Did the Egyptians discriminate against Judaism

The history

It had been a long time since the Joseph family settled in Egypt. The family had grown into a great people, whom the pharaohs viewed with xenophobia. The people of Israel were oppressed, had to do slave labor, had no rights and no prospect of freedom. In summary, it can be said that the Israelites in Egypt were doing badly. They longed to be released from this situation. God did not forsake his people and help them. For this help he needs a mediator on earth, a person he could use for his purposes. That person was supposed to be Moses.

From birth to marriage

Moses was born as the son of Levites, a member of an Israeli tribe, in the 13th century BC. born in Egypt. It is a miracle that he survived because Pharaoh Ramses II issued an order that all male newborns of the Israelites should be killed. He wanted to prevent a population explosion among the Israelites. Moses was hidden by his mother for the first three months of his life.

But there was a risk that this failure to obey the order would be discovered and for fear of it she left her son in a basket in the reeds of the Nile. The Pharaoh's daughter found this basket and its contents, and she immediately took care of little Moses. She adopted the child and hired a wet nurse for him, suggested by Moses' sister. As a result, the wet nurse was none other than Moses' real mother. The Pharaoh's daughter called him Moses, which means "the pulled out", because she had pulled him out of the water.

Moses knew that he was not an Egyptian but an Israelite. He had always been very drawn to his people, although he grew up at the Egyptian court and was doing very well. When Moses was older he saw an Egyptian strike an Israelite. He could not reconcile this with his keen sense of justice, he overreacted, killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. His murder became known and Moses had to flee because he had drawn the wrath of Pharaoh. He fled to Midian, which is located on the Sinai peninsula. There Moses met the daughters of a priest and helped them draw water and drink sheep. In gratitude the priest gave him asylum, married him to one of his seven daughters and let him tend his sheep. With Zippora, his wife, he had two sons.

Moses' election

Once when Moses was tending the sheep, the angel of God appeared to him in the form of a thorn bush fire. The special thing about this fire was that the thorn bush did not burn and thus attracted the attention of Moses. So God revealed his plans to him that he would end the sufferings of his people Israel with the help of Moses. God wanted to free the people from the bondage of Pharaoh and lead them to a land where "milk and honey flow". Moses was surprised by his election and did not want to accept this assignment at first because he did not consider himself capable. But God convinced him by assuring Moses that he would be with him. So Moses returned to Egypt.

His brother Aaron was delighted with his return and helped him in his difficult task of convincing the people of his appointment. It was also Aaron with whom Moses went to Pharaoh and asked for Israel to be released for a few days so that it could worship God. However, the Pharaoh was not convinced by them and thus drew the wrath of God in the form of ten terrible plagues (transformation of all waters into blood, frog plague, mosquito plague, biting fly plague, cattle plague, leaves, hail, darkness, killing of the firstborns of the Egyptians) . These plagues, which befell Egypt, were triggered by Moses with just one gesture. After the tenth plague, Pharaoh finally let the people of Israel go. Not counting 60,000 men, women and children, this means that they can set off into the desert.

Exodus - The Exodus

Exodus - the exodus - this is also what the second book of Moses is called in the Bible. In the Exodus, the Israelites wandered through the desert to the Red Sea, led by Moses. Before them God walked in the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night to show them the way. The Egyptian pharaoh regretted his hasty decision to let the people go and followed the Israelites with his army. They sensed their hopeless situation and panicked as the Pharaoh's army was getting closer and the Red Sea blocked the way out. So Moses prayed to God and he instructed him to stretch out his hand so that the sea could part and the people could wander through. Moses stretched out his hand, the sea parted, and Israel went through the sea, followed by the Egyptians. When the Jews had passed through the sea, Moses stretched out his hand again and the Red Sea closed over the Egyptians, so that they drowned.
The people moved on into the desert and were thirsty and hungry.

created by Dnalor_01, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0

As they did so, they remembered how well they had been in Egypt and they accused Moses for leading them out of Egypt into this misery. But Moses did not despair, but brought the complaints before God, who performed miracles to appease the people. For example, God made manna, which is a type of bread, rain down. The hike continued into the Sin desert, where the people again insulted Moses because they did not have enough water. So Moses struck a rock with a stick and water gushed out of it.

Since Moses is God's chosen one, he gave him special qualities and powers, which he used in his leadership position. For example, he had to perform the office of judge. In disputes among the Israelites, he judged according to God's laws. Moses was responsible for everything. He also ordained priests, had shrines made, and conducted censuses. This responsibility became too much for him at times and he distributed offices to trustworthy people who so support him. At that time, God made a covenant with the people so that they would become His chosen people.

Moses erected twelve stones and an altar to illustrate this act. He sprinkled everything, including people, with the blood of the slaughtered sacrificial animal. The people were very impressed by this act and they understood the importance of this covenant. But God also wanted something in return. The people should live according to their laws. The tablets of the Law were handed over on Mount Sinai. At the delivery, Moses, the chosen one, saw God face to face. So he received an honor that was never again bestowed on a prophet.

While Moses was on Mount Sinai, Aaron poured a gold calf for the people to worship. Because Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and the people thought that he would not return anymore. So it committed a sin by worshiping an idol. God was very angry about this, he wanted to destroy the people. Moses acted as an intercessor for his people in this situation. But when he came down from the mountain, he was so angry at the sight of the people dancing around the calf that he smashed the tablets of the law.

At the same time, Moses was also a military leader; for example, he instigated the sons of Levi to slay the Israelites, who no longer served God. They also had to wage wars against other peoples who stood in their way during their migration. Moses received new tablets of the law and it was promised that only his descendants would receive the promised land, i.e. Canaan. When they got to Canaan, Moses sent spies to scout the land. After their return they spread rumors among the people, so that they were afraid and did not want to take Canaan. So they revolted against Moses and Aaron and wanted to remove them. This angered God and Moses had to be an advocate again. Even in this situation he stood up for his people. But God punished them anyway by letting them move on through the desert. The Israelites had to turn back shortly before their destination, which angered them. Some men plotted against Moses and refused to tolerate his rule any longer. This angered God again and let the rebels die.

Moses had many tasks to do before he died. He interpreted the laws of God, divided Canaan among the tribes by lot, blessed the tribes, and appointed Joshua to succeed him. Shortly before reaching the goal, the land of Canaan, Moses dies. He was only allowed to see this country from a distance.

written by: Madlen A.
Elective basic course “Jewish History and Culture” 1999/2000