Moses: Wikis


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Moses Pleading in front of the Children of Israel; illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company

Moses (Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה, Modern Moshe Tiberian Mōšeh; Greek: Mωϋσῆς in both the Septuagint and the New Testament; Arabic: 'موسىٰ, Mūsa) was, according to the Hebrew Bible, a religious leader, lawgiver, and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed. Also called Moshe Rabbenu in Hebrew (Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ, Lit. "Moses our Teacher/Rabbi"), he is the most important prophet in Judaism,[1][2] and is also considered an important prophet by Christianity,[1] Islam,[3] the Bahá'í Faith,[4] Rastafari,[1] and many other faiths. Moses has also been an important symbol in American history, from the first settlers up until the present.[5]

According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Children of Israel, were increasing in number and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might help Egypt's enemies. Moses' Hebrew mother, Jochebed, hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed. He ended up being adopted into the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slave-master, Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian where he tended the flocks of Jethro, a priest of Midian on the slopes of Mt. Horeb. After the Ten Plagues were unleashed on Egypt, Moses led the Exodus of the Hebrew people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, after which they based themselves at Mount Sinai and compassed the borders of Edom. It was at this time that Moses received the Ten Commandments. Despite living to the age of 120, Moses died before reaching the Land of Israel.


Religious texts

Moses rescued from the Nile, 1638, by Nicolas Poussin
Moses in front of Pharaoh by Haydar Hatemi, Persian Artist
The finding of Moses, by Edwin Long

In the Bible, the narratives of Moses are in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, while the main source for Moses' life is the Book of Exodus. According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was a son of Amram, a member of the Levite tribe of Israel descended from Jacob, and his wife, Jochebed.[6] Jochebed (also Yocheved) was kin to Amram's father Kehath (Exodus 6:20). Moses had one older (by seven years) sister, Miriam, and one older (by three years) brother, Aaron.[6] According to Genesis 46:11, Amram's father Kehath immigrated to Egypt with 70 of Jacob's household, making Moses part of the second generation of Israelites born during their time in Egypt.[7]

In the Exodus account, the birth of Moses occurred at a time when the current Egyptian Pharaoh had commanded that all male Hebrew children born be killed by drowning in the river Nile. The Torah and Flavius Josephus leave the identity of this Pharaoh unstated.[8] Jochebed, the wife of the Levite Amram, bore a son and kept him concealed for three months.[6][9][10] 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.[9] In the Biblical account, Moses' sister Miriam observed the progress of the tiny boat until it reached a place where Pharaoh's daughter, Thermuthis, (Bithiah)[6][11] was bathing with her handmaidens. It is said that she spotted the baby in the basket and had her handmaiden fetch it for her. Miriam came forward and asked Pharaoh's daughter if she would like a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.[6] Thereafter, Jochebed was employed as the child's nurse. He grew up and was brought to Pharaoh's daughter and became her son and a younger brother to the future Pharaoh of Egypt. Moses would not be able to become Pharaoh because he was not the 'blood' son of Bithiah, and he was the youngest.[12]

Exodus and Flavius Josephus do not mention whether this daughter of Pharaoh was an only child or, if she was not an only child, whether she was an eldest child or an eldest daughter. Nor do they mention whether Thermuthis later had other natural or adopted children. 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 Moses story related by the Quran, Jochebed is commanded by God to place Moses in an ark and cast him on the waters of the Nile, thus abandoning him completely to God's protection.[13][14] Pharaoh's wife Asiya, not his daughter, found Moses floating in the waters of the Nile. She convinced Pharaoh to keep him as their son because they were not blessed with any children.


  • The Midrash identifies Moses as one of seven biblical personalities who were called by various names.[15] Moses' other names were: Jekuthiel (by his mother), Heber (by his father), Jered (by Miriam), Avi Zanoah (by Aaron), Avi Gedor (by Kohath), Avi Soco (by his wet-nurse), Shemaiah ben Nethanel (by people of Israel).[16] Moses is also attributed the names Toviah (as a first name), and Levi (as a family name) (Vayikra Rabbah 1:3), Heman,[17] Mechoqeiq (lawgiver)[18] and Ehl Gav Ish (Numbers 12:3)[19]
  • Some medieval Jewish scholars had suggested that Moses' actual name was the Egyptian translation of "to draw out", and that it was translated into Hebrew, either by the Bible, or by Moses himself later in his lifetime.[20]
  • A 20th century Catholic source says that Moses is an Egyptian name, with the same root as Tuth-mose and Ramses. It means "born." Exodus 2:10 gives the etymology. Moses would be the participle of the verb masha. "to draw.[21]
  • According to Islamic tradition, his name, Mūsā, is derived from two Egyptian words: which means water and shā meaning tree (or reeds), in reference to the fact that the basket in which the infant Moses floated came to rest by trees close to Pharaoh's residence.[22]

Shepherd in Midian

After Moses had reached adulthood, he went to see how his brethren were faring.[9] Seeing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and buried the body in the sand, supposing that no one who knew about the incident would be disposed to talk about it.[9] 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.[23] 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.[9] In Midian he stopped at a well, where he protected seven shepherdesses from a band of rude shepherds. The shepherdesses' father Hobab (also known as Raguel and Jethro[24], and presumably Shoaib according to Qur'an[25]), a priest of Midian[26] was immensely grateful for this assistance Moses had given his daughters, and adopted him as his son, gave his daughter Zipporah to him in marriage, and made him the superintendent of his herds.[9][27][28] There he sojourned forty years, following the occupation of a shepherd, during which time his son Gershom was born.[9][29] One day, Moses led his flock to Mount Horeb (Exodus 3), 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 at Midian.[citation needed] While tending the flocks of Jethro at Mount Horeb, he saw a burning bush that would not be consumed.[9] When he turned aside to look more closely at the marvel, God spoke to him from the bush, revealing his name to Moses.[9]

Egypt: the Plagues and the Exodus

Moses before the Pharaoh, a 6th century miniature from the Syriac Bible of Paris.

God commanded Moses to go to Egypt and deliver his fellow Hebrews from bondage. God had Moses practice transforming his rod into a serpent and inflicting and healing leprosy, and told him that he could also pour river water on dry land to change the water to blood.[30][31][32] The Quran's account has emphasized Moses' mission to invite the Pharaoh to accept God's divine message[33] as well as give salvation to the Israelites.[34][35]

Moses then set off for Egypt, and was nearly killed by God because his son was not circumcised (the meaning of this latter obscure passage is debatable, because of the ambiguous nature of the Hebrew and its abrupt presence in the narrative). He was met on the way by his elder brother, Aaron, and gained a hearing with his oppressed kindred after they returned to Egypt, who believed Moses and Aaron after they saw the signs that were performed in the midst of the Israelite assembly.[36][37] It is also revealed that during Moses' absence, the Pharaoh of the Oppression had died, and been replaced by a new Pharaoh, known as the Pharaoh of the Exodus. 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, although that matter is unclear in Exodus) — it is conspicuous[38] 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 than Rameses II. Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and told him that the Lord God of Israel wanted Pharaoh to permit the Israelites to celebrate a feast in the wilderness. Pharaoh replied that he did not know their God and would not permit them to go celebrate the feast. Pharaoh upbraided Moses and Aaron,[39][40] however they gained a second hearing with Pharaoh and changed Moses' rod into a serpent, but Pharaoh's magicians did the same with their rods. Moses and Aaron had a third opportunity when they went to meet the Pharaoh at the Nile riverbank, and Moses had Aaron turn the river to blood, but Pharaoh's magicians could do the same. Moses obtained a fourth meeting, and had Aaron bring frogs from the Nile to overrun Egypt, but Pharaoh's magicians were able to do the same thing. Apparently Pharaoh eventually got annoyed by the frogs and asked Moses to remove the frogs and promised to let the Israelites go observe their feast in the wilderness in return. The next day all the frogs died leaving a horrible stench and an enormous mess. This angered Pharaoh and he decided against letting the Israelites leave to observe the feast.[41] Eventually Pharaoh let the Hebrews depart after Moses' God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians. The third and fourth were the plague of gnats and flies. The fifth was the invasion of diseases on the Egyptians' cattle, oxen, goats, sheep, camels, and horses. The sixth was 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 while smiting the Egyptians.[42]

The crossing of the Red Sea

Moses strikes water from the stone, by Francesco Bacchiacca

And so Moses led 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. There is some contention about this passage, since an earlier incorrect translation of Yam Suph to Red Sea was later found to have meant Reed Sea.[43] When the Egyptian army attempted to follow, God permitted the waters to return upon them and drown them. According to the Quran the Pharaoh was leading the Egyptian army himself, and drowned along with his army, and in his last words before drowning he asks God for forgiveness, however God made him die with his body in perfect shape, so he would be an example for every tyrant who defies the prophets — surat Yunis:92 (يونس:92) -. The people then continued to Marsa marching for three days along the wilderness of the Shur [44] without finding water. Then they came to Elim where twelve water springs and 70 Palm trees greeted them.[45] From Elim they set out again and after 45 days they reached the wilderness of Sin[46] between Elim and Sinai.

From there they reached the plain of Rephidim, completing the crossing of the Red Sea.

On Mount Sinai and delivering the Ten Commandments

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt (1659)

According to the Bible, after crossing the Red Sea and leading the Israelites towards the desert, Moses was summoned by God to Mount Sinai, also referred to as Mount Horeb, the same place where Moses had first talked to the Burning Bush, tended the flocks of Jethro his father-in-law, and later produced water by striking the rock with his staff and directed the battle with the Amalekites.

Moses stayed on the mountain for 40 days and nights, a period in which he received the Ten Commandments directly from God. Moses then descended from the mountain with intent to deliver the commandments to the people, but upon his arrival he saw that the people were involved in the sin of the Golden Calf. In terrible anger, Moses broke the commandment tablets.[47] God later offered Moses to inscribe two other tablets, to replace the ones Moses smashed,[48] so Moses went to the mountain again, for another period of 40 days and nights, and when he returned, the commandments were finally given.

In Jewish tradition, Moses is referred to as "The Lawgiver" for this singular achievement of delivering the Ten Commandments.

The years in the wilderness

A statue of Moses smiting the rock stands in Washington Park, Albany, New York.

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.[49][50] 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.[51][52] 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.[53][54]

Amalekites arrived and attacked the Israelites. In response, Moses bade 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.[55][56]

Moses holding up his arms during the battle, assisted by Aaron and Hur. Painting by John Everett Millais

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.[57]

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. He 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 or Hur. 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. According to Quran the one who made for them the golden calf was another man called in Quran "Alsameri". 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.[58][59]

Following this, 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.[60]

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on account of his marriage to an Ethiopian, Josephus explains the marriage of Moses to this Ethiopian in the Antiquities of the Jews[61] and about him being the only one through whom the Lord spoke. Miriam was punished with leprosy for seven days.[62]

The people left Hazeroth and pitched camp in the wilderness of Paran.[63] (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 opinion. 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.[64] According to the Quran, Moses encourages the Israelites to enter Canaan, but they are unwilling to fight the Canaanites, fearing certain defeat. Moses responds by pleading to Allah that he and his brother Aaron be separated from the rebellious Israelites.[65]

The Tribe of Reuben, 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.[66] To prevent further murmurings and settle the matter permanently, Moses had each of the chief princes 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.[67]

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.[68] 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.

Moses lifts up the brass serpent, curing the Israelites from poisonous snake bites.

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 required 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.[69] According to the Biblical Book of Kings this brass serpent remained in existence until the days of King Hezekiah, who destroyed it after persons began treating it as an idol.[70] 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 Canaanic people who 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.[71] 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.[71]

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 (Bible), 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.[72]

Russian Orthodox icon of the prophet Moses, gesturing towards the burning bush. 18th century (Iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi Monastery, Karelia, Russia).

Balak meets with Balaam at Kirjath-huzoth, 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 on 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 on the Kenites, and Amalekites and offers two more predictions of fate. Balak and Balaam then simply go to their respective homes. Later, Balaam informed Balak and the Midianites that, if they wished to overcome the Israelites for a short interval, they needed to seduce the Israelites to engage in idolatry.[73] The Midianites sent beautiful women to the Israelite camp to seduce the young men to partake in idolatry, and the attempt proved successful.[74]

God then commanded Moses to kill and hang the heads of everyone that had engaged in idolatry, and Moses ordered the judges to carry out the mass execution. At the same time, one of the Israelites brought home a Midianitish woman in the sight of the congregation. Upon seeing this, Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, took a javelin in his hand and thrust through both the Israelite and the Midianitish woman, which turned away the wrath of God. By that time, however, the plague inflicted on 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.[75] After Moses had taken a census of the people, he sent an army to avenge the perceived evil brought on the Israelites by the Midianites. Numbers 31 says Moses instructed the Israelite soldiers to kill every Midianite woman, boy, and non-virgin girl, although virgin girls were shared amongst the soldiers.[76] The Israelites killed Balaam, and the five kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba.[77]

Moses appointed Joshua, son of Nun, to succeed him as the leader of the Israelites.[78] Moses then died at the age of 120.[79]


Bust of Moses at Earl Hall at Columbia University in New York City

After all this was accomplished, Moses was warned that he would not be permitted to lead the nation of Israel across the Jordan river, because of his trespass at the waters of Meribah,[80] but would die on its eastern shores (Num. 20:12).[81] He therefore assembled the tribes, and delivered to them a parting address, which forms the Book of Deuteronomy.[81] In this address it is commonly accepted that he recapitulated the Law, reminding them of its most important features.[81] When Moses finished, and he had pronounced a blessing on the people (Deut. 28:1-14), he went up Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah, looked over the promised land of Israel spread out before him, and died, at the age of one hundred and twenty, on 7 Adar[82] 2488[83] (about Feb-Mar 1271 BCE).[81] God himself buried him in an unknown grave in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor (Deut. 34:6).[10][81] Moses was thus the human instrument in the creation of the nation of Israel by communicating to it the Torah.[81] More humble than any other man (Num. 12:3), he enjoyed unique privileges, for "there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the HaShem knew face to face" (Deut. 34:10).[81] See also Jude 1:9 and Zechariah 3.

Religion's views of Moses


There is a wealth of stories and additional information about Moses in the Jewish apocrypha and in the genre of rabbinical exegesis known as Midrash, as well as in the primary works of the Jewish oral law, the Mishnah and the Talmud.[84]

Jewish historians who lived at Alexandria, such as Eupolemus, attributed to Moses the feat of having taught the Phoenicians their alphabet,[85] similar to legends of Thoth. Artapanus of Alexandria explicitly identified Moses not only with Thoth / Hermes, but also with the Greek figure Musaeus (whom he calls "the teacher of Orpheus"), and ascribed to him the division of Egypt into 36 districts, each with its own liturgy. He names the princess who adopted Moses as Merris, wife of Pharaoh Chenephres.[86]

Ancient sources mention an Assumption of Moses and a Testimony of Moses. A Latin text was found in Milan in the 19th century by Antonio Ceriani who called it the Assumption of Moses, even though it does not refer to an assumption of Moses or contain portions of the Assumption which are cited by ancient authors, and it is apparently actually the Testimony. The incident which the ancient authors cite is also mentioned in the Epistle of Jude.

To Orthodox Jews, Moses is really Moshe Rabbenu, `Eved HaShem, Avi haNeviim zya"a.[84] He is called "Our Leader Moshe", "Servant of God", and "Father of all the Prophets".[84] In their view, Moses not only received the Torah, but also the revealed (written and oral) and the hidden (the `hokhmat nistar teachings, which gave Judaism the Zohar of the Rashbi, the Torah of the Ari haQadosh and all that is discussed in the Heavenly Yeshiva between the Ramhal and his masters).[84] He is also considered the greatest prophet.[87]

Arising in part from his age, but also because 120 is elsewhere stated as the maximum age for Noah's descendants (one interpretation of Genesis 6:3), "may you live to 120" has become a common blessing among Jews.[84]


Mosaic of Moses at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
Prophet, Seer, Lawgiver
Born Goshen, Egypt
Died Mount Nebo, Moab, in modern Jordan
Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy
Feast September 4
Attributes Tablets of the Law

For Christians, Moses — mentioned more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament figure — is often a symbol of God's law, as reinforced and expounded on in the teachings of Jesus.[84] New Testament writers often compared Jesus' words and deeds with Moses' to explain Jesus' mission.[84] In Acts 7:39–43, 51–53, for example, the rejection of Moses by the Jews that worshiped the golden calf is likened to the rejection of Jesus by the Jews that continued in traditional Judaism.[84]

Moses also figures in several of Jesus' messages.[84] When he met the Pharisees Nicodemus at night in the third chapter of the Gospel of John, he compares Moses' lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, which any Israelite could look at and be healed, to his own lifting up (by his death and resurrection) for the people to look at and be healed.[84] In the sixth chapter, Jesus responds to the people's claim that Moses provided them manna in the wilderness by saying that it was not Moses, but God, who provided.[84] Calling himself the "bread of life", Jesus states that he is now provided to feed God's people.[84]

He along with Elijah, is presented as meeting with Jesus in all three Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, respectively. Later Christians found numerous other parallels between the life of Moses and Jesus to the extent that Jesus was likened to a "second Moses." For instance, Jesus' escape from the slaughter by Herod in Bethlehem is compared to Moses' escape from Pharaoh's designs to kill Hebrew infants.[84] Such parallels, unlike those mentioned above, are not pointed out in Scripture. See the article on typology.[84]

His relevance to modern Christianity has not diminished. He is considered to be a saint by several churches;[84] and is commemorated as a prophet in the respective Calendars of Saints of the Lutheran[84] and Eastern Orthodox Churches on September 4. He is commemorated as one of the Holy Forefathers in the Calendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 30.


Members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (colloquially called Mormons) generally view Moses in the same way that other Christians do. However, in addition to accepting the Biblical account of Moses, Mormons include Selections from the Book of Moses as part of their scriptural canon.[88] This book is believed to be the translated writings of Moses, and is included in the Pearl of Great Price.[89] Latter-day Saints are also unique in believing that Moses was taken to heaven without having tasted death (translated). In addition, Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery stated that on April 3, 1836, Moses appeared to them in the Kirtland Temple in a glorified, immortal, physical form and bestowed upon them the "keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north."[90]


Moses (Arabic: Musa) is mentioned more in the Qur'an than any other individual and his life is narrated and recounted more than any other prophet recognized in Islam.[84][91] Moses is defined in Quran as both prophet (Nabi) and messenger (Rasul), which means he was one of the prophets who brought a scripture and law to his people. He has the status of being one of the Ulu al-azm Messengers, that is those Messengers who were endowed with special determination, constancy and forbearance in obeying the commands of God. Among prophets, Moses has been described as the one whose career as a messenger of God, lawgiver and leader of his community most closely parallels and foreshadows that of Muhammad.[22]

In the Qur'an, Moses is included in the following passages: 2.49-61, 7.103-160, 10.75-93, 17.101-104, 20.9-97, 26.10-66, 27.7-14, 28.3-46, 40.23-30, 43.46-55, 44.17-31, and 79.15-25. and many others

Most of the key events in Moses' life which are narrated in the Bible are to be found dispersed through the different Surahs of Quran, with a story about meeting Khidr which is not found in the Bible.[14] The Bible and Qur'an have different angles of view. The Bible has focused on Moses and the rescue of Israelites, while the Qur'an emphasized on the relation between Moses and God.[35][84]


In Mandaeism, Moses is regarded as a false prophet.

Academic view

The German scholar Martin Noth accepts that Moses may have had some connection with the preparations for the conquest of Canaan and recognizes a historical core "beneath" the Exodus and Sinai traditions. However, Noth holds that two different groups experienced the Exodus and Sinai events, and each group transmitted its own stories independently of the other one, writing that "The biblical story tracing the Hebrews from Egypt to Canaan resulted from an editor's weaving separate themes and traditions around a main character Moses, actually an obscure person from Moab."[92]

Other scholars such as William Albright have a more favorable view towards the traditional views regarding Moses, and accept the essence of the biblical story, as narrated between Exodus 1:8 and Deuteronomy 34:12, but recognize the impact that centuries of oral and written transmission have had on the account, causing it to acquire layers of accretions.[92]


The Moses Window at the Washington National Cathedral depicts the three stages in Moses' life.

Known extra-Biblical references to Moses date from many centuries after his supposed lifetime, and contain significant departures from the Biblical account. In addition to the Judeo-Roman or Judeo-Hellenic historians Artapanus, Eupolemus, Josephus, and Philo, a few gentile historians including Hecataeus of Abdera (quoted by Diodorus Siculus), Alexander Polyhistor, Manetho, Apion, Chaeremon of Alexandria, Tacitus and Porphyry make reference to him. The extent to which any of these accounts rely on earlier sources is unknown. Moses also appears in other religious texts such as the Midrash, Mishnah and Qur'an

No other surviving written records from Egypt, Assyria, etc., indisputably referring to the stories of the Bible or its main characters before ca. 850s BCE have been found,[93][94] and there is no known physical evidence (such as pottery shards or stone tablets) to corroborate Moses' existence.[95][96]

Artapanus of Alexandria

This account is excerpted from the Hellenistic Jewish historian Artapanus of Alexandria (2nd century BCE), as reproduced by Eusebius of Caesarea.

Jealousy of Moses' excellent qualities induced Chenephres to send him with unskilled troops on a military expedition to Ethiopia, where he won great victories. After having built the city of Hermopolis, he taught the people the value of the ibis as a protection against the serpents, making the bird the sacred guardian spirit of the city; then he introduced circumcision. After his return to Memphis, Moses taught the people the value of oxen for agriculture, and the consecration of the same by Moses gave rise to the cult of Apis. Finally, after having escaped another plot by killing the assailant sent by the king, Moses fled to Arabia, where he married the daughter of Raguel, the ruler of the district. Chenephres in the meantime died from elephantiasis — a disease with which he was the first to be afflicted — because he had ordered that the Jews should wear garments that would distinguish them from the Egyptians and thereby expose them to maltreatment. The sufferings of Israel then caused God to appear to Moses in a flame bursting forth from the earth, and to tell him to march against Egypt for the rescue of his people. Accordingly he went to Egypt to deliberate with his brother Aaron about the plan of warfare, but was put into prison. At night, however, the doors of the prison opened of their own accord, while the guards died or fell asleep. Going to the royal palace and finding the doors open there and the guards sunk in sleep, he went straight to the king, and when scoffingly asked by the latter for the name of the God who sent him, he whispered the Ineffable Name into his ear, whereupon the king became speechless and as one dead. Then Moses wrote the name upon a tablet and sealed it up, and a priest who made sport of it died in convulsions. After this Moses performed all the wonders, striking land and people with plagues until the king let the Jews go. In remembrance of the rod with which Moses performed his miracles every Isis temple in Egypt has preserved a rod — Isis symbolizing the earth which Moses struck with his rod... He was eighty-nine years old when he delivered the Jews; tall and ruddy, with long white hair, and dignified.


In Strabo

The following excerpt comes from the Roman historian Strabo (c. 24 AD):

34 As for Judaea, its western extremities towards Casius are occupied by the Idumaeans and by the lake. The Idumaeans are Nabataeans, but owing to a sedition they were banished from there, joined the Judeans, and shared in the same customs with them. The greater part of the region near the sea is occupied by Lake Sirbonis and by the country continuous with the lake as far as Jerusalem; for this city is also near the sea; for, as I have already said, it is visible from the seaport of Iopê. This region lies towards the north; and it is inhabited in general, as is each place in particular, by mixed stocks of people from Aegyptian and Arabian and Phoenician tribes; for such are those who occupy Galilee and Hiericus and Philadelphia and Samaria, which last Herod surnamed Sebastê. But though the inhabitants mixed up thus, the most prevalent of the accredited reports in regard to the temple at Jerusalem represents the ancestors of the present Judaeans, as they are called, as Aegyptians.

35 Moses, namely, was one of the Aegyptian priests, and held a part of Lower Aegypt, as it is called, but he went away from there to Judaea, since he was displeased with the state of affairs there, and was accompanied by many people who worshipped the Divine Being. For he says, and taught, that the Aegyptians were mistaken in representing the Divine Being by the images of beasts and cattle, as were also the Libyans; and that the Greeks were also wrong in modeling gods in human form; for, according to him, God is this one thing alone that encompasses us all and encompasses land and sea — the thing which we call heaven, or universe, or the nature of all that exists. What man, then, if he has sense, could be bold enough to fabricate an image of God resembling any creature amongst us? Nay, people should leave off all image-carving, and, setting apart a sacred precinct and a worthy sanctuary, should worship God without an image; and people who have good dreams should sleep in the sanctuary, not only themselves on their own behalf, but also others for the rest of the people; and those who live self-restrained and righteous lives should always expect some blessing or gift or sign from God, but no other should expect them.

36 Now Moses, saying things of this kind, persuaded not a few thoughtful men and led them away to this place where the settlement of Jerusalem now is; and he easily took possession of the place, since it was not a place that would be looked on with envy, nor yet one for which anyone would make a serious fight; for it is rocky, and, although it itself is well supplied with water, its surrounding territory is barren and waterless, and the part of the territory within a radius of sixty stadia is also rocky beneath the surface. At the same time Moses, instead of using arms, put forward as defense his sacrifices and his Divine Being, being resolved to seek a seat of worship for Him and promising to deliver to the people a kind of worship and a kind of ritual which would not oppress those who adopted them either with expenses or with divine obsessions or with other absurd troubles. Now Moses enjoyed fair repute with these people, and organized no ordinary kind of government, since the peoples all round, one and all, came over to him, because of his dealings with them and of the prospects he held out to them.


In Tacitus

The Roman historian Tacitus (ca. 100 AD) mentions several possible origins of the Jews that were taught by those of his time.

As I am about to relate the last days of a famous city, it seems appropriate to throw some light on its origin. Some say that the Jews were fugitives from the island of Crete, who settled on the nearest coast of Africa about the time when Saturn was driven from his throne by the power of Jupiter. Evidence of this is sought in the name. There is a famous mountain in Crete called Ida; the neighbouring tribe, the Idaei, came to be called Judaei by a barbarous lengthening of the national name. Others assert that in the reign of Isis the overflowing population of Egypt, led by Hierosolymus and Judas, discharged itself into the neighbouring countries. Many, again, say that they were a race of Ethiopian origin, who in the time of king Cepheus were driven by fear and hatred of their neighbours to seek a new dwelling-place. Others describe them as an Assyrian horde who, not having sufficient territory, took possession of part of Egypt, and founded cities of their own in what is called the Hebrew country, lying on the borders of Syria. Others, again, assign a very distinguished origin to the Jews, alleging that they were the Solymi, a nation celebrated in the poems of Homer, who called the city which they founded Hierosolyma after their own name.

Most writers, however, agree in stating that once a disease, which horribly disfigured the body, broke out over Egypt; that king Bocchoris, seeking a remedy, consulted the oracle of Hammon, and was bidden to cleanse his realm, and to convey into some foreign land this race detested by the gods. The people, who had been collected after diligent search, finding themselves left in a desert, sat for the most part in a stupor of grief, till one of the exiles, Moyses by name, warned them not to look for any relief from God or man, forsaken as they were of both, but to trust to themselves, taking for their heaven-sent leader that man who should first help them to be quit of their present misery. They agreed, and in utter ignorance began to advance at random. Nothing, however, distressed them so much as the scarcity of water, and they had sunk ready to perish in all directions over the plain, when a herd of wild asses was seen to retire from their pasture to a rock shaded by trees. Moyses followed them, and, guided by the appearance of a grassy spot, discovered an abundant spring of water. This furnished relief. After a continuous journey for six days, on the seventh they possessed themselves of a country, from which they expelled the inhabitants, and in which they founded a city and a temple.


The Antiquities of the Jews

Josephus relates several other incidents in connection with the Biblical account of Moses:

Before the incident in which Moses slew the Egyptian, Moses had led the Egyptians in a campaign against invading Ethiopians and routed them. While Moses was besieging one of the Ethiopians' cities, Tharbis, the daughter of the Ethiopian king, fell in love with Moses and wished to marry him. He agreed to do so if she would procure the deliverance of the city into his power. She did so immediately, and Moses promptly married her.[61] This marriage is also mentioned in Numbers 12:1. The account of this expedition is also mentioned by Irenaeus,[100] and the event would explain why St. Stephen refers to Moses as "mighty in his words and in his deeds" before Moses slew the Egyptian.[101][102]

Flavius Josephus also gives significantly detailed accounts of the aftermath of Baalam's blessings and the events that lead to the slaying of Zimri.[103]

Date of the Exodus

There is a large variety of estimates as to the supposed date of the Exodus, with suggestions ranging from the 17th to 13th centuries BCE.

  • Some historiographers have suggested the Hyksos era (1648–1540 BCE), as mentioned above;[104]
  • Others suggest 1444 BCE in the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, extrapolated from the Biblical assertion that King Solomon commenced work on the temple in the fourth year of his reign 480 years after the Exodus took place.
  • Yet others place it around 1400s BCE, 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.
  • A frequent suggestion is the Egyptian Empire period, in particular the 13th century BCE, as the pharaoh of that time, Ramesses II, is commonly considered to be the 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 famous claim of the Year 5 Merneptah Stele (ca. 1208 BCE) that "Israel is wasted, bare of seed," as 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,"[105] such as the Hebrew's previous life in Goshen.
  • 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 Ramesses I. This is supported by the Haggadah of Pesach, which suggests that they were oppressed and then re-oppressed quite a few years later by Pharaoh. The Bible and Haggada 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.[106]
  • 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 BCE) 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.[107]
  • 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".[108]


Although there have been various attempts at placing Moses in a historical context of the Late Bronze Age or the Bronze Age collapse, his historicity cannot be established. Archaeological surveys of ancient settlements in Sinai do not show a great influx of people around the time of the Exodus (given variously as between 1500–1200 BCE), as would be expected from the arrival of Joshua and the Israelites in Canaan. According to Prof. Ze'ev Herzog, Director of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, "This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel.... The many Egyptian documents that we have make no mention of the Israelites' presence in Egypt and are also silent about the events of the exodus."[38]

The views of the mainstream archaeological community can be represented by Israel Finkelstein and William Dever. Finkelstein points to the appearance of settlements in the central hill country around 1200 as the earliest of the known settlements of the Israelites.[109] A cyclical pattern to these highland settlements, corresponding to the state of the surrounding cultures, suggests that the local Canaanites combined an agricultural and nomadic lifestyles. When Egyptian rule collapsed after the invasion of the Sea Peoples, the central hill country could no longer sustain a large nomadic population, so they went from nomadism to sedentism.[110] Dever agrees with the Canaanite origin of the Israelites but allows for the possibility of some immigrants from Egypt among the early hilltop settlers, leaving open the possibility of a Moses-like figure in Transjordan ca 1250-1200.[111] Biblical minimalists such as Philip Davies and Niels Peter Lemche regard the Exodus as a fiction composed in the Persian period or even later, without even the memory of a historical Moses. Hector Avalos, in "The End of Biblical Studies," states that the Exodus, as depicted in the Bible, is an idea that most biblical historians no longer support.[112]

Symbol in American history

Moses holds the Ten Commandments - Library of Congress statue

The symbolism of Moses has inspired generations of American leaders from the Puritans up to recent presidents. The story of Moses gave meaning and hope to the lives of Pilgrims seeking religious and personal freedom, with leaders such as John Carver, the first governor of Plymouth colony, called the "Moses of the Pilgrims."[113] Following Carver's death, Plymouth's second governor was William Bradford, another signor of the Mayflower Compact. He feared that the Pilgrims would not survive the hardships of the new land, with half their people dying within months of arriving. Bradford writes, "Violence will break all. Where is the meek and humble spirit of Moses? And of Nehemiah, who reedified the walls of Jerusalem, and the State of Israel?"[114] He spent his later life studying the Hebrew language, writing in his diary, "I have a longing desire to see with my own eyes, something of that most ancient language and holy tongue, . . . . to have seen some glimpse hereof; as Moses saw the Land of Canaan afar off."[115]

The story of Moses also inspired America’s founding fathers during the American Revolution, when they created the Declaration of Independence and soon after, the Constitution. Moses was quoted by Abraham Lincoln to help justify the Civil War, and in modern times has helped unify the civil rights movement.[5] "The common story of America from the Pilgrims onward is a powerful one," writes historian Jon Meacham; "it draws on some of the most vivid and important themes of Israel, investing the United States with a sense of earthly grandeur and divine purpose."[116] Author Bruce Feiler notes that Moses, for four hundred years, inspired more Americans than any other figure.[5]

During the 20th century up until the present, American presidents such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, have used the story of Moses to help explain their ideologies and present their messages, Obama calling voters the "Moses generation."[117] In earlier periods, leaders such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, have even been called a "Moses of their people," with the story of Moses used as a "metaphor for liberation."[118] Prior to the election of Barack Obama as president, some of his black supporters stated that "Obama is our Moses."[119]

Biographer Hugh H. Urban notes that George W. Bush's decision to run for president came after attending a church sermon about the Exodus. Bush recalled the pastor's references to Moses, that "America today needs strong leaders with faith, integrity, and moral values." Urban writes that Bush "heard the call and has been chosen for a higher purpose—that he has, like Moses, been called at a time when his people would need him."[120]

Swedish historian Hugo Valentin writes that Moses "was the first to proclaim the rights of man." [121] The founding fathers inscribed the words of Moses on the Liberty Bell, and both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson designed the first Seal of the United States depicting Moses leading the Israelites in their Exodus from Egypt. Franklin describes the inspirations he relied on when helping create the United States Constitution, ratified only a year earlier:

"The Supreme Being had been pleased to nourish up a single family, by continued acts of his attentive providence, till it became a great people; and having rescued them from bondage by many miracles, performed by his servant Moses, he personally delivered to that chosen servant, in presence of the whole nation, a constitution and code of laws for their observance. . . "[122]

The Ten Commandments, which Moses received from God, along with the Five Books of Moses, have been described by theologian William Barclay as "the law without which nationhood is impossible." Others have credited the Ten Commandments as the basis of America's Constitution, with Barclay noting that "From Israel we Christian peoples inherit that wise and holy code of laws. Our society is founded upon it." John Adams, America’s 2nd president, compared Moses to the Greek philosophers: "As much as I love, esteem, and admire the Greeks, I believe the Hebrews have done more to enlighten and civilize the world. Moses did more than all their legislators and philosophers."[116]

In Freud's 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. Following a theory proposed by a contemporary biblical critic, Freud, a committed atheist, believed that Moses was murdered in the wilderness, producing a collective sense of patricidal guilt that 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.[123] Opponents of this view observe that the religion of the Torah seems different to Atenism in everything except the central feature of devotion to a single god,[124] although this has been countered by a variety of arguments, e.g. pointing out the similarities between the Hymn to Aten and Psalm 104.[125][126] Freud's interpretation of the historical Moses is not a prominent theory among historians, and is considered pseudohistory by most.[127]


According to the Torah, Moses prescribed the death penalty for a huge range of offences, and for defeated enemies. As he is considered a holy figure, however, by Jews, Christians and Muslims, most criticism of those passages of the Hebrew Bible has been left to others.

In the late eighteenth century, for example, the deist Thomas Paine commented at length on Moses' Laws in The Age of Reason, and gave his view that "the character of Moses, as stated in the Bible, is the most horrid that can be imagined",[128] giving the story at Numbers 31:13-18 as an example. In the nineteenth century the agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll wrote "...that all the ignorant, infamous, heartless, hideous things recorded in the 'inspired' Pentateuch are not the words of God, but simply 'Some Mistakes of Moses'".[129] In the 2000s, the atheist Richard Dawkins referring, like Paine, to the incident at Numbers 31:13-18, concluded, "No, Moses was not a great role model for modern moralists."[130]


Moses is depicted in several U.S. government buildings because of his legacy as a lawgiver. In the Library of Congress stands a large statue of Moses alongside a statue of the Apostle Paul. Moses is 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. The other twenty-two figures have their profiles turned to Moses, which is the only forward facing bas-relief.[131][132]

Statue by Michelangelo—giving off "hornlike rays"

Moses appears eight times in carvings that ring the Supreme Court Great Hall ceiling. His face is presented along with other ancient figures such as Solomon, the Greek god Zeus and the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva. The Supreme Court building's east pediment depicts Moses holding two tablets. Tablets representing the Ten Commandments can be found carved in the oak courtroom doors, on the support frame of the courtroom's bronze gates and in the library woodwork. A controversial image is one that sits directly above the chief justice's head. In the center of the 40-foot-long Spanish marble carving is a tablet displaying Roman numerals I through X, with some numbers partially hidden.[133]

Michelangelo's statue

Michelangelo's statue of Moses in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, is one of the most familiar masterpieces in the world. However, according to archaeology experts, the horns placed on the head of the Moses was a mistake by the famous sculptor, caused by a mistranslation of the Hebrew Bible into the Latin Vulgate Bible, which he was familiar with. The Hebrew word taken from Exodus means either a "horn" or an "irradiation." Experts at the Archaeological Institute of America show that the term was used when Moses "returned to his people after seeing as much of the Glory of the Lord as human eye could stand," and his face "reflected radiance."[134] In early Jewish art, moreover, Moses is often "shown with rays coming out of his head."[135]

Another author explains, "When Saint Jerome translated the Old Testament into Latin, he thought no one but Christ should glow with rays of light—so he advanced the secondary translation.[136][137] However, writer J. Stephen Lang points out that Jerome's version actually described Moses as "giving off hornlike rays," and he "rather clumsily translated it to mean 'having horns.'"[138] It has also been noted that he had Moses seated on a throne, yet Moses was neither a King nor ever sat on such thrones.[139]

Portrayals in popular culture

Dramatic portrayals

Charlton Heston as Moses



In late David Gemmell's Troy series, Moses is exiled Egyptian (Gyppto) prince Ahmose. He joins Helikaon's crew under the name Gershom and becomes one of his closest friends after the death of Zidantas/Ox. He considers his grandfather, the pharaoh, a very wise man. Priam's daughter Kassandra shows him the truth: He was taken from his parents to replace pharaoh's stillborn son. He then goes to Egypt to free his people. When Thera volcano erupts, the sun is blotted out and because it happens right after Ramesses refuses to let them go, Jews believe that Moses did that.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Deuteronomy 34:10
  2. ^ Maimonides, 13 principles of faith, 7th principle
  3. ^ Qur'an 19:51–51
  4. ^ Juan R.I. Cole (7/10/98). "Baha'u'llah on the Life of Jesus". Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  5. ^ a b c Feiler, Bruce. America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story, William Morrow (2009)
  6. ^ a b c d e Easton, Matthew George (1897). Illustrated Bible Dictionary. London ; New York: T. Nelson. "Moses". 
  7. ^ Genesis 46
  8. ^ see Reference Halley's Bible Handbook
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Biblical data on Moses". 
  10. ^ a b "Moses". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  11. ^ "Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, Chapter 9, Paragraph 5". 
  12. ^ "Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, Chapter 8, Paragraph 7". 
  13. ^ Qur'an 28:7
  14. ^ a b Keeler (2006), p.56
  15. ^ Midrash Rabbah, Ki Thissa, XL. 3-3, Lehrman, P.463
  16. ^ Yalkut Shimoni, Shemot 166 to Chronicles I 4:18, 24:6; also see Vayikra Rabbah 1:3; Chasidah p.345
  17. ^ Rashi to Bava Batra 15s, Chasidah p.345
  18. ^ Bava Batra 15a on Deuteronomy 33:21, Chasidah p.345
  19. ^ Rashi to Berachot 54a), Chasidah p.345
  20. ^ "Meaning, origin and etymology of the name Moses". 
  21. ^ New World Dictionary-Concordance to the New American Bible. World Publishing. 1970. p. 461. ISBN 0-529-04540-0. 
  22. ^ a b Keeler (2006) p.55
  23. ^ Flavius Josephus does not mention this incident in his account, so it is uncertain as to its chronological relationship to Moses' expedition against the Ethiopians.
  24. ^ "Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, Chapter 12, Paragraph 1". 
  25. ^ Mukarram Ahmed (2005), p.100
  26. ^ A region just East of the gulf of Aqaba
  27. ^ "Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, Chapter 11, Paragraph 2". 
  28. ^ No further mention is made of Moses' first wife Tharbis in either Exodus or Flavius Josephus except in the case where Aaron and Miriam taunted Moses about it.
  29. ^ "Exodus 2:16–22".;&version=9;. 
  30. ^ "Exodus 4:2–9".;&version=9;. 
  31. ^ Flavius Josephus mentions that Moses also practiced the pouring of the river water in Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, Chapter 12, Paragraph 3, but it appears that this might be a mistake on Josephus' part
  32. ^ Mordechai Kamenetzky. "Project Genesis: Parshas Shemos — Pushing the Envelope". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  33. ^ Qur'an 79:17–19
  34. ^ Qur'an 20:47–48
  35. ^ a b Keeler (2006), pp.56 and 57
  36. ^ "Exodus 4:20–31".;&version=9;. 
  37. ^ Mordechai Kamenetzky. "Project Genesis: Parshas Shemos — Balance of Power". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  38. ^ a b "Deconstructing the walls of Jericho". 2006-08-14. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  39. ^ "Exodus 5:1–9".;&version=9;. 
  40. ^ Mordechai Kamenetzky. "Project Genesis: Parshas Vaera — Guts and Glory". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  41. ^ "Exodus 8:13-15".;&version=9;. 
  42. ^ "Judaism 101: Pesach; Passover". 
  43. ^ "The Yam Suph: "Red Sea" or "Sea of Reeds"". 2006-07-20. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  44. ^ Shore
  45. ^ Elim and Elat are plurals of the word El in Phoenician and again associated with Asherah worship. The words Elim and Elat refer to the power of the high and mighty terebinth trees that the Phoenicians used for masts and Asherah poles. William Albright has associated Asherah groves with the incense trade spices and perfumes such as frankincense and myrrh.
  46. ^ Sin is the Sumerian name for the moon god whom the people of Egypt, the Sinai, and Negev worshipped as Iah.
  47. ^ Exodus  32:19
  48. ^ Exodus 34:1, 34:27–28
  49. ^ "Exodus 15:23–25".;&version=9;. 
  50. ^ Chaim Dovid Green. "Project Genesis: Parshas B'Shalach — Rough Beginnings". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  51. ^ "Ex. 16".;&version=9;. 
  52. ^ Eliyahu Hoffmann. "Project Genesis: Parshas Beshalach — Man or Mon?". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  53. ^ "Ex. 17:1–7".;&version=9;. 
  54. ^ Pinchas Avruch. "Project Genesis: Parshas Beshalach — Never Forget". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  55. ^ "Ex. 17:8–13".;&version=9;. 
  56. ^ Dovid Rosenfeld. "Project Genesis: Pirkei Avos – Exhilarating Fear". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  57. ^ "Ex. 18". 
  58. ^ "Exodus 32".;&version=9;. 
  59. ^ Mordechai Kamenetzky. "Project Genesis: Parshas Ki Sisa — Masked Emotions". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  60. ^ "The Tabernacle of Israel; Court". 
  61. ^ a b "Antiquities of the Jews page 61". 
  62. ^ "Numbers 12:1–15".;&version=9;. 
  63. ^ "Numbers 12:16".;&version=9;. 
  64. ^ "Numbers 13–14".;&version=9;. 
  65. ^ Qur'an 5:20
  66. ^ "Numbers 16". 
  67. ^ "Numbers 17:1–8".;&version=9;. 
  68. ^ "Num. 20:1–13".;&version=9;. 
  69. ^ "Num. 21:4–9".;&version=31;. 
  70. ^ "2 Kings 18:1–4".;&version=31;. 
  71. ^ a b Tromp, Johnannes (1993). The Assumption of Moses: A Critical Edition with Commentary. Brill. 
  72. ^ "The Story of Balaam". 
  73. ^ "Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter VI, Paragraph 6". 
  74. ^ 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 on the Israelites by seducing the people with idols and beautiful women, which proves partly successful.
  75. ^ "Num. 25:1–13".;&version=9;. 
  76. ^ "Num. 31:17-18".;&version=50;. 
  77. ^ "Num. 31:8".;&version=9;. 
  78. ^ "Num. 27:15–23".;&version=9;. 
  79. ^ Deuteronomy 34 7
  80. ^ Deut. 32:51.
  81. ^ a b c d e f g "Death of Moses". 
  82. ^ Talmud Bavli, Megilah 13b, Sotah 12b, Kidushin 38a
  83. ^ Seder Olam. The Seder Olam's calendar starts two years later than the one currently used by Jews.
  84. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Religious views of Moses". 
  85. ^ Eusebius, Præparatio Evangelica ix. 26
  86. ^ Eusebius, l.c. ix. 27
  87. ^ "Judaism 101: Moses, Aaron and Miriam". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  88. ^ "About Mormons". About Mormons. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  89. ^ "The Book of Moses". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  90. ^ the Doctrine and Covenants 110:11
  91. ^ "Jewish Quran". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  92. ^ a b "Moses." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  93. ^ Who Were the Early Israelites? by William G. Dever (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003
  94. ^ The Bible Unearthed by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein (Simon and Schuster, New York, 2001
  95. ^ False Testamentby Daniel Lazare (Harper's Magazine, New York, May 2002)
  96. ^ "Archaeology and the Hebrew Scriptures". 
  97. ^ "Moses". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  98. ^ The Geography, Book XVI, Chapter 2, Paragraphs 34–36
  99. ^ Histories, Book 5, Paragraphs 2 & 3
  100. ^ "Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus, XXXII". 
  101. ^ Acts 7:22
  102. ^ "The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus". 
  103. ^ "Antiquities of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter VI, Paragraphs 6–12". 
  104. ^ "Bible and Science: Dating the Exodus". 
  105. ^ Carol Redmount, 'Bitter Lives: Israel in and out of Egypt' in "The Oxford History of the Biblical World", ed: Michael D. Coogan, (Oxford University Press: 1999), paperback, p.97
  106. ^ "Hidden Things of God's Revelation chapter 2". 
  107. ^ Transformations of Myth Through Time, Joseph Campbell, p. 87–90, Harper & Row
  108. ^ Rohl, David (1995, 2001). A Test of Time. London: Arrow. ISBN 0099416565. 
  109. ^ I Finkelstein and N. Na'aman, eds., From Nomadism to Monarchy (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1994)
  110. ^ Finkelstein, Israel and Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). The Bible Unearthed. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86912-8. 
  111. ^ Dever, William G. (2002). What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-2126-X. 
  112. ^ Avalos, Hector (2007). The End of Biblical Studies. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1591025362. 
  113. ^ Talbot, Archie Lee. A new Plymouth colony at Kennebeck, Brunswick, (1930), Library of Congress
  114. ^ Arber, Edward. The Story of the Pilgrim Fathers, Houghton, Mifflin & Co. (1897) p. 345
  115. ^ Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, Viking Penguin (2006) p. 189
  116. ^ a b Meacham, Jon. American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, Random House (2006) pp. 39-40
  117. ^ "How Moses Shaped America", Time Magazine, Oct. 12, 2009
  118. ^ Dever, William G. Who Were the Early Israelites, and Where Did They Come From?, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co. (2003) p. 234
  119. ^ "Grandson of slaves: Obama is our Moses" CNN, Jan. 12, 2009
  120. ^ Urban, Hugh B. The Secrets of the Kingdom, Rowman & Littlefield Publ. (2007) pp. 32, 43
  121. ^ Shuldiner, David Philip. Of Moses and Marx, Greenwood Publishing (1999) p. 35
  122. ^ Franklin, Benjamin, and Franklin, William Temple. Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin – vol. 2, McCarty & Davis, Philadelpha, (1834) p. 211
  123. ^ Jan Assmann. "Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism". Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-674-58738-3 See also Y. Yerushalmi's monograph on Freud's Moses. The biblical critic had recanted his original theory around the same time as Freud's book, but either the latter was unaware of this or decided to uphold it nevertheless.
  124. ^ "Order of the Aten Temple". 
  125. ^ Jan Assmann, op. cit.
  126. ^ James E. Atwell, "An Egyptian Source for Genesis 1" , The Journal of Theological Studies 2000 51(2), 441–477.
  127. '^ Freud and the Legacy of Moses by Richard J. Bernstein
  128. ^ Thomas Paine The Age of Reason part II, 1796
  129. ^ Robert G. Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses chapter XXIX
  130. ^ Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006, chapter 7
  131. ^ ""Relief Portraits of Lawgivers: Moses." Architect of the Capitol". 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  132. ^ "Courtroom Friezes: North and South Walls: Information Sheet." Supreme Court of the United States. [1]
  133. ^ "In the Supreme Court itself, Moses and his law on display" Religion News Service
  134. ^ MacLean, Margaret. (ed) Art and Archaeology, Vol. VI, Archaeological Institute of America (1917) p. 97
  135. ^ Devore, Gary M. Walking Tours of Ancient Rome: A Secular Guidebook to the Eternal City, Mercury Guides (2008) p. 126
  136. ^ Thomason, Dustin, and Caldwell, Ian. The Rule of Four Random House (2005) p. 151
  137. ^ Gross, Kenneth. The Dream of the Moving Statue, Cornell Univ. Press (2005) p. 245
  138. ^ Lang, J. Stephen. What the Good Book Didn't Say: Popular Myths and Misconceptions About the Bible, Citadel Press (2003) p. 114
  139. ^ Boitani, Piero. The Bible and its Rewritings Oxford Univ. Press (1999) p. 126
  140. ^ "Christian News Report for May 2004". 
  141. ^ "Prince of Egypt". 
  142. ^ "History of the World: Part I". 

Further reading

  • Asch, Sholem. Moses. New York: Putnam, 1958. ISBN 0742691373
  • Assmann, Jan. Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-674-58738-3.
  • Barzel, Hillel. "Moses: Tragedy and Sublimity." In Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives. Edited by Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis, with James S. Ackerman & Thayer S. Warshaw, 120–40. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1974. ISBN 0-687-22131-5.
  • Buber, Martin. Moses: The Revelation and the Covenant. New York: Harper, 1958.
  • Card, Orson Scott. Stone Tables. Deseret Book Co., 1998. ISBN 1-57345-115-0.
  • Chasidah, Yishai, Encyclopaedia of Biblical personalities: anthologized from the Talmud, Midrash and rabbinic writings, Shaar Press, Brooklyn, 2000
  • Cohen, Joel. Moses: A Memoir. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8091-0558-6.
  • Daiches, David. Moses: The Man and his Vision. New York: Praeger, 1975. ISBN 0-275-33740-5.
  • Fast, Howard. Moses, Prince of Egypt. New York: Crown Pubs., 1958.
  • Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. New York: Vintage, 1967. ISBN 0-394-70014-7.
  • Gjerman, Corey. Moses: The Father I Never Knew. Portland: Biblical Fantasticals, 2007. ISBN 978-1424171132.
  • Halter, Marek. Zipporah, Wife of Moses. New York: Crown, 2005. ISBN 1400052793.
  • Ingraham, J. H.. The Pillar of Fire: Or Israel in Bondage. New York: A.L. Burt, 1859. Reprinted Ann Arbor, Mich.: Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan Library, 2006. ISBN 1425564917.
  • Kirsch, Jonathan. Moses: A Life. New York: Ballantine, 1998. ISBN 0-345-41269-9.
  • Kohn, Rebecca. Seven Days to the Sea: An Epic Novel of the Exodus. New York: Rugged Land, 2006. ISBN 1-59071-049-5.
  • Lehman, S.M., rabbi Dr., (translator), Freedman, H., rabbi Dr., (ed.), Midrash Rabbah, 10 volumes, The Soncino Press, London, 1983
  • Mann, Thomas. "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me." In The Ten Commandments, 3–70. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1943.
  • Salibi, Kamal [1985] The Bible Came from Arabia London: Jonathan Cape
  • Sandmel, Samuel. Alone Atop the Mountain. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1973. ISBN 0-385-03877-1.
  • Southon, Arthur E. On Eagles' Wings. London: Cassell and Co., 1937. Reprinted New York: McGraw-Hill, 1954.
  • Wiesel, Elie. “Moses: Portrait of a Leader.” In Messengers of God: Biblical Portraits & Legends, 174–210. New York: Random House, 1976. ISBN 0-394-49740-6.
  • Wildavsky, Aaron. Moses as Political Leader. Jerusalem: Shalem Press, 2005. ISBN 965-7052-31-9.
  • Wilson, Dorothy Clarke. Prince of Egypt. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1949

External links

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article "Moses", a publication now in the public domain.

Preceded by
Lawgiver Succeeded by


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I have been a stranger in a strange land.

Moses מֹשֶׁה (Móshe Standard Hebrew, Mōšeh Tiberian Hebrew, موسى Mūsa Arabic) is a legendary Hebrew liberator, leader, lawgiver, and prophet.




Quotations of Moses from the book Exodus (שמות, Shemot: "Names") from the Torah (תּוֹרָה) of the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

  • I have been a stranger in a strange land.
    • 2:22 (KJV)
    • A sojourner have I become in a foreign land.
      • Everett Fox translation (1983)
    • I have been a stranger in a foreign land.
      • Jewish Publication Society translation (1985; 1999)
  • I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
    • 3:3 (KJV)
  • What you say, happens.
    • 3:7 (KJV)
They shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
  • Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
    • 3:11 (KJV)
  • Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
    • 3:13 As recorded in 3:14-15 God responds: I AM THAT I AM (אהיה אשר אהיה Ehyeh asher ehyeh)
      Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
      Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
  • O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
    • 4:10 (KJV)
  • What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.
    • 17:4 (KJV)
Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
  • Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
    • 20:20 (KJV)
  • I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.
    • 33:13 (KJV)


  • Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them. And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone: The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.
    So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it. And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.
    • 1:12 - 18 (KJV)
And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.

Quotes about Moses

  • And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
    • Exodus 2:10 (KJV)
  • Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?
    • Exodus 2:14 (KJV)
  • And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
    • Exodus 34:29-30 (KJV)
  • By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
    • The Epistle to the Hebrews 11:24-27 (KJV)

External links

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Look up Moses in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MOSES (Gr. Mwvorts, Mwvrls), the great Jewish lawgiver,, prophet and mediator, and leader of the Israelites from Egypt to the eastern borders of the promised land. The records of his life and work are noticed in the articles Exodus, Numbers,. Deuteronomy, where the several sources of the narratives are described. He appears in Midian at the "Mount of God" (Horeb) dwelling with its priest Jethro, one of whose seven daughters he married, thus becoming the father of Gershom and Eliezer. Of his earlier life it was said that he was born in Egypt of Levite parents, and when the Pharaoh commanded that every new-born male child of the Hebrews should be killed, he was put into a chest and cast upon the Nile. He was found by Pharaoh's daughter, and his (step-)sister Miriam contrived that he should be nursed by his mother; on growing up he killed an Egyptian who was oppressing an Israelite, and this becoming, known, he sought refuge in flight.

The story of the youth of Moses is, as is commonly the case with great heroes, of secondary origin; moreover, the circumstances of his birth as related in Exod. ii. find numerous parallels in legend elsewhere, e.g. in the story of the historical Sargon (L. W. King, Early Bab. Kings, ii. 87 sqq.), in the myths of Osiris and many others (see, at length, A. Jeremias's Das Alte Test. im Lichte des alters Orients, 1906, pp. 408 sqq.; Bab. im N. Test. p. 30 seq.). The story of the adoption of Moses by the Egyptian princess appealed to later imagination (Josephus,. Ant. ii. 9, io; Acts vii. 20-22), and many fanciful fables. grew up around this and the other biblical statements. The name Mosheh, explained by the fact that the princess "drew him" (mash(th) out of the waters, means properly "one who draws"; a derivation from Eg. mes(u), " child," finds more favour, but is not certain.

At the holy mount, Moses received the divine revelation and was commissioned to bring the people a three-days' journey out of Egypt to sacrifice at this spot (Exod. iii. 12, 18; v. 3; viii. 27). The deity revealed himself in a new name, Yahweh, and with signs and wonders fortified Moses for his task. On his return he experienced a remarkable incident which is obscurely associated with the rite of circumcision. 1 The plagues with which the reluctant Pharaoh was coerced culminated in the destruction of all the first-born, and Israel escaped to the Red Sea. The pursuing Egyptians were drowned, and the miraculous preservation of the chosen people at the critical moment marks the first stage in the national history? (See The Exodus.) The other events need not be detailed. Kadesh (holy) was 1 Exod. iv. 24-26; it possibly explains the transference of the rite from the bridegroom to the new-born son. For a recent discussion,. see H. P. Smith, Journ. Bib. Lit. (1906), pp. 14-24; and the article Circumcision (with J. G. Frazer's essay in the Independent Review 1904, pp. 204-218).

2 The plagues appear to have been amplified. In Exod. iv. three signs are given: the hand of Moses is stricken with leprosy and restored (the sign for Moses) his rod becomes a serpent (cf. vii. 8-13, the sign for Pharaoh); and the water is turned into blood (cf. vii. 17 sqq.). If Pharaoh still remains obdurate his first-born is threatened (iv. 21 sqq.). As regards the crossing of the Red Sea, a perfectly rationalizing explanation can be found: with a strong east wind its waters could temporarily recede and permit a passage (see Journ. Vict. Inst. xxvi. 28; xxviii. 268, 277). To the Israelites, however, it was a miracle, an unexpected intervention on the part of Yahweh, and the first of many marvels which he performed on behalf of the people of his choice. To rationalize this or any of the series misses the whole point of the religious history.

the chief centre. This was the scene of the "strife" at Meribah (striving) where Yahweh "shewed himself holy" (Num. xx. 1-13); a parallel account joins the name with Massah (trial, proof) where Yahweh "proved" the people (Exod. xvii. 1-7). These two names (Deut. ix. 22, xxxii. 51) with their significant meanings recur with varying nuances (Ps. lxxxi. 7, xcv. 8 seq.). Here also in the wilderness of Shur, and possibly at En-mishpat (well of judgment, i.e. Kadesh, Gen. xiv. 7), Yahweh made for Israel "statute and judgment" and "proved them." This is apparently viewed as the goal of the three-days' journey (Exod. xv. 22-25). In this district the defeat of the Amalekites is more naturally located (Exod. xvii.; cf. I Sam. xxvii. 8) and here, finally, for some cause, now obscured, Moses and his brother Aaron incurred Yahweh's displeasure (Num. xx. 12, xxvii. 14; Deut. xxxii. 51; Ps. cvi. 3). Pisgah or Mt Nebo (the name suggests a foreign god), to the north-east of the Dead Sea became the scene of the death of Moses; his burial-place was never known (Deut. xxxiv.).

In estimating the work of one who stands at the head of the religious and legal institutions of Israel, it is necessary to refrain from interpreting the traditions from a modern legal standpoint or in the light of subsequent ideas and beliefs for which the sources themselves give no authority. Much confusion has been caused by attributing to Moses more than the Pentateuch itself claims, and by misunderstanding the meaning of later references (Mat. xix. 8; Mark vii. Io, x. 5; xii. 26; Luke xx. 37; John vii. 22).22). Moreover, it is necessary to allow that the traditions relating to both Moses and Aaron underwent change. The priesthoods of Shiloh and Dan could boast of an illustrious origin (I Sam. ii. 27 seq., Judges xviii. 30), but the religious practices associated with the former especially were not those of the purest type. When Aaron himself is connected with the worship of the golden calf, and when to Moses is attributed a brazen serpent which the reforming king Hezekiah was the first to destroy, it is evident that religious conceptions developed in the course of ages. Although Moses was venerated as a prophet (Hos. xii. 13), a mediator (Jer. xv. i) and a leader (Mic. vi. 4; Isa. lxiii. II), much of the legal procedure ascribed to him must belong on internal grounds (religious, ethical and sociological evidence) to a postMosaic age. Many of the Mosaic laws find parallels and analogies in all ages outside the sphere of Israelite influence, notably in the laws codified several centuries previously by the Babylonian king Khammurabi (see Babylonian LAw). The practice of finding in ancient authority a precedent for institutions new and old (cf. the law of booty, I Sam. xxx. 25, with that ascribed to Moses in Num. xxxi. 25 sqq.) is quite in accordance with Oriental custom and explains the growth of the present extremely complex sources. But this very development of Mosaism implies the existence of an original nucleus or substratum, although the recovery of its precise extent is very difficult. The legislation on Mt Sinai (Horeb) which apparently occupies a very important place in tradition (Exod. xx. sqq.) is really secondary (cf. W. R. Smith, Prophets of Israel, p. Iii); more prominence is evidently to be ascribed to the influence of the half-Arabian Jethro or Hobab, and this must be taken into consideration with what is known of Kenite and kindred clans (Exod. xviii.; Num. x. 29-33; see Jethro; Kenites). 1 Yahweh appears to have been known to them before he revealed himself to Moses, and the ancestors of the Israelites are recognized as worshippers of Yahweh, but are on another level (Exod. vi. 3). The traditions would seem to point to the institution of new principles in the religion of Yahweh, and would associate with it not merely Moses but those foreign elements which are subsequently found in Israel and Judah. See Jews, §§ 5, 14, 20.


See further articles, Aaron; Decalogue; Hebrew Religion; Levites. For the introductory questions, W. Robertson Smith's Old Test. in Jewish Church and Prophets of Israel are most helpful; see also J.-M. Lagrange, Hist. Crit. and the Old Testament (Eng., E. Myers, 1905), pp. 148-179; Wellhausen's 1 See K. Budde, Religion of Israel to the Exile, ch. i. According to Gen. iv. 26, so far from the name Yahweh having been made known to Israel by Moses (Exod. iii. 13 sqq., vi. 2 sqq.), the worship goes back to the earliest ages.

Prolegomena is a conclusive elaboration of the initial stages of criticism. All subsequent studies vary according to the writer's standpoint; W. R. Harper, Amos and Hosea (Internat. Critical Commentary), pp. 84 sqq., gives a convenient summary. Among particular discussions may be named Cheyne, Ency. Bib. s.v., E. Meyer, Israeliten, pp. 1-103; and the mythological treatment by H. Winckler, Gesch. Isr., ii. 86-95; A. Jeremias, Alte Test., loc. cit.; and Ed. Stucken, Astralmythen d. Hebraer, &c., pp. 431 sqq. For Jewish and other legends (to which Jude 9 alludes), see Beer, Leben Moses (1863), M. Griinbaum, Neue Beitrcige z. sem. Sagenkunde (1893), pp. 152 sqq.; the Assumption of Moses, ed. R. H. Charles (1897); W. Tisdall, Sources of the Qur'an (1905); and Ency. Bib. col. 3218, § 21 (with references). For the stories of Manetho, &c., Ewald, Hist. Isr., ii. 76 sqq.; Kittel, Hist. i. 26 seq., may be supplemented by Willrich, Juden u. Griechen vor d. makkab. Erhebung (1895), pp. 53 sqq.; G. Maspero, Rec. de travaux (1905), xxvii. 13 sqq., 22 seq. (S. A. C.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:





From the Ancient Greek Μωϋσῆς from the Hebrew משה

Proper noun




  1. (Biblical) The patriarch who led the slaved Jews out of Egypt, brother of Aaron and Miriam in the Book of Exodus.
  2. A male given name.


Derived terms



Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) Moses.


Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) (Catholic) Moses.


Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) Moses.


Proper noun


  1. A male given name ( quite rare ), cognate to Moses, from earlier versions of the Swedish Bible.

Related terms

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Drawn (or Egypt. mesu, "son;" hence Rameses, royal son). On the invitation of Pharaoh (Gen 45:17-25), Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt. This immigration took place probably about 350 years before the birth of Moses. Some centuries before Joseph, Egypt had been conquered by a pastoral Semitic race from Asia, the Hyksos, who brought into cruel subjection the native Egyptians, who were an African race. Jacob and his retinue were accustomed to a shepherd's life, and on their arrival in Egypt were received with favour by the king, who assigned them the "best of the land", the land of Goshen, to dwell in. The Hyksos or "shepherd" king who thus showed favour to Joseph and his family was in all probability the Pharaoh Apopi (or Apopis).

Thus favoured, the Israelites began to "multiply exceedingly" (Gen 47:27), and extended to the west and south. At length the supremacy of the Hyksos came to an end. The descendants of Jacob were allowed to retain their possession of Goshen undisturbed, but after the death of Joseph their position was not so favourable. The Egyptians began to despise them, and the period of their "affliction" (Gen 15:13) commenced. They were sorely oppressed. They continued, however, to increase in numbers, and "the land was filled with them" (Ex 1:7). The native Egyptians regarded them with suspicion, so that they felt all the hardship of a struggle for existence.

In process of time "a king [probably Seti 1] arose who knew not Joseph" (Ex 1:8). The circumstances of the country were such that this king thought it necessary to weaken his Israelite subjects by oppressing them, and by degrees reducing their number. They were accordingly made public slaves, and were employed in connection with his numerous buildings, especially in the erection of store-cities, temples, and palaces. The children of Israel were made to serve with rigour. Their lives were made bitter with hard bondage, and "all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour" (Ex 1:13,14). But this cruel oppression had not the result expected of reducing their number. On the contrary, "the more the Egyptians afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew" (Ex 1:12).

The king next tried, through a compact secretly made with the guild of midwives, to bring about the destruction of all the Hebrew male children that might be born. But the king's wish was not rigorously enforced; the male children were spared by the midwives, so that "the people multiplied" more than ever. Thus baffled, the king issued a public proclamation calling on the people to put to death all the Hebrew male children by casting them into the river (Ex 1:22). But neither by this edict was the king's purpose effected.

One of the Hebrew households into which this cruel edict of the king brought great alarm was that of Amram, of the family of the Kohathites (Ex 6:16-20), who with his wife Jochebed and two children, Miriam, a girl of perhaps fifteen years of age, and Aaron, a boy of three years, resided in or near Memphis, the capital city of that time. In this quiet home a male child was born (B.C. 1571). His mother concealed him in the house for three months from the knowledge of the civic authorities. But when the task of concealment became difficult, Jochebed contrived to bring her child under the notice of the daughter of the king by constructing for him an ark of bulrushes, which she laid among the flags which grew on the edge of the river at the spot where the princess was wont to come down and bathe. Her plan was successful. The king's daughter "saw the child; and behold the child wept." The princess (see PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER �T0002924 [1]) sent Miriam, who was standing by, to fetch a nurse. She went and brought the mother of the child, to whom the princess said, "Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages." Thus Jochebed's child, whom the princess called "Moses", i.e., "Saved from the water" (Ex 2:10), was ultimately restored to her.

As soon as the natural time for weaning the child had come, he was transferred from the humble abode of his father to the royal palace, where he was brought up as the adopted son of the princess, his mother probably accompanying him and caring still for him. He grew up amid all the grandeur and excitement of the Egyptian court, maintaining, however, probably a constant fellowship with his mother, which was of the highest importance as to his religious belief and his interest in his "brethren." His education would doubtless be carefully attended to, and he would enjoy all the advantages of training both as to his body and his mind. He at length became "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22). Egypt had then two chief seats of learning, or universities, at one of which, probably that of Heliopolis, his education was completed. Moses, being now about twenty years of age, spent over twenty more before he came into prominence in Bible history. These twenty years were probably spent in military service. There is a tradition recorded by Josephus that he took a lead in the war which was then waged between Egypt and Ethiopia, in which he gained renown as a skilful general, and became "mighty in deeds" (Acts 7:22).

After the termination of the war in Ethiopia, Moses returned to the Egyptian court, where he might reasonably have expected to be loaded with honours and enriched with wealth. But "beneath the smooth current of his life hitherto, a life of alternate luxury at the court and comparative hardness in the camp and in the discharge of his military duties, there had lurked from childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood, a secret discontent, perhaps a secret ambition. Moses, amid all his Egyptian surroundings, had never forgotten, had never wished to forget, that he was a Hebrew." He now resolved to make himself acquainted with the condition of his countrymen, and "went out unto his brethren, and looked upon their burdens" (Ex 2:11). This tour of inspection revealed to him the cruel oppression and bondage under which they everywhere groaned, and could not fail to press on him the serious consideration of his duty regarding them. The time had arrived for his making common cause with them, that he might thereby help to break their yoke of bondage. He made his choice accordingly (Heb 11:25-27), assured that God would bless his resolution for the welfare of his people. He now left the palace of the king and took up his abode, probably in his father's house, as one of the Hebrew people who had for forty years been suffering cruel wrong at the hands of the Egyptians.

He could not remain indifferent to the state of things around him, and going out one day among the people, his indignation was roused against an Egyptian who was maltreating a Hebrew. He rashly lifted up his hand and slew the Egyptian, and hid his body in the sand. Next day he went out again and found two Hebrews striving together. He speedily found that the deed of the previous day was known. It reached the ears of Pharaoh (the "great Rameses," Rameses 2), who "sought to slay Moses" (Ex 2:15). Moved by fear, Moses fled from Egypt, and betook himself to the land of Midian, the southern part of the peninsula of Sinai, probably by much the same route as that by which, forty years afterwards, he led the Israelites to Sinai. He was providentially led to find a new home with the family of Reuel, where he remained for forty years (Acts 7:30), under training unconsciously for his great life's work.

Suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush (Ex 3:1), and commissioned him to go down to Egypt and "bring forth the children of Israel" out of bondage. He was at first unwilling to go, but at length he was obedient to the heavenly vision, and left the land of Midian (Ex 4:18-26). On the way he was met by Aaron (q.v.) and the elders of Israel (27-31). He and Aaron had a hard task before them; but the Lord was with them (ch. 7-12), and the ransomed host went forth in triumph. (Exodus) After an eventful journey to and fro in the wilderness, we see them at length encamped in the plains of Moab, ready to cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land. There Moses addressed the assembled elders (Deut 1:1-4; 5:1-26:19; 27:11-30:20), and gives the people his last counsels, and then rehearses the great song (Deut 32:1), clothing in fitting words the deep emotions of his heart at such a time, and in review of such a marvellous history as that in which he had acted so conspicious a part. Then, after blessing the tribes (33), he ascends to "the mountain of Nebo (q.v.), to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho" (34:1), and from thence he surveys the land. "Jehovah shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar" (Deut 34:2-3), the magnificient inheritance of the tribes of whom he had been so long the leader; and there he died, being 120 years old, according to the word of the Lord, and was buried by the Lord "in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor" (34:6). The people mourned for him during thirty days.

Thus died "Moses the man of God" (Deut 33:1; Josh 14:6). He was distinguished for his meekness and patience and firmness, and "he endured as seeing him who is invisible." "There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel" (Deut. 34:10-12).

The name of Moses occurs frequently in the Psalms and Prophets as the chief of the prophets.

In the New Testament he is referred to as the representative of the law and as a type of Christ (Jn 1:17; 2Cor 3:13-18; Heb 3:5,6). Moses is the only character in the Old Testament to whom Christ likens himself (Jn 5:46; comp. Deut 18:15, 18, 19; Acts 7:37). In Heb. 3:1-19 this likeness to Moses is set forth in various particulars.

In Jude 1:9, mention is made of a contention between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses. This dispute is supposed to have had reference to the concealment of the body of Moses so as to prevent idolatry.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Biblical Data:

The birth of Moses occurred at a time when Pharaoh had commanded that all male children born to Hebrew captives should be thrown into the Nile (Ex. ii.; comp. i.). Jochebed, the wife of the Levite Amram, bore a son, and kept the child concealed for three months. When she could keep him hidden no longer, rather than deliver him to death she set him adrift on the Nile in an ark of bulrushes. The daughter of Pharaoh, coming opportunely to the river to bathe, discovered the babe, was attracted to him, adopted him as her son, and named him "Moses." Thus it came about that the future deliverer of Israel was reared as the son of an Egyptian princess (Ex. ii. 1-10).

When Moses was grown to manhood, he went one day to see how it fared with his brethren, bondmen to the Egyptians. Seeing an Egyptian maltreating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand, supposing that no one who 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 his brother taunted Moses with 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 to the Sinaitic Peninsula and settled with Hobab, or Jethro, priest of Midian, 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 (Ex. ii., 11-22).

One day, as Moses led his flock to Mount Horeb, he saw a bush burning but without being consumed. When he turned aside to look more closely at the marvel, Yhwh spoke to him from the bush and commissioned him to return to Egypt and deliver his brethren from their bondage (Ex. iii. 1-10). According to Ex. iii. 13 et seq., it was at this time that the name of Yhwh was revealed, though it is frequently used throughout the patriarchal narratives, from the second chapter of Genesis on. Armed with this new name and with certain signs which he could give in attestation of his mission, he returned to Egypt (Ex. iv. 1-9, 20). On the way he was met by Yhwh, who would have killed him; but Zipporah, Moses' wife, circumcised her son and Yhwh's anger abated (Ex. iv. 24-26). Moses was met and assisted on his arrival in Egypt by his elder brother, Aaron, and readily gained a hearing with his oppressed brethren (Ex. iv. 27-31). It was a more difficult matter, however, to persuade Pharaoh to let the Hebrews depart. Indeed, this was not accomplished until, through the agency of Moses, ten plagues had come upon the Egyptians (Ex. vii.-xii.). These plagues culminated in the slaying of the Egyptian first-born (Ex. xii. 29), whereupon such terror seized the Egyptians that they urged the Hebrews to leave.

In the Wilderness.

The children of Israel, with their flocks and herds, started toward the eastern border at the southern part of the Isthmus of Suez. The long procession moved slowly, and found it necessary to encamp three times before passing the Egyptian frontier at the Bitter Lakes. Meanwhile Pharaoh had repented and was in pursuit of them with a large army (Ex 14:5ff). Shut in between this army and the Red Sea, or the Bitter Lakes, which were then connected with it, the Israelites despaired, but Yhwh divided the waters of the sea so that they passed safely across; when the Egyptians attempted to follow, He permitted the waters to return upon them and drown them (Ex 14:10ff). Moses led the Hebrews to Sinai, or Horeb, where Jethro celebrated their coming by a great sacrifice in the presence of Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel (Ex. xviii.). At Horeb, or Sinai, Yhwh welcomed Moses upon the sacred mountain and talked with him face to face (Ex. xix.). He gave him the Ten Commandments and the Law and entered into a covenant with Israel through him. This covenant bound Yhwh to be Israel's God, if Israel would keep His commandments (Ex. xix. et seq.).

Moses and the Israelites sojourned at Sinai about a year (comp. Num 10:11), and Moses had frequent communications from Yhwh. As a result of these the Tabernacle, according to the last chapters of Exodus, was constructed, the priestly law ordained, the plan of encampment arranged both for the Levites and the non-priestly tribes (comp. Num. i. 50-ii. 34), and the Tabernacle consecrated. While at Sinai Joshua had become general of the armies of Israel and the special minister, or assistant, of Moses (Ex 17:9). From Sinai Moses led the people to Kadesh, whence the spies were sent to Canaan. Upon the return of the spies the people were so discouraged by their report that they refused to go forward, and were condemned to remain in the wilderness until that generation had passed away (Num. xiii.-xiv.).

After the lapse of thirty-eight years Moses led the people eastward. Having gained friendly permission to do so, they passed through the territory of Esau (where Aaron died, on Mount Hor; Num 20:22ff), and then, by a similar arrangement, through the land of Moab. But Sihon, king of the Amorites, whose capital was at Heshbon, refused permission, and was conquered by Moses, who allotted his territory to the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Og, King of Bashan, was similarly overthrown (comp. Num. xxi.), and his territory assigned to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Death of Moses.

After all this was accomplished Moses was warned that he would not be permitted to lead Israel across the Jordan, but would die on the eastern side (Num. xx. 12). He therefore assembled the tribes and delivered to them a parting address, which forms the Book of Deuteronomy. As a worthy legacy to the people for whom he has endured unparalleled hardships, Moses in his last days pronounces the three memorable discourses preserved in Deuteronomy. His chief utterance relates to a future Prophet, like to himself, whom the people are to receive. He then bursts forth into a sublime song of praise to God and adds prophetic blessings for each of the twelve tribes. In Deuteronomy it is commonly supposed that he recapitulated the Law, reminding them of its most important features. When this was finished, and he had pronounced a blessing upon the people, he went up Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah, looked over the Promised Land for the last time and died, at the age of one hundred and twenty. God Himself buried him in an unknown grave (Deut. xxxiv.). He is buried "in the valley of Moab over against Phogor", but no man "knows his sepulchre". Moses was thus the human instrument in the creation of the Israelitish nation; he communicated to it all its laws. More meek than any other man (Num. xii. 3), he enjoyed unique privileges, for "there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. xxxiv. 10).

His memory has ever been one of "isolated grandeur". He is the type of Hebrew holiness, so far outshining other models that twelve centuries after his death, the Christ Whom he foreshadowed seemed eclipsed by him in the minds of the learned. It was, humanly speaking, an indispensable providence that represented him in the Transfiguration, side by side with Elias, and quite inferior to the incomparable Antitype whose coming he had predicted.

Moses in Rabbinical Literature

See separate article.

Critical View:

see seperate article

In Hellenistic Literature:

see seperate article

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

Hebrew liberator, leader, lawgiver, prophet, and historian, lived in the thirteenth and early part of the twelfth century, B. C.


Moshéh (M. T.), Mouses, Moses. In Ex., ii, 10, a derivation from the Hebrew Mashah (to draw) is implied. Josephus and the Fathers assign the Coptic mo (water) and uses (saved) as the constituent parts of the name. Nowadays the view of Lepsius, tracing the name back to the Egyptian mesh (child), is widely patronized by Egyptologists, but nothing decisive can be established.


To deny or to doubt the historic personality of Moses, is to undermine and render unintelligible the subsequent history of the Israelites. Rabbinical literature teems with legends touching every event of his marvellous career: taken singly, these popular tales are purely imaginative, yet, considered in their cumulative force, they vouch for the reality of a grand and illustrious personage, of strong character, high purpose, and noble achievement, so deep, true, and efficient in his religious convictions as to thrill and subdue the minds of an entire race for centuries after his death. The Bible furnishes the chief authentic account of this luminous life.


Of Levitic extraction, and born at a time when by kingly edict had been decreed the drowning of every new male offspring among the Israelites, the "goodly child" Moses, after three months' concealment, was exposed in a basket on the banks of the Nile. An elder brother (Ex., vii, 7) and sister (Ex., ii, 4), Aaron and Mary (AV and RV, Miriam), had already graced the union of Jochabed and Amram. The second of these kept watch by the river, and was instrumental in inducing Pharaoh's daughter, who rescued the child, to entrust him to a Hebrew nurse. The one she designedly summoned for the charge was Jochabed, who, when her "son had grown up", delivered him to the princess. In his new surroundings, he was schooled "in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts, vii, 22). Moses next appears in the bloom of sturdy manhood, resolute with sympathies for his degraded brethren. Dauntlessly he hews down an Egyptian assailing one of them, and on the morrow tries to appease the wrath of two compatriots who were quarrelling. He is misunderstood, however, and, when upbraided with the murder of the previous day, he fears his life is in jeopardy. Pharaoh has heard the news and seeks to kill him. Moses flees to Madian. An act of rustic gallantry there secures for him a home with Raguel, the priest. Sephora, one of Raguel's seven daughters, eventually becomes his wife and Gersam his first-born. His second son, Eliezer, is named in commemoration of his successful flight from Pharaoh.


After forty years of shepherd life, Moses speaks with God. To Horeb (Jebel Sherbal?) in the heart of the mountainous Sinaitic peninsula, he drives the flocks of Raguel for the last time. A bush there flaming unburned attracts him, but a miraculous voice forbids his approach and declares the ground so holy that to approach he must remove his shoes. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob designates him to deliver the Hebrews from the Egyptian yoke, and to conduct them into the "land of milk and honey", the region long since promised to the seed of Abraham, the Palestine of later years. Next, God reveals to him His name under a special form Yahweh as a "memorial unto all generations". He performs two miracles to convince his timorous listener, appoints Aaron as Moses's "prophet", and Moses, so to speak, as Aaron's God (Ex., iv, 16). Diffidence at once gives way to faith and magnanimity. Moses bids adieu to Jethro (Raguel), and, with his family, starts for Egypt. He carries in his hand the "rod of God", a symbol of the fearlessness with which he is to act in performing signs and wonders in the presence of a hardened, threatening monarch. His confidence waxes strong, but he is uncircumcised, and God meets him on the way and fain would kill him. Sephora saves her "bloody spouse", and appeases God by circumcising a son. Aaron joins the party at Horeb. The first interview of the brothers with their compatriots is most encouraging, but not so with the despotic sovereign. Asked to allow the Hebrews three days' respite for sacrifices in the wilderness, the angry monarch not only refuses, but he ridicules their God, and then effectually embitters the Hebrews' minds against their new chiefs as well as against himself, by denying them the necessary straw for exorbitant daily exactions in brick making. A rupture is about to ensue with the two strange brothers, when, in a vision, Moses is divinely constituted "Pharaoh's God", and is commanded to use his newly imparted powers. He has now attained his eightieth year. The episode of Aaron's rod is a prelude to the plagues. Either personally or through Aaron, sometimes after warning Pharaoh or again quite suddenly, Moses causes a series of Divine manifestations described as ten in number in which he humiliates the sun and river gods, afflicts man and beast, and displays such unwonted control over the earth and heavens that even the magicians are forced to recognize in his prodigies "the finger of God". Pharaoh softens at times but never sufficiently to meet the demands of Moses without restrictions. He treasures too highly the Hebrew labour for his public works. A crisis arrives with the last plague. The Hebrews, forewarned by Moses, celebrate the first Pasch or Phase with their loins girt, their shoes on their feet, and staves in their hands, ready for rapid escape. Then God carries out his dreadful threat to pass through the land and kill every first-born of man and beast, thereby executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt. Pharaoh can resist no longer. He joins the stricken populace in begging the Hebrews to depart.


At the head of 600,000 men, besides women and children, and heavily laden with the spoils of the Egyptians, Moses follows a way through the desert, indicated by an advancing pillar of alternating cloud and fire, and gains the peninsula of Sinai by crossing the Red Sea. A dry passage, miraculously opened by him for this purpose at a point to-day unknown, afterwards proves a fatal trap for a body of Egyptian pursuers, organized by Pharaoh and possibly under his leadership. The event furnishes the theme of the thrilling canticle of Moses. For upwards of two months the long procession, much retarded by the flocks, the herds, and the difficulties inseparable from desert travel, wends its way towards Sinai. To move directly on Chanaan would be too hazardous because of the warlike Philistines, whose territory would have to be crossed; whereas, on the south-east, the less formidable Amalacites are the only inimical tribes and are easily overcome thanks to the intercession of Moses. For the line of march and topographical identifications along the route, see ISRAELITES, subsection The Exodus and the Wanderings. The miraculous water obtained from the rock Horeb, and the supply of the quails and manna, bespeak the marvellous faith of the great leader. The meeting with Jethro ends in an alliance with Madian, and the appointment of a corps of judges subordinate to Moses, to attend to minor decisions. At Sinai the Ten Commandments are promulgated, Moses is made mediator between God and the people, and, during two periods of forty days each, he remains in concealment on the mount, receiving from God the multifarious enactments, by the observance of which Israel is to be moulded into a theocratic nation (cf. MOSAIC LEGISLATION). On his first descent, he exhibits an all-consuming zeal for the purity of Divine worship, by causing to perish those who had indulged in the idolatrous orgies about the Golden Calf; on his second, he inspires the deepest awe because his face is emblazoned with luminous horns.

After instituting the priesthood and erecting the Tabernacle, Moses orders a census which shows an army of 603,550 fighting men. These with the Levites, women, and children, duly celebrate the first anniversary of the Pasch, and, carrying the Ark of the Covenant, shortly enter on the second stage of their migration. They are accompanied by Hobab, Jethro's son, who acts as a guide. Two instances of general discontent follow, of which the first is punished by fire, which ceases as Moses prays, and the second by plague. When the manna is complained of, quails are provided as in the previous year. Seventy elders -- a conjectural origin of the Sanhedrin -- are then appointed to assist Moses. Next Aaron and Mary envy their brother, but God vindicates him and afflicts Mary temporarily with leprosy. From the desert of Pharan Moses sends spies into Chanaan, who, with the exceptions of Joshue and Caleb, bring back startling reports which throw the people into consternation and rebellion. The great leader prays and God intervenes, but only to condemn the present generation to die in the wilderness. The subsequent uprising of Core, Dathan, Abiron, and their adherents suggests that, during the thirty-eight years spent in the Badiet et-Tih., habitual discontent, so characteristic of nomads, continued. It is during this period that tradition places the composition of a large part of the Pentateuch (q.v.). Towards its close, Moses is doomed never to enter the Promised Land, presumably because of a momentary lack of trust in God at the Water of Contradiction. When the old generation, including Mary, the prophet's sister, is no more, Moses inaugurates the onward march around Edom and Moab to the Arnon. After the death of Aaron and the victory over Arad, "fiery serpents" appear in the camp, a chastisement for renewed murmurings. Moses sets up the brazen serpent, "which when they that were bitten looked upon, they were healed". The victories over Sehon and Og, and the feeling of security animating the army even in the territory of the hostile Balac, led to presumptuous and scandalous intercourse with the idolatrous Moabites which results, at Moses's command, in the slaughter of 24,000 offenders. The census, however, shows that the army still numbers 601,730, excluding 23,000 Levites. Of these Moses allows the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasses to settle in the east-Jordan district, without, however, releasing them from service in the west-Jordan conquest.


Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

(For other people named Moses, see Moses (disambiguation).)

Moses was a Jewish patriarch born during the captivity in Egypt. He was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter and later led his people back across the Red Sea.

This article uses material from the "Moses" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English


Moses (Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה, Standard Moshe Tiberian Mōšeh; Greek: Mωϋσῆς in both the Septuagint and the New Testament; Arabic: موسىٰ, Mūsa) was a religious leader, lawgiver, and prophet according to the Hebrew Bible. Generally, he is also seen as the author of the Torah. He is often called Moshe Rabbenu in Hebrew (Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ, Lit. "Moses our Teacher/Rabbi") and seen as the most important prophet in Judaism.[1][2] Christianity, [1] Islam,[3] the Bahá'í Faith,[4] and the Rastafari,[1] also see him as an important prophet. Moses has also been an important symbol in American history, from the first settlers up until the present.[5]

According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people were increasing in number and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might help Egypt's enemies. Moses' Hebrew mother, Jochebed, hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed, and he ended up being adopted into the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slave-master, Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian where he tended the flocks of Jethro, a priest of Midian on the slopes of Mt. Horeb. After the Ten Plagues were unleashed on Egypt, Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, where they based themselves at Horeb and compassed the borders of Edom. It was at this time that Moses received the Ten Commandments. Despite living to the age of 120, Moses died before reaching the Land of Israel.


Early Life

Moses was born of the Levi tribe. The new Pharaoh, afraid of the ever growing Israelite population, ordered every new-born Hebrew boy be thrown into the Nile, but let every girl live. Moses' mother Jochebed gave birth and kept him secret for three months. When she no longer could keep him hidden, she fashioned a basket lined with tar and pitch, and placed him in the reeds along the riverbank, while his sister Miriam kept watch from a distance. Coming to the Nile to bathe, a princess of the Pharaoh discovered the crying baby and noticed he was a Hebrew child. Joining the attendants, Moses' sister offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for the princess, who agreed. Bringing Moses' real mother, the princess asked her to be the baby's wet nurse, for which she was paid. When the child grew older, she took him to pharaoh's daughter, who named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."

Moses grew up a privileged member of the court, being well educated academically and physically. A member of the Pharaoh's household saw him taught martial arts of the day, tactics and leadership. The Pharaoh sent him away to fight and returned with success, making him popular with the people.

The Burning Bush

Moses fled to Midian, where he married Jethro's daughter, Zipora. One day Moses was tending his father-in-law, Jethro's, sheep and came to Mount Horeb. God's angel made a bush burn with fire, but it did not burn up. When he came nearer, God spoke to him and ordered him to remove his shoes as he was on holy land. God commanded him to be a leader for the Israelites and bring them out of Egypt. At first Moses did not want to do it and said that he was not good with words, but God commanded him and gave Aaron, his brother, to speak for him. Moses return to Egypt and told the elders what happened.

Moses and the Pharaoh

Moses then went to the Pharaoh and asked him to let the Israelites go. However the Pharaoh did not agree. Finally God inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh agreed to release the Israelites. The last plague was the killing of all first-born, both human and animals. However, to save the Israelites, they were instructed to mark their doors with blood from a Lamb, which is an allusion to Jesus Christ shedding His blood to save mankind in the New Testament, so that the avenging angel would see it and know to "pass over" that house.

The Pharaoh finally decided to let the Israelites go who then migrated in large numbers from Egypt. The Pharaoh later changed his mind and followed Moses and his people with an army to attack them. But Moses made the Red Sea to part and give way for Israelites to pass. The Israelites were safe but the Pharaoh's army was destroyed.

Journey in the Wilderness

Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness, and God gave them manna and quails to eat, and water from rocks to drink. He also caused the Amalekites to lose in a battle. When Moses came to Mount Sinai, he went up to receive the Ten Commandments and other laws from God. The Ten Commandments were written by God on two tablets. God also told him the instructions of the priests' duties. Moses was up the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

When the people waited for Moses and did not find him, they made Aaron, his brother, make a calf out of gold and worshiped it. God warned Moses about it, and when Moses came down and saw what they did, he was so angry that the tablets fell and they smashed into pieces. The people of Levi tribes are commanded to kill people who worshiped the calf.

Later on Moses asked God to forgive the people. God wrote for Moses two more tablets, and put them in the Ark. Moses also asked craftsmen to make the Tabernacle as God wanted.

Later Life

While the Israelites were wandering around the wilderness, Moses was the one whom God spoke to. However, the people kept complaining about the hardships. God instructed Moses to send twelve spies to scout the land God is giving to them; however some of them became afraid because the people living there looked stronger and more powerful than they. They told the others not to go there. Only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh reported the truth as God wanted. God decided because of this that the Israelites would wander forty years in the wilderness, and every one except Joshua and Caleb from that generation would die without seeing the promised land.

God gave many laws to the Israelites through Moses. Moses made Joshua take over him before he died.

Moses died before he reached Canaan, the land God was leading his people to. He was 120 years old when he died.

Today Jews around the world follow the laws of the Ten Commandments and the Torah that God gave to them through Moses. He is also believed to be a prophet by Muslims.

The Historical Moses

The Bible, the Torah, and the Quran have references to a person called Moses in them. The name they give to the person, varies. Other people also have written about Moses. These include Tacitus and Strabo. It is not known how much these descriptions have taken from earlier sources, which may now have been lost.

An existing earlier source is the Ipuwer Papyrus, which records the events of the Ten Plagues.

No other written records from countries such as Egypt or Assyria have been found, that are from before about 850 BCE and that tell about the stories of the Bible or its main characters.[6][7] There is no known physical evidence (such as pottery shards or stone tablets) to say that Moses' really existed.[8][9] Pharaohs have ordered the destruction of records that put them into a bad light. Several cartouches from monuments have also been destroyed in different epochs of Ancient Egyptian history.[10]

It looks like the story written about Moses in the Bible has two different sources. There were two groups of people who told the story. The two stories were passed on separately. Only later were they combined into the version that can now be found in the Bible. Passing on the stories from one generation to the next has perhaps also introduced inaccuracies. Some people added things to the story when they told it. They also omitted other things.


According to the Torah, Moses ordered the death penalty for many offences. He also had defeated enemies killed. Jews, Christians and Muslims consider him to be a holy figure. For this reason, criticism of these passages of the Hebrew Bible has been left to others.

In the late eighteenth century, for example, the deist Thomas Paine commented at length on Moses' Laws in The Age of Reason. Paine also gave his view that "the character of Moses, as stated in the Bible, is the most horrid that can be imagined",[11] giving the story at Numbers 31:13-18 as an example. In the nineteenth century the agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll wrote "...that all the ignorant, infamous, heartless, hideous things recorded in the 'inspired' Pentateuch are not the words of God, but simply 'Some Mistakes of Moses'".[12] In the 2000s, the atheist Richard Dawkins referring to the same passage like Paine, , concluded, "No, Moses was not a great role model for modern moralists."[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Deuteronomy 34:10
  2. Maimonides, 13 principles of faith, 7th principle
  3. Qur'an 19:51-51
  4. Juan R.I. Cole (7/10/98). "Baha'u'llah on the Life of Jesus". Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  5. Feiler, Bruce. America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story, William Morrow (2009)
  6. Who Were the Early Israelites? by William G. Dever (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003
  7. The Bible Unearthed by Neil A. Silberman and Israel Finkelstein (Simon and Schuster, New York, 2001
  8. False Testamentby Daniel Lazare (Harper's Magazine, New York, May 2002)
  9. Archaeology and the Hebrew Scriptures
  10. Two of the more famous examples are the attempted obliteration of all occurrences of the names of Hatshepsut and Akhenaten following their respective reigns, a sort of damnatio memoriae.
  11. Thomas Paine The Age of Reason part II, 1796
  12. Robert G. Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses chapter XXIX
  13. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006, chapter 7

There is a film called "The Prince of Egypt".

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