Who was Moses in the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


Moses

Moses is one of the most significant figures in the Bible, playing a crucial role in the narrative of the Israelites and the formation of the covenant between God and His chosen people. His story is primarily found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of the Bible. He is portrayed as a prophet, leader, and lawgiver who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and guided them through the wilderness toward the Promised Land.

Early Life

Moses’ story begins in the book of Exodus when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14). Due to the increasing population of the Israelites, Pharaoh ordered that all Hebrew male infants be killed (Exodus 1:15-22). In an attempt to save her son, Moses’ mother placed him in a basket and set him adrift in the Nile River (Exodus 2:3). Miraculously, Pharaoh’s daughter found and adopted him, raising him as her own in the royal household (Exodus 2:10).

Despite his upbringing in the Egyptian court, Moses never forgot his Hebrew roots. One day, witnessing an Egyptian taskmaster abusing a Hebrew slave, he intervened, killing the Egyptian in the process (Exodus 2:11-13). Fearing the consequences, he fled to Midian, where he encountered the priest Jethro and married his daughter Zipporah (Exodus 2:21).

The Burning Bush

While tending sheep in the wilderness, Moses experienced a profound encounter with God at the burning bush. God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, revealing His divine name as “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Reluctant at first, Moses expressed his insecurities and reluctance to speak, but God assured him that He would be with him (verses 15-22).

The Plagues of Egypt and the Exodus

Armed with a divine mission, Moses returned to Egypt and confronted Pharaoh, demanding the release of the Israelites. Pharaoh, however, resisted, leading to a series of ten plagues unleashed upon Egypt. These plagues, including locusts, frogs, and the death of the firstborn, demonstrated the power of the God of Israel (Exodus 7:1-24).

After the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh finally relented, allowing the Israelites to leave. This event marked the beginning of the Exodus, a pivotal event in the Bible that symbolizes God’s deliverance and redemption of His people (Exodus 12:31-42).

The Wilderness Journey

The Exodus led the Israelites into the wilderness, where Moses assumed the role of their leader. God guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). The journey, however, was not without challenges. The Israelites faced hunger and thirst but the Lord miraculously provided for all of their needs.

At Mount Sinai, Moses received the Ten Commandments, the foundational moral and ethical principles that would govern the actions of God’s people throughout the ages (Exodus 20:2-17). This covenant of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 4:13) established at Sinai outlined the relationship between God and His people, emphasizing obedience and faithfulness (Deuteronomy 28).

Rebellion and Consequences

Despite witnessing God’s miracles and receiving divine guidance, the Israelites repeatedly rebelled against God and Moses. The golden calf incident (Exodus 32), where the people worshiped an idol, and instances of grumbling and disobedience demonstrated their struggle to trust God completely.

Moses, in his role as mediator between God and the people, interceded on behalf of the Israelites, seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy (Exodus 32:30-32; Numbers 14:11-25). However, there were consequences for their disobedience. The generation that left Egypt, except for Joshua and Caleb, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land due to their lack of faith (Numbers 14:30).

Literary Works

Both Jewish and Christian tradition credit Moses with primary authorship of the Pentateuch, which form the theological foundation of the Bible. The Pentateuch refers to the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

Death

Moses’ life journey neared its end as the Israelites approached the borders of the Promised Land. God told Moses that he would not enter the land (Deuteronomy 32:52) because of an incident at Meribah where Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God had commanded (Numbers 20:10-13; Deuteronomy 3:23-28). This act of disobedience had severe consequences for Moses.

In Deuteronomy (1-5), Moses delivered a series of farewell speeches to the Israelites, recapping their history, reiterating the commandments, and encouraging obedience to God. He blessed each tribe before ascending Mount Nebo, from where he viewed the Promised Land.

Moses died on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:5), and God buried him in an unknown location. The Bible describes him as a unique prophet with whom God spoke face to face (Exodus 33:11-23), a leader who performed signs and wonders, and a man characterized by great humility (Numbers 12:3).

New Testament

Jude reveals that the dead body of Moses was the subject of dispute between Christ and Satan. From the fact that Moses appeared with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, it may be concluded that the Lord triumphed in the contest with Satan and raised Moses from his grave, making him the first known subject of Christ’s resurrecting power (Deuteronomy 34:6; Matthew 17:3).

In the New Testament, he is often referred to as a prototype of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3; 8-10). Both figures served as deliverers for their people from bondage (Moses from Egypt, Jesus from sin), and provided guidance for righteous living (Hebrews 11:24-26).

Legacy

Moses’ legacy extends beyond his historical role as the liberator of the Israelites. He is revered in the Judeo-Christian faith as a great figure and a lawgiver. The Mosaic Law and the legal code, forms a foundational aspect of ethical and moral principles.

Conclusion

The figure of Moses in the Bible is multifaceted, encompassing the roles of leader, prophet and lawgiver. His life story, from a humble beginning in the bulrushes of the Nile to the heights of Mount Sinai, is a narrative of God’s faithfulness, deliverance, and the establishment of a covenant with His people. His journey, marked by trials, miracles, and divine encounters, continues to inspire believers and serves as a testament to the enduring power of faith and obedience in the face of adversity.

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