Moses Guilty of Murder in Exodus 2:12?

Was Moses guilty of murder in Exodus 2:12?


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G

Puritan Board Senior
Regarding Exodus 2:12, scripture tells us that Moses killed an Egyptian who was harming a fellow Hebrew and then hid the body in the sand. Commentators seem to differ by either justifying the actions of Moses as protecting the oppressed or calling them foolish and even sinful.

Apparently some Jews have interpreted that the “killing” was merely a “slaying with words”.

What say you? Was this incident sinful murder? Scripture does seem to be silent on judging this event. It does seem that this was an indicator that Moses heart was becoming more sensitive for his people and defending the oppressed given this incident and the subsequent defending of Reuel’s daughters.:detective:
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
This passage also brings up a question regarding the 3 names the Bible gives to Moses father-in-law: Reuel (Exodus 2:18), Jethro (Exodus 3:1), and Hobab (Judges 4:11).
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
It seems clear that Moses believed he would be viewed as guilty of murder in Pharaoh's eyes. But how does Exodus treat Pharaoh's "justice"? Is it moral?

One message of Exodus is that Pharaoh's rule is unjust in God's eyes. From a standpoint of godly morality then, Moses is not only identifying with the Hebrew people but is also displaying a better sense of true justice than Pharaoh does. God's purpose in Exodus is to rescue his people from Pharaoh's injustice and put them under a better law, mediated through a better leader. Given this central message in the Exodus account, I find it hard to label Moses a murderer in God's eyes. More likely, he is the better leader, the better dispenser of justice.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I believe Moses looked both ways because he knew what he did was wrong and he tried to hide his action.
 

PezLad

Puritan Board Freshman
Murder. Moses action shows his absence of trust in God to deliver justice. Did not Jehovah kill many Egyptians during the plagues and the parting of the red sea? Does not vengeance belong to the Lord and him alone? Does Jehovah need Moses hand to destroy the Egyptians? No. Moses acted hastily and rashly, though i do think the iniquity of his sin is lessened by the injustice of the Egyptian beating the Hebrew; he did not slay him out of jealousy like Cain but nonetheless it was not sober of mind to do what he did. Exodus 3:14 sheds light; Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
One way to view Moses’s actions here were of his own prideful ambitions. It appears Moses was shocked his “fellow” Hebrews did not view him endearingly, or perhaps worshipfully, the next day. Josephus has an interesting account (not necessarily true, but quite possibly) of him leading the Hebrews early on as a young commander to rescue the Egyptians from the Ethiopians.

Ultimately God would break him down, humble him, and show him the only true source of salvation is of the Lord.

Thus I might (slightly) lean towards categorizing Moses’s actions as murder.
 

Kinghezy

Puritan Board Sophomore
Some other commentors reference Hebrews as referring to this action, specifically 24-26 (underlined).


Hebrews 11:23-28

23. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25. choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Moses may have had some sense of his (future) call even as a young man. He was destined to be the judge of Israel, and a man before whom Pharaoh would quail. But when he killed the Egyptian, he showed that he had run before he was sent. He put himself in the place of God (cf. Gen.50:19), which is what killers do.

Moses was not ready. He was not ready in every sense that we say a youth is impetuous and cocky, even if he shows great talent. Moses did commit murder; the only question is whether there could be mitigating circumstances that allow the action to be less than a capital offense, maybe even down to justifiable homicide.

This was vigilantism. Moses thought he should play the judge, even though his only "office" was in his mind. He had no calling, no recognition; the people he supposedly represented were at best divided about his quality, upon hearing of his deed (presumably from the man he saved).

But the fact that he looked this way and that, furtively, before he struck--this is the clearest indicator that here was man, who though bold in a physically-confrontational way, thinking he had the better of one foe, did not dare take so bold an action with all eyes on him. He was a coward. He fled, Act.7:29.

Later, when he was chastened and humbled, and filled with the Spirit, he did not fear the wrath of Pharaoh, Heb.11:27. He faced him and his whole nation and his army down.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
This passage also brings up a question regarding the 3 names the Bible gives to Moses father-in-law: Reuel (Exodus 2:18), Jethro (Exodus 3:1), and Hobab (Judges 4:11).
You missed Numbers 10:29, which points out that Hobab was the son of Reuel, the father in law of Moses. This is an old argument for the documentary hypothesis, with E using Jethro and J using Reuel. The answer is much simpler. First, it's very common for people to have two names in the Old Testament; think Gideon/Jerubbaal; Azariah/Uzziah etc. So Jethro and Reuel are likely the same individual. Second, the task of translation from Hebrew into English is complicated (I think I write that in every post, just to get the point across). In English, we use "in law" to distinguish between blood relationships and marital relationships, with the first part defining more precisely the nearness of the relationship: so a "sister in law" is like a sister, only by marriage not birth. We don't distinguish between a spouse's sister and a sibling's wife. That may seem obvious to us, but it is far from the only way of dividing up relationships. Hebrew family relationships are at the same time more precise and more vague. So "son" ( ben ) can also mean child (without reference to gender), grandson, or more distant descendant; "brother" includes more general kinsmen in the wider clan. But when it comes to marriage, Hebrew distinguishes between "in laws on the wife's side" and "in laws on the husband's side". The term "father in law" in these passages actually specifically means "wife's father (or older relative)" while Genesis 38:13 uses a quite different word to designate "husband's father". In Judges 19:4 it specifies that the "wife's father" in question is actually the father of the wife (not the grandfather or some other older relative on the wife's side).

All that to say that Moses' in laws are Jethro/Reuel and his son, Hobab. Jethro/Reuel is Zipporah's father or grandfather (the Hebrew could cover both), while if Jethro/Reuel is her father, Hobab would be Zipporah's (half?) brother; likely, he would be a generation older than her, hence the use of the honorific title "wife's father in law". Either possibility resolves the problem without resort to sources or clumsy editors.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
You missed Numbers 10:29, which points out that Hobab was the son of Reuel, the father in law of Moses. This is an old argument for the documentary hypothesis, with E using Jethro and J using Reuel. The answer is much simpler. First, it's very common for people to have two names in the Old Testament; think Gideon/Jerubbaal; Azariah/Uzziah etc. So Jethro and Reuel are likely the same individual. Second, the task of translation from Hebrew into English is complicated (I think I write that in every post, just to get the point across). In English, we use "in law" to distinguish between blood relationships and marital relationships, with the first part defining more precisely the nearness of the relationship: so a "sister in law" is like a sister, only by marriage not birth. We don't distinguish between a spouse's sister and a sibling's wife. That may seem obvious to us, but it is far from the only way of dividing up relationships. Hebrew family relationships are at the same time more precise and more vague. So "son" ( ben ) can also mean child (without reference to gender), grandson, or more distant descendant; "brother" includes more general kinsmen in the wider clan. But when it comes to marriage, Hebrew distinguishes between "in laws on the wife's side" and "in laws on the husband's side". The term "father in law" in these passages actually specifically means "wife's father (or older relative)" while Genesis 38:13 uses a quite different word to designate "husband's father". In Judges 19:4 it specifies that the "wife's father" in question is actually the father of the wife (not the grandfather or some other older relative on the wife's side).

All that to say that Moses' in laws are Jethro/Reuel and his son, Hobab. Jethro/Reuel is Zipporah's father or grandfather (the Hebrew could cover both), while if Jethro/Reuel is her father, Hobab would be Zipporah's (half?) brother; likely, he would be a generation older than her, hence the use of the honorific title "wife's father in law". Either possibility resolves the problem without resort to sources or clumsy editors.
In other words, one person having two names is somewhat normal, hence no contradiction. But you would say there is some discussion to be had on the specifics of Reuel being his father-in-law or grand-father-in-law?
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
In other words, one person having two names is somewhat normal, hence no contradiction. But you would say there is some discussion to be had on the specifics of Reuel being his father-in-law or grand-father-in-law?
Yes, though I think the former probably more likely.
 
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