Prince Moses escapes to Midian

Ex 2:11-15    In c.1508BC, as a young man of 20, the prince sees a Hebrew slave being beaten by an Egyptian overseer. In anger, Moses kills the Egyptian official. Fearing retribution from the pharoah (and, perhaps, death threats from his jealous stepbrothers), Moses flees to Midian, near the Gulf of Aqaba (see 3 on Map 43).

Ex 2:16-25    Moses rescues some shepherdesses and waters their flocks at a well. Their father invites Moses (who is clearly a well-educated Egyptian) to stay, so Moses marries one of his daughters, Zipporah, and settles down for the next fifty years to raise a family in exile in Midian.

 

Gulf of Suez and Southern Sinai Peninsula

Midian was situated in the Sinai Peninsula (centre of photo) near the Gulf of Aqaba  (NASA)

 

Midian

The people of Midian were distant relatives of the Israelites – which may explain why Moses (born of Hebrew parents) fled from the well-watered lands of the Nile Delta to the semi-arid coastal lowlands of Midian and remained there for many years. The Midianites were descended from Midian, the fourth son of Abraham and his second wife Keturah, born in c.1819BC  (see Genesis 25:1-6). During Abraham’s lifetime, Midian and his five brothers were sent "to the east" (Genesis 25:6), and settled in territory to the east and south of the Dead Sea. It was Midianite traders who took Joseph to Egypt as a slave in c.1679 BC, and sold him to Potiphar, the captain of Pharoah’s guard (see Genesis 37:36).

By the time Moses fled from Egypt in c.1508BC, the people of Midian occupied both the coastal strip of the Sinai Peninsula and parts of the Arabian Peninsula on the opposite side of the Gulf of Aqaba. Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro (or Reuel), a priest of Midian, and lived here for fifty years before God appeared to him in the flames of a burning bush (see Exodus 3:1-10). After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt in c.1447 BC, they headed across the Sinai Peninsula to Midian, where they were welcomed by Moses’ father-in-law and their distant relatives, the people of Midian (see Exodus 18:1-12). Here, God again appeared to Moses on Mt Sinai and gave the ‘Ten Commandments’ and other laws for the people to follow (see Exodus 20:1-21).

In later times, the Bible records that relationships between the Israelites and Midianites were not so cordial. When Moses and the Israelites arrived in the Plains of Moab in c.1407 BC after forty years in the Negev Desert, Midianite women were amongst those accused of leading the Israelites into sexual immorality and idolatry (see Numbers 25:6-17). As a result, all the towns of Midian were destroyed, and only the young girls were spared (see Numbers 31:1-18). Later still, during the time of the Judges, Midianite raiding parties devastated Israel for seven years until Gideon roundly defeated the Midianites near the spring of Harod in c.1200BC (see Judges 6:1-6 & 7:1-25).

 

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