Moses was born of a Hebrew who came from the tribe of Levi. His mother hid her son for three months from the Egyptians. When it was no longer possible to hide him, she took a reed basket, smeared it with tar, put the infant in it and placed the basket in the reeds at the bank of the river. The infant’s sister, Miriam, watched over it from afar, to see what would happen.
The daughter of Pharaoh came to bathe with her servants at this place. Noticing the basket, she commanded that it be brought to her. When she saw the baby crying inside, she felt sorry for it. She said, "This is one of the Hebrews’ children."
Miriam came up to her and asked, "Shall I go and call thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?"
The princess said, "Go."
Miriam went and brought her mother. The princess said to her, "Take this child away and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages." She agreed joyfully.
When the infant grew up, his mother brought him to the princess. The princess took him with her, and he became like a son to her. She gave him the name Moses, which means "taken up from the water."
Moses grew up in the royal palace and was taught all the wisdom of Egypt, but he knew that he was a Hebrew and loved his own people. Once Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. He defended the Hebrew and killed the Egyptian. On another occasion Moses saw one Hebrew beating another Hebrew. Moses wanted to stop him, but he brazenly replied, "Intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?" Moses was frightened when he saw that people knew about what he had done. Then Moses fled from Egypt and Pharaoh into a different country, Arabia, the land of Midian. He settled in the home of the priest Jethro, married his daughter Zepphora, and shepherded his flock.
Once Moses went far away with the flocks, and climbed the mountain of Horeb. There he saw a bush which was burning but was not consumed; that is, it was enveloped in flames but did not burn up.
Moses decided to come closer and see why the bush did not burn up. Here he heard a voice from the midst of the bush, "Moses, Moses ... Draw not nigh hither, put off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said to him, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry...and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land...unto the place of the Canaanites...I will send thee unto Pharoah, that thou mightest bring forth My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." At the same time, God granted Moses the power to work miracles. Since Moses was inflicted with a speech impediment, the Lord gave him his brother Aaron as a helper, who could speak publicly in his place.
The bush that did not burn up, that Moses saw through God’s revelation to him, received the name "burning bush." It depicted the state of the chosen Hebrew people, which was persecuted but did not perish. It was also a foreshadowing of the Mother of God, Who was not burned by the fire of the divinity of the Son of God, when He came down through Her from Heaven to earth, and was born of Her.
Note: See Exodus, chaps. 2, 3, 4:1-28.
25. Pascha (Passover) and the Exodus from Egypt.
Moses returned to Egypt. At that time another pharaoh was ruling. After speaking with the elders of the Hebrew people, Moses and Aaron went to the Egyptian King and in God’s name demanded of him that he let the Hebrews leave Egypt.
Pharaoh replied, "I do not know your God and will not let the Hebrew people go." He then commanded that the Hebrews be more severely burdened.
Then Moses, at God’s command, brought down upon Egypt, one after another, ten plagues, so that Pharaoh would agree to release the Hebrew people from the land of Egypt. At the word of Moses, the water in the rivers, lakes and wells was turned into blood; hail and locusts destroyed all the plants; a three-day darkness covered the whole of Egypt. In spite of such misfortunes, Pharaoh still did not let the Hebrews go. Beginning with the second plague, every time he called Moses, he asked him to pray to the Lord to put an end to the misfortune and promised to let the Hebrews go. However, as soon as the plague passed, Pharaoh again hardened his heart and refused to let them go. Then the final, tenth and most frightful plague came down.
Before the tenth plague, the Lord commanded the Hebrews to choose for each family a lamb that was one year old, slaughter it, cook it and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, without breaking any of its bones. They were then to smear the blood of the lamb onto the lintel and doorposts of their houses. The Hebrews did as God commanded them.
On that night the angel of the Lord struck down all the first born (the first male offspring) in Egypt, from men to the cattle. He passed over only those houses on whose doors the mark with the blood had been made. Lamentation went up from every part of Egypt. Pharaoh summoned Moses and commanded him to leave Egypt with the Hebrew people as soon as possible.
Six hundred thousand men left with Moses, not counting women and children. Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, as Joseph himself had instructed in his last will. As soon as the Hebrews left Egypt, a pillar appeared before them in the form of a cloud in the daytime and fire at night. It guided them in their journey.
The day of the Hebrews’ deliverance from bondage in Egypt forever remained in their memory. On this day the Lord established the main feast of the Old Testament, which He called Pascha. The word Pascha means "passing by," "passover," or "deliverance from misfortune" — the angel of death passed over the Hebrew dwellings. Every year on the evening of this day the Hebrews slaughtered and prepared the Paschal lamb and ate it with unleavened bread. This feast lasted for seven days.
The Paschal lamb, by whose blood the first born of the Hebrews were delivered from death, foreshadowed the Saviour Himself, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who took upon Himself the sins of the world, Whose blood delivers all the faithful from eternal death.
The Old Testament Hebrew Pascha prefigured our New Testament Christian Pascha. In the Old Testament Pascha, death passed over the dwellings of the Hebrews. They were liberated from bondage in Egypt and given the Promised Land. Thus also in the Christian Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ, eternal death has passed over us. The Risen Christ, having freed us from the slavery of the Devil, has given us eternal life.
Christ died on the Cross on the day when the Paschal lambs were slain, and He rose immediately after the Hebrew Pascha. This is why the Church always celebrates the Resurrection of Christ after the Jewish Passover and calls the feast Pascha.
Note: See Exodus, chap. 4:29-31; chaps. 5-13.
26. The Hebrews Pass Through the Red Sea.
The Hebrews, after their departure from Egypt, set out for the Red Sea. The Egyptians however, after burying their dead firstborn, began to regret having let the Hebrews go. Pharaoh, gathering all his army with chariots and mounted men, set out to pursue the Hebrews. He overtook them at the edge of the sea.
Upon seeing the terrible hosts of Pharaoh behind them, the Hebrews were terrified. Instead of supplicating God for help, they began to complain to Moses for bringing them out of Egypt. While offering them encouragement, Moses prayed in his heart to God and the Lord heard his prayer. The pillar of cloud stood behind the Hebrews and hid them from the Egyptians. The Lord said to Moses, "Take thy staff and stretch thy hand over the sea and divide it." Moses stretched his hand and staff over the sea. Then the Lord sent a strong east wind which blew all night, and the water drew back. The Hebrews went along the dry bottom as the water became like a wall on their right and left sides. When they heard movement in the Hebrew camp, the Egyptians chased the Hebrews into the depth of the sea and came as far across as the middle of the sea. At that time the Hebrews came out on the other side. Moses, again at God’s command, stretched out his hand with his staff over the water. The water of the sea fell back into place and covered the entire army of Pharaoh and drowned the Egyptians.
Then the people of Israel, the Hebrews, with great joy sang a hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord God, their helper and protector.
Miriam the Prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hands, and all the women went out with their tambourines rejoicing. Miriam sang before them, "Sing unto the Lord, for He hath been greatly exalted; horse and rider hath He cast into the sea."
The Hebrews’ passing through the Red Sea, whose waters separated and delivered the Hebrews from iniquity and bondage in Egypt, foreshadowed Baptism by which we are freed from the power of the Devil and slavery to sin.
At the time of the Hebrews’ journey out of Egypt into the Promised Land, the Lord worked many other miracles as well. Once the Hebrews came to a place where the water was bitter. They could not drink it and complained against Moses. The Lord showed Moses a tree. As soon as they had placed the tree in the water, the water became sweet.
This tree which took the bitterness from the water was a foreshadowing of the tree of the Cross of Christ, which took away the bitterness of life — sin.
When the Hebrews had used up all the bread they had taken from Egypt, the Lord sent them bread from Heaven — manna. It looked like little white crumbs or pieces of hail and had the taste of bread with honey. This bread was called manna, because when the Hebrews saw it for the first time, they asked each other, "man-na" or "What is this?" Moses answered, "This is the bread which the Lord has given you for food." Manna covered the earth in the morning around the camp of the Hebrews, for the entire time of their journeying, on every day except the Sabbath.
When the Hebrews came to the place in the desert called Rephidim, where there was no water at all, they again began to complain against Moses. At God’s command Moses struck a stone cliff with his staff and water flowed from it.
Manna in the desert and water from the stone cliff, which saved the Israelites from death, foreshadowed the true food and drink for us, which is the Body and Blood of Christ, which the Lord gives to us in Holy Communion, saving us from eternal death.
In Rephidim, desert dwellers, the Amalekites, attacked them. Moses sent out Joshua, the son of Nun, with an army. Moses then went up to the nearest mountain with his brother Aaron and with Hur and began to pray, lifting both arms to Heaven, forming a cross.
Aaron noticed that when Moses held his hands up, the Hebrews prevailed over their enemies, but when he let them fall out of weariness, the Amalekites overcame the Hebrews. To ensure victory Aaron and Hur placed Moses on a stone and held his arms stretched out. Thus the Hebrews conquered the Amalekites.
Moses, when he was praying with his hands stretched forth, foreshadowed the victorious Cross of Christ, by whose power faithful Christians now conquer visible and invisible enemies.
In Rephidim Moses visited his father-in-law, Jethro, and brought him his wife and sons.
Note: Exodus, chaps. 14-18.
27. God Gives the Law on Mt. Sinai.
From the Red Sea the Hebrews continued to travel through the desert. They stopped at Mt. Sinai (Sinai and Horeb are the two peaks of one and the same mountain). Here Moses went up the mountain, where the Lord said to him, "Tell this to the sons of Israel, ‘If you will hear My voice, you will be My people.’"
When Moses came down from the mountain he told the people of God’s will. The Hebrews replied, "We will be obedient and do everything the Lord said."
The Lord commanded Moses to prepare the people for the third day when God’s Law would be made known. The Hebrews prepared themselves for the day by prayer and fasting.
On the third day, which was the fiftieth day from the Jewish Passover, that is, from the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, a thick cloud covered the top of Mt. Sinai. Lightning flashed, thunder resounded, and a loud blaring sound rang out. Smoke rose from the mountain, and the whole mountain violently shook. Amidst these awesome signs of His presence, the Lord delivered His laws in the form of Ten Commandments.
At God’s command, Moses went up the mountain and stayed there forty days and forty nights without any food. God gave him two tablets or stone slabs, on which were written the Ten Commandments. In addition, the Lord gave Moses other church and civil laws. He also commanded him to build a tabernacle, a transportable temple of God.
After coming down from the mountain, Moses wrote down in books all these laws and everything that the Lord had revealed to him on Mt. Sinai. In this way we acquired the Sacred Scripture, or the Law of God.
The Ten Commandments, or precepts, which God gave His people, point out exactly what a man must do and what he must avoid if he wants to love God and his neighbor.
These are the commandments:
I. I am the Lord, thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
This commandment enjoins the love of God before everything else; apart from Him (God), worship will be rendered to no other divinity. Saints of God should also be honored, not as God is, but as people in whom God rejoices more than others, as our prayerful intercessors before Him.
II. Thou shalt not carve images, or fashion the likeness of anything in heaven above, or on earth below, or in the waters under the earth, to bow down and worship it.
Since everything on earth was created by God, then we should bow down to Him only and worship Him only. We must not make idols and bow down to them. When we venerate a holy icon, we must call to mind who is represented on it, and bow down to that person and not consider the icon itself as an object of worship.
III. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
You must not utter the holy and great name of God idly, in empty chatter. Therefore, this commandment forbids swearing and uttering idle oaths.
IV. Remember to keep the Sabbath Day holy. There are six days for labor, for doing all the work you have to do. When the seventh day comes, it is a day of rest, consecrated to the Lord thy God.
Six days of the week a man must toil, labor and take care of everything he requires for his earthly life. The seventh day must be dedicated to God. That is, it must be kept separate for the Lord, to pray to Him, to read useful books for the glory of God, to help the poor and to do as many good things as possible for the Lord’s sake. We must not be idle and by no means commit excesses. In the Old Testament, Saturday (the Sabbath) was thus celebrated. With us in the New Testament, in memory of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, Sunday is celebrated.
V. Honor thy father and thy mother. That it may be well with Thee, and that Thy days may be long upon the earth.
We must love and respect our parents, listen to their good advice, take care of them when they are ill, support them in their old age and when they need us. We must also be considerate of other relatives, old people, benefactors, teachers, spiritual fathers and superiors. In return for this God promises to prolong our earthly life and bless us.
VI. Thou shalt not kill.
Killing is understood to be not only the taking of one’s own life or that of someone else, but also ordering or conspiring with others to commit murder. This commandment also forbids unrestrained anger and insulting one’s neighbor by any abusive word. This commandment calls for a life of peace and harmony with one another, and also commands the gentle treatment of animals.
VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
By this commandment the Lord forbids a husband or wife to break mutual trust and love. God commands the single person to preserve purity of thoughts and desires. Gluttony, drunkenness and generally any excess or intemperance are also forbidden by this commandment.
VIII. Thou shalt not steal.
You should not take anything belonging to anyone else, openly or secretly, without asking. Do not cheat in business. In any transaction, calculate honestly. Do not conceal what you have found. Finish every task by the time you have promised and do it conscientiously.
IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
This commandment forbids lying, slandering, speaking badly of people, judging them and also believing slanderers. This commandment enjoins that you keep your word honestly.
X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, or set thy heart upon thy neighbor’s wife, or servant or handmaid or ox or donkey or anything else that is his.
This commandment forbids the envy of another’s property and enjoins that one be content with what one has. Unkind desires result from envy, and every unkind, wicked, evil thing results from unkind wishes.
Every person must know and fulfill the Law of God. He who keeps the commandments ensures for himself eternal salvation, as well as temporal well-being.
The feast of Pentecost (Old Testament) was observed in commemoration of the giving of the laws to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Note: Exodus, chaps. 19,20,24,32-34; and Deuteronomy, chap. 5.
28. The Tabernacle.
The Hebrew people made camp on Mt. Sinai for a whole year. At this time Moses, at God’s command, constructed a tabernacle, or a transportable sanctuary, in the form of a tent. The tabernacle was constructed from expensive fabric and hung from poles. It had three sections: the courtyard, the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.
The people came into the courtyard to pray. Here were placed the altar, on which sacrifices were made, and a copper water basin.
The priests came into the sanctuary, which had a table on which were twenty loaves of bread, a golden seven-branch candlestick, or lampstand, with seven lamps, and the altar of incense, that is, an altar on which the priests burned incense.
Into the Holy of Holies, which was separated from the sanctuary by a curtain, only the high priest could enter, and then only once a year. The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant was the name of a chest, made of wood and covered inside and out with gold, with a gold lid and with two golden images of the cherubim on it. The tablets with the Ten Commandments were kept in the Ark of the Covenant, as well as a chalice with manna, Aaron’s rod, and later, the holy books. Along the two sides of the ark were two pairs of golden rings, into which gilded poles were inserted for carrying it.
When the tabernacle was ready, Moses consecrated it, together with all its fittings, with holy myrrh. While this was taking place, the glory of the Lord covered the tabernacle in the form of the cloud which accompanied the Hebrews on their journey. From this time on, the cloud was always over it.
For serving in the tabernacle, Moses, at God’s command, appointed the tribe of Levi and ordained a high priest, priests, and Levites, assistants for the tabernacle.
Aaron, the brother of Moses, was made high priest. The priests were the four sons of Aaron; the other descendants of Levi were Levites. The high priest corresponded to our bishop, the priests to our priests and the Levites to our deacons and servers. God ordained that in the future the eldest of the line of Aaron would be high priest and the others of his descendants, priests.
The tabernacle represented the Church of Christ and also the Mother of God, Who, having contained God within Herself, was like the House of God.
Note: See Exodus, chaps. 25-34; Deuteronomy, chaps. 10,13,16; Leviticus, chaps. 1-7,16, 23.
29. The Forty-year Wandering of the Hebrew People, the Bronze Serpent.
From Mt. Sinai the Israelites set out for the Promised Land, the land of Canaan. Along the way, time and again, they murmured in dissatisfaction and resentment against their journey. The Lord punished them for this, but on account of the prayers of Moses, pardoned them.
Even his own sister, Miriam, and Aaron reproached Moses for having married an Ethiopian and thus abusing his dignity as an envoy of God. Moses was the meekest of all the people and patiently bore their reproaches. The Lord punished Miriam with leprosy. Aaron, seeing that his sister had leprosy, said to Moses, "Because we have acted foolishly and sinned, do not deliver us into harm."
Then Moses ardently besought God to cure his sister, and the Lord healed her, but only after she had spent seven days in confinement outside the camp.
When the Israelites reached the border of the Promised Land, in the Paran desert, at God’s command, Moses sent observers to survey the Promised Land. Twelve men were chosen, one from each tribe. Among those chosen were Caleb, from the tribe of Judah, and Joshua, from the tribe of Ephraim.
When the observers had traversed the whole country and surveyed it, they returned in forty days. They brought with them a branch of a grapevine they had cut off there with a bunch of grapes. The branch was so big that two men had to carry it on a pole. They also brought pomegranates and figs. All of them praised the fruitful earth. But ten of the twelve men who had been sent, all except Caleb and Joshua, stirred up the people, saying, "The nation that dwells upon it is powerful. They have very great and strong-walled towns. We will not go, for we shall not by any means be able to stand up against the nation, for it is much stronger than us. There we saw such giants before whom we were like grasshoppers."
Then the Israelites started to wail and murmur against Aaron and Moses, saying, "Why does the Lord bring us into this land, to perish by the sword? Our wives and our children shall be plunder for the enemy. Now then, it is better to return to Egypt."
Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb persuaded the people not to go against the Lord’s will, for the Lord Himself would help them to conquer the land which God had promised to their fathers. But the Israelites conspired to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, appoint a new leader and turn back.
Then the glory of the Lord in the form of a cloud appeared in the tabernacle in front of all the people, and the Lord said unto Moses, "How long does this people provoke Me, and how long do they refuse to believe Me for all the signs which I have wrought among them? Say to them, ‘As I live saith the Lord, ‘surely as ye spoke into My ears so will I do to you. Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness and all that murmured against Me shall not enter into the land for which I stretched out My hand to establish you upon it, except for Caleb and Joshua, the son of Nun. Tomorrow turn and get you into the wilderness by way of the Red Sea. And your little ones, whom ye said would become a prey shall inherit the land which you rejected. According to the number of the days during which you spied the land, forty days, you shall bear your sins for every day a year, unto forty years, that ye may know what it is to be abandoned by Me.’"
The ten spies, who by their unfavorable reports concerning the land had stirred up the people, were immediately stricken to death in front of the tabernacle. Having heard this condemnation of their sin, the Israelites did not wish to submit to the Lord’s command and to go where they had been bidden. They said, "Behold, we that are here will go up to the place of which the Lord has spoken. We have sinned." This was as if to say, "We will now go and take the land. We repent of our sin. Why should we be punished for forty years?" Moses said to them, "Why do you transgress the word of the Lord? You shall not prosper." And he remained with the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant in the encampment.
Against God’s will, the Israelites dared to ascend the mountain, to the top where the Amalekites and the Canaanites were living. They were defeated and fled. So for forty years they wandered in the deserts of Sinai. Even during this time, however, the merciful Lord did not abandon them but visited them with many miracles.
Soon after being condemned to wander for forty years, a new revolt arose among the Israelites. Certain of them, whose leader was Korah, an elder of one of the tribes, were unhappy that the priesthood was a privilege only of the house of Aaron. Therefore the Lord punished them: the earth opened up and swallowed the rebels.
In order to end the arguments among the Israelites as to whom the priesthood belonged, Moses, at God’s command, ordered that all the elders bring their staffs and place them for the night in the tabernacle. The next day everyone saw that the rod of Aaron had blossomed, shooting buds, flowering, and bearing almonds. Everyone then recognized Aaron as the high priest. At God’s command, the rod of Aaron was placed in front of the Ark of the Covenant.
On another occasion, because of their murmuring against God, the Israelites were punished by a plague of poisonous snakes which bit the people and caused many to die. The Israelites repented and asked Moses to intercede for them before God. The Lord commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and to place it on a pole. Whoever had been bitten, and with faith looked on the bronze serpent, remained alive.
This bronze serpent served as a prefiguration of Christ the Saviour. Christ was crucified on the Cross for all our sins. Now we, looking upon Him with faith, are healed of our sins and saved from eternal death.
During the forty-year wandering, all the adult Israelites who had come out of Egypt died, except for Joshua and Caleb. A new generation grew up which was destined to enter the Promised Land. Moses died in the last year of their wandering. Before his death, he appointed Joshua, son of Nun, as leader to replace him.
Note: See Numbers, chaps. 11-14, 16-17, 21:4-9 and Deuteronomv chap. 1:19-46.ote: See I Kings, chaps. 12-15; II Chron., chaps. 10-13.