The life of Moses divides conveniently into three periods of forty years each. The first period ended with his flight from Egypt to Midian (Act 7:23-29), the second with his return from Midian to liberate his people from Egyptian power (Act 7:30-36; Exo 7:7), and the third with his death just before Israel entered Canaan (Deu 34:7).
As the leader God chose to establish Israel as a nation, Moses had absolute rule over Israel. God spoke to the people through him (Exo 3:10-12; 24:12; 25:22). Moses’ position was unique. No other person of his time, and no leader after him, had the face-to-face relationship with God that Moses had (Exo 24:1-2; 33:11; Num 12:6-8; Deu 34:10).
Relations with Egypt
Moses was the third child of Amram and Jochabed, and belonged to the tribe of Levi. His older sister was Miriam and his older brother Aaron (Exo 6:20; 1Ch 6:1-3). Through a series of remarkable events, the young child Moses was adopted into the Egyptian royal family but grew up under the influence of his godly Israelite mother (Exo 2:8-10; Heb 11:23). From his mother he learnt about the true and living God who had chosen Israel as his people, and from the Egyptians he received the best secular education available (Act 7:22).
By the time he was forty, Moses was convinced God had chosen him to rescue Israel from Egypt. But his rash killing of an Egyptian slave-driver showed he was not yet ready for the job. To save his life he fled from Egypt to live among the Midianites, a nomadic people who inhabited a barren region that spread from the Sinai Peninsular around the Gulf of Aqabah into the western part of the Arabian Desert. By such a decisive act, Moses demonstrated his total rejection of his Egyptian status (Exo 2:11-15; Act 7:23-29; Heb 11:24-25).
In Midian Moses lived with a local chief named Jethro (or Reuel), from whom he probably learnt much about desert life and tribal administration. He married one of Jethro’s daughters, and from her had two sons (Exo 2:16-22; 18:1-3).
During Moses’ forty years in Midian, Israel’s sufferings in Egypt increased. God’s time to deliver Israel from bondage had now come, and the person he would use as the deliverer was Moses (Exo 2:23-25; 3:1-12). Because the Israelites had only a vague understanding of God, Moses had to explain to them the character of this one who would be their redeemer. He, the Eternal One, would prove himself able to meet every need of his people, but they had to learn to trust in him (Exo 3:13-15; 6:2-8; see YAHWEH).
In response to Moses’ complaint that the Israelites would not believe him, God gave him three signs (Exo 4:1-9,30). In response to his excuse that he was not a good speaker, God gave him Aaron as a spokesman (Exo 4:10-16; 7:1-2). Moses then returned to Egypt, where the elders of Israel welcomed him (Exo 4:20,29,31).
God warned Moses that his job would be difficult and that Pharaoh would not listen to his pleas for freedom for the Israelites (Exo 4:21-23). Pharaoh’s response to Moses’ initial meeting was to increase the Israelites’ suffering, with the result that they turned bitterly against Moses (Exo 5:1-21). God gave Moses further assurance that Pharaoh would be defeated, but when Moses told the people, they were too disheartened to listen (Exo 6:1,9).
Moses again put his request to Pharaoh, and again Pharaoh refused (Exo 7:1-13). God therefore worked through Moses and Aaron to send a series of plagues upon Egypt, resulting in the overthrow of Egypt and the release of Israel (Exo 7:14-15:21; see PHARAOH; PLAGUE).
Having crossed the Red Sea, the Israelites headed through the semi-barren countryside for Mt Sinai. They complained constantly, sometimes because they had no water (Exo 15:23-25; 17:2-3), other times because they had no food (Exo 16:2-3). In each case God enabled Moses to satisfy their needs. He also answered Moses’ prayer in giving victory over some raiding Amalekites (Exo 17:8-13).
When Jethro met Moses on the journey, he quickly saw that the heavy burden of leading the people was wearing Moses out. People brought even their minor personal disputes to Moses for his judgment (Exo 18:13-18). Jethro suggested that Moses share the load by appointing others to judge lesser cases, leaving Moses to judge only the more difficult ones. Moses heeded Jethro’s advice, and so took the first steps in organizing the administration of Israel (Exo 18:19-27).
Jethro returned home, and the Israelites moved on to Mt Sinai. They remained there for the next year (Exo 19:1; Num 10:11), during which God prepared them for the life that lay ahead for them as an independent nation under his lordship.
There now had to be some recognized standard for the recently appointed officials to administer. God therefore gave the basic principles of the law in the form of ten simple commandments (Exo 20:1-17), which were probably the principles Moses had been using as his standard all the time. The miscellaneous laws collected in the remainder of Exodus, and in the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, were based on these principles. As Moses judged the cases brought before him, the people accepted his decisions as having the authority of God. Many of these decisions became the basis of laws for the future (Exo 18:16; Num 15:32-40; 27:5-11; see LAW).
Mediator of the covenant
God then formally established his covenant with Israel in a ceremony at Mt Sinai. Moses, who acted as the mediator or go-between, announced God’s covenant commands to the people, and the people declared their willingness to obey. Moses sealed the covenant by blood, sprinkling half of it on the people and half of it against the altar (representing God) (Exo 24:3-8; see COVENANT). He took the leaders of the people with him up into the mountain, where they saw the glory of God, but Moses alone entered God’s presence. He remained there about six weeks and received God’s directions for the construction of the tabernacle and the institution of the priesthood (Exo 24:9-18; 25:40).
While Moses was absent on the mountain, the Israelites built an idol. God told Moses he would destroy the nation and build it afresh, using Moses as the new ‘father’. Moses, thinking more of God’s glory than his own fame, successfully pleaded with God not to destroy the people (Exo 32:11-14). Nevertheless, God could not ignore Israel’s sin. When he allowed a limited judgment to fall upon the people, Moses again pleaded for them, even offering to die on their behalf (Exo 32:30-34).
In response to God’s statement that he would not go to Canaan with such a rebellious people, Moses again pleaded for them. Once more God answered Moses’ prayer, this time promising Moses his presence (Exo 33:1-3,12-16). This encouraged Moses to ask even more. He asked for a greater understanding of the nature of God, and God replied by revealing to him more of his character and glory (Exo 33:17-23). This revelation took place when Moses returned to the mountain to receive fresh copies of the law (Exo 34:1-9). His face became so dazzling because of his meeting with God that on certain occasions he had to cover it with a cloth (Exo 34:28-35; 2Co 3:7-18).
A patient leader
Moses’ gracious response to Israel’s disgraceful behaviour, both on the journey from Egypt and at Mt Sinai, showed that although he was a strong and decisive leader, he was not hot-headed or self-assertive. He was a humble man (Num 12:3), whose patience was demonstrated constantly.
After the fatal judgment on Aaron’s rebellious sons Nadab and Abihu (Num 10:1-2), the other two sons thought it better to burn their portion of the sacrifice in sorrow than to eat it. Their action was wrong, but it came from good motives. Moses, with understanding and sympathy, saw this and so said no more (Lev 10:16-20). In a later case of wilful blasphemy, and in another of deliberate disobedience to God’s law, Moses refused to act hastily. In both cases he waited for God to show him how to deal with the offenders (Lev 24:12; Num 15:34).
When Moses married a Cushite woman (his first wife had apparently died), Miriam and Aaron criticized him. The real reason for their attack, however, was their jealousy of Moses’ leadership. Though Moses made no effort to defend himself, God rebuked Miriam and Aaron. Again Moses showed his forgiving spirit by asking God’s mercy on his critics (Num 12:1-13). His generous nature was shown also on a previous occasion, when Joshua had wanted to protect Moses’ status as a prophet by stopping others from prophesying. Moses replied that he wished all God’s people were prophets (Num 11:27-29).
After the people’s refusal to accept Joshua and Caleb’s report and move ahead into Canaan, God again threatened to destroy the nation and rebuild it through Moses. Once more Moses prayed earnestly that God would forgive the people (Num 14:11-19). Although God did not destroy the people, he refused to allow the unbelieving adult generation to enter Canaan. Israel would therefore remain in the wilderness forty years, till the former generation had passed away and a new had grown up to replace it. Only then would Israel enter the promised land (Num 14:26-35).
Some time later there was a widespread rebellion against Moses and Aaron, headed by Korah, Dathan and Abiram. As usual Moses left the matter with God rather than take action to defend himself (Num 16:4-5). In righteous anger God threatened the rebellious nation with destruction, but again Moses prayed for them (Num 16:20-24,44-48).
The one occasion on which Moses lost his temper with the people was at Meribah. By his rash words and disobedient actions he misrepresented God before the people and brought God’s judgment upon himself. Because of his position of leadership, the cost of his failure was high. God punished him by not allowing him to enter Canaan (Num 20:10-13; Psa 106:32-33).
About forty years after Israel left Egypt, the new generation prepared to enter Canaan. During a long detour that Israel was forced to make around Edom, Aaron died (Num 20:21-29). As the people of Israel moved north, they conquered large areas of good land east of Jordan, with the result that two and a half tribes asked to settle there instead of in Canaan. This at first worried Moses, because it seemed they were repeating the unbelief of their forefathers. He showed that he was fair and reasonable by agreeing to the two and a half tribes’ proposal to help conquer Canaan first and then return to settle east (Num 32:6-8,20-23).
When sexual immorality and foreign religious practices threatened Israel at this time, Moses took decisive action (Num 31:1-54). He also conducted a census, for the double purpose of determining Israel’s military strength for the attack on Canaan and making arrangements for the division of the land (Num 26:1-2,54-56).
Moses showed no bitterness at being refused entry into the land, but was concerned only that Israel have a godly leader (Num 27:12-17; cf. Deu 3:23-28). That leader was to be Joshua, though Joshua would not have the absolute authority that Moses had. Civil and religious leadership were to be separated. Joshua would not, like Moses, speak with God face to face, but would receive God’s instructions through the high priest (Num 27:18-21; cf. Deu 31:7-8,14,23; 34:9-12).
During the remaining weeks before he died, Moses repeated the law for the sake of the new generation that had grown up since the first giving of the law at Sinai. This teaching, recorded in the book of Deuteronomy, was in the style of the preacher rather than the lawgiver. It was an exposition of the law rather than a straight repetition (Deu 10:12-22; see DEUTERONOMY).
Moses was a prophet, one who brought God’s message to the people of his time, and this was well demonstrated in his final messages to his people (Deu 18:18; cf. 6:1-9). He wanted the people to remind themselves constantly of the law’s requirements by memorizing a song he had written for them (Deu 31:30; 32:44-46) and by conducting periodic readings of the law (Deu 31:10-12).
Shortly before he died, Moses announced his prophetic blessings on the various tribes of Israel (Deu 33:1-29). According to the permission God had given him earlier, Moses then climbed the peak (Pisgah) of Mt Nebo in the Abarim Range to view the magnificent land his people were to possess. He died at the age of 120 and was buried in the territory east of Jordan (Deu 34:1-8).
Throughout his time as Israel’s leader, Moses was busy as a writer. When Israel escaped from Egypt, he wrote a song celebrating the overthrow of the enemy at the Red Sea (Exo 15:1), and he recorded Israel’s subsequent conflict with Amalek (Exo 17:14). In the initial covenant ceremony at Sinai, he wrote God’s commandments in a book (Exo 24:4), and added further writings when the covenant was renewed a few weeks later (Exo 34:27). He kept a full record of the stages of Israel’s journey from Egypt to Canaan (Num 33:1-2).
When he repeated and expounded the law for the new generation that was about to enter Canaan, Moses recorded his teaching in a book, which was then kept safely inside the tabernacle (Deu 31:9,24-25). At this time he also wrote a song (Deu 31:22,30). Another song credited to him has been collected in the book of Psalms (Ps 90).
From the time of Israel’s settlement in Canaan, people regarded Moses as the writer of the law (Jos 8:31; 2Ch 34:14; Neh 8:1; Mar 12:19,26). Over the years it became common practice to use the name ‘Moses’ as a title for Israel’s law in general (Luk 5:14; Act 6:11,13; 15:1), and as an overall title for the first five books of the Bible (Luk 16:31; 24:27; Joh 5:46-47; Act 15:21; 26:22; 28:23; see PENTATEUCH). In fact, Moses symbolized all that the old covenant represented in the purposes of God. His greatness in Israel was unchallenged.
Great though Moses was, he was but a servant in God’s vast household. He fulfilled his duty by helping to prepare the way for one who was God’s Son and the world’s Saviour (Mar 9:4-8; Heb 3:2-6).
The name of the illustrious prophet and legislator of the Hebrews, who led them from Egypt to the Promised Land. Having been originally imposed by a native Egyptian princess, the word is no doubt Egyptian in its origin, and Josephus gives its true derivation—from the two Egyptian words, MO, water, and USE, saved. With this accords the Septuagint form, MOUSES. The Hebrews by a slight change accommodated it to their own language, as they did also in the case of some other foreign words; calling it MOSHIE, from the verb MASHA, to draw. See Ex 2:10. Moses was born about 15.71 B. C., the son of Amram and Jochebed, of the tribe of Levi, and the younger brother of Miriam and Aaron. His history is too extensive to permit insertion here, and in general too well known to need it. It is enough simply to remark, that it is divided into three periods, each of forty years. The first extends from his infancy, when he was exposed in the Nile, and found and adopted y the daughter of Pharaoh, to his flight to Midian.
During this time he lived at the Egyptian court, and “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was nightly in words and in deeds,” Ac 7:22. This is no unmeaning praise; the “wisdom” of the Egyptians, and especially of their priests, was then the profoundest in the world. The second period was from his flight till his return to Egypt, Ac 7:30, during the whole of which interval he appears to have lived in Midian, it may be much after the manner of the Bedaween sheikhs of the present day. Here he married Zipporah, daughter of the wise and pious Jethro, and became familiar with life in the desert. What a contrast between the former period, spent amid the splendors and learning of a court, and this lonely nomadic life. Still it was in this way that God prepared him to be the instrument of deliverance to His people during the third period of his life, which extends from the exodus out of Egypt to his death on mount Nebo. In this interval how much did he accomplish, as the immediate agent of the Most High.
The life and institutions of Moses present one of the finest subjects for the pen of a Christian historian, who is at the same time a competent biblical antiquary. His institutions breathe a spirit of freedom, purity, intelligence, justice, and humanity, elsewhere unknown; and above all, of supreme love, honor, and obedience to God.
They molded the character of the Hebrews, and transformed them from a nation of shepherds into a people of fixed residence and agricultural habits. Through that people, and through the Bible, the influence of these institutions has been extended over the world; and often where the letter has not been observed, the spirit of them has been adopted. Thus it was in the laws established by the pilgrim fathers of New England; and no small part of what is of most value in the institutions which they founded, is to be ascribed to the influence of the Hebrew legislator.
The name of this servant of God occurs repeatedly in Greek and Latin writings, and still more frequently in those of the Arabs and the rabbinical Jews. Many of their statements, however, are mere legends without foundation, or else distortions of the Scripture narrative. By the Jews he has always been especially honored, as the most illustrious personage in all their annals, and as the founder of their whole system of laws and institutions. Numerous passages both in the Old and New Testament show how exalted a position they gave him, Ps 103:7; 105:26; 106:16; Isa 63:12 Jer 15:1 Da 9:11 Mt 8:4 Joh 5:45; 9:28; Ac 7:20, 37 Ro 10:5, 19 Heb 3:1-19; 11:23.
In all that he wrought and taught, he was but the agent of the Most High; and yet in all his own character stands honorably revealed. Though naturally liable to anger and impatience, he so far subdued himself as to be termed the meekest of men, Nu 12:3; and his piety, humility, and forbearance, the wisdom and vigor of his administration, his unfailing zeal and faith in God, and his disinterested patriotism are worthy of all imitation. Many features of his character and life furnish admirable illustrations of the work of Christ—as the deliver, ruler, and guide of his people, bearing them on his heart, interceding for them, rescuing, teaching, and nourishing them even to the promised land. All the religious institutions of Moses pointed to Christ; and he himself, on the mount, two thousand years after his death, paid his homage to the Prophet he had foretold, De 18:15-19, beheld “that goodly mountain and Lebanon,” De 3:25, and was admitted to commune with the Savior on the most glorious of themes, the death He should accomplish at Jerusalem, Lu 9:31.
Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, as it is called, or the first five books of the Bible. In the composition of them he was probably assisted by Aaron, who kept a register of public transactions, Ex 17:14; 24:4, 7; 34:27 Nu 33:1, 2 De 31:24, etc. Some things were added by a later inspired hand; as for example, De 34:1-12 Ps 90:1-17 also is ascribed to him; and its noble and devout sentiments acquire a new significance, if received as from his pen near the close of his pilgrimage.
drawn (or Egypt. mesu, “son;” hence Rameses, royal son). On the invitation of Pharaoh (Gen. 45:17-25), Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt. This immigration took place probably about 350 years before the birth of Moses. Some centuries before Joseph, Egypt had been conquered by a pastoral Semitic race from Asia, the Hyksos, who brought into cruel subjection the native Egyptians, who were an African race. Jacob and his retinue were accustomed to a shepherd’s life, and on their arrival in Egypt were received with favour by the king, who assigned them the “best of the land”, the land of Goshen, to dwell in. The Hyksos or “shepherd” king who thus showed favour to Joseph and his family was in all probability the Pharaoh Apopi (or Apopis).
Thus favoured, the Israelites began to “multiply exceedingly” (Gen. 47:27), and extended to the west and south. At length the supremacy of the Hyksos came to an end. The descendants of Jacob were allowed to retain their possession of Goshen undisturbed, but after the death of Joseph their position was not so favourable. The Egyptians began to despise them, and the period of their “affliction” (Gen. 15:13) commenced. They were sorely oppressed. They continued, however, to increase in numbers, and “the land was filled with them” (Ex. 1:7). The native Egyptians regarded them with suspicion, so that they felt all the hardship of a struggle for existence.
In process of time “a king [probably Seti I.] arose who knew not Joseph” (Ex. 1:8). (See PHARAOH) The circumstances of the country were such that this king thought it necessary to weaken his Israelite subjects by oppressing them, and by degrees reducing their number. They were accordingly made public slaves, and were employed in connection with his numerous buildings, especially in the erection of store-cities, temples, and palaces. The children of Israel were made to serve with rigour. Their lives were made bitter with hard bondage, and “all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour” (Ex. 1:13, 14). But this cruel oppression had not the result expected of reducing their number. On the contrary, “the more the Egyptians afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” (Ex. 1:12).
The king next tried, through a compact secretly made with the guild of midwives, to bring about the destruction of all the Hebrew male children that might be born. But the king’s wish was not rigorously enforced; the male children were spared by the midwives, so that “the people multiplied” more than ever. Thus baffled, the king issued a public proclamation calling on the people to put to death all the Hebrew male children by casting them into the river (Ex. 1:22). But neither by this edict was the king’s purpose effected.
One of the Hebrew households into which this cruel edict of the king brought great alarm was that of Amram, of the family of the Kohathites (Ex. 6:16-20), who with his wife Jochebed and two children, Miriam, a girl of perhaps fifteen years of age, and Aaron, a boy of three years, resided in or near Memphis, the capital city of that time. In this quiet home a male child was born (B.C. 1571). His mother concealed him in the house for three months from the knowledge of the civic authorities. But when the task of concealment became difficult, Jochebed contrived to bring her child under the notice of the daughter of the king by constructing for him an ark of bulrushes, which she laid among the flags which grew on the edge of the river at the spot where the princess was wont to come down and bathe. Her plan was successful. The king’s daughter “saw the child; and behold the child wept.” The princess (See PHARAOH’S DAUGHTER ) sent Miriam, who was standing by, to fetch a nurse. She went and brought the mother of the child, to whom the princess said, “Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.” Thus Jochebed’s child, whom the princess called “Moses”, i.e., “Saved from the water” (Ex. 2:10), was ultimately restored to her.
As soon as the natural time for weaning the child had come, he was transferred from the humble abode of his father to the royal palace, where he was brought up as the adopted son of the princess, his mother probably accompanying him and caring still for him. He grew up amid all the grandeur and excitement of the Egyptian court, maintaining, however, probably a constant fellowship with his mother, which was of the highest importance as to his religious belief and his interest in his “brethren.” His education would doubtless be carefully attended to, and he would enjoy all the advantages of training both as to his body and his mind. He at length became “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Egypt had then two chief seats of learning, or universities, at one of which, probably that of Heliopolis, his education was completed. Moses, being now about twenty years of age, spent over twenty more before he came into prominence in Bible history. These twenty years were probably spent in military service. There is a tradition recorded by Josephus that he took a lead in the war which was then waged between Egypt and Ethiopia, in which he gained renown as a skilful general, and became “mighty in deeds” (Acts 7:22).
After the termination of the war in Ethiopia, Moses returned to the Egyptian court, where he might reasonably have expected to be loaded with honours and enriched with wealth. But “beneath the smooth current of his life hitherto, a life of alternate luxury at the court and comparative hardness in the camp and in the discharge of his military duties, there had lurked from childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood, a secret discontent, perhaps a secret ambition. Moses, amid all his Egyptian surroundings, had never forgotten, had never wished to forget, that he was a Hebrew.” He now resolved to make himself acquainted with the condition of his countrymen, and “went out unto his brethren, and looked upon their burdens” (Ex. 2:11). This tour of inspection revealed to him the cruel oppression and bondage under which they everywhere groaned, and could not fail to press on him the serious consideration of his duty regarding them. The time had arrived for his making common cause with them, that he might thereby help to break their yoke of bondage. He made his choice accordingly (Heb. 11:25-27), assured that God would bless his resolution for the welfare of his people. He now left the palace of the king and took up his abode, probably in his father’s house, as one of the Hebrew people who had for forty years been suffering cruel wrong at the hands of the Egyptians.
He could not remain indifferent to the state of things around him, and going out one day among the people, his indignation was roused against an Egyptian who was maltreating a Hebrew. He rashly lifted up his hand and slew the Egyptian, and hid his body in the sand. Next day he went out again and found two Hebrews striving together. He speedily found that the deed of the previous day was known. It reached the ears of Pharaoh (the “great Rameses,” Rameses II.), who “sought to slay Moses” (Ex. 2:15). Moved by fear, Moses fled from Egypt, and betook himself to the land of Midian, the southern part of the peninsula of Sinai, probably by much the same route as that by which, forty years afterwards, he led the Israelites to Sinai. He was providentially led to find a new home with the family of Reuel, where he remained for forty years (Acts 7:30), under training unconsciously for his great life’s work.
Suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush (Ex. 3), and commissioned him to go down to Egypt and “bring forth the children of Israel” out of bondage. He was at first unwilling to go, but at length he was obedient to the heavenly vision, and left the land of Midian (4:18-26). On the way he was met by Aaron (q.v.) and the elders of Israel (27-31). He and Aaron had a hard task before them; but the Lord was with them (ch. 7-12), and the ransomed host went forth in triumph. (See EXODUS) After an eventful journey to and fro in the wilderness, we See them at length encamped in the plains of Moab, ready to cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land. There Moses addressed the assembled elders (Deut. 1:1-4; 5:1-26:19; 27:11-30:20), and gives the people his last counsels, and then rehearses the great song (Deut. 32), clothing in fitting words the deep emotions of his heart at such a time, and in review of such a marvellous history as that in which he had acted so conspicious a part. Then, after blessing the tribes (33), he ascends to “the mountain of Nebo (q.v.), to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho” (34:1), and from thence he surveys the land. “Jehovah shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar” (Deut. 34:2-3), the magnificient inheritance of the tribes of whom he had been so long the leader; and there he died, being one hundred and twenty years old, according to the word of the Lord, and was buried by the Lord “in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor” (34:6). The people mourned for him during thirty days.
Thus died “Moses the man of God” (Deut. 33:1; Josh. 14:6). He was distinguished for his meekness and patience and firmness, and “he endured as See ing him who is invisible.” “There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel” (Deut. 34:10-12).
The name of Moses occurs frequently in the Psalms and Prophets as the chief of the prophets.
In the New Testament he is referred to as the representative of the law and as a type of Christ (John 1:17; 2 Cor. 3:13-18; Heb. 3:5, 6). Moses is the only character in the Old Testament to whom Christ likens himself (John 5:46; comp. Deut. 18:15, 18, 19; Acts 7:37). In Heb. 3:1-19 this likeness to Moses is set forth in various particulars.
In Jude 1:9 mention is made of a contention between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses. This dispute is supposed to have had reference to the concealment of the body of Moses so as to prevent idolatry.
(See AARON; EGYPT; EXODUS) Hebrew Mosheh, from an Egyptian root, “son” or “brought forth,” namely, out of the water. The name was also borne by an Egyptian prince, viceroy of Nubia under the 19th dynasty. In the part of the Exodus narrative which deals with Egypt, words are used purely Egyptian or common to Hebrew and Egyptian. Manetho in Josephus (contrast Apion 1:26, 28, 31) calls him Osarsiph, i.e. “sword of Osiris or saved by Osiris”. “The man of God” in the title Psalm 90, for as Moses gave in the Pentateuch the key note to all succeeding prophets so also to inspired psalmody in that the oldest psalm. “Jehovah’s slave” (Num 12:7; Deu 34:5; Jos 1:2; Psa 105:26; Heb 3:5). “Jehovah’s chosen” (Psa 106:23). “The man of God” (1Ch 23:14). Besides the Pentateuch, the Prophets and Psalms and New Testament (Act 7:9; Act 7:20-38; 2Ti 3:8-9; Heb 11:20-28; Jud 1:9) give details concerning him. His Egyptian rearing and life occupy 40 years, his exile in the Arabian desert 40, and his leadership of Israel from Egypt to Moab 40 (Act 7:23; Act 7:30; Act 7:36).
Son of Amram (a later one than Kohath’s father) and Jochebed (whose name, derived from Jehovah, shows the family hereditary devotion); Miriam, married to Hur, was oldest; Aaron, married to Elisheba, three years older (Exo 7:7, compare Exo 2:7); next Moses, youngest. (See AMRAM; MIRIAM) By Zipporah, Reuel’s daughter, he had two sons: Gershom, father of Jonathan, and Eliezer (1Ch 23:14-15); these took no prominent place in their tribe. A mark of genuineness; a forger would have made them prominent. Moses showed no self-seeking or nepotism. His tribe Levi was the priestly one, and naturally rallied round him in support of the truth with characteristic enthusiasm (Exo 32:27-28). Born at Heliopolis (Josephus, Ap. 1:9, 6; 2:9), at the time of Israel’s deepest depression, from whence the proverb, “when the tale of bricks is doubled then comes Moses.”
Magicians foretold to Pharaoh his birth as a destroyer; a dream announced to Amram his coming as the deliverer (Josephus, Ant. 2:9, section 2-3).
Some prophecies probably accompanied his birth. These explain the parents’ “faith” which laid hold of God’s promise contained in those prophecies; the parents took his good looks as a pledge of the fulfillment. Heb 11:23, “by faith Moses when he was born was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper (good-looking: Act 7:20, Greek ‘fair to God’) child, and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment” to slay all the males. For three months Jochebed hid him. Then she placed him in an ark of papyrus, secured with bitumen, and laid it in the “flags” (tufi, less in size than the other papyrus) by the river’s brink, and went away unable to bear longer the sight. (H. F. Talbot Transact. Bibl. Archrael., i., pt. 9, translates a fragment of Assyrian mythology: “I am Sargina the great king, king of Agani. My mother gave birth to me in a secret place. She placed me in an ark of bulrushes and closed up the door with slime and pitch. She cast me into the river,” etc. A curious parallel.) Miriam lingered to watch what would happen.
Pharaoh’s daughter (holding an independent position and separate household under the ancient empire; childless herself, therefore ready to adopt Moses; Thermutis according to Josephus) coming down to bathe in the sacred and life giving Nile (as it was regarded) saw the ark and sent her maidens to fetch it. The babe’s tears touched her womanly heart, and on Miriam’s offer to fetch a Hebrew nurse she gave the order enabling his sister to call his mother. Tunis (now San), Zoan, or Avaris near the sea was the place, where crocodiles are never found; and so the infant would run no risk in that respect. Aahmes I, the expeller of the shepherd kings, had taken it. Here best the Pharaohs could repel the attacks of Asiatic nomads and crush the Israelite serfs. “The field of Zoan” was the scene of God’s miracles in Israel’s behalf (Psa 78:43). She adopted Moses as “her son, and trained him “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” Providence thus qualifying him with the erudition needed for the predestined leader and instructor of Israel, and “he was mighty in words and in deeds.”
This last may hint at what Josephus states, namely, that Moses led a successful campaign against Ethiopia, and named Saba the capital Meroe (Artapanus in Eusebius 9:27), from his adopted mother Merrhis, and brought away as his wife Tharbis daughter of the Ethiopian king, who falling in love with him had shown him the way to gain the swamp surrounding the city (Josephus Ant. 2:10, section 2; compare Num 12:1). However, his marriage to the Ethiopian must have been at a later period than Josephus states, namely, after Zipporah’s death in the wilderness wanderings. An inscription by Thothmes I, who reigned in Moses’ early life, commemorates the “conqueror of the nine bows,” i.e. Libya. A statistical tablet of Karnak (Birch says) states that Chebron and Thothmes I overran Ethiopia. Moses may have continued the war and in it wrought the “mighty deeds” ascribed to him.
When Moses was 40 years old, in no fit of youthful enthusiasm but deliberately, Moses “chose” (Heb 11:23-28) what are the last things men choose, loss of social status as son of Pharaoh’s daughter, “affliction,” and “reproach.” Faith made him prefer the “adoption” of the King of kings. He felt the worst of religion is better than the best of the world; if the world offers “pleasure” it is but “for a season.” Contrast Esau (Heb 12:16-17). If religion brings “affliction” it too is but for a season, its pleasures are “forevermore at God’s right hand” (Psa 16:11). Israel’s “reproach” “Christ” regards as His own (2Co 1:5; Col 1:24), it will soon be the true Israel’s glory (Isa 25:8). “Moses had respect unto” (Greek apeblepen), or turned his eyes from all worldly considerations to fix them on, the eternal “recompense.” His “going out unto his brethren when he was grown and looking on their burdens” was his open declaration of his taking his portion with the oppressed serfs on the ground of their adoption by God and inheritance of the promises.
“It came into his heart (from God’s Spirit, Pro 16:1) to visit his brethren, the children of Israel” (Act 7:23). An Egyptian overseer, armed probably with one of the long heavy scourges of tough pliant Syrian wood (Chabas’ “Voyage du Egyptien,” 119, 136), was smiting an Hebrew, one of those with whom Moses identified himself as his “brethren.” Giving way to impulsive hastiness under provocation, without regard to self when wrong was done to a brother, Moses took the law into his own hands, and slew and hid the Egyptian in the sand. Stephen (Act 7:25; Act 7:35) implies that Moses meant by the act to awaken in the Hebrew a thirst for the freedom and nationality which God had promised and to offer himself as their deliverer. But on his striving to reconcile two quarreling Hebrew the wrong doer, when reproved, replied: “who made thee a prince (with the power) and a judge (with the right of interfering) over us? (Luk 19:14, the Antitype.) Intendest thou to kill me as thou killedst the Egyptian?”
Slavery had debased them, and Moses dispirited gave up as hopeless the enterprise which he had undertaken in too hasty and self-relying a spirit. His impetuous violence retarded instead of expedited their deliverance. He still needed 40 more years of discipline, in meek self-control and humble dependence on Jehovah, in order to qualify him for his appointed work. A proof of the genuineness of the Pentateuch is the absence of personal details which later tradition would have been sure to give. Moses’ object was not a personal biography but a history of God’s dealings with Israel. Pharaoh, on hearing of his killing the Egyptian overseer, “sought to slay him,” a phrase implying that Moses’ high position made necessary special measures to bring him under the king’s power. Moses fled, leaving his exalted prospects to wait God’s time and God’s way. Epistle to the Hebrew (Heb 11:27) writes, “by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king.” Moses “feared” (Exo 2:14-15) lest by staying he should sacrifice his divinely intimated destiny to be Israel’s deliverer, which was his great aim.
But he did “not fear” the king’s wrath which would be aggravated by his fleeing without Pharaoh’s leave. He did “not fear the king” so as to shrink from returning at all risks when God commanded. “Faith” God saw to be the ruling motive of his flight more than fear of personal safety; “he endured as seeing (through faith) Him who is invisible” (Luk 12:4-5). Despondency, when commissioned at last by God to arouse the people, was his first feeling on his return, from past disappointment in not having been able to inspire Israel with those high hopes for which he had sacrificed all earthly prospects (Exo 3:15; Exo 4:1; Exo 4:10-12). He dwells not on Pharaoh’s cruelty and power, but on the hopelessness of his appeals to Israel and on his want of the “eloquence” needed to move their stubborn hearts. He fled from Egypt to southern Midian because Reuel (his name “friend of God” implies he worshipped EL) or Raguel there still maintained the worship of the true God as king-priest or imam (Arabic version) before Israel’s call, even as Melchizedek did at Jerusalem before Abraham’s call.
The northern people of Midian through contact with Canaan were already idolaters. Reuel’s daughters, in telling of Moses’ help to them in watering their flocks, called him “an Egyptian,” judging from his costume and language, for he had not yet been long enough living with Israelites to be known as one; an undesigned coincidence and mark of genuineness. Moses “was content to live with Reuel” as in a congenial home, marrying Zipporah his daughter. From him probably Moses learned the traditions of Abraham’s family in connection with Keturah (Gen 25:2). Zipporah bore him Gershom and Eliezer whose names (“stranger,” “God is my help”) intimate how keenly he felt his exile (Exo 18:3-4). The alliance between Israel and the Kenite Midianites continued permanently. Horab, Moses’ brother-in-law, was subsequently Israel’s guide through the desert. (See HOBAB) In the 40 years’ retirement Moses learned that self discipline which was needed for leading a nation under such unparalleled circumstances.
An interval of solitude is needed especially by men of fervor and vehemence; so Paul in Arabia (Act 24:27; Gal 1:17). He who first attempted the great undertaking without God’s call, expecting success from his own powers, in the end never undertook anything without God’s guidance. His hasty impetuosity of spirit in a right cause, and his abandonment of that cause as hopeless on the first rebuff, gave place to a meekness, patience, tenderness, long suffering under wearing provocation and trials from the stiff-necked people, and persevering endurance, never surpassed (Num 12:3; Num 27:16). To appreciate this meekness, e.g. under Miriam’s provocation, and apparent insensibility where his own honor alone was concerned, contrast his vigorous action, holy boldness for the Lord’s honor, and passionate earnestness of intercession for his people, even to the verge of unlawful excess, in self sacrifice. (See MIRIAM; ANATHEMA) He would not “let God alone,” “standing before God in the breach to turn away His wrath” from Israel (Psa 106:23).
His intercessions restored Miriam, stayed plagues and serpents, and procured water out of the rock (Exo 32:10-11; Exo 32:20-25, Exo 32:31-32). His was the reverse of a phlegmatic temper, but divine grace subdued and sanctified the natural defects of a man of strong feelings and impetuous character. His entire freedom from Miriam’s charge of unduly exalting his office appears beautifully in his gentle reproof of Joshua’s zeal for his honor: “enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” etc. (Num 11:29.) His recording his own praises (Num 12:3-7) is as much the part of the faithful servant of Jehovah, writing under His inspiration, as his recording his own demerits (Exo 2:12; Exo 3:11; Exo 4:10-14; Num 20:10-12). Instead of vindicating himself in the case of Korah (Numbers 16) and Miriam (Numbers 12) he leaves his cause with God, and tenderly intercedes for Miriam. He is linked with Samuel in after ages as an instance of the power of intercessory prayer (Jer 15:1).
He might have established his dynasty over Israel, but he assumed no princely honor and sought no preeminence for his sons (Deu 9:13-19). The spiritual progress in Moses between his first appearance and his second is very marked. The same spirit prompted him to avenge his injured countryman, and to rescue the Midianite women from the shepherds’ violence, as afterward led him to confront Pharaoh; but in the first instance he was an illustration of the truth that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jam 1:20). The traditional site of his call by the divine “Angel of Jehovah” (the uncreated Shekinah, “the Word” of John 1, “the form like the Son of God” with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace, Dan 3:25) is in the valley of Shoayb or Hobab, on the northern side of jebel Musa. Moses led Jethro’s flock to the W. (“the back side”) of the desert or open pasture. The district of Sherim on the Red Sea, Jethro’s abode, was barren; four days N.W. of it lies the Sinai region with good pasturage and water.
He came to “the mountain of God” (Sinai, called so by anticipation of God’s giving the law there) on his way toward Horeb. The altar of Catherine’s convent is said to occupy the site of the (the article is in the Hebrew,: the well known) burning bush. The vision is generally made to typify Israel afflicted yet not consumed (2Co 4:8-10); but the flame was in the bush, not the bush in the flame; rather, Israel was the lowly acacia, the thorn bush of the desert, yet God deigned to abide in the midst of her (Zec 2:5). So Israel’s Antitype, Messiah, has “all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily” (Joh 1:14; Col 2:9). Jehovah gave Moses two signs as credentials to assure him of his mission: the transformation of his long “rod” of authority (as on Egyptian monuments) or pastoral rod into a “serpent,” the basilisk or cobra, the symbol of royal and divine power on the Pharaoh’s diadem; a pledge of victory over the king and gods of Egypt (compare Mar 16:18; Moses’ humble but wonder working crook typifies Christ’s despised but allpowerful cross). (On Zipporah’s [see] CIRCUMCISION of her son.)
The hand made leprous, then restored, represents the nation of lepers (as Egyptian tradition made them, and as spiritually they had become in Egypt) with whom Moses linked himself, divinely healed through his instrumentality. No patriarch before wrought a miracle. Had the Pentateuch been mythical, it would have attributed supernatural wonders to the first fathers of the church and founders of the race. As it is, Moses first begins the new era in the history of the world with signs from God by man unknown before. To Moses’ disinterested and humble pleadings of inability to speak, and desire that some other should be sent, Jehovah answers: “Aaron shall be thy spokesman … even he shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.” Aaron, when he heard of Moses leaving Midian, of his own accord went to meet him; Jehovah further directed him what way to go in order to meet him, namely, by the desert (Exo 4:14; Exo 4:27). The two meeting and kissing on the mountain of God typify the law and the sacrificing priesthood meeting in Christ (Exo 4:27; Psa 85:10).
Nothing short of divine interposition could have enabled Moses to lead an unwarlike people of serfs out of a powerful nation like Egypt, to give them the law with their acceptance of it though so contrary to their corrupt inclinations, to keep them together for 40 years in the wilderness, and finally to lead them to their conquest of the eastern part of Canaan. Moses had neither eloquence nor military prowess (as appears Exo 4:10; Exo 17:8-12), qualities so needful for an ordinary popular leader. He had passed in rural life the 40 years constituting the prime of his vigor. He had seemingly long given up all hopes of being Israel’s deliverer, and settled himself in Midian. Nothing but God’s extraordinary call could have urged him, against his judgment, reluctantly at fourscore to resume the project of rousing a debased people which in the rigor of manhood he had been forced to give up as hopeless. Nothing but such plagues as Scripture records could have induced the most powerful monarchy then in the world to allow their unarmed serfs to pass away voluntarily.
His first efforts only aggravated Pharaoh’s oppression and Israel’s bondage (Exo 5:2-9). Nor could magical feats derived from Egyptian education have enabled Moses to gain his point, for he was watched and opposed by the masters of this art, who had the king and the state on their side, while Moses had not a single associate save Aaron. Yet in a few months, without Israel’s drawing sword, Pharaoh and the Egyptians urge their departure, and Israel “demands” (not “borrows,” shaal) as a right from their former masters, and receives, gold, silver, and jewels (Exo 12:85-39). Not even does Moses lead them the way of Philistia which, as being near, wisdom would suggest, but knowing their unwarlike character avoids it; Moses guides them into a defile with mountains on either side and the Red Sea in front, from whence escape from the Egyptian disciplined pursuers, who repented of letting them go, seemed hopeless, especially as Israel consisted of spiritless men, encumbered with women and with children.
Nothing but the miracle recorded can account for the issue; Egypt’s king and splendid host perish in the waters, Israel passes through in triumph (Exo 13:17; Exo 14:3; Exo 14:5; Exo 14:9; Exo 14:11-12; Exo 14:14). Again Moses with undoubting assurance of success on the borders of Canaan tells Israel “go up and possess the land” (Deu 1:20-21). By the people’s desire spies searched the land; they reported the goodness of the land but yet more the strength and tallness of its inhabitants. The timid Israelites were daunted, and even proposed to stone the two faithful spies, to depose Moses, and choose a captain to lead them back to Egypt. Moses, instead of animating them to enter Canaan, now will neither suffer them to proceed, nor yet to return to Egypt; they must march and counter-march in the wilderness for 40 years until every adult but two shall have perished; but their little ones, who they said should be a prey, God will bring in. Only a divine direction, manifested with miracle, can account for such an unparalleled command and for its being obeyed by so disobedient a people.
Too late they repented of their unbelieving cowardice, when Moses announced God’s sentence, and in spite of Moses’ warning presumed to go, but were chased by the Amalekites to Hormah (Deu 1:45-46; Deu 2:14; Num 14:39). The sustenance of 600,000 men besides women and children, 40 years, in a comparative desert could only be by miracle; as the Pentateuch records, they were fed with manna from heaven until they ate the grain of Canaan, on the morrow after which the manna ceased (Exodus 16; Jos 5:12). Graves, Pentateuch, 1:1, section 5. Aaron and Hur supported Moses in the battle with Amalek (Exo 17:12); Joshua was his minister. The localities of the desert commemorate his name, “the wells of Moses,” Ayun Moses on the Red Sea, jebel Musa, the mountain of Moses, and the ravine of Moses near the Catherine convent. At once the prophet (foremost and greatest, Deu 34:10-11), lawgiver, and leader of Israel, Moses typifies and resembles Messiah (Num 21:18; Deu 33:21; especially Deu 18:15-19, compare Act 3:22; Act 7:37; Act 7:25; Act 7:35; Joh 1:17).
Israel’s rejection of Moses prefigures their rejection of Christ. His mediatorship in giving the law answers to Christ’s; also Exo 17:11; Exo 32:10-14; Exo 32:31-34; Exo 33:18-16; Gal 3:19, compare 1Ti 2:5. Moses was the only prophet to whom Jehovah spoke “face to face,” “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exo 33:11; Num 12:8; Deu 34:10): so at Horeb (Exo 33:18-23); compare as to Christ Joh 1:18. For the contrast between “Christ the Son over His own house” and “Moses the servant faithful in all God’s house” see Heb 3:1-6. Pharaoh’s murder of the innocents answers to Herod’s; Christ like Moses sojourned in Egypt, His 40 days’ fast answers to that of Moses. Moses stands at the head of the legal dispensation, so that Israel is said to have been “baptized unto Moses” (initiated into the Mosaic covenant) as Christians are into Christ.
Moses after the calf worship removed the temporary tabernacle (preparatory to the permanent one, subsequently described) outside the camp; and as he disappeared in this “tent of meeting” (rather than “tabernacle of congregation”) the people wistfully gazed after him (Exo 33:7-10). On his last descent from Sinai “his face shone”; and he put on a veil as the people “could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away,” a type of the transitory dispensation which he represented, in contrast to the abiding Christian dispensation (Exo 34:30; Exo 34:38; 2Co 3:13-14; 2Co 3:7; 2Co 3:11). “They were afraid to come nigh him”: Alford’s explanation based on the Septuagint is disproved by Exo 34:30; 2Co 3:7, namely, that Moses not until he had done speaking to the people put on the veil “that they might not look on the end (the fading) of his transitory glory.” Paul implies, “Moses put on the veil that (God’s judicial giving them up to their willful blindness: Isa 6:10; Act 28:26-27) they might not look steadfastly at (Christ, Rom 10:4; the Spirit, 2Co 3:17) the end of that (law in its mere letter) which (like Moses’ glory) is done away.”
The evangelical glory of Moses’ law, like the shining of Moses’ face, cannot be borne by a carnal people, and therefore remains veiled to them until the Spirit takes away the veil (2 Corinthians 14-17; Joh 5:45-47). There is a coincidence between the song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32; 33) and his Psalm 90; thus Deu 33:27 compare Psa 90:1; Psa 32:4; Psa 32:36 with Psa 90:13; Psa 90:16. The time of the psalm was probably toward the close of the 40 years’ wandering in the desert. The people after long chastisement beg mercy (Psa 90:15-17). The limitation of life to 70 or 80 years harmonizes with the dying of all that generation at about that age; 20 to 40 at the Exodus, to which the 40 in the wilderness being added make 60 to 80. Kimchi says the older rabbis ascribed Psalm 91 also to Moses Israel’s exemption from Egypt’s plagues, especially the death stroke on the firstborn, which surrounded but did not touch God’s people, in Exo 8:22; Exo 10:28; Exo 11:7; Exo 12:23, corresponds to Psa 91:3-10.
His song in Exodus 15 abounds in incidents marked by the freshness and simplicity which we should expect from an eye-witness: he anticipates the dismay of the Philistines and Edomites through whose territories Israel’s path lay to the promised land. The final song (Deuteronomy 32) and blessing (Deuteronomy 33) have the same characteristics. These songs gave atone to Israel’s poetry in each succeeding age. They are the earnest of the church’s final “song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” (Rev 15:3), the song which shall unite in triumph the Old Testament church and the New Testament church, after their conflicts shall have been past. Like the Antitype, his parting word was blessing (Deu 33:29; Luk 24:51). His exclusion from Canaan teaches symbolically the law cannot bring us into the heavenly Canaan, the antitypical Joshua must do that. Two months before his death (Numbers 31), just before his closing addresses, the successful expedition, by God’s command to Moses, against Midian was undertaken.
Preparatory to that expedition was the census and mustering of the tribes on the plains of Moab (Numbers 26). The numbers were taken according to the families, so as equitably to allot the land. Moses among his last acts wrote the law and delivered it to the priests to be put in the side of the ark for a witness against Israel (Deu 31:9-12; Deu 31:22-27) and gave a charge to Joshua. In Exo 24:12 “I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and the commandment” (Hebrew), the reference is to the ten commandments on the two stone tables, the Pentateuch “law,” and the ceremonial commandment. However, Knobel translated it as “the tables of stone with the law, even the commandment.” His death accorded with his life. He was sentenced (for “unbelievingly not sanctifying the Lord” and “speaking unadvisedly with his lips,” to the people, though told to address the rock, in a harsh unsympathetic spirit which God calls rebellion, Num 20:8-13; Num 27:14, through the people’s “provocation of his spirit,” his original infirmity of a hasty impetuous temper recurring) to see yet not enter the good land.
Meekly submitting to the stroke, he thought to the last only of God’s glory and Israel’s good, not of self: “let Jehovah, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation” (Num 27:12-16). Yet how earnestly he had longed to go over into the good land appears in Deu 3:24-27. Ascending to Nebo, a height on the western slope of the range of Pisgah, so-called from a neighboring town, he was showed by Jehovah “all Gilead unto Dan, Naphtali, Ephraim, Manasseh, all Judah, unto the Mediterranean, the S. and the plain of Jericho unto Zoar” (N. according to Tristram, rather S. of the Dead Sea); like Christ’s view of the world kingdoms (Luk 4:5), it was supernatural, effected probably by an extraordinary intensification of Moses’ powers of vision. (See ZOAR)
Then he died there “according to the word of Jehovah,” Hebrew “on the mouth of Jehovah,” which the rabbis explain “by a kiss of the Lord” (Son 1:2); but Gen 45:21 margin supports KJV (compare Deu 32:51.) Buried by Jehovah himself in a valley in Moab over against Bethpeor, Moses was probably translated soon after; for he afterward appears with the translated Elijah and Jesus at the transfiguration, when the law and the prophets in Moses’ and Elijah’s persons gave place to the Son whose servants and fore witnesses they had been: “hear ye Him” answers to “unto Him ye shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18; Mat 17:1-10; compare Jud 1:9). His sepulchre therefore could not be found by man.
The term “decease,” Exodus, found in Luk 9:31, and with the undesigned coincidence of truth repeated by Peter an eye-witness of the transfiguration (2Pe 1:15), was suggested by the Exodus from Egypt, the type of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Josephus (Ant. 4:8) thought God hid Moses’ body lest it should be idolized. Satan (Heb 2:14) contended with Michael, that it should not be raised again on the ground of Moses’ sin (Jud 1:9, compare Zec 3:2). “His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” before death. Israel mourned him for 30 days. The remembrance of Moses ages after shall be a reason for Jehovah’s mercy awaiting Israel (Isa 63:11).
“And had he not high honor?
The hillside for his pall,
To lie in state while angels wait,
With stars for tapers tall;
And the dark rock pines,
like tossing plumes,
Over his bier to wave,
And God’s own hand,
in that lonely land
To lay him in the grave.” – C. F. Alexander.