Moses ca. 13th century B.C.

The greatest prophet of Judaism, and an important prophet in Christianity and Islam as well. The predominant, rabbinic tradition of Judaism refers to him as Moses, our Rabbi, noting his status as the first and greatest of the teachers of that tradition. Moses’ story appears in the book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, and for Jews and Christians it is one of the most well known stories of their early religions. Ancient Egyptian records make note of him as well, giving Moses’ existence a corroboration lacking for most other Hebrew Bible figures. According to Exodus, he was born to Amram and Jochabel, members of a Hebrew tribe with a long presence in Egypt, then the greatest empire of the Near East. In order to save the infant Moses from an order from the Pharaoh (the Egyptian emperor) to kill all the firstborn sons in Hebrew families, a direct strike at their lineages, Moses’ parents hid him in a tangle of reeeds in the Nile River. There the pharaoh’s daughter found and rescued him, and he grew up within the pharaoh’s household. Moses’ name comes from this episode. It is derived from the Hebrew meshtihu, which means roughly I took him from the water. Moses eventually grew to adulthood and married. While watching over a flock of sheep, he came across a burning bush, from which God called upon him to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, to end their exile away from the land of the Canaanites (roughly Palestine) that had been promised them in the original covenant between the Hebrews and Abraham. Following numerous challenges, most notably the pharaoh’s resistance, Moses was finally able to gather the Hebrews together and lead them across a finger of the Red Sea to the Sinai Peninsula. They spent the next forty years wandering in the wilderness of that area. On the peninsula’s Mount Sinai, Moses was granted further revelations by God for, according to tradition, forty days. These revelations included the entire Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of what was later to be the Hebrew Bible, as well as the oral tradition later referred to by rabbinic Jews as the Oral Torah. For most Jews the Pentateuch is an unchanging aspect of God’s word to their people, while the Oral Torah is a source for inves- tigation and debate. Another important part of God’s revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai was the greatest symbol of a now reaffirmed covenant between God and the Jews, the Ten Commandments, inscribed on two stone tablets. It was also here that God insisted that his people worship him and no other God. Moses continued to lead the often contentious Hebrews on their wanderings until his death, at which time he named Joshua his successor. In addition to his central position among Jewish prophets, Moses is considered by Christians to have appeared at the side of Jesus during the mountaintop event known as Jesus’ transfiguration, when God revealed Jesus’ divinity to some of his disciples, an account contained in the first three of the New Testament Gospels. Muslims call him Musa and consider him one of a long line of prophets leading from Abraham to the final prophet, Muhammad. According to the Qur’an, Musa predicted the coming of Muhammad. SEE ALSO: Abraham; Exodus; JudaismAnd the Lord said: Go forth and model Moses | Watts Up With That?

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