Exodus 2:11-22 (Moses kills Egyptian/intervenes in Jewish argument/gets water for Zipporah)

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?"

14 The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become known."

15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father's flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, "Why have you returned so early today?"

19 They answered, "An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock."

20 "And where is he?" he asked his daughters. "Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat."

21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, "I have become an alien in a foreign land."

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you characterize Moses' actions in this story? What do you think motivates him to do the things he does (e.g. kill the Egyptian, intervene in the argument among the two Hebrews, help Reuel's daughters)? Do you see any relationship among these actions?
  2. How would you characterize Moses' identity in the various parts of this narrative? How does he identify himself? How do others identify him? What is the relationship between his identity and his actions?
  3. At what point(s) in this story does Moses have power? What is the source of this power? How does it affect his actions? How does it affect how others respond to him?

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

I want to compare the Biblical text to the text in Quran.
The Quran differs slightly but offers a more insight to the mind of Moses.
And when he reached full strength and maturity, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. This is how We reward the good-doers.
One day˺ he entered the city unnoticed by its people.1 There he found two men fighting: one of his own people, and the other of his enemies. The man from his people called to him for help against his foe. So Moses punched him, causing his death. Moses cried, “This is from Satan’s handiwork. He is certainly a sworn, misleading enemy.”
He pleaded, “My Lord! I have definitely wronged my soul, so forgive me.” So He forgave him, ˹for˺ He is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Moses pledged, “My Lord! For all Your favours upon me, I will never side with the wicked.”

And so Moses became fearful, watching out in the city, when suddenly the one who sought his help the day before cried out to him again for help. Moses rebuked him, “Indeed, you are clearly a trouble-maker.”

Then when Moses was about to lay his hands on their foe,1 the enemy said, “O Moses! Do you intend to kill me as you killed a man yesterday? You only want to be a tyrant in the land. You do not intend to make peace!”

And there came a man, rushing from the farthest end of the city. He said, “O Moses! The chiefs are actually conspiring against you to put you to death, so leave ˹the city˺. I really advise you ˹to do so˺.”
So Moses left the city in a state of fear and caution, praying, “My Lord! Deliver me from the wrongdoing people.”
And as he made his way towards Midian, he said, “I trust my Lord will guide me to the right way.”
When he arrived at the well of Midian, he found a group of people watering ˹their herds˺. Apart from them, he noticed two women holding back ˹their herd˺. He asked ˹them˺, “What is the matter?” They replied, “We cannot water ˹our animals˺ until the ˹other˺ shepherds are done, for our father is a very old man.”
So he watered ˹their herd˺ for them, then withdrew to the shade and prayed, “My Lord! I am truly in ˹desperate˺ need of whatever provision You may have in store for me.”1

Then one of the two women came to him, walking bashfully. She said, “My father is inviting you so he may reward you for watering ˹our animals˺ for us.” When Moses came to him and told him his whole story, the old man said, “Have no fear! You are ˹now˺ safe from the wrongdoing people.”

One of the two daughters suggested, “O my dear father! Hire him. A strong, trustworthy person is definitely the best to hire.”

The old man proposed, “I wish to marry one of these two daughters of mine to you, provided that you stay in my service for eight years. If you complete ten, it will be ˹a favour˺ from you, but I do not wish to make it difficult for you. Allah willing, you will find me an agreeable man.”

Moses responded, “˹Then˺ it is ˹settled˺ between you and I. Whichever term I fulfill, there will be no ˹further˺ obligation on me. And Allah is a Witness to what we say.”
I believe comparing these two texts you will feel that the Quranic text is more genuine and reflects the inner side of all the characters. And show how pious was Moses and how he always asked God for help.

I believe Moses felt deeply the pain the one man was causing to other and felt the urge to ended in the only way back then they knew how.
Feeling after that completely lost but also completely conscious about many things he wanst before, i believe he was suffering and struggling inside him and also lost, full of doubts about all those feelings until... HE call for him.

Moses looked here and there and seeing no one killed Egyptian. He did not look at God our Creator. Murder of Egyptian had not been happened, if Moses looked at God. It was his life before knowing God, but after he knew God his life changed forever who lead Israelites in the wilderness.

Moses saw himself in his people and defended himself against the enemy.
He is not a killer but one who "Loved his neighbor as himself"
Could there have been a better choice to lead God's people or a better husband for Zipporah ?
All Praises to The Almighty God The Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN

when did this happened? like the year?

Brave man

Confused by this : thou shalt not kill

In reply to by Jen

Exactly!! There was no threat to Moses. This is all bogus!!

In reply to by Jen

All have sinned amd come short to the Glory of God

I characterize Moses as being a compassionate just righteous man,a peacemaker one who's motivation was his personal relationship with God

God had grace for n Moses because choose him to set his people free

Maybe Moses thought he would have taken a sentence for the killing instead of all of the troubles he had with leading the Hebrews to the promised land

How can there be hebrews,, if Abram is the father of of the hebrews, and he’s not even born yet… I’m confused

In reply to by bernard

I think Abraham was born in Genesis chapter 11. It can get confusing keeping track of who owns who came from who. :)

Moses want himself to make totally changes his life, he want to forget all the life experience before and to start new living from other places.
Just like us today if we want to change our life we need to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and forget all our bad habits. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Yes he got power the source of his power vis to help and probably protect his family , some people hate him for... , some love him

Moses as a man had the burden how his brethren would be freed from the Egyptian slavery, as he grew up that burden forced him to check on his brethren and he saw an ugly sight and the zeal to free his brethren from the ugly situation arose and killed the Egyptian-type of Saviour
Fleeing to Midian typified Jesus fled to Egypt for being killed by Harold and helping Revels'daughters was the leading of God's Spirit to have I). perfect place of rest and ii).a befitting Companion and Adviser in his Ministry
The relationship between his actions is like that of Gideon and God said to Gideon "Go in this your Might" upon Moses action exhibited God called and assigned with deliverer's responsibility

Because he was one of the hebrews

Moses is the Egyptian and the Hebrew he is beating down. He makes the intentional decision to kill this version of himself and leave him buried in the sand. This is a story of death and rebirth. A growth that God would have of us daily in our pursuit to a higher way of being.

This is typical of someone who has been given a gift from God. Because one always knows when being given, but only on the proper timing.Time came on the wilderness of Median.It wasn't recognized in Egypt. On Acts 7:25 when you see how Stephen revealed it before being stoned.
Jesus welcomed him standing.

Primitive thinking by primitive man, with primitive morals. There is no archeological evidence for Moses and some of the events are plagiarized from earlier mythological stories. The Tora/Bible are not the "words of god".

In reply to by Harry Henderson

Maybe you dont research much

Thanks for your help

"Glancing this way and that way and seeing no one,"

Premeditated murder? Perhaps the characterisation is harsh but slavery was the norm of the time and his life was not his to take.

Or this is just immense compassion and we should also be empowered to violently stop evil? I'm not so sure

Moses started realizing who he was and where he belonged.When he saw the Egyptian beating the Israelite he found that it was inhuman and that the Israelite were treated as if they are not human beings and because they were Hebrews like himself this treatment angered him.This feeling can only come to a person who have a heart for others and this is from God.It tells you that the Egyptians did not have love for ethnic groups and they see themselves as the only people on the planet.He knew that it was risk to kill another person but he was influenced by the love he had for his people.

Moses is awakening to the abuse and slavery around him and that these enslaved Hebrews are his people though he was raised free like an Egyptian. So seeing an Egyptian beating an enslaved Hebrew, he killed him in defense of his people. Identifying with his true Hebrew identity, he then chides 2 co sufferers for not supporting each other. When he helps the Midian daughters he now extends his compassion to anyone being opprressed whether they're his people or not, universal compassion and justice for all. His power comes from knowing his true identity even though it's an oppressed one then identifying with anyone oppressed. In this universal human identity, he also feels like an alien sort of an outsider to those who can only extend compassion and justice to their own.

What was God’s judgement for Moses killing Egyptian?

1. Moses appeared to be defending his people who appeared to be mistreated. 2. Moses appears to be a protector and fearless. Moses was confused being taught that he was Hebrew 3 Moses gained his power when he ran from Pharoah and when he protected the priest daughters from the shepherds, Moses is strong willed but does not think before he reacts and his actions is the reason that he’s now a murderer


Was Moses' action an act of reconciliation,judge, or an avenger? Explain.

1)Moses nursed by Hebrew woman.Hebrew forbid to kill by God's Law given to Noah.There's a possibility Moses knew this.
2)God NEVER commanded Moses to kill.God appear to Moses after he ran away and married Zipporah and got a son named Gershom.
3)When God appointed Moses to lead exodus, he hesitated for 3times.he is nobody, had no miracles/sign, and not a good speaker.Yet, not a single word of confession and asking forgiveness for his sins shedding man's blood.
This is the reason why God chased Moses to death.By Noah's law, Moses should have sentenced to death, or killed by a man.It was Ziphorah that confessed Moses's sin that made God spared Moses life.husband of blood.But until the end, Moses never confessed nor asking for forgiveness.Thus Moses's life spared, but he can not enter the Promised Land.Moses disrespected God, three times.What is the difference of kill a man and struck a rock without God's permission?the answer is none.Moses killed an egyptian, and massacre after the "bull accident" and struck rock, without God's permission.Just as moses reluctantly 3times when God gave Moses the task to lead exodus.

I like this website and I like how it gives questions.

1. Moses was provoked by gross injustice against humanity.
2. Moses identified with God, God's will for humanity, and for the purpose of life. Moses was imaging the God of righteousness, justice and love.
3. At the Conviction level, Moses resolved in his heart to rather suffer affliction with the children of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a moment.
3b Moses's source of power was his position in God....identifying with the God of righteousness, justice, love and Peaceful relationships for the well being of all.
3c. it increased Moses's vulnerability-exposure to death (execution) threats and his operational space was completely shut.
3d. Others responded by mistrust, was viewed as violent, a

Mode was that person who was ready to defend his people even if it means taking the opponent's life

yeh sure is

God sent him Moses killing that taskmaster was part of gods plan. Moses was obeying god and he didn’t even know it. He is no murderer he is just playing a planned part in gods story

This is really awesome

There was no 10 commandments yet, when Moses killed the Egyptian.

Moses was the chosen one

GG my homies

Moses was a murderer who was changed by the hand of God. He was chosen for God's purpose. Any mistake a person makes god can recycle and transform a person's life glory belongs to God in all things 1LOVE

I think moses killing the Egyptian felt like the right thing to do at that moment because he probably felt that it it was an eyptian that say an hebrew and an eyptian fight it would have been the hebrew that would have been killed.He probably felt that it was the right to do but I don't think it justifies his action at that moment

Why would Pharaoh seek to slay Moses for killing an Egyptian? As far as Pharaoh knew, Moses was his grandson. Surely He would not slay his grandson for killing a common egyptian.

In reply to by Darran

Exactly my point 🤔 or he came to know that his not his tribe 🤔

We don't know if Moses meant to kill the Egyptian. It may be that by Moses looking both ways means that he meant to kill the Egyptian , otherwise if he only wanted to separate them it would not have mattered if someone was looking. It may be also that the Hebrew told his bretheren that Moses killed the Egyptian and no one else saw Moses kill the Egyptian.

I wonder if it was the act of killing that made Moses re
nly questions here that don't square with the 10 Commandments.

Did God condem Moses for killing the oppressor? Please respond

In reply to by Herbert Brown Jr

I find no scripture wherein God addresses with Moses the killing of the Egyptian

Moses killed a lot more people than this one Egyptian.

i think that this story teaches you that you have to make hard choices


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Exodus 2:11-22 (Moses kills Egyptian/intervenes in Jewish argument/gets water for Zipporah)." (Viewed on May 25, 2024) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/exodus-2-11-22-moses-kills-egyptian-intervenes-in-jewish-argument-gets-water-for-zipporah>.