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A Brief Early History of the Prophet Moses

Moses was born in secret to an unnamed Levite couple (Exodus 2:1-10). Because of the Egyptian decree to kill all newborn Hebrew males, the child was first hidden by his mother and then cast adrift on the Nile in a watertight container. As his sister Miriam watched a short distance away, Pharaoh's daughter found him, whereupon the sister stepped forward to suggest an appropriate nurse for the infant-none other than his natural mother. Thus the child was raised by his own mother and then returned to Pharaoh's daughter who adopted him and named him Moses, which the Bible explains as meaning "because I drew him out of the water" (Exodus 2:10).

Nothing is known of Moses's childhood. He reemerges as a young man who identified himself with his brethren, the enslaved Israelites. In an attempt to protect one of them, he killed an Egyptian and was forced to flee Egypt. He sojourned in exile in Midian (in the Arabian Peninsula), married Zipporah, a daughter of Jethro, a Midianite priest.

Apparently unprepared for his prophetic mission, Moses's attention was caught by a burning bush. Slowly his reaction changed from curiosity to awe as he realized that he was in God's presence (Exodus 3:1-6). Yet Moses was reluctant to accept the task of bringing the Israelites out of Egypt and gave a series of excuses for which God provided retorts ranging from assurances of God's help to the appointing of Aaron as Moses's assistant.

Moses finally relented and the Lord allowed miraculous signs to the Israelites and to the Egyptians to convince them of his divine commission. To convince the Israelites, Moses, when asked, said the name of God: "I am that I am" (Exodus 3:12). He was also shown a series of signs he could show to the Israelites. To try to convince the Egyptian Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, Moses changed a rod into a serpent and back to a rod again, changed the Nile River into blood. The latter was the first of ten plagues brought upon the Egyptian people including frogs, lice, flies, locusts, boils, a fatal illness among the Egyptians' cattle, a destructive hail mixed with fire, and a thick darkness. The final plague was the destruction at midnight of the firstborn son of each Egyptian household including the Pharaoh's. Then Pharaoh let the people go.

Moses was about eighty years old when his call came to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He led Israel for forty years and died [was translated] at the age of one hundred twenty (see Deuteronomy 29:5; Deuteronomy 31:2).

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