Greek and Hebrew Dictionary
Unger's Bible Dictionary
Nelsons Bible Dictionary
International Standard Bible
More Links About Moses (Coming)
Strongs Greek and Hebrew
4872 Mosheh (mo-sheh');
from 4871; drawing out (of the water), i.e. rescued; Mosheh, the Israelite lawgiver:
Unger's Bible Dictionary
MO'SES (mo'zez). The deliverer, leader, lawgiver, and prophet of
Israel. The name in Heb. is mosheh ("drawn out"), but the original is Egyptian
ms', a "child," a "son," reflecting that Pharaoh's daughter simply
named him "child" (cf. Thutmose, Ahmose, etc., in which the same element appears
frequently in Egyptian names). Thutmose "Son of Thot," etc. Moses belonged to
the tribe of Levi, and was the son of Amram by his wife Jochebed. The other members of the
family were Aaron and Miriam, his elder brother and sister. His immediate pedigree is
given in table 26, "The Family Register of Moses."
The life of Moses is divided into three equal portions of forty years
each <Acts 7:23,30,36>: his life in Egypt, exile in Arabia, and government of
Life in Egypt. Here took place his birth, adoption,
and the avenging of his countrymen.
Birth. Moses was born about 1520 B.C. and, according to Manetho
(Josephus Against Apion 1.26; 2.2), at Heliopolis; his birth, according to Josephus (Ant.
2.9.2-4), having been foretold to Pharaoh by the Egyptian magicians, and to his father by
a dream. At the time of Moses' birth the decree commanding the slaying of all male
children was in force <Exo. 1:10,16>, but his mother was by some means able to
conceal him and hid him away for three months. When concealment was no longer possible she
placed him in a small boat or basket of papyrus-- perhaps from an Egyptian belief that the
plant is a protection from crocodiles. She placed him among the reeds of the Nile and left
his sister to watch the result. The daughter of Pharaoh, who may well have been the famous
Queen Hatshepsut, and who herself a little later assumed the throne of Egypt, came to the
river to bathe, saw the basket, and had it brought to her. 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 then at hand to recommend as a Hebrew nurse the baby's mother, who was hired by
the princess <2:1-9>.
Adoption. The child was adopted by the king's
daughter, and from this time for many years Moses must be considered as an Egyptian
(2:10). In the Pentateuch this period is a blank, but in the NT he is represented as
"educated in all the learning of the Egyptians" and as "a man of power in
words and deeds" <Acts 7:22>. The discovery of the tablets of el-Amarna shows
how extensive were the knowledge and use of writing throughout the East in the time of
Moses and that the young prince could write-- doubtless in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Akkad.
cuneiform, and in alphabetic cuneiform such as Ugaritic, which was almost identical with
the Heb. of the day. See Babylonia; Egypt.
Avenges His Countrymen. When he was forty years old <Acts 7:23>
Moses resolved to cast in his lot with his brethren <Heb. 11:24-26>, and seeing an
Israelite being beaten by an Egyptian, and thinking that they were alone, he killed the
Egyptian and buried the corpse in the sand. The next day he endeavored to act as
peacemaker between two Hebrews, but his offices were refused and he became aware that his
act of the preceding day was known. It became evident to him that safety was to be found
only in flight <Exo. 2:11-15>.
Exile in Arabia. Here took place the middle years of Moses'
life, culminating in his return to Egypt as a prophet of God.
Marriage. Moses fled, about 1480 B.C., at the beginning of the reign of
the famous Thutmose III (if we follow the Masoretic chronology), into Midian, in or near
the peninsula of Sinai, and rested himself by a well, where he helped some young women to
water their sheep. Because of this they returned to their home earlier than usual, and
when they told their father, Jethro, the reason, he had Moses called in, and Moses
consented to live with him, later taking his daughter Zipporah as his wife and assuming
charge of his father-in-law's flock <Exo. 2:16-21; 3:1>.
Call. In the seclusion of this shepherd life Moses
received his call as a prophet. The traditional scene of this event is in the valley of
Shoeib, on the N side of Jebel Musa, but we are unable to fix the spot with any certainty.
It was "to the west side of the wilderness" at Horeb (3:1); to which the Heb.
adds, while the LXX omits, "the mountain of God." Upon the mountain was the
well-known acacia, the thorn tree of the desert, spreading out its tangled branches,
thickset with white thorns, over the rocky ground. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses
in a flame of fire in the midst of the bush, the dry branches of which would naturally
have burned in a moment, but that remained unconsumed. The twofold revelation was made to
Moses of the eternal self-existence of the one God and of his mission to deliver his own
people. Two signs attested to him his divine mission-- the staff that turned into a
serpent, and the hand of Moses made leprous and afterward cleansed. Should these be
disbelieved by the people a third was promised, that the waters of the Nile thrown by
Moses upon the land would be turned into blood. The objection of Moses, "I am slow of
speech and slow of tongue," was answered by the promise of Jehovah's assistance.
Moses' difficulties were now all exhausted and removed by the assurances of God; but since
he was still unwilling to undertake the mission, Aaron was allowed to be his spokesman,
and Moses consented (3:2-4:17).
Return to Egypt. He then returned to the home of his
father-in-law and received permission to visit his brethren. God appeared to him and
assured him of the death of all those in Egypt who sought his life, c. 1440 B.C. Moses
then set out upon his journey with his wife and sons. On the way Moses, threatened with
death by Jehovah, was spared upon the circumcision of his son. It would seem to have been
in consequence of this event, whatever it was, that the wife and her children were sent
back to Jethro and remained with him until they joined Moses at Rephidim (18:2-6). He once
more received a token of divine favor in the arrival of Aaron, who met him at the
"mountain of God," went with him to Egypt, and communicated to the people of
Israel the words of Jehovah (chap. 4)
Government of Israel. The history of Moses henceforth
is the history of Israel for forty years, c. 1440-1400 B.C. He and Aaron appeared before
Pharaoh to demand permission for the children of Israel to go to the wilderness and
sacrifice to Jehovah. Then followed the contest between these two men and the king, and
the plagues sent by Jehovah (chaps. 5-12).
Exodus. On the night of the deliverance Moses took the
decisive lead, and after that he is usually mentioned alone. Under divine direction he did
not lead the people by the nearest way to the Promised Land, i.e., through the country of
the Philistines, lest, being opposed by this warlike people, the Israelites should turn
back into Egypt. "Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the
Red Sea" (13:17-18), through which the Israelites passed in safety while the hosts of
Pharaoh perished in its waves.
Journey to Sinai. From the Red Sea Moses led Israel
through Marah, where the bitter waters were sweetened (15:23); Elim, where there were
twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees (15:27); the wilderness of Sin, where the
people murmured for want of bread and were supplied with quail and manna (chap. 16);
Rephidim, where the smitten rock of Horeb gave forth water (17:1-7), where the hands of
Moses, upheld by Aaron and Hur, inspired the Israelites with courage, so that they
defeated the Amalekites (17:8-16), and where Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought to him
his wife and two sons (chap. 18).
At Sinai. Arriving at Sinai, Moses responded to the
call of Jehovah and, going up into the mountain of God, received the message to the people
to prepare for divine communications (19:1-13). He led the people to the foot of the
mountain on the third day, where he received the Ten Commandments (19:14-20:17); conducted
the ceremony of ratifying the covenant (24:1-8), reading all the "words of the
Lord" (24:3) and all the "ordinances" (chaps. 21-23); stayed forty days and
nights on the mountain (24:18), receiving the details of the plan of the sanctuary and
worship of God (chaps. 25-31), and the two tablets of stone (31:18). In chap. 32 we have a
vivid description of the righteous indignation of Moses at the sin of Israel in the
worship of the golden calf, which led him to destroy the tablets of stone and call for
volunteers to kill the idolaters (vv. 1-29); and we see his no less earnest zeal in the
capacity of mediator (32:30-33:16). The glory of Jehovah was revealed to him (33:17-23),
and the tablets of the law were renewed (34:1-4). A covenant was made with Israel (vv.
10-27), and after a second stay of forty days upon the mountain Moses returned to the
people, his shining face covered with a veil (vv. 28-35). Moses then superintended the
erection of the Tabernacle and its preparation for worship (chaps. 35-40), received the
statutes of Israel for the congregation of Jehovah <Lev. 1-7>, and consecrated Aaron
and his sons for the priesthood (chaps. 8-9). Judgment was executed upon Nadab and Abihu
(chap. 10), and further regulations were given (chaps. 11-27). After this Moses numbered
the people <Num. 1>; arranged the order of the tribes in the camp and on the march
(chap. 2); numbered the Levites and arranged for their special calling (chaps. 3-4); gave
directions respecting unclean persons, trespasses, Nazirites, etc. (chaps. 5-6); received
the dedicatory gifts from the princes of the tribes (chap. 7); consecrated the Levites
(chap. 8); and prepared for the onward journey (9:1-10:10).
Journey. On the twentieth day of the second month of
the second year the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, announcing that the time to leave
Sinai had come. Moses accordingly gave the order to march, and the people moved forward
<Num. 10:11-33>. Mention is made of Moses' securing, by prayer, the quenching of the
fire at Taberah <11:1-3>; the story records his complaint of the burden of his
duties and the subsequent appointment of seventy elders to assist him <11:10-30>;
the sedition of Miriam and Aaron (chap. 12); the sending out of the spies (chaps. 13-14);
the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (chap. 16); the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, and
the striking of the rock at Meribah (chap. 20); the plague of serpents (chap. 21); the
appointment of Joshua by Moses as his successor (chap. 27); the assignment of their
inheritance to the Reubenites and Gadites (chap. 32); the appointment of commissioners to
divide the Promised Land (chap. 34); and Moses' farewell address <Deut. 1-33>.
Death. For forty years the care and burden of the
Israelites had been upon the mind and heart of Moses. The people were camped in Moab,
awaiting the command to pass over the Jordan into the land of promise. Moses had sinned at
Meribah in not sanctifying Jehovah in the eyes of the people <Num. 20:12> and had
thereby forfeited the privilege of entering Canaan. At the command of God he blessed the
people and then ascended Mt. Nebo, a peak of Pisgah, which gave a view of the land
promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After this favor had been granted him Moses died
and was buried by Jehovah "in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite
Beth-peor," in an unknown sepulcher <Deut. 34:1-6>, c. 1400 B.C.
Character. "Moses 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 <Num. 12:3>. The word meek is hardly an adequate
reading of the Hebrew `anaw, which should rather be 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" (Smith, Dict., s.v.). He
joins his countrymen in their degrading servitude <Exo. 2:11; 5:4> and forgets
himself to avenge their wrongs <2:14>. He desires that his brother should be leader
instead of himself <4:13>; and when Jehovah offers to destroy the people and make of
him a great nation <32:10>, he prays for their forgiveness-- "If not, please
blot me out from Thy book which Thou hast written!" (v. 32).
Moses and Archaeology. The story of Moses being found
in a papyrus ark among the reeds by the riverside has many parallels in ancient lore. To
the classical examples of Romulus and Remus, Bacchus, and Perseus, must now be added
account of the great Sargon I of Akkad (c. 2400 B.C.). The cuneiform legend of the ninth
century B.C. thus speaks of Sargon: "My humble mother conceived me; she bore me in
secret, placed me in an ark of bulrushes, made fast my door with pitch and gave me to the
river which did not overwhelm me. The river lifted me up and carried me to Akki, the
irrigator . . . Akki, the irrigator, hauled me out . . . took me to be his son and brought
me up" (Hugo Gressmann, Altorientalische Texte and Bilder zum Alten Testament ,
1:79). There is certainly no necessity to postulate a common origin for such simple,
natural romances, but "if one must do so, the episode of Moses (sixteenth century
B.C. may have been the inspiration of them all (S. Caiger, Bible and Spade , p. 68).
Archaeology sheds light on Moses' name, which is apparently nothing more than Egyptian
mase, pronounced mose after the twelfth century B.C., and meaning "the child."
This Egyptian word is preserved in such composites as Ahmose ("son of Ah," the
god of light) and Thutmose ("son of Thot") (cf. Alan H. Gardiner, Journal of
Egyptian Archaeology 5 : 193). Pharaoh's daughter evidently did not endow this
unknown infant, a child of an alien race, with a special name. She simply contented
herself to call him "the child." The sacred penman, however, as a result of an
unusual coincidence of sound and circumstance, connects the name with the Heb. root masha,
"to draw out," because Pharaoh's daughter "drew him out of the water"
<Exo. 2:10>. The presence of a Nubian element in Moses' family is another fact
attested to by his own name and those of his kinsmen. "Then Miriam and Aaron spoke
against Moses because of the Cushite [Ethiopian or Nubian] woman he had married (for he
had married a Cushite woman)" <Num. 12:1>. The name of Moses' brother Aaron's
grandson, Phinehas, means "Nubian" in Egyptian and "is interesting as
providing an independent but an absolutely reliable confirmation" of the circumstance
(W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, p. 193).
Writings. Although much controversy has been carried
on respecting the extent of the authorship of Moses, it is probable that there should be
attributed to him the Pentateuch (as far as <Deut. 31:23>), the song of Moses
<32:1-43>, the blessing of Moses on the tribes <33:1-29>, and <Ps. 90>.
The evidence of Moses' being the author of the Pentateuch is thus summed up by Keil
(Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 160ff.): (1) In <Exo. 17:14> (see marg.),
after the victory over the Amalekites, Moses receives the divine command to write in the
book (baseper), as a memorial, the will of God that Amalek should be utterly blotted out.
According to <24:3-4>, Moses wrote the words of the covenant and the
"ordinances" of Israel (<20:2-17>; chaps. 21-23) in "the book of the
covenant." According to <Num. 33:2> he wrote down the camping stations of the
Israelites in the wilderness by divine command. (2) According to <Deut. 31:9-11>,
Moses wrote the law and gave it to the priests, with the command to read it before all
Israel at the Feast of Booths (vv. 24-26): "And it came about, when Moses finished
writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, that Moses commanded the
Levites, . . . 'Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of
the Lord your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you.'" To this
double testimony we must add <17:18>, that the future king who should be chosen was
to write "a copy of this law" for himself, and was to read it every day; cf.
<27:1-8>, where Moses commands the people to set up on Mt. Ebal great stones coated
with lime, and to write upon these all the words of this law, which was actually done
<Josh. 8:30-35>; <Deut. 28:58,61; 29:19-20,27>, where Moses threatens if they
do not obey the law written in this book; and <30:10>, where he promises blessings
if they "keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the
law" (italics added). See also Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament
Introduction, rev. ed., pp. 109-18.
As a Lawgiver. "It occurs at once as a striking
thing that the uniform tradition is, that Moses gave laws and ordinances to Israel. . . .
The body of laws that formed the constitution of Israel as a people is invariably referred
to Moses. The persistence with which it is represented that law, moral and ceremonial,
came from Moses, and the acceptance of the laws by the whole people as of Mosaic origin,
proves at least that it was a deeply-seated belief in the nation that the great leader had
given some formal legal constitution to his people" (Robertson, Early Religion of
Israel, p. 335).
Later Scripture Reference. In the OT the name of Moses does
not occur as frequently, after the close of the Pentateuch, as might be expected. In
<Judges (18:30>) the name is given as "Manasseh" in the Heb. copies in
order to avoid the admission that the great lawgiver's grandson was the first idolatrous
priest among them. In the Psalms and the Prophets, however, Moses is frequently named as
the chief of the prophets. Smith observes: "In the New Testament he is referred to
partly as the representative of the law, especially in the vision of the transfiguration,
where he appears side by side with Elijah. As the author of the law he is contrasted with
Christ, the Author of the Gospel: 'The law was given by Moses' <John 1:17>. The
ambiguity and transitory nature of his glory is set against the permanence and clearness
of Christianity <2 Cor. 3:13-18>, and his mediatorial character against the unbroken
communication of God in Christ <Gal. 3:19>. His 'service' of God is contrasted with
Christ's sonship <Heb. 3:5-6>. 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 <Heb. 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 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'" (Bib.
bibliography: G. Rawlinson, Moses: His Life and Times
(1887); M. G. Kyle, Moses and the Monuments (1912); F. B. Meyer, Moses: The Servant of God
(1953); W. M. Taylor, Moses: The Law Giver (1961); J. P. Free, Archaeology and Bible
History (1962), pp. 84-110; H. H. Rowley, Men of God (1963), pp. 1-36; D. M. Beegle,
Moses, the Servant of Yahweh (1972); J. J. Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt (1971); J.
Hamilton, Moses, The Man of God (1984).
(from New Unger's Bible Dictionary)
(originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (C) 1988.)
Nelsons Bible Dictionary
[MOE zez] (drawn out)-- the Hebrew prophet who delivered the Israelites
from Egyptian slavery and who was their leader and lawgiver during their years of
wandering in the wilderness. He was the son of Amram and Jochebed <Ex. 6:18,20; Num.
26:58-59>, the grandson of Kohath, the great-grandson of Levi, and the brother of Aaron
Moses was a leader so inspired by God that he was able to build a
united nation from a race of oppressed and weary slaves. In the covenant ceremony at Mount
Sinai, where the TEN COMMANDMENTS were given, he founded the religious community known as
Israel. As the interpreter of these covenant laws, he was the organizer of the community's
religious and civil traditions. His story is told in the Old Testament-- in the books of
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Moses' life is divided into three major periods:
The Forty Years in Egypt. The Hebrew people had been
in slavery in Egypt for some 400 years. This was in accord with God's words to Abraham
that his seed, or descendants, would be in a foreign land in affliction for 400 years
<Gen. 15:13>. At the end of this time, God began to set His people free from their
bondage by bringing Moses to birth. He was a child of the captive Hebrews, but one whom
the Lord would use to deliver Israel from her oppressors.
Moses was born at a time when the Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, had
given orders that no more male Hebrew children should be allowed to live. The Hebrew
slaves had been reproducing so fast that the king felt threatened by a potential revolt
against his authority. To save the infant Moses, his mother made a little vessel of
papyrus waterproofed with asphalt and pitch. She placed Moses in the vessel, floating
among the reeds on the bank of the Nile River.
By God's providence, Moses-- the child of a Hebrew slave-- was found
and adopted by an Egyptian princess, the daughter of the Pharaoh himself. He was reared in
the royal court as a prince of the Egyptians: "And Moses was learned in all the
wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds" <Acts 7:22>. At the
same time the Lord determined that Moses should be taught in his earliest years by his own
mother. This meant that he was founded in the faith of his fathers, although he was reared
as an Egyptian <Ex. 2:1-10>.
One day Moses became angry at an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a
Hebrew slave; he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand <Ex. 2:12>. When
this became known, however, he feared for his own life and fled from Egypt to the land of
Midian. Moses was 40 years old when this occurred <Acts 7:23-29>.
The Forty Years in the Land of Midian. Moses' exile of
about 40 years was spent in the land of Midian (mostly in northwest Arabia), in the desert
between Egypt and Canaan. In Midian Moses became a shepherd and eventually the son-in-law
of Jethro, a Midianite priest. Jethro gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage
<Ex. 2:21>; and she bore two sons, Gershom and Eliezer <Ex. 18:3-4; Acts
7:29>. During his years as a shepherd, Moses became familiar with the wilderness of the
Sinai Peninsula, learning much about survival in the desert. He also learned patience and
much about leading sheep. All of these skills prepared him to be the shepherd of the
Israelites in later years when he led them out of Egypt and through the Wilderness of
Near the end of his 40-year sojourn in the land of Midian, Moses
experienced a dramatic call to ministry. This call was given at the BURNING BUSH in the
wilderness near the mountain of Sinai. The Lord revealed to Moses His intention to deliver
Israel from Egyptian captivity into a "land flowing with milk and honey" which
He had promised centuries before to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord assured Moses that
He would be with him, and that by God's presence, he would be able to lead the people out.
God spoke to Moses from the midst of a burning bush, but Moses doubted
that it was God who spoke. He asked for a sign. Instantly his rod, which he cast on the
ground, became a serpent <Ex. 4:3>.
In spite of the assurance of this miraculous sign, Moses was still
hesitant to take on this task. He pleaded that he was "slow of speech and slow of
tongue" <Ex. 4:10>, perhaps implying that he was a stutterer or a stammerer.
God countered Moses' hesitation by appointing his brother Aaron to be his spokesman. Moses
would be God's direct representative, and Aaron would be his mouthpiece and interpreter to
the people of Israel. Finally Moses accepted this commission from God and returned to
Egypt for a confrontation with Pharaoh.
Soon after his return, Moses stirred the Hebrews to revolt and demanded
of Pharaoh, "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the
wilderness" <Ex. 5:1>. But Pharaoh rejected the demand of this unknown God of
whom Moses and Aaron spoke: "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let
Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go" <Ex. 5:2>. He
showed his contempt of this God of the Hebrews by increasing the oppression of the slaves
<Ex. 5:5-14>. As a result, the people grumbled against Moses <Ex. 5:20-21>.
But Moses did not waver in his mission. He warned Pharaoh of the
consequences that would fall on his kingdom if he should refuse to let the people of
Israel go. Then followed a stubborn battle of wills with Pharaoh hardening his heart and
stiffening his neck against God's commands. Ten terrible plagues were visited upon the
land of Egypt <Ex. 7:14--12:30>, the tenth plague being the climax of horrors.
The ultimate test of God's power to set the people free was the slaying
of the firstborn of all Egypt, on the night of the PASSOVER feast of Israel <Ex.
11:1-12:30>. That night Moses began to lead the slaves to freedom, as God killed the
firstborn of Egypt and spared the firstborn of Israel through the sprinkling of the blood
of the Passover lamb. This pointed to the day when God's own Lamb would come into the
world to deliver, by His own blood, all of those who put their trust in Him, setting them
free from sin and death <1 Pet. 1:19>.
After the Hebrews left, Pharaoh's forces pursued them to the Red Sea
(some scholars say the Sea of Reeds), threatening to destroy them before they could cross.
A PILLAR OF CLOUD AND FIRE, however, stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians,
protecting the Israelites until they could escape. When Moses stretched his hand over the
sea, the waters were divided and the Israelites passed to the other side. When the
Egyptians attempted to follow, Moses again stretched his hand over the sea, and the waters
closed over the Egyptian army <Ex. 14:19-31>.
The Forty Years in the Wilderness. Moses led the
people toward Mount Sinai, in obedience to the word of God spoken to him at the burning
bush <Ex. 3:1-12>. During the long journey through the desert, the people began to
murmur because of the trials of freedom, forgetting the terrible trials of Egyptian
bondage. Through it all, Moses was patient, understanding both the harshness of the desert
and the blessings of God's provision for them.
In the Wilderness of Shur the people murmured against Moses because the
waters of Marah were bitter. The Lord showed Moses a tree. When Moses cast the tree into
the waters, the waters were made sweet <Ex. 15:22-25>. In answer to Moses' prayers,
God sent bread from heaven-- MANNA and quail to eat <Exodus 16>. In the Wilderness
of Sin, when they again had no water, Moses performed a miracle by striking a rock, at a
place called Massah (Tempted) and Meribah (Contention), and water came out of the rock
<Ex. 17:1-7>. When they reached the land of Midian, Moses' father-in-law Jethro came
to meet them. He gave Moses sound advice on how to exercise his leadership and authority
more efficiently by delegating responsibility to subordinate rulers who would judge the
people in small cases <Exodus 18>.
When the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, Moses went up into the
mountain for 40 days <Ex. 24:18>. The Lord appeared in a terrific stormthunderings
and lightnings, and a thick cloud" <Ex. 19:16>. Out of this momentous encounter
came the covenant between the Lord and Israel, including the Ten Commandments <Ex.
In giving the Law to the Hebrew people, Moses taught the Israelites
what the Lord expected of them-- that they were to be a holy people separated from the
pagan immorality and idolatry of their surroundings. Besides being the lawgiver, Moses was
also the one through whom God presented the TABERNACLE and instructions for the holy
office of the priesthood. Under God's instructions, Moses issued ordinances to cover
specific situations, instituted a system of judges and hearings in civil cases, and
regulated the religious and ceremonial services of worship.
When Moses delayed in coming down from Mount Sinai, the faithless
people became restless. They persuaded Aaron to take their golden earrings and other
articles of jewelry and to fashion a golden calf for worship. When he came down from the
mountain, Moses was horrified at the idolatry and rebellion of his people. The sons of
Levi were loyal to Moses, however; and he ordered them to punish the rebels <Ex.
32:28>. Because of his anger at the golden calf, Moses cast down the two tablets of
stone with the Ten Commandments and broke them at the foot of the mountain <Ex.
32:19>. After the rebellion had been put down, Moses went up into Mount Sinai again and
there received the Ten Commandments a second time <Ex. 34:1,29>.
After leaving Mount Sinai, the Israelites continued their journey
toward the land of Canaan. The arrived at KADESH BARNEA, on the border of the Promised
Land. From this site, Moses sent 12 spies one from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, into
Canaan to explore the land. The spies returned with glowing reports of the fruitfulness of
the land. They brought back samples of its figs and pomegranates and a cluster of grapes
so large that it had to be carried between two men on a pole <Num. 13:1-25>. The
majority of the spies, however, voted against the invasion of the land. Ten of them spoke
fearfully of the huge inhabitants of Canaan <Ex. 13:31-33>.
The minority report, delivered by Caleb and Joshua, urged a bold and
courageous policy. By trusting the Lord, they said, the Israelites would be able to attack
and overcome the land <Num. 13:30>. But the people lost heart and rebelled, refusing
to enter Canaan and clamoring for a new leader who would take them back to Egypt <Num.
14:1-4>. To punish them for their lack of faith, God condemned all of that generation,
except Caleb and Joshua, to perish in the wilderness <Num. 14:26-38>.
During these years of wandering in the wilderness, Moses' patience was
continually tested by the murmurings, grumblings, and complaints of the people. At one
point, Moses' patience reached its breaking point and he sinned against the Lord, in anger
against the people. When the people again grumbled against Moses, saying they had no
water, the Lord told Moses to speak to the rock and water would flow forth. Instead, Moses
lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. Apparently because he disobeyed
the Lord in this act, Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land <Num.
20:1-13>. That privilege would belong to his successor, Joshua.
When Moses had led the Israelites to the borders of Canaan, his work
was done. In "the Song of Moses" <Deut. 32:1-43>, Moses renewed the Sinai
Covenant with the survivors of the wanderings, praised God, and blessed the people, tribe
by tribe <Deut. 33:1-29>. Then he climbed Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah and viewed
the Promised Land from afar and died. The Hebrews never saw him again, and the
circumstances of his death and burial remain shrouded in mystery <Num. 34:1-8>.
After his death, Moses continued to be viewed by Israel as the servant
of the Lord <Josh. 1:1-2> and as the one through whom God spoke to Israel <Josh.
1:3; 9:24; 14:2>. For that reason, although it was truly the Law of God, the Law given
at Mount Sinai was consistently called the Law of Moses <Josh. 1:7; 4:10>. Above
all, Joshua's generation remembered Moses as the man of God <Josh. 14:6>.
This high regard for Moses continued throughout Israelite history.
Moses was held in high esteem by Samuel <1 Sam. 12:6,8>, the writer of 1 Kings <1
Kin. 2:3>, and the Jewish people who survived in the times after the Captivity <1
Chr. 6:49; 23:14>.
The psalmist also remembered Moses as the man of God and as an example
of a great man of prayer <Ps. 99:6>. He recalled that God worked through Moses
<Ps. 77:20; 103:7>, realizing that the consequence of his faithfulness to God was to
suffer much on behalf of God's people <Ps. 106:16,32>.
The prophets of the Old Testament also remembered Moses as the leader
of God's people <Is. 63:12>, as the one by whom God brought Israel out of Egypt
<Mic. 6:4>, and as one of the greatest of the interceders for God's people <Jer.
15:1>. Malachi called the people to remember Moses' Law and to continue to be guided by
it, until the Lord Himself should come to redeem them <Mal. 4:4>.
Jesus showed clearly, by what He taught and by how He lived, that He
viewed Moses' Law as authoritative for the people of God <Matt. 5:17-18>. To the two
disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus expounded the things concerning Himself written in
the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the other writings of the Old Testament <Luke
24:27>. At the TRANSFIGURATION, Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and talked with Him
<Matt. 17:1-4; Mark 9:2-5; Luke 9:28-33>.
In his message before the Jewish Council, Stephen included a lengthy
reference to how God delivered Israel by Moses and how Israel rebelled against God and
against Moses' leadership <Acts 7:20-44>.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews spoke in glowing terms of the faith
of Moses <Heb. 11:24-29>. These and other passages demonstrate how highly Moses was
esteemed by various writers of the Old and New Testaments.
The New Testament, however, shows that Moses' teaching was intended
only to prepare humanity for the greater teaching and work of Jesus Christ <Rom.
1:16--3:31>. What Moses promised, Jesus fulfilled: "For the law was given through
Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" <John 1:17>.
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
MOSES, PART I
(mo'-zez), (mo'-ziz) (mosheh; Egyptian mes, "drawn out,"
"born"; Septuagint Mouse (s)). The great Hebrew national hero, leader, author,
law-giver and prophet.
.. 1. Son of Levi
.. 2. Foundling Prince
.. 3. Friend of the People
.. 4. Refuge in Midian
.. 5. Leader of Israel
II. WORK AND CHARACTER
.. 1. The Author
.. 2. The Lawgiver
.. 3. The 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 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
I. Life.-- The recorded story of Moses' life falls naturally into five
rather unequal parts:
1. Son Levi: "And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took
to wife a daughter of Levi" <Exo 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 <Gen
46:11; Exo 6:16-20; Num 3:14-28; 26:57-59; 1 Chr 6:1-3> show only 4 generations from
Levi to Moses, while the account given of the numbers of Israel at the exodus <Exo
12:37; 38:26; Num 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 <Num 3:27-28>. It is evident that the extract from the genealogy here,
as in many other places (<1 Chr 23:15> f; <26:24>; <Ezra 7:1-5; 8:1-2>;
compare <1 Chr 6:3-14; Mt 1:1-17; Lk 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" <Num
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" (<Gen 46:17-18>;
The names of the immediate father and mother of Moses are not certainly
known. The mother "saw him that he was a goodly child" <Exo 2:2>. So they
defied the commandment of the king <Exo 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 (<Exo
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 <Exo 2:3-4>. The daughter of Pharaoh came down with her great ladies to
the river <Exo 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 <Exo
2:7-9>. "And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he
became her son" <Exo 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
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"
<Exo 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; Apion, I, 31; compare
Smith, Dictionary of the Bible; 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
3. Friend of the People: But the faith of which the Epistle to the
Hebrews speaks <Heb 11:23-28> was at work. Moses "refused to be called the son
of Pharaoh's daughter" <Exo 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 <Exo 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" <Heb
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" <Heb 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 <Exo 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 <Exo
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 <Exo 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 Judaea, Jesus in the shop
of a Galilean carpenter; so Moses a shepherd in the Bedouin country, in the "waste,
5. Leader of Israel: (1) The commission.-- One day Moses led the flocks
to "the back of the wilderness" (<Exo 3:1-12>; see BURNING BUSH Moses
received his commission, the most appalling commission ever given to a mere man <Exo
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 <Exo 3:11-13; 4:1,10-13>.
"Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you"
<Exo 3:14>, was the encouragement God gave him. He gave him also Aaron for a
spokesman <Exo 4:14-16>, the return to the Mount of God as a sign <Exo 3:12>,
and the rod of power for working wonders <Exo 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,
Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), 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" (<Exo
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 not yet.
With the signs for identification <Exo 4:1-10>, Moses was ready
for his mission. He went down from the "holy ground" to obey the high summons
and fulfil the great commission <Exo 4:18-23>. After the perplexing controversy with
his wife, a controversy of stormy ending <Exo 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 <Exo
18:6>. He met Aaron, his brother, at the Mount of God <Exo 4:27-28>, and together
they returned to Egypt to collect the elders of Israel <Exo 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 <Exo
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 <Exo
4:19>; Merenptah II was on the throne with an insecure tenure, for the times were
troublous. 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 <Exo 8:27; 10:9>, though God promised that
the Egyptians should thrust them out altogether when the end should come, and it was so
<Exo 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 <Exo 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?" <Exo 5:2>, and Moses' prompt acceptance of the challenge,
in the beginning of the long series of plagues (see PLAGUES) (<Exo 8:1> ff;
<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" (<Exo 4:21; 7:3,13; 9:12,35; 10:1; 14:8>; see PLAGUES) 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 <Exo
(3) Institution of the Passover.-- It was now time for the next step in
revelation <Exo 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 <Exo 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 <Exo 12:3-6>. On the
appointed night it was killed and "roasted with fire" and eaten with bitter
herbs <Exo 12:8>, while they all stood ready girded, with their shoes on their feet
and their staff in hand <Exo 12:11>. They ate in safety and in hope, because the
blood of the lamb was on the door <Exo 12:23>. That night the firstborn of Egypt
were slain. Among the Egyptians "there was not a house where there was not one
dead" <Exo 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
PLAGUES). Who can tell the horror of that night when the Israelites were thrust out of the
terror-stricken land <Exo 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" <Exo 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"
<Exo 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"
<Exo 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 <Exo 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 troublous 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
"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 of Egypt."
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 <Exo
13:19; Gen 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 <Exo 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" <Exo 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
<Exo 13:21>. He led them by "the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea"
<Exo 13:18>. They pitched before Pi-hahiroth, over against Baal-zephon between
Migdol and the sea <Exo 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 be erected.
Word was carried from the frontier to Pharaoh, probably at Tanis, that
the Israelites had "fled" <Exo 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 <Exo
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 <Exo
14:6-7>. The Israelites seemed to be "entangled in the land," and, since
"the wilderness (had) shut them in" <Exo 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 <Exo 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" <Exo
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 <Exo 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" <Exo 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
<Exo 14:27>, but it was too late. The rushing tide caught them <Exo 14:28>.
When the day had come, "horse and rider" were but the subject of a minstrel's
song of triumph <Exo 15:1-19; Ps 106:9-12> which Miriam led with her timbrel <Exo
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 <Exo 15:4>. Pharaoh and his host were overthrown in the
Red Sea <Ps 136:15>. So Napoleon and his host were overthrown at Waterloo, but
Napoleon lived to die at St. 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 <Exo 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" <Josh 5:12>. God promised freedom from the diseases of the Egyptians
<Exo 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 <Exo 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" <Exo 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 <Exo 16:1>. Here Israel
murmured <Exo 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 <Exo 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 <Num 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 (<Exo 16:4-36>; see MANNA; QUAILS).
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 <Exo 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" <Exo 17:8>.
Whether the hand which Moses lifted up during the battle was his own hand or a symbolical
hand <Exo 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 <Exo 17:8-16>.
Here Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, met him and brought his wife and
children to him (<Exo 18:5-6>; compare <Num 10:29>). A sacrificial feast was
held with the distinguished guest <Exo 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 <Exo
(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
the theophany by fire at Sinai. Some say there was a thunderstorm (Hastings, Dictionary of
the Bible (five volumes)); 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 <Exo 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" <Exo 19:16-19; 24:10. 16-17>, "and God spake all these
words" <Exo 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"
<Exo 20:18>, and somewhere about the foot of this mountain a little later the
tabernacle of grace was set up <Exo 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
Moses gathered the people together to make the covenant <Exo
24:1-8>, and the nobles of Israel ate a covenant meal there before God <Exo
24:11>. God called Moses again to the mountain with the elders of Israel <Exo
24:12>. There Moses was with God, fasting 40 days <Exo 34:28>. Joshua probably
accompanied Moses into the mount <Exo 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" (<Heb 8:5-12>, summing up <Exo
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 <Exo 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" (<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 <20:5>; compare Bible Student, August, 1902). The judgment of God was
swift and terrible <32:7-35>, and Levi was made the Divine agent <32:25-29>.
Here first the "tent of meeting" comes into prominence as the official
headquarters of the leader of Israel <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 <Deut 31:14>. Moses is given a vision of God to strengthen his own
faith <Exo 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 <Mt 17:1-13; Mk 9:2-10; Lk 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 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" <Exo 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 <Lev 10:1-7>. The people were numbered
(<Num 1:1> ff). The Passover was kept <Num 9:1-5>.
(8) Journey to Canaan resumed.-- The journey to Canaan began again
<Num 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;
AARON; MIRIAM; JOSHUA; CALEB; BRAZEN SERPENT, etc.). The subjects and references are as
The March <Num 2:10-18; 9:15-23>)
The Complaining <Num 11:1-3>)
The Lusting <Num 11:4-6,18-35>)
The Prophets <Num 11:16>)
Leprosy of Miriam <Num 12:1-16>
(9) The border of the land:
Kadesh-barnea <Num 13:3-26>)
The Spies <Deut 1:22; Num 13:2,21; 23:27-28-33; 14:1-38>)
The Plagues <Num 14:36-37,40-45>
(10) The wanderings:
Korah, Dathan and Abiram <Num 16:1-35>)
The Plague <Num 16:41-50; 17>)
Death of Miriam <Num 20:1>)
Sin of Moses and Aaron <Num 20:2-13; Ps 106:32>)
Unfriendliness of Edom <Num 20:14-21>)
Death of Aaron <Num 20:22-29>)
Arad <Num 21:1-3>)
Compassing of Edom <Num 21:4>)
Murmuring <Num 21:5-7>)
Brazen Serpent <Num 21:8-9; Jn 3:14>
The Jordan <Num 21:10-20>)
Sihon <Num 21:21-32>)
Og <Num 21:33-35>)
Balak and Balaam <Num 22:4; 24:25>)
Pollution of the People <Num 25:6-15>)
Numbering of the People <Num 26>)
Joshua Chosen <Num 27:15-23>)
Midianites Punished <Num 31>
(12) Tribes East of Jordan <Num 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 <Deut
1--30:20>. Joshua was formally inducted into office <Deut 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 (<Deut 31:9-13>; compare <31:24-29>). Moses
then called Joshua into the tabernacle for a final charge <Deut 31:14-23>, gave to
the assembled elders of the people "the words of this song" <Deut 31:30;
32:1-43> and blessed the people <Deut 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 <Deut
34>. And there Moses died and was buried, "but no man knoweth of his sepulchre
unto this day" <Deut 34:5-6>, "and Moses was a hundred and twenty years
old when he died" <Deut 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: <Josh 8:30-35; 24:5; 1
Sam 12:6-8; 1 Chr 23:14-17; Ps 77:20; 99:6; 105; 106; Isa 63:11-12; Jer 15:1; Dan 9:11-13;
Hos 12:13; Micah 6:4; Mal 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" <Jn 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" (<Deut 18:15,18> f). Again in the Epistle
to the Hebrews, which is the formal passing over from the types of the Old Testament to
the fulfilment in the New Testament, Jesus is made to stand out as the Moses of the new
dispensation <Heb 3; 12. 24-29>. Other most important New Testament references to
Moses are <Mt 17:3; Mk 9:4; Lk 9:30; Jn 1:17,45; 3:14; Rom 5:14; Jude 1:9; Rev
(from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by
MOSES, PART II
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" (Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), 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
(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 <Exo 17:14; 34:27; 39:30; Num
17:2-3; Deut 10:4; 31:24> and frequently of others in his times <Deut 6:9; 27:3;
31:19; Josh 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" <Josh 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 "writing"
(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
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
(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 (<Hos 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 Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, May, 1898,
202-10; also The Bible Student, 1901, 36-40).
(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 Cor
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 Pss and the Prophets, it appears
inexplicable <Job 19:25-27; Ps 16:10; 49:15; Isa 26:19; Ezek 37; Dan 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
Pentateuch; Orr, Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament; Wiener, Biblical Sac., 1909-1910).
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 <Num 12:3; Deut 34>,
but this does not affect the general claim of authorship.
Ps 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; BOOK OF THE COVENANT; 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 <Exo 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 <Exo 24:7>. This code contains the Moral Law <Exo 20:1-17> as
fundamental, the constitution of the theocracy and of all ethical living.
This is followed by a brief code suitable to their present condition
and immediate prospects <Exo 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 <Exo 23:11>, and harvests <Exo 23:10-16> and the first-fruits <Exo
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,
Journal of the American Oriental Society, 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 came.
(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."
LITERATURE.-- 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
Smith, Dictionary of the Bible; Ebers, Egypten und die Bucher Mosis; for critical
partition of books of Moses, compare the Polychrome Bible and Bennett in Hastings,
Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes); for comprehensive discussion of the critical
problems, compare Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament.
M. G. KYLE
(from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by
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