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Friday, 8 July 2016



Moses was born around 1400BC in the Goshen delta of North East Egypt.. He  was a Hebrew descendant of the 12 tribes of Israel. Their race worked as hired laborers for Egyptians.

His mother, a Hebrew woman called Jochebed, was the wife of the Levite Amram. The Pharaoh had commanded that all male Hebrew infants born would be drowned in the River Nile, so when she bore a son, she kept him concealed for three months. When Jochebed could keep him hidden no longer, rather than deliver him to be killed, she put him in a water-tight basket and floated it down the River Nile. The daughter of Pharaoh discovered the baby and adopted him as her son, and named him “Moses.”saying, "I drew him out (meshitihu) of the water."  Having been adopted by a daughter of the Pharaoh, Moses was raised in a palace.

Moses rescued from the Nile, 1638, by Nicolas Poussin

Moses had one older (by seven years) sister, Miriam, and one older (by three years) brother, Aaron.

At the age of 40, Moses went one day on an inspection tour of his Hebrew brethren, bondmen to the Egyptians. Seeing an Egyptian slavemaster maltreating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand, supposing that no one who would be disposed to reveal the matter knew of it. The next day, seeing two Hebrews quarreling, he endeavored to separate them, whereupon the Hebrew who was wronging his brother taunted Moses with slaying the Egyptian. Moses soon discovered from a higher source that the affair was known, and that Pharaoh was likely to put him to death for it; he therefore made his escape to Midian (a desert country south of Judah).

Moses spent forty years in Midian following the occupation of a shepherd. This period of looking after sheep was a time of training for leading God's flock out of Egypt.


In around 1320 BC God confronted Moses in a burning bush. He was commanded to return to Egypt from Midian and deliver the Hebrews from their bondage.

At first. when Moses originally asked Pharaoh to let his people go, the Egyptian ruler declined. He also issued a decree that from henceforth the Hebrews would have to make their daily quota of bricks without straw and they would have to find their own materials to bind the clay and still keep to the same quota on point of death.

After a series of confrontations involving frogs and locusts amongst others, the Hebrews were allowed to leave the country. The Pharaoh quickly recanted his rash decision and chased after them only for his forces to be drowned in the Red Sea after the waters miraculously parted for Moses and his fellow countrymen.

"The Crossing of the Red Sea", Nicholas Poussin


Moses' sister, Miriam led a women's choir with a timbrel in her hand. One of the song's they sung, "The Song of Moses and Miriam" was a victory song, similar to others sung in many cultures in the ancient world. Music was a creative way of passing down oral traditions.

"The Song of Moses and Miriam" was said to have come spontaneously as Moses led the nation into the desert after miraculously crossing the Red Sea, then watching the pursuing Egyptians drown. It is a simple summary of the miracle, the Hebrews had just witnessed: "Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; horse and driver He has hurled into the sea."

Moses' "Song at the Sea" is a deeper song full of metaphors, which he led for the men to chant. In it, God is praised as a warrior going out to fight for Israel.


While in the Sinai desert, God gives the Hebrews the Ten Commandments and other detailed laws. However unaccustomed to freedom after centuries of slavery, the Hebrews rebelled and ended up wandering around the desert for 40 years before being able to enter the promised land of Canaan, which God had promised to Moses.

Philippe de Champaigne - Moses with the Ten Commandments - WGA04717

As a former shepherd, Moses' laws gave a great deal of sensible detailed legislation regarding animal husbandry.


Unmistakably Jewish-looking despite being brought up in an Egyptian household, Moses was well built with fine features.

In a statement towards the end of the book of Exodus (at 34:29 - 35), Moses is depicted as having been disfigured due to his direct encounter with God. Various traditions grew up as to what the disfigurement was. Jonathan Kirsch, in his book Moses: A Life, thought that, since Moses subsequently had to wear a veil to hide it, the disfigurement was a sort of "divine radiation burn".

After escaping to the Sinaitic Peninsula, Moses settled with Jethro, priest of Midian, whose Cushite daughter Zipporah he in due time married. When he left Midian to return to Egypt to set his people free he took leave of her. A few years later they met up again when he passed through Midian on his way to the promised land. Miriam and Aaron were critical about Moses' dark-skinned Cushite wife. (Numbers 12 v1-2).

"Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth." Numbers 12v13.


Moses had been warned that he would not be permitted to lead Israel across the River Jordan, but would die on the eastern side (Numbers 20:12). He assembled the tribes and delivered to them a parting address. When this was finished, and he had pronounced a blessing upon the people, Moses climbed to the top of Mount Pisgah, looked over the promised land spread out before him, and passe away, at the age of 120.. His last words were "Never heed! The Lord's power is over all weakness and death!"

Death of Moses by Alexandre Cabanel

Moses' burial place is not known. According to Deuteronomy 34, God Himself buried him in an unknown grave.


The Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt is celebrated annually on the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Moses is mentioned more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament figure. Along with Elijah, for instance, he is presented as meeting with Jesus in all three Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, respectively.

Moses is commemorated as a prophet in the respective Calendars of Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Lutheran churches on September 4. According to the Orthodox Menaion, September 4th was the day that Moses saw the Land of Promise.

In 1505 Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to build his tomb in 1505. Eight years later, Michelangelo began work on Moses, the central statue surrounding the Pope's tomb, finally completing it in 1545, His “horned Moses” now stands in the Roman church of St Pietro in Vincoli.

Michelangelo horned Moses as symbolic of the Old Testament figure's spiritual force, based on a description in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible used at that time.

Statue by Michelangelo Buonarotti — in Basilica San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. By Jörg Bittner Unna -Wikipedia Commons

The Founding Fathers of the United States inscribed the words of Moses on the Liberty Bell: "Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof." (Leviticus 25)

On July 4, 1776, immediately after the Declaration of Independence was officially passed, the Continental Congress asked John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin to design a seal that would clearly represent a symbol for the new United States. Their proposed national seal showed Moses parting the Red Sea.

First proposed seal of the United States, 1776

Joseph Smith and his fellow Mormon Oliver Cowdery claimed that on April 3, 1836, Moses appeared to them in the Kirtland Temple in Ohio in a glorified, immortal, physical form and bestowed upon them the "keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north."

Towards the end of his life, the atheist Jew Sigmund Freud wrote Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion (Moses and Monotheism), in which he took up the idea that Moses got his monotheism from Egypt. His belief was that Moses was an amalgam of two men, one an Egyptian who taught the Hebrews the monotheistic religion of Akhnaten and was murdered by the Hebrews (specifically Joshua), and the other a Midianite who taught the Hebrews to serve Yahwe, a volcano-god whose abode was Mount Sinai in western Arabia.

According to Freud, the Jews killed the first Moses in a sort of symbolic rebellion against the father figure of God. Freud believed that the Jews carry a racial memory of this murder. In his analysis of the roots of anti-Jewish feeling, he wrote that Jews bear the reproach of other peoples as having killed God: "They will not admit that they killed God, whereas we do and are cleansed from the guilt of it."

William Booth explained the authoritarian framework of his Salvation Army by remarking that if “Moses had operated through committees the Israelites never would have got across the Red Sea."

Moses appeared as the central character in the 1956 DeMille movie, The Ten Commandments, in which he was portrayed by Charlton Heston.

On the night before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King said prophetically in a speech at Memphis "I've been to the mountain top.... I've looked over and seen the promised land." He was alluding to how Moses died after he saw the promised land from the mountain top.

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