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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Great Synagogue

The Great Synagogue By : Wilhelm Bacher


  • Included the Last Prophets.
  • Their Number.
  • The Generation of Ezra.
  • Position in Tannaitic Chronology.
  • Institutions and Rulings.
  • Other Activity.

Included the Last Prophets.

The members of the Great Synagogue, or the Great Assembly, are designated in the Mishnah (Ab. i. 1) as those representatives of the Law who occupied a place in the chain of tradition between the Prophets and the earliest scholars known by name. "The Prophets transmitted the Torah to the men of the Great Synagogue. . . . Simon the Just was one of those who survived the Great Synagogue, and Antigonus of Soko received the Torah from him" (Ab. i. 1 et seq.). The first part of this statement is paraphrased as follows in Ab. R. N. i.; "Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi received from the Prophets; and the men of the Great Synagogue received from Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi." This is the reading of the first version; the second version (ed. Schechter, p. 2) reads: "The Prophets to Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi; and these to the men of the Great Synagogue." In this paraphrase the three post-exilic prophets are separated from the other prophets, for it was the task of the former to transmit the Law to the members of the Great Synagogue. It must even be assumed that these three prophets were themselves included in those members, for it is evident from the statements referring to the institution of the prayers and benedictions that the Great Synagogue included prophets.

According to R. Johanan, who wrote in the third century, "the men of the Great Synagogue instituted for Israel the benedictions and the prayers, as well as the benedictions for kiddush and habdalah" (Ber. 33a). This agrees with the sentence of R. Jeremiah (4th cent.), who states (Yer. Ber. 4d), in reference to the "Shemoneh 'Esreh," that "onehundred and twenty elders, including about eighty prophets, have instituted these prayers." These one hundred and twenty elders are undoubtedly identical with the men of the Great Synagogue. The number given of the prophets must, however, be corrected according to Meg. 17b, where the source of R. Jeremiah's statement is found: "R. Johanan said that, according to some, a baraita taught that one hundred and twenty elders, including some prophets, instituted the 'Shemoneh 'Esreh.'" Hence the prophets were in a minority in the Great Synagogue. Another statement regarding the activity of this institution alludes to the establishment of the Feast of Purim according to Esth. ix. 27 et seq., while the Babylonian Talmud (Meg. 2a) states, as a matter requiring no discussion, that the celebration of the Feast of Purim on the days mentioned in Meg. i. 1 was instituted by the men of the Great Synagogue. But in the Palestinian Talmud R. Johanan (Meg. 70d; Ruth R. ii. 4) speaks of "eighty-five elders, among them about thirty prophets."

Their Number.

These divergent statements may easily be reconciled (see Krochmal, "Moreh Nebuke ha-Zeman," p. 97) by reading, in the one passage, "beside them" () instead of "among them" (); and in the other passage, "thirty" instead of "eighty." The number eighty-five is taken from Neh. x. 2-29; but the origin of the entire number (120) is not known. It was undoubtedly assumed that the company of those mentioned in Neh. x. was increased to one hundred and twenty by the prophets who took part in the sealing of the covenant, this view, which is confirmed by Neh. vi. 7, 14, being based on the hypothesis that other prophets besides Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were then preaching in Israel. These passages indicate that this assembly was believed to be the one described in Neh. ix.-x., and other statements regarding it prove that the Amoraim accepted this identification as a matter of course. According to Abba b. Kahana, the well-known haggadist of the latter half of the third century (Shem-Ṭob on Ps. xxxvi., end), "Two generations used the 'Shem ha-Meforesh,' the men of the Great Synagogue and the generation of the 'shemad'" (the persecution of Hadrian and the Bar Kokba war). This reference is explained in a statement by Giddel, a pupil of Rab (Yer. Meg. iii., end; Yoma 69b): "The word in Neh. viii. 6 indicates that Ezra uttered the great Tetragram in his praise of God."

The Generation of Ezra.

The combination of these two passages, which evidently have the same basis, offers another instance of the general assumption that all the members of this body were regarded as belonging to one generation, which included Ezra, while Joshua b. Levi, one of the earliest amoraim, even derived the term "Great Synagogue" from Neh. ix. 32. The authors of the prayers restored the triad of the divine attributes introduced by Moses (Deut. x. 17), although Jeremiah (xxxii. 18) and Daniel (x. 17, Hebr.) had each omitted one of the three attributes from their prayers. "The Great Assembly was so called because it gave the divine attributes their ancient 'greatness' and dignity" (Yoma 69b [with other authorities]; Yer. Ber. 11c and Meg. 74c; Shem-Ṭob on Ps. xix.; see also Ber. 33b); although this is merely a haggadic explanation of the old term, it indicates that the Amoraim did not think the Great Synagogue could be any other assembly or council than the one mentioned as the source of the prayers in Neh. ix.; and there are other examples in traditional literature evidencing this view. In Yer. Ber. 3a (Gen. R. xlvi., lxxviii.) this objection is raised in regard to a thesis of R. Levi based on Gen. xvii. 5 and referring to Neh. ix. 7: "Did not the men of the Great Synagogue call Abraham by his former name, Abram?" In the name of the men of the Great Synagogue, R. Abbahu (Gen. R. vi.) quotes the words "The heaven of heavens, with all their host" (Neh. ix. 6) as an explanation of Gen. i. 17; and the same authority is invoked in a haggadic passage by Abin (Tan., Shemot, i.) in reference to Neh. ix. 5 (ib. 2, anonymous), as well as in one by Samuel b. Naḥman (Ex. R. xli., beginning; Tan., Ki Tissa, 14) alluding to Neh. ix. 18.

R. Johanan connected the following story with Neh. x. 1-2 (Ruth R. ii. 4): "The men of the Great Synagogue wrote a document in which they voluntarily agreed to pay heave-offerings and tithes. This document they displayed in the hall of the Temple; the following morning they found the divine confirmation inscribed upon it." Since Nehemiah himself was a member, Samuel b. Marta, a pupil of Rab, quoted a phrase used by Nehemiah in his prayer (i. 7) as originating with his colleagues (Ex. R. li.; Tan., Pekude, beginning). Ezra was, of course, one of the members, and, according to Neh. viii., he was even regarded as the leader. In one of the two versions of the interpretation of Cant. vii. 14 (Lev. R. ii. 11), therefore, Ezra and his companions ("'Ezra wa-ḥaburato") are mentioned, while the other version (Cant. R. ad loc.) speaks merely of the "men of the Great Synagogue" (compare the statements made above regarding the pronunciation of the Tetragram). In the targum to Cant. vii. 3, in addition to "Ezra the priest" the men mentioned in Ezra ii. 2 as the leaders of the people returning from the Exile—Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Mordecai, and Bilshan—are designated as "men of the Great Synagogue." In the same targum (to vi. 4) the leaders of the exiles are called the "sages of the Great Synagogue."

It appears from all these passages in traditional literature that the idea of the Great Assembly was based on the narrative in Neh. viii.-x., and that, furthermore, its members were regarded as the leaders of Israel who had returned from exile and laid the foundations of the new polity connected with the Second Temple. All these men were regarded in the tannaitic chronology as belonging to one generation; for this reason the "generation of the men of the Great Synagogue" is mentioned in one of the passages already cited, this denoting, according to the chronological canon of Jose b. Ḥalafta (Seder 'Olam Rabbah xxx. [ed. Ratner, p. 141); 'Ab. Zarah 86), the generation of thirty-four years during which the Persian rule lasted, at the beginning of the period of the Second Temple. As the last prophets were still preaching during this time, they also were included. That prophecy began only at the end ofthis period, when the reign of Alexander the Great commenced, was likewise a thesis of the tannaitic chronology, which, like the canon of the thirty-four years, was adopted by the later Jewish chronologists (Seder 'Olam Rabbah l.c.; comp. Sanh. 11a), although the view occurs as early as Josephus ("Contra Ap." i., § 8).

Position in Tannaitic Chronology.

In view of these facts, it was natural that the Great Synagogue should be regarded as the connecting-link in the chain of tradition between the Prophets and the scholars. It may easily be seen, therefore, why Simon the Just should be termed a survivor of this body, for, according to the tradition current in the circle of Palestinian scholars, it was this high priest, and not his grandfather Jaddua, who met Alexander the Great, and received from him much honor (see Yoma 69a; Meg. Ta'an. for the 21st of Kislew; comp. Alexander the Great).

It is thus evident that, according to the only authority extant in regard to the subject, the tradition of the Tannaim and the Amoraim, the activity of this assembly was confined to the period of the Persian rule, and thus to the first thirty-four years of the Second Temple, and that afterward, when Simon the Just was its only survivor, there was no other fixed institution which could be regarded as a precursor of the academies. This statement does not imply, however, that such a body did not exist in the first centuries of the Second Temple, for it must be assumed that some governing council existed in those centuries as well, although the statements regarding the Great Synagogue refer exclusively to the first period. The term primarily denoted the assembly described in Neh. ix.-x., which convened principally for religious purposes—fasting, reading of the Torah, confession of sins, and prayer (Neh. ix. 1 et seq.). Since every gathering convened for religious purposes was called "keneset" (hence "bet ha-keneset" = "the synagogue"; comp. the verb "kenos," Esth. iv. 16), this term was applied also to the assembly in question; but as it was an assembly of special importance it was designated more specifically as the "great assembly" (comp. Neh. v. 7, "kehillah gedolah").

In addition to fixing the ritual observances for the first two quarters of the day (Neh. ix. 3), the Great Synagogue engaged in legislative proceedings, making laws as summarized in Neh. x. 30 et seq. Tradition therefore ascribed to it the character of a chief magistracy, and its members, or rather its leaders, including the prophets of that time, were regarded as the authors of other obligatory rules. These leaders of post-exilic Israel in the Persian period were called the "men of the Great Synagogue" because it was generally assumed that all those who then acted as leaders had been members of the memorable gathering held on the 24th of Tishri, 444 B.C. Although the assembly itself convened only on a single day, its leaders were designated in tradition as regular members of the Great Synagogue. This explains the fact that the references speak almost exclusively of the members of the Great Synagogue, the allusions to the body itself being very rare, and based in part on error, as, for example, the quotation from Ab. i. 2 which occurs in Eccl. R. xii. 11.

As certain institutions supposed to have been established in the first period of the Second Temple were ascribed to Ezra, so others of them were ascribed to the men of the Great Synagogue. There is, in fact, no difference between the two classes of institutions so far as origin is concerned. In some cases Ezra, the great scribe and the leader of the Great Synagogue, is mentioned as the author, in others the entire body is so mentioned; in all cases the body with Ezra at its head must be thought of as the real authors. In traditional literature, however, a distinction was generally drawn between the institutions of Ezra and those of the men of the Great Synagogue, so that they figured separately; but it is not surprising, after what has been said above, that in Tan., Beshallaḥ, 16, on Ex. xv. 7, the "Tikkune Soferim," called also ("Okhla we-Okhla," No. 168) "Tikkune 'Ezra" (emendations of the text of the Bible by the Soferim, or by Ezra; and according to the tannaitic source [see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." ii. 205], originally textual euphemisms), should be ascribed to the men of the Great Synagogue, since the author of the passage in question identified the Soferim (i.e., Ezra and his successors) with them.

Institutions and Rulings.

The following rulings were ascribed to the men of the Great Synagogue:

(1) They included the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, and the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Biblical canon; this is the only possible explanation of the baraita (B. B. 15a) that they "wrote" those books. The first three books, which were composed outside Palestine, had to be accepted by the men of the Great Synagogue before they could be regarded as worthy of inclusion, while the division of the Minor Prophets was completed by the works of the three post-exilic prophets, who were themselves members of that council. The same activity in regard to these books is ascribed to the men of the Great Synagogue as had been attributed to King Hezekiah and his council, including the prophet Isaiah, with regard to the three books ascribed to Solomon (see also Ab. R. N. i.) and the Book of Isaiah. It should be noted that in this baraita, as well as in the gloss upon it, Ezra and Nehemiah, "men of the Great Synagogue," are mentioned as the last Biblical writers; while according to the introduction to the Second Book of the Maccabees (ii. 13) Nehemiah also collected a number of the books of the Bible.

(2) They introduced the triple classification of the oral law, dividing the study of the Mishnah (in the larger sense) into the three branches of midrash, halakot, and haggadot, although this view, which is anonymous, conflicted with that of R. Jonah, a Palestinian amora of the fourth century, who declared that the founder of this threefold division of traditional science (see Jew. Encyc. iii. 163, s.v. Bible Exegesis) was R. Akiba (Yer. Shek. v., beginning). This view is noteworthy as showing that the later representatives of tradition traced the origin of their science to the earliest authorities, the immediate successors of the Prophets. The men of the Great Synagogue, therefore, not only completedthe canon, but introduced the scientific treatment of tradition.

(3) They introduced the Feast of Purim and determined the days on which it should be celebrated (see above).

(4) They instituted the "Shemoneh 'Esreh," as well as the benedictions and other prayers, as already noted. The tradition in regard to this point expresses the view that the synagogal prayers as well as the entire ritual were put into definite shape by the men of the Great Synagogue.

Other Activity.

The list of Biblical personages who have no part in the future world (Sanh. x. 1) was made, according to Rab, by the men of the Great Synagogue (Sanh. 104b), and a haggadic ruling on Biblical stories beginning with the phrase "Wa-yehi bayamim" (And it came to pass in those days) is designated by Johanan, or his pupil Levi, as a "tradition of the men of the Great Synagogue" (Meg. 10b). This is merely another way of saying, as is stated elsewhere (Lev. R. xi.) in reference to the same ruling, that it had been brought as a tradition from the Babylonian exile. There are references also to other haggadic traditions of this kind (see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." 2d ed., i. 192; idem, "Die Aelteste Terminologie," p. 107). Joshua b. Levi ascribes in an original way to the men of the Great Synagogue the merit of having provided for all time for the making of copies of the Bible, tefillin, and mezuzot, stating that they instituted twenty-four fasts to insure that wealth would not be acquired by copyists, who would cease to copy if they became rich (Pes. 50b). A haggadic passage by Jose b. Ḥanina refers to the names of the returning exiles mentioned in Ezra ii. 51 et seq. (Gen. R. lxxi. et passim), one version reading "the men of the Great Synagogue" instead of "sons of the Exile," or "those that returned from the Exile" ("'ole goleh"). This shows that the men of the Great Synagogue included the first generation of the Second Temple. In Esth. R. iii. 7 the congregation of the tribes mentioned in Judges xx. 1 is apparently termed "men of the Great Synagogue." This is due, however, to a corruption of the text, for, according to Luria's skilful emendation, this phrase must be read with the preceding words "Ezra and the men of the Great Synagogue"; so that the phrase corresponds to the "bene ha-golah" of Ezra x. 16.

There is, finally, a passage of three clauses, which the Mishnah (Ab. i. 12) ascribes to the men of the Great Synagogue as stated above, and which reads as follows: "Be heedful in pronouncing sentence; have many pupils; put a fence about the Torah." This aphorism, ascribed to an entire body of men, can only be interpreted as expressing their spirit and tendency, yet it must have been formulated by some individual, probably one of their number. At all events, it may be regarded as a historical and authentic statement of the dominating thought of those early leaders of post-exilic Israel who were designated in the tradition of the Palestinian schools as the men of the Great Synagogue. It must also be noted that this passage, like the majority of those given in the first chapter of Abot, is addressed to the teachers and spiritual leaders rather than to the people. These three clauses indicate the program of the scholars of the Persian period, who were regarded as one generation, and evidence their harmony with the spirit of Ezra's teaching. Their program was carried out by the Pharisees: caution in pronouncing legal sentences; watchfulness over the schools and the training of pupils; assurance of the observance of the Law by the enforcement of protective measures and rulings.

An attempt has thus been made to assign correct positions to the texts in which the men of the Great Synagogue are mentioned, and to present the views on which they are based, although no discussions can be broached regarding the views of the chroniclers and historians, or the different hypotheses and conclusions drawn from these texts concerning the history of the period of the Second Temple. For this a reference to the articles cited in the bibliography must suffice. Kuenen especially presents a good summary of the more recent theories, while L. Löw (who is not mentioned by Kuenen) expresses views totally divergent from those generally held with regard to the Great Synagogue; this body he takes to be the assembly described in I Macc. xiv. 25-26, which made Simeon the Hasmonean a hereditary prince (18th of Elul, 140 B.C.E.).

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ESTHER By : Emil G. Hirsch John Dyneley Prince Solomon Schechter


—Biblical Data:
  • Haman and Mordecai.
—In Rabbinical Literature:
  • The Rabbinic Account.
  • Mordecai and Esther.
  • Esther Before Ahasuerus.
—Critical View:
  • Improbabilities of the Story.
  • Probable Date.

Name of the chief character in the Book of Esther, derived, according to some authorities, from the Persian "stara" (star); but regarded by others as a modification of "Ishtar," the name of the Babylonian goddess (see below).

—Biblical Data:

The story of Esther, as given in the book bearing her name, is as follows: The King of Persia, Ahasuerus, had deposed his queen Vashti because she refused, during a festival, toshow at his command her charms before the assembled princes of the realm (i. 10). Many beautiful maidens were then brought before the king in order that he might choose a successor to the unruly Vashti. He selected Esther as by far the most comely. The heroine is represented as an orphan daughter of the tribe of Benjamin, who had spent her life among the Jewish exiles in Persia (ii. 5), where she lived under the protection of her cousin Mordecai. The grand vizier, Haman the Agagite, commanded Mordecai to do obeisance to him. Upon Mordecai's refusal to prostrate himself, Haman informed the king that the Jews were a useless and turbulent people and inclined to disloyalty, and he promised to pay 10,000 silver talents into the royal treasury for the permission to pillage and exterminate this alien race. The king then issued a proclamation ordering the confiscation of Jewish property and a general extermination of all the Jews within the empire. Haman set by lot the day for this outrage (iii. 6), but Mordecai persuaded Esther to undertake the deliverance of her compatriots.

Haman and Mordecai.

After a three days' fast observed by the entire Jewish community, the queen, at great personal risk, decided to go before the king and beg him to rescind his decree (iv. 16). Ahasuerus, delighted with her appearance, held out to her his scepter in token of clemency, and promised to dine with her in her own apartments on two successive nights (v. 2-8). On the night before the second banquet, when Esther intended to make her petition, the king, being sleepless, commanded that the national records be read to, him. The part which was read touched upon the valuable services of Mordecai (vi. 1 et seq.), who some time before had discovered and revealed to the queen a plot against the king's life devised by two of the chamberlains (ii. 23). For this, by some unexplained oversight, Mordecai had received no reward. In the meantime the queen had invited the grand vizier to the banquet. When Haman, who was much pleased at the unusual honor shown him by the queen, appeared before the king to ask permission to execute Mordecai at once, Ahasuerus asked him, "What shall be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor?" Haman, thinking that the allusion was to himself, suggested a magnificent pageant, at which one of the great nobles should serve as attendant (vi. 9). The king immediately adopted the suggestion, and ordered Haman to act as chief follower in a procession in honor of Mordecai (vi. 10).

The next day at the banquet, when Esther preferred her request, both the king and the grand vizier learned for the first time that the queen was a Jewess. Ahasuerus granted her petition at once and ordered that Haman be hanged on the gibbet which the latter had prepared for his adversary Mordecai (vii.). Mordecai was then made grand vizier, and through his and Esther's intervention another edict was issued granting to the Jews the power to pillage and to slay their enemies.

Before the day set for the slaughter arrived a great number of persons, in order to avoid the impending disaster, became Jewish proselytes, and a great terror of the Jews spread all over Persia (viii. 17).
(see image) Traditional Tomb of Esther and Mordecai.(From Flandin and Coste, "Voyage en Perse.")

The Jews, assisted by the royal officers, who feared the king, were eminently successful in slaying their enemies (ix. 11), but refused to avail themselves of their right to plunder (ix. 16). The queen, not content with a single day's slaughter, then requested the king to grant to her people a second day of vengeance, and begged that the bodies of Haman's ten sons, who had been slain in the fray, be hanged on the gibbet (ix. 13). Esther and Mordecai, acting with "all authority" (ix. 29), then founded the yearly feast of Purim, held on the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar as a joyous commemoration of the deliverance of their race.E. G. H. J. D. P.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

The story of Esther—typical in many regards of the perennial fate of the Jews, and recalled even more vividly by their daily experience than by the annual reading of theMegillah at Purim—invited, both by the brevity of some parts of the narrative and by the associations of its events with the bitter lot of Israel, amplifications readily supplied by popular fancy and the artificial interpretation of Biblical verse. The additions to Esther in the (Greek) Apocrypha have their counterparts in the post-Biblical literature of the Jews, and while it is certain that the old assumption of a Hebrew original for the additions in the Greek Book of Esther is not tenable (see Kautzsch, "Die Apocryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments," i. 194), it is not clear that the later Jewish amplifications are adaptations of Greek originals.

The following post-Biblical writings have to be considered:

(1) The first Targum. The Antwerp and Paris polyglots give a different and longer text than the London. The best edition is by De Lagarde (reprinted from the first Venice Bible) in "Hagiographa Chaldaice," Leipsic, 1873. The date of the first Targum is about 700 (see S. Posner, "Das Targum Rishon," Breslau, 1896).

(2) Targum Sheni (the second; date about 800), containing material not germane to the Esther story. This may be characterized as a genuine and exuberant midrash. Edited by De Lagarde (in "Hagiographa Chaldaice," Berlin, 1873) and by P. Cassel ("Aus Literatur und Geschichte," Berlin and Leipsic, 1885, and "Das Buch Esther," Berlin, 1891, Ger. transl.).

(3) Babylonian Talmud, Meg. 10b-14a.

(4) Pirke R. El. 49a, 50 (8th cent.).

(5) Yosippon (beginning of 10th cent.; see Zunz, "G. V." pp. 264 et seq.).

(6) Midr. R. to Esther (probably 11th cent.).

(7) Midr. Lekah Tob (Buber, "Sifre di-Agadta," Wilna, 1880).

(8) Midr. Abba Gorion (Buber, l.c.; Jellinek, "B. H." i. 1-18).

(9) Midr. Teh. to Ps. xxii.

(10) Midr. Megillat Esther (ed. by Horwitz in his "Sammlung Kleiner Midrashim," Berlin, 1881).

(11) helma de Mordekai (Aramaic: Jellinek, "B. H." v. 1-8; De Lagarde, l.c. pp. 362-365; Ad. Merx, "Chrestomathia Targumica," 1888, pp. 154 et seq.).

(12) Yalk. Shim'oni to Esther.

The Rabbinic Account.

With the omission of what more properly belongs under Ahasuerus, Haman, and Mordecai, the following is briefly the story of Esther's life as elaborated by these various midrashim: A foundling or an orphan, her father dying before her birth, her mother at her birth, Esther was reared in the house of Mordecai, her cousin, to whom, according to some accounts, she was even married (the word , Esth. ii. 7, being equal to = "house," which is frequently used for "wife" in rabbinic literature). Her original name was "Hadassah" (myrtle), that of "Esther" being given her by the star-worshipers, as reflecting her sweet character and the comeliness of her person. When the edict of the king was promulgated, and his eunuchs scoured the country in search of a new wife for the monarch, Esther, acting on her own judgment or upon the order of Mordecai, hid herself so as not to be seen of men, and remained in seclusion for four years, until even God's voice urged her to repair to the king's palace, where her absence had been noticed. Her appearance among the candidates for the queen's vacant place causes a commotion, all feeling that with her charms none can compete; her rivals even make haste to adorn her. She spurns the usual resources for enhancing her beauty, so that the keeper of the harem becomes alarmed lest he be accused of neglect. He therefore showers attentions upon her, and places at her disposal riches never given to others. But she will not be tempted to use the king's goods, nor will she eat of the king's food, being a faithful Jewess; together with her maids (seven, according to the number of the week-days and of the planets) she continues her modest mode of living. When her turn comes to be ushered into the royal presence, Median and Persian women flank her on both sides, but her beauty is such that the decision in her favor is at once assured. The king has been in the habit of comparing the charms of the applicants with a picture of Vashti suspended over his couch, and up to the time when Esther approaches him none has eclipsed the beauty of his beheaded spouse. But at the sight of Esther he at once removes the picture. Esther, true to Mordecai's injunction, conceals her birth from her royal consort. Mordecai was prompted to give her this command by the desire not to win favors as Esther's cousin. The king, of course, is very desirous of learning all about her antecedents, but Esther, after vouchsafing him the information that she, too, is of princely blood, turns the conversation, by a few happy counter-questions regarding Vashti, in a way to leave the king's curiosity unsatisfied.

Mordecai and Esther.

Still Ahasuerus will not be baffled. Consulting Mordecai, he endeavors to arouse Esther's jealousy—thinking that this will loosen her tongue—by again gathering maidens in his courtyard, as though he is ready to mete out to her the fate of her unfortunate predecessor. But even under this provocation Esther preserves her silence. Mordecai's daily visits to the courtyard are for the purpose of ascertaining whether Esther has remained true to the precepts of her religion. She had not eaten forbidden food, preferring a diet of vegetables, and had otherwise scrupulously observed the Law. When the crisis came Mordecai—who had, by his refusal to bow to Haman or, rather, to the image of an idol ostentatiously displayed on his breast (Pirke R. El. lxix.), brought calamity upon the Jews—appeared in his mourning garments, and Esther, frightened, gave birth to a still-born child. To avoid gossip she sent Hatach instead of going herself to ascertain the cause of the trouble. This Hatach was afterward met by Haman and slain. Still Mordecai had been able to tell Hatach his dream, that Esther would be the little rill of water separating the two fighting monsters, and that the rill would grow to be a large stream flooding the earth—a dream he had often related to her in her youth.

Esther Before Ahasuerus.

Mordecai called upon her to pray for her people and then intercede with the king. Though Pesah was near, and the provision of Megillat Ta'anit forbidding fasting during this time could not be observed without disregarding Mordecai's plea, she overcame her cousin's scruples by a very apt counter-question, and at her request all the Jews "that had on that day already partaken of food" observed a rigid fast, in spite of (Esth. iv. 17) the feast-day (Pesah), while Mordecai prayed and summoned the children and obliged even them to abstain from food, so that they cried out with loud voices. Esther in the meantime put aside her jewels and rich dresses, loosenedher hair, fasted, and prayed that she might be successful in her dangerous errand. On the third day, with serene mien she passed on to the inner court, arraying herself (or arrayed by the "Holy Ghost," Esth. Rabbah) in her best, and taking her two maids, upon one of whom, according to court etiquette, she leaned, while the other carried her train. As soon as she came abreast with the idols (perhaps an anti-Christian insinuation) the "Holy Ghost" departed from her, so that she exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Ps. xxii. 1); thereupon, repenting having called the enemy "dog," she now named him "lion," and was accompanied by three angels to the king. Ahasuerus attempted to ignore her, and turned his face away, but an angel forced him to look at her. She, however, fainted at the sight of his flushed face and burning eyes, and leaned her head on her handmaid, expecting to hear her doom pronounced; but God increased her beauty to such an extent that Ahasuerus could not resist. An angel lengthened the scepter so that Esther might touch it: she invited the king to her banquet. Why Haman was invited the Rabbis explain in various ways. She desired to make the king jealous by playing the lover to Haman, which she did at the feast, planning to have him killed even though she should share his fate. At the supreme moment, when she denounced Haman, it was an angel that threw Haman on the couch, though he intended to kneel before the queen; so that the king, suspecting an attempt upon the virtue and life of his queen, forthwith ordered him to be hanged.

To the Rabbis Esther is one of the four most beautiful women ever created. She remained eternally young; when she married Ahasuerus she was at least forty years of age, or even, according to some, eighty years (ה = 5, ם = 60, ד = 4, ה = 5 = 74 years; hence her name "Hadassah"). She is also counted among the prophetesses of Israel.
(see image) Scrolls Of Esther In Silver Cases.(In the United States National Museum, Washington, D. C.)S. S. E. G. H.

—Critical View:

As to the historical value of the foregoing data, opinions differ. Comparatively few modern scholars of note consider the narrative of Esther to rest on an historical foundation. The most important names among the more recent defenders of the historicity of the book are perhaps Hävernick, Keil, Oppert, and Orelli. The vast majority of modern expositors have reached the conclusionthat the book is a piece of pure fiction, although some writers qualify their criticism by an attempt to treat it as a historical romance. The following are the chief arguments showing the impossibility of the story of Esther:

Improbabilities of the Story.

1. It is now generally recognized that the Ahasuerus (), mentioned in Esther, in Ezra iv. 6, and in Dan. ix. 1, is identical with the Persian king known as Xerxes (Ξέρζης, "Khshayarha"), who reigned from 485 to 464 B.C.; but it is impossible to find any historical parallel for a Jewish consort to this king. Some critics formerly identified Esther with Amastris (Ionic, "Amestris"), who is mentioned by Herodotus (viii. 114, ix. 110; compare Ctesias, 20) as the queen of Xerxes at the time when Esther, according to Esth. ii. 6, became the wife of Ahasuerus. Amastris, however, was the daughter of a Persian general and, therefore, not a Jewess. Furthermore, the facts of Amastris' reign do not agree with the Biblical story of Esther. Besides all this, it is impossible to connect the two names etymologically. M'Clymont (Hastings, "Dict. Bible," i. 772) thinks it possible that Esther and Vashti may have been merely the chief favorites of the harem, and are consequently not mentioned in parallel historical accounts.

It is very doubtful whether the haughty Persian aristocracy, always highly influential with the monarch, would have tolerated the choice of a Jewish queen and a Jewish prime minister (Mordecai), to the exclusion of their own class—not to speak of the improbability of the prime ministry of Haman the Agagite, who preceded Mordecai. "Agagite" can only be interpreted here as synonymous with "Amalekite" (compare "Agag," king of the Amalekites, the foe of Saul, I Sam. xv. 8, 20, 32; Num. xxiv. 7; see Agag). Oppert's attempt to connect the term "Agagite" with "Agaz," a Median tribe mentioned by Sargon, can not be taken seriously. The term, as applied to Haman, is a gross anachronism; and the author of Esther no doubt used it intentionally as a fitting name for an enemy of Israel. In the Greek version of Esther, Haman is called a Macedonian.

2. Perhaps the most striking point against the historical value of the Book of Esther is the remarkable decree permitting the Jews to massacre their enemies and fellow subjects during a period of two days. If such an extraordinary event had actually taken place, should not some confirmation of the Biblical account have been found in other records? Again, could the king have withstood the attitude of the native nobles, who would hardly have looked upon such an occurrence without offering armed resistance to their feeble and capricious sovereign? A similar objection may be made against the probability of the first edict permitting Haman the Amalekite to massacre all the Jews. Would there not be some confirmation of it in parallel records? This whole section bears the stamp of free invention.

3. Extraordinary also is the statement that Esther did not reveal her Jewish origin when she was chosen queen (ii. 10), although it was known that she came from the house of Mordecai, who was a professing Jew (iii. 4), and that she maintained a constant communication with him from the harem (iv. 4-17).

4. Hardly less striking is the description of the Jews by Haman as being "dispersed among the people in all provinces of thy kingdom" and as disobedient "to the king's laws" (iii. 8). This certainly applies more to the Greek than to the Persian period, in which the Diaspora had not yet begun and during which there is no record of rebellious tendencies on the part of the Jews against the royal authority.

5. Finally, in this connection, the author's knowledge of Persian customs is not in keeping with contemporary records. The chief conflicting points are as follows:

(a) Mordecai was permitted free access to his cousin in the harem, a state of affairs wholly at variance with Oriental usage, both ancient and modern.

(b) The queen could not send a message to her own husband (!).

(c) The division of the empire into 127 provinces contrasts strangely with the twenty historical Persian satrapies.

(d) The fact that Haman tolerated for a long time Mordecai's refusal to do obeisance is hardly in accordance with the customs of the East. Any native venturing to stand in the presence of a Turkish grand vizier would certainly be severely dealt with without delay.

(e) This very refusal of Mordecai to prostrate himself belongs rather to the Greek than to the earlier Oriental period, when such an act would have involved no personal degradation (compare Gen. xxiii. 7, xxxiii. 3; Herodotus, vii. 136).

(f) Most of the proper names in Esther which are given as Persian appear to be rather of Semitic than of Iranian origin, in spite of Oppert's attempt to explain many of them from the Persian (compare, however, Scheftelowitz, "Arisches im Alten Testament," 1901, i.).

Probable Date.

In view of all the evidence the authority of the Book of Esther as a historical record must be definitely rejected. Its position in the canon among the Hagiographa or "Ketubim" is the only thing which has induced Orthodox scholars to defend its historical character at all. Even the Jews of the first and second centuries of the common era questioned its right to be included among the canonical books of the Bible (compare Meg. 7a). The author makes no mention whatever of God, to whom, in all the other books of the Old Testament, the deliverance of Israel is ascribed. The only allusion in Esther to religion is the mention of fasting (iv. 16, ix. 31). All this agrees with the theory of a late origin for the book, as it is known, for example, from Ecclesiastes, that the religious spirit had degenerated even in Judea in the Greek period, to which Esther, like Daniel, in all probability belongs.

Esther could hardly have been written by a contemporary of the Persian empire, because (1) of the exaggerated way in which not only the splendor of the court, but all the events described, are treated (compare the twelve months spent by the maidens in adorning themselves for the king; the feasts of 187 days, etc., all of which point rather to the past than to a contemporary state of affairs); (2) the uncomplimentary details given about a great Persian king, who is mentioned by name, would not have appeared during his dynasty.

It is difficult to go so far as Grätz, who assignsEsther to an adherent of the Maccabean party in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. The vast difference in religious and moral tone between Esther and Daniel—the latter a true product of Antiochus' reign—seems to make such a theory impossible. Nor is the view of Jensen, followed by Nöldeke, more convincing to the unprejudiced mind. He endeavors to prove that the origin of the whole story lies in a Babylonian-Elamitic myth. He identifies Esther with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar (Aphrodite); Mordecai with Marduk, the tutelary deity of Babylon; and Haman with Hamman or Humman, the chief god of the Elamites, in whose capital, Susa, the scene is laid; while Vashti is also supposed to be an Elamite deity. Jensen considers that the Feast of Purim, which is the climax of the book, may have been adapted from a similar Babylonian festival by the Jews, who Hebraized the original Babylonian legend regarding the origin of the ceremonies. The great objection to such a theory is that no Babylonian festival corresponding with the full moon of the twelfth month is known.

The object of Esther is undoubtedly to give an explanation of and to exalt the Feast of Purim, of whose real origin little or nothing is known. See Megillah; Purim.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


MOSES. By : Joseph Jacobs George A. Barton Wilhelm Bacher Jacob Zallel Lauterbach Crawford Howell Toy Kaufmann Kohler


—Biblical Data:
  • In the Wilderness.
  • Death of Moses.
—In Rabbinical Literature:
  • The Beginnings.
  • Pharaoh's Daughter.
  • His Bringing up.
  • Removes Pharaoh's Crown.
  • Flees from Egypt.
  • King in Ethiopia.
  • Relations with Jethro.
  • The Circumcision of Gershom.
  • At the Burning Bush.
  • Before Pharaoh.
  • At the Exodus.
  • Receives the Torah.
  • Worship of the Golden Calf.
  • Moses and Israel.
  • In the Tabernacle.
  • Personal Qualities.
  • His Prophetic Powers.
  • Can Not Enter the Promised Land.
  • Moses Strikes the Rock.
  • At Aaron's Death.
  • Death of Moses.
  • Wishes to Avoid Death.
  • Moses in the Jahvist.
  • —Critical View:
  • Moses in the Elohist.
  • In the Priestly Code.
  • Moses and Sargon.
  • Name.
  • Founder of the Israelitish Nation.
In Hellenistic Literature:—Biblical Data:

The birth of Moses occurred at a time when Pharaoh had commanded that all male children born to Hebrew captives should be thrown into the Nile (Ex. ii.; comp. i.). Jochebed, the wife of the Levite Amram, bore a son, and kept the child concealed for three months. When she could keep him hidden no longer, rather than deliver him to death she set him adrift on the Nile in an ark of bulrushes. The daughter of Pharaoh, coming opportunely to the river to bathe, discovered the babe, was attracted to him, adopted him as her son, and named him "Moses." Thus it came about that the future deliverer of Israel was reared as the son of an Egyptian princess (Ex. ii. 1-10).

When Moses was grown to manhood, he went one day to see how it fared with his brethren, bondmen to the Egyptians. Seeing an Egyptian maltreating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand, supposing that no one who would be disposed to reveal the matter knew of it. The next day, seeing two Hebrews quarreling, he endeavored to separate them, whereupon the Hebrew who was wronging his brother taunted Moses with slaying the Egyptian. Moses soon discovered from a higher source that the affair was known, and that Pharaoh was likely to put him to death for it; he therefore made his escape to the Sinaitic Peninsula and settled with Hobab, or Jethro, priest of Midian, whose daughter Zipporah he in due time married. There he sojourned forty years, following the occupation of a shepherd, during which time his son Gershom was born (Ex. ii., 11-22).

One day, as Moses led his flock to Mount Horeb, he saw a bush burning but without being consumed. When he turned aside to look more closely at the marvel, Yhwh spoke to him from the bush and commissioned him to return to Egypt and deliver his brethren from their bondage (Ex. iii. 1-10). According to Ex. iii. 13 et seq., it was at this time that the name of Yhwh was revealed, though it is frequently used throughout the patriarchal narratives, from the second chapter of Genesis on. Armed with this new name and with certain signs which he could give in attestation of his mission, he returned to Egypt (Ex. iv. 1-9, 20). On the way he was met by Yhwh, who would have killed him; but Zipporah, Moses' wife, circumcised her son and Yhwh's anger abated (Ex. iv. 24-26). Moses was met and assisted on his arrival in Egypt by his elder brother, Aaron, and readily gained a hearing with his oppressed brethren (Ex. iv. 27-31). It was a more difficult matter, however, to persuade Pharaoh to let the Hebrews depart. Indeed, this was not accomplished until, through the agency of Moses, ten plagues had come upon the Egyptians (Ex. vii.-xii.). These plagues culminated in the slaying of the Egyptian first-born (Ex. xii. 29), whereupon such terror seized the Egyptians that they urged the Hebrews to leave.

In the Wilderness.

The children of Israel, with their flocks and herds, started toward the eastern border at the southern part of the Isthmus of Suez. The long procession moved slowly, and found it necessary to encamp three times before passing the Egyptian frontier at the Bitter Lakes. Meanwhile Pharaoh had repented and was in pursuit of them with a large army (Ex. xiv. 5-9). Shut in between this army and the Red Sea, or the Bitter Lakes, which were then connected with it, the Israelites despaired, but Yhwh divided the waters of the sea so that they passed safely across; when the Egyptians attempted to follow, He permitted the waters to return upon them and drown them (Ex. xiv. 10-31). Moses led the Hebrews to Sinai, or Horeb, where Jethro celebrated their coming by a great sacrifice in the presence of Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel (Ex. xviii.). At Horeb, or Sinai, Yhwh welcomed Moses upon the sacred mountain and talked with him face to face (Ex. xix.). He gave him the Ten Commandments and the Law and entered into a covenant with Israel through him. This covenant bound Yhwh to be Israel's God, if Israel would keep His commandments (Ex. xix. et seq.).
(see image) Moses on Mount Sinai.(From the Sarajevo Haggadah of the fourteenth century.)Moses and the Israelites sojourned at Sinai about a year (comp. Num. x. 11), and Moses had frequent communications from Yhwh. As a result of these the Tabernacle, according to the last chapters of Exodus, was constructed, the priestly law ordained, the plan of encampment arranged both for the Levites and the non-priestly tribes (comp. Num. i. 50-ii. 34), and the Tabernacle consecrated. While at Sinai Joshua had become general of the armies of Israel and the special minister, or assistant, of Moses (Ex. xvii. 9). From Sinai Moses led the people to Kadesh, whence the spies were sent to Canaan. Upon the return of the spies the people were so discouraged by their report that they refused to go forward, and were condemned to remain in the wilderness until that generation had passed away (Num. xiii.-xiv.).

After the lapse of thirty-eight years Moses led the people eastward. Having gained friendly permission to do so, they passed through the territory of Esau (where Aaron died, on Mount Hor; Num. xx. 22-29), and then, by a similar arrangement, through the land of Moab. But Sihon, king of the Amorites, whose capital was at Heshbon, refused permission, and was conquered by Moses, who allotted his territory to the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Og, King of Bashan, was similarly overthrown (comp. Num. xxi.), and his territory assigned to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Death of Moses.

After all this was accomplished Moses was warned that he would not be permitted to lead Israel across the Jordan, but would die on the eastern side (Num. xx. 12). He therefore assembled the tribes and delivered to them a parting address, which forms the Book of Deuteronomy. In this address it is commonly supposed that he recapitulated the Law, reminding them of its most important features. When this was finished, and he had pronounced a blessing upon the people, he went up Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah, looked over the country spread out before him, and died, at the age of one hundred and twenty. Yhwh Himself buried him in an unknown grave (Deut. xxxiv.). Moses was thus the human instrument in the creation of the Israelitish nation; he communicated to it all its laws. More meek than any other man (Num. xii. 3), he enjoyed unique privileges, for "there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. xxxiv. 10).J. G. A. B.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

Of all Biblical personages Moses has been chosen most frequently as the subject of later legends; and his life has been recounted in full detail in the poetic haggadah. As liberator, lawgiver, and leader of a people which was transformed by him from an unorganized horde into a nation, he occupies a more important place in popular legend than the Patriarchs and all the other national heroes. His many-sided activity also offered more abundant scope for imaginative embellishment. A cycle of legends has been woven around nearly every trait of his character and every event of his life; and groups of the most different and often contradictory stories have been connected with his career. It would be interesting to investigate the origin of the different cycles, and the relation of the several cycles to one another and to the original source, if there was one. The present article attempts to give, without claiming completeness, a picture of the character of Moses according to Jewish legend and a narrative of the most important incidents of his life.
(see image) Traditional Tomb of Moses: Scene During a Pilgrimage.(From a photograph by the American Colony, Jerusalem.)

(The following special abbreviations of book-titles are used: "D. Y." = "Dibre ha-Yamim le-Mosheh Rabbenu," in Jellinek, "B. H." ii.; "S. Y." = "Sefer ha-Yashar"; "M. W." = "Midrash Wayosha'," in Jellinek, l.c.)

The Beginnings.

Moses' influence and activity reach back to the days of the Creation. Heaven and earth were created only for his sake (Lev. R. xxxvi. 4). The account of the creation of the water on the second day (Gen. i. 6-8), therefore, does not close with the usual formula, "And God saw that it was good," because God foresaw that Moses would sufferthrough water (Gen. R. iv. 8). Although Noah was not worthy to be saved from the Flood, yet he was saved because Moses was destined to descend from him (ib. xxvi. 15). The angels which Jacob in his nocturnal vision saw ascending to and descending from heaven (Gen. vii. 12) were really Moses and Aaron (Gen. R. lxviii. 16). The birth of Moses as the liberator of the people of Israel was foretold to Pharaoh by his soothsayers, in consequence of which he issued the cruel command to cast all the male children into the river (Ex. i. 22). Later on Miriam also foretold to her father, Amram, that a son would be born to him who would liberate Israel from the yoke of Egypt (Sotah 11b, 12a; Meg. 14a; Ex. R. i. 24; "S. Y.," Shemot, pp. 111a, 112b; comp. Josephus, "Ant." ii. 9, § 3). Moses was born on Adar 7 (Meg. 13b) in the year 2377 after the creation of the world (Book of Jubilees, xlvii. 1). He was born circumcised (Sotah 12a), and was able to walk immediately after his birth (Yalk., Wayelek, 940); but according to another story he was circumcised on the eighth day after birth (Pirke R. El. xlviii.). A peculiar and glorious light filled the entire house at his birth (ib.; "S. Y." p. 112b), indicating that he was worthy of the gift of prophecy (Sotah l.c.). He spoke with his father and mother on the day of his birth, and prophesied at the age of three (Midr. Petirat Mosheh, in Jellinek, "B. H." i. 128). His mother kept his birth secret for three months, when Pharaoh was informed that she had borne a son. The mother put the child into a casket, which she hid among the reeds of the sea before the king's officers came to her (Jubilees, l.c. 47; "D. Y." in Jellinek, "B. H." ii. 3; "S. Y." p. 112b). For seven days his mother went to him at night to nurse him, his sister Miriam protecting him from the birds by day (Jubilees, l.c. 4).

Pharaoh's Daughter.

Then God sent a fierce heat upon Egypt ("D. Y." l.c.), and Pharaoh's daughter Bithiah (comp. I. Chron. iv. 18; Tarmut [Thermutis], according to Josephus, l.c. and Jubilees, l.c.), who was afflicted with leprosy, went to bathe in the river. Hearing a child cry, she beheld a casket in the reeds. She caused it to be brought to her, and on touching it was cured of her leprosy (Ex. R. i. 27). For this reason she was kindly disposed toward the child. When she opened the casket she was astonished at his beauty (Philo, "Vita Mosis," ii.), and saw the Shekinah with him (Ex. R. i. 28). Noticing that the child was circumcised, she knew that the parents must have been Hebrews (Sotah 12b). Gabriel struck Moses, so as to make him cry and arouse the pity of the princess (Ex. R. i. 28). She wished to save the child; but as her maids told her she must not transgress her father's commands, she set him down again (Midr. Abkir, in Yalk., Ex. 166). Then Gabriel threw all her maids down (Sotah 12b; Ex. R. i. 27); and God filled Bithiah with compassion (Yalk., l.c.), and caused the child to find favor in her eyes ("M. W." in Jellinek, l.c. i. 41). Thereupon she took the child up, saved him, and loved him much (Ex. R. l.c.). This was on the sixth day of the month of Siwan (Sotah 12b); according to another version, on Nisan 21 (ib.). When the soothsayers told Pharaoh that the redeemer of Israel had been born and thrown into the water, the cruel edict ordering that the children be thrown into the river was repealed (Ex. R. i. 29; Sotah l.c.). Thus the casting away of Moses saved Israel from further persecution. According to another version (Gen. R. xcvii. 5),600,000 children had already been thrown into the river, but all were saved because of Moses.

His Bringing up.

Bithiah, Pharaoh's daughter, took up the child to nurse him; but he refused the breast ("M. W." l.c.). Then she gave him to other Egyptian women to nurse, but he refused to take nourishment from any of them (Josephus, l.c. ii. 9, § 5; "S. Y." p. 112b; Sotah 12b; "D. Y." p. 3). The mouth which was destined to speak with God might not take unclean milk (Sotah l.c.; "D. Y." l.c.); Bithiah therefore gave him to his mother to nurse. Another legend says that he did not take any milk from the breast (Yalk., Wayelek, 940). Bithiah then adopted him as her son ("S. Y." p. 113b). Aside from the name "Moses," which Bithiah gave to him (Ex. ii. 10), he had seven (Lev. R. i. 3), or according to other stories ten, other names given to him by his mother, his father, his brother Aaron, his sister Miriam, his nurse, his grandfather Kehat, and Israel ("D. Y." p. 3; "S. Y." p. 112b; Meg. 13a). These names were: Jared, Abi Gedor, Heber, Abi Soko, Jekuthiel, Abi Zanoah, and Shemaiah ("Shama 'Yah" = "God has heard"), the last one being given to him by Israel. He was also called "Heman" ([i.e., ; Num. xii. 7] B. B. 15a).

Removes Pharaoh's Crown.

Moses was a very large child at the age of three (Ex. R. i. 32; comp. Josephus; l.c.; Philo, l.c.); and it was at this time that, sitting at the king's table in the presence of several princes and counselors, he took the crown from Pharaoh's head and placed it on his own ("D. Y." l.c.; for another version see "M. W." l.c.). The princes were horrified at the boy's act; and the soothsayer said that this was the same boy who, in accordance with their former predictions, would destroy the kingdom of Pharaoh and liberate Israel (Josephus, l.c.; "M. W." l.c.). Balaam and Jethro were at that time also among the king's counselors (Sotah 11a; Sanh. 106). Balaam advised the king to kill the boy at once; but Jethro (according to "D. Y." l.c., it was Gabriel in the guise of one of the king's counselors) said that the boy should first be examined, to see whether he had sense enough to have done such an act intentionally. All agreed with this advice. A shining piece of gold, or a precious stone, together with a live coal, was placed on a plate before the boy, to see which of the two he would choose. The angel Gabriel then guided his hand to the coal, which he took up and put into his mouth. This burned his tongue, causing him to stutter (comp. Ex. iv. 10); but it saved his life ("M. W." l.c.; "D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." l.c.; Ex. R. i. 31).

Moses remained in Pharaoh's house fifteen years longer ("D. Y." l.c.; "M. W." l.c.). According to the Book of Jubilees (l.c.), he learned the writing of the Assyrians (the "Ketab Ashurit"; the square script ?) from his father, Amram. During his sojourn in the king's palace he often went to his brethren, the slaves of Pharaoh, sharing their sad lot. Hehelped any one who bore a too heavy burden or was too weak for his work. He reminded Pharaoh that a slave was entitled to some rest, and begged him to grant the Israelites one free day in the week. Pharaoh acceded to this request, and Moses accordingly instituted the seventh day, the Sabbath, as a day of rest for the Israelites (Ex. R. i. 32; "S. Y." p. 115a).

Flees from Egypt.

Moses did not commit murder in killing the Egyptian (Ex. ii. 12); for the latter merited death because he had forced an Israelitish woman to commit adultery with him (Ex. R. i. 33). Moses was at that time eighteen years of age ("D. Y." l.c.; "M. W." l.c.; "S. Y." l.c.). According to another version, Moses was then twenty, or possibly forty, years of age (Ex. R. i. 32, 35). These divergent opinions regarding his age at the time when he killed the Egyptian are based upon different estimates of the length of his stay in the royal palace (Yalk., Shemot, 167; Gen. R. xi.), both of them assuming that he fled from Egypt immediately after the slaying (Ex. ii. 15). Dathan and Abiram were bitter enemies of Moses, insulting him and saying he should not act as if he were a member of the royal house, since he was the son not of Batya, but of Jochebed. Previous to this they had slandered him before Pharaoh. Pharaoh had forgiven Moses everything else, but would not forgive him for killing the Egyptian. He delivered him to the executioner, who chose a very sharp sword with which to kill Moses; but the latter's neck became like a marble pillar, dulling the edge of the sword ("M. W." l.c.). Meanwhile the angel Michael descended from heaven, and took the form of the executioner, giving the latter the shape of Moses and so killing him. He then took up Moses and carried him beyond the frontier of Egypt for a distance of three, or, according to another account, of forty, days ("D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." p. 115b). According to another legend, the angel took the shape of Moses, and allowed himself to be caught, thus giving the real Moses an opportunity to escape (Mek., Yitro. 1 [ed. Weiss. 66a]; Ex. R. i. 36).

King in Ethiopia.

The fugitive Moses went to the camp of King Nikanos, or Kikanos, of Ethiopia, who was at that time besieging his own capital, which had been traitorously seized by Balaam and his sons and made impregnable by them through magic. Moses joined the army of Nikanos, and the king and all his generals took a fancy to him, because he was courageous as a lion and his face gleamed like the sun ("S. Y." P. 116a; comp. B. B. 75a). When Moses had spent nine years with the army King Nikanos died, and the Hebrew was made general. He took the city, driving out Balaam and his sons Jannes and Jambres, and was proclaimed king by the Ethiopians. He was obliged, in deference to the wishes of the people, to marry Nikanos' widow, Adoniya (comp. Num. xii.), with whom he did not, however, cohabit ("D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." p. 116b). Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on account of the Cushite (Ethiopian) woman whom he had married. He was twenty-seven years of age when he became king; and he ruled over Ethiopia for forty years, during which he considerably increased the power of the country. After forty years his wife, Queen Adoniya, accused him before the princes and generals of not having cohabited with her during the many years of their marriage, and of never having worshiped the Ethiopian gods. She called upon the princes not to suffer a stranger among them as king, but to make her son by Nikanos, Munahas or Munakaros, king. The princes complied with her wishes, but dismissed Moses in peace, giving him great treasures. Moses, who was at this time sixty-seven years old, went from Ethiopia to Midian (ib.).

According to Josephus' account of this story (see Moses in Hellenistic Literature), after Moses' marriage to the daughter of the Ethiopian king, he did not become King of Ethiopia, but led his troops back to Egypt, where he remained. The Egyptians and even Pharaoh himself were envious of his glorious deeds, fearing also that he might use his power to gain dominion over Egypt. They therefore sought how they might assassinate him; and Moses, learning of the plot, fled to Midian. This narrative of Josephus' agrees with two haggadic accounts, according to which Moses fled from Egypt direct to Midian, not staying in Ethiopia at all. These accounts are as follows: (1) Moses lived for twenty years in Pharaoh's house; he then went to Midian, where he remained for sixty years, when, as a man of eighty, he undertook the mission of liberating Israel (Yalk., Shemot, 167). (2) Moses lived for forty years in Pharaoh's house; thence he went to Midian, where he stayed for forty years until his mission was entrusted to him (Gen. R. xi.; comp. Sifre, Deut. xxxiv. 7).

Relations with Jethro.

On his arrival at Midian Moses told his whole story to Jethro, who recognized him as the man destined to destroy the Egyptians. He therefore took Moses prisoner in order to deliver him to Pharaoh ("D. Y." l.c.). According to another legend, Jethro took him for an Ethiopian fugitive, and intended to deliver him to the Ethiopians ("S. Y." l.c.). He kept him prisoner for seven ("D. Y." l.c.) or ten ("S. Y." l.c.) years. Both of these legends are based on another legend according to which Moses was seventy-seven years of age when Jethro liberated him. According to the legend ("D. Y." l.c.) which says that he went to Nikanos' camp at the age of thirty, and ruled over Ethiopia for forty years, he was only seven years in Jethro's hands (30+40+7 = 77). According to the other legend ("S. Y." l.c.) he was eighteen years old when he fled from Egypt; he remained for nine years in the camp of Nikanos; and was king over Ethiopia for forty years. Hence he must have been Jethro's captive for ten years, or till his seventy-seventh year.

The Circumcision of Gershom.

Moses was imprisoned in a deep dungeon in Jethro's house, and received as food only small portions of bread and water. He would have died of hunger had not Zipporah, to whom Moses had before his captivity made an offer of marriage by the well, devised a plan by which she no longer went out to pasture the sheep, but remained at home to attend to the household, being thereby enabled to supply Moses with food without her father's knowledge. After ten (or seven) years Zipporah reminded her father that he had at one time cast a man into the dungeon, who must have died long ago; but ifhe were still living he must be a just man whom God had kept alive by a miracle. Jethro went to the dungeon and called Moses, who answered immediately. As Jethro found Moses praying, he really believed that he had been saved by a miracle, and liberated him. Jethro had planted in his garden a marvelous rod, which had been created on the sixth day of the Creation, on Friday afternoon, and had been given to Adam. This curious rod had been handed down through Enoch, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Joseph, at whose death it came into the possession of Pharaoh's court. Jethro, who saw it there, stole it and planted it in his garden. On the rod were engraved the name of God (Yhwh) and the initials of the ten plagues destined for Egypt. Jethro asked every one who wished to marry one of his daughters to pull up the rod; but no suitor had yet succeeded in doing so. Moses, on being set at liberty, walked in the garden, saw the rod, and read the inscription. He easily pulled it out of the ground and used it for a staff (see Aaron's Rod). Jethro thereby recognized Moses as the deliverer of Israel, and gave him the virtuous Zipporah as wife, together with much money ("S. Y.," "D. Y.," and "M. W." l.c.). Jethro stipulated that the first-born son of the marriage should adopt Jethro's pagan belief, while all the other children might be reared as Jews; and Moses agreed thereto (Mek., Yitro, 1 [ed. Weiss, p. 65b]). According to "M. W." l.c., one-half of the children of this marriage were to belong to Judaism and one-half to paganism. When therefore his son Gershom—who subsequently became the father of Jonathan—was born, Moses, under his agreement with Jethro, could not circumcise him ("S. Y." l.c.). Moses, therefore, went with his wife and child (another version says that both of his sons were then already born) to Egypt. On the way he met Satan, or Mastema, as he is called in the Book of Jubilees (xlviii. 2), in the guise of a serpent, which proceeded to swallow Moses, and had ingested the upper part of his body, when he stopped. Zipporah seeing this, concluded that the serpent's action was due to the fact that her son had not been circumcised (Ned. 31b-32a; Ex. R. v.), whereupon she circumcised him and smeared some of the blood on Moses' feet. A voice ("bat kol") was then heard commanding the serpent to disgorge the half-swallowed Moses, which it immediately did. When Moses came into Egypt he met his old enemies Dathan and Abiram, and when they asked him what he was seeking in Egypt, he immediately returned to Midian ("M. W." l.c.).

At the Burning Bush.

As the shepherd of his father-in-law he drove his sheep far into the desert (Ex. iii. 1), in order to prevent the sheep from grazing in fields not belonging to Jethro (Ex. R. i. 3). Here God appeared to him and addressed him for seven consecutive days (ib. iii. 20). Moses, however, refused to listen, because he would not allow himself to be disturbed in the work for which he was paid. Then God caused the flaming bush to appear (Ex. iii. 2-3), in order to divert Moses' attention from his work. The under-shepherds with Moses saw nothing of the marvelous spectacle, which Moses alone beheld (Ex. R. ii. 8). Moses then interrupted his work, and stepped nearer the bush to investigate (ib. ii. 11). As Moses was at this time entirely inexperienced in prophecy, God, in calling him, imitated the voice of Amram, so as not to frighten him. Moses, who thought that his father, Amram, was appearing to him, said: "What does my father wish?" God answered: "I am the God of thy father" (Ex. iii. 6), and gave him the mission to save Israel (ib.). Moses hesitated to accept the mission (comp. Ex. iii. 11) chiefly because he feared that his elder brother, Aaron, who until then had been the only prophet in Israel, might feel slighted if his younger brother became the savior of the people; whereupon God assured him that Aaron would be glad of it (Ex. R. iii. 21-22). According to another version (ib. xv. 15), Moses said to God: "Thou hast promised Jacob that Thou Thyself wouldest liberate Israel [comp. Gen. xlvi. 4], not appointing a mediator." God answered: "I myself will save them; but go thou first and announce to My children that I will do so." Moses consented, and went to his father-in-law, Jethro (Ex. iv. 18), to obtain permission to leave Midian (Ned. 65a; Ex. R. iv. 1-4), for he had promised not to leave Midian without his sanction. Moses departed with his wife and children, and met Aaron (comp. Ex. iv. 27), who told him it was not right to take them into Egypt, since the attempt was being made to lead the Israelites out of that country. He therefore sent his wife and children back to Midian ("S. Y." p. 123a; Mek., Yitro, 1 [ed. Weiss, p. 65b]). When they went to Pharaoh, Moses went ahead, Aaron following, because Moses was more highly regarded in Egypt (Ex. R. ix. 3); otherwise Aaron and Moses were equally prominent and respected (Mek., Bo, 1 [ed. Weiss, p. 1a]). At the entrance to the Egyptian royal palace were two leopards, which would not allow any one to approach unless their guards quieted them; but when Moses came they played with him and fawned upon him as if they were his dogs ("D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." l.c.). According to another version, there were guards at every entrance. Gabriel, however, introduced Moses and Aaron into the interior of the palace without being seen (Yalk., Shemot, 175). As Moses' appearance before Pharaoh resulted only in increasing the tasks of the children of Israel (comp. Ex. v.), Moses returned to Midian; and, according to one version, he took his wife and children back at the same time (Ex. R. v. 23).

Before Pharaoh.

After staying six months in Midian he returned to Egypt (ib.), where he was subjected to many insults and injuries at the hands of Dathan and Abiram (ib. v. 24). This, together with the fear that he had aggravated the condition of the children of Israel, confused his mind so that he uttered disrespectful words to God (Ex. v. 22). Justice ("Middat ha-Din") wished to punish him for this; but as God knew that Moses' sorrow for Israel had induced these words he allowed Mercy ("Middat ha-RaHamim") to prevail (ib. vi. 1). As Moses feared that Middat ha-Din might prevent the redemption of Israel, since it was unworthy of being redeemed, God swore to him to redeem the people for Moses' sake (ib. vi. 3-5, xv. 4). Moses in treating with Pharaoh alwaysshowed to him the respect due to a king (ib. vii. 2). Moses was really the one selected to perform all the miracles; but as he himself was doubtful of his success (ib. vi. 12) some of them were assigned to Aaron (ib. 1). According to another version, Aaron and not Moses undertook to send the plagues and to perform all the miracles connected with the water and the dust. Because the water had saved Moses, and the dust had been useful to him in concealing the body of the Egyptian (ib. ii. 12), it was not fitting that they should be the instruments of evil in Moses' hand (ib. ix. 9, x. 5, xx. 1). When Moses announced the last plague, he would not state the exact time of its appearance, midnight, saying merely "ka-Haẓot" = "about midnight" (ib. xi. 4), because he thought the people might make a mistake in the time and would then call him a liar (Ber. 3b, 4a). On the night of the Exodus, when Moses had killed his paschal lamb, all the winds of the world were blowing through paradise, carrying away its perfumes and imparting them to Moses' lamb so that the odor of it could be detected at a distance of forty days (Ex. R. xix. 6).

At the Exodus.

During this night all the first-born, including the female first-born, were killed, with the exception of Pharaoh's daughter Batya, who had adopted Moses. Although she was a first-born child, she was saved through Moses' prayer ("S. Y." p. 125b). During the Exodus while all the people thought only of taking the gold and silver of the Egyptians, Moses endeavored to carry away boards for use in the construction of the future Temple (comp. Gen. R. xciv. 4 and Jew. Encyc. vii. 24, s.v. Jacob) and to remove Joseph's coffin (Ex. R. xviii. 8). Serah, Asher's daughter, told Moses that the coffin had been lowered into the Nile; whereupon Moses went to the bank of the river and cried: "Come up, Joseph" (according to another version, he wrote the name of God on a slip of paper, which he threw into the Nile), when the coffin immediately rose to the surface (Sotah 13a; Ex. R. xx. 17; "D. Y." l.c.; "S. Y." p. 126). Another legend says that Joseph's coffin was among the royal tombs, the Egyptians guarding it with dogs whose barking could be heard throughout Egypt; but Moses silenced the dogs and took the coffin out (Sotah l.c.; Ex. R. l.c.; comp. Joseph in Rabbinical Literature).

On arriving at the Red Sea Moses said to God when commanded by Him to cleave the water: "Thou hast made it a law of nature that the sea shall never be dry," whereupon God replied that at the Creation He had made an agreement with the sea as to the separation of its waters at this time (Ex. R. xxi. 16; comp. "M. W." p. 38). When the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his army drown in the Red Sea (Ex. xiv. 30-31) they wished to return to Egypt and set up a kingdom there; but Moses prevented them, urging them on by force. He also removed the idols which the Israelites had brought with them from Egypt (Ex. R. xxiv. 2).

Receives the Torah.

The giving of the tables of the Law and of the Torah in general to Moses is a favorite subject for legends. In contrast to the pithy sentence of R. Jose (Suk. 5a) to the effect that Moses never ascended into heaven, there are many haggadot which describe in detail how Moses made his ascension and received the Torah there. Moses went up in a cloud which entirely enveloped him (Yoma 4a). As he could not penetrate the cloud, God took hold of him and placed him within it (ib. 4b). When he reached heaven the angels asked God: "What does this man, born of woman, desire among us?" God replied that Moses had come to receive the Torah, whereupon the angels claimed that God ought to give the Torah to them and not to men. Then God told Moses to answer them. Moses was afraid that the angels might burn him with the breath of their mouths; but God told him to take hold of the throne of glory. Moses then proved to the angels that the Torah was not suited to them, since they had no passions to be subdued by it. The angels thereupon became very friendly with Moses, each one of them giving him something. The angel of death confided to him the fact that incense would prevent the plague (Shab. 88b-89a; Ex. R. xxviii.). Moses subsequently caused Aaron to employ this preventive (Num. xvii. 11-13). Moses, following the custom of the angels, ate nothing during his forty days' sojourn in heaven (B. M. 87b), feeding only on the splendor of the Shekinah. He distinguished day from night by the fact that God instructed him by day in the Scripture, and by night in the Mishnah (Ex. R. xlvii. 9). God taught him also everything which every student would discover in the course of time (ib. i.). When Moses first learned the Torah he soon forgot it; it was then bestowed upon him as a gift and he did not again forget it (Ned. 35a).

Worship of the Golden Calf.

The Torah was intended originally only for Moses and his descendants; but he was liberal enough to give it to the people of Israel, and God approved the gift (Ned. 38a). According to another version, God gave the Torah to the Israelites for Moses' sake (Ex. R. xlvii. 14). Moses' burnt tongue was healed when he received the Law (Deut. R. i. 1). As Moses was writing down the Torah, he, on reaching the passage "Let us make man" (Gen. i. 26), said to God, "Why dost thou give the Minim the opportunity of construing these words to mean a plurality of gods?" whereupon God replied: "Let those err that will" (Gen. R. viii. 7). When Moses saw God write the words "erek appayim" (= "long-suffering"; Ex. xxxiv. 6), and asked whether God was long-suffering toward the pious only, God answered, "Toward sinners also." When Moses said that sinners ought to perish, God answered, "You yourself will soon ask me to be long-suffering toward sinners" (Sanh. 111a). This happened soon after Israel had made the golden calf (ib.). Before Moses ascended to heaven he said that he would descend on the forenoon of the forty-first day. On that day Satan confused the world so that it appeared to be afternoon to the Israelites. Satan told them that Moses had died, and was thus prevented from punctually fulfilling his promise. He showed them a form resembling Moses suspended in the air, whereupon the people made the golden calf (Shab. 89a; Ex. R. lxi.). When, in consequence of this, Moses was obliged to descend from heaven (Ex. xxxii. 7), he saw the angels of destruction, who were ready todestroy him. He was afraid of them; for he had lost his power over the angels when the people made the golden calf. God, however, protected him (Ex. R. xli. 12). When Moses came down with the tables and saw the calf (Ex. xxxii. 15-20), he said to himself: "If I now give to the people the tables, on which the interdiction against idolatry is written (Ex. xx. 2-5), they will deserve death for having made and worshiped the golden calf." In compassion for the Israelites he broke the tables, in order that they might not be held responsible for having transgressed the command against idolatry (Ab. R. N. ii.). Moses now began to pray for the people, showing thereby his heroic, unselfish love for them. Gathering from the words "Let me" (Ex. xxxii. 10) that Israel's fate depended on him and his prayer, he began to defend them (Ber. 32a; Meg. 24a). He said that Israel, having been sojourning in Egypt, where idolatry flourished, had become accustomed to this kind of worship, and could not easily be brought to desist from it (Yalk., Ki Tissa, 397). Moreover, God Himself had afforded the people the means of making the golden calf, since he had given them much gold and silver (Ber. l.c.). Furthermore, God had not forbidden Israel to practise idolatry, for the singular and not the plural was used in Ex. xx. 2-5, referring, therefore, only to Moses (Ex. R. xlvii. 14).

Moses and Israel.

Moses refused God's offer to make him the ancestor of a great people (Ex. xxxii. 10), since he was afraid that it would be said that the leader of Israel had sought his own glory and advantage and not that of the people. He, in fact, delivered himself to death for the people (Ber. l.c.). For love of the Israelites he went so far as to count himself among the sinners (comp. Isa. liii. 12), saying to God: "This calf might be an assistant God and help in ruling the world." When God reproved him with having himself gone astray and with believing in the golden calf, he said: "Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people" (Ex. xxxii. 11; Num. R. ii. 14; Deut. R. i. 2). Moses atoned for the sin of making the calf; he even atoned for all the sins of humanity down to his time, freeing men from their burden of sin (Yalk., Ki Tissa, 388, from the Tanna debe Eliyahu; this, as well as the interpretation of Isa. liii. as referring to Moses [Sotah 14a], must be either ascribed to Christian influence or regarded as a polemic against the Christian interpretations referring to Jesus). Moses loved the people (Men. 65a, b), showing his affection on every occasion. During the battle with Amalek he sat on a stone, and not on a cushion which he could easily have procured, because, Israel being at that time in trouble, he intended to show thereby that he suffered with them (Ta'an. 11a). When he begged God, before his death, to recall the oath that he (Moses) should never enter Palestine, God replied, "If I recall this oath I will also recall the oath never to destroy Israel," whereupon Moses said: "Rather let Moses and a thousand like him perish than that one of the people of Israel should perish" (Midr. Petirat Mosheh, in Jellinek, "B. H." i. 121). Moses requested that the Shekinah might rest in Israel only in order that Israel might thereby be distinguished among all peoples (Ber. 7a); that if they sinned and were penitent, their intentional sins might be regarded merely as trespasses (Yoma 36b); and that when Israel should suffer under the yoke of the nations, God would protect the pious and the saints of Israel (B. B. 8a). All the injuries and slanders heaped upon Moses by the people did not lessen his love for them.

The words "They looked after Moses" (Ex. xxxiii. 8) are differently interpreted. According to one opinion the people praised Moses, saying: "Hail to the mother who has borne him; all the days of his life God speaks with him; and he is dedicated to the service of God." According to another opinion they repreached and reviled him: they accused him of committing adultery with another man's wife; and every man became jealous and forbade his wife to speak to Moses. They said: "See how fat and strong he has grown; he eats and drinks what belongs to the Jews, and everything that he has is taken from the people. Shall a man who has managed the building of the Tabernacle not become rich?" (Sanh. 110a; kid. 33b; Ex. R. li. 4; Shek. v. 13). Yet Moses was the most conscientious of superintendents (Ber. 44a), and although he had been given sole charge of the work, he always caused his accounts to be examined by others (Ex. R. li. 1). He was always among the workmen, showing them how to do the work.

In the Tabernacle.

When everything was prepared Moses set up the Tabernacle alone (Ex. R. lii. 3). He fastened the ceiling of the tent over it, as he was the only one able to do so, being ten ells tall (Shab. 92a). During the seven days of the dedication he took the Tabernacle apart every day and set it up again without any help. When all was completed he gave a detailed account of the various expenses (Ex. R. li. 4). During the seven days of the dedication, or, according to another account, during the forty years of the wandering in the desert, Moses officiated as high priest. He was also king during this entire period. When he demanded these two offices for his descendants God told him that the office of king was destined for David and his house, while the office of high priest was reserved for Aaron and his descendants (Ex. R. ii. 13; Lev. R. xi. 6; Zeb. 102a).

All the different cycles of legends agree in saying that Moses was very wealthy, probably on the basis of Num. xvi. 15 (comp. Ned. 35a, where this interpretation is regarded as uncertain); they differ, however, as to the source of his wealth. According to one, he derived it from the presents and treasures given to him by the Ethiopians when they took the crown away from him ("D. Y." l.c.). According to another, Jethro gave him a large sum of money as dowry when he married Zipporah ("M. W." l.c.). Still another story relates that Moses received a large part of the booty captured from Pharaoh and, later, from Sihon and Og (Lev. R. xxviii. 4). In contrast to these versions, according to which Moses gained his wealth by natural means, there are two other versions according to which Moses became wealthy by a miracle. One of these narratives saysthat Moses became rich through the breaking of the tables, which were made of sapphires (Ned. 35a); and the other that God showed him in his tent a pit filled with these precious stones (Yalk., Ki Tissa, 39b).

Personal Qualities.

Moses was also distinguished for his strength and beauty. He was, as stated above, ten ells tall and very powerful. In the battle against Og, Moses was the only one able to kill that king (Ber. 54b; see Og in Rabbinical Literature). His face was surrounded by a halo (comp. Ex. xxxiv. 29-35); this was given to him in reward for having hidden his face on first meeting God in the burning bush (ib. iii. 2-6; Ber. 7a), or he derived it from the cave in the cleft of the rock (comp. Ex. xxxiii. 22) or from the tables, which he grasped while God was holding one side and the angels the other. Another legend says that a drop of the marvelous ink with which he wrote down the Torah remained on the pen; and when he touched his head with the pen he received his halo (Ex. R. xlvii. 11).

Moses was called the "father of wisdom" on account of his great sagacity (Meg. 13a; Lev. R. i. 15). He possessed forty-nine of the fifty divisions of wisdom (R. H. 21b; Ned. 35a). The question why the pious sometimes have bad luck while the sinners are fortunate was solved for him (Ber. 7a). He wished to know also how good deeds are rewarded in the future world, but this was not revealed to him (Yalk., Ki Tissa, 395). Piety was not burdensome to him (Ber. 33b). His prayers were immediately answered (Gen. R. lx. 4). He was so prominent a figure that his authority was equal to that of an entire sanhedrin of seventy-one members (Sanh. 16b), or even of the whole of Israel (Mek., BeshallaH, Shir, 1 [ed. Weiss, p. 41a]).

His Prophetic Powers.

Aside from the Pentateuch, Moses wrote also the Book of Job and some Psalms. He also introduced many regulations and institutions (Shab. 30a; comp. Ber. 54; Ta'an. 27; Meg. 4; Yeb. 79; Mak. 24). On account of the excellence of his prophecy he is called "the father," "the head," "the master," and "the chosen of the Prophets" (Lev. R. i. 3; Esth. R. i.; Ex. R. xxi. 4; Gen. R. lxxvi. 1). While all the other prophets ceased to prophesy after a time, Moses continued to talk with God and to prophesy throughout his life (Ex. R. ii. 12); and while all the other prophets beheld their visions as through nine spectacles ("espaklarya") or through dim ones, Moses beheld his as through one clear, finely ground glass (Yeb. 49b; Lev. R. i. 14). Balaam surpassed him in prophecy in two respects: (1) Balaam always knew when God was about to speak with him, while Moses did not know beforehand when God would speak with him; and (2) Balaam could speak with God whenever he wished, which Moses could not do. According to another tradition (Num. R. xiv. 34), however, Moses also could speak with God as often as he wished. The fact that God would speak with him unawares induced Moses to give up domestic life, and to live separated from his wife (Shab. 87a).

Can Not Enter the Promised Land.

Moses' modesty is illustrated by many fine examples in the Haggadah (comp. Num. xii. 3). When God pointed to R. Akiba and his scholarship, Moses said: "If Thou hast such a man, why dost Thou reveal the Torah through me?" (Men. 29b; see also Akiba). When Moses descended from heaven Satan came to ask him where the Torah was which God had given to him. Moses said: "Who am I? Am I worthy to receive the Torah from God?" When God asked him why he denied that the Torah had been given to him, he replied: "How can I claim anything which belongs to Thee and is Thy darling?" Then God said to him: "As thou art so modest and humble, the Torah shall be called after thee, the 'Torah of Moses'" (Shab. 89a; comp. Mal. iii. 22). Moses' modesty never allowed him to put himself forward (e.g., in liberating Israel, in dividing the sea, and subsequently also in connection with the Tabernacle) until God said to him: "How long wilt thou count thyself so lowly? The time is ready for thee; thou art the man for it" (Lev. R. i. 15). When Moses had made a mistake, or had forgotten something, he was not ashamed to admit it (Zeb. 101a). In his prayers he always referred to the merits of others, although everything was granted to him on account of his own merit (Ber. 10b). Whenever the cup is handed to him during the banquet of the pious in the other world, that he may say grace over the meal, he declares: "I am not worthy to say grace, as I have not deserved to enter the land of Israel" (Pes. 119b). The fact that Moses, the foremost leader of Israel, who ceaselessly prayed for it and partook of its sorrows (Num. R. xviii. 5), and on whose account the manna was showered down from heaven and the protecting clouds and the marvelous well returned after the death of Aaron and Miriam (Ta'an. 9a), should not be allowed to share in Israel's joys and enter the promised land ("M. W." l.c.), was a problem that puzzled the Haggadah, for which it tried to find various explanations. Moses was anxious to enter the promised land solely because many of the commandments given by God could be observed only there, and he was desirous of fulfilling all the commandments. God, however, said that He looked upon Moses as having fulfilled all the commandments, and would therefore duly reward him therefor (Sotah 14a). Moses prayed in vain to be permitted to go into the promised land if only for a little while; for God had decreed that he should not enter the country either alive or dead. According to one opinion, this decree was in punishment for the words addressed by him to God: "Wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people?" (Ex. v. 22; Ex. R. v. 27). According to another version, this punishment was inflicted upon him for having once silently renounced his nationality. When Moses had helped the daughters of Jethro at the well, they took him home, letting him wait outside while they went into the house and told their father that an Egyptian had protected them (Ex. ii. 19). Moses, who overheard this conversation, did not correct them, concealing the fact that he was a Hebrew ("M. W." l.c.). There is still another explanation, to the effect that it would not have redounded to the glory of Moses if he who had led 600,000 persons out of Egypt had been the only one to enter Palestine, while the entire people were destinedto die in the desert (comp. Num. xiv. 28-37). Again, Moses had to die with the generation which he took out of Egypt, in order that he might be able to lead them again in the future world (Num. R. xix. 6).

Moses Strikes the Rock.

Denying all these reasons, another explanation, based on Scripture, is that Moses and Aaron were not permitted to enter the promised land because they did not have the proper confidence in God in calling water from the rock (Num. xx. 12). Moses asked that this error should be noted down in the Torah (Num. xx. 12) in order that no other errors or faults should be ascribed to him (Num. R. l.c.). This story of his lack of true confidence in God when calling forth the water is elaborated with many details in the legends.

Moses was careful not to provoke the people during the forty years of wandering in the desert, because God had sworn that none of the generation which had left Egypt should behold the promised land (Deut. i. 35). When he went to call forth the water he did not know exactly from which rock it would come. The people became impatient and said that there was no difference between the rocks, and that he ought to be able to call forth water from any one of them. Vexed, he replied, "Ye rebels!" (Num. xx. 10) or, according to the Midrash, "fools!" (=μῶροι). God therefore said to him: "As thou art clever, thou shalt not enter the land together with fools." According to another legend, Moses became angry because some of the people said that, since he had been a herdsman with Jethro, he knew, like all herdsmen, where to find water in the desert, and that now he was merely trying to deceive the people and to make them believe that he had miraculously called water from the rock (Midr. Petirat Aharon, in Jellinek, l.c. i. 93 et seq.; Num. R. xix. 5; Yalk., Hukkat, 763).

At Aaron's Death.

When Moses heard that Aaron also had to die he grieved and wept so much as to occasion his own death (Midr. Petirat Aharon, l.c.). This story, as well as the reference to his early death (Yoma 87a), was probably based on Deut. xxxiv. 7, according to which he retained all his faculties and his full strength down to his end; but they contradict the many other versions of his death (see below). When Moses took Aaron up the mountain where the latter was to die, and announced his death to him, he comforted him, saying: "You, my brother, will die and leave your office to your children; but when I die a stranger will inherit my office. When you die you will leave me to look after your burial; when I die I shall leave no brother, no sister, and no son to bury me" (Midr. Petirat Aharon, l.c.; Num. R. xix. 11; Yalk., Num. 763, 787)—for Moses' sons died before him (comp. the note in "Zayit Ra'anan" to Yalk., Num. 787). When Moses witnessed the quiet and peaceful death of Aaron he desired a similar death for himself (ib.). After Aaron's death Moses was accused by the people of having killed him through jealousy; but God cleared him from this suspicion by a miracle (Yalk., Num. 764).

When Moses was about to take vengeance on Midian before his death (comp. Num. xxxi.) he did not himself take part in the war, because he had at one time sojourned in Midian and had received benefits in that country (Num. R. xxii. 4). When Zimri brought the Midianitish woman Cozbi before Moses (Num. xxv. 6), asking that he might marry her, and Moses refused his request, Zimri reproached him with having himself married the Midianitish woman Zipporah (Sanh. 82a). Later, also, Moses was reproached for this marriage, the Rabbis saying that on account of it he became the ancestor of Jonathan, the priest of Micah's idol (Judges xviii. 30; B. B. 109b). God revealed to Moses before his death all the coming generations, their leaders and sages, as well as the saints and sinners. When Moses beheld Saul and his sons die by the sword he grieved that the first king of Israel should come to such a sad end (Lev. R. xxvi. 7). When God showed him hell he began to be afraid of it; but God promised him that he should not go thither (Num. R. xxiii. 4). He beheld paradise also. A detailed description of Moses' wanderings through paradise and hell is found in the apocalypse "Gedullat Mosheh" (Salonica, 1727; see Jew. Encyc. i. 679).

Death of Moses.

The different legends agree in saying that Moses died on Adar 7, the day on which he was born, at the age of 120 years (Meg. 13b; Mek., BeshallaH, Wayassa', 5 [ed. Weiss, p. 60a]; comp. Josephus, l.c. iv. 8, § 49), the angel of death not being present (B. B. 17a). But the earlier and the later legends differ considerably in the description and the details of this event. The earlier ones present the hero's death as a worthy close to his life. It takes place in a miraculous way; and the hero meets it quietly and resignedly. He ascends Mount Abarim accompanied by the elders of the people, and Joshua and Eleazar; and while he is talking with them a cloud suddenly surrounds him and he disappears. He was prompted by modesty to say in the Torah that he died a natural death, in order that people should not say that God had taken him alive into heaven on account of his piety (Josephus, l.c.). The event is described somewhat differently, but equally simply, in Sifre, Deut. 305 (ed. Friedmann, p. 129b). For the statement that Moses did not die at all, compare Sotah 13b. "When the angel of death, being sent by God to Moses, appeared before him and said, 'Give me your soul,' Moses scolded him, saying, 'You have not even the right to appear where I am sitting; how dare you say to me that I shall give you my soul?' The angel of death took this answer back to God. And when God said to the angel the second time, 'Bring Me the soul of Moses,' he went to the place where Moses had been, but the latter had left. Then he went to the sea to look for Moses there. The sea said that it had not seen Moses since the time when he had led the children of Israel through it. Then he went to the mountains and valleys, which told him that God had concealed Moses, keeping him for the life in the future world, and no creature knew where he was."

This simple story of the old midrash follows the Bible closely, making the mountains and valleys the speakers because, according to Deut. xxxiv. 1-5, Moses died on the mountain and was buried in the valley. In the later legends the death of Moses isrecounted more fantastically, with many marvelous details. But instead of the hero being glorified, as was certainly intended by these details, he is unconsciously lowered by some traits ascribed to him. He appears weak and fearsome, not displaying that grandeur of soul which he might reasonably have been expected to exhibit at his death.

Wishes to Avoid Death.

When God said to Moses that he must die Moses replied: "Must I die now, after all the trouble I have had with the people? I have beheld their sufferings; why should I not also behold their joys? Thou hast written in the Torah: 'At his day thou shalt give him his hire' [Deut. xxiv. 15]; why dost thou not give me the reward of my toil?" (Yalk., Deut. 940; Midr. Petirat Mosheh, in Jellinek, l.c. i. 115-129). God assured him that he should receive his reward in the future world. Moses then asked why he must die at all, whereupon God enumerated some of the sins for which he had deserved death, one of them being the murder of the Egyptian (Ex. ii. 12; Midr. Petirat Mosheh, l.c.). According to another version, Moses had to die so that he might not be taken for a god (ib.). Moses then began to become excited (Yalk., Wa'etHanan, 814), saying he would live like the beasts of the field and the birds, which get their daily food only for the sake of remaining alive (Yalk., Deut. 940). He desired to renounce the entry into the promised land and remain with the tribes of Reuben and Gad in the country east of the Jordan, if only he might remain alive. God said that this could not be done, since the people would leave Joshua and return to him (Midr. Petirat Mosheh, l.c.). Moses then begged that one of his children or one of the children of his brother Aaron might succeed him (ib. and Num. R. xxi. 15). God answered that his children had not devoted themselves to the Law, whereas Joshua had served Moses faithfully and had learned from him; he therefore deserved to succeed his teacher (ib.). Then Moses said: "Perhaps I must die only because the time has come for Joshua to enter upon his office as the leader of Israel. If Joshua shall now become the leader, I will treat him as my teacher and will serve him, if only I may stay alive." Moses then began to serve Joshua and give him the honor due to a master from his pupil. He continued to do this for thirty-seven days, from the first of Shebat to the seventh of Adar. On the latter day he conducted Joshua to the tent of the assembly. But when he saw Joshua go in while he himself had to remain outside, he became jealous, and said that it was a hundred times better to die than to suffer once such pangs of jealousy. Then the treasures of wisdom were taken away from Moses and given to Joshua (comp. Sotah 13b). A voice ("bat kol") was heard to say, "Learn from Joshua!" Joshua delivered a speech of which Moses understood nothing. Then, when the people asked that Moses should complete the Torah, he replied, "I do not know how to answer you," and tottered and fell. He then said: "Lord of the world, until now I desired to live; but now I am willing to die." As the angel of death was afraid to take his soul, God Himself, accompanied by Gabriel, Michael, and Zagziel, the former teacher of Moses, descended to get it. Moses blessed the people, begged their forgiveness for any injuries he might have done them, and took leave of them with the assurance that he would see them again at the resurrection of the dead. Gabriel arranged the couch, Michael spread a silken cover over it, and Zagziel put a silken pillow under Moses' head. At God's command Moses crossed his hands over his breast and closed his eyes, and God took his soul away with a kiss. Then heaven and earth and the starry world began to weep for Moses (Midr. Petirat Mosheh, l.c.; Yalk., Deut. 940; Deut. R. xi. 6). Although Moses died in the territory of the tribe of Reuben, he was buried in that of Gad at a spot four miles distant from the place of his death. He was carried this distance by the Shekinah, while the angels said to him that he had practised God's justice (Deut. xxxiii. 22). At the same time the bat kol cried out in the camp of the people: "Moses, the great teacher of Israel, is dead!" (Sotah 13b).

God Himself buried Moses (Sotah 14a; Sanh. 39a) in a grave which had been prepared for him in the dusk of Friday, the sixth day of the Creation (Pes. 54a). This tomb is opposite Beth-peor (Deut. xxxiv. 6), in atonement for the sin which Israel committed with the idol Peor (Sotah 14a). Yet it can not be discovered; for to a person standing on the mountain it seems to be in the valley; and if one goes down into the valley, it appears to be on the mountain (ib.).

Bibliography: B. Beer, Leben Moses, nach Auffassung der Jüdischen Sage, in Jahrb. für Gesch. der Jud. iii. 1 et seq.;
M. Grünbaum, Neue Beiträge zur Semitischen Sagenkunde, pp. 15-85, Leyden, 1893.W. B. J. Z. L.

Moses in the Jahvist.

—Critical View:

In 1753 Jean Astruc, a French physician, published at Brussels a little book in which he advanced the theory that Moses had employed certain documents in composing the Book of Genesis. This work was thought by its author to establish the Mosaic authorship of Genesis upon a more secure basis, but it contained the key which, in the hands of a long line of critics, has led to the modern view that the Pentateuch originated from four great documents, all of which were written some centuries after Moses (see Pentateuch, Critical View). The oldest of these documents, known as J or the Jahvist, contains in its present state no account of the early life of Moses, but presents him first as a fugitive in the land of Midian. Nearly all the after-events of the life of Moses, enumerated above, are, however, given by J, who has a definite and interesting point of view. Critics differ as to whether Aaron had any place in the original narrative of J or not, Dillmann and Bacon assigning to him an important rôle, while Wellhausen, Stade, Carpenter, and Harford Battersby hold that such passages as Ex. iv. 13-14 are later interpolations. Be this as it may, J represents Moses as holding the unique position of importance. For example, in J's description of the plagues he pictures Moses as announcing the plague; then he tells how Yhwh sent it, usually through some natural agency (comp. Ex. viii. 20-24, the flies; x. 13, 19, the locusts). Similarly, J tells that Yhwh "caused the sea to go back by a strong east windall the night, and made the sea dry land" (Ex. xiv. 21). Thus he explains the passage of the Red Sea.

It is J who represents Moses as alone enjoying the privilege of intercourse with Yhwh face to face. He gives the account of the burning bush (Ex. iii. 2); he relates that Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, with seventy of the elders of Israel, went up into the mountain, and that Aaron and the seventy beheld Yhwh from afar off and ate and drank in His presence, but that Moses alone went near unto Yhwh (Ex. xxiv. 1-2, 9-11). In Ex. xxxiv. 5 Yhwh descended in a cloud and stood to talk with Moses. In J the basis of Yhwh's covenant are the ten "words" contained in Ex. xxxiv. J, too, in Num. xiv. 11-17, 19-24 presents one of the most noble pictures of Moses. Yhwh was angry, and declared that He would destroy Israel and make of Moses a great nation, but the unselfish leader pleaded against his own interests for the forgiveness of the nation which had so often thwarted him, and the prayer prevailed.

Moses in the Elohist.

The second prophetic document in point of age, known as E or the Elohist, contains the account of Moses' birth and exposure on the Nile, together with the incidents which led to his flight to Midian. Aaron and Miriam also played a part in the original E narrative. E gives especial attention to the part of Jethro in initiating Moses into the worship of Yhwh and in the organization of legal procedure (Ex. xviii. 12 et seq.). According to E, before the Exodus the Hebrews dwelt in the midst of the Egyptians (not in Goshen, as in J); and E asserts that on the advice of Moses the Hebrews borrowed freely of the Egyptians just before leaving. E pictures Moses as raising the fateful rod when he would have any plague come, at which sign the plague came. At the Red Sea also Moses lifted this rod and the waters parted. In the Enarrative Moses had a "tent of meeting" pitched at a distance from the camp, to which he resorted, accompanied only by Joshua, his minister, and there he talked with Yhwh face to face (Ex. xxxiii. 8-11). E makes the basis of the covenant which Moses mediated to be the code in Ex. xx. 24-xxiii. 19. This covenant, however, was not communicated at the tent of meeting, but on the top of the sacred mountain, which E calls "Horeb" and J calls "Sinai." E's narrative contains the chief events of the life of Moses already given. His portrait is dignified and noble, though lacking in the touches of highest heroism which make the picture of J superb.

In the Priestly Code.

The writer of the Priestly Code (P), like the two older prophetic writers, includes in his account the chief events in the life of Moses, but in accord with his usual habit tells these events in a few chronicle-like words in order to make them the setting of his history of the sacred institutions. P declares that Amram was the father of Moses, and Jochebed his mother (Ex. vi. 20), and gives to Aaron a prominence much greater than in the older narratives. Moses is a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron is Moses' prophet (Ex. vii. 1). In accord with this view, in P's account of the Egyptian plagues Moses communicates in each case a command to Aaron, who then stretches out the sacred rod to invoke the affliction. Thus Aaron is associated with Moses at almost every point. P increases everywhere the miraculous element. In his account the simple driving back of the waters of the Red Sea by the east wind becomes an astounding miracle (comp. Ex. xiv. 22). P traces to Moses the sacred institutions; the Levitical law was communicated by Yhwh to Moses; Moses received on the mount the pattern of the Tabernacle, which was constructed under his direction; even the duties of the Levites were arranged by him (see Levites, Critical View).

The Deuteronomist (D) adds nothing to the knowledge of the character of Moses. The account of the second giving of the Law in Moab, and various notes which expound and interpret the older narratives, constitute the whole Pentateuchal product of this writer.

Moses and Sargon.

The cuneiform library of Assurbanipal has furnished a legend of the birth of Sargon of Agade (a Babylonian king who, according to Nabonidos, ruled about 3800 B.C.) which is strikingly parallel to the story of the secret birth of Moses and of his exposure on the Nile. The legend runs:

"Sargon, the powerful king, King of Agade am I. My mother was of low degree; my father I did not know. The brother of my father dwelt in the mountain. My city was Azupirani, which is situated on the bank of the Euphrates. My humble mother conceived me; in secret she bore me. She placed me in a boat of reeds; with bitumen my door she closed. She entrusted me to the river, which did not overwhelm me. The river bore me along; to Akki the irrigator it carried me. Akki the irrigator in goodness . . . brought me to land. Akki the irrigator as his son brought me up. Akki the irrigator his gardener appointed me. While I was gardener, Ishtar loved me . . . four years I ruled the kingdom."

The parallelism between this narrative and the story of the exposure of Moses is thought by many scholars to be too close to be accidental.


The name is explained in Ex. ii. 12 (E) as though it were of Hebrew origin, and from ("to draw out"). If this were its real etymology, the name would mean "deliverer," "savior" (comp. Ps. xviii. 17, Hebr.). As an Egyptian princess could not have spoken Hebrew, this etymology has been generally abandoned. A second one dates from the time of Josephus ("Ant." ii. 9, § 6; "Contra Ap." i., § 31), and is built on the Greek form of the name Μωνσῆς. This, Josephus claims, is derived from Egyptian "mo" (water) and "uses" (saved)—a theory to which Jablonski gave a quasi-scientific character by comparing the Coptic "mo" (water) and "ushe" (rescued). An Egyptian name with such a meaning would, however, be formed differently (see "Z. D. M. G." xxv. 141). The etymology now generally received regards it as from the Egyptian "mesh" (child), often used as a part of a theophorous name. This view was suggested by Lepsius, and has been accepted by Ebers, Dillmann, Gesenius, and Buhl, by Briggs, Brown, and Driver in their lexicon, and by others. Guthe ("Gesch. des Volkes Israel," p. 20) also regards it as a fragment of a theophorous name. W. Max Müller has objected that the vowel in "mesh" is short, while that in "Moses" is long, and that the sibilants are not those which the philologicallaw would require. Accordingly Cheyne ("Encyc. Bibl.") proposes a Semitic origin, regarding the name as that of a North-Arabian tribe. One is inclined to return to the Biblical account and accept the etymology of E. If it may be supposed that the part of the narrative which attributes the naming to Pharaoh's daughter is inaccurate, the name may well be good Semitic, meaning "deliverer." Possibly it was not a name given in infancy, but an epithet which came to him as the result of his work.

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