One day a woman came to Abba Hezekiah, weeping, and pleading with him: 'Please! Help me! They want to take my daughter away from me!' Listening to this the all holy and thrice holy saint, softened in compassion, and calm yet vibrant, asked the woman to explain in more detail what the problem was. 'The barbarians came from the South, and now they say that I must give them my daughter for one of their own to marry! I do not want to lose my daughter!' 'And who are these barbarians,' the saint inquired of the men who had accompanied the woman. 'They call themselves Duberrians, and they come from the South of the continent. They will take the girl away and she will surely never be seen again!'
'Yes, I have heard of these people before,' Abba began. 'They are a wicked people, with many ungodly customs and rites, who worship many gods, such as the air, and trees, and fruit. But I believe I know how we can save the young girl from earthly damnation. Go and tell these Duberrians that I wish to speak with them, that it is imperative that they listen to what I have to say.' Upon hearing this several of the men ran off to deliver the message. Abba stayed with the woman all through the night, surrounded by many others, who tried to comfort the woman in her distress, and there was great commotion all through the area. Finally the next morning the messengers returned, with a large contingent of Duberrians.
'We have heard that you wish to speak with us,' the leader of the Duberrians began. He was by name Ezekiyosh, and he stood towering over everyone else present. 'I will tell you plainly: we trade here from time to time, and so have no wish to hurt these people. Nonetheless, we must have the girl, for one of our holy men has fallen in love with her from afar. This is not negotiable.' Abba Hezekiah listened patiently as the leader spoke, and then, looking down at the ground scribbled in the sand. 'What is it that you see here?' the saint asked. Ezekiyosh almost immediately responded: 'You draw the sacred serpent!' 'This is so,' Hezekiah said. 'I know that you worship this serpent, who you call Ishtokah, as a god, and further that you regard all snakes as a possible manifestation of this god. Is this not so?'
'It is!' cried a confused Ezekiyosh, 'but we are told that we must never speak of this to northern unbelievers like yourselves, for as our sacred texts say: we must not allow the sacred wine to be polluted by the unworthy. But how do you know of Ishtokah?' Abba Hezekiah then stood up and walked over to Ezekiyosh, his demeanor confident yet non-threatening. 'What is important right now,' the Abba began, 'is that you not take the girl, and that I can give you a sign proving the wisdom of this.' 'What do you have in mind?' the man next to Ezekiyosh asked hesitantly, obviously being the holy man whose perverse lust had started it all. St. Hezekiah then looked evil in the face, which is to say the holy man, and said: 'I will tell you this, as a sign that I am right in saying that you should not take the girl, I will create a snake out of dust!'
The Duberrians seemed quite surprised, but Ezekiyosh quickly recovered his composure. 'This would be a great feat! If you are able to do as you say, we will no longer try to take the girl.' Upon hearing this Abba Hezekiah started walking away, and motioned for them all to follow. They had only gone maybe 50 leg-lengths when Hezekiah stopped and began staring at the ground. Everyone gathered around the spot that the Abba was looking at, forming a circle, and waited to see what would happen next. For several minutes they stood there, just watching. Whenever Hezekiah felt people getting restless he motioned for them to be patient and have faith. Finally the sand began to move.
The Duberrians gasped in unison. 'What is this?' they shouted, 'How is this possible? Can it really be?' Suddenly Abba Hezekiah yelled very loudly: 'I tell you no lie! Now you will behold the power of God, manifest in nature!' And within twenty seconds of saying this a snake emerged from the sand. This sent the Duberrians into a frenzy, and they all began tearing at their hair and ripping their clothes, with Ezekiyosh and the evil holy man most distraught of all. 'We did not know!' they screamed, 'What power the gods have here, to make divine snakes from the dust of the earth merely at your command!'
Abba Hezekiah calmed them as best he could, and after about ten minutes they were again able to speak and understand what he was saying. 'Now,' the saint began, 'you will take the snake instead of the girl, for the girl is not, and never was, your property, but the snake is one of your own.' At this the Duberrians seemed to cheer up, thinking, in their darkness of mind, that they had somehow gained a great thing. They then carefully captured the snake and began their way back to their home in the south. As they left all the Christian people of the area cheered at the way things had turned out, and the Mother and those with her returned to her home and her daughter overjoyed.
[Now this is the end of the story as recorded by the first biographer of St. Hezekiah, the holy Democritus. However, sometime later another story connected with this incident became known, and it quickly spread and gained general approval by even the most skeptical theologians. It is said that even the enemies of St. Hezekiah accepted that these stories were almost certainly authentic. This additional story explaining the above now follows.]
Later that night Abba Bastav came to Abba Hezekiah and said to him: 'My friend, we have worked out our salvation together these many years, and we have become of one mind on so many things! Please, as an indulgence to a dying old man in his last moments on earth, give me some joy by telling me how this miracle of the snake was done?' Abba Hezekiah had suspected that the Abba might ask him, as Bastav was a very curious person by nature; however, the saint knew that he could be trusted to keep things quiet in the integrity of his heart, with the door barred and the window shutters closed, so he revealed how the events regarding the snake had taken place.
'It was no miracle,' Hezekiah said, 'but rather just as I said it would be: "the power of God, manifest in nature." The power of God that I spoke of is the power of intelligence and creativity: the power of godliness found in being made in the image of God. This power was then manifest in nature, for I used the natural order of God's creation to bring about what you saw.' Abba Bastav was quite confused, and impatiently mimicked for the saint to continue. 'You see, I had one of the monks find a snake for me yesterday, and he went out and also dug a hole at a specific spot that I told him about. Then when I saw the Duberrians approaching from afar I gave him a signal. The monk then went and hid the snake inside the hole, and put a covering over top, and sand over that.'
'According to my instructions he made the covering weak enough that the snake could poke up through it, but not such that it would collapse and suffocate the snake. Then, once the snake was down there and trapped in that space, and began running out of air, I knew it would seek for a way out of the predicament, and that is why it eventually came out of the hole, though it appeared to everyone that it was emerging from the sand. Thus did the image of God work itself out for the welfare of all, and especially the girl and her mother.'
Abba Bastav sat, somewhat unsure of what to think, with a look of uncertainty playing across his face: 'But... was this not a lie? Can good come from evil means?' He trailed off, but then quickly added: 'I do not wish to accuse your holiness of a sin, I just wish to understand how this can be?' Abba Hezekiah had anticipated this response, and tried his best to explain why he had done what he did. 'I did not believe that the girl could be saved in any other way. Generally lying is a wicked, terrible thing. However, we must understand that sometimes deception can be used to avoid a greater evil. God will judge whether I have sinned or not in this regard, but whether I am guilty or innocent, the important thing is that the girl did not fall into the hands of those wicked unbelievers. We find in Scripture people using deception, such as the prophet, and Rahab the harlot, and I hear tales of a book that describes even an angel named Raphael hiding the truth to bring about a greater good. I do not count myself as righteous as this Rahab, or certainly this Raphael, but I hope I have done the right thing.' And thus Abba Bastav was satisfied, and prayed for the saint to his dying day that he might be forgiven all his sins, and he told no one of the story until after Abba Hezekiah had gone on to the next life.