Moses Flees Egypt

Moses grew older and began to take a personal interest in the suffering of his brethren, the children of Israel. He made it his business to go out to Goshen, to talk with the slaving Jews and try to alleviate their plight as much as possible. Often he put his hands and shoulders to work to ease the burden of an aged Hebrew. Through his influence with Pharaoh, who appreciated and esteemed Moses' wisdom, effective measures to ease the plight of the slaves were introduced little by little, for Moses had to be careful not to arouse Pharaoh's suspicions. One of these measures was to grant the slaves a day of rest, and Moses saw to it that this day was Shabbat.

One day Moses went again to Goshen to bring hope and courage to his fellow Jews, amongst whom he had become very popular. They appreciated his friendliness and the help he could give them, and they were astonished at his keen mind and the readiness with which he learned and mastered the knowledge of the holy teachings of the Levites. That day he happened to observe a scene not uncommon in Goshen. An Egyptian overseer in charge of ten Jewish labor squads, each under a Jewish supervisor, hit one of his charges. Seeing that the Egyptian was persecuting the Hebrew unjustly, Moses came to his rescue and killed the persecutor. Having assured himself that there was nobody who had witnessed this scene, he buried the body in the sand and returned to Pharaoh's palace.

Soon, thereafter, he visited Goshen again. This time he saw two Hebrews quarrelling. When he warned one of them not to raise his hand against a fellow-Jew, he retorted: "Who made you chief and judge over us? Perhaps you intend to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?" It grieved Moses to see that there was such a wicked and irresponsible person among his fellow Jews, and he knew, moreover, that his life was now in danger. Indeed, one of these men inform against Moses to Pharaoh, and Moses was condemned to death for the slaying of the Egyptian taskmaster. But as the executioner's axe came down on Moses' neck, a wonderful miracle happened. Moses' neck became as hard as rock, and the axe bounced back. In the confusion that followed, Moses escaped and fled to the land of Cush. There he stayed for many years, and because of his intelligence and wisdom, became the king of the natives.

Moses in Midian

A conspiracy and upheaval in the government of Cush forced Moses to flee again, and he went to Midian. The priest of Midian, Jethro, had once been one of King Pharaoh's foremost adviser's, but because of his friendly attitude towards the Hebrews, he had to leave Pharaoh's court. Jethro then settled in Midian, and became the highest priest of the land. A man of great intelligence, Jethro soon realized the silliness of idol-worship, and gave up his priesthood. The people of Midian began to hate their former priest and persecuted him. Often it happened that Jethro's daughters were driven away from the communal well when they came to give water to the flocks of their father, and had to wait to the very last, until the other shepherds were gone.

On the day Moses arrived in Midian, he saw the rough shepherds chase the daughters of Jethro away from the well. Moses stood up for the girls, and helped them water their sheep. On that day they returned to Jethro rather early, and he was astonished to see them back so soon. His daughters told him about the unexpected help. Jethro immediately invited Moses to his house and not long thereafter he gave him his oldest daughter Zipporah for a wife. Zipporah bore Moses two children. The first one he called Gershom ("a stranger there") in commemoration of the fact that he was a stranger and exile in the land of Midian, and the second he called Eliezer, "G‑d is my helper," in gratitude for G‑d's protection.