Mo'ses the great Jewish prophet and lawgiver, and the founder, we may say, under God, of the Hebrew nation and religion (Euseb. Prcep. Ev. 7:8; comp. Philo, V. Mos. 1:80). His importance in Biblical history justifies a somewhat extended biography here. In preparing it, we have to depend chiefly upon the Scriptural notices and references.
I. The Name. — This in Heb. is משֶׁה, Mosheh', signifying, according to Ex 2:10, drawn out, i.e., from the water, as if from מָשָׁה, to draw out; but in that case the form would be active, drawing out; and it is hardly probable that the daughter of Pharaoh would have given him a Hebrew name. This, therefore (as in many other instances, Babel, etc.), is probably the Hebrew form given to a foreign word. Hence the Alexandrine Jews (Philo, Vit. Mos. 1:4) assigned it an Egyptian origin, from mo, water (mou, or mos; Copt. mo), and ouses (Copt. ushe), saved, i.e., "water-saved;" see Jablonski, Opusc. 1:152. This is the explanation given by Josephus (Ant. 2:9, 6; Apion, 1:31), and confirmed by the Greek form of the word adopted in the Sept. and other writings, and thence in the Vulgate. Brugsch, however (L'Histoire d'Egypte, pages 157, 173), renders the name Mes or Messon=child, being that borne by one of the princes of Ethiopia under Rameses II. In the Arabic traditions the name is derived from his discovery in the water and among the trees; "for in the Egyptian language mo is the name of water, and se is that of a tree" (Jalaladdin, page 387). Clem. Alex. (Strom. 1, page 343) derives Moses from "drawing breath." In an ancient Egyptian treatise on agriculture cited by Chwolson (Ueberreste, etc., page 12, note) his name is given as Monios. For other etymologies, see Gesenius, Thes. Heb. page 824. His original Hebrew name is said to have been Joachimn (Clem. Alex. Stron. 1, page 343). The Sept., Josephus, Philo, and the most ancient MSS. of N.T., give the Greek form as Μωϋσῆς (declined Μωϋσέως, or Μωϋσεῖ or Μωϋσῇ, Μωϋσέα,or Μωϋσῆν); other editions, however, have Μωσῆς, as in Strabo, 16:760 sq. (see Winer, Grammat. N.T. page 52); the Vulg. gives Moyses (declined Moysi, gen. and dat.; Moysen, ace.); the Rec. Text of the N.T. and Protestant versions, Moses-Arabic, Musa; Numenius (ap. Euseb. Prcep. Ev. 9:8, 27), Movaalo'; Artapanus (ibid. 27), Mctiraog; Manetho (ap. Joseph. c. Ap. 1:26, 28, 31), Osarsiph, i.e., (Osiri-tef?) "saved by Osiris" (Osburn, Monumental Egypt); Chaeremon (ib. 32), Tisithen. In Scripture he is entitled "the man of God" (Psalm 90, title; 1Ch 23:14); "the slave of Jehovah" (Nu 12:7; De 34:5; Jos 1:1; Ps 105:26); "the chosen" (Ps 106:23).
II. His Biography. — The materials for this are the following: a. The details preserved in the last four books of the Pentateuch. b. The allusions in the prophets and Psalms, which in a few instances seem independent of the Pentateuch. c. The Jewish traditions preserved in the N.T. (Ac 7:20-38; 2Ti 3:8-9; Heb 11:23-28; Jude 1:9); and in Josephus (Ant. 2:3, 4), Philo (Vita Moysis), and Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom.). d. The heathen traditions of Manetho, Lysimachus, and Chamremon, preserved in Josephus (c. Ap. 1:26-32), of Artapanus and others in Eusebius (Praep. Ev. 9:8, 26, 27), and of Hecatreus in Diod. Sic. 40; Strabo, 16:2. e. The Mussulman traditions in the Koran (2:7, 10, 18, 20, 28, 40), and the Arabian legends, as given in Weil's Biblical Legends; D'Herbelot (s.v. Moussa), and Lane's Selections, page 182. f. The fragmentary apocryphal books of Moses (Fabricius, Cod. Pseud. V.T. 1:825):
(1) Prayers of Moses, (2) Apocalypse of Moses, (3) Ascension of Moses. e.g.
In modern times his career and legislation have been treated by Warburton, Michaelis, Ewald, Bunsen, and others.
The life of Moses, in the later period of the Jewish history, was divided into three equal portions of forty years each (Ac 7:23,30,36). This agrees with the natural arrangement of his history into the three parts of his Egyptian training, his exile in Arabia, and his government of the Israelitish nation in the wilderness and on the confines of Palestine.
1. His Parentage, Birth, and Education. — The immediate pedigree of Moses is as follows:
LEVI --> Gerahon. + Kohath + Merari.
Amram to Jochebed --> Hur to Miriam. + Aaron to Elisheba + MOSES to Zipporah
Aaron to Elisheba --> Nadab + Abinu +Eleazar +Ithamar.
Moses to Zipporah --> Gershom + Eliezer.
Eleazar --> Phinehas.
Gershom --> Jonathan.
In this genealogy, as in all the others given of the same period, there is an interval of four to six generations (Browne, Ordo Sceclorum, page 301 sq.). In the Koran, by a strange confusion, the family of Moses is confounded with the Holy Family of Nazareth, chiefly through the identification of Mary and Miriam, and the third chapter, which describes the evangelical history, bears the name of the "Family of Amram." Although little is known of the family except through its connection with this its most illustrious member, yet it was not without influence on his after-life. The fact that he was of the tribe of Levi no doubt contributed to the selection of that tribe as the sacred caste. The tie that bound them to Moses was one of kinship, and they thus naturally rallied around the religion which he had been the means of establishing (Ex 32:28) with an ardor which could not have been found elsewhere. His own eager devotion is also a quality, for good or evil, characteristic of the whole tribe. The Levitical parentage and Egyptian origin both appear in the family names. Gershom, Eleazar, are both repeated in the younger generations. Moses and Phinehas (see Brugsch, Hist. de Egypte, 1:173) are Egyptian. The name of his mother, Jochebed, implies the knowledge of the name of Jehovah in the bosom of the family. It is its first distinct appearance in the sacred history. Miriam, who must have been considerably older than himself, and Aaron, who was three years older '(Ex 7:7), afterwards occupy that independence of position which their superior age would naturally give them.
Moses was born B.C. 1738, and, according to Manetho (Josephus, Ap. 1:26; 2:2), at Heliopolis, in the time of the deepest depression of his nation in the Egyptian servitude. Hence the Jewish proverb, "When the tale of bricks is doubled, then comes Moses." His birth (according to Josephus, Ant. 2:9, 2, 3, 4) had been foretold to Pharaoh by the Egyptian magicians, and to his father Amram by a dream — as respectively the future destroyer and deliverer. The pangs of his mother's labor were alleviated so as to enable her to evade the Egyptian midwives. The story of his birth is thoroughly Egyptian in its scene. The beauty of the new-born babe in the later versions of the story amplified into a beauty and size (Josephus, ib. 1:5) almost divine (ἀστεῖος τῷθεῷ, Ac 7:20; the word ἀστεῖος is taken from the Sept. version of Ex 2:2, and is used again in Heb 11:23, and is applied to none but Moses in the N.T.)induced the mother to make extraordinary efforts for its preservation from the general destruction of the male infants of Israel. For three months the child was concealed in the house. Then his mother placed him in a small boat or basket of papyrus-perhaps from a current Egyptian belief that the plant is a protection from crocodiles (Plutarch, Is. and Os. page 358) — closed against the water by bitumen. This was placed among the aquatic vegetation by the side of one of the canals of the Nile. SEE NILE. The mother departed as if unable to bear the sight. The sister lingered to watch her brother's fate. The basket (Josephus, ib. 4) floated down the stream. The Egyptian princess came down (after the custom of her country, which allowed more freedom to females than is now common in the East) to bathe in the sacred river, or (Josephus, Ant. 2:9, 5) to play by its side. Her attendant slaves followed her (see Wilkinson, Anc. Ey. 2:389). She saw the basket in the flags, or (Josephus) borne down the stream, and dispatched divers after it. The divers, or one of the female slaves, brought it. It was opened, and the cry of the child moved the princess to compassion. She determined to rear it as her own. The child refused the milk of Egyptian nurses (Josephus). The sister was then at hand to recommend a Hebrew nurse. The child was brought up as the princess's son, and the memory of the incident was long cherished in the name given to the foundling of the water's side — whether according to its Hebrew or Egyptian form. (See above.) The child was adopted by the princess. Tradition describes its beauty as so great that passers-by stood fixed to look at it, and laborers left their work to steal a glance (Josephus, Ant. 2:9, 6). His foster-mother (to whom the Jewish tradition gave the name of Thermuthis, Josephus, Ant. 2:9, 5; Artapanus, Praep. Ev. 9:27, the name of ierrhis, and the Arabian traditions that of Asiat, Jalaaddin, page 387) was (according to Artapanus, Eusebius, Praep. Ev. 9:27) the daughter of Palmanothes, who was reigning at Heliopolis, and the wife of Chenephres, who was reigning at Memphis. In this tradition, and that of Philo (V.M. 1:,4), she has no child, and hence her delight at finding one. Many attempts have been made in modern times to identify the Pharaoh into whose family Moses was thus introduced, but different Egyptologists have varied widely as to his name and relative position, according to their several chronological and historical schemes. SEE EGYPT. The latest and most plausible effort in this direction is that of Osburn (in the Jour. of Sac. Lit. July 1860, page 257 sq.), who argues from a number of striking coincidences with the monumental records that it must have been no less than Sesostris-Rameses, the famous architectural monarch of the 19th dynasty, whose son Amenephthis, dying soon after his accession, was succeeded by a sister, Thonoris (in that case the foster- mother of Moses), who again, after a long reign, was succeeded by her nephew, Sethos II, the latter having already been associate king in Upper Egypt. This last then, if we might trust these precarious synchronisms, would be the Pharaoh of the exode (q.v.).
From this time for many years Moses must be considered as an Egyptian. In the Pentateuch this period is a blank, but in the N.T. he is represented as "educated (ἐπαιδεύθη) in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," and as "mighty in words and deeds" (Ac 7:22). The following is a brief summary of the Jewish and Egyptian traditions which fill up the silence of the sacred writer. He was educated at Heliopolis (comp. Strabo, 17:1), and grew up there as a priest, under his Egyptian name of Osarsiph (Manetho, ap. Josephus, c. Ap. 1:26, 28, 31) or Tisithen (Chaeremon, ib. 32). He was (according to these accounts) taught the whole range of Greek, Chaldee, and Assyrian literature. From the Egyptians especially he learned mathematics, to train his mind for the unprejudiced reception of truth (Philo, V.M. 1:5). "He invented boats and engines for building-instruments of war and of hydraulics — hieroglyphics — division of lands" (Artapanus, ap. Euseb, Prcep. Ev. 9:27). He taught Orpheus, and was hence called by the Greeks Musseus (ib.), and by the Egyptians Hermes (ib.). He taught grammar to the Jews, whence it spread to Phoenicia and Greece (Eupolemus, ap. Clem. Alexand. Strom. 1, page 343). He was sent on an expedition against the Ethiopians. He got rid of the serpents of the country to be traversed by turning basketfuls of ibises upon them (Josephus, Ant. 2:10, 2), and founded the city of Hermopolis to commemorate his victory (Artapanus, ap. Euseb. 9:27). He advanced to Saba, the capital of Ethiopia, and gave it the name of Meroe, from his adopted mother Merrhis, whom he buried there (ib.). Tharbis, the daughter of the king of Ethiopia, fell in love with him, and he returned in triumph to Egypt with her as his wife (Josephus, ib.). See D.W. Moller, De Mose philosopho (Altorf, 1707); Adami, Exerc. exeg. page 92 sq.; Brucker, Hist. phil. 1:78; J.G. Walch, Observ. N.T. (Jen. 1727), page 62 sq.
2. Period of Moses's Retirement. — The nurture of his mother is probably the unmentioned link which bound him to his own people, and the time had at last arrived when he was resolved to reclaim his nationality. Here again the N.T. preserves the tradition in a more distinct form than the account in tie Pentateuch. "Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures" — the ancient accumulated treasure of Rhampsinitus and the old kings — "of Egypt" (Heb 11:24-26). In his earliest infancy he was reported to have refused the milk of Egyptian nurses (Josephus, Ant. 2:9, 5), and when three years old to have trampled under his feet the crown which Pharaoh had playfully placed on his head (ib. 7). According to the Alexandrian representation of Philo (V. M. 1:6), he led an ascetic life, in order to pursue his high philosophic speculations. According to the Egyptian tradition, although a priest of Heliopolis, he always performed his prayers, in conformity with the custom of his fathers, outside the walls of the city, in the open air, turning towards the sun-rising (Josephus, Apion, 2:2). Tile king was excited to hatred by the priests of Egypt, who foresaw their destroyer (ib.), or by his own envy (Artapanus, ap. Euseb. Praep. Ev. 9:27). Various plots of assassination were contrived against him, which failed. The last was after he had escaped across the Nile from Memphis, warned by his brother Aaron, and when pursued by the assassin he killed him (ib.). The same general account of conspiracies against his life appears in Josephus (Ant. 2:10). All that remains of these traditions in the sacred narrative is the simple and natural incident that seeing an Israelite suffering the bastinado from an Egyptian, and thinking that they were alone, he slew the Egyptian (the later tradition, preserved by Clement of Alexandria, said, "with a word of his mouth"), and buried the corpse in the sand (the sand of the desert then, as now, running close up to the cultivated tract). The fire of patriotism which thus turned him into a deliverer from the oppressors, turns him in the same story into the peace-maker of the oppressed. See J.F. Mayer, Utrum Moses Egyptium juste interfecit (Viteb. 1685); Hoffmann,
Moses just. Egyptii percussor (Hal. 1776). It is characteristic of the faithfulness of the Jewish records that his flight is there occasioned rather by the malignity of his countrymen than by the enmity of the Egyptians. So in St. Stephen's speech it is this part of the story which is drawn out at greater length than in the original, evidently with a view to showing the identity of the narrow spirit which had thus displayed itself equally against their first and their last Deliverer (Ac 7:25-35). But his spirit was yet too rash and vindictive to fit him for being the meek and patient instrument of the Divine purposes. The discovery, too, of the servile and treacherous temper of his own compatriots disheartened him. He needed the bracing as well as the purifying discipline which years of calm reflection and peaceful self-culture alone could give in order to make him the cool, firm, and independent leader of a popular movement.
Moses fled into Midian, B.C. 1698. Beyond the fact that it was in or near the peninsula of Sinai, its precise situation is unknown. Arabian tradition points to the country east of the Gulf of Akaba (see Laborde). Josephus (Ant. 2:11, 1) makes it "by the Red Sea." There was a famous well ("the well," Ex 2:15) surrounded by tanks for watering the flocks of the Bedouin herdsmen. By this well the fugitive seated himself "'at noon" (Joseph. ib.), and watched the gathering of the sheep. There were the Arabian shepherds, and there were also seven maidens, whom the shepherds rudely drove away from the water. The chivalrous spirit (if we may so apply a modern phrase) which had already broken forth in behalf of his oppressed countrymen, broke forth again in behalf of the distressed maidens. They returned unusually soon to their father, and told him of their adventure. Their father was a person of whom we know but little, but of whom that little shows how great an influence he exercised over the future career of Moses. It was Jethro, or Reuel, or Hobab, chief or priest ("Sheik" exactly expresses the union of the religious and political influence) of the Midianitish tribes. Moses, who up to this time had been "an Egyptian" (Ex 2:19), now became for a long period, indicated by the later tradition as forty years (Ac 7:30), an Arabian. He married Zipporah, daughter of his host, to whom he also became the servant and shepherd (Ex 2:21; Ex 3:1).
The blank which during the stay in Egypt is filled up by Egyptian traditions can here only be supplied from indirect allusions in other parts of the O.T. The alliance between Israel and the Kenite branch of the Midianites, now first formed, was never broken. SEE KENITE. Jethro became their guide through the desert. If from Egypt, as we have seen, was derived the secular and religious learning of Moses, and with this much of their outward ceremonial, so from Jethro was derived the organization of their judicial and social arrangements during their nomadic state (Ex 18:21-23). Nor is the conjecture of Ewald (Gesch. 2:59, 60) improbable, that in this pastoral and simple relation there is an indication of a wider concert than is directly stated between the rising of the Israelites in Egypt and the Arabian tribes, who, under the name of "the Shepherds," had recently been expelled. According to Artapanus (Euseb. Praep. Ev. 9:27), Reuel actually urged Moses to make war upon Egypt. Something of a joint action is implied in the visit of Aaron to the desert (Ex 4:27; comp. Artapanus, ut sup.); something also in the sacredness of Sinai, already recognised both by Israel and by the Arabs (Ex 8:27; comp. Joseph. Ant. 2:12, 1).
But the chief effect of this stay in Arabia was on Moses himself. It was in the seclusion and simplicity of his shepherd-life that he received his call as a prophet. The traditional scene of this great event is in the valley of Shoeib, or Hobab, on the north side of Jebel Musa. Its exact spot is marked by the convent of St. Catharine, of which the altar is said to stand on the site of the Burning Bush. The original indications are too slight to enable us to fix the spot with any certainty. To judge from the indications given in the Bible (Ex 4:27; Nu 10:30), Jethro must have resided southeast of that mountain (Keil, 2:325; Antonini Placent. Itinerar. c. 37; Acta Sanct. Maji, 2:22). It is remarkable that the time of the calling of Moses in the mount of God was contemporaneous with the extraordinary spirit of prayer among the oppressed nation in Egypt (Ex 2:23). The call itself was at "the back" of "the wilderness" at Horeb (Ex 3:1); to which the Hebrew adds, while the Sept. omits, "the mountain of God." Josephus further particularizes that it was the loftiest of all the mountains in that region, and the best for pasturage, from its good grass; and that, owing to a belief in its being inhabited by the Divinity, the shepherds feared to approach it (Ant. 2:12, 1). Philo (V.M. 1:12) adds that it was "a grove" or "glade." Upon the mountain was a well-known briery shrub or tree (הִסּנה, the seneh, A.V. "a bush" — the definite article may indicate either "the particular celebrated tree," sacred perhaps already, or "the tree" or "vegetation peculiar to the spot"), usually thought to have been the acacia or the thorn-tree of the desert, spreading out its tangled branches, thick set with white thorns, over the rocky ground; but perhaps only a bramble, or some one of the bristly plants with which the desert abounds. Comp. Reichlin-Meldeg, Mos. Gesch. v. brennenden Dornbusch (Frieb. 1831). SEE SHITTIM; SEE THORN. It was this bush which became the symbol of the divine Presence, in the form of a flame of fire in the midst of it, in which the dry branches would naturally have crackled and burned in a moment, but which played around it without consuming it. In Philo ( V.M. 1:12) "the angel" is described as a strange but beautiful creature. Artapanus (Euseb. Pr. Ev. 9:27) represents it as a fire suddenly bursting from the bare ground, and feeding itself without fuel. But this is far less expressive than the Biblical image. Like all the visions of the divine Presence recorded in the O.T. as manifested at the outset of a prophetical career, this was exactly suited to the circumstances of the tribe. It was the true likeness of the condition of Israel-in the furnace of affliction, yet not destroyed (comp. Philo, V.M. 1:12). The place too, in the desert solitude, was equally appropriate, as a sign that the divine protection was not confined either to the sanctuaries of Egypt or to the Holy Land, but was to be found with any faithful worshipper, fugitive and solitary though he might be. The rocky ground at once became "holy," and the shepherd's sandal was to be taken off no less than on the threshold of a palace or a temple. It is this feature of the incident on which St. Stephen dwells as a proof of the universality of the true religion (Ac 7:29-33). The call or revelation was twofold —
(1.) The declaration of the Sacred Name expressed the eternal self- existence of the one God. The name itself, as already mentioned, must have been known in the family of Aaron. But its grand significance was now first drawn out. SEE JEHOVAH.
(2.) The mission was given to Moses to deliver his people. The two signs are characteristic-the one of his past Egyptian life, the other of his active shepherd life. In the rush of leprosy into his hand is the link between him and the people whom the Egyptians called a nation of lepers (Josephus, Apion, 1:26). (The Mussulman legends speak of his white shining hand as the instrument of his miracles [D'Herbelot]. Hence "the white hand" is proverbial for the healing art.) In the transformation of his shepherd's staff is the glorification of the simple pastoral life, of which that staff was the symbol, into the great career which lay before it. The humble yet wonder- working book is, in the history of Moses, as Ewald finely observes, what the despised cross is in the first history of Christianity. In this call of Moses, as of the apostles afterwards, the man is swallowed up in the cause.
Yet this is the passage in his history which, more than any other, brings out his external and domestic relations.
Moses returned to Egypt from his exile, B. C. 1658. His Arabian wife and her two infant sons were with him. She was seated with them on the ass (the ass was known as the animal peculiar to the Jewish people from Jacob down to David). He apparently walked by their side with his shepherd's staff. (The Sept. substitutes the general term τὰ ὑποζύγια) On the journey back to Egypt a mysterious incident occurred in the family; which can only be explained with difficulty. The most probable explanation seems to be that at the caravansary either Moses or Gershom (the context of the preceding verses [4:22, 23] rather points to the latter) was struck with what seemed to be a mortal illness. In some way, not apparent to us, this illness was connected by Zipporah with the fact that her sos had not been circumcised — whether in the general neglect of that rite among the Israelites in Egypt, or in consequence of his birth in Midian. She instantly performed the rite, and threw the sharp instrument, stained with the fresh blood, at the feet of her husband, exclaiming, in the agony of a mother's anxiety for the life of her child — "A bloody husband thou art, to cause the death of my son." Then, when the recovery from the illness took place (whether of Moses or Gershom), she exclaimed again — "A bloody husband still thou art, but not so as to cause the child's death, but only to bring about his circumcision." So Ewald explains the narrative (Geschichte, volume 2, part 2, page 105), taking the sickness to have visited Moses. Rosenmuller makes Gershom the victim, and makes Zipporah address Jehovah, the Arabic word for "marriage" being a synonym for "circumcision." It is possible that on this story is founded the tradition of Artapanus (Euseb. Pr. Ev. 9:27), that the Ethiopians derived circumcision from Moses. 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 till Moses joined them at Rephidim (Ex 18:2-6), which is the last time that she is distinctly mentioned. In Nu 12:1 we hear of a Cushite wife who gave umbrage to Miriam and Aaron. This may be — (1) an Ethiopian (Cushite) wife, taken after Zipporah's death (Ewald, Gesch. 2:229); (2) the Ethiopian princess of Josephus (Ant. 1:10, 2; but that whole story is probably only an inference from Nu 12:1); (3) Zipporah herself, which is rendered probable by the juxtaposition of Cushan with Midian in Hab 3:7. The two sons also sink into obscurity. Their names, though of Levitical origin, relate to their foreign birthplace. Gershom, "stranger," and Eliezer, "God is my help," commemorated their father's exile and escape (Ex 18:3-4). Gershom was the father of the wandering Levite Jonathan (Jg 18:30), and the ancestor of Shebuel, David's chief treasurer (1Ch 23:16; 1Ch 24:20), Eliezer had an only son, Rehabiah (1Ch 23:17), who was the ancestor of a numerous but obscure progeny, whose representative in David's time — the last descendant of Moses known to us — was Shelomith, guard of the consecrated treasures in the temple (1Ch 26:25-28).
After this parting Moses advanced into the desert, and at the same spot where he had had his vision encountered Aaron (Ex 4:27). From that meeting and cooperation we have the first distinct indication of Moses's personal appearance and character. The traditional representations of him in some respects well agree with that which we derive from Michael Angelo's famous statue in the church of St. Pietro in Vinculi at Rome. Long, shaggy hair and beard is described as his characteristic equally by Josephus, Diodorus (1, page 424), and Artapanus (κομήτης, ap. Euseb. Praep. Ev. 9:27). To this Artapanus adds the curious touch that it was of a reddish hue, tinged with gray (πυῤῥάκης, πολιός). The traditions of his beauty and size as a child have already been mentioned. They are continued to his manhood in the Gentile descriptions. "Tall and dignified," says Artapanus (μάκρος, ἀξιωματικός) — "Wise and beautiful as his father Joseph" (with a curious confusion of genealogies), says Justin (36:2). But beyond the slight glance at his infantine beauty, no hint of this grand personality is given in the Bible. What is described is rather the reverse. The only point there brought out is a singular and unlooked-for infirmity: "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore nor since thou hast spoken to thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue... How shall Pharaoh hear me, which am of uncircumcised lips?" (i.e., slow, without words, stammering, hesitating; Sept. ἰσχνόφωνος καὶ βαρύγλωσσος); his "speech contemptible," like St. Paul's — like the English Cromwell (comp. Carlyle's Cromwell, 2:219) — like the first efforts of the Greek Demosthenes. In the solution of this difficulty which Moses offers we read both the disinterestedness, which is the most distinct trait of his personal character, and the future relation of the two brothers. "Send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send" (i.e., "make any one thy apostle rather than me"). In outward appearance this prayer was granted. Aaron spoke and acted for Moses, and was the permanent inheritor of the sacred staff of power. But Moses was the inspiring soul behind; and so as time rolls on, Aaron, the prince and priest, has almost disappeared from view, and Moses, the dumb, backward, disinterested prophet, is in appearance what he was in truth — the foremost leader of the chosen people.
3. Moses's Public Career. — Thus, after the solitude of pastoral life, where he was appointed to ripen gradually for his high calling, he was now unexpectedly and suddenly sent back among his people, in order to achieve their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Overruled and encouraged by the above remarkable interview with Jehovah, he resumed his journey into Egypt, where neither the dispirited state of the Israelites nor the obstinate opposition and threatenings of Pharaoh were now able to shake the man of God. Supported by his brother Aaron, and commissioned by God as his chosen instrument, proving, by a series of marvellous deeds, in the midst of heathenism, the God of Israel to be the only true God, Moses at last overcame the opposition of the Egyptians (Exodus 5-12). According to a divine decree, the people of the Lord were to quit Egypt, under the command of Moses, in a triumphant manner. The punishments of God were poured down upon the hostile people in an increasing ratio, terminating in the death of the firstborn, as a sign that all had deserved death. See Bauer, Hebr. Myth. 1:274 sq., and Ausfuhrl. Erklda. der altest. Wundergeschichte, 2:174 sq.; Rosenmuller, Morgenl. 1:275 sq., and Schol. 1:2; J. Bryant, Observ. on the Plagues inflicted on the Egyptians (Lond. 1794); L. Bertholdt, De reb. a Mose in AEgypt. gestis (Erl. 1795); Eichhorn, in the Comment. Soc. Gott reg. 4:35 sq. The formidable power of paganism, in its conflict with the theocracy, was obliged to bow before the apparently weak people of the Lord. The Egyptians paid tribute to the emigrating Israelites (Ex 12:35), who set out laden with the spoils of victory. See Harenberg, in the Biblioth. Brem. 7:624 sq.; Kanne, Biblische Untersuch. 2:267 sq.; Hengstenberg, Pent. 2:520 sq.; Justi, Ueb. die den Aegypt. abgenommen Gerathe (Frckf. 1771); Augusti, Theul. Blatter, 1:516 sq.; Zeibich, Vern. Betracht. II, 1:20 sq.). B.C. 1658. The enraged king vainly endeavored to destroy the emigrants. Moses, firmly relying upon miraculous help from the Lord, led his people through the Red Sea into Arabia, while the host of Pharaoh perished in its waves (Exodus 12-15). SEE RED SEA, PASSAGE OF.
After this began the most important functions of Moses as the lawgiver of the Israelites, who were destined to enter into Canaan as the people of promise, upon whom rested the ancient blessings of the patriarchs. By the instrumentality of Moses, they were appointed to enter into intimate communion with God through a sacred covenant, and to be firmly bound to him by a new legislation. Moses, having victoriously repulsed the attack of the Amalekites, marched to Mount Sinai, where he signally punished the defection of his people, and gave them the law as a testimony of divine justice and mercy. From Mount Sinai they proceeded northward to the desert of Paran, and sent spies to explore the Land of Canaan (Numbers 10-13). On this occasion broke out a violent rebellion against the lawgiver, which he, however, by divine assistance, energetically repressed (Numbers 14-16). The Israelites frequently murmured, and were disobedient during about forty years. In a part of the desert of Kadesh, which was called Zin, near the boundaries of the Edomites, after the sister of Moses had died, and after even the new generation had, like their fathers, proved to be obstinate and desponding, Moses fell into sin, and was on that account deprived of the privilege of introducing the people into Canaan (Nu 19:12). He was appointed to lead them only to the boundary of their country, to prepare all that was requisite for their entry into the land of promise, to admonish them impressively, and to bless them. It was according to God's appointment that the new generation also, to whom the occupation of the country had been promised, should arrive at their goal only after having vanquished many obstacles. Even before they had reached the real boundaries of Canaan they were to be subjected to a heavy and purifying trial. It was important that a man like Moses should have been at the head of Israel during all these providential dispensations. His authority was a powerful preservative against despondency under heavy trials. Having in vain attempted to pass through the territory of the Edomites, the people marched around its boundaries by a circuitous and tedious route. Two powerful kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, were vanquished. Moses led the people into the fields of Moab over against Jericho, to the very threshold of Canaan (Numbers 20-21). The oracles of Balaam became, by the instrumentality of Moses, blessings to his people, because by them they were rendered conscious of the great importance of having the Lord on their side. Moses happily averted the danger which threatened the Israelites on the part of Midian (Numbers 25-31). Hence he was enabled to grant to some of the tribes permanent dwellings in a considerable tract of country situated to the east of the River Jordan (Numbers 32), and to give to his people a foretaste of that well-being which was in store for them. Moses made excellent preparations for the conquest and distribution of the whole country, and concluded his public services with powerful admonitions and impressive benedictions, transferring his government to the hands of Joshua, who was not unworthy to become the successor of so great a man. B.C. 1618. For details of these incidents, SEE EGYPT; SEE EXODE; SEE LAW; SEE PASSOVER; SEE PLAGUE; SEE SINAI; SEE WANDERINGS; SEE WILDERNESS.
4. Moses's Death. — In exact conformity with his life is the account of his end. The book of Deuteronomy describes, and is, the long, last farewell of the prophet to his people. It took place on the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year of the wanderings, in the plains of Moab (De 1:3,5), in the palm-groves of Abila (Josephus, Ant. 4:8, 1). SEE ABEL-SHITTIM. He is described as 120 years of age, but with his sight and his freshness of strength unabated (De 34:7). The address from chapter 1 to chapter 30 contains the recapitulation of the law. Joshua was then appointed his successor. The law was written out, and ordered to be deposited in the ark (chapter 31). The song and the blessing of the tribes conclude the farewell (chapters 32, 33).
Then came the mysterious close. As if to carry out to the last the idea that the prophet was to live not for himself, but for his people, he is told that he is to see the good land beyond the Jordan, but not to possess it himself. The sin for which this penalty was imposed on the prophet is difficult to ascertain clearly. It was because he and Aaron rebelled against Jehovah, and "believed him not to sanctify him," in the murmurings at Kadesh (Nu 20:12; Nu 27:14; De 32:51), or, as it is expressed in the Psalms (Ps 106:33), because he spoke unadvisedly with his lips. It seems to have been a feeling of distrust. "Can we (not, as often rendered, can we) bring water out of the cliff?" (Nu 20:10; Sept. μὴ ἐξάξομεν, "surely we cannot"). The Talmudic tradition, characteristically, makes the sin to be that he called the chosen people by the opprobrious name of "rebels." He ascends a mountain in the range which rises above the Jordan valley. Its name is specified so particularly that it must have been well known in ancient times, though, owing to the difficulty of exploring the eastern side of the Jordan, the exact location has until recently been unidentified. SEE NEBO. Hence it is called by the specific name of the Pisgah (q.v.). It was one of those summits apparently dedicated to different divinities (Nu 23:14). Here Moses took his stand, and surveyed the four great masses of Palestine west of the Jordan — so far as it could be discerned from that height. The view has passed into a proverb for all nations. In two remarkable respects it illustrates the office and character of Moses. First, it was a view, in its full extent, to be imagined rather than actually seen. The foreground alone could be clearly discerned: its distance had to be supplied by what was beyond, though suggested by what was within, the actual prospect of the seer. Secondly, it is the likeness of the great discoverer pointing out what he himself will never reach. To English readers this has been made familiar by the application of this passage to lord Bacon, originally in the noble poem of Cowley, and then drawn out at length by lord Macaulay.
"So Moses, the servant of Jehovah, died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of Jehovah, and he buried him in a 'ravine' in the land of Moab, 'before' Beth-peor — but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day... And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days" (De 34:5-8). This is all that is said in the sacred record. Jewish. Arabian, and Christian traditions have labored to fill up the detail. "Amid the tears of the people — the women beating their breasts, and the children giving way to uncontrolled wailing — he withdrew. At a certain point in his ascent he made a sign to the weeping multitude to advance no farther, taking with him only the elders, the high- priest Eliezar, and the general Joshua. At the top of the mountain he dismissed the elders and then, as he was embracing Eliezar and Joshua, and still speaking to them, a cloud suddenly stood over him, and he vanished in a deep valley. He wrote the account of his own death [so also Philo, V.M. 3:39] in the sacred books, fearing lest he should be deified" (Josephus, Ant. 4:8, 48). "He died in the last month of the Jewish year" — in the Arabic traditions, the 7th of Adar (Jalaladdin, page 388). After his death he is called "Melki" (Clem. Alex. Saroin. 1, page 343).
The grave of Moses, though studiously concealed in the sacred narrative, in a manner which seems to point a warning against the excessive veneration of all sacred tombs (see Jude 1:9), and though never acknowledged by the Jews, is shown by the Mussulmans on the west (and therefore the wrong) side of the Jordan, between the Dead Sea and St. Saba (Stanley, S. and P. page 302). There is some reason, however, to conclude from the appearance of Moses with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Lu 9:30-31) that he was honored with an anticipatory resurrection. See Bauer, Hebr. Gesch. 1:337 sq.; J.A. Schmid, De Morte M. (Helmst. 1703); Abbt, Ob Gott Moses begraben (Hal. 1757); J.G. Drasde, De morte ac sepultura Mosis (Viteb. 1784); Recherches sur
la sepulture de Moise, in the Bibl. raisonn. 31:243 sq.; Donauer, De corpore Mosis (Ratisb. 1682); Hech, De Mosis corpore (Jen. 1653); Reusmann, Moses resuscitatus (Gotting. 1747); Rohling, Moses' Abschied (Jena, 1867); J.J. Muller, De morte Mosis (Jena, 1710); Rathlef, De corpore Mosis (Hann. 1733); Zeibich, Von dem Grabe Mosis (Gera, 1758); Heyden, De Mosis resurrectione (Hal. 1723); Dansville Review, September 1861.
III. Character, Work, and Writings of Moses. — It will be best to confine ourselves here to such indications of these as transpire through the general framework of the Scripture narrative, or appear in traditions and profane accounts.
It is important to trace his relation to his immediate circle of followers. In the exodus he takes the decisive lead on the night of the flight. Up to that point he and Aaron appear almost on an equality; but after that Moses is usually mentioned alone. Aaron still held the second place, but the character of interpreter to Moses which he had borne in speaking to Pharaoh withdraws, and it would seem as if Moses henceforth became altogether, what hitherto he had only been in part, the prophet of the people. Another who occupies a place nearly equal to Aaron, though we know but little of him, is Hur, of the tribe of Judah, husband of Miriam and grandfather of the artist Bezaleel (Josephus, Ant. 3:2, 4). He and Aaron are the chief supporters of Moses in moments of weariness or excitement. His adviser with regard to the route through the wilderness, as well as in the judicial arrangements, was, as we have seen, Jethro. His servant, occupying the same relation to him as Elisha to Elijah, or Gehazi to Elisha, was the youthful Hoshea (afterwards Joshua). Miriam always held the independent position to which her age entitled her. Her part was to supply the voice and song to her brother's prophetic power.
But Moses is incontestably the chief personage of the history, in a sense in which no one else is described before or since. In the narrative, the phrase is constantly recurring, "The Lord spake unto Moses," "Moses spake unto the children of Israel." In the traditions of the desert, whether late or early, his name predominates over that of every one else: "The Wells of Moses" on the shores of the Red Sea; "the Mountain of Moses" (Jebel Mufsa) — near the convent of St. Catharine; the Ravine of Moses (Shuk Mfusa) — at Mount St. Catharine; the Valley of Moses (Wady Mfisa) — at Petra. "The Books of Moses" are so called (as afterwards the Books of Samuel), in all probability, from his being the chief subject of them. The very word "Mosaism" has been in later times applied (as the proper name of no other saint of the O.T.) to the whole religion. Even as applied to tessellated pavement ("Mosaic," Musivum, μουσαϊκόν) there is some probability that the expression is derived from the variegated pavement of the later Temple, which had then become the representative of the religion of Moses (see an essay of Redslob in the Zeitschrift der Deutsch. Morgenl. Gesells. 14:663).
It has sometimes been attempted to reduce this great character into a mere passive instrument of the divine Will, as though he had himself borne no conscious part in the actions in which he figures, or the messages which he delivers. This, however, is as incompatible with the general tenor of the scriptural account as it is with the common language in which he has been described by the Church in all ages. The frequent addresses of the Divinity to him no more contravene his personal activity and intelligence than in the case of Elijah, Isaiah, or Paul. In the N.T. the Mosaic legislation is expressly ascribed to him: "Moses gave you circumcision" (Joh 7:22). "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you" (Mt 19:8). "Did not Moses give you the law?" (Joh 7:19). "Moses accuseth you" (Joh 5:45). Paul goes so far as to speak of him as the founder of the Jewish religion: "They were all baptized unto Moses" (1Co 10:2). He is constantly called "a prophet." In the poetical language of the O.T. (Nu 21:18; De 33:21), and in the popular language both of Jews and Christians, he is known as "the Lawgiver." The terms in which his legislation is described by Philo (V.M. 2:1-4) are decisive as to the ancient Jewish view. He must be considered, like all the saints and heroes of the Bible, as a man of marvellous gifts, raised up by divine Providence for a special purpose; but as led, both by his own disposition and by the peculiarity of the revelation which he received, into a closer communion with the invisible world than was vouchsafed to any other in the Old Testament.
Such a marvellous character was not exempted from the most virulent attacks of that criticism called the Rationalismus vulgaris, which at one time threatened to devour every fragment of antiquity. The history of Moses was considered merely a tissue of contradictory statements, till Voltaire (in Questions sur l'Encyclopedie, § 127) boldly called his very existence in question. The exodus of Israel, of which Moses was the sole instrument, was deprived of its strictly historical basis. Goethe wantonly reduced the forty years' wandering to two years. Most of the halting-places named in the books of Exodus and Numbers were deemed unhistorical, and the whole chain of events was said to be purely mythical. De Wette (Kritik der israelitischen Geschichte), Gramberg (Religionsideen), Vatke (Biblische Theologie),Von Bohlen (Commentar zum Buche Genesis), and George (Judische Feste) combine to reduce the whole to a fable. Even the best substantiated acts of Moses — such as the construction of the tabernacle, the founding of an hereditary priesthood, the appointment of cities of refuge were assumed to have been stripped of every vestige of historical veracity. The finding of the Law (2Ki 22:8) was said to prove nothing of its Mosaic authorship, because the Egyptian priests pretended to have become possessed of the books of Hermes in the same way. The tables of stone, as evidence of the historical activity of Moses, were said to be no evidence, because no mention is made of them at the revelation of the Decalogue (Exodus 20), but only on a later occasion, in chapter 22. The testimony of their existence (1Ki 8:9) in the days of Solomon was thought not worthy to be depended upon, because the author lived after the destruction of Jerusalem! By such frivolous assertions Nork finds himself authorized (see Hebraisch-chaldaisch-rabbinisches Worterbuch) to resolve the character of Moses into a mythical personage; and to reduce the marvellous exodus, and the subsequent journey through the wilderness, to a level with the mythological conquests of Osiris or those of Bacchus, in each of whom personifications of the solar year were recognised. Moses is contrasted with Bacchus, whose grandfather Kadmus placed him in an ark and exposed him to the ocean (see J.J. Miiller, De Mose in Bacchum converso [Jena, 1667]). The 600,000 fighting men in Israel are assumed to be so many stars, which ancient astronomers believed to exist. The wonder-working rod of Moses was considered to be as pure a fiction as the serpent-rod of Hermes.
The passage of the Red Sea by Moses and his followers was regarded as a striking parallel to some of the details of Bacchus's expedition to India (Nonnus, 20:253). Bacchus also smites the Hydaspes with a rod, and passes over dry-shod (Nonnus, 23:115, 124,156-188; 24:41). Even the smiting of the rock by Moses is compared to a myth recorded in Euripides (Bacch. 5:703); to Bacchus smiting a rock — not indeed in his own person, but by the instrumentality of his priestess, who wielded the thyrsus- rod with a similar result of water flowing from it. These attempts to neutralize history are quoted simply as literary curiosities, and they show by what methods it was thought possible to establish the mythical origin of the Jewish commonwealth. But as the historical veracity of the Gospel history can alone account for the existence and subsistence of Christianity, so the past and present influence of the Mosaic constitution can only be explained by the strictly historical character of its beginnings.
1. There are two main characters in which Moses appears, namely, as a Leader and as a Prophet. The two are more frequently combined in the East than in the West. Several remarkable instances occur in the history of Mohammedanism: Mohammed himself, Abd-elKader in Algeria, Shamyl in Circassia.
(a.) As a Leader his life divides itself into the three epochs of the march to Sinai, the march from Sinai to Kadesh, and the conquest of the trans- jordanic kingdoms. Of his natural gifts in this capacity we have but few means of judging. The two main difficulties which he encountered were the reluctance of the people to submit to his guidance and the impracticable nature of the country which they had to traverse. The patience with which he bore their murmurs is often described at the Red Sea, at the apostasy of the golden calf (the eccentric Beke contends that the idol was a cone, and not a calf [The Idol in Horeb, Lond. 1871]), at the rebellion of Korah, at the complaints of Aaron and Miriam (see below). The incidents with which his name was specially connected both in the sacred narrative and in the Jewish, Arabian, and heathen traditions were those of supplying water when most wanted. This is the only point in his life noted by Tacitus, who describes him as guided to a spring of water by a herd of wild asses (Hist. 5:3). In the Pentateuch these supplies of water take place at Marah, at Horeb, at Kadesh, and in the land of Moab. That at Marah is produced by the sweetening of waters through a tree in the desert; those at Horeb and at Kadesh by the opening of a rift in the "rock" and in the "cliff;" that in Moab by the united efforts, under his direction, of the chiefs and of the people (Nu 21:18). (See Philo, V.M. 1:40.) An illustration of these passages is to be found in one of the representations of Rameses II (contemporary with Moses), in like manner calling out water from the desert rocks (see Brugsch, Hist. de l'Eg. 1:153). Of the first three of these incidents, traditional sites, bearing his name, are shown in the desert at the present day, though most of them are rejected by modern travellers. One is Ayun Musa, "the wells of Moses," immediately south of Suez, which the tradition (probably from a confusion with Marah) ascribes to the rod of Moses. Of the water at Horeb, two memorials are shown: one is the Shuk Musa, or "cleft of Moses," in the side of Mount St. Catharine; and the other is the remarkable stone, first mentioned expressly in the Koran (2:57), which exhibits the twelve marks or mouths out of which the water is supposed to have issued for the twelve tribes (Stanley, Syr. and Pal. page 46,47; also Wolff, Travels, page 125, 2d ed.). The fourth is the celebrated "Sik," or ravine, by which Petra is approached from the east, and which, from the story of its being torn open by the rod of Moses, has given his name (the Wady Mfisa) to the whole valley. The quails and the manna are less directly ascribed to the intercession of Moses. The brazen serpent that was lifted up as a sign of the divine protection against the snakes of the desert (Nu 21:8-9) was directly connected with his name down to the latest times of the nation (2Ki 18:4; Joh 3:14). Of all the relics of his time, with the exception of the ark, it was the one longest preserved. SEE NEHUSHTAN.
The route through the wilderness is described as having been made under his guidance. The particular spot of the encampment was fixed by the cloudy pillar; but the direction of the people, first to the Red Sea and then to Mount Sinai (where he had been before), was communicated through Moses, or given by him. According to the tradition of Memphis, the passage of the Red Sea was effected through Moses's knowledge of the movement of the tide (Euseb. Praep. Ev. 9:27). In all the wanderings from Mount Sinai he is said to have had the assistance of Jethro. In the Mussulman legends, as if to avoid this appearance of human aid, the place of Jethro is taken by El Khudhr, the mysterious benefactor of mankind (D'Herbelot, s.v. Moussa). On approaching Palestine the office of the leader becomes blended with that of the general or the conqueror. By Moses the spies were sent to explore the country. Against his advice took place the first disastrous battle at Hormah. To his guidance is ascribed the circuitous route by which the nation approached Palestine from the east, and to his generalship the two successive campaigns in which Sihon-and Og were defeated. The narrative is told so shortly that we are in danger of forgetting that, at this last stage of his life, Moses must have been as much a conqueror and victorious soldier as Joshua.
(b.) His character as a Prophet is, from the nature of the case, more distinctly brought out. He is the first as he is the greatest example of a prophet in the O.T. The name is, indeed, applied to Abraham before (Ge 20:7), but so casually as not to enforce our attention. But in the case of Moses it is given with peculiar emphasis. In a certain sense he appears as the center of a prophetic circle, now for the first time named.
His brother and sister were both endowed with prophetic gifts. Aaron's fluent speech enabled him to act the part of prophet for Moses in the first instance; and Miriam is expressly called "the Prophetess." The seventy elders, and Eldad and Medad also, all "prophesied" (Nu 11:25-27). But Moses (at least after the exodus) rose high above all these. The others are spoken of as more or less inferior. Their communications were made to them in dreams and figures (De 13:1-4; Nu 12:6). But "Moses was not so." With him the divine revelations were made "mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark-speeches, and the similitude of Jehovah shall he behold" (Nu 12:8). In the Mussulman legends his surname is Kelim Allah, "the spoken to by God." Of the especial modes of this more direct communication four great examples are given, corresponding to four critical epochs in his historical career, which help us in some degree to understand what is meant by these expressions in the sacred text. SEE PROPHET.
(1.) The appearance of the divine Presence in the flaming acacia-tree has already been noticed. The usual pictorial representations of that scene — of a winged human form in the midst of the bush — belong to Philo (V.M. 1:12), not to the Bible. No form is described. "The angel'' or "messenger": is spoken of as being "in the flame." On this it was that Moses was afraid to look. and hid his face in order to hear the divine voice (Ex 3:2-6). SEE BURNING BUSH.
(2.) In the giving of the Law from Mount Sinai, the outward form of the revelation was a thick darkness, as of a thunder-cloud, out of which proceeded a voice (Ex 19:19; Ex 20:21). The revelation on this occasion was especially of the name of Jehovah. Outside this cloud Moses himself remained on the mountain (Ex 24:1-2,15), and received the voice, as from the cloud, which revealed the Ten Commandments, and a short code of laws in addition (Exodus 20-23). On two occasions he is described as having penetrated within the darkness, and remained there successively for two periods of forty days, spent in seclusion and fasting (Ex 24:18; Ex 34:28). On the first occasion he received instructions respecting the tabernacle, from " a pattern showed to him" (Ex 25:9,40; Ex 26; Ex 27), and respecting the priesthood (Exodus 28-31). Of the second occasion hardly anything is told us (see Ortlob, De jejunio Mosis [Lips. 1702]). But each of these periods was concluded by the production of the two slabs or tables of granite containing the successive editions of the Ten Commandments (Ex 32:15-16). On the first of the two occasions the ten moral commandments are undoubtedly those commonly so called (comp. Ex 20:1-17; Ex 32:15; De 5:6-22). On the second occasion some interpreters (taking the literal sense of Exodus' 34:27, 28) hold that they were the ten (chiefly) ceremonial commandments of Ex 34:14-26; but they were evidently the same as before. The first are expressly said to have been the writing of God (Ex 31:18; Ex 32:16; De 5:22); with respect to the second, the phraseology is ambiguous (" he wrote," Ex 34:28), and hence some have held them to be merely the writing of Moses-contrary, however, to the language of Ex 34:1. SEE LAW OF MOSES.
(3.) It was nearly at the close of those communications in the mountains of Sinai that an especial revelation was made to him personally, answering in some degree to that which first called him to his mission. In the despondency produced by the apostasy of the molten calf, he besought Jehovah to show him "his glory." The wish was thoroughly Egyptian. The same is recorded of Amenoph, the Pharaoh preceding the exodus. But the divine answer is thoroughly Biblical. It announced that an actual vision of God was impossible. "Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see my face and live." He was commanded to come absolutely alone. Even the flocks and herds which fed in the neighboring valleys were to be removed out of the sight of the mountain (Ex 33:18,20; Ex 34:1,3). He took his place on a well-known or prominent rock ("the rock") (Ex 33:21). The cloud passed by (Ex 33:22; Ex 34:5). A voice proclaimed the two immutable attributes of God, Justice and Love, in words which became part of the religious creed of Israel and of the world (Ex 34:6-7). The importance of this incident in the life of Moses is attested not merely by the place which it occupies in the sacred record, but by the deep hold that it has taken of the Mussulman traditions and the local legends of Mount Sinai. It is told, with some characteristic variations, in the Koran (7:139), and is commemorated in the Mussulman chapel erected on the summit of the mountain, which from this incident (rather than from any other) has taken the name of the Mountain of Moses (Jebel Musa). A cavity is shown in the rock as produced by the pressure of the back of Moses when he shrank from the divine glory (Stanley, S. and P. page 30). See Stemler, De Mose Jehovam a tergo vidente (Lips. 1730). SEE SINAI.
(4.) The fourth mode of divine manifestation was that which is described as commencing at this juncture, and which continued with more or less uniformity through the rest of his career. Immediately after the catastrophe of the worship of the calf, and apparently in consequence of it, Moses removed the chief tent outside the camp, and invested it with a sacred character under the name of "the Tent or Tabernacle of the Congregation" (Ex 33:7). This tent became henceforth the chief scene of his communications with God. He left the camp, and it is described how, as in the expectation of some great event, all the people rose up and stood every man at his tent door, and looked gazing after Moses until he disappeared within the tent. As he disappeared the entrance was closed behind him by the cloudy pillar, at the sight of which the people prostrated themselves (Ex 33:10). The communications within the tent are described as being still more intimate than those on the mountain. "Jehovah spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Ex 33:11). He was apparently accompanied on these mysterious visits by his attendant Hoshea (or Joshua), who remained in the tent after his master had left it (Ex 33:11). All the revelations contained in the books of Leviticus and Numbers seem to have been made in this manner (Le 1:1; Nu 1:1).
It was during these communications that a peculiarity is mentioned which apparently had not been seen before. It was on his final descent from Mount Sinai, after his second long seclusion, that a splendor shone on his face, as if from the glory of the divine Presence. It is from the Vulgate translation of "ray" (קרן), "cornutam habens faciem," that the conventional representation of the horns of Moses has arisen. See Zeibich, De radiante Mosisfacie (Gera, 1764). The rest of the story is told so differently in the different versions that both must be given. (1.) In the A.V. and most Protestant versions Moses is said to wear a veil in order to hide the splendor. In order to produce this sense, the A.V. of Ex 33:23 reads, "and [till] Moses had done speaking with them" — and other versions, "he had put on the veil." (2.) In the Sept. and the Vulgate, on the other hand, he is said to put on the veil, not during, but after, the conversation with the people-in order to hide, not the splendor, but the vanishing away of the splendor; and to have worn it till the moment of his return to the divine Presence in order to rekindle the light there. With this reading agrees the obvious meaning of the Hebrew words, and it is this rendering of the sense which is followed by Paul in 2Co 3:13-14, where he contrasts the fearlessness of the apostolic teaching with the concealment of that of the O.T.: "We have no fear, as Moses had, that our glory will pass away."
(5.) There is another form of the prophetic gift in which Moses more nearly resembles the later prophets, namely, as a writer. We need not here determine (what is best considered under the several books which bear his name, SEE PENTATEUCH, etc.) the extent of his authorship, or the period at which these books were put together in their present form. He is also traditionally connected with the first draft at least of the book of Job (q.v.). Eupolemus (Euseb. Pracep. Ev. 9:26) makes him the author of letters. But of this the Hebrew narrative gives no indication. There are two portions of the Pentateuch, and two only, of which the actual writing is ascribed to Moses: 1st, the second edition of the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:28); 2d, the register of the stations in the wilderness (Nu 33:1). But it is clear that the prophetical office, as represented in the history of Moses, included the poetical form of composition which characterizes the Jewish prophecy generally. These poetical utterances, whether connected with Moses by ascription or by actual authorship, enter so largely into the full Biblical conception of his character that they must here be mentioned.
[1.] "The song which Moses and the children of Israel sung" (after the passage of the Red Sea, Ex 15:1-19). It is unquestionably the earliest written account of that event; and, although it may have been in part, according to the conjectures of Ewald and Bunsen, adapted to the sanctuary of Gerizim and Shiloh, yet its framework and ideas are essentially Mosaic. It is probably this song to which allusion is made in Re 15:2-3: "They stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire... and sing the song of Moses, the servant of God."
[2.] A fragment of a war-song against Amalek (Ex 17:16):
"As the hand is on the throne of Jehovah, So will Jehovah war with Amalek From generation to generation."
[3.] A fragment of a lyrical burst of indignation (Ex 22:18):
"Not the voice of them that shout for mastery, Nor the voice of them that cry for being overcome, But the noise of them that sing do I hear."
[4.] Probably, either from him or his immediate prophetic followers, the fragments of war-songs in Nu 21:14-15,27-30, preserved in the "book of the wars of Jehovah," Nu 21:14; and the address to the well, 21:16, 17, 18.
[5.] The song of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1-43), setting forth the greatness and the failings of Israel. It is remarkable as bringing out with much force the idea of God as the Rock (De 32:4,15,18,30-31,37). The special allusions to the pastoral riches of Israel point to the transjordanic territory as the scene of its composition (De 32:13-14).
[6.] The blessing of Moses on the tribes (Deuteronomy 33:1-29). If there are some allusions in this psalm to circumstances only belonging to a later time (such as the migration of Dan, 33:22), yet there is no one in whose mouth it could be so appropriately placed as in that of the great leader on the eve of the final conquest of Palestine. This poem, combined with the similar blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49), embraces a complete collective view of the characteristics of the tribes. See Vock, Mosis canticum cygneum (Nordl. 1861); Kamphausen, Das Lied Mosis erklbart (Leips. 1862).
[7.] The 90th Psalm, "A prayer of Moses, the man of God." The title, like all the titles of the Psalms, is of doubtful authority and the psalm has often been referred to a later author. But Ewald (Psalmen, page 91) thinks that, even though this be the case, it still breathes the spirit of the venerable lawgiver. There is something extremely characteristic of Moses in the view taken, as from the summit or base of Sinai, of the eternity of God, greater even than the eternity of mountains, in contrast with the fleeting generations of man. One expression in the psalm, as to the limit of human life (seventy, or at most eighty years), in verse 10, would, if it be Mosaic, fix its date to the stay at Sinai. Jerome (Adv. Ruffin. 1:13), on the authority of Origen, ascribes the next eleven psalms to Moses. Cosmas (Cosmogr. 5:223) supposes that it is by a younger Moses of the time of David.
How far the gradual development of these revelations or prophetic utterances had any connection with Moses's own character and history, the materials are not such as to justify any decisive judgment. His Egyptian education must, on the one hand, have supplied him with much of the ritual of the Israelitish worship. The coincidences between the arrangements of the priesthood, the dress, the sacrifices, the ark, etc., in the two countries, are decisive. On the other hand, the proclamation of the unity of God, not merely as a doctrine confined to the priestly order, but communicated to the whole nation, implies distinct antagonism, almost a conscious recoil against the Egyptian system. The absence of the doctrine of a future state (without adopting to its full extent the paradox of Warburton) proves at least a remarkable independence of the Egyptian theology, in which that great doctrine held so prominent a place. Some modern critics have supposed that the Levitical ritual was an after-growth of the Mosaic system, necessitated or suggested by the incapacity of the Israelites to retain the higher and simpler doctrine of the divine unity — as proved by their return to the worship of the Heliopolitan calf under the sanction of the brother of Moses himself. There is no direct statement of this connection in the sacred narrative; but there are indirect indications of it sufficient to give some color to such an explanation. The event itself is described as a crisis in the life of Moses, almost equal to that in which he received his first call. In an agony of rage and disappointment he destroyed the monument of his first revelation (Ex 32:19). He threw up his sacred mission (ib. 32). He craved and he received a new and special revelation of the attributes of God to console him (Ex 33:18). A fresh start was made in his career (Ex 34:29). His relation with his countrymen henceforth became more awful and mysterious (Ex 32:35). In point of fact, the greater part of the details of the Levitical system were subsequent to this catastrophe. The institution of the Levitical tribe grew directly out of it (Ex 32:26). The inferiority of this part of the system to the rest is expressly stated in the prophets, and expressly connected with the idolatrous tendencies of the nation. "Wherefore I gave them statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live" (Eze 20:25). "I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices" (Jer 7:22). Other portions of the law, such as the regulations of slavery, of blood-feud, of clean and unclean food, were probably taken, with the necessary modifications, from the customs of the desert-tribes. But the distinguishing features of the law of Israel, which have remained to a considerable extent in Christendom, are peculiarly Mosaic the Ten Commandments; and the general spirit of justice, humanity, and liberty that pervades even the more detailed and local observances is equally indicative of a new aera in legislation.
The prophetic office of Moses, however, can only be fully considered in connection with his whole character and appearance. "By a prophet Jehovah brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved" (Ho 12:13). He 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. "The man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth" (Nu 12:3). The word "meek" is hardly an adequate reading of the Hebrew term עָנָו, which should be rather "much enduring;" and, in fact, his onslaught on the Egyptian, and his sudden dashing of the tables on the ground, indicate rather the reverse of what we should call "meekness." 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. He joins his countrymen in their degrading servitude (Ex 2:11; Ex 5:4). He forgets himself to avenge their wrongs (Ex 2:14). He desires that his brother may take the lead instead of himself (Ex 4:13). He wishes that not he only, but that all the nation were gifted alike: "Enviest thou for my sake?" (Nu 11:29). When the offer is made that the people should be destroyed, and that he should be made "a great nation" (Ex 32:10), he prays that they may be forgiven — "if not, blot; me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written" (Ex 32:32). His sons were not raised to honor. The leadership of the people passed, after his death, to another tribe. In the books which bear his name, Abraham, and not himself, appears as the real father of the nation. In spite of his great preeminence, they are never "the children of Moses."
2. In the O.T. the name of Moses does not occur so, frequently after the close of the Pentateuch as might be expected. In the Judges it occurs only once — in speaking of the wandering Levite Jonathan, his grand-son. In the Hebrew copies, followed by the A.V., its, has been superseded by "Manasseh," in order to avoid, throwing discredit on the family of so great a man. SEE MANASSEH, 2. In the Psalms and the Prophets, however, he is frequently named as the chief of the prophets.
In the N.T. he is referred to partly as the representative of the law-as in the numerous passages cited above-and in the vision of the transfiguration, where he appears side by side with Elijah. It is possible that the peculiar word rendered "decease" (ἔξοδος) — used only in Lu 9:31, and in 2Pe 1:15, where it may have been drawn from the context of the transfiguration was suggested by the exodus of Moses. As the author of the Law, he is contrasted with Christ, the Author of the Gospel: "The law was given by Moses" (Joh 1:17). The ambiguity and transitory nature of his glory is set against the permanence and clearness of Christianity (2Co 3:13-18), and his mediatorial character ("the law in the hand of a mediator") against the unbroken communication of God in Christ (Ga 3:19). His "service" of God is contrasted with Christ's sonship (Heb 3:5-6). But he is also spoken of as a likeness of Christ; and as this is a point of view which has been almost lost in the Church, compared with the more familiar comparisons of Christ to Adam, David, Joshua, and yet has as firm a basis in fact as any of them, it may be well to draw it out in detail.
[1.] Moses is, as it would seem, the only character of the O.T. to whom Christ expressly likens himself Moses wrote of me" (Joh 5:46). It is uncertain to what passage our Lord alludes, but the general opinion seems to be the true one — that it is the remarkable prediction in De 18:15,18-19 — "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, from thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken... I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." This passage is also expressly quoted by Stephen (Ac 7:37), and it is probably in allusion to it that at the transfiguration, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, the words were uttered, "Hear ye him." 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. In greatness of position none came between them. Only Samuel and Elijah could by any possibility be thought to fill the place of Moses, and they only in a very secondary degree. Christ alone appears, like Moses, as the Revealer of a new name of God-of a new religious society on earth. The Israelites "were baptized unto Moses" (1Co 10:2). The Christians were baptized unto Christ. There is no other name in the Bible that could be used in like manner. SEE PROPHET.
(b.) Christ, like Moses, is a Lawgiver: "Him shall ye hear." His whole appearance as a Teacher, differing in much besides, has this in common with Moses, unlike the other prophets, that he lays down a code, a law, for his followers. The Sermon on the Mount almost inevitably suggests the parallel of Moses on Mount Sinai.
(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. The last and greatest of the Jewish prophets, he was not only a Jew by descent, but that Jewish descent is insisted upon as an integral part of his appearance. Two of the Gospels open with his genealogy. "Of the Israelites came Christ after the flesh" (Ro 9:5). He wept and lamented over his country. He confined himself during his life to its needs. He was not sent "but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 15:24). It is true that his absorption into the Jewish nationality was but a symbol of his absorption into the far wider and deeper interests of all humanity. But it is only by understanding the one that we are able to understand the other; and the life of Moses is the best means of enabling us to understand them both.
[2.] In Heb 3; Heb 12:24-29; Ac 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. No other person in the O.T. could have furnished this parallel. In both the revelation was communicated partly through the life, partly through the teaching; but in both the prophet was incessantly united with the Guide, the Ruler, the Shepherd. SEE MEDIATOR.
[3.] The details of their lives are sometimes, though not often, compared. Stephen (Ac 7:24-28,35) dwells, evidently with this view, on the likeness of Moses in striving to act as a peacemaker, and in being misunderstood and rejected on that very account. The death of Moses, especially as related by Josephus (ut sup.), immediately suggests the ascension of Christ; and the retardation of the rise of the Christian Church till after its Founder was withdrawn gives a moral as well as a material resemblance. But this, though dwelt upon in the services of the Church, has not been expressly laid down in the Bible.
In Jude 1:9 is an allusion to an altercation between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses. It has been endeavored (by reading Ι᾿ησοῦ for Μωϋσέως) to refer this to Zec 3:2. But it probably refers to a lost apocryphal book, mentioned by Origen, called the "Ascension or Assumption of Moses." The substance of this book is given by Fabricius, Cod. Pseudoepigraphus Vet. Test. 1:839-844. The "dispute of Michael and Satan" probably had reference to the concealment of the body to prevent idolatry. Ga 5:6 is by several later writers said to be a quotation from the "Revelation of Moses" (Fabricius, ibid. 1:838). SEE REVELATIONS, SPURIOUS.
In later history the name of Moses has not been forgotten. In the early Christian Church he appears in the Roman catacombs in the likeness of St. Peter, partly, doubtless, from his being the leader of the Jewish, as Peter of the Christian Church, partly from his connection with the rock. It is as striking the rock that he appears under Peter's name. In the Jewish, as in the Arabian nation, his name has in later years been more common than in former ages, though never occurring again (perhaps, as in the case of David, and of Peter in the papacy, from motives of reverence) in the earlier annals, as recorded in the Bible. Moses Maimonides, Moses Mendelssohn, Mfisa the conqueror of Spain, are obvious instances. Of the first of these three a Jewish proverb testifies that "from Moses to Moses there was none like Moses." Numerous traditions, however, as might have been expected, and as has repeatedly been indicated above, have been current respecting so celebrated a personage. Some of these were known to the ancient Jews, but most of them occur in later rabbinical writers (comp. Philo, De Vita Mosis, c. 3; Joseph. Ant. 2:9 sq.; Bartolocci, Bibliotheca Rabbinica, 4:115 sq.). The name of Moses is celebrated among the Arabs also, and is the nucleus of a mass of legends (comp. Hottinger, Historia Orientalis, p. 80 sq.; Abulfeda, Anteislam. page 31). These Mussulman traditions are chiefly exaggerations of the O.T. accounts. But there are some stories independent of the Bible. One is the striking story (Koran, 18:65-80) on which is founded Parnell's Hermit. Another is the proof given by Moses of the existence of God to the atheistic king (Chardin, 10:836, and in Fabricius, p. 836). The Greek and Roman classics repeatedly mention Moses (see Grotius, De verit. rel. Chr. 1:16; Hase, in the Biblioth. Brem. 6:769 sq.), but their accounts contain the authentic Biblical history in a greatly distorted form. See the collection of Meier, Judaica, seu veterum Scriptorum profanorum de Rebus Judaicis Fragmenta (Jenue, 1832); also those from Tacitus, by Muller, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, pages 893-8. There are, likewise, as above intimated, traditionally ascribed to Moses several apocryphal books, as "an Apocalypse, or Little Genesis," the "Ascension or Assumption of Moses," and the "Mysterious Books of Moses," supposed to have been fabricated in the early ages of Christianity (see Fabricius's Codex Pseudoepigrcuphus Vet. Testamenti, and Whiston's Collection of Authentic Records, 1:449-65). Lauth (Moses der Ebrder, Munich, 1859) thinks he has discovered traces of the history and name of Moses in two of the Leyden papyri written in the hieratic character (comp. Heath, The Exodus Papyri, Lond. 1855).
Concerning the life and work of Moses, compare also Warburton, On the Divine Legation of Moses; Hess, Geschichte Mosis (Zurich, 1778); Niemeyer, Charakteristik der Bibel, 3:23 sq.; Hufnagel, Moseh wie er sich selbst Zeichnet (Frckf. 1822); Nork, Leb. Mos. (Lips. 1838); Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 2:32 sq.; Schreiber, Allgem. Religionslehre, 1:166; Kitto, Daily Bible Illustrations, volume 2; Hunter, Sacred Biography; T. Smith, Hist. of Moses (Edinb. 1859); Breay, Hist. of Moses (Lond. 1846); Townsend, Character of Moses (Lond. 1813, 2 volumes, 4to); Boss, Hist. of Moses (Edinb. 1837); Anderson, Life of Moses (Lond. 1834); Plumtre, Hist. of Moses (Lond. 1848); Drasde, Comparatio Mosis et Homeri (Viteb. 1788); Hagel, Apologie des Moses (Sulzbach, 1828); Moller, De Mose Philosopho (Alt. 1701); Schumann, Vita Mosis (Lips. 1826); Reckendorf, Das Leben Mosis, (Leips. 1867); Clarke, Ten Great Religions (Bost. 1871), page 409 sq.; also the dissertations referred to by Furst, Bib. Jud. 2:393 sq.