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Where Was Moses?

Where Was Moses?



Scripture tells us that Moses left Egypt a young man, and yet he comes back an octogenarian. Where was he for all those years?


The Midrash fills in the gap with the following fascinating account:

Around the time that Moses left Egypt, a great war broke out between Kush (Ethiopia) and some of its vassal states, who rebelled and were fighting for independence. Kinkos, king of Kush, prepared for war, and left Balaam in charge of the government while he was on his campaign. He successfully defeated the rebellious colonies.

Meanwhile, Balaam, who was enjoying his position as ruler of Kush, gathered the leaders of the city and said, “The city is now in our hands, and we can easily rid ourselves of Kinkos as king. Let us all unite, and when he returns, let us not let him back into the city.”

The leaders agreed to the plan, and swore an oath of loyalty to Balaam their leader. Balaam then carefully planned the defense of the city against the returning king. On two sides of the city they built high, fortified walls. On the third side they dug a broad water-filled moat, while the fourth was bounded by a deep trench crawling with venomous snakes. There was no way for anyone to enter the city.

Returning triumphantly from war, Kinkos approached his capital city, prepared to celebrate his victory. But when he came to his city, he found that the gates were closed against him. Kinkos tried to take the wall, but fifty of his men were killed. The next day his men tried to make their way across the moat, but many drowned in its dangerous currents. Then the king attempted an attack on the fourth side of the city. As the troops began to scale the sides of the trench, they were attacked by the poisonous snakes, and had to retreat. Kinkos, giving up hope of breaching the city, raised a nine-year siege against it.

During the first year of the siege, Moses fled Egypt. A strong young man, around twenty years old, he came to Kush and joined the force of Kinkos, and became very popular among the troops, who were impressed by his royal bearing. Moses found himself teaching the troops Egyptian battle tactics, further gaining their respect and admiration. Seeing his wisdom and popularity, the king took him as his closest advisor.

Nine years after the siege began, Kinkos died. Soon after the king was buried, his officers met to appoint a new king, since Kinkos had left behind a young son who was not old enough to rule. A unanimous decision was made to appoint Moses to the position. The men sounded trumpets, and proclaimed, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” This took place 157 years after the Israelites first came to Egypt [in the year 2395 (1366 BCE). Moses was then 27 years old.]

On his seventh day as king, the troops approached him. “Your majesty, please help us. For nine years now, we have been kept out of our own city. We have no life out here.” “I have a plan,” replied Moses, “but it requires that you obey my orders without question. Before I reveal my plan, you must all promise me that you will follow every step exactly.”

“We will do all you say!” they agreed in unison.

“Good,” replied Moses. “These are my instructions: all of you, spread through the forest and look for storks’ nests. Take the fledgling storks and distribute them, until each man has his own bird. Each man is to raise his stork and train him to do his bidding.”

Puzzled but obedient, the men combed through the forests until a tremendous flock of storks was assembled. The troops followed his orders, and trained the fledgling storks to obey their commands.

Then Moses assembled the men again. “Get ready for battle. Prepare to attack. But most important, do not give the storks any food for three days.”

On the third day, Moses led the troops to the side of the city with the trench full of snakes. Each man had his trained stork sitting on his shoulder. At Moses’ order, each one sent his stork aloft, ordering it to attack the snakes. The hungry storks took little time to kill and eat the serpents. With their long beaks, they could attack the snakes with no fear of being bitten. After a short flurry, not a single snake remained.

The trumpets were sounded, the troops crossed the trench, and they took the city. Eleven hundred of Balaam’s men were captured and executed. Balaam himself escaped with his family and went to Egypt, where he eventually became one of Pharaoh’s chief advisors. Most of the men of Kush, however, remained in their houses and were not harmed.

Moses was crowned king of Kush, and was also given the young widow of King Kinkos as a wife. However, since she was a descendant of Canaan, with whom marriage was prohibited to Abraham’s descendants, he was never intimate with her.

Moses remained there as king for forty full years, and during this period the nation prospered greatly. But the queen was unhappy. She approached the supreme council of Kush and said, “What have you done to me? I am the royal queen, but the king never even touches me. Moreover, he does not believe in our gods. A king should have the same religion as his subjects. Kinkos’ son is now mature, and he is experienced in running the government. It is time for him to be appointed king.”

The council heard her plea and agreed with her argument. The next day they voted to crown Kinkos’s son as king. Swearing that they would do him no harm, the council approached Moses and explained the situation. They gave him many gifts and sent him off with great honor, befitting a former king. Moses thus left Kush and settled in Midian.

Yalkut Me’am Loez on Shemot 2:15. With more details: Yalkut Shimoni on Shemot, remez 168.
Chaya Sarah Silberberg serves as the rebbetzin of the Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, since 1975. She also counsels, lectures, writes, and responds for’s Ask the Rabbi service.
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Bobby Yerushalayim September 22, 2017

I have heard the Moshe was forty years old when he left Egypt. Are there any sources to support this claim? Reply

Eli December 13, 2017
in response to Bobby:

There doesn't seem to be any indication of this. The only thing the book of exodus says is that "when he had grown" according to tradition, a Jewish man was considered an adult at the age of 30 years. He also had no place to go because he ran away, meaning he went directly to the well in which he found the daughters of the priest of midian. If you carefully observe the word you will notice in those times that no nation would "send off" a king, they killed them to unsurp their throne; sorry but the whole story about him being king of Cush is highly unlikely and not supported by facts except that it may be some kind of imbelishment of his offsprings being from midian with which at the borders of ethiopia at the time. Reply

C S Silberberg March 14, 2017

The English translation of Yalkut Me'am Loez is the 45 volume set titled The Torah Anthology. Individual books in this set are available for purchase in most major bookstores and online as well.
The main benefit of growing up in Pharaoh's palace: Moses was never a slave, never grew up with a "slave mentality." One can also presume that he was familiar with the Egyptian language, and customs of the palace nobility, etc. Reply

Miriam Levinson Philadelphia March 12, 2017

Moses early years in Egypt Is there any commentary on why Moses had to be taken from his family and raised in Pharaoh's palace? What actual purpose did it serve? The Torah seems to indicate that other male babies survived because of the courage of the midwives, which suggests that his survival wasn't dependent upon being taken by Pharaoh's daughter. My guess is that familiarity with the palace would have given him more courage to face Pharaoh later in life, when called upon by HaShem to do so, whereas the elders did not go with him due to fear. But I would love to see some commentary on this subject. Todah rabbah, and Chag Purim Samaech. Reply

Anonymous Arizona, USA April 12, 2013

Where Was Moses? As I received your article, answering the question of Moses whereabouts during the time he left Egypt after the incident with the Egyptian. I actually made a comment in which my question was the source of Moses life history which is not told in TaNaK. Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Silberberg answered my inquiry citing the Yalkut Me'am Loez, on Shemot 2:15. At the time i did not ask where this book could be found. Today, this is my question. If you would be so kind as to inform me of such it would be deeply appreciated. You have answered many of my inquiries on Ask the Rabbi section and i am very pleased of your knowledge in Talmud. You, Rabbitzin are a great teacher, and i am most greatful. Thank you so much for your efforts in teaching an ignorant like me. I am learning so much with Chabad. Many blessings to you and your in your devotion to Hashem. Baruch Hashem! Reply

רוברט בריתו לאה Domimican Republic April 12, 2013

Sources Source:
Yalkut Me’am Loez on Shemot 2:15. With more details: Yalkut Shimoni on Shemot, remez 168. Reply

Chaya Sarah Silberberg West Bloomfield January 3, 2013

The source is Yalkut Me’am Loez on Shemot 2:15, where he cites the Yalkut, Sefer Hayashar, the Maharit, and "Shalsheles Hakabbalah" - which translates as the chain of our tradition.

The Midrash often fills in gaps that the Torah does not address, as well as enhancing our understanding of many of the events and personalities that we find in the Torah. Reply

rut USA December 31, 2012

Where Was Moses? Amazing to learn the rest of Moses life. But where is the source of the story from?
Thank you. Reply

Sha'ul David NJ December 30, 2012

Moshe went directly to Median, every other explanation is ego wanting to be as important as Moshe who was born chosen by HaShem to tell the truth. Either this is the case or the story in the Torah is not up to the spectacular movie plots some seem to desire these days. "The facts mam just the facts" Reply

Anonymous Mesquite December 22, 2011

Where did Moses go? I prefer to receive my teaching directly from Torah which states that when Moses left Egypt he went directly to Midian where he was married to Zipporah one of Jethro's daughters and there he tended the flocks of Jethro until God heard the cries of his people Israel in the the land of Egypt and so spoke to Moses from the burning bush and commanded him to return to Egypt to free His people. Reply

Anonymous January 14, 2010

excellent, always i had that question, can i asked from where is that source?
thank you

keep going Reply

Anonymous Austin January 7, 2010

Baalam He left Egypt during the time that Moshe was in the Royal Palace. It was no secret that Baalam had tried to have Moshe executed as a young child and I am sure Moshe wanted to get rid of him because of his hate for the Jews. So he left Egypt and traveled to Kush where the kingdom fell like a ripe fruit into his hands. Reply

Anonymous WC January 6, 2010

cool Thank you for fitting in pieces of history i didn't know existed. I grew up on Cecil B DeMille's movie. It left out this part. Reply

Maurice Schwartz January 4, 2010

Kinko's widow After Moshe left, did Kinko's widow remarry? Also, hadn't Balaam been one of Pharaoh's advisors earlier as part of the three man council who planned with pharaoh how to subdue the Jews? Reply

Anonymous State College, PA January 3, 2010

Wow! Fascinating Midrash! Thank you so much for sharing Rebbitzen! Reply

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