the Hebrew name of an Egyptian city (Isa. 19:13; Jer.2:16; 44:1;
46:14, 19; Ezek. 30:13, 16). In Hos. 9:6 the Hebrew name is
Moph, and is translated "Memphis," which is its Greek and Latin
form. It was one of the most ancient and important cities of
Egypt, and stood a little to the south of the modern Cairo, on
the western bank of the Nile. It was the capital of Lower Egypt.
Among the ruins found at this place is a colossal statue of
Rameses the Great. (See MEMPHIS ¯T0002478.)
only in Hos. 9:6, Hebrew Moph. In Isa. 19:13; Jer. 2:16; 46:14,
19; Ezek. 30:13, 16, it is mentioned under the name Noph. It was
the capital of Lower, i.e., of Northern Egypt. From certain
remains found half buried in the sand, the site of this ancient
city has been discovered near the modern village of Minyet
Rahinch, or Mitraheny, about 16 miles above the ancient head of
the Delta, and 9 miles south of Cairo, on the west bank of the
Nile. It is said to have been founded by Menes, the first king
of Egypt, and to have been in circumference about 19 miles.
"There are few remains above ground," says Manning (The Land of
the Pharaohs), "of the splendour of ancient Memphis. The city
has utterly disappeared. If any traces yet exist, they are
buried beneath the vast mounds of crumbling bricks and broken
pottery which meet the eye in every direction. Near the village
of Mitraheny is a colossal statue of Rameses the Great. It is
apparently one of the two described by Herodotus and Diodorus as
standing in front of the temple of Ptah. They were originally 50
feet in height. The one which remains, though mutilated,
measures 48 feet. It is finely carved in limestone, which takes
a high polish, and is evidently a portrait. It lies in a pit,
which, during the inundation, is filled with water. As we gaze
on this fallen and battered statue of the mighty conqueror who
was probably contemporaneous with Moses, it is impossible not to
remember the words of the prophet Isaiah, 19:13; 44:16-19, and
light; the sun, (Gen. 41:45, 50), the great seat of sun-worship,
called also Bethshemesh (Jer. 43:13) and Aven (Ezek. 30:17),
stood on the east bank of the Nile, a few miles north of
Memphis, and near Cairo, in the north-east. The Vulgate and the
LXX. Versions have "Heliopolis" ("city of the sun") instead of
On in Genesis and of Aven in Ezekiel. The "city of destruction"
Isaiah speaks of (19:18, marg. "of Heres;" Heb. 'Ir-ha-heres,
which some MSS. read Ir-ha-heres, i.e., "city of the sun") may
be the name given to On, the prophecy being that the time will
come when that city which was known as the "city of the sun-god"
shall become the "city of destruction" of the sun-god, i.e.,
when idolatry shall cease, and the worship of the true God be
In ancient times this city was full of obelisks dedicated to
the sun. Of these only one now remains standing. "Cleopatra's
Needle" was one of those which stood in this city in front of
the Temple of Tum, i.e., "the sun." It is now erected on the
Thames Embankment, London.
"It was at On that Joseph wooed and won the dark-skinned
Asenath, the daughter of the high priest of its great temple."
This was a noted university town, and here Moses gained his
acquaintance with "all the wisdom of the Egyptians."
(Heb. Aram), the name in the Old Testament given to the whole
country which lay to the north-east of Phoenicia, extending to
beyond the Euphrates and the Tigris. Mesopotamia is called (Gen.
24:10; Deut. 23:4) Aram-naharain (=Syria of the two rivers),
also Padan-aram (Gen. 25:20). Other portions of Syria were also
known by separate names, as Aram-maahah (1 Chr. 19:6),
Aram-beth-rehob (2 Sam. 10:6), Aram-zobah (2 Sam. 10:6, 8). All
these separate little kingdoms afterwards became subject to
Damascus. In the time of the Romans, Syria included also a part
of Israel and Asia Minor.
"From the historic annals now accessible to us, the history of
Syria may be divided into three periods: The first, the period
when the power of the Pharaohs was dominant over the fertile
fields or plains of Syria and the merchant cities of Tyre and
Sidon, and when such mighty conquerors as Thothmes III. and
Rameses II. could claim dominion and levy tribute from the
nations from the banks of the Euphrates to the borders of the
Libyan desert. Second, this was followed by a short period of
independence, when the Jewish nation in the south was growing in
power, until it reached its early zenith in the golden days of
Solomon; and when Tyre and Sidon were rich cities, sending their
traders far and wide, over land and sea, as missionaries of
civilization, while in the north the confederate tribes of the
Hittites held back the armies of the kings of Assyria. The
third, and to us most interesting, period is that during which
the kings of Assyria were dominant over the plains of Syria;
when Tyre, Sidon, Ashdod, and Jerusalem bowed beneath the
conquering armies of Shalmaneser, Sargon, and Sennacherib; and
when at last Memphis and Thebes yielded to the power of the
rulers of Nineveh and Babylon, and the kings of Assyria
completed with terrible fulness the bruising of the reed of
Egypt so clearly foretold by the Hebrew prophets.", Boscawen.
the land of the Nile and the pyramids, the oldest kingdom of
which we have any record, holds a place of great significance in
The Egyptians belonged to the white race, and their original
home is still a matter of dispute. Many scholars believe that it
was in Southern Arabia, and recent excavations have shown that
the valley of the Nile was originally inhabited by a low-class
population, perhaps belonging to the Nigritian stock, before the
Egyptians of history entered it. The ancient Egyptian language,
of which the latest form is Coptic, is distantly connected with
the Semitic family of speech.
Egypt consists geographically of two halves, the northern
being the Delta, and the southern Upper Egypt, between Cairo and
the First Cataract. In the Old Testament, Northern or Lower
Egypt is called Mazor, "the fortified land" (Isa. 19:6; 37: 25,
where the A.V. mistranslates "defence" and "besieged places");
while Southern or Upper Egypt is Pathros, the Egyptian
Pa-to-Res, or "the land of the south" (Isa. 11:11). But the
whole country is generally mentioned under the dual name of
Mizraim, "the two Mazors."
The civilization of Egypt goes back to a very remote
antiquity. The two kingdoms of the north and south were united
by Menes, the founder of the first historical dynasty of kings.
The first six dynasties constitute what is known as the Old
Empire, which had its capital at Memphis, south of Cairo, called
in the Old Testament Moph (Hos. 9:6) and Noph. The native name
was Mennofer, "the good place."
The Pyramids were tombs of the monarchs of the Old Empire,
those of Gizeh being erected in the time of the Fourth Dynasty.
After the fall of the Old Empire came a period of decline and
obscurity. This was followed by the Middle Empire, the most
powerful dynasty of which was the Twelfth. The Fayyum was
rescued for agriculture by the kings of the Twelfth Dynasty; and
two obelisks were erected in front of the temple of the sun-god
at On or Heliopolis (near Cairo), one of which is still
standing. The capital of the Middle Empire was Thebes, in Upper
The Middle Empire was overthrown by the invasion of the
Hyksos, or shepherd princes from Asia, who ruled over Egypt,
more especially in the north, for several centuries, and of whom
there were three dynasties of kings. They had their capital at
Zoan or Tanis (now San), in the north-eastern part of the Delta.
It was in the time of the Hyksos that Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph
entered Egypt. The Hyksos were finally expelled about B.C. 1600,
by the hereditary princes of Thebes, who founded the Eighteenth
Dynasty, and carried the war into Asia. Canaan and Syria were
subdued, as well as Cyprus, and the boundaries of the Egyptian
Empire were fixed at the Euphrates. The Soudan, which had been
conquered by the kings of the Twelfth Dynasty, was again annexed
to Egypt, and the eldest son of the Pharaoh took the title of
"Prince of Cush."
One of the later kings of the dynasty, Amenophis IV., or
Khu-n-Aten, endeavoured to supplant the ancient state religion
of Egypt by a new faith derived from Asia, which was a sort of
pantheistic monotheism, the one supreme god being adored under
the image of the solar disk. The attempt led to religious and
civil war, and the Pharaoh retreated from Thebes to Central
Egypt, where he built a new capital, on the site of the present
Tell-el-Amarna. The cuneiform tablets that have been found there
represent his foreign correspondence (about B.C. 1400). He
surrounded himself with officials and courtiers of Asiatic, and
more especially Canaanitish, extraction; but the native party
succeeded eventually in overthrowing the government, the capital
of Khu-n-Aten was destroyed, and the foreigners were driven out
of the country, those that remained being reduced to serfdom.
The national triumph was marked by the rise of the Nineteenth
Dynasty, in the founder of which, Rameses I., we must see the
"new king, who knew not Joseph." His grandson, Rameses II.,
reigned sixty-seven years (B.C. 1348-1281), and was an
indefatigable builder. As Pithom, excavated by Dr. Naville in
1883, was one of the cities he built, he must have been the
Pharaoh of the Oppression. The Pharaoh of the Exodus may have
been one of his immediate successors, whose reigns were short.
Under them Egypt lost its empire in Asia, and was itself
attacked by barbarians from Libya and the north.
The Nineteenth Dynasty soon afterwards came to an end; Egypt
was distracted by civil war; and for a short time a Canaanite,
Arisu, ruled over it.
Then came the Twentieth Dynasty, the second Pharaoh of which,
Rameses III., restored the power of his country. In one of his
campaigns he overran the southern part of Israel, where the
Israelites had not yet settled. They must at the time have been
still in the wilderness. But it was during the reign of Rameses
III. that Egypt finally lost Gaza and the adjoining cities,
which were seized by the Pulista, or Philistines.
After Rameses III., Egypt fell into decay. Solomon married the
daughter of one of the last kings of the Twenty-first Dynasty,
which was overthrown by Shishak I., the general of the Libyan
mercenaries, who founded the Twenty-second Dynasty (1 Kings
11:40; 14:25, 26). A list of the places he captured in Israel
is engraved on the outside of the south wall of the temple of
In the time of Hezekiah, Egypt was conquered by Ethiopians
from the Soudan, who constituted the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. The
third of them was Tirhakah (2 Kings 19:9). In B.C. 674 it was
conquered by the Assyrians, who divided it into twenty
satrapies, and Tirhakah was driven back to his ancestral
dominions. Fourteen years later it successfully revolted under
Psammetichus I. of Sais, the founder of the Twenty-sixth
Dynasty. Among his successors were Necho (2 Kings 23:29) and
Hophra, or Apries (Jer. 37:5, 7, 11). The dynasty came to an end
in B.C. 525, when the country was subjugated by Cambyses. Soon
afterwards it was organized into a Persian satrapy.
The title of Pharaoh, given to the Egyptian kings, is the
Egyptian Per-aa, or "Great House," which may be compared to that
of "Sublime Porte." It is found in very early Egyptian texts.
The Egyptian religion was a strange mixture of pantheism and
animal worship, the gods being adored in the form of animals.
While the educated classes resolved their manifold deities into
manifestations of one omnipresent and omnipotent divine power,
the lower classes regarded the animals as incarnations of the
Under the Old Empire, Ptah, the Creator, the god of Memphis,
was at the head of the Pantheon; afterwards Amon, the god of
Thebes, took his place. Amon, like most of the other gods, was
identified with Ra, the sun-god of Heliopolis.
The Egyptians believed in a resurrection and future life, as
well as in a state of rewards and punishments dependent on our
conduct in this world. The judge of the dead was Osiris, who had
been slain by Set, the representative of evil, and afterwards
restored to life. His death was avenged by his son Horus, whom
the Egyptians invoked as their "Redeemer." Osiris and Horus,
along with Isis, formed a trinity, who were regarded as
representing the sun-god under different forms.
Even in the time of Abraham, Egypt was a flourishing and
settled monarchy. Its oldest capital, within the historic
period, was Memphis, the ruins of which may still be seen near
the Pyramids and the Sphinx. When the Old Empire of Menes came
to an end, the seat of empire was shifted to Thebes, some 300
miles farther up the Nile. A short time after that, the Delta
was conquered by the Hyksos, or shepherd kings, who fixed their
capital at Zoan, the Greek Tanis, now San, on the Tanic arm of
the Nile. All this occurred before the time of the new king
"which knew not Joseph" (Ex. 1:8). In later times Egypt was
conquered by the Persians (B.C. 525), and by the Greeks under
Alexander the Great (B.C. 332), after whom the Ptolemies ruled
the country for three centuries. Subsequently it was for a time
a province of the Roman Empire; and at last, in A.D. 1517, it
fell into the hands of the Turks, of whose empire it still forms
nominally a part. Abraham and Sarah went to Egypt in the time of
the shepherd kings. The exile of Joseph and the migration of
Jacob to "the land of Goshen" occurred about 200 years later. On
the death of Solomon, Shishak, king of Egypt, invaded Israel
(1 Kings 14:25). He left a list of the cities he conquered.
A number of remarkable clay tablets, discovered at
Tell-el-Amarna in Upper Egypt, are the most important historical
records ever found in connection with the Bible. They most fully
confirm the historical statements of the Book of Joshua, and
prove the antiquity of civilization in Syria and Israel. As
the clay in different parts of Israel differs, it has been
found possible by the clay alone to decide where the tablets
come from when the name of the writer is lost. The inscriptions
are cuneiform, and in the Aramaic language, resembling Assyrian.
The writers are Phoenicians, Amorites, and Philistines, but in
no instance Hittites, though Hittites are mentioned. The tablets
consist of official dispatches and letters, dating from B.C.
1480, addressed to the two Pharaohs, Amenophis III. and IV., the
last of this dynasty, from the kings and governors of Phoenicia
and Israel. There occur the names of three kings killed by
Joshua, Adoni-zedec, king of Jerusalem, Japhia, king of Lachish
(Josh. 10:3), and Jabin, king of Hazor (11:1); also the Hebrews
(Abiri) are said to have come from the desert.
The principal prophecies of Scripture regarding Egypt are
these, Isa. 19; Jer. 43: 8-13; 44:30; 46; Ezek. 29-32; and it
might be easily shown that they have all been remarkably
fulfilled. For example, the singular disappearance of Noph
(i.e., Memphis) is a fulfilment of Jer. 46:19, Ezek. 30:13.
First mentioned in Gen. 10:11, which is rendered in the Revised
Version, "He [i.e., Nimrod] went forth into Assyria and builded
Nineveh." It is not again noticed till the days of Jonah, when
it is described (Jonah 3:3; 4:11) as a great and populous city,
the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 19:36;
Isa. 37:37). The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively
taken up with prophetic denunciations against this city. Its
ruin and utter desolation are foretold (Nah.1:14; 3:19, etc.).
Zephaniah also (2:13-15) predicts its destruction along with the
fall of the empire of which it was the capital. From this time
there is no mention of it in Scripture till it is named in
gospel history (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32).
This "exceeding great city" lay on the eastern or left bank of
the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles,
having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river
back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now
one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the
great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean,
thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from
many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient
About B.C. 633 the Assyrian empire began to show signs of
weakness, and Nineveh was attacked by the Medes, who
subsequently, about B.C. 625, being joined by the Babylonians
and Susianians, again attacked it, when it fell, and was razed
to the ground. The Assyrian empire then came to an end, the
Medes and Babylonians dividing its provinces between them.
"After having ruled for more than six hundred years with hideous
tyranny and violence, from the Caucasus and the Caspian to the
Persian Gulf, and from beyond the Tigris to Asia Minor and
Egypt, it vanished like a dream" (Nah. 2:6-11). Its end was
strange, sudden, tragic. It was God's doing, his judgement on
Assyria's pride (Isa. 10:5-19).
Forty years ago our knowledge of the great Assyrian empire and
of its magnificent capital was almost wholly a blank. Vague
memories had indeed survived of its power and greatness, but
very little was definitely known about it. Other cities which
had perished, as Palmyra, Persepolis, and Thebes, had left ruins
to mark their sites and tell of their former greatness; but of
this city, imperial Nineveh, not a single vestige seemed to
remain, and the very place on which it had stood was only matter
of conjecture. In fulfilment of prophecy, God made "an utter end
of the place." It became a "desolation."
In the days of the Greek historian Herodotus, B.C. 400, it had
become a thing of the past; and when Xenophon the historian
passed the place in the "Retreat of the Ten Thousand," the very
memory of its name had been lost. It was buried out of sight,
and no one knew its grave. It is never again to rise from its
At length, after being lost for more than two thousand years,
the city was disentombed. A little more than forty years ago the
French consul at Mosul began to search the vast mounds that lay
along the opposite bank of the river. The Arabs whom he employed
in these excavations, to their great surprise, came upon the
ruins of a building at the mound of Khorsabad, which, on further
exploration, turned out to be the royal palace of Sargon, one of
the Assyrian kings. They found their way into its extensive
courts and chambers, and brought forth form its hidded depths
many wonderful sculptures and other relics of those ancient
The work of exploration has been carried on almost
continuously by M. Botta, Sir Henry Layard, George Smith, and
others, in the mounds of Nebi-Yunus, Nimrud, Koyunjik, and
Khorsabad, and a vast treasury of specimens of old Assyrian art
has been exhumed. Palace after palace has been discovered, with
their decorations and their sculptured slabs, revealing the life
and manners of this ancient people, their arts of war and peace,
the forms of their religion, the style of their architecture,
and the magnificence of their monarchs. The streets of the city
have been explored, the inscriptions on the bricks and tablets
and sculptured figures have been read, and now the secrets of
their history have been brought to light.
One of the most remarkable of recent discoveries is that of
the library of King Assur-bani-pal, or, as the Greek historians
call him, Sardanapalos, the grandson of Sennacherib (q.v.). (See
ASNAPPER ¯T0000347.) This library consists of about ten thousand
flat bricks or tablets, all written over with Assyrian
characters. They contain a record of the history, the laws, and
the religion of Assyria, of the greatest value. These strange
clay leaves found in the royal library form the most valuable of
all the treasuries of the literature of the old world. The
library contains also old Accadian documents, which are the
oldest extant documents in the world, dating as far back as
probably about the time of Abraham. (See SARGON ¯T0003227.)
"The Assyrian royalty is, perhaps, the most luxurious of our
century [reign of Assur-bani-pa]...Its victories and conquests,
uninterrupted for one hundred years, have enriched it with the
spoil of twenty peoples. Sargon has taken what remained to the
Hittites; Sennacherib overcame Chaldea, and the treasures of
Babylon were transferred to his coffers; Esarhaddon and
Assur-bani-pal himself have pillaged Egypt and her great cities,
Sais, Memphis, and Thebes of the hundred gates...Now foreign
merchants flock into Nineveh, bringing with them the most
valuable productions from all countries, gold and perfume from
South Arabia and the Chaldean Sea, Egyptian linen and
glass-work, carved enamels, goldsmiths' work, tin, silver,
Phoenician purple; cedar wood from Lebanon, unassailable by
worms; furs and iron from Asia Minor and Armenia" (Ancient Egypt
and Assyria, by G. Maspero, page 271).
The bas-reliefs, alabaster slabs, and sculptured monuments
found in these recovered palaces serve in a remarkable manner to
confirm the Old Testament history of the kings of Israel. The
appearance of the ruins shows that the destruction of the city
was due not only to the assailing foe but also to the flood and
the fire, thus confirming the ancient prophecies concerning it.
"The recent excavations," says Rawlinson, "have shown that fire
was a great instrument in the destruction of the Nineveh
palaces. Calcined alabaster, charred wood, and charcoal,
colossal statues split through with heat, are met with in parts
of the Nineveh mounds, and attest the veracity of prophecy."
Nineveh in its glory was (Jonah 3:4) an "exceeding great city
of three days' journey", i.e., probably in circuit. This would
give a circumference of about 60 miles. At the four corners of
an irregular quadrangle are the ruins of Kouyunjik, Nimrud,
Karamless and Khorsabad. These four great masses of ruins, with
the whole area included within the parallelogram they form by
lines drawn from the one to the other, are generally regarded as
composing the whole ruins of Nineveh.
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 ¯T0002923.) 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"
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
¯T0002924 ) 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
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 ¯T0001283.) 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 seeing 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.