Studying the characteristics of Moses reveals that he was very human but deeply, spiritually committed to God. In fact, the whole story of Moses in the Bible demonstrates that God is merciful, gracious, and kind.
This post does not begin to capture the fullness of Moses’ life. But we will attempt to highlight some of the highs and lows of his experience as well as what we can learn about him by observing the way he lived.
Story of Moses in the Bible verses
The story of Moses is one the longest in the Bible. It stretches from Exodus to Deuteronomy. Here are some Scripture references for some major events in the life of Moses.
Birth of Moses – Exodus 2:1-2
Moses kills the Egyptian – Exodus 2:11-12
Moses at the burning bush – Exodus 3:1-17
Moses and the 10 plagues in Egypt – Exodus 7:14-11:10
Moses at the Red Sea – Exodus 14:21
Moses receives the 10 Commandments – Exodus 20:1 – 21
The death of Moses – Deuteronomy 34:1-8
Story of Moses in the Bible summary
Moses was born in Egypt to Israelite parents during some dark days in Israel’s history. To save his life, his mother, Jochebed, placed him in a basket, set him on the river Nile, and told his sister, Miriam to watch.
The pharaoh’s daughter was moved with compassion when she saw the crying baby Moses. Miriam was right on spot to offer her mother as a nurse for the baby. Although pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses, he was actually raised by Jochebed.
When Moses got older, he killed an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew slave. As a result, Moses became a fugitive at about 40 years old. When he ran away, he came to Midian where he met and married his wife Zipporah.
Over the course of 40 years, Moses became a father to two sons and learned to be a shepherd.
At the age of 80 God called him to go back to Egypt to rescue the Israelites from the iron hand of the pharaoh.
Moses goes after much hesitation. God uses him and his brother, Aaron, in miraculous ways to deliver the Israelites.
Moses spent more than a year receiving instructions from God about how the Israelites should live when they entered Canaan.
However, when the time came to actually enter Canaan, they were not ready. God turned the Israelites back to the wilderness.
For 40 years, Moses stayed with them as they learned to trust God.
Through the 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites were tough to lead. Moses lost his temper many times, but he loved anyway.
On the brink of the end of the 40 years, Moses died at 120 years old.
Characteristics of Moses in the Bible
Personal characteristics of moses
Moses was meek.
Moses had a speech insecurities.
Moses had complicated identity issues.
Moses had anger problems and was impatient.
Moses was suffering from loss, grief, and loneliness.
Spiritual qualities of Moses
Moses was an intimate friend of God.
Moses was faithful and obedient.
Moses was prayerfully dependent on God.
Leadership qualities of Moses
Moses was a priest.
Moses was a wise leader.
Moses was a humble and teachable leader.
Moses was a mentor and succession planner.
Moses was an intercessor with a compassionate heart.
Now, let’s break each of these down in details.
Personal characteristics of Moses in the bible
Moses has been said to have an introverted personality type. Many great leaders are.
Let’s look at some qualities of Moses that really make him stand out.
Characteristic #1 – Moses was well-educated
We tend to forget that Moses had a whole 40 years worth of living in Egypt before he became a fugitive. Although he was raised by his mother, Jochebed, and she would have taught him about the God of the Hebrews, that was not his only education.
As the adopted son of the Egyptian princess, Moses would have received the best education in Egypt which was really the best in the world. Egypt was the Harvard or Yale or Oxford of the entire world.
Stephen said this about Moses, “And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians…” (Acts 7:22 ESV)
Egypt had studies in music, mathematics, medicine and astrology. They also had a writing system called hieroglyphics which is still the marvel of historians today.
Moses was taught all this and more. Clearly, he was a brilliant student as well.
Despite all this education though, God still needed to take him on a journey of learning what really mattered the most.
Characteristic #2 – Moses was meek
One word that is used in Scripture to describe Moses is meek (Numbers 12:3). If any of Moses’ qualities made him attractive to God, it would be this.
Moses could have occupied a lofty position in Egypt. After all, he was the adopted son of the Egyptian princess.
He had a comfortable and charmed life ahead of him.
Moses chose to be identified with the lowly Hebrew slaves with whom he shared his ethnicity.
He humbled himself in submission to God’s design for his life. His whole existence was built on his meekness.
Characteristic #3 – Moses had speech INSECURITY
When God showed up in the burning bush to call Moses to leadership, Moses told God that he couldn’t do it.
“Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Exodus 4:10
Moses tries to use this as a reason to not go to Egypt to complete his assignment. So, God told him Aaron would speak on his behalf. But this never stopped Moses from reminding God that he had a communication related disability.
When the Israelites would not listen to him, Moses brought up his speech problems again.
But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips ? Exodus 6:12
When God told him to go to Pharaoh anyway, despite the people not listening to him, Moses, once again, brought up his problem.
But Moses said to the LORD, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” Exodus 6:30
You would think Moses would have gotten the point that God wasn’t concerned about that. God already made him a promise. He promised him help in the form of Aaron, his big brother.
In God’s eyes, his speech problem wasn’t significant enough to disqualify him from his call.
Characteristic #4 – Moses had complicated identity issues
From the moment Moses was born, his mother, Jochebed, knew he was special.
But although Moses was born a Hebrew, he was raised in an Egyptian palace. Jochebed ensured he knew his Hebrew identity.
But, having been raised in a palace sheltered Moses from the hardship of the life of his Hebrew family and he didn’t get to bond with them either.
Moses also knew he was called to be the defense and deliverer of Israel out of Egypt. This is one reason he killed the Egyptian who was abusing the Hebrew.
Moses was trying to use his own strength to fulfill his destiny. And he was also running ahead of God. The time had not yet come for the release of the Israelites.
When Moses became a fugitive, God brought him to the wilderness to be a shepherd. He was about 40 years old when he started his life there.
He was now in Midian, another strange place where he was forever considered a foreigner despite his marriage to a local girl.
God took 40 years to train Moses. By the time God was done with him, he had lost everything he knew of himself.
Before these 40 years, he had some sense of who he was. Now, at 80 years old, he questions his identity before God and his credentials to even approach Pharaoh.
Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11
And to make matters worse, he didn’t exactly have the clearest speech.
Moses also knew that he had no influence among his own people. Not only was he not raised among them but he had been gone for 40 years because he was a fugitive murderer.
Moses was concerned about how his people would receive him.
“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” Exodus 4:1
In his own mind, Moses had become a nobody. He was no longer a palace boy. And the Hebrews had rejected him.
Moses had been too Egyptian to be Hebrew but he was also too Hebrew to be Egyptian.
Now he was just a shepherd out in the middle of nowhere among strangers. He had no claim to fame. He didn’t think much of himself.
And that’s exactly the perfect place to be. Because when we move ourselves out of the way, God can show up and shine in such glorious ways through us.
Characteristic #5 – Moses had a anger problem and was impatient
I know. This isn’t something that jumps out at you immediately when you read his story. But if you slow down and collect the multitude of pieces of evidence.
Moses had a track of losing his temper.
First, he became angry about the abuse of an Israelite and killed the Egyptian who was abusing the Israelite.
When Moses became the leader of the Israelites, he was not very patient with this group of people who were trying to pick their lives up from slavery.
When they were disobedient towards the instructions about the manna, Moses got angry.
Exodus 16:20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
When Moses disappeared into the mountains to talk with God for over a month, the built the golden calf. Moses became angry.
Exodus 32:19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.
Moses’ anger finally caused him to lose out on entering Canaan with the Israelites. When God told him to speak to the rock, in anger, he struck the rock. And not just once. He hit the rock twice.
But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” Numbers 12:20 ESV
There is nothing wrong with getting angry. It’s a natural human emotion given to us by God. We need emotions to help us respond appropriately to different situations.
However, Scripture says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin”.
Characteristic #6 – Moses was suffering from loss, grief, and loneliness
When Moses became a fugitive, he landed in Midian. He settled there. He got married. And he seemed to move on with his life.
But Moses carried a burden. We feel it when he names his boys at their birth.
Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Exodus 18:2-4
It could not have been easy to experience such important milestones in his life only to celebrate them without a familiar face.
When he got married, there’s nobody on his side of the aisle.
When his first son is born, there’s no familiar person waiting outside the tent with him for that very first squeal from the baby.
When his second son is born, he reflects on how his own life was jeopardized as a baby. But there is no family member to remember and reminisce on the testimony with him.
It’s not that Moses was alone. He was surrounded by his wife Zipporah and her family. He had a really good relationship with his father-in-law, Jethro.
But you can still be in a crowd and be lonely. When the people who mean alot to you are missing, it leaves a hole in your heart.
The spiritual characteristics of Moses in the Bible
Regardless of his personality type or personal qualities, it was his spiritual state that truly qualified Moses to be called by God.
He wasn’t perfect, but his relationship with God was next level.
Let’s look at how this manifested in Moses’ life.
Characteristic #7 – Moses was an intimate friend of God
From the time God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses enjoyed a kind of communion with God that very few Bible characters had.
Before the Israelites built the Tabernacle, Moses used the Tent of Meeting to meet with God. Here is how Scripture describes the relationship and interaction between Moses and God:
Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Exodus 33:11
Multiple times during the wilderness experience, Moses went to the mountains to talk with God. On two separate occasions, Moses spent 40 days each time.
Moses spent so much time with God, in His presence, that his face literally began to glow.
…the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him. Exodus 34:35
Moses and God had such an intimate friendship that Moses was brave enough to ask to see God’s face.
God knows that if He were to fulfill the request, Moses would die. So God works out a plan where Moses gets to see His back and not His face. You can read about that in Exodus 33: 18-19.
Also, on more than one occasion Moses reasons with God about preserving the lives of the Israelites when they had sinned. Listening to the conversation between God and Moses, you can hardly believe this is the creator of the universe (Exodus 32:11-14).
Characteristic #8 – Moses was faithful and obedient
Being God’s mouth, hands, and feet is never easy. But Moses did this for 40 plus years.
Moses remained obedient to God, except for that time when he struck the rock.
At the beginning of the saga between Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh, it was rough going. But every time God told him to go to Pharaoh, he went. Although Pharaoh was stubborn and deceitful Moses obeyed God anyway.
When God gives him the details for building the Tabernacle and all the furniture in it, Moses did exactly what God told him to do.
When God told him to set up the priesthood with Aaron and his sons and to consecrate them, Moses did it.
When God gave him all the laws for food, health, relationships etc to pass on to the Israelites, Moses didn’t hold back.
When God was to set up the Levites as the priesthood in Israel, Moses followed God’s instructions to take a census and perform the redemption exercises.
Moses gave himself fully over to God in complete obedience and surrender.
Characteristic #9 – Moses was prayerfully dependent on God
We know little of what happened during the 40 years Moses spent in Midian. He got married to Zipporah and they had two sons but that is as much as Scripture reveals until God shows up in the burning bush.
From then on, we can see Moses’ relationship with God. Moses was ALWAYS talking to God. Moses depended on God an awful lot. To lead over 2 million people will definitely make you feel your own weaknesses.
Every time Moses didn’t know what to do to solve problems, he went to God. At the Red Sea, when they were caught between the Egyptian and a watery place, Moses did not know what to do.
The traumatized Israelites were losing their minds because of fear and the Egyptians were bent on enslaving them again. Moses went to God.
The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. (Exodus 14:15)
When the people were thirsty and became hostile, Moses went to God.
And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. Exodus 15:24-25
After the Red Sea saga, the people travelled for three days without water. When they finally found water, it was bitter. And as usual, they took Moses to task. Moses went to God.
So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” (Exodus 17:4)
Later in the story, just before they went into the Promised Land, when the Daughters of Zelophehad came to him with an unusual request, “Moses brought their case before the Lord.” (Numbers 27:5).
Over and over, Moses went to God for everything.
His prayerful dependence on God never stopped problems from coming but he was sure where to find solutions to those problems.
Characteristics of Moses as a leader
Moses’ popularity in Scripture is partly due to the massive feat of leading over 2 million people for over 40 years.
Leadership gurus who are also faith-based turn to him for lessons and principles in leadership.
What were some leadership qualities of Moses?
Characteristic #10 – Moses was a priest
I know, I know. We all grew up being taught that Moses was the greatest leader in the Bible.
And as you got older you truly appreciated the fact that he was in charge of about 2 million people as they wandered around the wilderness.
But most of us find the book of Leviticus boring so we miss gems like this. If you read through that book, particularly chapter 8, you will see Moses in priestly action.
His older brother Aaron was appointed by God to be the chief of priests among the Israelites. Aaron’s sons were also chosen by God for this role.
Moses was the one who performed the ordination service for them to officially occupy the position of priest. This involved sacrificing animals for their sins and other things.
As a levite, Moses was automatically a member of the priesthood. This was the height of spiritual leadership in Israel.
Characteristic #11 – Moses was a wise leader
Moses became a fugitive because he had committed murder. This he did in an attempt to fulfill his call of defending Israel. This was not wise and this is not how God had envisioned it.
After four decades as a shepherd, Moses was different though. He had matured some.
When the Israelites were frightened about the Egyptians, Moses told them not to worry. He assured them he would be fine. Meanwhile, Moses fled to God in complete distress.
This same Moses 40 years earlier would have taken them on in his own strength. Now, his heart was failing him in fear and panic. But now, he was completely submitted to God. He showed his true heart to God.
While he reassured the Israelites they would be safe, he did not reveal his own vulnerabilities. Being authentic is not always appropriate.
The Israelites were already skittish. He did not need to push them over the edge of fear and anxiety by exposing his heart.
They were not emotionally and spiritually mature enough to handle the reality of the human weaknesses that Moses had.
So, Moses chose to go to God who could handle his emotions and give him direction.
We live in age where people want to share everything online
While it is good to show those you lead that you are human and authentic, it’s not always good to expose your vulnerabilities.
Choose someone else for that. Moses recognized that the Israelites were not emotionally safe enough for him to be that vulnerable with them.
Characteristic #12 – Moses was a humble and teachable leader
There are few things worse than leaders who think they know everything. We do not observe this trait in Moses though. He could not afford to be a know-it-all anyway.
Soon after the Israelites were out of Egypt, Moses realized they needed help. They had questions about God, conflicts to be resolved, and a host of things.
Moses was trying to do it all himself. Imagine the number of cases he had to hear each day from 2 million people.
Jethro, his father-in-law, saw that Moses’ leadership strategy was way too involved. People would wait all day long just to be able to talk to Moses.
Jethro gave him really good leadership advice.
Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. Exodus 18:21
Moses took his counsel. Following this piece of advice saved Moses from overwhelm and burnout. And it also ensured the needs of the people were met.
A win-win for everyone.
Because wise leaders know that they do not know it all.
Characteristic #13 – Moses was a mentor and succession planner
Leadership guru John Maxwell said, “a leader who produces other leaders multiples their influences.”
Two important characteristics of good leaders is being able to nurture and mentor other leaders.
This is a part of planning for the future. No leader lives forever, therefore, succession planning is important.
It seemed that Moses knew for a long time that he would not always be around to lead the Israelites. So early on, he began to plan for the next leader.
Moses took Joshua under his wings. Joshua seemed to follow him around. When Moses goes to the Tent of Meeting to talk with God, Joshua is standing outside waiting for Moses.
When Moses goes up the mountain to get the 10 commandments from God, he took Joshua with him for the whole 40 days.
Moses was not threatened by Joshua’s youth or energy. He capitalized on it. In fact, Joshua became a warrior in Israel because Moses saw his potential and nurtured it by giving him responsibility.
Characteristic #14 – Moses was an intercessor with a compassionate heart
Although the children of Israel fueled much of Moses’ anger, he loved them to death.
When God wanted to wipe out the Israelites after the golden calf incident saga, Moses interceded with God for them.
Moses reminded God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The promise to make them a great nation. He pointed out to God that if He destroyed the people, His promise would be destroyed too. And God prides himself on keeping his promises.
But Moses took it a step further. He offered himself in the place of the people. Moses told God to kill him instead of the Israelites.
Moses was willing to sacrifice himself on behalf of these people who didn’t even fully accept him as their leader. Nevertheless, Moses begged for their life. And God listens to Moses.
But there’s more.
When Moses went back to the people, he gave them all another chance. Some didn’t take it but such is life’s reality.
We see Moses intercepting again in Exodus 33 – 34. God had decided to put an angel in charge of the people instead of being directly involved with them for the rest of their journey to Canaan.
Moses again took God to task about His decision and again. Moses begged God to stay with them and again, God changed His mind.
Moses’ heart of compassion made him one of the Bible’s most outstanding leader.
Why is Moses important
The story of Moses fits into the bigger story of salvation. Moses played a major role in the birth of the Jewish nation through which Jesus would be born.
Moses is also a type of Christ. His work in sacrificing himself to save the Israelites foreshadowed what Jesus would do for us.
What does the story of Moses teach us
The lessons we can learn from Moses are many. But if there is a major one, this is what it would be:
No matter how messed up your story is, God has a plan.
Remember, Moses was a murderer with a speech impediment and a terrible anger problem. But, God not only used him; God also saved him.
Moses appears to Jesus in the New Testament in the transfiguration experience so we are certain that Moses is safe.
Wherever you are in your life, stay close to Jesus and accept His call on your life.
FAQs about Moses in the Bible
- What is the meaning of Moses in the Bible?
The name Moses means “drawn out”. It is probably a reflection of Moses being rescued from the water by the Egyptian princess.
- When was Moses born?
There is no definite date for the birth of Moses. Various sources differ. Jewish sources say he was born in 1391 BCE but other sources say he was born 1571 BCE or 1592 BCE.
- Who was the wife of Moses in the Bible?
The name of Moses’ wife was Zipporah.
- Who was Moses’ mother in the Bible?
The name of Moses’ mother is Jochebed.
- Who was Moses’ father in the Bible?
The name of Moses’ father is Amram.
- Who was Moses’ sister in the Bible?
The name of Moses’ sister is Miriam.
- Who was Moses’ brother in the Bible?
The name of Moses’ brother is Aaron.
- Who were the sons of Moses in the Bible?
The names of Moses’ sons were Gershom and Eliezer (Exodus 2:21–22, 18:2–4)
- What is the song of Moses in the Bible?
The song of Moses specifically refers to the song Moses wrote close to the end of life. God told him to write the song. It is recorded in Deuteronomy 32:1–43.
Final words on the characteristics of Moses in the Bible
This post could not hold all there is to know about and learn from the life of Moses.
His personal characteristics show us how intensely human and imperfect he was.
Yet, his influence is still blazing a trail…
His leadership qualities are still inspiring leaders today.
His relationship with God is still challenging believers to come up a little higher.
How does Moses’ story inspire you?