Before delving into Moses and his life, it is helpful to know why the children of Israel lived in Egypt and why they became slaves.
Jacob's (Israel's) favorite son, born more than 175 years before Moses, was Joseph. It was he, because his father loved him more than he loved his other children, who received from him a coat of many colors (Genesis 37). Joseph's eleven brothers, envious of his special treatment, wanted to end his life. They ultimately sold him to slave traders on their way to Egypt. In Egypt God is with Joseph and blesses him. After a series of events and trials (Genesis 39 - 41), Moses is made ruler over Egypt (Genesis 41:40 - 41).
Setting the scene for the eventual need of Moses, God allows Egypt to experience seven years of bountiful harvests (where Joseph stores extra food) then allows a famine to overtake not only the country but also the land of Canaan where Jacob and his entire family are living. In 1685 B.C., Jacob and his entire household move to Egypt's land of Goshen in order to survive the famine.
Sometime after the life of Joseph ended in 1614 B.C., a new ruler took the throne over Egypt who had no regard for the children of Israel. This new Pharaoh, fearing the growing and increasingly prosperous Israelites in the land of Goshen, made them into slaves. God then decided, after decades of his people serving the Egyptians, to free his people through Moses.
A humble birth
Moses, whose name means 'taken out' or 'drawn forth,' is born into an Israelite family from the tribe of Levi. The family consists of sister Miriam (roughly twelve years old) and brother Aaron (three years old). Shortly before his birth, Pharaoh decreed the death of all Hebrew male children. Unable to conceal her baby for very long, his mother Jochebed carried out a plan to save her child. She put him in a small ark and placed it in the reeds along the river hoping would find and let him live. Pharaoh's daughter finds the baby and immediately adopts him. Miriam, who serves the princess, suggests and arranges for her mother to nurse the child.
Moses grows up taught and trained in Pharaoh's court. From the age of twenty to forty he was "mighty in words and deeds" (Acts 7:22). He, according to historian Josephus, becomes general of the Egyptian army and leads a successful campaign against the Ethiopians (Antiquities (History) of the Jews , Book 2, Chapter 10). Around the age of forty he flees Egypt to escape punishment for killing an Egyptian taskmaster who wrongly beat and killed a Hebrew slave. His journey takes him to Midian where he ends up working for a man named Jethro. He soon marries Jethro's daughter. After spending forty years as a herdsman, God commissions him, through a burning bush, to free the children of Israel from their Egyptian bondage.
Moses journeys back to Egypt with his brother Aaron, who acts as his spokesman. Their confrontations with Pharaoh Thutmose III (ruled Egypt from 1479 to 1425 B.C.) lead to ten plagues brought on Egypt and the killing of their firstborn. The Exodus occurs when the Israelites leave Egypt. He then spends the last forty years of his life serving God and governing the people. He leads the people to Mount Sinai where God gives them his laws and commandments. After the children of Israel show a lack of faith to enter their inheritance, God judges them unfit to receive this blessing and has them wander the wilderness for forty years. Moses dies at the age of 120. Joshua, his second in command, leads the Israelites into the promised land.
Important events in his life of Moses include being saved from an early death by Pharaoh's daughter. He is called to serve God through a burning bush. Pharaoh's continuing refusal to release God's people brings plagues on Egypt and the death of each Egyptian family's firstborn. He leads the Israelites miraculously cross the Red Sea then receives God's laws and commandments at Mount Sinai.
Israel's lack of faith leads to the people wandering the wilderness for 40 years. During this period of his life, Moses writes the first five books listed in the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). His own sin keep him from entering the promised land. In our next lesson, we will start with the life of the GREATEST human king over Israel. His name is King David.