Exodus: Into the Wilderness with Moses

For earlier parts of the Moses story, see:


So… Yahweh led the million-plus Hebrews towards the land of the Canaanites, which he promised them would be their new land:

Exodus 13:21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.
22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

After a while, Yahweh told Moses to have his people camp in a certain place, backed up to the Red Sea (or perhaps the Sea of Reeds), where the Pharaoh would think they were vulnerable and come after them — because Yahweh was still “hardening the heart” of the Pharaoh and wanting to display his might. Pharaoh took the bait and sent all his horses and chariots and armies against the Hebrews, who became alarmed when the huge forces appeared — and blamed Moses for bringing them to die in the wilderness when they had been better off as slaves in Egypt. Moses said, Stand back and watch Yahweh defend you; you’ll never see these Egyptians again. Then Moses went calling to God for help:

Exodus 14:15 And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
16 but lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honor upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

So Yahweh’s plan was for Moses to lift his rod, the sea would split, the Israelites would cross over, and then the sea would close upon the pursuing Egyptians. The night before this was to take place, the “angel of God” placed itself between the Hebrews and the Egyptians, as did the pillar of cloud, to protect them.

Moses Parts Red Sea

Moses then stretched out his hand (or rod?) over the sea, and the sea was pushed back by a “strong east wind” Yahweh caused to blow all night. The Hebrews were able to cross the sea on dry ground, while the pursuing Egyptians ran into trouble crossing the seabed when Yahweh took off their chariot wheels. He then told Moses to stretch out his hand (rod?) again, and the water returned, drowning all of Pharaoh’s troops. The Israelites were finally convinced that Yahweh was a God to be feared and believed in.

Exodus 14:19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
20 and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
25 and took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
26 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore.
31 And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.






After crossing the sea, the Israelites traveled through the wilderness for three days without finding water — and blamed Moses.

Exodus 15:24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
25 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

Pretty soon, people were complaining about the lack of food, blaming Moses. It did no good for Moses to tell them that blaming him was like blaming Yahweh. Yahweh told Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven;” but first he appeared before the Israelites.

Exodus 16:9 And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the Lord: for he hath heard your murmurings.
10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

God told Moses to tell the people that there would be plenty to eat, quail every evening, and bread every morning. And indeed every evening “quails came up, and covered the camp.” And in the morning, with the evaporation of the dew, there was manna from heaven.

Exodus 16:14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.


Moses imparted Yahweh’s instructions to gather exactly how much manna they needed and to eat all of that, setting aside none for the morning. Nevertheless, some people kept some for later, and in the morning, it was full of worms and stank, and Moses was angry. For five days the Hebrews harvested and ate manna, and then on the sixth day there was twice as much manna as usual — which extra amount kept without spoiling so they had enough for both the sixth day and the seventh day, the sabbath, upon which day they were told to “abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So they ate manna for forty years, as they journeyed to Canaan, complaining about it more or less continually.

Exodus 16:31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

35 And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited: they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.

The Hebrews again couldn’t find water, and blamed Moses.

Exodus 17:4 And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.
5 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go.
6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.



After a while, the Israelites had to deal with a war. Moses told Joshua to get his men together to go out and fight the enemy Amalek, while he would go stand on top of a hill with “the rod of God” in his hand.



Whenever Moses held up his hand (or hands?), the Hebrews would win. Whenever he put his hand(s) down, the other side would win. But his hands were so heavy that he couldn’t keep them up; so he sat down on a stone, and Aaron and Moses’s nephew Hur held his hands aloft until sundown.


Exodus 17:8 Then came Am’alek, and fought with Israel in Reph’idim.
9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Am’alek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.
10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Am’alek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Am’alek prevailed.
12 But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
13 And Joshua discomfited Am’alek and his people with the edge of the sword.

Judges 5:4 LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.


Moringa as Water Purifier. One possibility for the tree Moses used to purify water is the moringa tree. It likes dry, sandy, tropical to semi-desert conditions, and its seeds have been proven to purify water. It has many names in many languages, including some that translate as “tree of paradise” and “cannot be killed by the dry season.” When crushed moringa seeds are mixed with water, they create positively charged proteins, which attract the negatively charged bacteria and particles. In 1995, researchers at the University of Leicester released the results of a study showing that moringa seeds treat water as well as the commercial chemicals that are usually used — clearing the water of solids, and removing 90 to 99.99 percent of the bacteria.

The Pillar of Cloud. The Jewish Encyclopedia states that the Haggadah, the Jewish religious text that tells the story of Passover…mentions not one, but seven, “clouds of glory” as having accompanied Israel on its march through the desert; namely, one on each of the four sides, and one above, one below, and one in front of, these four. According to another passage there were even thirteen clouds, two on each side, two above, two below, and one in front. Others, again, speak of only four, or of two (Mek., Beshalla, i.; Sifre, Num. 83). The cloud in front prepared the way by leveling the heights and depths…, killing the snakes, and making the way pleasant. [These “clouds of glory” prevented the garments of the Israelites from becoming soiled or worn during the forty years in the wilderness].

From Wikipedia:

“Canaan: the biblical name for the area of ancient Palestine west of the Jordan River, the Promised Land of the Israelites, who conquered and occupied it during the latter part of the 2nd millennium bc.

“Canaan (Phoenician: ____________ or ________, Kana_n; Hebrew: ________ K_ná_an; Arabic: _____ Kan__n) is an ancient term for a region encompassing modern-day Israel, Lebanon, and adjoining coastal lands, including parts of Jordan, Syria and northeastern Egypt. In the Hebrew Bible, the “Land of Canaan” extends from Lebanon southward to the “Brook of Egypt” and eastward to the Jordan River Valley.

“The Canaanites (Hebrew: ______, Modern Kna’anim Tiberian K_na__nîm) are said to have been one of seven regional ethnic divisions or “nations” driven out before the Israelites following the Exodus. Specifically, the other nations include the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites (Deuteronomy 7:1).”

Numbers 16:46 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun.
47 And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people.
48 And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.
49 Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah.
50 And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.

See Wikipedia entry on Manna

The clothing and shoes of Exodus travelers did not wear out even after 40 years:

Deuteronomy 8:4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.

Deuteronomy 29:5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.

Conquering Canaan/Promised Land

Popol Vuh, 4 patriarchs tell their children: “Go on your way and you shall see again the place from which we came.”

Eibp, “The return to the ancestral land [promised] is a major theme in the Bible,” starting w/Genesis 15:7-16.

Both Popol Vuh and Genesis divide people into 3 groups. Genesis says descendants of 3 brothers Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Ten lost tribes of Israel (besides Judah and Benjamin), conquered by Assyrians. South America? 17th cent. Jewish traveler said he met Indians reciting shema, devout Jewish prayer. American Indians religion/Hebrew practices? Jews of Ethioia/tribe of Dan? Bene Israel – Jewish community in India.

The Hebrews See Yahweh; Moses Gets Covenants; Also, Circumcision Happens


For parts 1 and 2 of this story, see The Early Days of Moses and Moses in Egypt: Miracles, Plagues, and a Hardened Heart.

To recap a bit: Moses frees the Hebrew slaves from the Pharoah by inflicting ten plagues. They leave in a hurry, “borrowing” silver and gold jewelry, and clothes from the Egyptians, which items would later be used to build the Ark of the Covenant and its Tabernacle.

So, in the third month after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the Sinai desert, where they camped “before the mount”:

Exodus 19:2 For they were departed from Reph’idim, and were come to the desert of Si’nai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.
3 And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;
4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.

The people say they’ll follow God’s rules, so God tells Moses to go among the people and sanctify them for two days, and they must wash their clothes, and then God will appear to them on the third day. Moses is also supposed to warn the people that they must not climb the mountain:


Exodus 19:12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
13 there shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.

So, it came to pass…

Exodus 19:16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
18 And mount Si’nai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.
20 And the Lord came down upon mount Si’nai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.
21 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish.
22 And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.
23 And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to mount Si’nai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.
24 And the Lord said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them.


Yahweh gave the Ten Commandments to the gathered Israelites, mentioning a few points that are generally ignored when listing the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work:
10 but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

Moses Receiving the Tablets of the Law on Mt. Sinai

Then the frightened people begged Moses to speak to them on Yahweh’s behalf, rather than have Yahweh speak to them directly.

Exodus 20:18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
22 And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

God then gave Moses more rules to convey to the people: no golden or silver god images, build a certain kind of altar, perform a certain kind of animal sacrifice. He offered a great many other rules of his covenant that his people were required to follow if they wanted Yahweh’s help and to escape his wrath. The first section dealt with the treatment of servants. For instance:

Exodus 21:2 If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.
5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:
6 then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the doorpost; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.


Then there were some laws concerning violence and responsibility, some clearly cribbed from other ancient codes:

Exodus 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

A lot of laws about restitution and oxen and thievery followed, then some laws about human relations:

Exodus 22:16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.
18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
19 Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.
20 He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.
21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;
24 and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
25 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as a usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.
26 If thou at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down:
27 for that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.
28 Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.
29 Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors. The firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.
30 Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.


The laws went on and on, a lot of rules for behavior, including that they must let their fields sit fallow in the seventh year, and that they must rest on each seventh day, so that “thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.”

Exodus 23:13 And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.

Then Yahweh urged the people to move on, saying he was sending an angel in front of them to show them the way, and would also send “hornets” before them, to drive out the peoples currently occupying the land God wanted his Israelites to have.

Exodus 23:20 Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
22 But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.
23 For mine angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Per’izzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jeb’usites; and I will cut them off.
24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.
25 And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.
26 There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfill.
27 I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come; and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.
28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
29 I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.
30 By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.
31 And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.

Yahweh told Moses to bring some influential people closer, so as to see him, but not too close.

Exodus 24:9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abi’hu, and seventy of the elders of Israel;
10 and they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.

The New American Standard Bible (©1995) translates verse 10 as “and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.” Moses was told to come up to Yahweh “into the mount” to collect some stone tables (tablets):

Exodus 24:12 And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.

15 And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.
16 And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Si’nai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
17 And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.
18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

It isn’t clear from these verses whether Moses spent six days hanging around waiting to be invited in, or whether he made two visits “into the mount,” one of seven days and one of forty days.

The people got tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mount, and they asked Aaron to make them some gods they could believe in. They were used to worshipping idols, and this invisible god thing made them nervous. So Aaron made a golden calf and built an altar in front of it and made a sacrifice. He told the Israelites that, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” The he informed them they’d have a “feast to the Lord” the next day. He seemed to understand that they needed a representation of their god that they could see, and in fact all the people’s grumblings ceased as they enjoyed the festival day.


But Yahweh had been watching what they were up to, and he’d had enough. He was ready to destroy the Israelites:


Exodus 32:9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked [haughty and stubborn] people:
10 now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

So, Yahweh suggested to Moses that he wanted to just wipe out this failed experiment and start over with Moses as the father of “a great nation.” But Moses talked him out of it, reminding Yahweh that the Egyptians would be pleased if he destroyed the Hebrews, and that Yahweh had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Israel there would be a promised land for their descendants.


Finally, Moses came down from the mount carrying two tablets containing the ten commandments and the covenant:

Exodus 32:15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
16 And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

As Moses approached the camp, he heard the sound of singing; then he saw the calf and the dancing, and he threw the tablets out of his hands “and brake them beneath the mount.” In those days, a covenant that was no longer in effect would be literally broken (being written in stone or ceramic), so Moses was just stating the obvious. [Earlier the people had agreed to follow the covenant.]


Then he did something really interesting:

Exodus 32:20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

[Musings about the ‘white powder of gold’.]

Moses was irritated with Aaron, but let him off lightly. On the other hand, when Moses noticed “the people were naked,” all hell broke loose.

Exodus 32:25 And when Moses saw that the people were naked, (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies,)
26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.
28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

To summarize, Moses asked who was on the side of the god Yahweh. The male members of the tribe of Levi (who were charged with the Hebrews’ priestly duties as opposed to the military duties the other 11 tribes took on) all came to stand by Moses. He told them that Yahweh had said they were to go to the camps of the various Hebrew tribes and each man was to kill his brother, his friend, and his neighbor. So they did, slaying about three thousand men. They did this like an entrance exam to be worthy of the favor of Yahweh.

The next day Moses went back up to the mount to see if he could “make an atonement for your sin.”

Exodus 32:32 Yet now, if you will forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of your book which you have written.

Yahweh explained he was going to blot sinners out of his book, period, and that Moses should get back down and lead the people towards Canaan. Yahweh was angry, and although “mine angel shall go before thee,” Yahweh went out of his way to make the journey difficult for the Israelites.

Exodus 32:34 Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

Yahweh told Moses to tell the people that they were “stiffnecked” and he was going to “come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee” unless they took off their “ornaments,” which they did, by the mount.

Exodus 33:5 For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.
6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.

The next day Moses went back up to the mount to see if he could “make an atonement for your sin.”

Yahweh told Moses to go hew another couple of stone tablets to the same specs as the first pair, now broken, and to meet him in the morning on the top of the mount.

Exodus 34:3 And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.
4 And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Si’nai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.
5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD….

10 And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.

11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Per’izzite, and the Hivite, and the Jeb’usite.
12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
13 but ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: Deut. 16.21
14 for thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Moses stayed on the mount with Yahweh for 40 days and 40 nights, during which time he wrote on the tablet the 10 commandments plus the covenant, a long list of rules — for instance, keep the sabbath, undertake thrice-yearly pilgrimages, and do “not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven.”

Exodus 34:27 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
31 And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.
32 And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.
34 But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Yahweh dictated to Moses the kinds of offerings the people were required to make to him, and said they must use those offerings to make him a sanctuary so that he “may dwell among them.” See the Ark of the Covenant.



Joshua 5: Gilgal circumcisions
Jesus says no in gospel of Thomas


The First Circumcision,
Zipporah at the inn
From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipporah
“After all the men in Egypt who had sought his death had died, God commanded Moses to return to Egypt. Moses took his wife and sons and started his journey back to Egypt. On the road, they stayed in an inn, where a mysterious and much-debated incident that features Zipporah took place. The Bible tells us that God came to kill Moses (Exodus 4:24-27). The passage contains four of the most difficult sentences in Biblical text.”

Exodus 4:24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

Zipporah quickly circumcised Gershom with a sharp stone and touched Moses’ feet with it, saying “A bridegroom of blood because of the circumcision.” (Exodus 4:26.) One possible interpretation is that something (perhaps God, perhaps an agent of God) tries to kill Moses, until Zipporah carries out a circumcision on their son. Other interpretations suggest that it is their son, Gershom, who is attacked, and yet another is that Moses tries to kill his own son and only after Zipporah cuts the child’s foreskin, drawing blood and pain, does his anger subside.

“While Exodus is unambiguous about Yahweh (God) himself performing the attack on Moses, other texts make the attacker an “angel of the Lord”.

“The version in the Book of Jubilees (2nd century BC) is attributing the attack to Prince Mastema, a title that was another name for Satan:

… and what Prince Mastema desired to do with you when you returned to Egypt, on the way when you met him at the shelter. Did he not desire to kill you with all of his might and save the Egyptians from your hand because he saw that you were sent to execute judgment and vengeance upon the Egyptians? And I delivered you from his hand and you did the signs and wonders which you were sent to perform in Egypt. —Jubilees 48:2-4

“The Septuagint version subtly alters the text by translating the Tetragrammaton not as κύριος “the lord” but as ἄγγελος κυρίου “the angel of the lord”. “Angel” (ἄγγελος ) is the translation throughout the Septuagint of the Hebrew “mal’ak”, the term for the manifestation of Yahweh to humanity. (It is the mal’ak that speaks to Moses from the burning bush).”

“The standard interpretation of the passage is that Yahweh wants to kill Moses for neglecting the rite of circumcision of his son. Zipporah averts disaster by reacting quickly and hastily performing the rite, thus saving her husband from Yahweh’s anger.

“In Hebrew, the word “feet” is used as an euphemism for the word “genitals.” Very few translators chose to use the word “genitals” in their interpretation, so it’s not clear what Zipporah touched with the bloody foreskin.

“The Hebrew for “bridegroom of blood” written as “hatan dimim,” is derived from a Semitic root verb which means “perform marriage.” In the Arabic language this phrase is linked to Hebrew, but means “perform circumcision.” In ancient Akkadian language related to Arabic and Aramaic/Hebrew, this phrase means “to protect.”

“Zipporah was a Midian woman. Midian is present day Saudi Arabia where Arabic is spoken. However, in Zipporah‘s day, Akkadian was spoken. In the ancient Akkadian language, casting the foreskin meant “to protect.” So “You are a bridegroom of blood,” can also mean, “This blood will protect you.”[1]

“The details of the passage are unclear and subject to debate. One problem is that the text uses pronouns multiple times, without ever identifying which of the three individuals of Moses, Yahweh (the LORD), and Moses and Zipporah’s son, is being referred to by each instance. In particular, it is unclear whose feet, Yahweh’s, Moses’ or her son’s, Zipporah touches with the foreskin, and the meaning of “bloody bridegroom”.




“Cleanliness” of animals in the Bible determines whether they can be eaten or not. Presumably, Noah took more of the clean animals onto the Ark (seven pairs as opposed to two) to serve as food.

Information re what was okay to eat is found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Animals were clean if they had cloven (split) hooves and they did not chew their cud. Water-dwelling creatures who did not have fins and scales were unclean. “Every creeping thing that flieth” was unclean, and so on.

These are the animals specifically mentioned in the Bible as unclean (although translations vary):

Coney (Hyrax)
Gier Eagle[4]
Great Owl[5]
Little Owl
Night Hawk

Here are animals that, while not specifically mentioned in the Bible as unclean, fulfill the requirements of uncleanliness.

Tasmanian Devil
Umbrella bird

cud |k_d|
partly digested food returned from the first stomach of ruminants to the mouth for further chewing.
chew the cud 1 (of a ruminant animal) further chew partly digested food. 2 think or talk reflectively.
ORIGIN Old English cwidu, cudu, of Germanic origin; related to German Kitt ‘cement, putty’ and Swedish kåda ‘resin.’

Numbers 5:11 bitter water test
Numbers 15:32: Man stoned for gathering sticks on the Sabbath

Healing on the Sabbath

Luke 14:3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;
5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?

Numbers 16:2: Yahweh destroys rebel Hebrews, leaders swallowed[?], supporters fired.

Numbers 20:12: Moses disobeys Yahweh, denied promised land. Deut 34:6: Moses is buried.

Yom kippur should not be atone, should be purge/purify, levit 16:1-28, htrtb p. 74
Noah’s covenant
Abram’s covenant
Isaac’s covenant
Moses’s covenant(s): 10 commandments #1 and #2
Each covenant from diff time period, w/diff “ideological perspective” p. 69-72 htrtb/brettler
Covenant (Code) Collection exodus 20:19-23:33

Priestly code and Holiness code collection of Leviticus 17-26 et al.
Ordination of Aaron and his sons

2 Chronicles 26:19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar.
20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the Lord had smitten him.
21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord….

A Blasphemer Stoned [?]
Deuteronomic law collection, deut 12-26

Next: Exodus: Into the Wilderness with Moses

Moses in Egypt: Miracles, Plagues, and a Hardened Heart

'The Angel of Death and the First Passover.

‘The Angel of Death and the First Passover.’ Because this family have identified themselves as Hebrew by sacrificing a lamb and smearing the doorposts with its blood, their firstborn will be spared the death inflicted on other firstborns. In the background, the Lord’s angel flies with his weapon.

For the first part of this story, see The Early Days of Moses.

To recap a bit, Yahweh (or his angel) appeared in a burning bush and told Moses his mission from God was to go back to Egypt, free the Hebrew slaves, and lead them to the promised land, Canaan, which was already occupied by numerous tribes.

Moses was not interested in fulfilling this mission; he explained that he wasn’t eloquent enough, and that no one would ever believe Yahweh had appeared to him. The god told him that Moses’s brother Aaron was a good speaker and would help out, and that Yahweh himself would put the right words in Moses’s mouth. He also provided Moses with a rod that turned into a serpent and a couple of extra miracles to use if needed—an appearing/disappearing leprosy and the ability to turn river water into blood.

So Moses, along with Aaron, went to Egypt and organized the Hebrew slaves, and then went before the Pharaoh to demand the slaves’ release.


Moses made his rod turn into a snake, but the Pharaoh was not impressed. He called his own wise men/sorcerer/magicians, and they also threw down rods that became serpents, although Moses’s snake ate the others.

Exodus 7:12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.

In the Young Literal Translation, the rods do not become serpents; they become monsters.

Exodus 7:10 And Moses goeth in — Aaron also — unto Pharaoh, and they do so as Jehovah hath commanded; and Aaron casteth his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it becometh a monster.
11 And Pharaoh also calleth for wise men, and for sorcerers; and the scribes of Egypt, they also, with their flashings, do so,
12 and they cast down each his rod, and they become monsters, and the rod of Aaron swalloweth their rods….


But Pharaoh did not relent. In fact, he made life even worse for the Hebrew slaves, who blamed Moses and Aaron. So Moses tried another trick, holding the rod above the river, which turned the water to blood, so that the fish died, and the river stank, and nobody could drink the water. But the Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to do the same trick, so the Pharaoh refused to give an inch.

Exodus 7:20 And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.
21 And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
22 And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the Lord had said.
23 And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.
24 And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.

Next Yahweh told Moses to tell Pharaoh that if he didn’t let his people go, there would be frogs:

Exodus 8:1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2 And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:
3 and the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs:
4 and the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.

Pharoah didn’t blink at the threat, so Yahweh told Moses to tell Aaron to hold the rod “over the waters of Egypt,” and, sure enough, frogs infested the land. The Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to conjure up some frogs, too, but Pharaoh was desperate to get rid of the ones Moses and Yahweh had brought, so he told Moses that if he’d get rid of the frogs, the Hebrews would be given their freedom. So Moses went and talked to Yahweh (it’s never clear how he talks to Yahweh, except for the times he goes up into the mount and talks face to face), who obligingly killed all the frogs. The people heaped them into huge stinking piles. But, once the frogs were dead, Pharaoh went back on his promise.

Bad move, since Yahweh upped the game with a massive infestation of lice (sometimes translated as “gnats”).

Exodus 8:16 And the Lord said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
17 And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.

The magicians tried to make more lice, but they couldn’t. They told Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God,” but Pharaoh wouldn’t listen. So then Yahweh told Moses to tell Pharaoh that flies were going to be next — except there would be no flies in the Hebrew’s area of residence, the land of Goshen. (Does this mean Goshen got the earlier frogs and lice?) “Flies” is sometimes translated as beetles, insects, dog-flies, or even wild animals. But Pharaoh wouldn’t buckle, so:

Exodus 8:24 And the Lord did so; and there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of flies.

Now under serious duress, Pharaoh said, Okay, I’ll let you all go away to worship your god — although I won’t let you go quite so far away as you ask — just get rid of the flies. So Moses told Yahweh the deal, and Yahweh got rid of every single fly. But Pharaoh again went back on his word.

Next came a plague of pestilence upon the Egyptians’ cattle; the plague did not touch Hebrew cattle.

Exodus 9:1 Then the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
2 For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
3 behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain [epidemic, infectious disease].
4 And the Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel.
5 And the Lord appointed a set time, saying, Tomorrow the Lord shall do this thing in the land.
6 And the Lord did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
7 And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead.

But Pharaoh still refused to relent. After all, by some accounts [including Exodus], Egypt held 600,000 male Hebrew slaves, plus their wives, children, and herds. [historicity] So Yahweh told Moses and Aaron to take handfuls of ashes from a furnace, and told Moses to sprinkle it towards the heavens with the Pharaoh watching.

Exodus 9:10 And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains [sores] upon man, and upon beast.
11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.

So the Egyptian sorcerers could not match Moses’ trick. But Pharaoh still would not relent. So Yahweh told Moses to tell Pharaoh that he would send a plague of “very grievous hail.” The hail turned out to be fiery, and every unsheltered man, beast, herb, and tree was destroyed — except in the Hebrew area, the land of Goshen, where there was no hail.

Exodus 9:18 Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.
19 Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.
20 He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses:
21 and he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.
22 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.
23 And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
24 So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
25 And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.
26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.

Moses went a short distance out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the Lord, for he did not desire to pray to God within, where there were many idols and images. At once the hail remained suspended in the air. Part of it dropped down while Joshua was engaged in battle with the Amorites, and the rest God will send down in his fury against Gog. —Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginzberg, Book 2.

The Seventh Plague.

“The Seventh Plague.” Thunder was followed by hail mingled with fire, which destroyed everything that was outside, throughout Egypt — except for the Hebrews’ area, the land of Goshen, which was spared. The hail was described as very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.”

Pharaoh said to Moses, You’re right; your god is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. I’ll let the Hebrews go. So Moses relayed this to Yahweh, who stopped the grievous hail.

But once more, Pharaoh went back on his word. If this seems unintelligent, note that Yahweh claimed to be hardening the Pharaoh’s heart on purpose so that Yahweh would get a chance to show how mighty he was (and how lame the Egyptian gods were by comparison). Remember, before his interactions with Moses, Yahweh had been absent from the Hebrews’ lives for [over 400 years]. He was using these terrifying, impressive spectacles to remind them that he is their god, and better than the Egyptian gods.

Exodus 10:1 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him:
2 and that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord.

So next comes a plague of locusts:

Exodus 10:12 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left.
13 And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.
14 And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.
15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

At this point Pharaoh was begging for forgiveness, so Moses asked Yahweh to take away the locusts:

Exodus 10:19 And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

Since Pharaoh still wouldn’t relent, a plague of “thick darkness” was inflicted:

Exodus 10:21 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.
22 And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:
23 they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

The Ninth Plague, Darkness.

The Ninth Plague, Darkness.

The Egyptians must have wondered if their sun god Ra had been vanquished. Pharaoh said, Right, take yourselves and your children and go; just leave behind your livestock. Moses explained that they needed their flocks and herds, every last hoof, because they had to go make animal sacrifices and burnt offerings to Yahweh.
Yahweh tells Moses there is going to be one more plague, and that this is going to break the Pharaoh’s resolve once and for all. Moses gave Pharaoh the final, chilling warning:

Exodus 11:4 And Moses said, Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:
5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.
6 And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.
7 But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.

Yahweh told Moses and Aaron to have each Hebrew household kill and roast a lamb on a certain night, and smear its blood on the doorposts:

Exodus 12:7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper doorpost of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

Yahweh directed that the people be ready to move on out at a moment’s notice:

Exodus 12:11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover.

Yahweh ordered that the Israelites were not to go out of their houses until morning.

Exodus 12:22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt: for there was not a house where there was not one dead.

Yahweh killed all the firstborn male Egyptians, human and animals. [angel of the lord, the lord, There is no clue in the Bible how it was done.]

"The Death of the Firstborn." “The destroyer” came “in unto [the Egyptians’] houses to smite” their firstborn males. Note the angel lurking in the background.

“The Death of the Firstborn.” “The destroyer” came “in unto [the Egyptians’] houses to smite” their firstborn males. Note the angel lurking in the background.

"The Firstborn of the Egyptians Are Slain." The Lord’s Angel is usually pictured as doing the work. “Natural” theories as to how the firstborn could have been singled out generally center around the fact that the firstborn received special privileges in the family, such as eating before the younger siblings, and therefore might have received a lethal dose of a food-borne toxin that had perhaps developed during the days of darkness.

“The Firstborn of the Egyptians Are Slain.” The Lord’s Angel is usually pictured as doing the work. “Natural” theories as to how the firstborn could have been singled out generally center around the fact that the firstborn received special privileges in the family, such as eating before the younger siblings, and therefore might have received a lethal dose of a food-borne toxin that had perhaps developed during the days of darkness.

Finally, the Pharaoh said, Get out, right now! The undertone was, “…before I change my mind and slaughter you all.” So the Hebrews gathered up their belongings, and, following Yahweh’s orders, they also “borrowed” silver and gold jewelry, and clothes from the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:31 And he [Pharaoh] called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.
32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.
33 And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.
34 And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
36 and the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required: and they spoiled the Egyptians.

This collection of silver, gold, jewels, and raiment would be needed to build the Ark of the Covenant and its Tabernacle.

Next: The Hebrews See Yahweh; Moses Gets Covenants; Also, Circumcision Happens


Body Lice. This plague reportedly was responsible for many deaths of people and animals, their corpses covered with lice, or gnats, depending on the translation.

Flies. This plague might even have happened naturally, without Yahweh’s intervention, due to all the dead bodies from the previous plague. But, while it’s not clear whether the Hebrew slaves experienced the plagues of frogs and lice, they were specifically exempted from suffering the plague of flies.

Only Non-Hebrew Cattle Afflicted. Cattle were important not only as food but as sacrificial animals. They could not be sacrificed if they were imperfect. Yahweh took every opportunity to show his superiority to the Egyptian gods, and to induce the Hebrews to fear him as their God.

Boils on People and Animals. Some suggest that the plagues of lice, flies, and pestilence were natural results of the deaths of so many frogs. It’s not clear, though, how the Hebrews could have been spared. Also, Yahweh performed his [tricks] at specifically stated times, so as to prove they were his doing. What scenario seems more likely than these “natural” explanations? Yahweh was inflicting chemical and/or biological warfare.

Boil: an inflamed pus-filled swelling on the skin.

The Plague of Fiery Hail. A rain of fire, often containing “blood,” is a fairly common motif in ancient stories. According to the Aztec Codex Chimalpopoca, during the third sun (world age), the people were destroyed by a rain of fire sent by Quetzalcoatl. [popul-vuh “it was ruin and destruction…etc.” and Manuscript Quiche quote: “there descended from the sky a rain of bitumin, etc.”] [and Siberia/Vogul quote, “God sent a sea of fire upon the earth, etc.” and East Indies aboriginals quote “water of fire” etc. and Midrash Tanhuma, Midrash Psikta Raboti, Midrash Wa-Yosha quotes re naptha and hot stones pouring down upon Egypt (petroleum, common in Middle East, bubbles to ground). [hail actually translates as rocks] and in Homer’s Iliad, where Zeus twice caused a rain of blood, on one occasion to warn of slaughter in a battle.] [“since the foundation thereof even until now.” – ancient [nuclear] war]

Revelation 8:7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

Napalm is a generic name used to describe various flammable liquids used in warfare, often forms of jellied gasoline. [naptha]

Enough Locusts to Cover “the Face of the Whole Earth.” Suggestions for a natural explanation include locust swarms forming because of a lack of predators, or in order to focus on what few plants remained after previous plagues.

Thick Darkness. Throughout the Old Testament, the words “thick darkness” are associated with Yahweh’s appearance. For instance:

Psalms 18:9 And He inclineth the heavens, and cometh down, And thick darkness is under His feet. (Young’s Literal Translation)

Deuteronomy 4:11 And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.

I Kings 8:12 and 2 Chronicles 6:1 Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.

Suggestions for natural explanations include solar eclipse, sandstorm, volcanic ash, or swarms of locusts blocking out the sun.

Gird: encircle (a person or part of the body) with a belt or band; secure (a garment or sword) on the body with a belt or band.

Loin: the part of the body on both sides of the spine between the lowest (false) ribs and the hipbones.

Gird Up One’s Loins: prepare and strengthen oneself for what is to come.

See How to Gird Up Your Loins: an Illustrated Guide.

Read the next part of the Moses story: The Hebrews See Yahweh; Moses Gets Covenants; Also, Circumcision Happens

The Early Days of Moses

Discovery of Baby Moses by Paul Delaroche

As the story goes, Moses was born in Egypt, probably in the 13th century BCE, at a time when Hebrews — in slavery for centuries — were required, by order of the Pharaoh, to drown their male babies in the Nile at birth. His mother instead set him adrift on the river in a papyrus basket, and he was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him in the palace as if he were her son, naming him Moses.

Here’s the story as told by an old illustration caption:

Moses’s mother Jochebed kept him hidden for three months to avoid having to drown him in the Nile River as the Pharaoh — perhaps Thutmose III — required for all newborn Hebrew boys. When she could no longer keep the baby concealed, she set him in the Nile in an “ark of bulrushes … daubed with slime and with pitch.” The Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing downstream, and, glimpsing the little boat, had her servant fetch it. The baby inside was crying, and she felt compassion for him. Miriam, Moses’s sister, had been watching the basket’s progress from a nearby hiding place. When she saw that the Pharaoh’s daughter felt tenderly toward the baby, Miriam offered to find a Hebrew nursemaid for him. Thus, the Pharoah’s daughter unknowingly ended up paying Moses’s own mother, Jochebed, to nurse him until he was big enough to be raised as the Pharoah’s daughter’s own son. Perhaps young Moses was a friend to the future Pharoah — likely Amenhotep III — to whom he would later deliver Yahweh’s command: “Let my people go.”


As an adult, Moses killed an Egyptian whom he saw beating a Hebrew slave, and then fled for his life to the Arabian town of Midian. There, he married a priest’s daughter and worked for many years as a shepherd.

At this time, the Hebrew god Yahweh (Yahweh, Jehovah, God) had been absent from his people, the Israelites, for hundreds of years. Moses was tending his sheep in the desert near “the mountain of God” when Yahweh appeared to him in a burning bush.

Exodus 3:1 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Mid’i-an: and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

2 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

Yahweh (or his angel) told Moses his mission from God was to go back to Egypt, free the Hebrew slaves, and lead them to the promised land, Canaan, which was already occupied by numerous tribes.

Exodus 3:8 and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Per’izzites, and the Hivites, and the Jeb’usites.

Moses was not interested in fulfilling this mission; he explained that he wasn’t eloquent enough, and that no one would ever believe Yahweh had appeared to him. The god told him that Moses’s brother Aaron was a good speaker and would help out, and that Yahweh himself would put the right words in Moses’s mouth. He also provided Moses with a rod that turned into a serpent and a couple of extra miracles to use if needed—an appearing/disappearing leprosy and the ability to turn river water into blood:

Exodus 4:1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.
2 And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3 And He said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:
5 that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
6 And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
8 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
9 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.

Moses really, really did not want to go back to Egypt, and he told Yahweh to please choose someone else. The god became angry and told him to just do it. He told Moses that all the people who had been after him for the murder he had committed were dead now. So Moses, along with Aaron, went to Egypt and organized the Hebrew slaves, and then went before the Pharaoh to demand the slaves’ release.

Next: Moses in Egypt: Miracles, Plagues, and a Hardened Heart