Throughout history there have been many individuals who could be considered leaders, but some stand out among the others. An example of a superb leader is Moses in the Bible. Moses is viewed as a righteous man in God’’s eyes and is chosen to lead the Hebrews out of oppression in Egypt. Contained in the story of Exodus are many examples of Moses’ sacrifices and the hardships he endured while freeing the Hebrews. The faith of Moses was tested numerous times throughout the story, and, in some instances, it seemed that Moses had lost faith, however, being the “righteous” man that he was, he stuck it out until the end. When compared to Noah and Abraham, Moses is a “pillar of faith” for surviving his tests and for being the perfect tool for God’’s plans.
In the Old Testament stories, God seems to want his earth to be peaceful and without sin and when he sees that the world is corrupt, he decides to conduct a purge. In the first two books of the Bible, there are two distinct covenants made, one with Noah and the other many generations later with Abraham. God talked to Noah and he was chosen to be the father of a renewed civilization after an enormous purge would wipe out the evil in the world. Noah had to undergo many trials and tribulations. He had to experience embarrassment and ridicule because of the nature of God’s requests. His neighbors and friends thought he was nuts because it is not every day that a man constructs a huge boat made of gopher wood and claims that a flood will come to rid the world of evil. After Noah obeyed all Gods commands, he was rewarded.
Noah became like Adam, in that he would be responsible for starting life on earth over. Noah was rewarded because of his faith in God and his ability to obey. God’s covenant with Noah laid the groundwork for his promise to Abraham many generations down the road. Here God’’s bidding was not exactly the same, but, in essence, it demanded the same degree of commitment and dedication from Abraham. Abraham was old and his wife Sarah was barren. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. Given Sarah’s condition, Abraham had many inquiries and doubts about the feasibility of this, yet he had faith. God asked of Abraham that he give up all he knew, and all he had to wander in the desert in search of this nation, which God promised. Abraham also endured many hard times. He wandered in the desert for years on blind faith, and, when he finally got to where he was going, he was asked by God to sacrifice his most prized possession, his son Isaac. When God observed the faith and obedience of Abraham, he spared Isaac and allowed Abraham’s nation to flourish.
The Old Testament, model of a great patriarch, is one who possesses faith coupled with voluntary obedience to God’s wishes and gratitude. These things combine to make up God’s standard of moral goodness. If the person obeys God’s laws and meets His standards, happiness may be attained by the individual. The ultimate model of a great patriarch is Moses.
The second book of The Bible, the book of Exodus, begins with the Egyptian’s decision to oppress the Hebrews who lived in the land of Egypt for 400 years. (The descendants of Joseph and his brothers) Although Moses was born a Hebrew, Moses grew up in the Pharaoh’s court and the Hebrews were jealous of him. The Egyptians didn’t trust him as well. This is one of the main reasons why Moses was such a great leader. He didn’t really have any strong ties to either the Hebrews of the Egyptians. This is why he can be harsh and use force to make the people understand what God wants. He has the guts to order his own people to their death for freedom. Moses was willing to risk his life for his people and one day Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew in the work-yard, and hastily killed the Egyptian with his bare hands. He then fled from Egypt to Midian, and found a wife with whom he had a son. Yet, Moses knew he would not settle down until he returned to Egypt to fulfill A God’’s prophecy. Important to Moses’ development into a great leader was the time he was tending his father-in-law’’s flock up on the mountain of Horeb. Here, at the mountain of God, he came across a burning bush. Moses was amazed by the phenomenon and God spoke to him through this medium. Moses was commanded to go to the Pharaoh and request that the Hebrews be set free to worship their God. Now, Moses was not well liked by either the Egyptians or the Hebrews at the time, so he was in no position to tell anyone what to do. When Moses, through Aaron, proposes to the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go free, the Pharaoh gets mad and just makes the workload for the Hebrews more demanding than it ever was before. This made the Pharaoh furious and the Hebrew labor force despised Moses for burdening them with more work. Moses was discouraged because the people he was commanded to free did not want to be freed, and, even if they did, Moses is the last person that they wanted to be freed by. As slaves, the Hebrews accept themselves to be powerless. At this point Moses had to be rather confused. He has no friends to turn to, all he has is a burning bush up on a mountain, and faith. On his conscience are the hardships of an entire people and a huge sense of failure. Moses returns to the bush and says to God, “O Lord, why did You bring harm upon this people? Why did You send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has dealt worse with this people, and still You have not delivered Your people (Exodus 5:22).” This is an example of Moses’ doubt and confusion about his mission.
God supplies Moses with many different “tricks,” and supernatural powers, yet the first few times Moses went back to Pharaoh, his magicians could match Moses’ “illusions.” As a result, the Pharaoh thought nothing of it and kept the Hebrews working. Then God commanded Moses to order gnats to swarm Egyptians and the Pharaoh’s magicians could not match the power of Moses. Pharaoh’s heart remained cold and he would not let the people go, so Moses ordered progressively crueler plagues on the Egyptians. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart many times to test the faith and commitment of Moses. Moses didn’t know God was doing this and was absolutely frustrated. He gives up everything he knows to perform this task and he keeps getting rejected.
The last plague was what made the Pharaoh change his mind about the Hebrew’s freedom. The Angel of Death took the first born of every living thing in Egypt, including the son of Pharaoh. Moses suffered great frustration because of his continual confrontations with Pharaoh, but finally God’s bidding was reality. Moses gained some respect from the Hebrew people, but they didn’t want to change the ways of the past. The Hebrews bore witness to the acts of violence Moses performed on the Egyptians, so naturally, the Hebrews would fear the power of Moses. Moses had an incredibly hard task in that he had to lead an incoherent mass of people out of oppression. His faith, and trust in God, is why Moses succeeded and that which made him the ultimate model of a patriarch. Moses did everything that God told him to do and he did it with all his might. He firmly believed that God would see him through the hard times. God wants the people to know that he is the one Lord (Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh), and that there are no humans that compare. This is why he goes through all the trials with Pharaoh. Moses’’ faith delivered him through all the questions and doubts of the Hebrew people as they proceeded on the forty-year journey to the “Promised Land of milk and honey.” Faith and trust in God, helped him to be a leader for the people. However, Moses was not the perfect, sin-free prophet, in the sense he murdered a man directly and was the cause of the death of thousands of Egyptians. To top it off, he ordered all the people who built the golden calf to worship on the bottom of Mount Sinai to be killed.
As Machiavelli once said, “The ends justify the means,” and that is what the freeing of the Hebrews is about. What God wanted done was done through Moses. I believe that Moses was justified in what he did at Mount Sinai, but I’’m sure that, if I were one of the Hebrews, I wouldn’t be able to fathom what was going through Moses’’ head. I respect the character of Moses and I feel that his shrewdness was one of the key elements in the success of the Exodus. In the end, with God on his side, Moses led his people with great strength and courage, and delivered them safely into the awaited Holy Land.
Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. London: Mayfield Publishing, 1997.
Tanakh. Jerusalem: Jewish Publications Society, 1985.