Life of Moses Timeline
From Birth to the Exodus

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What was Moses' role in Egypt before he had to flee the country? What did he do for the first eighty years of his life? When was he called by God? How long did Egypt's ten plagues last? This is part one of a two part timeline series on the life of Moses. The second part of the series covers his life from the Exodus until his death.

Moses is one of the most important characters in the entire Bible. He is the third most referenced person, by name, in the King James translation! His name is mentioned 848 times in 784 verses. Only King David, with 1,139 occurrences, and Jesus, with 983, are recorded more.

Moses is referenced by name in 19 Old Testament and 12 New Testament books or 47% of all the books in the KJV!

1526 B.C.

Moses Is Born

Moses, whose name means "drawn" or "drawing out," begins his life in Egypt. He is born to a couple named Amram and Jochebed of the tribe of Levi (Exodus 2:1, 6:20, Numbers 26:59). They live in an area called Goshen where the patriarch Jacob and his family, many years prior, lived in when they migrated from Canaan to Egypt (Genesis 45 - 47).

Moses Rescued from the Nile
Moses Rescued from the Nile
Niccolo dell' Abbate, c. 1560

Moses is born into a family where the oldest child, Miriam, is 10 to 12 years old while brother Aaron is three. His parents live at a time when the Israelites, although far more numerous than the Egyptians, are nevertheless subjugated and made to work as slaves (Exodus 1:7 - 14).

Moses' mother, when he is three months old, fears for his life due to Pharaoh's edict that all newly born Israelite male babies be killed (see Exodus 1:22). Her solution is to place her son in a little boat and send him down the Nile with Miriam tracking him to see what would happen. Pharaoh's daughter finds the baby crying and decides to raise him as her own (2:6 - 10).

Further Study

Where Is Goshen Located?

How Long Is the Nile River?

The Nile River in Scripture

1526 to 1487 B.C.

Growing Up in Pharaoh's Court

The Bible offers us almost no information about the specifics of Moses' life from shortly after his birth until he turns forty. Stephen's long recounting of Biblical history gives us only one verse regarding this period.

And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in words and in deeds (Acts 7:22, HBFV).

The Jewish Historian Josephus, however, claims that Moses was eventually made the military leader of the Egyptians in their war against the Ethiopians. He was ultimately able to overcome the enemy through an agreement he reached with the daughter of the Ethiopian king who wanted to marry him!

"He (Moses) thereupon accepted the offer (of marriage), on condition she would procure the delivering up of the city; and gave her the assurance of an oath to take her to his wife . . . No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and consummated his marriage . . ." (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 10, Section 2).

Further Study

Who First Populated Egypt?

What Made Cleopatra's Life Unique?

1486 B.C.

Fleeing Egypt

We have Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to thank for offering bits of information about Moses' life not found elsewhere. He reveals the patriarch was forty years old when he killed an Egyptian who was harshly beating an Israelite slave.

But when a period of forty years was fulfilled for him, it came into his heart to look upon his brethren, the children of Israel; And when he saw a certain one suffering wrongly, he defended him, and avenged the one who was being oppressed, and killed the Egyptian (Acts 7:23 - 24, HBFV, see also Exodus 2:11 - 15).

Moses, who thought his act went unnoticed (Exodus 2:12), soon discovered he was wrong. His murder quickly came to the attention of Pharaoh who sought to kill him. Fearing for his life, the patriarch fled to Midian.

And at this saying, Moses fled; and he became a sojourner in the land of Midian . . . (Acts 7:29, HBFV).

Further Study

What Does Scripture Say about Slavery?

Can We Kill in Self-Defense?

Who Were the Midianites?

1486 to 1446 B.C.

Shepherd in the Wilderness

Moses flees to Midian where he assists the daughters of a Midianite priest to draw water from a well.

And the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock (Exodus 2:16 - 17, HBFV).

Moses' kind act draws the attention of the priest who, in gratitude, invites him to dine. Sometime after the meeting, at a time the Bible does not mention, the priest offers his daughter Zipporah in marriage to Moses who is now a shepherd. The couple produces two sons named Gershom and Eliezer (Exodus 2:21 - 22, 3:1, 18:2 - 4).

Stephen once again reveals to us, in his long discourse to Jewish religious leaders who will ultimately take his life, how long Moses was a Midianite shepherd before God called him.

And when forty years were fulfilled, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush in the desert of Mount Sinai (Acts 7:30, HBFV).

Further Study

What Was the Race of Moses' Wife?

Who Is the Angel of the Lord?

1446 B.C.

The Burning Bush

Moses, while tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro near Mount Sinai (Horeb), sees a bush burning but not being consumed (Exodus 3:1 - 2). As he approaches the bush, he is warned to take off his sandals since he is standing on holy ground (verses 5). He is then commissioned directly by God.

And He said, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob . . . I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows . . . And now go, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." (Exodus 3:6 - 7, 10, HBFV).

Although he offers three excuses why he cannot fulfill God's command to free his people (Exodus 3:11 - 15, 4:1 - 9 and 4:10 - 16) he ultimately acquiesces and does what he is told. Moses returns to Midian, gets his wife and two sons, and heads off to Egypt (Exodus 4:18 - 20).

Further Study

Where Is Mount Sinai (Horeb) Located?

An Unexpected Threat

Moses, while traveling back to his first home with his family, experiences a threat to his life from none other than the Lord!

And it came to pass by the way, in the inn, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him (Exodus 4:24, HBFV).

Circumcision of all males, when they are eight days old, was commanded of all Israelites as a sign of their covenant relationship with God (Genesis 17:10 - 14). Those who refused to carry out this act were considered covenant breakers who were not worthy of the manifold blessings that came with the covenant.

For reasons the Bible does not delineate, Moses had circumcised one of his sons but not the other. Knowing that her husband seemed incapable at the time of performing the act, Zipporah circumcised their son but also made sure the patriarch knew she was angry!

And Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and threw it at his feet, and said, "Surely a bloody husband (a "bridegroom of blood") you are to me." So He (the Lord) let him go. Then she said, "You are a bloody husband," because of the circumcision (Exodus 4:25 - 26, HBFV).

Moses, though it was his own fault that he almost lost his life, may have resented his wife's correction to the point where he sent her and his two sons back home to Midian (see Exodus 18:1 - 5).

Further Study

Why Did God Want to Kill Moses?

Meeting in the Wilderness

The Lord tells Aaron to meet his brother in the wilderness. After the pair meet they travel to Egypt where they have their first group conversation with Israel's elders (Exodus 4:27 - 31).

The First Confrontation

Moses and Aaron have their first meeting with Pharaoh who, as God predicted, refuses to free the Israelites (Exodus 5:1 - 4). He instead increases their work burden by commanding the taskmasters make them collect the straw needed to make their bricks. The taskmasters also force the Israelites to work faster (verses 6 - 14).

The increased workload, unsurprisingly, leads to complaints directed at the brothers (Exodus 5:20 - 21). Moses then receives further instructions from the Lord (Exodus 6 - 7:9).

September 1446 B.C.

The First Miracle

The book of Exodus offers us, for the first time since shortly after his birth, the age of Moses when an important event happens in his life.

And Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron was eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:7, HBFV).

The event, in this case, is the patriarch's return to confront Pharaoh for the first time after he increased the burden of the Israelites.

Aaron, under Moses' direction, has his staff miraculously turn into a serpent. Pharaoh's magicians, however, are able to duplicate the miracle. What they cannot duplicate or stop, to their shock, is Aaron's serpent swallowing up all their snakes (Exodus 7:10 - 12)! Pharaoh's heart, in spite of these miracles, remained hardened against the Israelites.

Further Study

List of Old Testament Miracles

Late September 1446

The Plagues Begin

Moses and Aaron return to Pharaoh to demand God's people be freed. This time, however, a plague will be produced that will affect all Egypt. Not only is the Nile River turned to blood, but also any of its waters found in canals, pools or even in people's homes! The plague takes of life of anything living in the water (Exodus 7:18).

And the Lord spoke to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your rod, and stretch out your hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their canals, and upon their pools, and upon every reservoir of their waters, that they may become blood. And blood shall be throughout all the land of Egypt, both in wooden and in stone vessels.'" (Exodus 7:19, HBFV).

The plague on the waters of the Nile (Exodus 7:15 - 25) is the first in a series of ten that will befall Egypt. The other plagues, in order, are of frogs (8:1 - 15), lice (8:16 - 19), flies (8:20 - 32), and one that affects cattle (9:1 - 7). The last five are boils upon man and beast (9:8 - 12), hail and lightning which devastates the country (9:13 - 35), locusts (10:1 - 20), three days of darkness (10:21 - 29) and finally death of the firstborn (11:1 - 12:36).

Why Did They Occur?

There are three main reasons why God brought ten plagues, through Moses and Aaron, upon Egypt. The first, and most obvious, is to make it so painful for Pharaoh to continue having Israelite slaves that he finally gives them their freedom. The miraculous plagues are also carried out as a judgment against Egypt's pagan gods and to show that the Lord is the only true God worthy of worship.

When Did They Begin?

When did each of the plagues begin? How long did each one last? What was the time period between the stopping of one plague and the start of the next? Unfortunately, the Bible offers scant information through which we might find the answers to these queries.

For example, the only plague with which we have a firm start date is the last one, the death of the firstborn, on Nisan 14 (Exodus 12:6, 12, 29 - 30). It began at midnight and was completed sometime before sunrise.

The only other plague we might be able to (relatively) date is the seventh one which rained hail on Egypt's crops.

"In reference to the seventh plague (that of the hail), we have this statement to guide us as to its time: "the flax and the barley was smitten, for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled (or in blossom). But the wheat and the rie (or rather the spelt) were not smitten: for they were not grown" (Exodus 9:30 - 31, KJV).

"This would fix the time as about the end of January or the beginning of February . . ." (Bible History Old Testament).

The above information allows us to estimate, roughly, when the plagues began as a series.

". . . and all that is tolerably sure is, that the seventh plague (the hail) occurred in February (vid., Ex. 9:31 - 32), and there were (not three weeks, but) eight weeks therefore, or about two months, between the seventh and tenth plagues; so that between each of the last three there would be an interval of fourteen or twenty days.

"And if we suppose that there was a similar interval in the case of all the others, the first plague would take place in September or October - that is to say, after the yearly overflow of the Nile, which lasts from June to September." (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament).

If we assume the first plague began in late September, with the last taking place on April 10 to 11, we end up with a period of about six and one-half months.

Further Study

The Plagues of Egypt

1445 B.C.

Selecting a Lamb
Nisan 10

God, through Moses, commands that each Israelite family, on Nisan 10 (sunset April 6 to sunset the next day), selected a lamb to be used to observe the Passover (Exodus 12:1 - 5).

Passover and the Death Angel
Start of Nisan 14 to Sunrise

Between sunset and dark at the start of Nisan 14 (sunset Sunday April 10) the Israelites kill the Passover lamb. They then smear its blood near the top and sides of the door of their house. The lamb is then roasted and eaten along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:6 - 10, 21 - 22). Any of the meat that is left over is burned.

At midnight a death angel passes through Egypt killing the firstborn of man (including those in prison!) and beast that does not have the blood of a lamb over their door.

For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians. And when He sees the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you . . .

And it came to pass at midnight the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne, to the firstborn of the captive that was in the prison, also all the firstborn of livestock (Exodus 12:23, 29, HBFV).

Pharaoh, after the death angel fulfilled its task, sends a message to Moses and Aaron telling them that they and all the Israelites are free to leave Egypt (Exodus 12:31 - 32)!

Spoiling the Egyptians!
Day Portion of Nisan 14

After sunrise on Nisan 14 (Monday April 11), as the Egyptians begin to bury their dead (see Numbers 33:4), the Israelites leave their homes and ask them for clothing and articles of silver or gold (Exodus 12:35 - 36). The spoiling of Egypt, in part as payment for their years of slavery, was a fulfillment of prophecy.

And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. And it shall be that when you go, you shall not go empty. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, and of her that stays in her house, jewels of silver and jewels of gold and clothing (Exodus 3:21 - 22, see also Genesis 15:14).

After spoiling the Egyptians the children of Israel gather at Rameses (Exodus 12:37, Numbers 33:3).

Further Study

The Six Old Testament Passovers

Meaning of the Christian Passover

Modern Dates for Passover

Guidelines for the Christian Passover

A Night to be Observed
Nisan 15

The Israelites, after gathering in Rameses (Exodus 12:37), are led by Moses and Aaron to begin their exodus from Egypt at the start of Nisan 15 (sunset on April 11). Their first destination is Succoth (Numbers 33:5).

These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron . . .

And they set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the next day after the Passover day, the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians (Numbers 33:1, 3, HBFV).

The children of Israel leave Rameses at a time called "the night to be much observed." This joyous night is also the start of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15 - 20, 13:6 - 8).

It is a night to be much observed to the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord to be observed by all the children of Israel in their generations (Exodus 12:42, HBFV).

The overwhelming joy of the Israelites being freed from slavery is in stark contrast to the Egyptians continuing the sorrowful task of burying their firstborn (Exodus 12:37, Numbers 33:4). When Moses and the children of Israel leave Egypt, they take with them the bones of the patriarch Joseph (Genesis 50:25, Exodus 13:19, Hebrews 11:22). Part 2 of this timeline on the life of Moses will begin with the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea.

Further Study

Where Is Rameses Located?

How Many People Left Egypt?

Where is Mount Sinai Located?

Part 2 of Timeline
Moses' Life from Exodus to Death

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The Christian Passover by F. Coulter
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