Moses | Biography
Here are Moses' greatest moments, told in the Bible's own words...
The bullrush baby
At the burning bush
Parting the Red Sea
The Ten Commandments
Moses hits the rock
Moses was born at a bad time for the Jewish people. They were living as a race of slaves in Egypt, and the Pharaoh of the time had just decreed that all Hebrew boys were to be killed at birth, because the Hebrew population was growing quickly.
Moses was saved from Pharaoh's decree when his mother and sister hid him in a basket in bullrushes on the River Nile. He was found and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter.
Raised in the palace, Moses fled into exile after he had killed an Egyptian he discovered beating a Hebrew slave. Living as a shepherd, he had a powerful encounter with God in the wilderness, who spoke to him from a burning bush. God appointed to him to lead the people of Israel out of slavery to a land God promised to give them as their own the Promised Land.
Reluctantly, Moses took the job. With the help of miraculous powers given him by God, which culminated in 10 plagues which fell upon Egypt, he persuaded Pharaoh to set the Hebrew people free. But Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued them out in the desert. Moses provided a way of escape by dividing the waters of the Red Sea so that the Hebrews could escape, while Pharaoh's army was drowned.
The 100-mile journey to the Promised Land took a mind-boggling 40 years to complete, in which time God gave Moses the Torah, the law of Israel, on Mt Sinai. But despite everything, God didn't allow Moses to the lead the people into the Promised Land. He died in the desert, and his second-in-command, Joshua, toook over.
The writing of the Jewish rabbis have more, and more varied things to say on the subject of Moses than the mind can comfortably conceive of. Just two of which are that the universe was created solely for him, and the Torah (that is, the law) was given originally for him and his descendents alone to follow, but he generously offered it to all Jews.
Christian art including Michelangelo's sculpture traditionally depicts Moses with horns, because the Latin Bible mistranslates Exodus 34:29: "The skin of his face sent forth horns because he had been talking with God." The verse ought to read: "The skin of his face shone..."
Divining rods are known as Moses rods, since Moses struck a rock with a stick to bring water gushing out.
As well as dominating the Old Testament, Moses makes an appearance in the New Testament, returning with Elijah to talk to Jesus during his tranfiguration. "Then Moses and Elijah were there talking with Jesus..." (Mark 9:4).
"He was such a general of an army as is seldom seen, as well as such a prophet as was never known, and this to such a degree, that whatsoever he pronounced, you would think you heard the voice of God himself."
Josephus, 3rd century Jewish historian
"Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face."
"Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us forty years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil."
Golda Meir, Israeli prime minister, 1970s
"The Lord told Moses what to do
Let my people go!
To lead the Hebrew children through
Let my people go!
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt's land.
Tell old Pharaoh
To let my people go!"
Go Down, Moses, African American spiritual