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Moses

Biblical Figure / Religious Figure

Born: c. 1200 B.C.
Died: c. 1200 B.C. (by God's decree)
Birthplace: Egypt
Best known as: Hebrew liberator who received the Ten Commandments

Name at birth: Moshe

The most important figure in Judaism, Moses parted the Red Sea to free his people and brought them the Ten Commandments on stone tablets. His story appears early in the Bible and is filled with miracles and talks with God. At his birth, the Hebrews, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), are slaves to Egypt's king (Pharaoh) who has ordered newborn males killed. Moses' mother hides him in a papyrus basket among the Nile's reeds; Pharaoh's daughter finds him, takes pity and adopts him. He flees as a young man, but God appears to him in a burning bush years later and sends him back with his brother, Aaron, to demand the Israelites' release. Plagues arrive, the Hebrews escape, and Egypt's army drowns in the Red Sea. A wilderness sojourn follows, in which God, through Moses, makes a covenant with the Hebrews and lays out rites of worship and laws of communal and personal behavior. At age 120, Moses dies by God's decree just before the people enter the land known in recent centuries as Palestine and Israel.

Extra credit: His Hebrew name, Moshe, means "the one who draws out"... His story starts in Exodus and ends in Deuteronomy, two of the "five books of Moses" or, in Hebrew, the Torah ("law"). It includes the first Passover, just before the escape from Egypt... The burning bush and stone tablets appear on Mt. Sinai. Its precise location on the Sinai Peninsula is uncertain... Moses is also a figure of faith in Christianity and a prophet in Islam; the Koran's account is similar to the Bible's but less detailed.

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