with the Tablets, 1659, by Rembrandt
This article is about the Biblical figure. For other uses, see Moses
Moses (Hebrew: ??????
Moshe Standard Mošé Tiberian Mošeh; Arabic: ????, Musa;
Ge'ez: ?? Musse) was an early Biblical Hebrew religious leader, lawgiver,
prophet, and historian. Moses is traditionally considered the transcriber
of the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible, and is also an important
prophet in Islam and the Bahá'í Faith.
According to the
Bible, he was born to a Hebrew mother who hid him during what would
today be termed a genocide ordered by Pharaoh against all newborn Hebrew
boys, and ended up being adopted into the Egyptian royal family. After
killing an Egyptian slave master, he fled and became a shepherd, and
was later commanded by God to deliver the Hebrews from slavery. After
the Ten Plagues were unleashed upon Egypt, he led the Hebrew slaves
out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and in the desert for 40 years. Despite
living to 120, he did not enter the Land of Israel (see Numbers 20:11-12).
Moses in the Bible
The Book of Exodus begins many years after the close of the Book of
Genesis, at the end of which the Israelites were dwelling in relative
harmony with the native Egyptians in the Land of Goshen, the eastern
part of the Nile Delta. Sometime during the interval, the Egyptians
became hostile to the Israelites and enslaved them.
According to the
Book of Exodus, Moses was a son of Amram, a member of the Levite tribe
of Israel, having descended from Jacob, and his wife Jochebed. Jochebed
was also the sister of Amram's father Kohath. (Exodus vi 20) Aaron was
Moses' elder brother. According to Genesis 46:11, Amram's father Kohath
immigrated to Egypt with 70 of Jacob's household, making Moses part
of the second generation of Israelites born during their time in Egypt.
Moses in front
of Phaorah by Haydar HatemiIn the Exodus account, the birth of Moses
occurred at a time when the current Egyptian Pharaoh had commanded that
all male children born be killed by drowning in the river Nile. The
Torah leaves the identity of this Pharaoh unstated.
The finding of
Moses, by Giovanni Battista TiepoloJochebed, the wife of the Levite
Amram, bore a son and kept him concealed for three months. When she
could keep him hidden no longer, rather than deliver him to be killed,
she set him adrift on the Nile river in a small craft of bulrushes coated
in pitch. In the Biblical account, Moses' sister Miriam observed the
progress of the tiny boat until it reached a place where Pharaoh's daughter
was bathing with her handmaidens. It is said that she spotted the baby
in the basket and had her handmaiden fetch it for her. At this point,
Miriam came forward and asked Pharaoh's daughter if she would like a
Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. Thereafter, Jochebed was employed as
the child's nurse, and he grew and was brought to Pharaoh's daughter
and became her son. The daughter of Pharaoh is not identified specifically
in Exodus. If Rameses II is the Pharaoh of the Oppression as is traditionally
thought, identifying her would be extremely difficult as Rameses II
is thought to have fathered over a hundred children. The daughter of
Pharaoh named him Mosheh, similar to the Hebrew word mashah, "to
draw out". In the Greek translation, Mosheh was Hellenized as Moses.
The finding of
Moses, by Edwin LongIt is extremely peculiar that an Egyptian daughter
of the Pharaoh would turn to the Hebrew language in order to name a
child whose Hebrew origins were meant to be concealed from everyone.
Even if this unnamed daughter of Pharaoh had learned the slave's language,
such a name would be recognized as foreign by Moses' Egyptian peers,
and immediately raise questions. Therefore, medieval Jewish scholars
suggest that Moses' actual name was the Egyptian translation of "to
draw out", and it is translated into Hebrew, either by the Bible,
or by Mosheh himself later in his lifetime. Modern scholars suggest
that the daughter of Pharaoh would derive his name from the Egyptian
word moses which means "son" or "formed of"; for
example, "Thutmose" means "son of Thoth", and Rameses
means "son of Ra". In ancient Egyptian language, the word
"Mo" means "water" while the word "Sa"
means "son". Therefore; his complete name which is "Mosa"
means "the son of water" as he was found in a basket in water.
Shepherd in Midian
After Moses had reached adulthood, he went to see how his brethren who
were enslaved to the Egyptians were faring. Seeing an Egyptian beating
a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and enshrouded his body in the sand,
supposing that no one would be disposed to reveal the matter knew of
it. The next day, seeing two Hebrews quarreling, he endeavored to separate
them, whereupon the Hebrew who was wronging the other taunted Moses
for slaying the Egyptian. Moses soon discovered from a higher source
that the affair was known, and that Pharaoh was likely to put him to
death for it; he therefore made his escape over the Sinai peninsula
and settled with Hobab, or Jethro, priest of Midian (a region just East
of the gulf of Aqaba), whose daughter Zipporah he in due time married.
There he sojourned forty years, following the occupation of a shepherd,
during which time his son Gershom was born.
One day, Moses led
his flock to Mount Horeb, usually identified with Mount Sinai —
a mountain that was thought in the Middle Ages to be located on the
Sinai Peninsula, but that many scholars now believe was further east,
towards Moses' home of Midian. At Mount Horeb, he saw a burning bush
that would not be consumed. When he turned aside to look more closely
at the marvel, God spoke to him from the bush, revealing his name to
Leader of the Israelites
God commissioned him to go to Egypt and deliver his fellow Hebrews from
bondage. He then returned to Egypt, was met upon his arrival by his
elder brother, Aaron, and gained a hearing with his oppressed kindred.
It is also revealed that during Moses' absence, the Pharaoh of the Oppresion
(sometimes identified with Rameses II) had died, and been replaced by
a new Pharaoh, known as the Pharaoh of the Exodus. If Rameses II is
the Pharaoh of the Oppression, then this new Pharaoh would be Merneptah.
Because the story the book of Exodus describes is catastrophic for the
Egyptians -- involving horrible plagues, the loss of thousands of slaves,
and many deaths (possibly including the death of Pharaoh himself, though
that matter is unclear in Exodus) -- it is conspicuous that no Egyptian
records speaking of Israelites in Egypt have ever been found. However,
Merneptah, is indeed, historically known to have been a mediocre ruler,
and certainly one weaker that Rameses II. The Pharaoh's identity undisclosed,
Moses persuades Pharaoh to let the Hebrews depart after Moses's God
sends ten plagues upon the Egyptians. The first plague was the Nile
converted to blood. The second was that frogs emanated from the Nile.
The third was lice, gnats, and flies. The fourth was attacking of wild
beasts. The fifth was the invasion of diseases on the Egyptians' cattle,
oxen, goats, sheep, camels, and horses. Sixth were boils on the skins
of Egyptians. Seventh, fiery hail and thunder struck Egypt. The eighth
plague was locusts encompassing Egypt. The ninth plague was total darkness.
The tenth plague culminated in the slaying of the Egyptian male first-borns,
whereupon such terror seized the Egyptians that they ordered the Hebrews
to leave in the Exodus. The events are commemorated as Passover, referring
to how the plague "passed over" the houses of the Israelites
whilst smiting the Egytians.
And so Moses leads
his people Eastward, beginning the long journey to Canaan. The procession
moved slowly, and found it necessary to encamp three times before passing
the Egyptian frontier — some believe at the Great Bitter Lake,
while others propose sites as far south as the northern tip of the Red
Sea. Meanwhile, Pharaoh had a change of heart, and was in pursuit of
them with a large army. Shut in between this army and the sea, the Israelites
despaired, but Exodus records that God divided the waters so that they
passed safely across on dry ground. When the Egyptian army attempted
to follow, God permitted the waters to return upon them and drown them.
Whether Pharaoh himself drowns is unclear, although Egyptian records
did not chronicle such an event.
When the people
arrived at Marah, the water was bitter, causing the people to murmur
against Moses. Moses cast a tree into the water, and the water became
sweet. Later in the journey the people began running low on supplies
and again murmured against Moses and Aaron and said they would have
preferred to die in Egypt, but God's provision of manna from the sky
in the morning and quail in the evening took care of the situation.
When the people camped in Rephidim, there was no water, so the people
complained again and said, "Wherefore is this that thou hast brought
us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with
thirst?" Moses struck a rock with his staff, and water came forth.
water from the stone, by BacchiaccaAmalekite raiders arrived and attacked
the Israelites. In response, Moses bid Joshua lead the men to fight
while he stood on a hill with the rod of God in his hand. As long as
Moses held the rod up, Israel dominated the fighting, but if Moses let
down his hands, the tide of the battle turned in favor of the Amalekites.
Because Moses was getting tired, Aaron and Hur had Moses sit on a rock.
Aaron held up one arm, Hur held up the other arm, and the Israelites
routed the Amalekites.
Jethro, Moses' father-in-law,
came to see Moses and brought Moses' wife and two sons with him. After
Moses had told Jethro how the Israelites had escaped Egypt, Jethro went
to offer sacrifices to the Lord, and then ate bread with the elders.
The next day Jethro observed how Moses sat from morning to night giving
judgement for the people. Jethro suggested that Moses appoint judges
for lesser matters, a suggestion Moses heeded.
When the Israelites
came to Sinai, they pitched camp near the mountain. Moses commanded
the people not to touch the mountain. Moses received the ten commandments
orally (but not yet in tablet form) and other moral laws. Moses then
went up with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders to see the
God of Israel. Before Moses went up the mountain to receive the
tablets, he told the elders to direct any questions that arose to Aaron
While Moses was
on Mount Sinai receiving instruction on the laws for the Israelite community,
the Israelites went to Aaron and asked him to make gods for them. After
Aaron had received golden earrings from the people, he made a golden
calf and said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you
up out of Egypt." A "solemnity of the Lord" was proclaimed
for the following day, which began in the morning with sacrifices and
was followed by revelry. After Moses had persuaded the Lord not to destroy
the people of Israel, he went down from the mountain and was met by
Joshua. Moses destroyed the calf and rebuked Aaron for the sin he had
brought upon the people. Seeing that the people were uncontrollable,
Moses went to the entry of the camp and said, "Who is on the Lord's
side? Let him come unto me." All the sons of Levi rallied around
Moses, who ordered them to go from gate to gate slaying the idolators.
according to the last chapters of Exodus, the Tabernacle was constructed,
the priestly law ordained, the plan of encampment arranged both for
the Levites and the non-priestly tribes, and the Tabernacle consecrated.
Moses was given eight prayer laws that were to be carried out in regards
to the Tabernacle. These laws included light, incense and sacrifice.
Miriam and Aaron
spoke against Moses on account of his marriage to an Ethiopian,
and about him being the only one through whom the Lord spoke. Miriam
was punished with leprosy for seven days. The Hebrew words which
the King James Bible translates as "Ethiopian", is "Cushi",
and the Revised Standard Version translates it as Cushite. Cush refers
to an African civilization that preceded the Egyptians in the same general
area, which may indeed be desribing Ethiopia, but it may also be that
the "Ethiopian woman" is Zipporah, the only woman who is ever
named explicitly as being married to Moses. Zipporah's status as a non-Israelite
might have incited Miriam's complaints.
The people left
Hazeroth and pitched camp in the wilderness of Paran. (Paran is
a vaguely defined region in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula,
just south of Canaan) Moses sent twelve spies into Canaan as scouts,
including most famously Caleb and Joshua. After forty days, they returned
to the Israelite camp, bringing back grapes and other produce as samples
of the regions fertility. Although all the spies agreed that the land's
resources were spectacular, only two of the twelve spies (Joshua and
Caleb) were willing to try to conquer it, and are nearly stoned for
their unpopular opinon. The people began weeping and wanted to return
to Egypt. Moses turned down the opportunity to have the Israelites completely
destroyed and a great nation made from his own offspring, and instead
he told the people that they would wander the wilderness for forty years
until all those twenty years or older who had refused to enter Canaan
had died, and that their children would then enter and possess Canaan.
Early the next morning, the Israelites said they had sinned and now
wanted to take possession of Canaan. Moses told them not to attempt
it, but the Israelites chose to disobey Moses and invade Canaan, but
were repulsed by the Amalekites and Canaanites.
led by Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and two hundred fifty Israelite princes
accused Moses and Aaron of raising themselves over the rest of the people.
Moses told them to come the next morning with a censer for every man.
Dathan and Abiram refused to come when summoned by Moses. Moses went
to the place of Dathan and Abiram's tents. After Moses spoke the ground
opened up and engulfed Dathan and Abiram's tents, after which it closed
again. Fire consumed the two hundred fifty men with the censers. Moses
had the censers taken and made into plates to cover the altar. The following
day, the Israelites came and accused Moses and Aaron of having killed
his fellow Israelites. The people were struck with a plague that killed
fourteen thousand seven hundred persons, and was only ended when Aaron
went with his censer into the midst of the people. To prevent further
murmurings and settle the matter permanently, Moses had the chief prince
of the non-Levitic tribes write his name on his staff and had them lay
them in the sanctuary. He also had Aaron write his name on his staff
and had it placed in the tabernacle. The next day, when Moses went into
the tabernacle, Aaron's staff had budded, blossomed, and yielded almonds.
After leaving Sinai,
the Israelites camped in Kadesh. After more complaints from the Israelites,
Moses struck the stone twice, and water gushed forth. However, because
Moses and Aaron had not shown the Lord's holiness, they were not permitted
to enter the land to be given to the Israelites. This was the second
occasion Moses struck a rock to bring forth water; however, it appears
that both sites were named Meribah after these two incidents.
Now ready to enter
Canaan, the Israelites abandon the idea of attacking the Canaanites
head-on in Hebron, a city in the southern part of Canaan, having been
informed by spies that they were too strong, it is decided that they
will flank Hebron by going further East, around the Dead Sea. This requires
that they pass through Edom, Moab, and Ammon. These three tribes are
considered Hebrews by the Israelites as descendants of Lot, and therefore
cannot be attacked. However they are also rivals, and are therefore
not permissive in allowing the Israelites to openly pass through their
territory. So Moses leads his people carefully along the eastern border
of Edom, the southernmost of these territories. While the Israelites
were making their journey around Edom, they complained about the manna.
After many of the people had been bitten by serpents and died, Moses
made the brass serpent and mounted it on a pole, and if those who were
bitten looked at it, they did not die. This brass serpent remained
in existence until the days of King Hezekiah, who destroyed it after
persons began treating it as an idol. When they reach Moab, it is
revealed that Moab has been attacked and defeated by the Amorites led
by a king named Sihon. The Amorites were a non-Hebrew Canannic people
that once held power in the fertile crescent. When Moses asks the Amorites
for passage and it is refused, Moses attacks the Amorites (as non-Hebrews,
the Israelites have no reservations in attacking them), presumably weakened
by conflict with the Moabites, and defeats them.
The Israelites now
holding the territory of the Amorites just north of Moab, desire to
expand their holdings by acquiring Bashan, a fertile territory north
of Ammon famous for its oak trees and cattle. It is led by a king named
Og. Later rabbinical legends made Og a survivor of the flood, suggesting
the he had sat on the ark and was fed by Noah. The Israelites fight
with Og's forces at Edrei, on the southern border of Bashan, where the
Israelites are victorious and slay every man, woman, and child of his
cities and take the spoil for their bounty.
Balak, king of Moab,
having heard of the Israelites conquests, fears that his territory might
be next. Therefore he sends elders of Moab, and of Midian, to Balaam
(apparently a powerful and respected prophet), son of Beor, to induce
him to come and curse the Israelites. Balaam's location is unclear.
Balaam sends back word that he can only do what God commands, and God
has, via a dream, told him not to go. Moab consequently sends higher
ranking priests and offers Balaam honours, and so God tells Balaam to
go with them. Balaam thus sets out with two servants to go to Balak,
but an Angel tries to prevent him. At first the Angel is seen only by
the ass Balaam is riding. After Balaam starts punishing the ass for
refusing to move, it is miraculously given the power to speak to Balaam,
and it complains about Balaam's treatment. At this point, Balaam is
allowed to see the angel, who informs him that the ass is the only reason
the Angel did not kill Balaam. Balaam immediately repents, but is told
to go on.
Balak meets with
Balaam at Kirjathhuzoth, and they go to the high places of Baal, and
offer sacrifices at seven altars, leading to Balaam being given a prophecy
by God, which Balaam relates to Balak. However, the prophecy blesses
Israel; Balak remonstrates, but Balaam reminds him that he can only
speak the words put in his mouth, so Balak takes him to another high
place at Pisgah, to try again. Building another seven altars here, and
making sacrifices on each, Balaam provides another prophecy blessing
Israel. Balaam finally gets taken by a now very frustrated Balak to
Peor, and, after the seven sacrifices there, decides not to seek enchantments
but instead looks upon the Israelites from the peak. The spirit of God
comes upon Balaam and he delivers a third positive prophecy concerning
Israel. Balak's anger rises to the point where he threatens Balaam,
but Balaam merely offers a prediction of fate. Balaam then looks upon
the Kenites, and Amalekites and offers two more predictions of fate.
Balak and Balaam then simply go to their respective homes. Deuteronomy
23:3-6 summarises these incidents, and further states that the Ammonites
were associated with the Moabites. Joshua, in his farewell speech, also
makes reference to it. Nehemiah, Micah, and Joshua, continue in the
historical account of Balaam, who next advises the Midianites how to
bring disaster upon the Israelites by seducing the people with idols
and beautiful women, which proves partly successful.
Phinehas, the grandson
of Aaron, put an end to the matter of the Midianite seduction by slaying
two of the prominent offenders, but by that time a plague inflicted
upon the Israelites had already killed about twenty-four thousand persons.
Moses was then told that because Phinehas had averted the wrath of God
from the Israelites, Phinehas and his descendents were given the pledge
of an everlasting priesthood.
After Moses had
taken a census of the people, he sent an army to avenge the perceived
evil brought upon the Israelites by the Midianites. The expedition accomplished
its objective resulting in slaying all the male Midianite children,
the non-virgin girls (See Book of Numbers 31:17) and five of their kings:
Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba. The Israelites also slew Balaam.
Joshua, son of Nun, to succeed him as the leader of the Israelites.
Moses then died at the age of 120.
Date of the Exodus
Main article: the Exodus
There is considerable uncertainty as to what date the Bible implies
for the Exodus taking place. Suggestions include:
It may have occurred
around the end of the Hyksos era (1648 - 1540 BC), as mentioned above;
It may have occurred around 1400 BC, since the Amarna letters, written
ca. forty years later to Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten)
indicate that Canaan was being invaded by the "Habiru" —
whom some scholars in the 1950s to 1970s interpret to mean "Hebrews".
However, the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are also recorded
as having conducted military activities in Canaan some centuries before
the Exodus. Note also that "forty years" is a common expression
in the Old Testament for "a long period of time", and that
many scholars today view the Habiru as members of a social underclass
of people present throughout the Ancient Near East at this time, rather
than a tribal group confined to Egypt.
it occurred during the 13th century BC, as the pharaoh during most of
that time, Rameses II, is commonly considered to be a pharaoh with whom
Moses squabbled - either as the 'Pharaoh of the Exodus' himself, or
the preceding 'Pharaoh of the Oppression', who is said to have commissioned
the Hebrews to "(build) for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and
Raamses." These cities are known to have been built under both
Seti I and Rameses II, thus possibly making his successor Merneptah
the 'Pharaoh of the Exodus.' This is considered plausible by those who
view the famed Year 5 (ca. 1208 BC), Merneptah Stele's claim that "Israel
is wasted, bare of seed", as pure propaganda to cover up this king's
own loss of an army in the Red sea. Taken at face value, however, the
primary intent of the stela was clearly to commemorate Merneptah's victory
over the Libyans and their Sea People allies. The reference to Canaan
occurs only in the final lines of the document where Israel is mentioned
after the city states of Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam perhaps to signal
Merneptah's disdain or contempt for this new entity. In Exodus, the
Pharaoh of the Exodus did not cross into Canaan since his Army was destroyed
at the Red Sea. Hence, the traditional view that Ramesses II was the
Pharaoh of either the Oppression or the Exodus is affirmed by the basic
contents of the Merneptah Stele. Under this scenario, the Israelites
would have been a nation without a state of their own who existed on
the fringes of Canaan in Year 5 of Merneptah. This is suggested by the
determinative sign written in the stela for Israel--"a throw stick
plus a man and a woman over the three vertical plural lines"--which
was "typically used by the Egyptians to signify nomadic groups
or peoples without a fixed city-state," such as the Hebrew's
previous life in Goshen. A more remote and unverified possibility is
that the line "wasted, bare of seed" refers to the time when
the infants of Israel are said to have been thrown into the Nile when
Moses was born.
An unverified theory places the birth and/or adoption of Moses during
a minor oppression in the reign of Amenhotep III, which was soon lifted,
and claims that the more well-known oppression occurred during the reign
of Horemheb, followed by the Exodus itself during the reign of Ramses
I. This is supported by the Haggada, which suggests that they were oppressed
and then re-oppressed quite a few years later by Pharaoh. There is also
an inscription from the very beginning of Seti I's reign
which says that upon the death of Ramses I, many of the Shasu (a word
as a collective for many of the nomadic groups of the time) left Egypt,
traveled through Sinai, into northern Arabia, and, as recorded in other
inscriptions, after about forty years, entered Canaan. The Bible, Koran,
and Haggada all suggest that the Pharaoh of the Exodus died in year
2 of his reign, matching Ramses I. The fact that Pi-Tum and Raamses
were built during the reign of Ramses I also supports this view. Seti
I records that during his reign the Shasu warred with each other, which
some see as a reference to the Midyan and Moab wars. Seti's campaigns
with the Shasu have also been compared with Balaam's exploits. However,
many Egyptologists reject these comparisons as spurious.
A more recent and non-Biblical view places Moses as a noble in the court
of the Pharaoh Akhenaten (See below). A significant number of scholars,
from Sigmund Freud to Joseph Campbell, suggest that Moses may have fled
Egypt after Akhenaten's death (ca. 1334 BC) when many of the pharaoh's
monotheistic reforms were being violently reversed. The principal ideas
behind this theory are: the monotheistic religion of Akhenaten being
a possible predecessor to Moses' monotheism, and the "Amarna Letters",
written by nobles to Akhenaten, which describe raiding bands of "Habiru"
attacking the Egyptian territories in Mesopotamia.
David Rohl, a British historian and archaeologist, author of the book
"A Test of Time", places the birth of Moses during the reign
of Pharaoh Khaneferre Sobekhotep IV of the 13th Egyptian Dynasty, and
the Exodus during the reign of Pharaoh Dudimose (accession to the throne
around 1457-1444), when according to Manetho "a blast from God
smote the Egyptians".
It has also been suggested that the Exodus did not occur at all. Some
archaeologists have claimed that surveys of ancient settlements in Sinai
do not appear to show a great influx of people around the time of the
Exodus (given variously as between 1500-1200 BC), as would be expected
from the arrival of Joshua and the Israelites in Canaan. This suggests
that the biblical Exodus may not be a literal depiction. 
 Moses and
Egypt in historical psychoanalysis
There is also a psychoanalytical interpretation of Moses' life, put
forward by Sigmund Freud in his last book, Moses and Monotheism, in
1937. Freud postulated that Moses was an Egyptian nobleman who adhered
to the monotheism of Akhenaten. Freud also believed that Moses was murdered
in the wilderness, producing a collective sense of patricidal guilt
which has been at the heart of Judaism ever since. "Judaism had
been a religion of the father, Christianity became a religion of the
son", he wrote. The possible Egyptian origin of Moses and of his
message has received significant scholarly attention. . Opponents
of this view observe that the religion of the Torah seems very different
to Atenism in everything except the central feature of devotion to a
single god, although this has been countered by a variety of arguments,
e.g. pointing out the similarities between the Hymn to Aten and Psalm
.Moses is depicted
in several U.S. government buildings because of his legacy as a lawgiver.
Moses in one of the 23 lawgivers depicted in marble bas-reliefs in the
chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in the United States Capitol.
An image of Moses holding two tablets written in Hebrew representing
the Ten Commandments (and a partially-visible list of commandments six
through ten, the more "secular" commandments, behind his beard)
is depicted on the frieze on the south wall of the U.S. Supreme Court
The Old Testament
prophet Moses (ca. 1392-ca. 1272 BC) was the emancipator of Israel.
He created Israel's nationhood and founded its religion.
Moses was the son
of Amram and Yochebed of the tribe of Levi. He was born in Egypt during
the period in which the Pharaoh had ordered that all newborn male Hebrew
children be cast into the Nile. Rescued by the daughter of the Pharaoh,
he was brought up in the splendor of the Egyptian court as her adopted
son. Grown to manhood, aware of his Hebraic origin, and with deep compassion
for his enslaved brethren, he became enraged while witnessing an Egyptian
taskmaster brutally beating a Hebrew slave. Impulsively he killed the
Egyptian. Fearing the Pharaoh's wrath and punishment, he fled into the
desert of Midian, becoming a shepherd for Jethro, a Midianite priest
whose daughter Zipporah he later married. While tending the flocks on
Mt. Horeb far in the wilderness, he beheld a bush burning that was not
consumed. In the revelation that followed, he was informed that he had
been chosen to serve as the liberator of the children of Israel. He
was also told to proclaim the unity of God to his entire people, which
doctrine heretofore had been known only to certain individuals.
The tremendous responsibility
of his task, his innate humility, and his own feeling of unworthiness
evoked a hesitancy and lack of confidence in Moses. He was assured,
however, that Aaron, his more fluent brother, would serve as his spokesman
both to the children of Israel and to the Pharaoh.
Moses returned to
Egypt and persuaded the Hebrews to organize for a hasty departure from
the land of bondage.
Together with Aaron,
he informed the Pharaoh that the God of the Hebrews demanded that he
free His people. The Pharaoh refused to obey, bringing upon himself
and his people nine terrible plagues that Moses wrought upon Egypt by
using the miraculous staff he had received as a sign of his authority.
The tenth plague, the killing of the firstborn sons of the Egyptians,
broke the Pharaoh's resistance and compelled him to grant the Hebrews
permission to depart immediately. Moses thus found himself the leader
of an undisciplined collection of slaves, Hebrew as well as non-Hebrew,
escaping from Egyptian territory to freedom.
Moses' immediate goal was Mt. Horeb, called Mt. Sinai, where God had
first revealed Himself to him. The Hebrews came to the sacred mountain
fired by the inspiration of their prophetic leader. Summoned by God,
Moses ascended the mountain and received the tablets of stone while
the children of Israel heard the thundering forth of the Ten Commandments.
Inspired, the people agreed to the conditions of the Covenant.
Through 40 years
in the wilderness of Sinai, overcoming tremendous obstacles, Moses led
the horde of former slaves, shaping them into a nation. He selected
and set them apart for a divine purpose and consecrated them to the
highest ethical and moral laws. Only a man with tremendous will, patience,
compassion, humility, and great faith could have forged the bickering
and scheming factions who constantly challenged his wisdom and authority
into an entity.
the Ten Commandments by a code of law regulating the social and religious
life of the people. This collection of instructions, read to and ratified
by the people, was called the Book of the Covenant.
Under his leadership,
most of the land east of the Jordan was conquered and given to the tribes
of Reuben and Gad and to half of the tribe of Menashe. Moses, however,
was not permitted to lead the children of Israel into Canaan, the Promised
Land, because he had been disobedient to God during the period of wandering
in the desert. When the people were in need of water, God told Moses
to speak to a rock and water would spring from it. Instead he had struck
the rock with his staff. From the heights of Nebo he surveyed the land
promised to his forefathers, which would be given to their children.
Moses, 120 years old, died in the land of Moab and was buried opposite