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Moses  (fl. ?13th century bce)

Lawgiver, leader of the Israelites and prophet. Born in Egypt to Amram and Jochebed, who hid him in a basket among the reeds of the Nile in order to escape Pharaoh's decree to slaughter all new-born Jewish males. He was found by Pharaoh's daugher, who raised him in the royal household. In early manhood he killed an Egyptian whom he discovered beating a Hebrew. After fleeing to Midian, he became a shepherd to the local priest Jethro and married his daughter, Zipporah. While tending Jethro's sheep on Mount Horeb, he encountered God, who spoke to him from the burning bush and commanded him to free the Hebrew slaves. He interceded with Pharaoh, who eventually released the Hebrews after ten plagues had afflicted Egypt. Moses led the people across the Red Sea, which miraculously parted so that they could cross, and guided them for 40 years in the desert. Moses received God's revelation of the law on Mount Sinai, embodied in the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone. Before his death he appointed Joshua his successor.


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Reprinted with permission from A Concise Encyclopedia of Judaism,
by Dan Cohn-Sherbok
.© Oneworld Publications.