Who is Moses?

How would you describe Moses? What kind of person is he?

What is his role in the Bible? In the Exodus story? In our Haggadah?

(כא) וַיּוֹאֶל מֹשֶׁה לָשֶׁבֶת אֶת הָאִישׁ וַיִּתֵּן אֶת צִפֹּרָה בִתּוֹ לְמֹשֶׁה.

(21) Moses consented to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah as wife.

(י) וְעַתָּה לְכָה וְאֶשְׁלָחֲךָ אֶל פַּרְעֹה וְהוֹצֵא אֶת עַמִּי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם. (יא) וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל הָאֱלֹהִים מִי אָנֹכִי כִּי אֵלֵךְ אֶל פַּרְעֹה וְכִי אוֹצִיא אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם. (יב) וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי אֶהְיֶה עִמָּךְ וְזֶה לְּךָ הָאוֹת כִּי אָנֹכִי שְׁלַחְתִּיךָ בְּהוֹצִיאֲךָ אֶת הָעָם מִמִּצְרַיִם תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים עַל הָהָר הַזֶּה.

(10) Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt. (11) But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt? (12) And He said, "I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain."

(י) וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל יי בִּי אֲדֹנָי לֹא אִישׁ דְּבָרִים אָנֹכִי גַּם מִתְּמוֹל גַּם מִשִּׁלְשֹׁם גַּם מֵאָז דַּבֶּרְךָ אֶל עַבְדֶּךָ כִּי כְבַד פֶּה וּכְבַד לָשׁוֹן אָנֹכִי.

(10) But Moses said to the LORD, "Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."

(ל) וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי יי הֵן אֲנִי עֲרַל שְׂפָתַיִם וְאֵיךְ יִשְׁמַע אֵלַי פַּרְעֹה.

(30) And Moses said before the LORD: ‘Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?’

**Other ways to understand this verse**

  • Moses appealed to the LORD, saying, "See, I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me!" (JPS Tanach 1985)
  • But Moses said to the LORD, "Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?" (New International Version)
  • But Moses said before the LORD, "Since I speak with difficulty, why should Pharaoh listen to me?" (New English Translation Bible)
  • But Moses said to the LORD, "I don't speak very well. So why would Pharaoh listen to me?" (New International Reader's Version)

Who is the REAL hero?

(לא) וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַיָּד הַגְּדֹלָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יי בְּמִצְרַיִם וַיִּירְאוּ הָעָם אֶת יי וַיַּאֲמִינוּ בַּיי וּבְמֹשֶׁה עַבְדּוֹ.

(31) And when Israel saw the wondrous power which the LORD had wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD; they had faith in the LORD and His servant Moses.

SparkNotes' Analysis of Major Characters: Moses

Moses’ most heroic virtue is his steadfast obedience, and it might be said that a passive quality permeates each of his miracles. Ten plagues strike Egypt because Moses simply appears in Pharaoh’s court to request the release of the Israelites. With the help of his rod, or divine staff, Moses parts the waters of the Red Sea merely by outstretching his arms. Later, the beleaguered Israelites defeat a mighty army when two men help Moses raise his hands for the duration of the battle. The image of a stationary man bringing about overwhelming physical feats is striking. Moses himself is far from passive or reticent, yet he represents a prototype of the biblical hero whose greatness lies not in self-assertion but in obedience to God.

Moses is a compelling figure because he possesses human faults. He is passionate and impulsive. Descending from Mount Sinai, Moses knows ahead of time that the people are worshipping a golden idol, because God has warned him of this fact. Upon seeing the people, Moses angrily breaks the stone tablets inscribed with God’s laws. God seems to value this passionate quality in Moses, for Moses is an effective mediator between God and the Israelites. He prays with a sense of urgency, unafraid to ask God to refrain from divine retribution and willing to accept the blame for the people’s actions. His earnest attention to the present situation and to God’s demands earns Moses the opportunity to speak with God face to face. Yet his passion remains his weakness. God commands Moses to produce water from a rock by speaking to it, but, irritated with the people’s complaints, Moses hits the rock with his staff. This act of negligence bars Moses from entering the very promised land to which he has guided the Israelites for almost half a century.