|Topical Bible Study||June 1955|
The People of the Bible
Article VI—Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Moses—Deliverer, Lawgiver, and Prophet
IN THE Bible, Moses is second in prominence to Jesus Christ. His name appears in the Word of God a total of 810 times, 730 of which are in the Old Testament, and 80 in the New Testament. His name appears more than 100 times in the Old Testament subsequent to his death. Throughout the more than three thousand years since he lived, reverential esteem has been held for him by the Jewish people as their great Deliverer and Lawgiver.
Christians see in Moses not only a great prophet but also a type of the Messiah, the Christ. The Apostle Peter, in a prophecy of the work of Christ subsequent to his second advent said, “Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” (Acts 3:22; Deut. 18:15,18) In Hebrews 3:5,6 Moses is referred to as being “faithful in all his house,” and Christ is presented as a “son over his own house, whose house are we.”
God’s hand in the life of Moses was manifested from the time of his birth. Joseph, and the entire generation of Israelites brought into Egypt to escape the famine, had died. (Exod. 1:6) Meanwhile “the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.”—Exod. 1:7
The Pharaoh who exalted Joseph to such a high position in the government of Egypt had also died, and, as the record states, “There arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” (Exod. 1:8) This king became apprehensive and said to the Egyptians, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.”—Exod. 1:9,10
The Israelites had been made slave laborers and as such were useful to the Egyptian government, but the king did not want them to become too numerous. So he set taskmasters over them with orders to increase their burden of work, thinking that this would prevent them from multiplying so rapidly. But it had the opposite effect. Then the midwives were ordered to kill all the male babies as soon as they were born, but they disobeyed this order.—ch. 1:15-20
Then the king gave orders that all male children were to be thrown into the river. This “charge,” or command, was given to all the Egyptians and meant that it was legal for any of the Egyptians to seize Hebrew male children at any time and any place and throw them into the river. (vs. 22) It was under such circumstances that Moses was born.
Moses’ father and mother were of the family of Levi, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. The mother concealed Moses for three months after he was born. Then, realizing that she could not continue to do this, “she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.”—ch. 2:3,4
In the New Testament Paul comments on this, saying, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” (Heb. 11:23) They evidently had faith that in some way this “proper child” would be used by God in the fulfillment of his purposes in connection with their people. They would know of Joseph’s promise that the Israelites would be restored to their own land, and they may have hoped that this “goodly child” of theirs might in some way be instrumental in this deliverance.
Their faith soon began to be rewarded. Pharaoh’s daughter “came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and behold the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”—ch. 2:5,6
The sister who stood by to watch what would happen then asked Pharaoh’s daughter if she should get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child, “and Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother.” (vs. 8) The mother accepted the invitation to be the child’s nurse, and wages were paid her. How marvelous were the providences of God!
By this arrangement Moses was raised under the protection of the Egyptian government and became “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” (Acts 7:22) But with his own mother caring for him, Moses also learned that he was not an Egyptian, and he was informed concerning the promises of God as they related to the Israelites, including those of deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
In the New Testament, Stephen informs us that when Moses was “full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” (Acts 7:23) Paul states the matter more dramatically, saying, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”—Heb. 11:24-26
Evidently the Lord had revealed to Moses before he visited his brethren the first time that he was to be their deliverer from bondage. It was at this time that he slew one of the Egyptian taskmasters, because, as Stephen explains, “he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them; but they understood not.”—Acts 7:25; Exod. 2:11,12
It was when Moses visited his brethren the “second day” and intervened in a quarrel between two of them, that he learned his slaying of the Egyptian was known to others. Indeed, it soon became known to Pharaoh, and because of it Moses was obliged to flee from Egypt. It had all come about because he had decided to cast in his lot with his brethren. He had confidence in the promises of God, the God of his fathers. He believed that a great Deliverer, the Messiah, the promised “Seed,” would eventually come. Because of this, as Paul explains, he esteemed “the reproach of Christ [the reproach, that is, associated with belief in the messianic promises] greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.”
Moses believed the promises of God and was determined to be loyal to them no matter what the cost. He did not realize, however, what a strange turn the providences of God would take with his own experiences. God had revealed to him that he would be the deliverer of his people; but because he went about to accomplish it in his own way he was forced to flee from the country, and he lived as a refugee in the land of Midian for forty years.
As a result of his kindness in assisting the daughters of the prince of Midian, Moses was taken into his home, and later married one of Midian’s daughters, Zipporah. To him was born a son, whom he named Gershon, which means “a stranger here.” Moses gave his son this name because, as he said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.”—Exod. 2:11-22
During those forty years in Midian doubtless many times Moses thought of his people in Egypt and perhaps wondered when and how God would fulfill his promises to them. They were not unprofitable years for Moses, because he was learning to wait on the Lord and to realize that by his own strength and in his own way he could do nothing for his brethren.
“It came to pass in process of time,” the record states, “that the king of Egypt died.” (ch. 2:23) This was the king, or Pharaoh, whose daughter adopted Moses, and from whom Moses fled after killing the Egyptian taskmaster. His death is noted to indicate that the way was now open for Moses to return to accomplish the task which God had designed for him.
Meanwhile the burdens of the Israelites were being increased, and they “sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.”—ch. 2:23-25
The Burning Bush
Moses “kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law,” “and he had led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.” (ch. 3:1) Here “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. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”—ch. 3:2,3
Then the Lord spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, saying, “Moses, Moses,” and he answered, “Here am I.” (vs. 4) Moses was instructed to remove his shoes, for the place whereon he stood was holy ground—being made holy for the time being by the presence of the Lord, who, through the angel, was to give Moses his initial instructions regarding the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.—vs. 5
In speaking to Moses from the burning bush, the Lord identified himself, saying, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (vs. 6) The truthfulness of this narrative is confirmed by Jesus, who used it as a proof of the resurrection of the dead. He explained that Jehovah is not a God of the dead but of the living, and since he declared himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had died, it means that they are to be raised from the dead, for, as Jesus explained, “All live unto him,” that is, unto God.—Luke 20:37,38
In Moses’ day, even as now, there were many gods, but only one true and living God. It was he who had spoken to Abraham and promised that through his seed all the families of the earth were to be blessed. Moses knew about these promises and had confidence in the God who had made them, so he did not hesitate to offer himself for service, saying, “Here am I.”
The Lord then explained to Moses that the time had come when he would deliver the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt and “bring them out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” (ch. 3:7,8) To Moses the Lord also said, “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt.”—vs. 10
Remembering, no doubt, his first attempt to help his people and how completely it had failed, it was logical for Moses to ask, “Who am I, that I … should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Replying to this question, the Lord said to Moses, “Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.”—vss. 11,12
But Moses had still another question. Forty years prior to this, when he had attempted to help his people, he was asked, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?” (ch. 2:14) Now he wanted to know how he would answer questions of this sort from his own people. He knew that they would demand by what authority he had come to deliver them. True, he would tell them that the God of their fathers had sent him; but then, as he said, they would want to know more than this. “They shall say to me,” Moses continued, “What is his name?” How was he to answer this question?—vs. 13
Replying, the Lord said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”—vss. 14,15
The Hebrew word here translated “AM” in the name “I AM,” means “exist.” By its use the Lord was identifying himself to Moses and, through him, to the Israelites, as the ever-existing God, the same God who had directed and blessed their fathers, the God who had promised them the land of Canaan, who through Joseph had given assurance that they would be delivered from Egypt.
The Lord outlined a plan for Moses to follow. First, he was to “gather the elders of Israel together” and explain to them that the Lord’s time had come to deliver the Israelites, and, with the elders, he was to appear before Pharaoh and request that the Israelites be given the privilege of going three days’ journey into the wilderness, where they might offer sacrifice. (vss. 16-18) The Lord warned that permission for this would not be granted and that consequently he would bring plagues upon Egypt until Pharaoh would be willing to release the Israelites.
All of this appeared startling to Moses, who, after forty years of tending flocks for his father-in-law, had little confidence in his ability to lead his people out of bondage, especially in view of the certain opposition of Pharaoh. So again he appealed to the Lord for assurance. “They will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice,” he said to the Lord, “for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.”—ch. 4:1
Then the Lord gave Moses three signs, each of them a miracle, by which he might know, and the people might be convinced, of his divine appointment and authority. He was told to cast his rod upon the ground, and when he did, it became a serpent. When he picked it up, it became a rod again. Then he was told to put his hand into his bosom, and when he did, it became leprous but returned to normal healthy condition when he put it into his bosom the second time. He was told also that if these two signs were not convincing then he was to take water from the river and pour it upon the ground and it would become blood.—ch. 4:2-9
Convinced, apparently, that he would be able to establish the fact that the Lord had sent him, Moses then hesitated for another reason. He said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” (vs. 10) Replying to this, the Lord reminded Moses that he was the Creator of the tongue, implying that Moses need have no fear. The Lord then informed him that his brother Aaron would accompany him on his mission and would serve as his mouthpiece: “He shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.”—vss. 11-17
Moses was now satisfied and made preparations to return to Egypt. Meanwhile the Lord spoke to Aaron and instructed him to go into the wilderness to meet Moses. They met “in the mount of God.” (vs. 27) Now we have Moses and Aaron serving the Lord together. Aaron later became Israel’s first high priest under the arrangements of the Law Covenant into which the nation entered with the Lord shortly after the Exodus.
Moses and Aaron “gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel: and Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.”—vss. 29-31
With the elders of Israel agreeing to cooperate, Moses and Aaron then contacted Pharaoh, saying to him, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” But Pharaoh did not take this kindly. He replied, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.”—ch. 5:1,2
No amount of persuasion would change Pharaoh’s mind. Instead of allowing the Israelites to go, even temporarily, he increased their burdens. Then the Israelites complained to Moses, and Moses went to the Lord and said, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people.”—vss. 22,23
This was not expressing a lack of faith in God’s ability to deliver his people but rather a request for a better understanding of God’s providences. The Lord assured Moses that in due time Pharaoh would not only let the Israelites go but would even drive them out of the land. How the Lord brought Pharaoh to this point is recorded in Exodus, chapters 7 through 12.
God brought plagues upon Egypt, ten in all. As each of these plagues fell upon the land, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh with God’s message, “Let my people go.” Each time Pharaoh declared that if the plague were lifted he would let the Israelites go, but each time he broke his word. “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” (Rom. 9:17) This suggests that God could have brought another prince to the throne of Egypt but favored this one because of his wickedness, self-will, and obstinacy.
The Scriptures also declare that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. (Exod. 4:21) The explanation is that it was the goodness of God that hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Divine goodness and generosity were shown in the removal of the various plagues as soon as Pharaoh promised to do right. This, instead of inciting him to love and obedience, led him to greater obstinacy. He determined, as he passed through one plague after another, that others could not be worse; but ultimately he paid dearly for his defiance.
The tenth plague was the severest. All the firstborn of Egypt died, but the firstborn of Israel, under the protection of the blood of the passover lamb, were spared. By this plague Pharaoh was brought to the point, as prophesied, where he expelled the Israelites from the land.
It was in connection with this tenth and final plague upon Egypt that Israel’s passover was instituted. According to the instructions of the Lord, through Moses, the passover lamb was to be slain and its blood sprinkled upon the lintels and doorposts of the houses. The firstborn in any house where the blood was found that night was passed over, or spared.
The Apostle Paul places a typical significance upon this saying, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” (I Cor. 5:7) Paul also mentions the “church of the firstborn.” (Heb. 12:23) Israel’s firstborn were delivered from death that first passover night, and the next morning all Israel were brought forth from bondage. This has its counterpart in antitype in that “the church of the firstborn” are delivered from death during the present Gospel Age, and then, in the morning of earth’s new day, all mankind will be delivered from their great taskmaster, Satan, and made free from sin and death.
Moses Leads His People
Moses’ greatness is attributable to the fact that he gave the Lord the glory for everything. By cooperating with the Lord he had accomplished the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage; but he kept the people reminded that it was the Lord who had brought this about. He said to them, “Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place.”—Exod. 13:3
Soon after they left Egypt, Moses and the Israelites were confronted with another crisis. The Lord directed the route they were to take. He “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.” (vs. 21) By following the “cloud” and the “pillar of fire” they were led over a route which necessitated crossing the Red Sea, and when they reached the sea there seemed to be no way of crossing safely to the other side.
Meanwhile, after they had left Egypt, Pharaoh repented that he had allowed them to go; so “he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, … and he pursued after the children of Israel.” (ch. 14:7,8) Pharaoh and his army overtook the Israelites just as they reached the Red Sea, and the people became “sore afraid.” (vs. 10) They could not go forward, and it looked as though they would be captured and returned to Egypt or perhaps killed.
So they complained to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” (ch. 14:11) Moses, still trusting in the Lord, said unto the people, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”—ch. 14:13,14
The Lord then instructed Moses to go forward. He was told to stretch out his hand over the sea and divide it. The record is that a strong east wind blew upon the sea that night and divided the waters, enabling the Israelites to cross over on dry land. The Egyptian army tried to follow, but the waters closed in upon them, and Pharaoh and his warriors were destroyed.
The 15th chapter of Exodus contains a song of deliverance which was sung by Moses and the Israelites. Some of the opening words are, “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation.” (Exod. 15:2) This “song” of Moses is preeminently one of salvation and deliverance. The overcoming church class of the present Gospel Age is shown in the 14th chapter of Revelation as being with the “Lamb” on Mount Sion, singing a new song and, in the 15th chapter, as singing the song “of Moses and the Lamb.”—Rev. 14:1-3; 15:3
Thus again Moses and the mighty works accomplished by the Lord through him are indicated to be typical of Jesus, the “Lamb” of Revelation, and the much larger and more important deliverance accomplished by him, even the deliverance from sin and death, first of the church of the “firstborn,” and later, during the thousand years of his reign, of all mankind.
The Meekest Man
In Numbers 12:3 Moses is described as being “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” The thought is that Moses was self-effacing, willing to endure injustices in the common interest of his people, and for the glory of God. In his difficult position as leader of God’s people he needed this quality, for he was continually being accused by those for whom he was laying down his life.
When Pharaoh increased the burdens of the people because he was asked to give them their freedom, they blamed Moses. When they reached the Red Sea and there seemed no way of escape, they again blamed Moses, and they asked why they had been brought out into the wilderness to die. Soon after the miracle of crossing the Red Sea, when they came to Marah and found the water bitter, the people “murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?”—Exod. 15:23,24
Leaving Marah, the Israelites journeyed to Elim. There they found water. However, their destination was Canaan; so they moved on into what is described as “the wilderness of Sin.” There again they murmured, saying to Moses and Aaron, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full.” (ch. 16:3) Then they accused Moses of bringing them into the wilderness “to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
It was then that the Lord provided the manna from heaven to feed the Israelites. This manna came each night and was to be gathered each morning—just enough for the day’s supply—the only exception being that on the sixth day they were to gather a double portion in order to have a supply to last them over the sabbath. Jesus referred to this heavenly manna. He said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat bread in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”—John 6:48-51
Thus again the experiences of Israel under the leadership of Moses are indicated to be typical of Christ and the Heavenly Father’s provision of life through him. The manna was a type of Christ. As it provided life for all Israel, so Christ will provide life for all mankind. Moses instructed Aaron to take a pot of the manna and lay it up before the “testimony”; later it was put in the ark of the testimony in the most holy. (ch. 16:32-34; Heb. 9:4) The manna so laid up did not corrupt and was typical of the immortality which is given to the antitypical “church of the firstborn” of the present Gospel Age.
As the children of Israel journeyed, they “pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.” (ch. 17:1) Again the people complained, blaming Moses. “Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?” But again they accused him of bringing them out into the wilderness to die.—ch. 17:2,3
As always, Moses took the matter to the Lord. This time the situation had become very serious for, as Moses said, the people were almost ready to stone him. Then the Lord instructed him to go before the people, taking “the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 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.”—ch. 17:4-6
In I Corinthians 10:1-4 Paul refers to the experiences of Israel in passing through the Red Sea, partaking of the manna, and drinking from the rock. He speaks of the nation as being baptized into Moses in the sea and in the cloud, as spiritual Israelites are baptized into Christ. He says that they “did all eat of the same spiritual meat,” which, as we have seen, represented Christ; and he then adds that they “drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ”; that is, it represented Christ.
In Numbers 20:7-13 we have another account of water coming out of the rock. This was at Kadesh. Verse 8 makes the mind of the Lord clear: “Take the rod,” as an emblem of authority. “Gather thou the assembly together.” (On the former occasion only the elders were present.) “Speak ye to the rock before their eyes.” But, contrary to God’s instruction, Moses smote the rock. And God said, “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”
What was Moses’ sin? How did he not believe God? He should not have smitten the rock. The rock was a type of Christ, and the lesson is important. Christ was to be smitten only once, for all. (Isa. 53:1-5; Heb. 9:25,26,28; I Pet. 3:18) No wonder God was displeased when Moses “believed him not” and smote the rock a second time, for the types of God are as sacred as are the antitypes.
Only the elders were present at the first smiting, picturing the few, the little flock of the Gospel age. The whole assembly was together at the second bringing forth of water, picturing the blessing of the water of life, which will be to the whole assembly of man—all the families of the earth.
Moses Receives the Law
While Moses is often referred to as Israel’s lawgiver, actually he acted merely as mediator between God and the people in connection with the giving of the Law. The main features of the Law were epitomized in the Ten Commandments, which he received from the Lord on Mount Sinai. He was in the mountain forty days, and when he came down bearing the tables of the Law, he found that the people had erected a golden calf and were worshiping it. This angered Moses and he destroyed the tables of the Law.
Later the Lord instructed Moses: “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words which were in the first tables, which thou brakest.” (Exod. 34:1) Moses obeyed and again went up into Mount Sinai. We read that then “the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty: visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”—ch. 34:5-7
This beautiful proclamation of the “name of the Lord” has been referred to by many as the theme song of the Bible. It reveals the Lord as being a God of love and justice, “abundant in goodness and truth.” It is these qualities which are revealed in the divine plan of salvation. While this proclamation was being made to Moses, the commandments were written on the tables of stone, and Moses returned and presented them to the people. When he descended from the mountain the “skin of his face shone,” while he was speaking with the people.—ch. 34:29,30
In II Corinthians 3:2-18 the Apostle Paul draws a very interesting lesson from Moses’ experience in connection with receiving these tables of the Law. He speaks of Christ’s followers as being “epistles of Christ,” just as the tables of the Law were, in a sense, epistles of Moses. He indicates that the glory on Moses’ countenance represented the glory for which we hope when we are united with Christ and reigning with him, administering the laws of his kingdom to the world of mankind. Here again, then, we have the experiences of Moses brought over into the New Testament and shown to be typical of a greater work to be accomplished through Christ.
In Hebrews 12 Paul calls attention to other experiences in connection with the giving of the Law through Moses which were typical. At Mount Sinai there were “thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud, … and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud.” (Exod. 19:16) In Hebrews 12:18-22,26-28 and Haggai 2:6,7 we have the explanation that the convulsions of nature and the sounding of the trumpet at Sinai typified a shaking time among the nations just prior to the full establishment of Messiah’s kingdom, in which the followers of Christ during the present age will then have a share.
In this great “time of trouble,” Paul indicates, everything out of harmony with God will be shaken, or removed; but we, at the same time, will receive a kingdom which cannot be removed. As Moses, in the type, was mediator of the original Law Covenant, so Christ, and associated with him his church, will administer the laws of the promised New Covenant through which all the willing and obedient of the Millennial Age will receive everlasting life.—Jer. 31:31-34
The Fiery Serpents
Some years later, while still in the wilderness, the Israelites again complained to Moses and asked why they had been brought out into the wilderness to die. The Lord was displeased with this lack of faith and permitted the people to be attacked by fiery serpents, causing the death of many. Then Moses was instructed to make a serpent of brass and set it upon a pole and explain to the people that if those who had been bitten by the live serpents would look upon this serpent of brass they would not die.—Num. 21:4-9
Jesus refers to this incident. In John 3:14-16, he said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus was lifted up on the cross to die for both the church and the world. As yet only the church class of the Gospel Age has had a genuine opportunity to look upon him. However, in the kingdom age about to dawn, he will be lifted up as the world’s Savior so that all will see him, and then “whosoever believeth in him” will not “perish, but have everlasting life.”
Moses’ great love for his people and his humble spirit of self-effacement is beautifully revealed by an incident recorded in Exodus 32:7-14. It was when the Israelites, while waiting for Moses to return from Mount Sinai with the Law, made the golden calf and began to worship it. The Lord was exceedingly angry with this great sin, and he said to Moses, “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.”—vs. 10
If Moses had been ambitious for promotion, this was a golden opportunity. And certainly he might very well have felt justified in accepting the Lord’s offer, for had not the people against whom the Lord was so angry and proposed to destroy, accused him time and time again of malicious intent in bringing them into the wilderness? But Moses viewed the matter differently. He did not think of himself, but of his people, and particularly of the glory of the Lord’s name.
So he prayed earnestly to the Lord not to do this thing. Why, he inquired of the Lord, should the Egyptians be given an opportunity to say, “For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth.” Besides, he told the Lord, he should consider his promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, promises that he would multiply their seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand upon the seashore, and that he would surely give them the land of Canaan.
By this earnest plea on behalf of the Israelites, Moses displayed the true qualities of a mediator, and the Lord heard and respected his petition. A similar incident occurred after the twelve spies returned from Canaan, the majority of whom brought back an unfavorable report. Here also the Lord threatened to destroy the entire nation and make Moses the head of a new nation. Again Moses pleaded for his people and for the honor of the Lord’s name. Again the Lord hearkened to Moses and did not destroy the Israelites.—Num. 14:15-21
Faithful to the End
Even though Moses knew that he would not be permitted to enter the Promised Land, having learned the needed lesson, he remained a faithful servant of his people. His last great service is recorded throughout the Book of Deuteronomy, which describes the end of his faithful life of service and is his last, long farewell to his people, in which he admonishes them over and over again to be faithful to God and to the covenant into which they had entered with him.
He went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, from where he could view the Promised Land. (Deut. 34:1-5) He was at this time 120 years old, his eventful life having been divided into three equal periods of 40 years each. The first of these extended from his birth to the time he fled from Egypt into the land of Midian; the second forty years he spent in Midian tending his father-in-law’s flocks; the third was devoted to his leadership of the Israelites out of Egypt and during their wanderings in the wilderness.
“So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the Word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” (Deut. 34:5,6) His burial place was probably hidden to prevent its becoming a sacred shrine, as it probably would have because of the reverential esteem the Israelites had, and still have, for their great leader, emancipator, and lawgiver.
The Apostle Jude indicates that the burial place of Moses was a matter of concern even in the spirit world. He says that Michael the archangel disputed with the Devil about the body of Moses—presumably as to where it was buried. It might well be that the Devil was trying to learn of its whereabouts, that he might use it as a further means of leading the Israelites into idolatry. No man had ever come into closer contact with God and been used more wonderfully by him, but the Lord made sure that after his death Moses did not become an object of idol worship. And Moses would not have condoned that.