Moses (mōˈzĭs) [key], Hebrew lawgiver, probably b. Egypt. The prototype of the prophets, he led his people in the 13th cent. B.C. out of bondage in Egypt to the edge of Canaan. The narrative in the Bible is the chief source of information on his life. His historical existence has been questioned, although there is nothing improbable about the general outline of the narrative after allowances for distortion over time are made. According to the biblical account, Moses was divinely protected as an infant, and as a young man he received a special calling at the burning bush. He lived in constant touch with God, who guided him in leading all Israel out of Egypt and across the desert. Through him God promulgated the Law, including the Ten Commandments, the criminal code, and the whole liturgical law. In his old age, when the Hebrews were at the Jordan River ready to cross, God gave Moses a view of the Promised Land from Mt. Pisgah; but he did not enter it, for he died and was buried in Moab. All this is recounted in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The authorship of these and Genesis (collectively called the Pentateuch) has been ascribed to Moses since earliest times; hence they are called the Books of Moses. The Law he promulgated is called the Mosaic law, the Torah. Few critics would argue that Moses actually authored the Pentateuch. Moses, one of the great names of Hebrew history, is referred to repeatedly in the Jewish, Christian, amd Muslim scriptures. In the Qur'an, Moses is a precursor of Muhammad, confirming God's revelation to Abraham. Among the Pseudepigrapha is a Testament of Moses.
See E. Auerbach, Moses (1975); G. W. Coats, Moses (1988).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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