Biblical Studies Moses
Thomas B. Dozeman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0175


Moses is idealized as the liberator of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, the founder of Yahwistic religion in the wilderness journey, and the author of the Torah. The story of Moses is concentrated in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books are framed by the birth of Moses in Exod 1–2 and his death in Deut 34. The central events in the life of Moses include his adoption into the family of Pharaoh; flight from Egypt; marriage to Zipporah, the daughter of the Midian priest Jethro, also named Reuel and Hobab (Exod 2); encounter with the god, Yahweh, on Mount Sinai (Exod 3–7); liberation of Israel from Egyptian slavery (Exod 7–15); leader of the Israelites in the wilderness journey (Exod 15–18; Num 11–36); mediator of the divine law at the divine mountain (Exod 19; Num 10); and teacher of law on the last day of his life (Deut 1–33). The teaching of law in Deuteronomy ends with his death and burial on Mount Nebo by God (Deut 34). Moses appears infrequently in the Hebrew Bible outside of the Torah. He is prominent in the book of Joshua, where Moses is repeatedly identified as the servant of Yahweh (e.g., Josh 1:1), the mentor of Joshua (e.g., Josh 1:13), and the author of Torah (e.g., Josh 8:31). References to Moses in the Former Prophets diminish after the book of Joshua. Judges identifies Moses’s father-in-law, Hobab (Judg 4:11) and son, Gershom (Judg 18:30); Samuel refers to Moses and Aaron (1 Sam 12:6, 8); and the law of Moses appears infrequently in the context of the story of the kings (e.g., 1 Kgs 8:9; 2 Kgs 14:6). Moses is nearly absent in the prophetic books, appearing in Jeremiah (15:1), Isaiah (63:11), Micah (6:4), and Malachi (4:4). Moses appears in late historiographical Psalms (e.g., Pss 105, 106; see also Pss 77, 90, 99, 103). The law of Moses repeats in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah (e.g., Ezra 6:18; Neh 8:1), and Chronicles (e.g., 1 Chr 15:15; 22:13; 2 Chr 5:10; 8:13), signifying the importance of the Torah in post-exilic Yahwism. The prominence of Moses in post-exilic Yahwist religion is also evident in the increased references to him in Daniel (9:11; 9:13); Tobit (e.g., 1:8; 7:11); Sirach (e.g., 24:23; 45:1; 46:7); Baruch (e.g., 1:20; 2:28); Maccabees (e.g., 2 Macc 1:29; 2:4; 7:30); and Esdras (e.g., 1 Esdr 1:6; 7:6; 2 Esdr 1:13; 7:106).

General Overviews

The character of Moses is summarized in encyclopedia articles, single-authored books, and collected essays.

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