Biography of Messiahs and Prophets Moses Part 1

About the famous Biblical prophet Moses, biography and history of the Jewish leader.


MOSES (c. 1350-1250 B.C.)

Moses, a Jew brought up as an Egyptian prince, rescued the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt by correctly foretelling a natural disaster each time the pharaoh refused to let him go. The pharaoh held out until the 10th disaster, an epidemic that killed his eldest son.

When the Jews were ready to leave, Moses had them celebrate the first Passover. Then they followed him across the closely guarded northeastern frontier, by a route on which lakes and marshlands protected them from Egyptian cavalry. The main highway would have taken them north, to the Egyptian province of Canaan. Moses led them south, across the rugged deserts of the Sinai Peninsula, until they reached Mt. Sinai (known today as Gebel Musa). (See "In the Footsteps of Moses," Chap. 13.)

Years before, when Moses had fled Egypt to escape punishment for killing a man, God had appeared to him in a burning bush on this very mountain. As God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He had commanded Moses to bring the Jewish people out of Egypt. Moses had hesitated until God promised to support him with miracles.

Once again, God made His presence known. The mountaintop was cloaked in a dense thundercloud. Moses went up into the cloud and heard God's covenant with the Jews. If they would keep His commandments, which He inscribed on two tablets of stone and gave to Moses, He would lead them to the Promised Land, in Canaan.

In the years that followed, the Jews often broke the Commandments. But Moses, using force when persuasion failed, would always recall them to the one true God. After more than 40 years of hardship, they were ready to enter the Promised Land. Moses himself was forbidden to enter it, but just before his death, he viewed it from Mt. Nebo.

Was Moses a prophet as well as a leader? A prophet's function, as we know it from the Bible, was not so much to foretell the future as to "forth-tell" God's opinion of human misbehavior. Moses himself is said to have warned against prophets as a threat to religious orthodoxy (Deut. 13:1-6).

The Bible calls Moses a prophet unequaled for his acts and mighty deeds (Deut. 34:10-12). Prophets, however, were usually remembered for their words. We do not know if any of Moses' words have survived. The tradition that links him with the Ten Commandments is a strong one. However, the Commandments exist in two distinct versions (Exod. 20:1-17 and 34:10-27). It has often been argued that the version in Exodus 34 was written first, possibly by Moses, and that the one in Exodus 20, which seems to refer to a settled, mainly agricultural society, is by a later author. If so, then the original Sinai covenant contained little in the way of moral law.

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