Moses the Leader -
Character Development

Biblical Sources:

The Scripture hints that Moses had the qualities of leadership before he was appointed leader.

These qualities are highlighted in the account we find in Exodus 2: 11-22:

And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown up, that he went out to his brothers and looked upon their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brothers. And he looked this way and that, and when he saw that there was no man, he smote the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. And he went out the second day, and, behold two men of the Hebrews were quareling; and he said to him that did the wrong: "Why do you smite your companion?" And he said: "Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you think to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?" And Moses feared, and said: "Surely the thing is known." Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. And when they came to Re'u'el, their father, he said: "How is it that you have come so soon today?" And they said: "An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and moreover he drew water for us, and watered the flock." And he said to his daughters: "And where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread." And Moses was content to dwell with the man; and he gave Moses Zipporah, his daughter. And she bore a son, and he called his name Gershom; for he said: "I have been a stranger (Ger in Hebrew) in a strange land."




Teacher Focus

Comprehension:

  1. How is the above story divided?
  2. Can you see some sort of development (such as from the national to the universal)? Explain your answer.
  3. What traits of Moses's personality are revealed in each of the story's divisions?
  4. Does the second part add or deepen the portrait of Moses that emerges from the first part? Explain your answer.
  5. What does the last part add?

Analysis:

  1. What (if any) character traits presented in the biblical narrative demonstrate Moses's capability of leading the Jewish people?
    In-Depth:
  2. In your opinion, are these traits important to the character of a leader?
  3. What do you think are the most important character traits for a leader to possess?

Textual Analysis:

The passage you just read can be divided into three sections:

  • Part 1:
    And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown up.

    "that he went out to his brothers"


    Moses 'goes out' passively

    "and looked upon their burdens"


    general empathy

    "and he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brothers"


    directed empathy that demands a response

    "And he looked this way and that, and when he saw that there was no man,he smote the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand"


    result: action

    After Moses reaches maturity, he is beset by a strong feeling of brotherhood. He goes out to his brothers. He wants to draw near to them.
    Sensitive to their distress, he is unable to remain passive.

  • Part 2:
    And he went out the second day, and, behold two men of the Hebrews were quareling; and he said to him that did the wrong: "Why do you smite your companion?"

    Moses is sensitive to problems within his people.
    This is not a description of one person who is weaker than another person.
    The two who quarrel are apparently equal in status ("your companion"). But Moses can't tolerate violence. Here, too, he is compelled to intervene.

  • Part 3:
    And the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.


    Moses's empathy is aroused when he witnesses injustice.
    He is sensitive to the problems of the world.

    "...and [he] watered their flock"

    here the narrative reminds us of another act of kindness performed at a well (the incident bears striking similarities to the story of Rebecca and Abraham's servant Eliezer - see Genesis 24:12-27).




Sources from the Talmud and Midrash:

The Midrash sharpens our perception of Moses' personality, and adds an emotional dimension:

And...Moses...went out to his brothers and looked upon their burdens... What did he see? He would look upon their burdens and cry and say, "I feel so distressed for you. If only I could die for you. Their is no harder work than the work of bricks and mortar." And he would help them with their work, every one of them.

Exodus Rabbah

Our Rabbis said:

When Moses our teacher was tending the flocks of Jethro, his father-in-law, in the desert, a kid ran away from the flock. Moses ran after him....The kid came upon a pool of water and stopped to drink. When Moses caught up with him he said, "I didn't know that you ran away because you were thirsty. You must be tired." Then Moses picked up the kid and carried him back to the flock. And God said, "If you have that much mercy upon sheep, you will be the one to tend my flock -- the people of Israel."

Exodus Rabbah


 

 

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05 Jul 2005 / 28 Sivan 5765 0