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Moses was a real man of history, but he was also a “type” – a foreshadow of Jesus the “second Moses”. In the Old Testament, we read how Moses said to the Israelites:
Deuteronomy 18:15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear (NKJV)
Acts 3:22 and 7:37 in the New Testament record how Peter and Stephen quoted that passage.
There are many similarities and parallels between Moses and Jesus and their lives and what they did. This article considers some of those things. Also such matters as “the seat of Moses” will be studied here, as well as certain things in regard to Jesus, Moses and Elijah (similarities, and more).
Moses was born around 1570 BCE (other opinions exist), in Egypt. Since he was a male Israelite child, according to Egyptian orders his mother should have killed him or thrown him into the river, see Exodus 1:16 and 22. He was actually put into the river, but as Exodus 2 shows, this was done in a way that led to that he was saved by the Pharaoh’s daughter.
His name, in the Hebrew Old Testament text Mosheh, is interpreted in various ways. Some look for explanations in the Hebrew language, some in Coptic (ancient Egyptian), and so on. But, the best explanation comes from the person who gave him that name, the daughter of the Pharaoh. We read:
Exodus 1:22 So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.” Exodus 2:1 And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. 2 So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. 3 But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. 4 And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him. 5 Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. 6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. 9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, “Because I drew him out of the water.” (NKJV)
So, it appears that the Pharaoh’s daughter called the child by some Egyptian word which had to do with “drawing out”, or something like that. (It is not clear whether Mosheh was the name she gave him, or whether it is a Hebrew translation of what she had called him.)
Since Moses became the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter (see the above-quoted Exodus 2:10), he probably could have become a ruler in Egypt, at least on some level. But Moses felt for his own people, and that led to that he had to flee from Egypt.
Exodus 2:11 Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (NKJV)
This happened after Moses had killed the Egyptian who had been beating one of the Israelites.
Exodus 2:15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. 16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?” 19 And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.” 20 So he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. (NKJV)
The man Reuel (verse 18) was also called Jethro. Moses married his daughter Zipporah, who then gave birth to two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. It is worth noting that those things happened in the land of Midian; that is also where Moses some time later saw the burning bush.
Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” 4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” […] 10 “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (NKJV)
As was mentioned above, Moses fled to the land of Midian and lived there for a time. This was before the Exodus (before the Israelites’ departure from Egypt). It was in Midian, outside Egypt, that he saw the burning bush, by Horeb (Mount Sinai). Later, he returned there with the other Israelites. Galatians 4:25 states that that mountain was in Arabia. But, exactly where was it located? Several things make it clear that the placements that most maps give for the deserts of Zin and Sinai and for Mount Sinai, are not correct. The article noa060.htm has more on this, and shows the most likely locations for Mount Sinai and the crossing of the Red Sea.
• Both Moses and Jesus were Israelites (descendants of the patriarch Jacob whose other name was Israel).
• Both of them were saved from death when they were small children, while many other Israelite male children of the same age and place of birth were murdered.
• Both of them were “came from Egypt”. Regarding Jesus’ time in Egypt:
Matthew 2:13 And when they had gone, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream, saying, Get up and take the young child and his mother, and go into Egypt, and do not go from there till I give you word; for Herod will be searching for the young child to put him to death. 14 So he took the young child and his mother by night, and went into Egypt; 15 And was there till the death of Herod; so that the word of the Lord through the prophet might come true, Out of Egypt have I sent for my son. (BBE)
• Both Moses and Jesus rejected the possibility to become rulers in this age. Satan offered Jesus the rule over the kingdoms of this world (Matthew 4:8–9), but Jesus the Son of God rejected that offer and chose to suffer and give his life in place of others. Moses acted in a similar manner: He had been raised as a son in a royal family, but he chose differently.
Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (NKJV)
• Both Moses and Jesus “mediated” between God and the Israelites.
• Both Moses and Jesus were sent to free Israel. Moses was sent to take the ancient Israelites out from Egypt and lead them to the earthly Promised Land. Jesus the “second Moses” was sent to take a “spiritual Israel” (the saints) out from a “spiritual Egypt” and lead them to a heavenly Promised Land. (The articles nxa100.htm and nba040.htm have some notes on that heavenly land.)
• Both Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days.
And so on – there are many parallels or similarities between Moses and Jesus. In several ways, Moses was a foreshadow of Jesus the “second Moses”.
Many writers and preachers have talked about “Moses’ seat”. Some preachers have wanted people to believe that they (those preachers) somehow “sit in the seat of Moses”, while others have merely claimed, quoting certain translations of Matthew 23:1–3, that the Pharisees had such a seat.
Let us consider the passage in question. Here is a translation that makes the matter a bit more clear:
Matthew 23:1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses (NASB77, highlighting added)
There is more on that verse and its translation and meaning, below. But first, let us consider what kind of a “seat” it was that Moses had. We know that when he was formally seated before the people, he acted as a judge:
Exodus 18:13 And it came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. (NASB77)
Moses had been appointed by God, but what about the scribes and the Pharisees (Matthew 23:1–2)?
Please note that Matthew 23:2 does not say, the scribes and the Pharisees had “a right to the seat of Moses”. No, it says that the scribes and the Pharisees had seated themselves “in the chair of Moses”. That is what the Greek text of that verse means and refers to, just as the above-quoted NASB77 has it. They acted as if they were judges who represented God. They created countless rules, and demanded people to follow those rules – “Observe, and do!” In other words: They had manipulated themselves into such a position that it almost seemed that they “sat in Moses’ seat”.
Despite the obvious facts – such as that Jesus repeatedly castigated the Pharisees and warned people about their teachings – many translators have made it seem (in Matthew 23:3, and even elsewhere) that Jesus “upheld” the scribes and the Pharisees in their self-taken role where they created rules for others. But again, numerous other New Testament passages, including Matthew chapter 23 as a whole, make it clear that Jesus did not say or mean anything of that kind.
Here is a different interpretation of the Greek text of the first four verses in that chapter:
Matthew 23:1 Then spoke Jesus to the crowds, and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moses. 3 And so, they demand you to follow all kinds [of rules], without limit, [saying], ‘Observe, and do!’ – But, do not do according to their works [or tasks], for they do not do the things they teach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves do not touch those burdens with one finger.” (BPT)
The article noa120.htm has more on that passage and its translation.
Deuteronomy 18:15–20 records how Moses said that there would come a prophet of the kind Moses himself was. That referred to Jesus.
But, was there a “chain” of Moses-figures, from the days of the first Moses, to the days of Jesus the “new Moses”? No, there was no such “chain”. Before Jesus, there was no “successor” to Moses in any “seat”. Jesus was and is the second “Moses”, not the 36th or 63rd one.
Further: There is no “third Moses”. Jesus the second Moses does not have any mortal “deputies” or “special representatives” here on Earth today.
(The article nsa060.htm considers what the Bible has to say about “spiritual authority” – that is, the question, who can speak for God?)
The Lord Jesus who is the “second Moses” is a ruler, but what about the former Moses?
This has to do with the time of the Exodus and the period after it, the Israelites’ forty-year desert sojourn. Was Moses a ruler? The answer is that Moses is not called “ruler” in the Bible. He was a prophet and a judge, but not a ruler. The Lord was the Israelites’ Ruler.
A note: Some writers have in a vague manner quoted a passage in Deuteronomy 1, for the purpose of making people believe that Moses was a “ruler” and that he personally chose men as “sub-rulers”. But, it was the Israelites themselves who chose the men in question, and they were not “rulers” but instead some kind of judges or arbitrators who settled the Israelites’ disputes. We read:
Deuteronomy 1:10 Jehovah your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of the heavens in multitude. 11 May Jehovah the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times more than you are, and bless you as He has promised you! 12 How can I alone bear your burdens and your loads and your disputes? 13 Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads [a] over you. 14 And you answered me and said, The thing which you have spoken to us is good to do. (VW06, note sign added)
a Verse 13, “heads”, Hebrew rosh. Many translators have made that into “rulers”, but the wider context shows that it was judges those Israelites selected, and not “rulers”. Before this, when they had some problem or dispute, they went to Moses who then would judge the matter. But, see verse 12, Moses could not deal with all that. So, verse 13, he told the people to select men from among themselves (to settle their disputes). Verse 14: The people agreed, realising that that was a good idea. – The point here is that neither Moses nor those other judges were “rulers”. Again, the Lord was Israel’s ruler. (Later, in the days of Samuel, the Israelites rejected the Lord as their ruler and demanded to have him replaced with a mortal ruler. But, that is another story.)
Moses was a judge. But, the Old Covenant had even a priesthood. Moses’ brother Aaron was the first high priest.
In contrast to that, the New Covenant does not have any mortal priesthood. Many churches have priests, but the saints had only one priest: The resurrected Jesus.
The article nea020.htm notes that the concept of “ordaining”, “holy orders”, is of Catholic origin and lacks support in the Greek text of the New Testament.
In what appears to have been a vision, the apostles Peter, James and John saw how Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking with each other.
Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus takes with him Peter, and James, and John, his brother, and makes them go up with him into a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was changed in form before them; and his face was shining like the sun, and his clothing became white as light. 3 And Moses and Elijah came before their eyes, talking with him. (BBE)
We do not know what Jesus, Moses and Elijah discussed, nor do we know what the meaning of that vision was. But, that certainly shows that both Moses and Elijah were important men.
A number of writers have spun various kinds of speculations and dogmas regarding Moses and Elijah. Also, some preachers have been presented as “Elijahs” or “Moses-figures”, but that is nonsense. Jesus was and is the second “Moses”, and he does not have any mortal “deputies” here on Earth today, and he will not be replaced by someone else.
But, the Scriptures tell us about two persons who are to come forth, two men who will be doing something similar to what Moses and Elijah had done. That is: The two witnesses who are mentioned in the book of Revelation. Certain things the Bible says about them and what they will do, bear clear similarities to what Moses and Elijah did in the past. The articles nta010.htm and nta020.htm have some notes on this.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm
The route of the Exodus, and the location of Mount Sinai. Did the Israelites cross the Red Sea by the Gulf of Suez, or by the Gulf of Aqaba? Or, was it some “reed sea” they went over, as some say? And, where did the forty-year desert sojourn take place? → noa060.htm
Hebrews 4:9, the sabbatismos or rest which the saints were to enter – a clarification of its actual nature. → nxa100.htm
What does the Bible say about Heaven? Were the saints to go there? What about others? What does it look like, in Heaven? → nba040.htm
What does the Bible say about the Pharisees? → noa120.htm
What does the Bible say about authority? Who has biblical, spiritual or religious authority? Who can speak for God? → nsa060.htm
What does the Bible say about ordaining or ordination? How did the saints choose their elders? Were those elders “ordained”, and did they function as “priests” of some kind? → nea020.htm
The two witnesses of the book of Revelation. Also: Similarities between their work and that of Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist. → nta010.htm
On Elijah of the Old Testament and John the Baptist and the Elijah or Elias who is mentioned in the New Testament. → nta020.htm
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