Moses is probably the best-known character in the Old Testament and many chapters of Scripture are devoted to him. Moses was the writer of the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch. At the time of Moses’ birth the nation of Israel was in captivity in Egypt. Moses was born to Jewish parents, but raised in the courts of Egyptian royalty by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses eventually became God’s representative and the deliverer of the people of Israel.
There are five major events in the life of Moses for us to consider.
After the death of Joseph, who had found favor with the king (Pharaoh) of Egypt and had been the second in command, a new king came to power who did not know of Joseph. The result was a fear of the Israelites because of their sheer number. His fear was that there would be an uprising and the Jews would overthrow him as ruler. Therefore, the Pharaoh decreed that all Hebrew male babies were to be killed at birth.
Three months after the birth of Moses, when she could hide him no longer, his mother placed him in a basket and sent him down river to a place where Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe. Moses’ sister Miriam followed the basket and offered help to Pharaoh’s daughter in finding a woman to nurse the child. Miriam brought the child to Jochebed, the mother of Moses. When he was old enough, Pharaoh’s daughter took Moses and raised him as her own.
Secular Jewish historian Josephus relates stories regarding the upbringing of Moses and said that Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised and educated him, desired that he be the next Pharaoh. She went so far as to convince her father that Moses should lead the Egyptian army against their enemy Ethiopia, which according to Josephus he did successfully. Josephus also said that the Ethiopian princess fell in love with Moses and they eventually were married as a compromise for surrendering their kingdom to Moses. Moses was said to be a most handsome man that turned the heads of all who saw him. According to Acts 7:22 Moses was educated in the wisdom and the culture of the Egyptians. It also says that Moses was mighty in his speech and deeds. The two accounts of the early life of Moses seem to be somewhat compatible.
Moses obviously knew about his Hebrew heritage because at age forty he decided to visit them. The Hebrews (Jews) were slaves at the time and were building the pyramids and many other Egyptian structures. It was at this time that Moses observed an Egyptian mistreating a Jewish worker and defended him by stopping and killing the Egyptian. Thinking his deed had been exposed, Moses fled Egypt to Midian.
In Midian he became a shepherd and married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro. It was in Midian that Moses had a “face-to-face” encounter with God on Mount Sinai. It was at this encounter that God informed Moses that he had been chosen to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses did all he could to get out of the task that God had chosen for him. He complained that the Jews would not believe him. God fixed that by giving Moses a rod that turned into a snake before his eyes. Moses complained that he was slow of speech and awkward. God told him that He would be with his mouth and also chose Aaron the brother of Moses who was well spoken to assist him.
Aaron joined Moses in Midian and they returned to Egypt with God’s message to Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free. Most of us know the story of how Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh and related God’s message to “let my people go.” Pharaoh’s heart hardened with each plague that God sent upon him. It was only after the angel of death was sent to take the life of every first-born child, which included Pharaoh’s son did Pharaoh let the children of Israel go free. The only .thing that prevented the death of the first-born of Israel was the blood of a lamb that was placed over the mantle of their doors. This, of course, was an obvious demonstration of God’s deliverance then and in the future in the Person of Jesus Christ. (Exodus 11:1-12:14)
After Pharaoh agreed to let Israel leave Egypt, he had a change of mind and assembled his army and pursued the Israelites. The Egyptians were about to overtake Israel as their backs were to the Red Sea. Moses was directed by God to raise his staff and the sea parted and Israel went across on dry land. The Egyptians followed, as God knew they would, and the sea engulfed them, killing them all. God, once again, provided the protection that Israel needed from her enemies and showed Himself to be all powerful.
The journey to the Promised Land began after God had destroyed the Israelites’ enemy. It took forty years for Israel to make what some scholars say should have been an eleven- day journey into the land God had promised them.
During their journey the Israelites murmured and complained about everything. God provided for their every need including food from Heaven and water to drink. He provided protection from enemies that they met along their journey. Also along the way, God gave Moses instructions to relate to the nation regarding His mandates to avoid the pagans and their gods. These instructions were ignored and finally God sent Moses up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments written on tablets. Upon his return Moses found the Israelites worshipping idols to other gods and engaging in all forms of debauchery. In his anger, upon seeing this, Moses threw the tablets of the Ten Commandments to the ground and broke them.
Eventually, Moses was able to lead his people to the Promised Land, but was prevented from entering into it, along with anyone above the age of forty, because of his sin and their sin of disobeying God. Moses’ sin happened when the nation of Israel was once again complaining that they had no water. God commanded Moses to speak to a rock and water would flow from it. Instead, Moses in his anger hit the rock with his staff. This simply act of disobedience was grave enough in the sight of God to keep Moses from entering the Promised Land. Moses died on a mountain overlooking the Promised Land, but God did show him the land before he died. Moses died and was buried by God in a place that no one knew. (Deuteronomy 34:1-8)