think the innkeeper wants to kill my baby.

SHIMON:  Saw it. He sent Pasach to King Herod.

MIRYAM:  No. Meshech is with us.

SHIMON:  But I saw it –

MIRYAM:  You saw Meshech send the second messenger to stop Ruel, the first messenger--


MIRYAM:  And you wanted to play the Almighty and make everything right.

SHIMON:  Yes, you see—

MIRYAM:  No need. Your Grandfather is right. The Most High looks after His Son.

SHIMON:  Can’t trust Meshech.

MIRYAM:  True. Very true. Or, it was.


MIRYAM:  Yes, now we’ll see if he changes.

SHIMON:  I know Meshech. He never change.

MIRYAM:  We’ll . . . see.

(MIRYAM does not say it smugly. Rather. We hear the delight and expectation in her voice.)











Behind the Inn.


Morning, a month later. A sunny, chilly winter day.



Nakes’ Role

Nakes’ job has no American counterpart today—except perhaps an Army officer guiding Congressmen through a war zone. Nakes managed the expedition for the Magi from Persia to Judea and back. Each way, it was a 1,400-mile trip with bandits all along the route. Thus, Nakes is a guide, a trail boss, head camel driver, expedition manager, and captain of a thirty-two-man military unit.

Additional Props

Leather money bags for Meshech and Nakes. A long bench, stage right,.

Scripture:  Matthew 2:1-15.

From The New King James Version.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are not the least among the rulers of Judah. For out of you shall come a Ruler
 Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

At Rise

YOSEF and MIRYAM sit on a long bench against the back wall of the Inn. MIRYAM holds Yeshua. MESHECH strides in and shouts.





MESHECH:  Pasach. Pasach. . . .Where is that fool?

(PASACH enters.)

PASACH:  Here sir.

MESHECH:  Go up in the hills. Find Eli or Natan. I wanna buy their whole flock.  (Beat. To himself:)  Thirty-seven Persians! It's like being invaded by locusts.  (Beat)  Git!

(PASACH exits, stage right.)

(MESHECH turns and sees MIRYAM and YOSEF.)

MESHECH:  So, Little Lady, what’re you doing here?

MIRYAM:  Warming ourselves in sunshine.

YOSEF:  It’s chilly.

MESHECH:  Yes, it is.

MIRYAM:  This sunny spot is good place to pray.

MESHECH:  Pray? What about?

MIRYAM:  Our baby. The Persians. Our journey. Our neighbors in Nazareth. Your problems. Among other things.

MESHECH:  My problems? That’s ridiculous. You don’t solve practical matters by prayer. It takes hard work—and good sense.

MIRYAM:  (Brightly.)  We'll see.

MESHECH:  No, you’ll see.

HEPHZIBAH:  (Enters)  Sir.

MESHECH:  What!?

HEPHZIBAH:  There’s no water.

MESHECH:  Where?

HEPHZIBAH:  Cistern.


HEPHZIBAH:  Dunno. The pipe dried up.

MESHECH:  I don’t want problems. I want solutions. Send Ruel to fix it.

HEPHZIBAH:  Right away, sir.

(HEPHZIBAH exits.)

(PASACH runs in, winded, from stage right.)

PASACH:  Sir, I couldn't spot either Natan or his flocks. I went to the second row of hills.

MESHECH:  Go back. I’ve got to have those sheep.

HEPHZIBAH:  (She rushes in.)  Sir, the shed’s on fire. 

(PASACH starts to leave.)

MESHECH:  And we’ve got no water!  (MESHECH loses control.) Oh, Adonai, why me? Why does it all happen to me? Why? Why?  (Beat)  Pasach! Stay here.

HEPHZIBAH:  (She returns.)  Sir, we have water!

MESHECH:  How? Where?

HEPHZIBAH:  It’s running in the cistern.

MESCHECH:  Both of you, get that fire out.

PASACH:  Right.


MESHECH:  (MESHECH shouts after them.)  Make a line. Pass buckets.  (Beat)  Why am I surrounded by idiots?  (MESHECH turns to MIRYAM and YOSEF.)  See, Little Lady, that’s what it takes—practical efficiency.  

(MIRYAM AND YOSEF don’t reply, but look at each other and smile.)

MESHECH:  It takes thought and hard work to get results. I didn’t build my little empire with prayer. It took time and effort.

YOSEF:  Ya know, Meshech, you don’t have to work so hard.

MESHECH:  Why not?

YOSEF:  Our Father wants us to turn our troubles over to Him so He can deal with them.

MESHECH:  That’s impractical.

MIRYAM:  No, very practical. My Son is already teaching me that.

MESHECH:  All babies teach their parents.

MIRYAM:  True.

MESHECH:  When you’re grown up, you’ll learn to work hard.

MIRYAM:  Is your work harder than giving birth?

MESHECH:  Humm. Good answer.

YOSEF:  Meshech, why don’t you try praying as if everything depends on the Almighty, and then, you can work as if everything depends on you. Much easier.

MESHECH:   You won’t get much done that way.

MIRYAM:  As I said, we’ll wait and see.

(PASACH AND HEPHZIBAH enter with smudges on their faces and arms.)

PASACH:  Well, sir, the fire’s out.


PASACH:  But, we’ve got wet hay. Ruined, I guess.

MESHECH:  Did you save the shed?

PASACH:  Most of it.

MESHECH:  How was the water fixed?

HEPHZIBAH:  When Ruel was going up hill to the spring. he saw one of the pipes out of place.


HEPHZIBAH:  He put the pipe back. We have water.

MESHECH:  Simple as that?

HEPHIBAH:  Simple as that.

MESHECH:  Hey, all my problems are solved. All except food. We need sheep—for that mob of hungry Persians. Now, go find Eli and tell—

(NATAN enters.)

MESHECH:  (He turns and sees NATAN.)  Hey. . . Thief.

(NATAN scowls and gives MESHECH a quick nod. NATAN turns and starts to leave.)

(PASACH goes to the bench and sits.)

MESHECH:  Natan, I want to buy your sheep—the whole flock.

NATAN:  All?

MESHECH:  Yes, all.

NATAN:  Except ram and ten ewes for us. Meschech, we only accept fair price.

MESHECH:  Alright, Natan. Come in for some wine, and we’ll agree on a price.

NATAN:  Thank you.  (For the first time, NATAN pulls himself erect.)

MIRYAM:  Meshech, again I ask: Why are we so surprised when our prayers are answered?

MESHECH:  What’s that, Little Lady?

MIRYAM:  Your problems are solved. And who solved them?

MESHECH:  Why, I did.

MIRYAM:  Oh? Did you bring the water? Did you bring Natan to town?

MESHECH:  Well, no, but . . .

MIRYAM:  (MIRYAM says nothing.)

MESHECH:  You mean . . .You think . . .

MIRYAM:  Yes, the Almighty blesses you abundantly, and—

MESHECH:  I don’t have the sense to realize it. Is that what you were going to say?

MIRYAM:  You said it better.

MESHECH:  When I’m crazy busy, details tie me up.

YOSEF:  Try sitting quietly against a sunny wall with the Most High. It’s a good place to get untied.

MESHECH:  So you two organized my day?

YOSEF:  No, the Most High did. Through prayer, you can do the same.

MESHECH:  Oh, sure.  (MESHECH exits, upstage center with NATAN.)

MIRYAM:  (Quietly, to herself:)  Thank You, Adonai.  

PASACH:  (To MIRYAM:)  The Almighty must think highly of you.

MIRYAM:  I doubt it.

PASACH:  He answers your prayers. Does miracles for you.

MIRYAM:  He’ll do that for anyone who serves Him.

PASACH:  Not for me.

MIRYAM:  Why not?

PASACH:  I’m a slave.

MIRYAM:  We’re all slaves.



PASACH:  How can you say that?

MIRYAM:  You can be the slave of your cravings or the slave of the Almighty. Apparently, that’s the only choice we get.

PASACH:  Easy for you to talk. You’re not Meshech’s slave.

YOSEF:  As a slave of the Almighty, you’d be liberated.

PASACH:  From slavery?

MIRYAM:  Yes, I think so. What if Meshech’s orders were your wishes?

PASACH:  That’s self-deception. Meshech preaches the same lie.

MIRYAM:  Have you tried it?

PASACH:  No, I won’t give in to oppression. Why should I? Meshech and the Romans both brutalize me. A year ago, I passed two Roman soldiers on the road. Stupidly, I looked at them and grinned. The legionnaire rammed the butt of his spear in my belly. He almost killed me. I couldn't get out of bed for a month. Until we get rid of the Romans, Judah will be a manure pit.

YOSEF:  I agree.

PASACH:  And Meshech is no better. Last month, he whipped me—ten lashes—because I tripped and broke a jug of milk. And, I couldn't help it. I was carrying the jug and couldn't see the root in the path.

YOSEF:  I suppose you've considered running away?

PASACH:  Every day.

YOSEF:  We've been talking about your liberation by becoming a slave of the Most High.

MIRYAM:  Which leads to freedom.

PASACH:  From slavery?

MIRYAM:  From ourselves.

PASACH:  Talk to me about freedom from real slavery. Maybe then I’ll listen.

YOSEF:  Real slavery isn’t –

PASACH:  Look, if you’d been slaves, maybe then I could hear you. You don’t know what oppression is.

(The dialogue for the rest of the scene between MIRYAM and PASACH goes very fast.)

MIRYAM:  (She explodes.)  And you don’t know what I’ve been through these last two months. A beating a day would have been better.

PASACH:  Uph, sorry. I didn’t realize –

MIRYAM:  You think you’re the only one who has it bad?!

PASACH:  Well, no--

MIRYAM:  How’d you like it if no one would speak to you? Everyone walked away when you appeared? No one would help you if you fell? They stopped you from going to Synagogue? And you knew they really wanted to stone you.

PASACH:  Happen to you?

MIRYAM:  Every day.

PASACH:  Where?

MIRYAM:  Nazareth.

PASACH:  But why? You’re a good per –

MIRYAM:  Cause I was the town . . . I was –

YOSEF:  Cause they thought she was a fallen woman.

PASACH:  Oh, pregnancy.

YOSEF:  She tried to tell them the Almighty was the father—

MIRYAM:  No one believed me—

YOSEF:  Including me. I was angry. Humiliated—

MIRYAM:  We were engaged in April. I was away for five months—seeing my cousin, Elizabeth in Ai.

YOSEF:  And when she returned—

MIRYAM:  I was “great with child." My belly was out to here.

YOSEF:  Every one assumed—adultery in Ai. The local rumor was that she was raped by a Roman.

MIRYAM:  I tried to explain—

YOSEF:  Every day, neighbors told me to accuse her and have her stoned.

MIRYAM:  That’s the Law.

PASACH:  Hard for you. But, you weren’t stoned . . .

MIRYAM:  No. Kindness saved me. First, my dear Yosef decided he would not accuse me. He was going to divorce me quietly.

YOSEF:  Then an angel spoke to me in a dream. The Most High had to send an angel before I could believe her. (To MIRYAM:)  I still can’t forgive myself for—


PASACH:  (To MIRYAM:)  Alright, you’ve made your point. There’s worse things than slavery, but you’re still angry. Doesn’t sound like you’re liberated.

MIRYAM:  True. But being away from Nazareth helps. Now I can forgive and forget.

(MESHECH and NATAN enter, upstage center.)

MESHECH:  (MESHECH claps NATAN on the back.)  Well, Natan, you’ve made a good bargain—114 sheep. Have them here before sundown.

NATAN:  We will—if flock is still near.

(Natan exits, stage right.)

MESHECH:  (MESHECH shouts after him.)  Get them here before sundown and you’ll get the whole price.  (To himself:)  What a deal. With the Persians, I can triple my money.  (MESHECH tells PASACH:)  Hey Pashach, these people are entitled to loaf. You’re not. Bring six buckets of water to the kitchen.

PASACH:  Right away, sir.  (PASACH runs off, stage center.)

MESHECH:  Amazing. I’ve never seen him run fast before.  (To MIRYAM:)  You gonna sit here all day?

YOSEF:  No. We need to eat.

MESHECH:  But first, Yosef, we need to talk.  (MESHECH squats down by YOSEF.)  You’ve done excellent work on the house.

YOSEF:  Thank you.

MESHECH:  But now I have a problem.


MESHECH:  The house is now rentable. If you weren’t here, I could rent it for a good amount, and—

MIRYAM:  But you gave us the house rent-free in return for Yosef’s work.

MESHECH:  True. Yosef, you made that dump shine. I appreciate it, But now—

YOSEF:  —you want to charge us rent.

MESHECH:  Yes. Yes, I must.

YOSEF:  You’re going back on your word.

MESHECH:  But I can’t give you the house rent-free forever—

YOSEF:  You won’t. We’ll leave as soon as it’s safe for my wife to travel.

MESHECH:  I can’t wait that—

MIRYAM:  Oh, this is unfair.

MESHECH:  Well, consider this—

(PASACH enters, upstage center.)

PASACH:  Sir, visitors from Jerusalem. The Temple tax—

MESHECH:  Those leaches! At least I can haggle with Zacchaeus.  (To YOSEF:)  I’ll get back to you about the house.  (MESHECH exits stage center.)

(YOSEF and MIRYAM rise and prepare to leave, conversing quietly.)

(PASACH enters. He lies on the bench for a nap.)

(HEPHZIBAH peeks in from stage right. She tiptoes in and waits til MIRYAM and YOSEF leave. She keeps her hands cupped because she carries several coins.)

MIRYAM:  I feel sorry for Meshech.

YOSEF:  So do I. He has the regular landlord disease.

MIRYAM:  Greed?

YOSEF:  And overwork.

MIRYAM:  Now he wants rent—in spite of trusting that Yeshua is the Anointed One.

YOSEF:  Trusting in Yeshua doesn’t make him an angel—  (YOSEF snaps his finger.)  —like that.


HEPHZIBAH:  Psst. Psst. Pasach.  (HEPHZIBAH goes to him and pokes him in the ribs.)  Pasach!

PASACH:  (PASACH yells in pain and surprise.)  Aaagh! Why'd you do that?

HEPHZIBAH:  Because I have something to show you.

PASACH:  I need a nap.

HEPHZIBAH:  Look at this.  (HEPHZIBAH slowly opens her hands.)

PASACH:  Wow. Are the coins real?

HEPHZIBAH:  Yes. Miryam gave them to me.

PASACH:  Where’d she—

HEPHZIBAH:  The Magi.  (Beat)  Do you think there’s enough to buy you out of slavery?

(PASACH takes HEPHZIBAH in his arms.)

PASACH:  I dunno. But we'll buy you out, not me.

HEPHZIBAH:  No. Get free, and get a job. Buy my freedom, and then we can get married.

PASACH:  That’s wise. It should work. I’ll ask Meshech how much he wants for my freedom.

HEPHZIBAH:  Do it today.

(HEPHZIBAH puts the coins in the pocket of her apron.)

PASACH:  I will. Don’t tell anyone. If Meshech hears about your fortune, my price will triple.

(MESHECH enters, stage center.)

(PASACH jumps up as soon as he hears MESHECH.)

MESHECH:  Alright, you two, I’ve warned you about romancing when there’s work to be done. Back to work. Hephzibah, I need—

(NAKES, a commanding presence, strides in, stage right. He, not the Magi, is MESHECH’s customer.)

NAKES:  Innkeeper!

MESHECH:  Yes, m’Lord Nakes?


NAKES:  Where are the goats?

MESHECH:  You’ve eaten them all, but I’ve just purchased a flock of 114 sheep.

NAKES:  Are they here?

MESHECH:  Still in the field. I expect them by sundown.

NAKES:  What do we eat til then?

MESHECH:  Figs . . . dates—  (MESHECH shouts:)  Pasach, get three baskets of figs and two baskets of dates. Take them to the Persians.

PASACH:  (Offstage)  Yessir.

NAKES:  Why not three and three?

MESHECH:  Three and two is all we have.

NAKES:  You’re an innkeeper. Don’t run out of—

(NATAN enters, stage right.)

MESHECH:  Natan!

NATAN:  All here, Meshech. 114 sheep.

MESHECH:  (To NAKES:)  Pardon, m’Lord. The sheep are here. (MESHECH shouts.)  Pasach. Pasach.

NATAN:   (To MESHECH:)  Sheep are in your pens. At foot of hill.

PASACH:  (He enters.)  Yessir?

MESHECH:  Go with Natan.

(NATAN exits, stage right, and MESHECH catches PASACH’s arm as he passes.)

MESHECH:  Pasach. Make sure there are 114 sheep. Cull the sick. Report back.

PASACH:  Yessir.  (He runs after NATAN and exits, stage right.)

NAKES:  As I was saying-–

MESHECH:  Yes, m’Lord.

NAKES:  You’re an innkeeper. Don’t run out of supplies.

MESHECH:  Yes, m’Lord. But thirty-seven Persians and forty-eight camels strain this village. And you arrived unannounced last night.

NAKES:  We’re a gift . . . from the Wise God.

MESHECH:  Oh, definitely.

NAKES:  Hmmmmm. The professors think well of Bethlehem.


NAKES:  Strange town.

MESHECH:  How so?

NAKES:  The Magi came to see a great prince. But they stooped to enter a mud hut. The baby—a child of peasants.

MESHECH:  A carpenter and his woman.

NAKES:  Peasants.

MESHECH:  Yes, peasants.  (Beat)  Nakes, why thirty-seven riders to carry just three gifts?

NAKES:  Protection. We needed fifty.

MESHECH:  So many for so little?

NAKES:  Thirty days’ ride. Bandits all the way.

MESHECH:  We are honored by the presence of the four wise men from Persia.

NAKES:  There should have been nine.


NAKES:  Two were sick. Three couldn’t get funding. Four came.

MESHECH:  And have blessed us.

NAKES:  They’re great scholars and teachers. Magi. Prophets. Zoroastrian priests.

MESHECH:  You honor our humble village.

NAKES:  Meshech, cut the flattery. You’re thrilled by cash. Nothing more.

MESHECH:  Well, of course, I—

NAKES:  The Magi are a nuisance. I’d rather herd six year-olds—or chickens.

MESHECH:  How can you say that?

NAKES:  Everything interests them. They make detours. They study plants, small animals, strange rocks. A waste of time—and dangerous. When they linger, bandits can attack.

MESHECH:  So, how did they know they should come to Bethlehem?

NAKES:  In Susa, they felt their power draining away. They knew a great event had happened. And, they followed the star.

MESHECH:  What star? The only star you can follow is the star that’s north. Others—

NAKES:  —swing around during the night sky. I know.

MESHECH:  And no star—

NAKES:  —is over a town. Also, it wasn’t a star. It was the cluster of planets—

MESHECH:  —the three together in the evening sky?

NAKES:  Yes.

MESHECH:  You couldn’t possibly follow them. They’re wanderers—out of sight for most of the night.

NAKES:  You’re too literal, Meshech. The planets led the Magi. They saw this new thing in the sky, while they were in the East. They believed it showed a great event here in the West. From their scrolls, they interpreted the event as the birth of a Jewish king.

MESHECH:  How'd you arrive in Bethlehem?

NAKES:  We didn’t. We arrived in Jerusalem. The Magi had an audience with King Herod, and—

MESHECH:  The King! Oh, I’m a dead man.

NAKES:  Huh?

MESHECH:  This baby king is dangerous. He's a threat to Herod's throne.

NAKES:  Of course. But why is that a threat to you?

MESHECH:  The King will think I’m a conspirator.

NAKES:  No problem. Kill the baby and send him to the King.

MESHECH:  You’re from Persia. You don't understand. I can’t kill the baby.

NAKES:  Too soft-hearted.

MESHECH:  No. Too reverent. The baby is the hope of Israel. He's going to free us from Rome.

NAKES:  Too soft-headed.

MESHECH:  Perhaps, but for death, better me than the baby.

NAKES:  Humph.  (NAKES shrugs.)  You’re too worried about yourself to hear the miracle of the star.  (NAKES starts to leave.)

MESHECH:  Miracle?

NAKES:  Yes. We left Herod’s court yesterday afternoon. It was dusk when we climbed the hill to Bethlehem. Looking up at the town, the planets were right over the hut. We knew where to look. So, we did follow the star.

MESHECH:  Amazing. So, that’s why the Magi were excited.

NAKES:  And why they kept me up most of the night with jubilation and arguments. They're a flock of chickens.

MESHECH:  But, if they weren’t scholars, they wouldn’t have understood the star.

NAKES:  Last night, they also argued about Herod. The King said he to wants worship the baby. . . The King lies.


NAKES:  The king lies. . . A Persian cannot lie.

MESHECH:  Really? I don’t think I could get through the morning without—

NAKES:  You’re right. If Yeshua is to be King of the Jews, Herod will kill him.

MESHECH:  Yes.  (Beat)  And what do you think about the baby, m’Lord Nakes?

PASACH:  (PASACH runs in from stage right.)  Sir!

MESHECH:  (To NAKES:)  Pardon, m’Lord. I must check the sheep.  (To PASACH:)  Well?

PASACH:  The count was correct. 114. But, two were sickly. I gave them back to Natan.

(NATAN enters.)

MESHECH:  (To PASACH:)  Well done. (MESHECH sees NATAN.) Natan, is the flock secured?

NATAN:  Yes, m’Lord.

MESHECH:  Good work. 114, minus two sick. 112. You’ve earned your pay—minus two.  (MESHECH takes a moneybag from his belt, removes two coins, and hands the moneybag to NATAN.)

NATAN:  (NATAN takes the bag and touches his forehead.)  May the Most High bless you.

MESHECH:  You helped greatly, Natan. I won’t forget it.

NATAN:  Farewell.  (NATAN backs away and exits and PASACH exits.)

MESHECH:  (To NAKES:)  Your sheep are here. Lamb for the Magi. Mutton for your men.

NAKES:  Send us ten animals a day.

MESHECH:  Yes sir.  (Beat)  Before my slave returned, we were speaking of the baby. I asked what you thought of him.

NAKES:  Your Jewish God puzzles me.

MESHECH:  Me too. Often.

NAKES:  Your God claims to be the only god.


NAKES:  How could he father a baby?

MESHECH:  The mother explained that to me. He was—

NAKES:  And why?

MESHECH:  . . . to liberate us from Rome.

NAKES:  (NAKES spits.)  I spit on your politics.

MESHECH:  Well, the mother thinks he was born to free us from ourselves.

NAKES:  That matters.

MESHECH:  Yes, I suppose it does.

NAKES:  I want that freedom. How does the baby do it?

MESHECH:  I dunno.

NAKES:  You’re a poor supplier, Meshech.

MESHECH:  I’m a realist, Nakes. I can only deal with what I see, hear and know.

NAKES:  Not good enough. Already in Judea, I’ve learned much. To be a realist in Israel, you have to believe in miracles.

MESHECH:  I’ll remember that.


(MESHECH AND NAKES exit together.)



Blackout – Intermission







Behind the Inn.


Early morning, the next day.


Lights for dawn at rise. Bring up the lights gradually as Act III progresses.


During intermssion, the long bench is removed.

At Rise

Bare stage.  Meshech And Hephzibah enter.




MESHECH:  Well, Hephzibah, time for some domestic tranquility. . . Yesterday was too much—fire, no water, no sheep, Nakes and his demands. On this fine day—

NAKES:  (NAKES enters briskly from stage left.)  What was that about Nakes?

MESHECH:  Uh, m’Lord. . . I was just saying that . . . that it was a pleasure to meet your needs.

NAKES:  You’re an obvious liar, Meshech. Change your ways. Tell the truth.

MESHECH:  That would take practice, m’Lord—

NAKES:  No. Just do it. If you can’t tell the truth, keep quiet.

PASACH:  (PASACH rushes in.)  M’Lord Nakes, I have a message from the Magus, Mazda.

MESHECH:  What is it?

PASACH:  He told me to tell Nakes. Privately.

MESHECH:  So tell me. I’ll tell him.

NAKES:  You heard him, Meshech. Privately. . . .Leave.

MESHECH:  As m’Lord wishes.  (MESHECH bows a little and exits.)

PASACH AND NAKES:  (They watch Meshech leave.)

NAKES:  The message?!

PASACH:  The Magi are leaving.

NAKES:  No. We leave in six days.

PASACH:  No. Today. They told me that Magus Mazda had a dream last night. An angel warned him. They’re leaving.

NAKES:  Now?

PASACH:  Now. He says the angel warned him not to go back to Jerusalem, but to go another way. He told the other Magi that –

NAKES:  Aaaugggh! Typical. Those Magi think I can get us ready for a month-long trip in an hour. Haugh! It’s herding chickens.

(PASACH cringes.)

NAKES:  Oh, Pasach, I’m not angry with you.  (Beat. NAKES ponders and speaks to himself.)  We go up the east bank of the Jordan. The worst problems are food—two lame camels—pursuit by Herod’s troops.  (NAKES hands PASACH a small bag of coins.)  May the Wise God bless you, my brother.

PASACH:  Thank you, m’Lord.

(NAKES exits, stage right.)

(PASACH scuffs his sandals in the dirt.)

MESHECH:  (MESHECH rushes into the yard, upstage center.)  What was the message?

PASACH:  The Persians are leaving.

MESHECH:  Don’t make jokes.

PASACH:  No joke. They’re leaving now.


PASACH:  An angel warned Mazda in a—

MESHECH:  No. They’re going to be here til the end of the week.

PASACH:  Don’t ask me. Ask them.

MESHECH:  Of course. They owe me money.  (MESHECH exits, stage right.)

PASACH:  (PASACH continues to idle. He prays aloud.)  O Mighty One, I want to be free. I don’t want to be a slave—a slave to myself or to Meshech or to Rome. I don’t know how you’ll free me, but I believe you can. Yes, Adonai, please liberate me. Liberate us. Yeah.

HEPHZIBAH:  (She enters.)  The Galileans left last night. 


HEPHZIBAH:  An angel warned them.

PASACH:  How do you know?

HEPHZIBAH:  I saw them leave.


MESHECH: . . . so you’re leaving. I’m stuck with 102 sheep. Pay me for them too.

NAKES:  No, Innkeeper. We don’t eat them; we don’t buy them.

MESHECH:  What’ll I do with a flock of sheep?

NAKES:  Your worry not ours. Farewell—

MESHECH:  Take the flock with you—

NAKES:  We can't. They'd slow us down—

MESHECH:  What's your rush?

NAKES:  I have a squad of thirty-two. If Herod chooses, his army can turn us into desert dust. Our only hope—

MESHECH:  I understand. But, about payment for the figs and dates—

NAKES:  Don’t weary me. We leave you a wealthy man.


NAKES:  Thank the Wise God for your blessings.  (NAKES exits.)

MESHECH:  I do, m’Lord. I also thank you.

(PASACH enters.)


(MESHECH doesn’t hear PASACH.)

PASACH:  Sir!?

MESHECH:  Eh? What?

PASACH:  The Galileans are gone.

MESHECH:  Gone? Where?

PASACH:  Dunno.

MESHECH:  Aghhh! There’s no gratitude any more. I give those Galileans a house—and even a lady’s maid—and they run off in the night. And you fools never know what’s going on.  (MESHECH shouts.)  Hephzibah! Hephzibah!

HEPHZIBAH:  (She enters.)  Yessir?

MESHECH:  You saw the Galileans leave?


MESHECH:  Which way?

HEPHZIBAH:  South. On the road to Hebron and Beersheba.

MESHECH:  Why south? They’re from up north.

HEPHZIBAH:  I guess they’re going to Egypt.


HEPHZIBAH:  Yosef had another dream—


HEPHZIBAH:  An angel warned him that Herod wants to kill Yeshua.

MESHECH:  Another angel! We’re having an epidemic of angels… Adonai, why don’t you ever send an angel to help me?

(PASACH and HEPHZIBAH join hands as they exit.)

MESHECH:  And those Galileans left without paying rent!  (MESHECH exits.)











Behind the Inn


 The next day


At rise, early morning light. Bring up to full as Act IV continues.

Doubled Roles

KOZ     Abaddon of King Herod's Death Squad. (Nakes can double.)

IDDO   Guard (Pasach can double.)


A piece of candy to simulate sweet gum root

Swords or hunting knives with sheaths for Koz and Iddo,

A crude three-legged stool for Koz

A leather thong

Two leather moneybags

A scroll

Two bundles of clothes

Scripture: Matthew 2:16-18

From The New King James Version.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."


"Abaddon" is the Old Testament name for "Satan." Abbadon also means "destroyer," a suitable title for Koz, the captain of King Herod's death squad.

At Rise

 Bare stage.




MESHECH:  (MESHECH enters from stage center, carrying his baby son. He sits with his back to the inn and grieves.)  Oh, my baby, my baby boy. Thank You, Adonai. Thank You for sparing Moshe. Son, you could have been killed, like the others. 

My poor sister, Leah. Her little TI-lon. Dead. Koz slaughtered him—and handed him back to Leah. Tilon died instead of you, Moshe. Leah sobs all the time. When I try to comfort her, she pushes me away. Help her, Adonai. I can’t.

Koz had his orders. His headcount—nine baby boys. Herod, may the Almighty curse you with a horrible disease—long, tortured, disgusting, and fatal. And double for you, Koz.

Yes, Moshe, thanks to the Almighty and Hephzibah, you were in Ai with Liz. What a blessing. Thank You, Adonai.

PASACH:  (PASACH rushes in from stage center and screams in a whisper.)  Koz is back! 

MESHECH:  Where?  (MESHECH stands, clutching Moshe.)

PASACH:  Coming into town.

MESHECH:  Warn Hephzibah and the others.

(PASACH exits. If he doubles as IDDO, he makes a quick change into his guard's uniform.)

(SHIMON walks in, stage left, and watches MESHECH.)

(In a panic, MESHECH looks around, but does not see SHIMON. MESHECH buries Moshe in the hay of the feed trough.)

MESHECH:  Adonai, if you can hear me, please hear me now. Save my baby.

SHIMON:  Sir. No. Not there.

MESHECH:  (Terrified.)  Eeh!

SHIMON:  He'll sneeze.

MESHECH:  But where ?—

SHIMON:  Give him to me.

MESHECH:  No. It's too—

SHIMON:  Don’t argue. No time.

(SHIMON brings his arms out from under his poncho, takes the baby, and starts to pull him under the poncho.)

MESHECH:  Here, give him this to suck.

SHIMON:  What is it?

MESHECH:  Sweet gum root. It’ll keep him quiet.

 (MESHECH puts the root (candy) in Moshe's mouth and SHIMON pulls the baby underneath his poncho. SHIMON holds the baby between his legs and secures Moshe’s clothing to thieves’ hooks inside his poncho.

SHIMON walks stiff-legged, with his feet about eighteen inches apart. Ocassionally, SHIMON makes sucking sounds as if he had a toothpick in his teeth. He does this to cover Moshe's sounds.)

MESHECH:  Let’s get--

KOZ:  (KOZ strides in from stage left.)  Good morning, Meshech.

MESHECH: . . . Hello, Abaddon (Abad-DON)

KOZ:  You lied to me.


(SHIMON starts to walk away.)

KOZ:  Yes, you. You sent us north—towards Galilee. We sent horsemen to find Yeshua's family. They weren’t there. . . . King Herod is in a rage. (To SHIMON:)  Hey, you. Where you going?

SHIMON:  To relieve myself, Abaddon.

KOZ:  No you’re not. Stand there.

SHIMON:  Please, Abaddon, I’m desperate.

KOZ:  And I'm furious. Stay.  (To MESHECH:)  You’ve been reliable in the past, Meshech. Why’d you lie?

MESHECH:  I didn’t lie. Yosef is from Nazareth. I assumed he took his family home.

KOZ:  He didn’t. I think you’re lying now. You know where baby Yeshua went.

MESHECH:  No idea.

KOZ:  No sense. Well, you’ll break, Meshech.  (Beat)  I’d like a seat.

MESHECH:  Sorry, Abaddon, I’m forgetting my manners. (MESHECH shouts.)  Pasach. Pasach.  (No response)  Worthless slave. Never around when I need him. Excuse me, Abaddon.

(MESHECH exits stage center. He brings out a stool. KOZ sits and glares at MESHECH.)

(IDDO enters. He salutes KOZ by swinging his left fist and hitting his right shoulder.)  

IDDO:  All secure, Abaddon.

KOZ:  Good.  (KOZ points to SHIMON.)  This man claims he’s in pain and needs to relieve himself. Go with him. See that he speaks to no one and returns immediately.

IDDO:  Yes, sir.

(SHIMON exits with IDDO, stage right. SHIMON walks stiff-legged, with his feet spread apart.)

KOZ:  Where’s your son?

MESHECH:  Wy, he’s not here.

KOZ:  Oh? Your neighbors saw you with Moshe half an hour ago.

MESCHECH:  One of my slaves took him. If I can just go inside—

KOZ:  No. Stay here where I can break your fingers one at a time, if necessary. Now, where is he?

MESCHECH:  They’ve probably gone for a walk..

KOZ:  You can’t even lie capably

MESHECH:  I’m telling you what I know.

KOZ:  Here’s what I know. You helped Yeshua escape. Someone has to die in his place—your son—or you. Your choice.

MESHECH:  I make no choice, Abaddon.

KOZ:  You just did. Say your prayers.

(SHIMON and IDDO enter. SHIMON still walks stiff-legged, with his feet spread apart. He continues to make sucking sounds out of the side of his mouth.)

KOZ:  (To SHIMON:)  You’re walking funny. Why?

SHIMON:  Wet myself, sir.

KOZ:  (KOZ snorts in scorn.)  What’s your name?

SHIMON:  Shimon.

KOZ:  How do you make your living?

SHIMON:  Shepherd. . . sir.

KOZ:  Oh. A thief.

SHIMON:  No, Abaddon, I don’t steal.

(This is a lie, and KOZ knows it. KOZ gets up and gets in SHIMON's face.)

KOZ:  Are you mocking me?

SHIMON:  No sir!

KOZ:  Why are you making that sound?

SHIMON:  Piece of straw caught in teeth.

KOZ:  Then stop sucking, donkey!  (KOZ sits on the stool.)  Shimon, you’re still standing funny. Let’s see your hands.

(SHIMON looks directly at KOZ. SHIMON puts out one arm slowly, level with his shoulder and then puts out the other arm slowly, also level with his shoulder. Then he drops both hands to his side.)

KOZ:  Iddo, search him.

(IDDO pats down SHIMON, but only on the sides.)

(MESHECH is terrified, and SHIMON acts as if he's terrified.)

KOZ:  You know, Shimon, when we find the baby, you both die.

IDDO:  (To SHIMON:)  Drop your knife.

(SHIMON drops his knife. IDDO kicks the knife aside. He goes to the knife, picks it up, all the while keeping his eyes on SHIMON. IDDO puts the knife in his belt.) 

IDDO:  Now he’s clean, sir.

KOZ:  I doubt it. . . . Shimon, pull up your poncho.

(SHIMON pulls his poncho waist high, but to the audience, it must also appear that he entangles Moshe in the folds so the baby is not visible. SHIMON lets his poncho drop gently.)

KOZ:  I see.  (Beat)  Meshech, this is an inconvenient time for you to die. At the moment, you stand high with King Herod.


KOZ:  Yes. That messenger you sent to the King about the birth of the Anointed One.


KOZ:  Well, Herod, paid no attention to him.


KOZ:  The King gets twenty messages a day. It takes wisdom to know which ones to take seriously. Ruel and his message were so strange that the King laughed at them both.


KOZ:  But, he remembered your warning. When the Persians arrived, he might have ignored them too—but for your message.


KOZ:  (Beat)  Which direction did Yeshua’s family go? South or west? Or east, into the wilderness of the Salt Sea?

MESHECH:  I didn’t see them go.

KOZ:  No games, Meshech. Where’s Yeshua?

MESHECH:  As I said, Abaddon, the Galileans ran out on me. I don’t know which way they went.

KOZ:  Don’t lie! You know everything in this village—or can find it out.

(MESHECH doesn’t reply.)

KOZ:  (KOZ stands.)  Iddo! Prepare the prisoner.

(IDDO takes MESHECH by the arm to the stool.)

IDDO:  Kneel!

(IDDO pushes MESHECH to his knees. He takes a leather thong from his belt. He grabs MESHECH’s wrists and lashes them together behind his back. When MESHECH is secure, IDDO rises, snaps to attention and salutes KOZ by slapping his right shoulder with his left fist.)

IDDO:  Ready, sir.

KOZ:  (KOZ looks offstage and orders IDDO:)  Messenger.  (KOZ waves his hand to order IDDO to get the message. IDDO rushes offstage and returns with a scroll.)

(At the same time, KOZ pulls out his knife, strides to MESHECH and pushes his head onto the stool. He raises his knife for the kill.)

IDDO:  Sir, a message from Jerusalem. A scroll with seal. From King Herod.

(KOZ keeps his knife poised over MESHECH’s neck. With his other hand, he holds onto MESHECH’s hair.)

KOZ:  Read it.

IDDO:  It’s to Meshech..

KOZ:  Skip the beginning flattery. Read the text.

IDDO:  (IDDO doesn’t read well.)  Belovèd friend, Meshech, five weeks hence, spend Purim with us at our palace. As Friend of the King, it will be our honor to honor you.

(KOZ releases MESHECH and puts his knife back in its scabbard.)

KOZ:  To Sheol with your scheming soul, Meshech!  (To IDDO:)  Untie him!

(IDDO unties MESHECH, who stands and rubs his wrists.)

KOZ:  So, I can’t kill you . . . yet.

MESHECH:  As m’Lord wishes.

KOZ:  It’s not as I wish. By my wishes, you’d be dead.  (Beat)  Iddo, we return to court . . . to change the King’s mind.

IDDO:  Abaddon, should I stay with the prisoner?

KOZ:  Yes. . . No. Zealots may ambush us on the way. I'll need you.

PASACH:  Do we take Meshech with us?

KOZ:  I'd like to. But, if we take him, we'll be an easy target. Meshech, you've got another day to find out where Yeshua's family went.

MESHECH:  M'Lord, I can't—

KOZ:  Save it, Meshech. And don't try to escape.

MESHECH:  Wy m'Lord—

KOZ:  I've got a man in every village in Israel. You won't get away—neither will Yeshua—neither will your son.

MESHECH:  Wy I have no—

KOZ:  When King Herod learns you’re a traitor –

(KOZ runs his finger across his neck. He starts to leave, but looks back.)

KOZ:  And Meshech, don’t hide your baby. Don’t try to escape. You’ll fail.

(KOZ exits followed by IDDO.) 

(MESHECH AND SHIMON stand without moving for five seconds.)

MESHECH:  Are they gone?

SHIMON:  Think so.

MESHECH:  Give me my baby.

SHIMON:  Not yet. Koz may lurk . . . to catch us with baby.

(Both wait for another five seconds.)

MESHECH:  Alright, I think it’s safe. Give me the boy.

SHIMON:  Can’t.


SHIMON:  He’s down—

MESHECH:  Where?

SHIMON:  —in the pond.

MESHECH:  You drowned him?

SHIMON:  No. He’s—

(MESHECH goes crazy and rushes at SHIMON.)

MESHECH:  I’ll kill you, Shimon.

(SHIMON dodges MESHECH’s charge.)

SHIMON:  Wait. He’s safe. I hid him.


SHIMON:  Leaving, I thought, “His name is Moshe.”


SHIMON:  So, bulrushes.

MESHECH:  Where?

SHIMON:  Tall grass at edge of the pond.

MESHECH:  You put him in the water?

SHIMON:  No. Put him in water basket.


SHIMON:  Easy. Water basket was on shore. Iddo stared at Hephzibah. I shoved the basket in the water with my foot. Walked into the reeds. Pushed the basket with my shins.

MESHECH:  And Iddo?

SHIMON:  Interested in Hephzibah, not me. I squatted over the water basket. Gently put Moshe in the basket. He’s fine.

MESHECH:  He can tip over and drown.

SHIMON:  No. Hephzibah watched me. She grinned. She understands.

(MESHECH rushes offstage.)

SHIMON:  Meshech, you a crazy man. Why help you? You think I'm scum. You think all shepherds scum. You rob us—pay half what flock is worth. Then you call us thieves. You're the thief. Thief. Thief. You buy and sell people. To you, we all animals. You not a person. You a money sack. Adonai, pay him--

(MESHECH enters, carrying Moshe. HEPHZIBAH follows him onstage.)

MESHECH:  Oh, my boy, my baby boy, you’ve returned from the dead.

SHIMON:  Abaddon Koz is scum. He gives you no choice. Kill Yeshua, or kill you and Moshe.

MESHECH:  No. There’s a third way. What if he can’t find either boy?

SHIMON:  He’ll kill you.

MESHECH:  Yes. I can leave Moshe with Zach and Eliz –

(MESHECH again realizes that he's said too much.)

SHIMON:  Where do they live?


SHIMON:  Small town. People will notice. People will talk.


SHIMON:  Palace will know in a week. Moshe will die. Your friends will die. You'll die.

MESHECH:  Agggh, I’m so rattled, I can’t think.

SHIMON:  But you have choices.

MESHECH:  What choices?

(All during this conversation, MESHECH paces to show his agitation, as he carries Moshe in his arms.)

(HEPHZIBAH leans against the back wall of the Inn and listens.)

SHIMON:  First—stay or leave?

MESHECH:  If we stay, Koz kills us.

SHIMON:  If you leave—

MESHECH:  I lose everything. Koz will confiscate my property. Moshe, you’ll have nothing.

SHIMON:  Does that matter now?

MESHECH:  Of course it matters—  (Beat)  No, maybe it doesn’t. Moshe, I only care about your life.

SHIMON:  Good.  (Beat)  But, you also care about Yeshua.

MESHECH:  Yes—and the people here in Bethlehem. If I leave, how will they make a living? Well, that’s their problem. They got along before I came . . . (Beat)  But, Hephzibah, you deserve better, much better. I’m going to free you. I already freed Pasach this morning—

HEPHZIBAH:  Oh, thank you, Master.

(HEPHZIBAH tries to kiss his hand, but MESHECH waves her off.) 

HEPHZIBAH:  Pasach will be so—

MESHECH:  But, you can’t stay here. Koz will rage because Moshe and I are gone. If you’re here, he’ll torture you to find me—


MESHECH:  Scatter. That’s your only protection.

SHIMON:  Meshech, this baby Yeshua, cause you lots of problems.

MESHECH:  Definitely. My life would be easy if he’d never been born.

SHIMON:  Would it be better?

MESHECH:  In every way. . . except now I have hope for Israel.

SHIMON:  But, no plan. If you leave today—

MESHECH:  I’ll disguise myself. Moshe, we’ll go to Jerusalem. The king suspects everyone, and Koz has a spy system. But Koz would never think to look under his nose. It’s a big city. It’ll be easy to get lost in the crowd.  (Beat)  I’d better get ready.

(MESHECH exits stage center, and HEPHZIBAH follows.) 

(SHIMON strolls around the Inn yard, talking to himself and to Adonai while he waits for MESHECH.)

SHIMON:  Adonai, you see—Meshech is crazy. He blows himself up like sheep bladder. His voice make him deaf—deaf to me—deaf to other people—deaf to You, Adonai. One good thing about being a shepherd—I and You get time to talk. . . Now Meshech needs help. Is Jerusalem safe for him?

(SHIMON listens.)

Don’t think so either. How about Moshe?

(He listens.)

Think so too. But then, where will Moshe stay?

(He listens.)

Oh, no. Noooo. Won’t work.

(He listens some more.)

Oh, Meshech never agree.

(He listens.)

If You say so, Holy One.


Alright. I’ll do it. But, I don’t think –

(He listens, and then he gives in and says with determination.)

Alright. I’ll do it. And, Adonai, if You would—

(MESHECH rushes in from stage center.)

MESHECH:  Oh, you still here?


MESHECH:  Good. I’m leaving.

SHIMON:  Your Jerusalem plan—Adonai has a better plan.


SHIMON:  In Jerusalem. Man with a baby, unusual. People will talk. Koz will hear.

MESHECH:  I’ll take Hephzibah.

SHIMON:  She talks. Koz will hear.

MESHECH:  What other choice do I have?

SHIMON:  Always have choices.


SHIMON:  Moshe and you both leave. But not together.

MESHECH:  Impossible.

SHIMON:  Yes, possible. What if . . . what if Moshe goes with us?

MESHECH:  Who’s “us”?

SHIMON:  Shepherds. My family—mother, father, grandfather.


SHIMON:  We're not in the census. Nobody knows shepherds.


SHIMON:  Nobody sees a shepherd child. They think we breed like rats.

MESHECH:  You mean well, but—

SHIMON:  My baby brother died last month. Moshe’d be a comfort to my mother.

MESHECH:  But it wouldn’t comfort me—

SHIMON:  No comfort to know he lives?

MESHECH:  But I have great hopes for Moshe. I want him educated, with position, respect.

SHIMON:  Did you start with money, education, respect?

MESHECH:  No. I grew up poor.

SHIMON:  You made it. He can too.  (Beat)  What troubles you? We outcasts?


SHIMON:  Yes, we outcasts. We good for your son. We protection. If Moshe with rich people, Koz finds out. Koz kills him.

MESHECH:  But . . . but . . . if Moshe goes with you, where do I go?

SHIMON:  You've got good idea—get lost in big city. But not Jerusalem.

MESHECH:  Your offer is tempting.  (Beat)  Oh, I see. You want to get me out of the country. What’s in this for you?

SHIMON:  A MITZ-vah, a blessing. We help Yeshua—by keeping Moshe.

MESHECH:  You’re going to sell Moshe, aren’t you?

SHIMON:  No! Sell sheep and goats. Not people. Shame. You think we same as you?

MESHECH:  I don’t know what to think.

SHIMON:  You bargain hard. Alright. I and you take Moshe to my mother. Then I go with you to city. I'll serve you. If my family harm Moshe, you kill me.

MESHECH:  You’re a tough young man, Shimon. And you’d be willing to go with me?

SHIMON:  Boring being shepherd.

MESHECH:  Alright. I accept—but not the part about your being my servant. Stay with Moshe and your family. I want Moshe to learn from you. Hephzibah, bring our things.

(HEPHZIBAH exits.)

MESHECH:  Thank you for your courage and kindness, Shimon.

SHIMON:  Thank you.

MESHECH:  For what?

SHIMON:  You say “thank you.” First time you treat me as human.

(HEPHZIBAH enters, with two sacks of clothing.)

MESHECH:  Oh? You're a brave boy, Shimon. You protected Moshe from Koz. Now you’re doing it again. You could be killed.

SHIMON:  (He shrugs it off.)  Uumph.

MESHECH:  Don’t underestimate Koz. He may kill us all.  (Beat)  Hephzibah, Shimon tells me I’m not good at thanking people. But, I thank you. You have done well in caring for Moshe.

HEPHZIBAH:  He’s like my own son.

(MESHECH takes out a money bag. He plans to hide out with the Essenes, so he realizes he won't need it.)

MESHECH:  Here’s the money Pasach paid me. Take it so you and Pasach can get married.

HEPHZIBAH:  Thank you, sir.  (She does a small curtsey.)

(MESHECH kisses Moshe and blubbers.)

MESHECH:  I love you so much, son.

(MESHECH pulls himself together, takes a deep breath and hands Moshe to SHIMON.)

MESHECH:  Here, Shimon. Treat him well.

SHIMON:  We give him best care.

MESHECH:  Here’s his clothing.

(SHIMON holds the baby over his shoulder and takes the bundle.)

MESHECH:  And here’s money for you.  (MESHECH holds out a bag of coins to SHIMON.)

SHIMON:  Oh, no money. We do this for Yeshua and for Moshe.

MESHECH:  (Gently)  Take the money. When Moshe is six, you can send him to a rabbi to learn reading.

HEPHZIBAH:  And tell your mother that Moshe is partly weaned. He is already eating some ground up vegetables.

MESHECH:  There’s enough coin for you too, Shimon. A rabbi can also teach you to read.

SHIMON:  Why me?

MESHECH:  You’re a bright boy. And you have a great heart.

SHIMON:  And now, you poor. Like us.

MESHECH:  So? What does that matter? If my son dies, it’s all scrap.

SHIMON:  Like Miryam said, Yeshua changes you.

MESHECH:  She said that?

SHIMON:  Yes. When she tripped me.

MESHECH:  An amazing little lady. Why’d she trip you?

SHIMON:  To stop me from killing Pasach—and you.

MESHECH:  What!!?? Why?

SHIMON:  Because you told King Herod. You tried to kill Yeshua.

MESHECH:  But, you heard Koz. I did betray Yeshua.

SHIMON:  Yes, but Miryam explained. You sent Pasach to stop Ruel.

HEPHZIBAH:  (HEPHZIBAH walks to SHIMON and kisses Moshe.)  Goodbye, little darling.  (To MESHECH:)  Goodbye, sir. May the Most High bless and protect you.

MESHECH:  And you also, Hephzibah. Farewell.

(HEPHZIBAH starts to exit. She impulsively turns and runs to MESHECH. From behind, she gives him a hug around the waist. Then she runs off, upstage center.)

SHIMON:  (SHIMON starts to exit, stage left, but stops and turns.)  Tomorrow, with nobody here. Koz wants blood.

MESHECH:  Yes. And he may come after you.

SHIMON:  He can’t find us. Shepherds can disappear. Goodbye, Meshech.

MESHECH:  Goodbye, Shimon.  (Beat)  Oh, and Shimon, take your flock with you. In that pen. they’ll either die or be stolen.

SHIMON:  Thank you, sir.

(Both SHIMON and MESHECH start to exit, SHIMON stage left, MESHECH right.)

MESHECH:  (MESHECH stops and turns.)  Oh, and Shimon, ya know, you’re pretty short for an angel.


MESHECH:  Thank you . . . brother.

SHIMON:  You’re welcome . . . brother?

(MESHECH AND SIMON both exit, opposite.)



Blackout – The End




Commentary on Epidemic of Angels

Note on “Epidemic”

The use of “epidemic” in this play is not an anachronism. Homer used it, and “Epidemics” was in the title of four of Hippocrates’ treatises.


A life-sized newborn doll—Yeshua. A life-sized six-month doll—Moshe

Two brown blankets each for Miryam and Yosef

Two full feed bags for pillows or a backrest for Miryam when she sits up

Hay to fill the feed trough

A shepherd’s crook or staff for Natan

A drinking gourd.

Three hunting knives with scabbards for Shimon, Koz, and Iddo

A stick for Shimon to whittle.

A long, crude bench, with no back, against the wall in Act II.

Two small scrolls for Ruel and Pasach. Iddo uses a scroll in Act IV.

Four leather money bags in Act II: Two medium bags for Meshech. Large and small bags for Nakes.

Reuse the money bags for Meshech in Act IV.

A piece of candy to stick in Moshe’s mouth to simulate sweet gum

A crude, three-legged stool for Koz in Act Four.

A leather thong to tie Meshech’s wrists in Act IV.

Two sacks of clothing, Act IV

Costumes: First-Century Clothing

Miryam and Yosef's clothes should be sturdy, but can show quality. Yosef is an established craftsman. He can afford to pay a little for Miryam's clothing and his own. Of course, they wore their travel clothes during the birth and while they slept, so their clothes will be wrinkled and dirty. In Act I, Miryam's hair is a mess, damp from her sweat during birth.

A possible outfit for Miryam could be a burlap dress, tied at the waist with a leather thong. It need not be crude. (I once saw a stylish burlap dress on a saleswoman at Brentano’s Book Store on New York’s Fifth Avenue.)

The shepherds wear wool ponchos over their clothes. Both wear sandals. Despite protests of innocence, Natan and Shimon really are thieves.

Meshech, a prosperous businessman, wears flashy, expensive clothes.

Pasach’s crude clothes are made from burlap sacks. He is barefoot. Hephzibah wears a dress, with a large apron. The apron has a pocket. She is also barefoot.

In Act Two, Nzkes should wear clothing for a first-century Persian trail boss. If you cannot discover what that is, Nakes can dress as an Arab in a white wool robe. Persians are not Arabs, but to Americans, Arab robes suggest camel riders.

In Act IV, Koz and Iddo wear Palace guard uniforms (even though uniforms were invented for the French Army of the 1600’s.) They need not carry swords and scabbards; sheathed stage hunting knives will do. 

Matthew, Luke and our American Christmas

Whatever our religious beliefs, we are bombarded every December with the Nativity story—a surprising portion of which is legendary or contrary to the Bible.

For example, during the holidays, we hear Christmas carols:

 “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plain . . .” and

 “It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old, with angels bending near the earth, to touch their harps of gold.”

Many Christians insist on literal compliance with the Word of God but are sentimentally sloppy about the Nativity story. Luke tells us that the angels spoke, but “singing” is what we hear when Luke’s account is read. Is this a bad thing? Of course not. I’ll happily go on singing incorrect Christmas carols the rest of my life.

However, on at least four occasions Christmas legends directly contradict Scripture—and we hear no Christian outcry. For example, in crèche scenes, we see both shepherds and wise men worshipping baby Jesus in the stable, with angels and the star overhead.

The Magi, the angels and the star weren’t there, and no stable or cave is mentioned in Luke, only a feed trough. Most feed troughs in the world are probably out in the open. The Magi didn’t visit the feed trough. Matthew 2:11 states specifically, “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary . . .”

We blandly accept the following Nativity legends, which are unsupported by either Matthew or Luke:        

  • ·               Jesus was born on December 25.
  • ·               Jesus was born in a stable or a cave.
  • ·               Angels sang to shepherds on the night when Jesus was born. ** 
  • ·               A crowd of shepherds heard the angels’ message.·               
  • ·               All the shepherds visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus on the night of the birth.
  • ·               Mary and Joseph gladly received the shepherds.
  • ·               Mary and Joseph were married before Jesus was born. **
  • ·               Many animals were by the feed trough that night, especially sheep. (Sheep eat grass.)
  • ·               There were three wise men. (We know only of three gifts.)
  • ·               The wise men saw the star in the East. (If they were Persian magi directed to Judea by the                           star, they saw the star in the western sky.)
  • ·               The star guided the shepherds to the feed trough. **
  • ·               The three wise men came to the feed trough the night of Jesus’ birth. **
  • ·               Angels were also seen over the feed trough on the night of the birth.         

Most are harmless elaborations of Scripture, but most people also believe they are found in the Gospels. However, the four lines above marked with ** are contrary to the Gospel witness.

Miryam – Married or Not?

Were Mary and Joseph married at Jesus’ birth? Apparently not. After Joseph's angelic dream in Matthew 1:20, the text goes on to say in verse 24, "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." That sounds as if their wedding took place promptly. But then, why does Luke call Mary Joseph's "betorthed wife?" (Luke 2:5)  Apparently, the wedding did not take place til later, after the birth. Matthew affirms that interpretation in 1:25, "But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son."

Luke 2 

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Matthew 1

20 But while [Joseph] thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,

25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called his name JESUS.

Under “Marriage”, the Encyclopedia Judaica explains that the betrothal period for virgins was usually one year. That reconciles the Matthew and Luke accounts. Apparently, the sequence of events was:

+ Joseph and Mary are betrothed.

+ Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will father her son, Jesus.

+ Mary visits Elizabeth.

+ On her return, Mary is visibly pregnant.

+ Joseph rejects her, but an angel tells Joseph to marry her.

+ Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem, and Jesus is born.

+ Joseph and Mary are married at the end of the betrothal year.

Why did Joseph take her to Bethlehem? Perhaps it required by law because she was descended from King David. More likely, he was protecting her from her Nazareth neighbors. They would have rejected, despised, and scorned her because she was pregnant before the end of her one-year betrothal. If Joseph had left her in Nazareth, the neighbors could have stoned her.

Two other circumstantal considerations: The Roman census would have counted only men for taxation and—except for Jews—for military conscription. Mary was not needed in Bethlehem. Also, why would Joseph take Mary on a jolting seventy-five mile donkey ride, when she was about to give birth? She needed to be at home with family and friends. The trip to Bethlehem made sense only if Mary’s staying in Nazareth meant her death.

Angels and Miracles

The five angelic appearances described in this play are recorded in Matthew and Luke. Other miracles are from the author’s personal experience, such as watching the LORD untangle an impossible schedule.

Natan and Shimon

Natan and Shimon speak a different dialect of Aramaic. They mostly leave out both the verb "to be" and the articles, "the, a, and an." However, they are fluent in their dialect. If they sound like Yoda, they're doing it wrong.

Mary—Mild or Spunky?

Objection was made to my portrayal of Mary, that she isn’t gentle Mary, meek and mild, as found in the Gospels. Rather, I’ve portrayed her as a feisty 21st century teen-ager who isn’t intimidated by the overbearing Meshech. Two centuries ago in England, a teen girl would not have disagreed with an adult male—and how much less so would a Jewish girl have done so twenty centuries ago.

My portrayal of Mary’s personality is based mostly on Luke 1:46 to 55, The Magnificat, especially verses 51 to 53:

51 He (the LORD) has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted them of low degree.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent empty away.

Thus, Mary makes Karl Marx sound like a piker.

When a person is anointed by the Holy Spirit with a word of prophecy, the person will not say anything contrary to Scripture or the will of God. In like manner, the prophet will also not say anything contrary to her or his own character.

In The Magnificat we are seeing the real Mary. How many teens today are confronting the world’s dictators? So, I feel justified in making Mary a spunky teen with lots of sass.

Motivations in Act IV

Long after I wrote Epidemic of Angels, it had its first reading at Park Place, an apartment complex for seniors in South Seattle. During rehearsals, I discovered motivations in the text which had never occurred to me.

Why won’t Meshech let Pasach and Hephzibah marry? Because Meshech is bedding Hephzibah whenever he has cravings.

Is Koz really after Yeshua? He wants King Herod to think so. But, Koz could easily break Meshech and learn the location of the Holy Family. Koz merely has to break one or two of Meshech’s fingers.

Koz wants Meshech to escape. He expects Meshech to escape. Why? So Koz can confiscate Meshech’s property without having to murder him. Probably all of Koz’ actions in Act IV are for show—including the messenger from Jerusalem and Meshech’s reprieve.  Koz’ motive is greed.

If his motive were malice, he could slit Mechech’s throat and tell the King that the messenger arrived too late.

Meshech finally and wisely does not tell his escape plan. By becoming an Essene at the Dead Sea, Meshech gains anonymity. His plan, of course, is to hide out until King Herod dies.  But, to Meshech's surprise, he may discover a fulfilled life as an Essene who follows Yeshua. And later, his son, Moshe, may join him there.

However, Meshech’s anonymity is an illusion. Koz could locate Meschech if he chose, but Koz doesn’t care. He now owns Meshech’s eighteen properties in Bethlehem.



Yeshua’s Birth

From The New King James Version 


Luke 2

1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

2  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.

3  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4  Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

5  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

6  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8  Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

10  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

11  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

15  So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

17  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.

18  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

20  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.


Matthew 1

18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

19  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,

25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.


Matthew 2 

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

2  saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

3  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4  And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5  So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6  ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; 
For out of you shall come a Ruler
 Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

7  Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.

8  And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

9  When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

10  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12  Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

13  Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

14  When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,