|mo'-zez (taken out; drawn forth)
RELATED: Aaron, Exodus, The; Gershom, Jesus, Joshua, Lot, Miriam, Mount Sinai, Paran, Passover, Pharaoh, Red Sea, Ten Commandments, Transfiguration, The; Wandering, Zipporah
Easton's Bible Dictionary
drawn (or Egypt. mesu, "son;" hence Rameses, royal son).
On the invitation of Pharaoh ( Genesis
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" ( Genesis
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"
15:13 ) commenced. They were sorely oppressed. They continued, however, to
increase in numbers, and "the land was filled with them" ( Exodus
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 I.] arose who knew not Joseph" ( Exodus
1:8 ). (See PHARAOH
.) 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" ( Exodus
1:14 ). 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" ( Exodus
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 ( Exodus
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 ( Exodus
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'S DAUGHTER ) 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" ( Exodus
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
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"
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 ( Hebrews
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 II.), who "sought to slay Moses"
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 ( Exodus
3 ), 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 ( Exodus
26 ). On the way he was met by Aaron (q.v.) and the elders of Israel (Exodus
27-31). He and Aaron had a hard task before them; but the Lord was with them
and the ransomed host went forth in triumph. (See 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 ( Deuteronomy
1:1 - 4
), and gives the people his last counsels, and then rehearses the great song (
32 ), 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 ( Deuteronomy
33 ), he ascends to "the mountain of Nebo (q.v.), to the top of Pisgah, that
is over against Jericho" ( Deuteronomy
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" ( Deuteronomy
34:2 - 3
), the magnificient inheritance of the tribes of whom he had been so long the
leader; and there he died, being one hundred and twenty 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" ( Deuteronomy
34:6 ). The people mourned for him during thirty days.
Thus died "Moses the man of God" ( Deuteronomy
33:1 ; Joshua
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" ( Deuteronomy
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 ( John
1:17 ; 2
Corinthians 3:13 - 18
3:6 ). Moses is the only character in the Old Testament to whom Christ likens
himself ( John
5:46 ; Compare Deuteronomy
18:19 ; Acts
7:37 ). In Hebrews
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.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
taken out; drawn forth
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(Hebrew. Mosheh , "drawn," i.e. from the water; in the
Coptic it means "saved from the water") The legislator of the Jewish people, and
in a certain sense the founder of the Jewish religion. The immediate pedigree
of Moses is as follows:
Levi was the father of: Gershon, Kohath,
Kohath was the father of: Amram (Jochebed)
Amram (Jochebed) was the father of: (Hur) Miriam, Aaron (Elisheba),
Aaron (Elisheba) was
the father of: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar
Eleazar was the father of: Phineas
Moses (Zipporah) was
the father of: Gershom, Eliezer
Gershom was the father of: Jonathan
noted in ()
The history of Moses naturally divides itself into three periods of 40 years each.
Moses was born at Goshen, In Egypt, B.C. 1571. The story of his birth is thoroughly
Egyptian in its scene. His mother made extraordinary efforts for his preservation
from the general destruction of the male children of Israel. For three months
the child was concealed in the house. Then his mother placed him in a small boat
or basket of papyrus, closed against the water by bitumen. This was placed among
the aquatic vegetation by the side of one of the canals of the Nile. The sister
lingered to watch her brothers fate. The Egyptian princess, who, tradition says,
was a childless wife, came down to bathe in the sacred river. Her attendant slaves
followed her. She saw the basket in the flags, and despatched divers, who brought
it. It was opened, and the cry of the child moved the princess to compassion.
She determined to rear it as her own. The sister was at hand to recommend a Hebrew
nurse, the childs own mother. here was the first part of Moses training, --a training
at home in the true religion, in faith in God, in the promises to his nation,
in the life of a saint, --a training which he never forgot, even amid the splendors
and gilded sin of Pharaohs court. The child was adopted by the princess. From
this time for many years Moses must be considered as an Egyptian. In the Pentateuch
this period is a blank, but in the New Testament he is represented as "learned
in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," and as "mighty in words and deeds." ( Acts
7:22 ) this was the second part of Moses training.
The second period of Moses life began when he was forty years old. Seeing the
sufferings of his people, Moses determined to go to them as their helper, and
made his great life-choice, "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." ( Hebrews 11:25 , 11:26
) Seeing an Israelite suffering the bastinado from an Egyptian, and thinking that
they were alone, he slew the Egyptian, and buried the corpse in the sand. But
the people soon showed themselves unfitted as yet to obtain their freedom, nor
was Moses yet fitted to be their leader. He was compelled to leave Egypt when
the slaying of the Egyptian became known, and he fled to the land of Midian, in
the southern and southeastern part of the Sinai peninsula. There was a famous
well ("the well,") ( Exodus 2:15 ) surrounded by tanks for the watering of the
flocks of the Bedouin herdsmen. By this well the fugitive seated himself and watched
the gathering of the sheep. There were the Arabian shepherds, and there were also
seven maidens, whom the shepherds rudely drove away from the water. The chivalrous
spirit which had already broken forth in behalf of his oppressed countrymen broke
forth again in behalf of the distressed maidens. They returned unusually soon
to their father, Jethro, and told him of their adventure. Moses, who up to this
time had been "an Egyptian," ( Exodus 2:19 ) now became for a time an Arabian.
He married Zipporah, daughter of his host, to whom he also became the slave and
shepherd. ( Exodus 2:21 ; 3:1 ) Here for forty years Moses communed with God and
with nature, escaping from the false ideas taught him in Egypt, and sifting out
the truths that were there. This was the third process of his training for his
work; and from this training he learned infinitely more than from Egypt. Stanely
well says, after enumerating what the Israelites derived from Egypt, that the
contrast was always greater than the likeness. This process was completed when
God met him on Horeb, appearing in a burning bush, and, communicating with him,
appointed him to be the leader and deliverer of his people.
Now begins the third period of forty years in Moses life. He meets Aaron, his
next younger brother, whom God permitted to be the spokesman, and together they
return to Goshen in Egypt. From this time the history of Moses is the history
of Israel for the next forty years. Aaron spoke and acted for Moses, and was the
permanent inheritor of the sacred staff of power. But Moses was the inspiring
soul behind. he is incontestably the chief personage of the history, in a sense
in which no one else is described before or since. He was led into a closer communion
with the invisible world than was vouchsafed to any other in the Old Testament.
There are two main characters in which he appears --as a leader and as a prophet.
|(1) As a leader, his life divides
itself into the three epochs --the march to Sinai; the march from Sinai to Kadesh;
and the conquest of the transjordanic kingdoms. On approaching Palestine the office
of the leader becomes blended with that of the general or the conqueror. By Moses
the spies were sent to explore the country. Against his advice took place the
first disastrous battle at hormah. To his guidance is ascribed the circuitous
route by which the nation approached Palestine from the east, and to his generalship
the two successful campaigns in which Sihon and Og were defeated. The narrative
is told so briefly that we are in danger of forgetting that at this last stage
of his life Moses must have been as much a conqueror and victorious soldier as
(2) His character as a prophet is, from the nature of the case, more distinctly
brought out. He is the first as he is the greatest example of a prophet in the
Old Testament. His brother and sister were both endowed with prophetic gifts.
The seventy elders, and Eldad and Medad also, all "prophesied." ( Numbers 11:25
- 27 ) But Moses rose high above all these. With him the divine revelations were
made "mouth to mouth." ( Numbers 12:8 ) Of the special modes of this more direct
communication, four great examples are given, corresponding to four critical epochs
in his historical career.
|(a) The appearance of the divine
presence in the flaming acacia tree. ( Exodus 3:2 - 6 )
(b) In the giving of the law from Mount Sinai, the outward form of the revelation
was a thick darkness as of a thunder-cloud, out of which proceeded a voice. (
Exodus 19:19 ; 20:21 ) on two occasions he is described as having penetrated within
the darkness. ( Exodus 24:18 ; 34:28 )
(c) It was nearly at the close of these communications in the mountains of Sinai
that an especial revelation of God was made to him personally. ( Exodus 33:21
, 33:22 ; 34:5 , 34:6 , 34:7 ) God passed before him.
(d) The fourth mode of divine manifestation was that which is described as beginning
at this juncture, and which was maintained with more or less continuity through
the rest of his career. ( Exodus 33:7 ) It was the communication with God in the
tabernacle from out the pillar of cloud and fire. There is another form of Moses
prophetic gift, viz., the poetical form of composition which characterizes the
Jewish prophecy generally. These poetical utterances are --
|"The song which Moses and the children of Israel sung" (after
the passage of the Red Sea). ( Exodus 15:1-19 )
A fragment of the war-song against Amalek. ( Exodus 17:16 )
A fragment of lyrical burst of indignation. ( Exodus 32:18 )
The fragments of war-songs, probably from either him or his immediate prophetic
followers, in ( Numbers 21:14 , 21:15 , 21:27 - 30 ) preserved in the "book of
the wars of Jehovah," ( Numbers 21:14 ) and the address to the well. ch. ( Numbers
21:14 ) and the address to the well. ch. ( Numbers 21:16 , 21:17 , 21:18 )
The song of Moses, ( Exodus 32:1 - 43 ) setting forth the greatness and the failings
The blessing of Moses on the tribes, ( Exodus 33:1 - 29 )
The 90th Psalm, "A prayer of Moses, the man of God." The title, like all the titles
of the psalms, is of doubtful authority, and the psalm has often been referred
to a later author.
Character . --The prophetic office of Moses can only
be fully considered in connection with his whole character and appearance. ( Hosea
12:13 ) He was in a sense peculiar to himself the founder and representative of
his people; and in accordance with this complete identification of himself with
his nation is the only strong personal trait which we are able to gather from
his history. ( Numbers 12:3 ) The word "meek" is hardly an adequate reading of
the Hebrew term, which should be rather "much enduring." It represents what we
should now designate by the word "disinterested." All that is told of him indicates
a withdrawal of himself, a preference of the cause of his nation to his own interests,
which makes him the most complete example of Jewish patriotism. (He was especially
a man of prayer and of faith, of wisdom, courage and patience.) In exact conformity
with his life is the account of his end. The book of Deuteronomy describes, and
is, the long last farewell of the prophet to his people. This takes place on the
first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year of the wanderings, in the
plains of Moab. ( Deuteronomy 1:3 , 1:5 ) Moses is described as 120 years of age,
but with his sight and his freshness of strength unabated. ( 34:7 ) Joshua is
appointed his successor. The law is written out and ordered to be deposited in
the ark. ch. 31. The song and the blessing of the tribes conclude the farewell.
chs. 32,33. And then comes the mysterious close. He is told that he is to see
the good land beyond the Jordan, but not to possess it himself. He ascends the
mount of Pisgah and stands on Nebo, one of its summits, and surveys the four great
masses of Palestine west of the Jordan, so far as it can be discerned from that
height. The view has passes into a proverb for all nations. "So Moses the servant
of Jehovah died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of Jehovah. And
he buried him in a ravine in the land of Moab, before Beth-peor: but no man knoweth
of his sepulchre unto this day... And the children of Israel wept for Moses in
the plains of Moab thirty days." ( Deuteronomy 34:5 , 34:6 , 34:8 ) This is all
that is said in the sacred record. (This burial was thus hidden probably --
|(1) To preserve his grave from idolatrous worship or superstitious
(2) Because it may be that God did not intend to leave his body to corruption,
but to prepare it, as he did the body of Elijah, so that Moses could in his spiritual
body meet Christ, together with Elijah, on the mount of transfiguration.)
Moses is spoken of as a likeness of Christ; and as this is a point of view
which has been almost lost in the Church, compared with the more familiar comparisons
of Christ to Adam, David, Joshua, and yet has as firm a basis in fact as any of
them, it may be well to draw it out in detail.
|(1) Moses is, as it would seem, the only character of the
Old Testament to whom Christ expressly likens himself: "Moses wrote of me." (
John 5:46 ) It suggests three main points of likeness:
|(a) Christ was, like Moses, the great prophet of the people
--the last, as Moses was the first.
(b) Christ, like Moses, is a lawgiver: "Him shall ye hear."
(c) Christ, like Moses, was a prophet out of the midst of the nation, "from their
brethren." As Moses was the entire representative of his people, feeling for them
more than for himself, absorbed in their interests, hopes and fears, so, with
reverence be it said, was Christ.
(2) In ( Hebrews 3:1 - 19 ; 12:24 - 29 ; Acts 7:37 ) Christ is described, though
more obscurely, as the Moses of the new dispensation --as the apostle or messenger
or mediator of God to the people --as the controller and leader of the flock or
household of God.
(3) The details of their lives are sometimes, though not often, compared. ( Acts
7:24 - 28 ; 35 ) In ( Jude 1:9 ) is an allusion to an altercation between Michael
and Satan over the body of Moses. It probably refers to a lost apocryphal book,
mentioned by Origen, called the "Ascension" or "Assumption of Moses." Respecting
the books of Moses, see PENTATEUCH.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
mo'-zez, mo'-ziz (mosheh; Egyptian mes, "drawn out,"
"born"; Septuagint Mouse(s)). The great Hebrew national hero, leader, author,
law-giver and prophet.
The traditional view of the Jewish church and of the Christian church, that Moses
was a person and that the narrative with which his life-story is interwoven is
real history, is in the main sustained by commentators and critics of all classes.
It is needless to mention the old writers among whom these questions were hardly
under discussion. Among the advocates of the current radical criticism may be
mentioned Stade and Renan, who minimize the historicity of the Bible narrative
at this point. Renan thinks the narrative "may be very probable." Ewald,
Wellhausen, Robertson Smith, and Driver, while finding many flaws in the story,
make much generally of the historicity of the narrative.
The critical analysis of the Pentateuch divides this life-story of Moses into
three main parts, J, E, and the Priestly Code (P), with a fourth, D, made up mainly
from the others. Also some small portions here and there are given to R, especially
the account of Aaron's part in the plagues of Egypt, where his presence in a J-document
is very troublesome for the analytical theory. It is unnecessary to encumber this
biography with constant cross-references to the strange story of Moses pieced
together out of the rearranged fragments into which the critical analysis of the
Pentateuch breaks up the narrative. It is recognized that there are difficulties
in the story of Moses. In what ancient life-story are there not difficulties?
If we can conceive of the ancients being obliged to ponder over a modern life-story,
we can easily believe that they would have still more difficulty with it. But
it seems to very many that the critical analysis creates more difficulties in
the narrative than it relieves. It is a little thing to explain by such analysis
some apparent discrepancy between two laws or two events or two similar incidents
which we do not clearly understand. It is a far greater thing so to confuse, by
rearranging, a beautiful, well-articulated biography that it becomes disconnected--indeed,
in parts, scarcely makes sense.
The biographical narrative of the Hebrew national hero, Moses, is a continuous
thread of history in the Pentateuch. That story in all its simplicity and symmetry,
but with acknowledgment of its difficulties as they arise, is here to be followed.
1. Son of Levi
The recorded story of Moses' life falls naturally into five rather unequal parts:
"And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi"
(Exodus 2:1). The son of Levi born of that union became the greatest man among
mere men in the whole history of the world. How far he was removed in genealogy
from Levi it is impossible to know. The genealogical lists (Genesis 46:11 ; Exodus
6:16 - 20 ; Numbers 3:14 - 28 ; 26:57 - 59 ; 1 Chronicles 6:1 - 3) show only 4
generations from Levi to Moses, while the account given of the numbers of Israel
at the exodus (Exodus 12:37 ; 38:26 ; Numbers 1:46 ; 11:21) imperatively demand
at least 10 or 12 generations. The males alone of the sons of Kohath "from a month
old and upward" numbered at Sinai 8,600 (Numbers 3:27 , 28). It is evident that
the extract from the genealogy here, as in many other places (1 Chronicles 23:15
; 26:24 ; Ezra 7:1 - 5 ; 8:1 , 2 ; compare 1 Chronicles 6:3 - 14 ; Matthew 1:1
- 17 ; Luke 3:23 - 38) is not complete, but follows the common method of giving
important heads of families. The statement concerning Jochebed: "And she bare
unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister" (Numbers 26:59) really creates
no difficulty, as it is likewise said of Zilpah, after the mention of her grandsons,
"And these she bare unto Jacob" (Genesis 46:17 , 18; compare 46:24 , 25).
The names of the immediate father and mother of Moses are not certainly known.
The mother "saw him that he was a goodly child" (Exodus 2:2). So they defied the
commandment of the king (Exodus 1:22), and for 3 months hid him instead of throwing
him into the river.
2. Foundling Prince
The time soon came when it was impossible longer to hide the child (Josephus,
Ant, II, ix, 3-6). The mother resolved upon a plan which was at once a pathetic
imitation of obedience to the commandment of the king, an adroit appeal to womanly
sympathy, and, if it succeeded, a subtle scheme to bring the cruelty of the king
home to his own attention. Her faith succeeded. She took an ark of bulrushes (Exodus
2:3 , 4 ; compare ARK OF BULRUSHES), daubed it with bitumen mixed with the sticky
slime of the river, placed in this floating vessel the child of her love and faith,
and put it into the river at a place among the sedge in the shallow water where
the royal ladies from the palace would be likely to come down to bathe. A sister,
probably Miriam, stood afar off to watch (Exodus 2:3 , 4). The daughter of Pharaoh
came down with her great ladies to the river (Exodus 2:5-10). The princess saw
the ark among the sedge and sent a maid to fetch it. The expectation of the mother
was not disappointed. The womanly sympathy of the princess was touched. She resolved
to save this child by adopting him. Through the intervention of the watching sister,
he was given to his own mother to be nursed (Exodus 2:7 - 9). "And the child grew,
and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son" (Exodus 2:10).
Thus, he would receive her family name.
Royal family names in Egypt then were usually compounded of some expression of
reverence or faith or submission and the name of a god, e.g. "loved of," "chosen
of," "born of," Thoth, Ptah, Ra or Amon. At this period of Egyptian history, "born
of" (Egyptian mes, "drawn out") was joined sometimes to Ah, the name of the moon-god,
making Ahmes, or Thoth, the scribe-god, so Thothmes, but usually with Ra, the
sun-god, giving Rames, usually anglicized Rameses or Ramoses.
It was the time of the Ramesside dynasty, and the king on the throne was Rameses
II. Thus the foundling adopted by Pharaoh's daughter would have the family name
Mes or Moses. That it would be joined in the Egyptian to the name of the sungod
Ra is practically certain. His name at court would be Ramoses. But to the oriental
mind a name must mean something. The usual meaning of this royal name was that
the child was "born of" a princess through the intervention of the god Ra. But
this child was not "born of" the princess, so falling back upon the primary meaning
of the word, "drawn out," she said, "because I drew him out of the water" (Exodus
2:10). Thus, Moses received his name. Pharaoh's daughter may have been the eldest
daughter of Rameses II, but more probably was the daughter and eldest child of
Seti Merenptah I, and sister of the king on the throne. She would be lineal heir
to the crown but debarred by her sex. Instead, she bore the title "Pharaoh's Daughter,"
and, according to Egyptian custom, retained the right to the crown for her first-born
son. A not improbable tradition (Josephus, Ant, II, ix, 7) relates that she had
no natural son, and Moses thus became heir to the throne, not with the right to
supplant the reigning Pharaoh, but to supersede any of his sons.
Very little is known of Moses' youth and early manhood at the court of Pharaoh.
He would certainly be educated as a prince, whose right it probably was to be
initiated into the mysteries. Thus he was "instructed in all the wisdom of the
Egyptians" (Acts 7:22), included in which, according to many Egyptologists, was
the doctrine of one Supreme God.
Many curious things, whose value is doubtful, are told of Moses by Josephus and
other ancient writers (Josephus, Ant, II, ix, 3; xi; CAp, I, 31; compare DB; for
Mohammedan legends, see Palmer, The Desert of the Exodus, Appendix; for rabbinical
legends, see Jewish Encyclopedia). Some of these traditions are not incredible
but lack authentication. Others are absurd. Egyptologists have searched with very
indifferent success for some notice of the great Hebrew at the Egyptian court.
3. Friend of the People
But the faith of which the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks (Hebrews 11:23-28) was
at work. Moses "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter" (Exodus 2:11-14
; Acts 7:24). Whether he did so in word, by definite renunciation, or by his espousal
of the cause of the slave against the oppressive policy of Pharaoh is of little
importance. In either case he became practically a traitor, and greatly imperiled
his throne rights and probably his civil rights as well. During some intervention
to ameliorate the condition of the state slaves, an altercation arose and he slew
an Egyptian (Exodus 2:11,12). Thus, his constructive treason became an overt act.
Discovering through the ungrateful reproaches of his own kinsmen (Acts 7:25) that
his act was known, he quickly made decision, "choosing rather to share ill treatment
with the people of God," casting in his lot with slaves of the empire, rather
than "to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season," amid the riotous living of
the young princes at the Egyptian court; "accounting the reproach of Christ" his
humiliation, being accounted a nobody ("Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?")
as "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt" (Hebrews 11:25 , 26; Acts 7:25-28).
He thought to be a nobody and do right better than to be a tyrant and rule Egypt.
4. Refuge in Midian
Moses fled, "not fearing the wrath of the king" (Hebrews 11:27), not cringing
before it or submitting to it, but defying it and braving all that it could bring
upon him, degradation from his high position, deprivation of the privileges and
comforts of the Egyptian court. He went out a poor wanderer (Exodus 2:15). We
are told nothing of the escape and the journey, how he eluded the vigilance of
the court guards and of the frontier-line of sentinels. The friend of slaves is
strangely safe while within their territory. At last he reached the Sinaitic province
of the empire and hid himself away among its mountain fastnesses (Exodus 2:15).
The romance of the well and the shepherdesses and the grateful father and the
future wife is all quite in accord with the simplicity of desert life (Exodus
2:16-22). The "Egyptian" saw the rude, selfish herdsmen of the desert imposing
upon the helpless shepherd girls, and, partly by the authority of a manly man,
partly, doubtless, by the authority of his Egyptian appearance in an age when
"Egypt" was a word with which to frighten men in all that part of the world, he
compelled them to give way. The "Egyptian" was called, thanked, given a home and
eventually a wife. There in Midian, while the anguish of Israel continued under
the taskmaster's lash, and the weakening of Israel's strength by the destruction
of the male children went on, with what more or less rigor we know not, Moses
was left by Providence to mellow and mature, that the haughty, impetuous prince,
"instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," might be transformed into the
wise, well-poised, masterful leader, statesman, lawgiver, poet and prophet. God
usually prepares His great ones in the countryside or about some of the quiet
places of earth, farthest away from the busy haunts of men and nearest to the
"secret place of the Most High." David keeping his father's flocks, Elijah on
the mountain slopes of Gilead, the Baptist in the wilderness of Judea, Jesus in
the shop of a Galilean carpenter; so Moses a shepherd in the Bedouin country,
in the "waste, howling wilderness."
5. Leader of Israel
(1) The Commission.
One day Moses led the flocks to "the back of the wilderness" (Exodus 3:1 - 12;
see BUSH, BURNING. Moses received his commission, the most appalling commission
ever given to a mere man (Exodus 3:10)--a commission to a solitary man, and he
a refugee--to go back home and deliver his kinsmen from a dreadful slavery at
the hand of the most powerful nation on earth. Let not those who halt and stumble
over the little difficulties of most ordinary lives think hardly of the faltering
of Moses' faith before such a task (Exodus 3:11 - 13 ; 4:1, 10 - 13). "Thus shalt
thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you" (Exodus 3:14),
was the encouragement God gave him. He gave him also Aaron for a spokesman (Exodus
4:14 - 16), the return to the Mount of God as a sign (Exodus 3:12), and the rod
of power for working wonders (Exodus 4:17).
One of the curious necessities into which the critical analysis drives its advocates
is the opinion concerning Aaron that "he scarcely seems to have been a brother
and almost equal partner of Moses, perhaps not even a priest" (Bennett, HDB, III,
441). Interesting and curious speculations have been instituted concerning the
way in which Israel and especially Pharaoh were to understand the message, "I
AM hath sent me unto you" (Exodus 3:13 , 14 ; compare 6:3). They were evidently
expected to understand this message. Were they to so do by translating or by transliterating
it into Egyptian? Some day Egyptologists may be able to answer positively, but
With the signs for identification (Exodus 4:1 - 10), Moses was ready for his mission.
He went down from the "holy ground" to obey the high summons and fulfill the great
commission (Exodus 4:18 - 23). After the perplexing controversy with his wife,
a controversy of stormy ending (Exodus 4:24 - 26), he seems to have left his family
to his father-in-law's care while he went to respond to the call of God (Exodus
18:6). He met Aaron, his brother, at the Mount of God (Exodus 4:27 , 28), and
together they returned to Egypt to collect the elders of Israel (Exodus 4:29 -
31), who were easily won over to the scheme of emancipation. Was ever a slave
people not ready to listen to plans for freedom?
(2) The Conflict with Pharaoh.
The next move was the bold request to the king to allow the people to go into
the wilderness to hold a feast unto Yahweh (Exodus 5:1). How did Moses gain admittance
past the jealous guards of an Egyptian court to the presence of the Pharaoh himself?
And why was not the former traitorous refugee at once arrested? Egyptology affords
a not too distinct answer. Rameses II was dead (Exodus 4:19); Merenptah II was
on the throne with an insecure tenure, for the times were troubled. Did some remember
the "son of Pharaoh's daughter" who, had he remained loyal, would have been the
Pharaoh? Probably so. Thus he would gain admittance, and thus, too, in the precarious
condition of the throne, it might well not be safe to molest him. The original
form of the request made to the king, with some slight modification, was continued
throughout (Exodus 8:27 ; 10:9), though God promised that the Egyptians should
thrust them out altogether when the end should come, and it was so (Exodus 11:1
; 12:31 , 33 , 39). Yet Pharaoh remembered the form of their request and bestirred
himself when it was reported that they had indeed gone "from serving" them (Exodus
14:5). The request for temporary departure upon which the contest was made put
Pharaoh's call to duty in the easiest form and thus, also, his obstinacy appears
as the greater heinousness. Then came the challenge of Pharaoh in his contemptuous
demand, "Who is Yahweh?" (Exodus 5:2), and Moses' prompt acceptance of the challenge,
in the beginning of the long series of plagues (see PLAGUE) (Exodus 8:1 ; 12:29
- 36 ; 14:31; compare Lamb, Miracle of Science). Pharaoh, having made the issue,
was justly required to afford full presentation of it. So Pharaoh's heart was
"hardened" (Exodus 4:21 ; 7:3 , 13 ; 9:12 , 35 ; 10:1 ; 14:8 ; see PLAGUE) until
the vindication of Yahweh as God of all the earth was complete. This proving of
Yahweh was so conducted that the gods of Egypt were shown to be of no avail against
Him, but that He is God of all the earth, and until the faith of the people of
Israel was confirmed (Exodus 14:31).
(3) Institution of the Passover.
It was now time for the next step in revelation (Exodus 12 ; 13:1 - 16). At the
burning bush God had declared His purpose to be a saviour, not a destroyer. In
this contest in Egypt, His absolute sovereignty was being established; and now
the method of deliverance by Him, that He might not be a destroyer, was to be
revealed. Moses called together the elders (Exodus 12:21 - 28) and instituted
the Passover feast. As God always in revelation chooses the known and the familiar--the
tree, the bow, circumcision, baptism, and the Supper--by which to convey the unknown,
so the Passover was a combination of the household feast with the widespread idea
of safety through blood-sacrifice, which, however it may have come into the world,
was not new at that time. Some think there is evidence of an old Semitic festival
at that season which was utilized for the institution of the Passover.
The lamb was chosen and its use was kept up (Exodus 12:3 - 6). On the appointed
night it was killed and "roasted with fire" and eaten with bitter herbs (Exodus
12:8), while they all stood ready girded, with their shoes on their feet and their
staff in hand (Exodus 12:11). They ate in safety and in hope, because the blood
of the lamb was on the door (Exodus 12:23). That night the firstborn of Egypt
were slain. Among the Egyptians "there was not a house where there was not one
dead" (Exodus 12:30), from the house of the maid-servant, who sat with her handmill
before her, to the palace of the king that "sat on the throne," and even among
the cattle in the pasture. If the plague was employed as the agency of the angel
of Yahweh, as some think, its peculiarity is that it takes the strongest and the
best and culminates in one great stunning blow and then immediately subsides (see
PLAGUE). Who can tell the horror of that night when the Israelites were thrust
out of the terror-stricken land (Exodus 12:39)?
As they went out, they "asked," after the fashion of departing servants in the
East, and God gave them favor in the sight of the over-awed Egyptians that they
lavished gifts upon them in extravagance. Thus "they despoiled the Egyptians"
(Exodus 12:36). "Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in
the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people" (Exodus 11:3
; 12:35 , 36).
(4) The Exodus.
"At the end of 430 years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the
hosts of Yahweh went out from the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:41). The great oppressor
was Rameses II, and the culmination and the revolution came, most probably, in
connection with the building of Pithom and Raamses, as these are the works of
Israel mentioned in the Bible narrative (Exodus 1:11). Rameses said that he built
Pithom at the "mouth of the east" (Budge, History of Exodus, V, 123). All efforts
to overthrow that statement have failed and for the present, at least, it must
stand. Israel built Pithom, Rameses built Pithom; there is a synchronism that
cannot in the present knowledge of Egyptian history even be doubted, much less
separated. The troubled times which came to Egypt with the beginning of the reign
of Merenptah II afforded the psychological moment for the return of the "son of
Pharaoh's daughter" and his access to the royal court. The presence and power
of Yahweh vindicated His claim to be the Lord of all the earth, and Merenptah
let the children of Israel go.
A little later when Israel turned back from the border of Khar (Palestine) into
the wilderness and disappeared, and Merenptah's affairs were somewhat settled
in the empire, he set up the usual boastful tablet claiming as his own many of
the victories of his royal ancestors, added a few which he himself could truly
boast, and inserted, near the end, an exultation over Israel's discomfiture, accounting
himself as having finally won the victory:
|"Tehennu is devastation, Kheta peace, the Canaan the prisoner
of all ills;
"Asgalon led out, taken with Gezer, Yenoamam made naught;
"The People of Israel is ruined, his posterity is not; Khar is become as the widows
The synchronisms of this period are well established and must stand until, if
it should ever be, other facts of Egyptian history shall be obtained to change
them. Yet it is impossible to determine with certainty the precise event from
which the descent into Egypt should be reckoned, or to fix the date BC of Moses,
Rameses and Merenptah, and the building of Pithom, and so, likewise, the date
of the exodus and of all the patriarchal movements. The ancients were more concerned
about the order of events, their perspective and their synchronisms than about
any epochal date. For the present we must be content with these chronological
uncertainties. Astronomical science may sometimes fix the epochal dates for these
events; otherwise there is little likelihood that they will ever be known.
They went out from Succoth (Egyptian "Thuku," Budge, History of Egypt, V, 122,
129), carrying the bones of Joseph with them as he had commanded (Exodus 13:19;
Genesis 50:25). The northeast route was the direct way to the promised land, but
it was guarded. Pithom itself was built at "the mouth of the East," as a part
of the great frontier defenses (Budge, op. cit., V, 123). The "wall" on this frontier
was well guarded (Exodus 14), and attempts might be made to stop them. So they
went not "by the way of the land of the Philistines .... lest peradventure the
people repent when they see war" (Exodus 13:17). The Lord Himself took the leadership
and went ahead of the host of Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar
of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). He led them by "the way of the wilderness by
the Red Sea" (Exodus 13:18). They pitched before Pi-hahiroth, over against Baal-zephon
between Migdol and the sea (Exodus 14:2). Not one of these places has been positively
identified. But the Journeys before and after the crossing, the time, and the
configuration of the land and the coast-line of the sea, together with all the
necessities imposed by the narrative, are best met by a crossing near the modern
town of Suez (Naville, Route of the Exodus; Palmer, The Desert of the Exodus),
where Ras 'Ataka comes down to the sea, upon whose heights a migdhol or "watch-tower,"
as the southern outpost of the eastern line of Egyptian defenses, would most probably
Word was carried from the frontier to Pharaoh, probably at Tanis, that the Israelites
had "fled" (Exodus 14:5), had taken the impassioned thrusting out by the frenzied
people of Egypt in good faith and had gone never to return. Pharaoh took immediate
steps to arrest and bring back the fugitives. The troops at hand (Exodus 14:6)
and the chariot corps, including 600 "chosen chariots," were sent at once in pursuit,
Pharaoh going out in person at least to start the expedition (Exodus 14:6 , 7).
The Israelites seemed to be "entangled in the land," and, since "the wilderness
(had) shut them in" (Exodus 4:3), must easily fall a prey to the Egyptian army.
The Israelites, terror-stricken, cried to Moses. God answered and commanded the
pillar of cloud to turn back from its place before the host of Israel and stand
between them and the approaching Egyptians, so that while the Egyptians were in
the darkness Israel had the light (Exodus 14:19 , 20). The mountain came down
on their right, the sea on the left to meet the foot of the mountain in front
of them; the Egyptians were hastening on after them and the pillar of cloud and
fire was their rearward. Moses with the rod of God stood at the head of the fleeing
host. Then God wrought. Moses stretched out the rod of God over the sea and "Yahweh
caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night" (Exodus 14:16-21).
A pathway was before them and the sea on the right hand, and on the left was a
"wall unto them," and they passed through (Exodus 14:21 , 22). Such heaping up
of the waters by the wind is well known and sometimes amounts to 7 or 8 ft. in
Lake Erie (Wright, Scientific Confirmations of the Old Testament, 106). No clearer
statement could possibly be made of the means used and of the miraculous timing
of God's providence with the obedience of the people to His command to Moses.
The host of Israel passed over on the hard, sandy bottom of the sea. The Egyptians
coming up in the dark and finding it impossible to tell exactly where the coastline
had been on this beach, and where the point of safety would lie when the wind
should abate and the tide come in again, impetuously rushed on after the fleeing
slaves. In the morning, Yahweh looked forth and troubled the Egyptians "and took
off their chariot wheels, and they drove them heavily" (Exodus 14:24 , 25). The
wind had abated, the tide was returning and the infiltration that goes before
the tide made the beach like a quicksand. The Egyptians found that they had gone
too far and tried to escape (Exodus 14:27), but it was too late. The rushing tide
caught them (Exodus 14:28). When the day had come, "horse and rider" were but
the subject of a minstrel's song of triumph (Exodus 15:1-19; Psalms 106:9-12)
which Miriam led with her timbrel (Exodus 15:20). The Bible does not say, and
there is no reason to believe, that Pharaoh led the Egyptian hosts in person further
than at the setting off and for the giving of general direction to the campaign
(Exodus 15:4). Pharaoh and his host were overthrown in the Red Sea (Psalms 136:15).
So Napoleon and his host were overthrown at Waterloo, but Napoleon lived to die
at Helena. And Merenptah lived to erect his boastful inscription concerning the
failure of Israel, when turned back from Kadesh-barnea, and their disappearance
in the wilderness of Paran. His mummy, identified by the lamented Professor Groff,
lies among the royal mummies in the Cairo Museum. Thus at the Red Sea was wrought
the final victory of Yahweh over Pharaoh; and the people believed (Exodus 14:31).
(5) Special Providences.
Now proceeded that long course of special providences, miraculous timing of events,
and multiplying of natural agencies which began with the crossing of the Red Sea
and ended only when they "did eat of the fruit of the land" (Joshua 5:12). God
promised freedom from the diseases of the Egyptians (Exodus 15:26) at the bitter
waters of Marah, on the condition of obedience. Moses was directed to a tree,
the wood of which should counteract the alkaline character of the water (Exodus
15:23 - 25). A little later they were at Elim (Wady Gharandel, in present-day
geography), where were "twelve springs of water and three score and ten palm trees"
(Exodus 15:27). The enumeration of the trees signifies nothing but their scarcity,
and is understood by everyone who has traveled in that desert and counted, again
and again, every little clump of trees that has appeared. The course of least
resistance here is to turn a little to the right and come out again at the Red
Sea in order to pass around the point of the plateau into the wilderness of Sin.
This is the course travel takes now, and it took the same course then (Exodus
16:1). Here Israel murmured (Exodus 16:2), and every traveler who crosses this
blistering, dusty, wearisome, hungry wilderness joins in the murmuring, and wishes,
at least a little, that he had stayed in the land of Egypt (Exodus 16:3). Provisions
brought from Egypt were about exhausted and the land supplied but little. Judging
from the complaints of the people about the barrenness of the land, it was not
much different then from what it is now (Numbers 20:1 - 6). Now special providential
provision began. "At even .... the quails came up, and covered the camp," and
in the morning, after the dew, the manna was found (Exodus 16:4 - 36).
See MANNA; QUAIL.
At Rephidim was the first of the instances when Moses was called upon to help
the people to some water. He smote the rock with the rod of God, and there came
forth an abundant supply of water (Exodus 17:1 - 6). There is plenty of water
in the wady near this point now. The Amalekites, considering the events immediately
following, had probably shut the Israelites off from the springs, so God opened
some hidden source in the mountain side. "Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel"
(Exodus 17:8). Whether the hand which Moses lifted up during the battle was his
own hand or a symbolical hand (Exodus 17:9 - 12), thought to have been carried
in battle then, as sometimes even yet by the Bedouin, is of no importance. It
was in either case a hand stretched up to God in prayer and allegiance, and the
battle with Amalek, then as now, fluctuates according as the hand is lifted up
or lowered (Exodus 17:8 - 16).
Here Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, met him and brought his wife and children to
him (Exodus 18:5 , 6 ; compare Numbers 10:29). A sacrificial feast was held with
the distinguished guest (Exodus 18:7 - 12). In the wise counsel of this great
desert-priest we see one of the many natural sources of supply for Moses' legal
lore and statesmanship. A suggestion of Jethro gave rise to one of the wisest
and most far-reaching elements in the civil institutions of Israel, the elaborate
system of civil courts (Exodus 18:13 - 26).
(6) Receiving the Law.
At Sinai Moses reached the pinnacle of his career, though perhaps not the pinnacle
of his faith. (For a discussion of the location of Sinai, see SINAI; EXODUS.)
It is useless to speculate about the nature of the flames in theophany by fire
at Sinai. Some say there was a thunderstorm (HDB); others think a volcanic eruption.
The time, the stages of the journey, the description of the way, the topography
of this place, especially its admirable adaptability to be the cathedral of Yahweh
upon earth, and, above all, the collocation of all the events of the narrative
along this route to this spot and to no other--all these exercise an overwhelming
influence upon one (compare Palmer, The Desert of the Exodus). If they do not
conclusively prove, they convincingly persuade, that here the greatest event between
Creation and Calvary took place
Here the people assembled. "And Mount Sinai, the whole of it, smoked," and above
appeared the glory of God. Bounds were set about the mountain to keep the people
back (Exodus 19:12 , 13). God was upon the mountain: "Under his feet as it were
a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for clearness" (Exodus 19:16 - 19 ; 24:10 , 16 , 17), "and God spake all these words" (Exodus 20:1 - 17).
Back over the summit of the plain between these two mountain ridges in front,
the people fled in terror to the place "afar off" (Exodus 20:18), and somewhere
about the foot of this mountain a little later the tabernacle of grace was set
up (Exodus 40:17). At this place the affairs of Moses mounted up to such a pinnacle
of greatness in the religious history of the world as none other among men has
attained unto. He gave formal announcement of the perfect law of God as a rule
of life, and the redeeming mercy of God as the hope through repentance for a world
of sinners that "fall short." Other men have sought God and taught men to seek
God, some by the works of the Law and some by the way of propitiation, but where
else in the history of the world has any one man caught sight of both great truths
and given them out?
Moses gathered the people together to make the covenant (Exodus 24:1 - 8), and
the nobles of Israel ate a covenant meal there before God (Exodus 24:11). God
called Moses again to the mountain with the elders of Israel (Exodus 24:12). There
Moses was with God, fasting 40 days (Exodus 34:28). Joshua probably accompanied
Moses into the mount (Exodus 24:13). There God gave directions concerning the
plan of the tabernacle: "See .... that thou make all things according to the pattern
that was showed thee in the mount" (Hebrews 8:5 - 12, summing up Exodus 25:40;
26:30; 27:8). This was the statement of the architect to the builder. We can only
learn what the pattern was by studying the tabernacle (see TABERNACLE).
It was an Egyptian plan (compare Bible Student, January, 1902). While Moses was
engaged in his study of the things of the tabernacle on the mount, the people
grew restless and appealed to Aaron (Exodus 32:1). In weakness Aaron yielded to
them and made them a golden calf and they said, "These are thy gods, O Israel,
which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 32:2 - 6; compare CALF,
GOLDEN). This was probably, like the later calf-worship at Bethel and Dan, ancient
Semitic bull-worship and a violation of the second commandment Exodus 20:5; compare
Bible Student, August, 1902). The judgment of God was swift and terrible (Exodus
32:7 - 35), and Levi was made the Divine agent (Exodus 32:25 - 29). Here first
the "tent of meeting" comes into prominence as the official headquarters of the
leader of Israel (Exodus 33:7 - 11). Henceforth independent and distinct from
the tabernacle, though on account of the similarity of names liable to be confused
with that building, it holds its place and purpose all through the wanderings
to the plain of Moab by Jordan (Deuteronomy 31:14). Moses is given a vision of
God to strengthen his own faith (Exodus 33:12 - 23 ; 34:1 - 35). On his return
from communion with God, he had such glory within that it shone out through his
face to the terror of the multitude, an adumbration of that other and more glorious
transfiguration at which Moses should also appear, and that reflection of it which
is sometimes seen in the life of many godly persons (Matthew 17:1 - 13 ; Mark
9:2 - 10 ; Luke 9:28 - 36).
Rationalistic attempts to account for the phenomena at Sinai have been frequent,
but usually along certain lines. The favorite hypothesis is that of volcanic action.
God has often used natural agencies in His revelation and in His miracles, and
there is no necessary obstacle to His doing so here. But there are two seemingly
insuperable difficulties in the way of this naturalistic explanation: one, that
since geologic time this has not been a volcanic region; the other, that volcanic
eruptions are not conducive to literary inspiration. It is almost impossible to
get a sane account from the beholders of an eruption, much less has it a tendency
to result in the greatest literature, the most perfect code of laws and the profoundest
statesmanship in the world. The human mind can easily believe that God could so
speak from Sinai and direct the preparation of such works of wisdom as the Book
of the Covenant. Not many will be able to think that Moses could do so during
a volcanic eruption at Sinai. For it must be kept in mind that the historical
character of the narrative at this point, and the Mosaic authorship of the Book
of the Covenant, are generally admitted by those who put forward this naturalistic
One, that since geologic time this has not been a volcanic region; the other,
that volcanic eruptions are not conducive to literary inspiration. It is almost
impossible to get a sane account from the beholders of an eruption, much less
has it a tendency to result in the greatest literature, the most perfect code
of laws and the profoundest statesmanship in the world. The human mind can easily
believe that God could so speak from Sinai and direct the preparation of such
works of wisdom as the Book of the Covenant. Not many will be able to think that
Moses could do so during a volcanic eruption at Sinai. For it must be kept in
mind that the historical character of the narrative at this point, and the Mosaic
authorship of the Book of the Covenant, are generally admitted by those who put
forward this naturalistic explanation.
(7) Uncertainties of History.
From this time on to the end of Moses' life, the materials are scant, there are
long stretches of silence, and a biographer may well hesitate. The tabernacle
was set up at the foot of the "mountain of the law" (Exodus 40:17 - 19), and the
world from that day to this has been able to find a mercy-seat at the foot of
the mountain of the law. Nadab and Abihu presumptuously offered strange fire and
were smitten (Leviticus 10:1 - 7). The people were numbered (Numbers 1:1). The
Passover was kept (Numbers 9:1 - 5).
(8) Journey to Canaan Resumed.
The journey to Canaan began again (Numbers 10:11 - 13). From this time until near
the close of the life of Moses the events associated with his name belong for
the most part to the story of the wanderings in the wilderness and other subjects,
rather than to a biography of Moses. (compare WANDERINGS OF ISRAEL; AARON; MIRIAM;
JOSHUA; CALEB; BRAZEN SERPENT, etc.). The subjects and references are as follows:
|The March (Numbers 2:10 - 18 ; 9:15 - 23)
The Complaining (Numbers 11:1 - 3)
The Lusting (Numbers 11:4 - 6 , 18 - 35)
The Prophets (Numbers 11:16)
Leprosy of Miriam (Numbers 12:1 - 16)
(9) The Border of the Land:
|Kadesh-barnea (Numbers 13:3 - 26)
The Spies (Deuteronomy 1:22 ; Numbers 13:2 , 21 ; 23:27 , 28-33 ; 14:1 - 38)
The Plagues (Numbers 14:36 , 37 , 40 - 45)
(10) The Wanderings:
|Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:1 - 35)
The Plague (Numbers 16:41 - 50 ; 17)
Death of Miriam (Numbers 20:1)
Sin of Moses and Aaron (Numbers 20:2 - 13 ; Psalms 106:32)
Unfriendliness of Edom (Numbers 20:14 - 21)
Death of Aaron (Numbers 20:22 - 29)
Arad (Numbers 21:1 - 3)
Compassing of Edom (Numbers 21:4)
Murmuring (Numbers 21:5 - 7)
Brazen Serpent (Numbers 21:8 , 9 ; John 3:14)
|The Jordan (Numbers 21:10 - 20)
Sihon (Numbers 21:21 - 32)
Og (Numbers 21:33 - 35)
Balak and Balaam (Numbers 22:4 ; 24:25)
Pollution of the People (Numbers 25:6 - 15)
Numbering of the People (Numbers 26)
Joshua Chosen (Numbers 27:15 - 23)
Midianites Punished (Numbers 31)
(12) Tribes East of Jordan (Numbers 32)
(13) Moses' Final Acts.
Moses was now ready for the final instruction of the people. They were assembled
and a great farewell address was given (Deuteronomy 1:1 - 30:20). Joshua was formally
inducted into office (Deuteronomy 31:1 - 8), and to the priests was delivered
a written copy of this last announcement of the Law now adapted to the progress
made during 40 years (Deuteronomy 31:9 - 13 ; compare 31:24 - 29). Moses then
called Joshua into the tabernacle for a final charge (Deuteronomy 31:14 - 23),
gave to the assembled elders of the people "the words of this song" (Deuteronomy
31:30 ; 32:1 - 43) and blessed the people (Deuteronomy 33). And then Moses, who
"by faith" had triumphed in Egypt, had been the great revelator at Sinai, had
turned back to walk with the people of little faith for 40 years, reached the
greatest triumph of his faith, when, from the top of Nebo, the towering pinnacle
of Pisgah, he lifted up his eyes to the goodly land of promise and gave way to
Joshua to lead the people in (Deuteronomy 34). And there Moses died and was buried,
"but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day" (Deuteronomy 34:5 , 6), "and
Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died" (Deuteronomy 34:7).
This biography of Moses is the binding-thread of the Pentateuch from the beginning
of Exodus to the end of Deuteronomy, without disastrous breaks or disturbing repetitions.
There are, indeed, silences, but they occur where nothing great or important in
the narrative is to be expected. And there are, in the eyes of some, repetitions,
so-called doublets, but they do not seem to be any more real than may be expected
in any biography that is only incidental to the main purpose of the writer. No
man can break apart this narrative of the books without putting into confusion
this life-story; the one cannot be treated as independent of the other; any more
than the narrative of the English Commonwealth and the story of Cromwell, or the
story of the American Revolution and the career of Washington.
Later references to Moses as leader, lawgiver and prophet run all through the
Bible; only the most important will be mentioned: Joshua 8:30 - 35 ; 24:5 ; 1
Samuel 12:6 - 8 ; 1 Chronicles 23:14 - 17 ; Psalms 77:20 ; 99:6 ; 105 ; 106 ;
Isaiah 63:11 , 12 ; Jeremiah 15:1 ; Daniel 9:11 - 13 ; Hosea 12:13 ; Micah 6:4
; Malachi 4:4.
The place held by Moses in the New Testament is as unique as in the Old Testament,
though far less prominent. Indeed, he holds the same place, though presented in
a different light. In the Old Testament he is the type of the Prophet to be raised
up "like unto" him. It is the time of types, and Moses, the type, is most conspicuous.
In the New Testament the Prophet "like unto Moses" has come. He now stands out
the greatest One in human history, while Moses, the type, fades away in the shadow.
It is thus he appears in Christ's remarkable reference to him: "He wrote of me"
(John 5:46). The principal thing which Moses wrote specifically of Christ is this
passage: "Yahweh thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee,
of thy brethren, like unto me" (Deuteronomy 18:15 , 18). Again in the Epistle
to the Hebrews, which is the formal passing over from the types of the Old Testament
to the fulfillment in the New Testament, Jesus is made to stand out as the Moses
of the new dispensation (Hebrews 3; 12:24 - 29). Other most important New Testament
references to Moses are Matthew 17:3 ; Mark 9:4 ; Luke 9:30 ; John 1:17 , 45 ;
3:14 ; Romans 5:14 ; Jude 1:9 ; Revelation 15:3.
II. WORK AND CHARACTER
So little is known of the private life of Moses that his personal character can
scarcely be separated from the part which he bore in public affairs. It is the
work he wrought for Israel and for mankind which fixes his place among the great
ones of earth. The life which we have just sketched as the life of the leader
of Israel is also the life of the author, the lawgiver, and the prophet.
1. The Author:
It is not within the province of this article to discuss in full the great critical
controversies concerning the authorship of Moses which have been summed up against
him thus: "It is doubtful whether we can regard Moses as an author in the literary
sense" (HDB, III, 446; see PENTATEUCH; DEUTERONOMY). It will only be in place
here to present a brief statement of the evidence in the case for Moses. There
is no longer any question concerning the literary character of the age in which
Moses lived. That Moses might have written is indisputable. But did he write,
and how much? What evidence bears at these points?
(1) "Moses Wrote."
The idea of writing or of writings is found 60 times in the Pentateuch It is definitely
recorded in writing purporting to be by Moses. 7 times that Moses wrote or was
commanded to write (Exodus 17:14 ; 34:27 ; 39:30 ; Numbers 17:2 , 3 ; Deuteronomy
10:4 ; 31:24) and frequently of others in his times (Deuteronomy 6:9 ; 27:3 ;
31:19 ; Joshua 8:32). Joshua at the great convocation at Shechem for the taking
of the covenant wrote "these words in the book of the law of God" (Joshua 24:26).
Thus is declared the existence of such a book but 25 years after the death of
Moses (compare Bible Student, 1901, 269-74). It is thus clearly asserted by the
Scriptures as a fact that Moses in the wilderness a little after the exodus was
(2) Moses' Library.
There are many library marks in the Pentateuch, even in those portions which by
nearly all, even the most radical, critics are allowed to be probably the writings
of Moses. The Pentateuch as a whole has such library marks all over it.
On the one hand this is entirely consistent with the known literary character
of the age in which Moses lived. One who was "instructed in all the wisdom of
the Egyptians" might have had in his possession Egyptian records. And the author
of this article is of that class to whom Professor Clay refers, who believe "that
Hebraic (or Amoraic) literature, as well as Aramaic, has a great antiquity prior
to the 1st millennium BC" (Clay, Amurru, 32).
On the other hand, the use of a library to the extent indicated by the abiding
marks upon the Pentateuch does not in the least militate against the claim of
Moses for authorship of the same. The real library marks, aside from the passages
which are assigned by the critics to go with them, are far less numerous and narrower
in scope than in Gibbon or in Kurtz. The use of a library no more necessarily
endangers authorship in the one case than in the other.
(3) The Moses-Tradition.
A tradition from the beginning universally held, and for a long time and without
inherent absurdity, has very great weight. Such has been the Moses-tradition of
authorship. Since Moses is believed to have been such a person living in such
an age and under such circumstances as might suitably provide the situation and
the occasion for such historical records, so that common sense does not question
whether he could have written "a" Pentateuch, but only whether he did write "the"
Pentateuch which we have, it is easier to believe the tradition concerning his
authorship than to believe that such a tradition arose with nothing so known concerning
his ability and circumstances. But such a tradition did arise concerning Moses.
It existed in the days of Josiah. Without it, by no possibility could the people
have been persuaded to receive with authority a book purporting to be by him.
The question of the truthfulness of the claim of actually finding the Book of
the Law altogether aside, there must have been such a national hero as Moses known
to the people and believed in by them, as well as a confident belief in an age
of literature reaching back to his days, else the Book of the Law would not have
been received by the people as from Moses. Archaeology does not supply actual
literary material from Israel much earlier than the time of Josiah, but the material
shows a method of writing and a literary advancement of the people which reaches
far back for its origin, and which goes far to justify the tradition in Josiah's
day. Moreover, to the present time, there is no archaeological evidence to cast
doubt upon that tradition.
(4) The Pentateuch in the Northern Kingdom.
The evidence of the Pentateuch in the Northern Kingdom before the fall of Samaria
is very strong--this entirely aside from any evidence from the Sam Pentateuch.
Although some few insist upon an early date for that book, it is better to omit
it altogether from this argument, as the time of its composition is not absolutely
known and is probably not very far from the close of the Babylonian exile of Judah.
But the prophets supply indubitable evidence of the Pentateuch in the Northern
Kingdom (Hosea 1:10 ; 4:6 ; 8:1, 13 ; 9:11 ; 12:9; Amos 5:21 , 22 ; 8:5 ; compare
Green, Higher Criticism and the Pentateuch, 56-58).
(5) Evidence for the Mosaic Age.
Beyond the limit to which historical evidence reaches concerning the Mosaic authorship
of the Pentateuch, internal evidence for the Mosaic age as the time of its composition
carries us back to the very days of Moses. Egyptian words in the Pentateuch attest
its composition in the Mosaic age, not because they are Egyptian words, for it
is quite supposable that later authors might have known Egyptian words, but because
they are Egyptian words of such marked peculiarities in meaning and history and
of such absolutely accurate use in the Pentateuch, that their employment by later
authors in such a way is incredible. The list of such words is a long one. Only
a few can be mentioned here. For a complete list the authorities cited must be
consulted. There is ye'or, for the streams of Egypt; achu, for the marshy pasture
lands along the Nile; shesh, for the "fine white linen" of the priests; "the land
of Rameses" for a local district in lower Egypt; tsaphenath pa'neach, Joseph's
Egyptian name, and acenath, the name of Joseph's Egyptian wife, and many other
Egyptian words (see Lieblein, in PSBA, May, 1898, 202-10; also The Bible Student,
(6) The Obscurity of the Doctrine of the Resurrection in the Pentateuch.
This obscurity has been urged against the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.
Because of the popular belief concerning the doctrine of the resurrection among
the Egyptians, this objection to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch becomes
the most forcible of all the objections urged by critics. If the Pentateuch was
written by Moses when Israel had just come out of Egypt, why did he leave the
doctrine of the resurrection in such obscurity? The answer is very simple. The
so-called Egyptian doctrine of the resurrection was not a doctrine of resurrection
at all, but a doctrine of resuscitation. The essential idea of resurrection, as
it runs through Scripture from the first glimpse of it until the declaration of
Paul: "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a
natural body, there is also a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:35-45), is almost
absolutely beyond the Egyptian vision of the future life. With the Egyptians the
risen body was to live the same old life on "oxen, geese, bread, beer, wine and
all good things" (compare for abundant illustration Maspero's Guide to Cairo Museum).
The omission of the doctrine of the resurrection from the Pentateuch at the later
date assigned by criticism is very hard to account for. In view of some passages
from the Psalms and the Prophets, it appears inexplicable (Job 19:25-27 ; Psalms
16:10 ; 49:15 ; Isaiah 26:19 ; Ezekiel 37 ; Daniel 12:2). The gross materialism
of the Egyptian doctrine of the rising from the dead makes the obscurity of the
doctrine of the resurrection in the Pentateuch in Moses' day perfectly natural.
Any direct mention of the subject at that time among a people just come out of
Egypt would have carried at once into Israel's religion the materialism of the
Egyptian conception of the future life. The only way by which the people could
be weaned away from these Egyptian ideas was by beginning, as the Pentateuch does,
with more spiritual ideas of God, of the other world and of worship. The obscurity
of the doctrine of the resurrection in the Pentateuch, so far from being against
the Mosaic authorship, is very cogent reason for believing the Pentateuch to have
come from that age, as the only known time when such an omission is reasonably
explicable. Lord, in his lectures, though not an Egyptologist, caught sight of
this truth which later work of Egyptologists has made clear (Moses, 45). Warburton
had a less clear vision of it (see Divine Legation).
(7) The Unity of the Pentateuch.
Unity in the Pentateuch, abstractly considered, cannot be indicative of particular
time for its composition. Manifestly, unity can be given a book at any time. There
is indisputably a certain appearance of unity in narrative in the Pentateuch,
and when this unity is examined somewhat carefully, it is found to have such peculiarity
as does point to the Mosaic age for authorship. The making of books which have
running through them such a narrative as is contained in the Pentateuch which,
especially from the end of Genesis, is entangled and interwoven with dates and
routes and topographical notes, the history of experiences, all so accurately
given that in large part to this day the route and the places intended can be
identified, all this, no matter when the books were written, certainly calls for
special conditions of authorship. A narrative which so provides for all the exigencies
of desert life and so anticipates the life to which Israel looked forward, exhibits
a realism which calls for very special familiarity with all the circumstances.
And when the narrative adds to all this the life of a man without breaks or repetitions
adverse to the purpose of a biography, and running through from beginning to end,
and not a haphazard, unsymmetrical man such as might result from the piecing together
of fragments, but a colossal and symmetrical man, the foremost man of the world
until a greater than Moses should appear, it demands to be written near the time
and place of the events narrated. That a work of fiction, struck off at one time
by one hand, might meet all these requirements at a later date, no one can doubt,
but a scrap-book, even though made up of facts, cannot do so. In fact, the scraps
culled. out by the analysis of the Pentateuch do not make a connected life-story
at all, but three fragmentary and disconnected stories, and turn a biography,
which is the binding-thread of the books, into what is little better than nonsense.
The unity of the Law, which also can be well sustained, is to the same effect
as the unity of the narrative in certifying the narrative near to the time and
place of the events narrated. The discussion of the unity of the Law, which involves
nearly the whole critical controversy of the day, would be too much of a digression
for an article on Moses (see LAW; LEVITICUS; DEUTERONOMY; also Green, Higher Criticism
and the Pent; Orr, POT; Wiener, Biblical Sac., 1909--10).
Neither criticism nor archaeology has yet produced the kind or degree of evidence
which rationalism demands for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. No trace
has yet been found either of the broken tablets at Mt. Sinai or of the autograph
copy of the Law of the Lord "by the hand of Moses" brought out of the house of
the Lord in the days of Josiah. Nor are these things likely to be found, nor anything
else that will certify authorship like a transcription of the records in the copyright
office. Such evidence is not reasonably demanded. The foregoing indications point
very strongly to the production of the Pentateuch in the Mosaic age by someone
as familiar with the circumstances and as near the heart of the nation as Moses
was. That here and there a few slight additions may have been made and that, perhaps,
a few explanations made by scribes may have slipped into the text from the margin
are not unlikely (Numbers 12:3 ; Deuteronomy 34), but this does not affect the
general claim of authorship.
Psalms 90 is also attributed to Moses, though attempts have been made to discredit
his authorship here also (Delitzsch, Commentary on the Psalms). There are those
who perhaps still hold to the Mosaic authorship of the Book of Job. But that view
was never more than a speculation.
2. The Lawgiver:
The character of Moses as lawgiver is scarcely separable from that of Moses as
author, but calls for some separate consideration.
|(1) The extent of the Mosaic element in the Pentateuch legislation
has been so variously estimated that for any adequate idea of the discussion the
reader must consult not only other articles (LAW; COVENANT, BOOK OF THE; PENTATEUCH)
but special works on this subject. In accord with the reasons presented above
for the authorship of the Pentateuch in Mosaic times, the great statesman seems
most naturally the author of the laws so interwoven with his life and leadership.
Moses first gave laws concerning the Passover (Exodus 13). At Sinai, after the
startling revelation from the summit of the mountain, it is most reasonable that
Moses should gather the people together to covenant with God, and should record
that event in the short code of laws known as the Book of the Covenant (Exodus
24:7). This code contains the Moral Law (Exodus 20:1-17) as fundamental, the constitution
of theocracy and of all ethical living. This is followed by a brief code suitable
to their present condition and immediate prospects (Exodus 20:24-26 ; 21-23).
Considering the expectations of both leader and people that they would immediately
proceed to the promised land and take possession, it is quite in order that there
should be laws concerning vineyards and olive orchards (Exodus 23:11), and harvests
(Exodus 23:10-16) and the first-fruits (Exodus 23:19). Upon the completion of
the tabernacle, a priest-code became a necessity. Accordingly, such a code follows
with great minutiae of directions. This part of the Law is composed almost entirely
of "laws of procedure" intended primarily for the priests, that they might know
their own duties and give oral instruction to the people, and probably was never
meant for the whole people except in the most general way. When Israel was turned
back into the wilderness, these two codes were quite sufficient for the simple
life of the wanderings. But Israel developed. The rabble became a nation. Forty
years of life under law, under the operation of the Book of the Covenant in the
moralities of life, the Priestly Code in their religious exercises, and the brief
statutes of Leviticus for the simple life of the desert, prepared the people for
a more elaborate code as they entered the promised land with its more complex
life. Accordingly, in Deuteronomy that code was recorded and left for the guidance
of the people. That these various codes contain some things not now understood
is not at all surprising. It would be surprising if they did not. Would not Orientals
of today find some things in Western laws quite incomprehensible without explanation?
That some few items of law may have been added at a later time, as some items
of history were added to the narrative, is not at all unreasonable, and does in
no way invalidate the claim of Moses as the lawgiver, any more than later French
legislation has invalidated the Corsican's claim to the Napoleonic Code.
The essential value of the Mosaic legislation is beyond comparison. Some of the
laws of Moses, relating as they did to passing problems, have themselves passed
away; some of them were definitely abrogated by Christ and others explicitly fulfilled;
but much of his legislation, moral, industrial, social and political, is the warp
and woof of the best in the great codes of the world to this day. The morality
of the Decalogue is unapproached among collections of moral precepts. Its divinity,
like the divinity of the teachings of Jesus, lies not only in what it includes,
but also in what it omits. The precepts of Ptah-hotep, of Confucius, of Epictetus
include many things found in the Decalogue; the Decalogue omits many things found
among the maxims of these moralists. Thus, in what it excludes, as in what it
includes, the perfection of the Decalogue lies.
(2) It should be emphasized that the laws of Moses were codes, not a collection
of court decisions known to lawyers as common law, but codes given abstractly,
not in view of any particular concrete case, and arranged in systematic order
(Wiener, Biblical Sac., 1909-10). This is entirely in harmony with the archaeological
indications of the Mosaic and preceding ages. The Code of Hammurabi, given at
least 5 centuries before, is one of the most orderly, methodical and logical codes
ever constructed (Lyon, JAOS, XXV, 254).
3. The Prophet:
The career and the works and the character of Moses culminate in the prophetic
office. It was as prophet that Moses was essentially leader. It was as prophet
that he held the place of highest eminence in the world until a greater than Moses
|(1) The statesman-prophet framed a civil government which
illustrated the kingdom of God upon earth. The theocracy did not simulate any
government of earth, monarchy, republic or socialistic state. It combined the
best elements in all of these and set up the most effective checks which have
ever been devised against the evils of each.
(2) The lawgiver-prophet inculcated maxims and laws which set the feet of the
people in the way of life, so that, while failing as a law of life in a sinful
world, these precepts ever remain as a rule of conduct.
(3) The priest-prophet prepared and gave to Israel a ritual of worship which most
completely typified the redemptive mercy of God and which is so wonderfully unfolded
in the Epistle to the Hebrews, as it has been more wonderfully fulfilled in the
life and atoning death of Christ.
(4) In all the multiform activities of the prophetic career he was a type of Christ,
the type of Christ whose work was a "tutor unto Christ."
Moses' revelation of God ever transcends the speculations of theologians about
God as a sunrise transcends a treatise on the solar spectrum. While the speculations
are cold and lifeless, the revelation is vital and glorious. As an analysis of
Raphael's painting of the transfiguration belittles its impression upon the beholder,
while a sight of the picture exalts that scene in the mind and heart, so the attempts
of theologians to analyze God and bring Him within the grasp of the human mind
belittle the conception of God, dwarf it to the capacity of the human intellect,
while such a vision of Him as Moses gives exalts and glorifies Him beyond expression.
Thus, while theologians of every school from Athanasius to Ritschl come and go,
Moses goes on forever; while they stand cold on library shelves, he lives warm
in the hearts of men.
Such was the Hebrew leader, lawgiver, prophet, poet; among mere men, "the foremost
man of all this world."
Commentaries on the Pentateuch; for rabbinical traditions, compare Lauterbach
in Jewish Encyclopedia; for pseudepigraphical books ascribed to Moses, see Charles,
Assumption of Moses; for Mohammedan legends, compare DB; Ebers, Egypten und die
Bucher Mosis; for critical partition of books of Moses, compare the Polychrome
Bible and Bennett in HDB; for comprehensive discussion of the critical problems,
M. G. Kyle
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