Moses and Yeshua
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 1 October 2014; Revised 8 December 2018
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the article. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (1995 Updated edition). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic nature of Scripture I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus) and Messiah (Christ).
""The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. … 18 'I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 'It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him." (Deut 18:15, 18-19; cf. Acts 3:22; 7:37)
"For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me." (John 5:46)
Just as Yeshua is the key figure in the Besekh (New Testament), there is no greater figure in the Tanakh (Old Testament) than Moses. The name "Moses" (Grk. Mōusēs, which transliterates Heb. Mosheh), is the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver of Israel born about 1525 BC. The name Moses is most likely derived from Egyptian mes meaning "child" or "son" (BDB 602), since the daughter of Pharaoh named him (Ex 2:10). She explained the chosen name by saying, "Because I drew [Heb. mashah, "to draw"] him out of the water."
The story of Moses (Heb. Mosheh; Grk. Mōusēs) is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. His life can be easily divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt, the second his years in Midian, and the third the wilderness period after the deliverance of the Israelites. Moses was born into the house of Levi, the son of Amram and his wife Jochebed, who was a close relative. The MT of Exodus 6:20 makes Jochebed the aunt of Amram, but the LXX translation of that verse identifies her as his cousin. The only siblings mentioned as born into the household were a brother, Aaron, and a sister, Miriam (Num 26:59). Moses had two wives, both non-Israelites, Zipporah, a Midianite (Ex 2:15-16, 21; 4:25; 18:2) and a Cushite woman (Num 12:1). Zipporah bore him two sons, Gershom and Eliezer (Ex 18:3-4), but no children of the Cushite wife are named.
Moses was the leader of the Israelites in their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and oppression and their journey through the wilderness. At Mount Sinai Moses served as God's spokesman to facilitate the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Forty years later on the plains of Moab Moses renewed the covenant with Israel and made preparations for their entry into the promised land. He was a heroic leader of the people and a devout man of God. Yet, due to an tragic incident of disobedience to God's instructions Moses was not permitted to enter the land of Canaan with the nation (Num 20:8-12). At the end God allowed Moses to view the land from the top of Mt. Pisgah before his death and there he died at the age of 120. God buried him in the land of Moab (Deut 34:1-7).
However, Moses' death was not the end of his importance or influence, because Scripture asserts that Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:28; Deut 28:58, 61; 31:9, 22; Josh 1:7-8; 8:34-35; Matt 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 16:29; 24:27, 44). Moses left Israel and the Body of Messiah with the rich legacy of God's Word. In the first century the Torah of Moses constituted the standard of faith and conduct for the early disciples and congregations of Yeshua (Matt 19:17; Acts 21:20; Rom 8:3-4; 1Cor 7:19; 9:9). At the transfiguration of Yeshua, Moses appears with Elijah and converses with Yeshua, signifying the harmony of law, prophecy, and the gospel (Matt 17:3; Mark 9:4). The sermon of Stephen before the Sanhedrin quotes Moses several times (Acts 7:20-44). Moses is regarded with great respect (Matt 8:4; 17:4; Luke 16:29; 24:27; John 5:45-46; Acts 26:22) and celebrated as a man of faith (Heb 11:23-29). Moses was a giant of a man.
The story of Yeshua is well known and recorded in the four apostolic narratives. What is known of his birth and early years is recorded in Matthew and Luke. (See my commentary on the nativity narrative at Matthew 1 · 2 | Luke 1 · 2.) Yeshua was born of a Jewish mother, Miriam, in the city of Bethlehem. His stepfather Joseph (Heb. Yosef) was a carpenter. After birth the holy family fled to Egypt and lived there for a brief time, eventually moving to Nazareth when they returned to the Land. Eventually half-siblings were born into the household, including four half-brothers - Jacob, Judah, Joseph and Simon (Matt 13:55), and at least two unnamed half-sisters (Matt 13:56). Nothing is known of Yeshua's life between the age of twelve (Luke 2:42) and the age of 30 when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23). (See also my web article Who is Yeshua?)
Many Bible interpreters have sought to develop lists of parallels and similarities between Moses and Yeshua and some of these can be found with an Internet search. Some suggested similarities are not really distinctive ("both are Israelites;" "both were men of prayer"), some interesting but unrelated ("Moses had a sister named Miriam and Yeshua's mother was named Miriam;" "Moses brought salvation to Israel and Yeshua's name means salvation"), and some inaccurate ("both led Israel out of bondage on the first of Abib;" "both founded a new religion;" and "both took a gentile bride").
A meaningful comparison should be based on the approach of Scripture, such as these statements:
"Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah. (John 1:17 TLV)
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14)
"For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea. 2 They all were immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 And all ate the same spiritual food - 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink - for they were drinking from a spiritual rock that followed them; and the Rock was Messiah. (1Cor 10:1-4 TLV)
"Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partners in a heavenly calling, take notice of Yeshua, the Shaliach and Kohen Gadol we affirm. 2 He was faithful to the One who appointed Him in His house, as was Moses also. 3 For He has been considered worthy of more glory than Moses, even as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 5 Now Moses surely was faithful in all God's house as a servant, for a witness of things to be spoken later. 6 But Messiah, as Son, is over God's house--and we are His house, if we hold firm to our boldness and what we are proud to hope." (Heb 3:1-6 TLV)
There are significant differences, of course, between Moses and Yeshua, such as Moses was married whereas Yeshua remained unmarried; Moses was born in Egypt and Yeshua was born in Judea; and Moses was of the tribe of Levi and Yeshua was of the tribe of Judah. Yet, it is fair to say that a review of Scripture indicates many commonalities between the life of Moses and Yeshua. Such similarities should be expected since in the mind of ancient Jewish authorities the last deliverer of Israel will be as the first.
Shapira describes Yeshua's statement in John 5:46 ("he wrote about me") as a rabbinic form of argument called kal v'chomer (from light to heavy) and offers this comment:
"Yeshua's point is clear; the life of the last redeemer must parallel the life of the first redeemer, as you can't have one without the other. It is not a coincidence that so many Jewish people around the time of Yeshua saw this deep connection and parallel between Yeshua and Moses as the first and last redeemers. The Messiah has been identified as the second Moses, as Moses himself spoke of a prophet that God will raise." (196)
Two Midrashim convey the same idea. Mid. Ruth 5:6 says, "R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Levi: 'The last Redeemer [Messiah] will be like the first Redeemer [Moses]. Just as the first Redeemer revealed himself and later was hidden from them … so the last Redeemer will be revealed to them, and then be hidden from them." Speaking about Isaiah 11:1, Midrash Psalm 21:1 says, "this is Messiah, the Son of David, who is hidden until the time of the end" (quoted in Gruber 151f).
• Just as there were 400 years of silence before Moses was sent to deliver Israel (Gen 15:13; Ex 12:40-41), so there were 400 years of silence after the last prophet (Malachi) before Yeshua was sent.
• Both were born while Israelites suffered under an oppressive government (Ex 1:8-11; Luke 3:1).
• In both birth narratives the ruling monarch ordered that baby boys be killed (Ex 1:15, 16, 22; Matt 2:13, 16).
• As babies, they both were saved miraculously under the age of two, which involved being hid in Egypt (Ex 2:1-4; Matt 2:13-14).
• After birth both were placed by their mothers in an unorthodox cradle, Moses in ark of bulrushes (Ex 2:3) and Yeshua in a manger for animals (Luke 2:7, 16).
• Both were brought up by men who were not their natural fathers (Ex 2:9-10; Luke 2:33).
• Both came out of Egypt (Ex 13:3; Hos 11:1; Matt 2:15).
• Both rejected the possibility to become rulers in the present age (Heb 11:24; Matt 4:8-9).
• Both revealed the name of God (Ex 3:13-14; 4:29-30; John 8:58; 17:6, 11-12).
• Both showed compassion to a woman getting water at a well (Ex 2:15-17; John 4:7-14).
• Both were "meek and humble" (Ex 3:11; Num 12:3; Matt 11:28-30).
• Both performed creation-type miracles:
◊ Moses turned water into blood (Ex 7:20) and Yeshua turned water into wine (John 2:11; 4:46).
◊ Moses parted the Red Sea (Ex 14:21) and Yeshua walked on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:47).
• Both men fasted forty days (Ex 34:28; Matt 4:2). The only other person to go forty days without food in Scripture was Elijah (1Kgs 19:8). It is no coincidence that Moses and Elijah met with Yeshua on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:3).
• For both men the people picked up stones to stone them, but did not succeed (Ex 17:4; John 8:59).
• Both made choices opposed by their sisters (Num 12:1; Mark 3:31-33).
• Both chose twelve to follow and lead (Deut 1:23; Mark 3:14).
• Both were anointed by the Holy Spirit in lieu of being anointed with olive oil (Num 10:25; Matt 3:16; Acts 10:38).
• Moses appointed seventy men as elders of Israel and Yeshua appointed seventy Israelites as emissaries to proclaim the good news (Num 11:15; Luke 10:1).
• The face of Moses shone with the glory of God on Mount Sinai (Ex 34:29-30) and Yeshua's face shone with glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:2).
• Moses rejected a lavish, ruling lifestyle in the house of the Pharaoh. Instead, he chose a humble life (Ex 2:11-15; Heb 11:24-25). Similarly, Yeshua rejected the offers of Satan to be the ruler of this world and instead chose a humble life (Matt 4:8-10; Php 2:5-8).
• Moses washed the feet of Aaron and his sons and Yeshua washed the feet of his disciples (Lev 8:6; John 13:5).
• Both were considered prophets (Deut 18:15-18; Luke 7:16; John 1:45).
• Both taught the instructions of God with authority (Deut 4:1; 6:1; Matt 7:28-29).
• Both functioned as priests (Lev 8:15-16, 29-23; Ps 99:6; Heb 7:24; 9:14).
• Both were considered the "chosen one" of God (Ps 106:23; Luke 9:35; 23:35).
• Both were willing to be accursed for the sake of Israel (Ex 32:32; Gal 3:13).
• Both were sent from God (Ex 3:1-10; John 8:42).
• The mission of both from God was confirmed by the miracles they did (Ex 3:20; 4:1-9; Matt 11:4-5; John 3:2). Moses was the first in the Tanakh to perform miracles and Yeshua was the first in the apostolic narratives to perform miracles. Yochanan the Immerser performed no miracles.
• Moses was a shepherd (Ex 3:1) and Yeshua was the Good Shepherd (John 10:11; 1Pet 5:4).
• Both were Messiahs ("Anointed Ones") (Ps 105:15; Matt 1:1). However, neither was anointed in a traditional ordination ceremony with olive oil, but they were anointed by the Holy Spirit (Num 11:17, 25; Josh 1:5; Matt 3:16; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).
• The Israelites coming out of Egypt were "immersed" into Moses by virtue of passing through the sea (1Cor 10:2), and in the New Covenant disciples are immersed into Yeshua (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27).
• Moses erected a Tabernacle, which enabled God to dwell among His people, whereas Yeshua became a living tabernacle (Ex 25:8-9; Acts 7:44; John 1:14; Heb 8:2; 9:11).
• Moses brought water from a rock (Ex 17:6) and Yeshua was the Rock that gave living water (John 4:14; 7:38; 1Cor 10:4).
• God gave Moses the bread from heaven (Ex 16:8, 15) and God gave Yeshua as bread from heaven (John 6:32-35).
• Both inaugurated a covenant with Israel: Moses, the Sinaitic Covenant (Ex 19:5; 34:27; Deut 5:2), and Yeshua, the New Covenant (Jer 31:31; Luke 22:20; Heb 9:15).
• Both offered to die on behalf of the people's sins (Ex 32:30-33; John 17).
• Both secured deliverance for the nation of Israel and that deliverance was accomplished at the time of Passover (Ex 12:11; 13:4; Mark 14:1; Luke 22:15; 1Cor 5:7).
• Moses lifted the bronze serpent up in the wilderness to heal people (Num 21:9), whereas Yeshua was lifted up on the cross to heal people from sin and defeated the Serpent at the same time (John 3:4; Col 2:15).
• Moses led people out of Egyptian slavery (Ex 12:31, 42; 13:3; Heb 3:16), whereas Yeshua led people out of the slavery of sin (John 8:34-37; Rom 6:13-20).
• Both were Mediators of a covenant of blood: Moses of the Old Covenant with animal blood (Ex 24:6-8; Heb 9:18-19) and Yeshua of the New Covenant with his own blood (Matt 26:26-28; Luke 22:20; 1Cor 11:25; 2Cor 36; Heb 9:11-15, 23-28).
• Moses was a continual mediator between God and Israel (Ex 32:30-32; 33:8-9; Gal 3:19) and Yeshua is a continuing mediator between God and man (1Tim 2:5; Heb 9:15; 12:24).
• Moses served as a judge and heard cases from the people of Israel (Ex 18:13), whereas Yeshua will judge the world on the last day (Matt 25:31-46; John 5:27-29; 2Cor 5:10).
In the Tanakh no one is greater than Moses and in the Besekh no one is greater than Yeshua. The special significance of Moses to Yeshua can be seen in the fact of their meeting on the Mount of Transfiguration. Through his dynamic personality Moses was God's servant to transform a tribal people into the nation of Israel. Yeshua's great work involved transforming Israel into a commonwealth that incorporated Gentile nations. The great story of God concludes with all the saints of the ages joining in song attributed to Moses and Yeshua: "And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (Rev 15:3).
Gruber: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Translation of the apostolic writings and annotations by the author.
Shapira: Rabbi Itzhak Shapira, The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought. Lederer Books, 2013.
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