Posted by: Frederick Cornwell Sanders | 2012/01/26

Moses Was a Murderer!?

YHWH/FCS 2012 0126071909

Provocative title is it not?

Preconceptions, opinions, long held beliefs are yanked in one fell swoop like a familar leash placed around our necks.   Even as I wrote this title, the title seems too scandelous and too over the edge of proper etiquette.

Exodus Chapter 2, Verse 12 and continuing relate the actions of Moses.   Moses killed! Moses knew he did it.   His fellow Hebrews knew he did it.   Soon, even Pharoah knew he had done it.

Well, maybe.   Moses “slew” the Egyptian, according to the Authorized or King James Version.   But, the Concordant Literal Version uses “smote” (Strong 5221) which does not imply immediate death.   Moses “inflicts a heavy blow on, with the hand, a tool, or a weapon” according to the Princeton online dictionary (, yet that blow does not imply death.   Moses covers the man in sand thinking that one sees or suspects him.   And yes, let us admit most of the time we do cover up our mistakes.

It is not until the encounter with two Hebrews, in vereses 13 and 14, that Moses sees as “smoting each other,” (Strong 5221) until he finds out that his actions with the Egyptian led to the Egyptian’s eventual death.   Now, Moses starts to fear that the encounter, with the Egyptian, is known to others.

What happened for everyone to now know Moses killed a man?   My surmise, from the evidence, is Moses did want to teach the overseer a lesson and did knock him out.   In Moses’s realization of what he has done, Moses buries the evidence.   Yet, the Egyptian overseer regained consciousness to tell of Moses’s attack on him since there were no other witnesses.   But, the Egyptian then perrished from his severe wounds dealt to him by Moses.   Moses finds out from the Hebrews as it was related to the Hebrew community and to the Egyptian authorities.

Moses, son of Hebrews, adopted son of an Egyptian princess, still must follow society’s laws.   Murder, accidential or not, was not something he could do and use his royal family’s power to get away with his actions.   And, Pharoah wanting to kill him, possibly using this accidental death as a pretext, finds Moses has escaped.   In Midian, Moses would be out of reach being outside the Pharoahic lands.

Interestingly, when the Law of Moses is developed and the land of Israel is settled, safe cities are set up for people involved in accidental killing. See page 8 of  Asylum and international law by S. Prakash Sinha for a specific reference. The complete book does have a section refering to other societies offering asylum.


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