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Encyclopedia Judaica 2nd Edition An essential source of information on Jewish life, culture, history, and religion. In 1972, the Encyclopaedia Judaica fulfilled the longstanding dream of capturing the full richness of Jewish culture in a single authoritative publication, heralded in the scholarly community as one of the best reference works ever compiled.
MOSES  By : Joseph Jacobs George A. Barton Wilhelm Bacher Jacob Zallel Lauterbach Crawford Howell Toy Kaufmann Kohler


Biblical Data:
In the Wilderness
Death of Moses.

In Rabbinical Literature:
The Beginnings
Pharaoh's Daughter
His Bringing up.
Removes Pharaoh's Crown.
Flees from Egypt
King in Ethiopia
Relations with Jethro.
The Circumcision of Gershom
At the Burning Bush
Before Pharaoh
At the Exodus
Receives the Torah
Worship of the Golden Calf

Part II: Moses and Israel

Biblical Data:

The birth of Moses occurred at a time when Pharaoh had commanded that all male children born to Hebrew captives should be thrown into the Nile (Ex. ii.; comp. i.). Jochebed, the wife of the Levite Amram, bore a son, and kept the child concealed for three months. When she could keep him hidden no longer, rather than deliver him to death she set him adrift on the Nile in an ark of bulrushes. The daughter of Pharaoh, coming opportunely to the river to bathe, discovered the babe, was attracted to him, adopted him as her son, and named him "Moses." Thus it came about that the future deliverer of Israel was reared as the son of an Egyptian princess (Ex. ii. 1-10).

When Moses was grown to manhood, he went one day to see how it fared with his brethren, bondmen to the Egyptians. Seeing an Egyptian maltreating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand, supposing that no one who would be disposed to reveal the matter knew of it. The next day, seeing two Hebrews quarreling, he endeavored to separate them, whereupon the Hebrew who was wronging his brother taunted Moses with slaying the Egyptian. Moses soon discovered from a higher source that the affair was known, and that Pharaoh was likely to put him to death for it; he therefore made his escape to the Sinaitic Peninsula and settled with Hobab, or Jethro, priest of Midian, whose daughter Zipporah he in due time married. There he sojourned forty years, following the occupation of a shepherd, during which time his son Gershom was born (Ex. ii., 11-22).

One day, as Moses led his flock to Mount Horeb, he saw a bush burning but without being consumed. When he turned aside to look more closely at the marvel, Yhwh spoke to him from the bush and commissioned him to return to Egypt and deliver his brethren from their bondage (Ex. iii. 1-10). According to Ex. iii. 13 et seq., it was at this time that the name of Yhwh was revealed, though it is frequently used throughout the patriarchal narratives, from the second chapter of Genesis on. Armed with this new name and with certain signs which he could give in attestation of his mission, he returned to Egypt (Ex. iv. 1-9, 20). On the way he was met by Yhwh, who would have killed him; but Zipporah, Moses' wife, circumcised her son and Yhwh's anger abated (Ex. iv. 24-26). Moses was met and assisted on his arrival in Egypt by his elder brother, Aaron, and readily gained a hearing with his oppressed brethren (Ex. iv. 27-31). It was a more difficult matter, however, to persuade Pharaoh to let the Hebrews depart. Indeed, this was not accomplished until, through the agency of Moses, ten plagues had come upon the Egyptians (Ex. vii.-xii.). These plagues culminated in the slaying of the Egyptian first-born (Ex. xii. 29), whereupon such terror seized the Egyptians that they urged the Hebrews to leave.

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In the Wilderness

The children of Israel, with their flocks and herds, started toward the eastern border at the southern part of the Isthmus of Suez. The long procession moved slowly, and found it necessary to encamp three times before passing the Egyptian frontier at the Bitter Lakes. Meanwhile Pharaoh had repented and was in pursuit of them with a large army (Ex. xiv. 5-9). Shut in between this army and the Red Sea, or the Bitter Lakes, which were then connected with it, the Israelites despaired, but Yhwh divided the waters of the sea so that they passed safely across; when the Egyptians attempted to follow, He permitted the waters to return upon them and drown them (Ex. xiv. 10-31). Moses led the Hebrews to Sinai, or Horeb, where Jethro celebrated their coming by a great sacrifice in the presence of Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel (Ex. xviii.). At Horeb, or Sinai, Yhwh welcomed Moses upon the sacred mountain and talked with him face to face (Ex. xix.). He gave him the Ten Commandments and the Law and entered into a covenant with Israel through him. This covenant bound Yhwh to be Israel's God, if Israel would keep His commandments (Ex. xix. et seq.).

(see image) Moses on Mount Sinai. (From the Sarajevo Haggadah of the fourteenth century.) Moses and the Israelites sojourned at Sinai about a year (comp. Num. x. 11), and Moses had frequent communications from Yhwh. As a result of these the Tabernacle, according to the last chapters of Exodus, was constructed, the priestly law ordained, the plan of encampment arranged both for the Levites and the non-priestly tribes (comp. Num. i. 50-ii. 34), and the Tabernacle consecrated. While at Sinai Joshua had become general of the armies of Israel and the special minister, or assistant, of Moses (Ex. xvii. 9). From Sinai Moses led the people to Kadesh, whence the spies were sent to Canaan. Upon the return of the spies the people were so discouraged by their report that they refused to go forward, and were condemned to remain in the wilderness until that generation had passed away (Num. xiii.-xiv.).

After the lapse of thirty-eight years Moses led the people eastward. Having gained friendly permission to do so, they passed through the territory of Esau (where Aaron died, on Mount Hor; Num. xx. 22-29), and then, by a similar arrangement, through the land of Moab. But Sihon, king of the Amorites, whose capital was at Heshbon, refused permission, and was conquered by Moses, who allotted his territory to the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Og, King of Bashan, was similarly overthrown (comp. Num. xxi.), and his territory assigned to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Death of Moses.

After all this was accomplished Moses was warned that he would not be permitted to lead Israel across the Jordan, but would die on the eastern side (Num. xx. 12). He therefore assembled the tribes and delivered to them a parting address, which forms the Book of Deuteronomy. In this address it is commonly supposed that he recapitulated the Law, reminding them of its most important features. When this was finished, and he had pronounced a blessing upon the people, he went up Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah, looked over the country spread out before him, and died, at the age of one hundred and twenty. Yhwh Himself buried him in an unknown grave (Deut. xxxiv.). Moses was thus the human instrument in the creation of the Israelitish nation; he communicated to it all its laws. More meek than any other man (Num. xii. 3), he enjoyed unique privileges, for "there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. xxxiv. 10).J. G. A. B.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

Of all Biblical personages Moses has been chosen most frequently as the subject of later legends; and his life has been recounted in full detail in the poetic haggadah. As liberator, lawgiver, and leader of a people which was transformed by him from an unorganized horde into a nation, he occupies a more important place in popular legend than the Patriarchs and all the other national heroes. His many-sided activity also offered more abundant scope for imaginative embellishment. A cycle of legends has been woven around nearly every trait of his character and every event of his life; and groups of the most different and often contradictory stories have been connected with his career. It would be interesting to investigate the origin of the different cycles, and the relation of the several cycles to one another and to the original source, if there was one. The present article attempts to give, without claiming completeness, a picture of the character of Moses according to Jewish legend and a narrative of the most important incidents of his life.
(see image) Traditional Tomb of Moses: Scene During a Pilgrimage. (From a photograph by the American Colony, Jerusalem.)

(The following special abbreviations of book-titles are used: "D. Y." = "Dibre ha-Yamim le-Mosheh Rabbenu," in Jellinek, "B. H." ii.; "S. Y." = "Sefer ha-Yashar"; "M. W." = "Midrash Wayosha'," in Jellinek, l.c.)

The Beginnings

Moses' influence and activity reach back to the days of the Creation. Heaven and earth were created only for his sake (Lev. R. xxxvi. 4). The account of the creation of the water on the second day (Gen. i. 6-8), therefore, does not close with the usual formula, "And God saw that it was good," because God foresaw that Moses would suffer through water (Gen. R. iv. 8). Although Noah was not worthy to be saved from the Flood, yet he was saved because Moses was destined to descend from him (ib. xxvi. 15). The angels which Jacob in his nocturnal vision saw ascending to and descending from heaven (Gen. vii. 12) were really Moses and Aaron (Gen. R. lxviii. 16). The birth of Moses as the liberator of the people of Israel was foretold to Pharaoh by his soothsayers, in consequence of which he issued the cruel command to cast all the male children into the river (Ex. i. 22). Later on Miriam also foretold to her father, Amram, that a son would be born to him who would liberate Israel from the yoke of Egypt (Sotah 11b, 12a; Meg. 14a; Ex. R. i. 24; "S. Y.," Shemot, pp. 111a, 112b; comp. Josephus, "Ant." ii. 9, § 3). Moses was born on Adar 7 (Meg. 13b) in the year 2377 after the creation of the world (Book of Jubilees, xlvii. 1). He was born circumcised (Sotah 12a), and was able to walk immediately after his birth (Yalk., Wayelek, 940); but according to another story he was circumcised on the eighth day after birth (Pirke R. El. xlviii.). A peculiar and glorious light filled the entire house at his birth (ib.; "S. Y." p. 112b), indicating that he was worthy of the gift of prophecy (Sotah l.c.). He spoke with his father and mother on the day of his birth, and prophesied at the age of three (Midr. Petirat Mosheh, in Jellinek, "B. H." i. 128). His mother kept his birth secret for three months, when Pharaoh was informed that she had borne a son. The mother put the child into a casket, which she hid among the reeds of the sea before the king's officers came to her (Jubilees, l.c. 47; "D. Y." in Jellinek, "B. H." ii. 3; "S. Y." p. 112b). For seven days his mother went to him at night to nurse him, his sister Miriam protecting him from the birds by day (Jubilees, l.c. 4).

Pharaoh's Daughter

Then God sent a fierce heat upon Egypt ("D. Y." l.c.), and Pharaoh's daughter Bithiah (comp. I. Chron. iv. 18; Tarmut [Thermutis], according to Josephus, l.c. and Jubilees, l.c.), who was afflicted with leprosy, went to bathe in the river. Hearing a child cry, she beheld a casket in the reeds. She caused it to be brought to her, and on touching it was cured of her leprosy (Ex. R. i. 27). For this reason she was kindly disposed toward the child. When she opened the casket she was astonished at his beauty (Philo, "Vita Mosis," ii.), and saw the Shekinah with him (Ex. R. i. 28). Noticing that the child was circumcised, she knew that the parents must have been Hebrews (Sotah 12b). Gabriel struck Moses, so as to make him cry and arouse the pity of the princess (Ex. R. i. 28). She wished to save the child; but as her maids told her she must not transgress her father's commands, she set him down again (Midr. Abkir, in Yalk., Ex. 166). Then Gabriel threw all her maids down (Sotah 12b; Ex. R. i. 27); and God filled Bithiah with compassion (Yalk., l.c.), and caused the child to find favor in her eyes ("M. W." in Jellinek, l.c. i. 41). Thereupon she took the child up, saved him, and loved him much (Ex. R. l.c.). This was on the sixth day of the month of Siwan (Sotah 12b); according to another version, on Nisan 21 (ib.). When the soothsayers told Pharaoh that the redeemer of Israel had been born and thrown into the water, the cruel edict ordering that the children be thrown into the river was repealed (Ex. R. i. 29; Sotah l.c.). Thus the casting away of Moses saved Israel from further persecution. According to another version (Gen. R. xcvii. 5),600,000 children had already been thrown into the river, but all were saved because of Moses.

His Bringing up

Bithiah, Pharaoh's daughter, took up the child to nurse him; but he refused the breast ("M. W." l.c.). Then she gave him to other Egyptian women to nurse, but he refused to take nourishment from any of them (Josephus, l.c. ii. 9, § 5; "S. Y." p. 112b; Sotah 12b; "D. Y." p. 3). The mouth which was destined to speak with God might not take unclean milk (Sotah l.c.; "D. Y." l.c.); Bithiah therefore gave him to his mother to nurse. Another legend says that he did not take any milk from the breast (Yalk., Wayelek, 940). Bithiah then adopted him as her son ("S. Y." p. 113b). Aside from the name "Moses," which Bithiah gave to him (Ex. ii. 10), he had seven (Lev. R. i. 3), or according to other stories ten, other names given to him by his mother, his father, his brother Aaron, his sister Miriam, his nurse, his grandfather Kehat, and Israel ("D. Y." p. 3; "S. Y." p. 112b; Meg. 13a). These names were: Jared, Abi Gedor, H.eber, Abi Soko, Jekuthiel, Abi Zanoah, and Shemaiah ("Shama 'Yah" = "God has heard"), the last one being given to him by Israel. He was also called "Heman" ([i.e., ; Num. xii. 7] B. B. 15a).

Removes Pharaoh's Crown.

Moses was a very large child at the age of three (Ex. R. i. 32; comp. Josephus; l.c.; Philo, l.c.); and it was at this time that, sitting at the king's table in the presence of several princes and counselors, he took the crown from Pharaoh's head and placed it on his own ("D. Y." l.c.; for another version see "M. W." l.c.). The princes were horrified at the boy's act; and the soothsayer said that this was the same boy who, in accordance with their former predictions, would destroy the kingdom of Pharaoh and liberate Israel (Josephus, l.c.; "M. W." l.c.). Balaam and Jethro were at that time also among the king's counselors (Sotah 11a; Sanh. 106). Balaam advised the king to kill the boy at once; but Jethro (according to "D. Y." l.c., it was Gabriel in the guise of one of the king's counselors) said that the boy should first be examined, to see whether he had sense enough to have done such an act intentionally. All agreed with this advice. A shining piece of gold, or a precious stone, together with a live coal, was placed on a plate before the boy, to see which of the two he would choose. The angel Gabriel then guided his hand to the coal, which he took up and put into his mouth. This burned his tongue, causing him to stutter (comp. Ex. iv. 10); but it saved his life ("M. W." l.c.; "D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." l.c.; Ex. R. i. 31).

Moses remained in Pharaoh's house fifteen years longer ("D. Y." l.c.; "M. W." l.c.). According to the Book of Jubilees (l.c.), he learned the writing of the Assyrians (the "Ketab Ashurit"; the square script ?) from his father, Amram. During his sojourn in the king's palace he often went to his brethren, the slaves of Pharaoh, sharing their sad lot. He helped any one who bore a too heavy burden or was too weak for his work. He reminded Pharaoh that a slave was entitled to some rest, and begged him to grant the Israelites one free day in the week. Pharaoh acceded to this request, and Moses accordingly instituted the seventh day, the Sabbath, as a day of rest for the Israelites (Ex. R. i. 32; "S. Y." p. 115a).

Flees from Egypt

Moses did not commit murder in killing the Egyptian (Ex. ii. 12); for the latter merited death because he had forced an Israelitish woman to commit adultery with him (Ex. R. i. 33). Moses was at that time eighteen years of age ("D. Y." l.c.; "M. W." l.c.; "S. Y." l.c.). According to another version, Moses was then twenty, or possibly forty, years of age (Ex. R. i. 32, 35). These divergent opinions regarding his age at the time when he killed the Egyptian are based upon different estimates of the length of his stay in the royal palace (Yalk., Shemot, 167; Gen. R. xi.), both of them assuming that he fled from Egypt immediately after the slaying (Ex. ii. 15). Dathan and Abiram were bitter enemies of Moses, insulting him and saying he should not act as if he were a member of the royal house, since he was the son not of Batya, but of Jochebed. Previous to this they had slandered him before Pharaoh. Pharaoh had forgiven Moses everything else, but would not forgive him for killing the Egyptian. He delivered him to the executioner, who chose a very sharp sword with which to kill Moses; but the latter's neck became like a marble pillar, dulling the edge of the sword ("M. W." l.c.). Meanwhile the angel Michael descended from heaven, and took the form of the executioner, giving the latter the shape of Moses and so killing him. He then took up Moses and carried him beyond the frontier of Egypt for a distance of three, or, according to another account, of forty, days ("D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." p. 115b). According to another legend, the angel took the shape of Moses, and allowed himself to be caught, thus giving the real Moses an opportunity to escape (Mek, Yitro. 1 [ed. Weiss. 66a]; Ex. R. i. 36).

King in Ethiopia.

The fugitive Moses went to the camp of King Nikanos, or Kikanos, of Ethiopia, who was at that time besieging his own capital, which had been traitorously seized by Balaam and his sons and made impregnable by them through magic. Moses joined the army of Nikanos, and the king and all his generals took a fancy to him, because he was courageous as a lion and his face gleamed like the sun ("S. Y." P. 116a; comp. B. B. 75a). When Moses had spent nine years with the army King Nikanos died, and the Hebrew was made general. He took the city, driving out Balaam and his sons Jannes and Jambres, and was proclaimed king by the Ethiopians. He was obliged, in deference to the wishes of the people, to marry Nikanos' widow, Adoniya (comp. Num. xii.), with whom he did not, however, cohabit ("D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." p. 116b). Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on account of the Cushite (Ethiopian) woman whom he had married. He was twenty-seven years of age when he became king; and he ruled over Ethiopia for forty years, during which he considerably increased the power of the country. After forty years his wife, Queen Adoniya, accused him before the princes and generals of not having cohabited with her during the many years of their marriage, and of never having worshiped the Ethiopian gods. She called upon the princes not to suffer a stranger among them as king, but to make her son by Nikanos, Munahas or Munakaros, king. The princes complied with her wishes, but dismissed Moses in peace, giving him great treasures. Moses, who was at this time sixty-seven years old, went from Ethiopia to Midian (ib.).

According to Josephus' account of this story (see Moses in Hellenistic Literature), after Moses' marriage to the daughter of the Ethiopian king, he did not become King of Ethiopia, but led his troops back to Egypt, where he remained. The Egyptians and even Pharaoh himself were envious of his glorious deeds, fearing also that he might use his power to gain dominion over Egypt. They therefore sought how they might assassinate him; and Moses, learning of the plot, fled to Midian. This narrative of Josephus' agrees with two haggadic accounts, according to which Moses fled from Egypt direct to Midian, not staying in Ethiopia at all. These accounts are as follows: (1) Moses lived for twenty years in Pharaoh's house; he then went to Midian, where he remained for sixty years, when, as a man of eighty, he undertook the mission of liberating Israel (Yalk., Shemot, 167). (2) Moses lived for forty years in Pharaoh's house; thence he went to Midian, where he stayed for forty years until his mission was entrusted to him (Gen. R. xi.; comp. Sifre, Deut. xxxiv. 7).

Relations with Jethro.

On his arrival at Midian Moses told his whole story to Jethro, who recognized him as the man destined to destroy the Egyptians. He therefore took Moses prisoner in order to deliver him to Pharaoh ("D. Y." l.c.). According to another legend, Jethro took him for an Ethiopian fugitive, and intended to deliver him to the Ethiopians ("S. Y." l.c.). He kept him prisoner for seven ("D. Y." l.c.) or ten ("S. Y." l.c.) years. Both of these legends are based on another legend according to which Moses was seventy-seven years of age when Jethro liberated him. According to the legend ("D. Y." l.c.) which says that he went to Nikanos' camp at the age of thirty, and ruled over Ethiopia for forty years, he was only seven years in Jethro's hands (30+40+7 = 77). According to the other legend ("S. Y." l.c.) he was eighteen years old when he fled from Egypt; he remained for nine years in the camp of Nikanos; and was king over Ethiopia for forty years. Hence he must have been Jethro's captive for ten years, or till his seventy-seventh year.

The Circumcision of Gershom.

Moses was imprisoned in a deep dungeon in Jethro's house, and received as food only small portions of bread and water. He would have died of hunger had not Zipporah, to whom Moses had before his captivity made an offer of marriage by the well, devised a plan by which she no longer went out to pasture the sheep, but remained at home to attend to the household, being thereby enabled to supply Moses with food without her father's knowledge. After ten (or seven) years Zipporah reminded her father that he had at one time cast a man into the dungeon, who must have died long ago; but ifhe were still living he must be a just man whom God had kept alive by a miracle. Jethro went to the dungeon and called Moses, who answered immediately. As Jethro found Moses praying, he really believed that he had been saved by a miracle, and liberated him. Jethro had planted in his garden a marvelous rod, which had been created on the sixth day of the Creation, on Friday afternoon, and had been given to Adam. This curious rod had been handed down through Enoch, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Joseph, at whose death it came into the possession of Pharaoh's court. Jethro, who saw it there, stole it and planted it in his garden. On the rod were engraved the name of God (Yhwh) and the initials of the ten plagues destined for Egypt. Jethro asked every one who wished to marry one of his daughters to pull up the rod; but no suitor had yet succeeded in doing so. Moses, on being set at liberty, walked in the garden, saw the rod, and read the inscription. He easily pulled it out of the ground and used it for a staff (see Aaron's Rod). Jethro thereby recognized Moses as the deliverer of Israel, and gave him the virtuous Zipporah as wife, together with much money ("S. Y.," "D. Y.," and "M. W." l.c.). Jethro stipulated that the first-born son of the marriage should adopt Jethro's pagan belief, while all the other children might be reared as Jews; and Moses agreed thereto (Mek, Yitro, 1 [ed. Weiss, p. 65b]). According to "M. W." l.c., one-half of the children of this marriage were to belong to Judaism and one-half to paganism. When therefore his son Gershom—who subsequently became the father of Jonathan—was born, Moses, under his agreement with Jethro, could not circumcise him ("S. Y." l.c.). Moses, therefore, went with his wife and child (another version says that both of his sons were then already born) to Egypt. On the way he met Satan, or Mastema, as he is called in the Book of Jubilees (xlviii. 2), in the guise of a serpent, which proceeded to swallow Moses, and had ingested the upper part of his body, when he stopped. Zipporah seeing this, concluded that the serpent's action was due to the fact that her son had not been circumcised (Ned. 31b-32a; Ex. R. v.), whereupon she circumcised him and smeared some of the blood on Moses' feet. A voice ("bat kol") was then heard commanding the serpent to disgorge the half-swallowed Moses, which it immediately did. When Moses came into Egypt he met his old enemies Dathan and Abiram, and when they asked him what he was seeking in Egypt, he immediately returned to Midian ("M. W." l.c.).

At the Burning Bush

As the shepherd of his father-in-law he drove his sheep far into the desert (Ex. iii. 1), in order to prevent the sheep from grazing in fields not belonging to Jethro (Ex. R. i. 3). Here God appeared to him and addressed him for seven consecutive days (ib. iii. 20). Moses, however, refused to listen, because he would not allow himself to be disturbed in the work for which he was paid. Then God caused the flaming bush to appear (Ex. iii. 2-3), in order to divert Moses' attention from his work. The under-shepherds with Moses saw nothing of the marvelous spectacle, which Moses alone beheld (Ex. R. ii. 8). Moses then interrupted his work, and stepped nearer the bush to investigate (ib. ii. 11). As Moses was at this time entirely inexperienced in prophecy, God, in calling him, imitated the voice of Amram, so as not to frighten him. Moses, who thought that his father, Amram, was appearing to him, said: "What does my father wish?" God answered: "I am the God of thy father" (Ex. iii. 6), and gave him the mission to save Israel (ib.). Moses hesitated to accept the mission (comp. Ex. iii. 11) chiefly because he feared that his elder brother, Aaron, who until then had been the only prophet in Israel, might feel slighted if his younger brother became the savior of the people; whereupon God assured him that Aaron would be glad of it (Ex. R. iii. 21-22). According to another version (ib. xv. 15), Moses said to God: "Thou hast promised Jacob that Thou Thyself wouldest liberate Israel [comp. Gen. xlvi. 4], not appointing a mediator." God answered: "I myself will save them; but go thou first and announce to My children that I will do so." Moses consented, and went to his father-in-law, Jethro (Ex. iv. 18), to obtain permission to leave Midian (Ned. 65a; Ex. R. iv. 1-4), for he had promised not to leave Midian without his sanction. Moses departed with his wife and children, and met Aaron (comp. Ex. iv. 27), who told him it was not right to take them into Egypt, since the attempt was being made to lead the Israelites out of that country. He therefore sent his wife and children back to Midian ("S. Y." p. 123a; Mek., Yitro, 1 [ed. Weiss, p. 65b]). When they went to Pharaoh, Moses went ahead, Aaron following, because Moses was more highly regarded in Egypt (Ex. R. ix. 3); otherwise Aaron and Moses were equally prominent and respected (Mek, Bo, 1 [ed. Weiss, p. 1a]). At the entrance to the Egyptian royal palace were two leopards, which would not allow any one to approach unless their guards quieted them; but when Moses came they played with him and fawned upon him as if they were his dogs ("D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." l.c.). According to another version, there were guards at every entrance. Gabriel, however, introduced Moses and Aaron into the interior of the palace without being seen (Yalk., Shemot, 175). As Moses' appearance before Pharaoh resulted only in increasing the tasks of the children of Israel (comp. Ex. v.), Moses returned to Midian; and, according to one version, he took his wife and children back at the same time (Ex. R. v. 23).

Before Pharaoh

After staying six months in Midian he returned to Egypt (ib.), where he was subjected to many insults and injuries at the hands of Dathan and Abiram (ib. v. 24). This, together with the fear that he had aggravated the condition of the children of Israel, confused his mind so that he uttered disrespectful words to God (Ex. v. 22). Justice ("Middat ha-Din") wished to punish him for this; but as God knew that Moses' sorrow for Israel had induced these words he allowed Mercy ("Middat ha-Rahamim") to prevail (ib. vi. 1). As Moses feared that Middat ha-Din might prevent the redemption of Israel, since it was unworthy of being redeemed, God swore to him to redeem the people for Moses' sake (ib. vi. 3-5, xv. 4). Moses in treating with Pharaoh alwaysshowed to him the respect due to a king (ib. vii. 2). Moses was really the one selected to perform all the miracles; but as he himself was doubtful of his success (ib. vi. 12) some of them were assigned to Aaron (ib. 1). According to another version, Aaron and not Moses undertook to send the plagues and to perform all the miracles connected with the water and the dust. Because the water had saved Moses, and the dust had been useful to him in concealing the body of the Egyptian (ib. ii. 12), it was not fitting that they should be the instruments of evil in Moses' hand (ib. ix. 9, x. 5, xx. 1). When Moses announced the last plague, he would not state the exact time of its appearance, midnight, saying merely "ka-hazot" = "about midnight" (ib. xi. 4), because he thought the people might make a mistake in the time and would then call him a liar (Ber. 3b, 4a). On the night of the Exodus, when Moses had killed his paschal lamb, all the winds of the world were blowing through paradise, carrying away its perfumes and imparting them to Moses' lamb so that the odor of it could be detected at a distance of forty days (Ex. R. xix. 6).

At the Exodus.

During this night all the first-born, including the female first-born, were killed, with the exception of Pharaoh's daughter Batya, who had adopted Moses. Although she was a first-born child, she was saved through Moses' prayer ("S. Y." p. 125b). During the Exodus while all the people thought only of taking the gold and silver of the Egyptians, Moses endeavored to carry away boards for use in the construction of the future Temple (comp. Gen. R. xciv. 4 and Jew. Encyc. vii. 24, s.v. Jacob) and to remove Joseph's coffin (Ex. R. xviii. 8). Serah, Asher's daughter, told Moses that the coffin had been lowered into the Nile; whereupon Moses went to the bank of the river and cried: "Come up, Joseph" (according to another version, he wrote the name of God on a slip of paper, which he threw into the Nile), when the coffin immediately rose to the surface (Sotah 13a; Ex. R. xx. 17; "D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." p. 126). Another legend says that Joseph's coffin was among the royal tombs, the Egyptians guarding it with dogs whose barking could be heard throughout Egypt; but Moses silenced the dogs and took the coffin out (Sotah l.c.; Ex. R. l.c.; comp. Joseph in Rabbinical Literature).

On arriving at the Red Sea Moses said to God when commanded by Him to cleave the water: "Thou hast made it a law of nature that the sea shall never be dry," whereupon God replied that at the Creation He had made an agreement with the sea as to the separation of its waters at this time (Ex. R. xxi. 16; comp. "M. W." p. 38). When the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his army drown in the Red Sea (Ex. xiv. 30-31) they wished to return to Egypt and set up a kingdom there; but Moses prevented them, urging them on by force. He also removed the idols which the Israelites had brought with them from Egypt (Ex. R. xxiv. 2).

Receives the Torah

The giving of the tables of the Law and of the Torah in general to Moses is a favorite subject for legends. In contrast to the pithy sentence of R. Jose (Suk. 5a) to the effect that Moses never ascended into heaven, there are many haggadot which describe in detail how Moses made his ascension and received the Torah there. Moses went up in a cloud which entirely enveloped him (Yoma 4a). As he could not penetrate the cloud, God took hold of him and placed him within it (ib. 4b). When he reached heaven the angels asked God: "What does this man, born of woman, desire among us?" God replied that Moses had come to receive the Torah, whereupon the angels claimed that God ought to give the Torah to them and not to men. Then God told Moses to answer them. Moses was afraid that the angels might burn him with the breath of their mouths; but God told him to take hold of the throne of glory. Moses then proved to the angels that the Torah was not suited to them, since they had no passions to be subdued by it. The angels thereupon became very friendly with Moses, each one of them giving him something. The angel of death confided to him the fact that incense would prevent the plague (Shab. 88b-89a; Ex. R. xxviii.). Moses subsequently caused Aaron to employ this preventive (Num. xvii. 11-13). Moses, following the custom of the angels, ate nothing during his forty days' sojourn in heaven (B. M. 87b), feeding only on the splendor of the Shekinah. He distinguished day from night by the fact that God instructed him by day in the Scripture, and by night in the Mishnah (Ex. R. xlvii. 9). God taught him also everything which every student would discover in the course of time (ib. i.). When Moses first learned the Torah he soon forgot it; it was then bestowed upon him as a gift and he did not again forget it (Ned. 35a).

Worship of the Golden Calf.

The Torah was intended originally only for Moses and his descendants; but he was liberal enough to give it to the people of Israel, and God approved the gift (Ned. 38a). According to another version, God gave the Torah to the Israelites for Moses' sake (Ex. R. xlvii. 14). Moses' burnt tongue was healed when he received the Law (Deut. R. i. 1). As Moses was writing down the Torah, he, on reaching the passage "Let us make man" (Gen. i. 26), said to God, "Why dost thou give the Minim the opportunity of construing these words to mean a plurality of gods?" whereupon God replied: "Let those err that will" (Gen. R. viii. 7). When Moses saw God write the words "erek appayim" (= "long-suffering"; Ex. xxxiv. 6), and asked whether God was long-suffering toward the pious only, God answered, "Toward sinners also." When Moses said that sinners ought to perish, God answered, "You yourself will soon ask me to be long-suffering toward sinners" (Sanh. 111a). This happened soon after Israel had made the golden calf (ib.). Before Moses ascended to heaven he said that he would descend on the forenoon of the forty-first day. On that day Satan confused the world so that it appeared to be afternoon to the Israelites. Satan told them that Moses had died, and was thus prevented from punctually fulfilling his promise. He showed them a form resembling Moses suspended in the air, whereupon the people made the golden calf (Shab. 89a; Ex. R. lxi.). When, in consequence of this, Moses was obliged to descend from heaven (Ex. xxxii. 7), he saw the angels of destruction, who were ready todestroy him. He was afraid of them; for he had lost his power over the angels when the people made the golden calf. God, however, protected him (Ex. R. xli. 12). When Moses came down with the tables and saw the calf (Ex. xxxii. 15-20), he said to himself: "If I now give to the people the tables, on which the interdiction against idolatry is written (Ex. xx. 2-5), they will deserve death for having made and worshiped the golden calf." In compassion for the Israelites he broke the tables, in order that they might not be held responsible for having transgressed the command against idolatry (Ab. R. N. ii.). Moses now began to pray for the people, showing thereby his heroic, unselfish love for them. Gathering from the words "Let me" (Ex. xxxii. 10) that Israel's fate depended on him and his prayer, he began to defend them (Ber. 32a; Meg. 24a). He said that Israel, having been sojourning in Egypt, where idolatry flourished, had become accustomed to this kind of worship, and could not easily be brought to desist from it (Yalk, Ki Tissa, 397). Moreover, God Himself had afforded the people the means of making the golden calf, since he had given them much gold and silver (Ber. l.c.). Furthermore, God had not forbidden Israel to practise idolatry, for the singular and not the plural was used in Ex. xx. 2-5, referring, therefore, only to Moses (Ex. R. xlvii. 14).

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