Moses (Hebrew: מֹשֶםה (Moshe;) Tiberian Mŝšeh; Greek: Mωϋσῆς in both the Septuagint and the New Testament; Arabic: موسىٰ, (Mūsa); Ge'ez: ሙሴ, (Musse) is a Biblical Hebrew religious leader, lawgiver, and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed. Also called Moshe Rabbeinu in Hebrew (Hebrew: מֹשֶםה רַבֵּנוּ, Lit. "Moses our Teacher"), he is the most important prophet in Judaism, and also an important prophet of Christianity, Islam, the Bahá'í Faith, Rastafari, Chrislam and many other faiths.
According to the book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when war threatened and the large increase in the number of his people concerned the Pharaoh who was worried that they might help Egypt's enemies. His Hebrew mother, Jochebed, hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed, and he ended up being adopted into the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slave-master, Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian where he tended the flocks of Jethro, a priest of Midian on the slopes of Mt. Horeb. After the Ten Plagues were unleashed on Egypt, Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, where they based themselves at Horeb and compassed the borders of Edom. It was at this time, that according to the Bible, Moses received the Ten Commandments. Despite living to 120, Moses died before reaching the Land of Israel.
Challenges to his historicity
- The suggestion that Moses was not a real historical figure and that the Exodus did not occur at all has been made by some archaeologists. Some archaeologists have claimed that surveys of ancient settlements in Sinai do not appear to show a great influx of people around the time of the Exodus (given variously as between 1500–1200 BCE), as would be expected from the arrival of Joshua and the Israelites in Canaan. This suggests that the biblical Exodus may not be a literal depiction. Archaeologists such as Israel Finkelstein, Ze'ev Herzog and William G. Dever, regard the Exodus as non-historical, at best containing a small germ of truth. According to Prof. Ze'ev Herzog, Director of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University "This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel.... The many Egyptian documents that we have make no mention of the Israelites' presence in Egypt and are also silent about the events of the exodus.
- In his book, The Bible Unearthed, Finkelstein points to the appearance of settlements in the central hill country around 1200, recognized by most archaeologists as the earliest of the known settlements of the Israelites. Using evidence from earlier periods, he shows a cyclical pattern to these highland settlements, corresponding to the state of the surrounding cultures. Finkelstein suggests that the local Canaanites would adapt their way of living from an agricultural lifestyle to a nomadic one and vice versa. When Egyptian rule collapsed after the invasion of the Sea Peoples, the central hill country could no longer sustain a large nomadic population, so they went from nomadism to sedentism. Dever agrees with the Canaanite origin of the Israelites but allows for the possibility of a Semitic tribe coming from Egyptian servitude among the early hilltop settlers and that Moses or a Moses-like figure may have existed in Transjordan ca 1250-1200.
- Biblical minimalists, such as Philip Davies, Niels Peter Lemche and Thomas L. Thompson, regard the Exodus as ahistorical. Hector Avalos, in "The End of Biblical Studies," states that the Exodus, as depicted in the Bible, is an idea that most biblical historians no longer support.