In what ways was Moses similar to Jesus?The life of Moses in many ways parallels the life of Jesus. The role Moses plays in delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians and leading them to the Promised Land God had prepared for them foreshadows Jesus bringing salvation to humanity. In fact, Moses told the Israelites, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen" (Deuteronomy 18:15). This promised Prophet is Messiah—Jesus fulfills that promise. Here are some of the similarities in their stories.
Moses and Jesus were both born during times when God's people were being oppressed. Moses was born when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt and Jesus was born when Israel was under Roman rule. They both were hidden as babies because the leaders of the time wanted them dead. Pharaoh ordered all Hebrew males to be murdered to control the growth of the population. When he was three months old, Moses' mother put him in a basket along the Nile river where he was found and adopted by a daughter of Pharaoh (Exodus 2). King Herod feared the prophecies of Jesus' birth and ordered all boys under two be killed in Bethlehem. Jesus' parents fled to Egypt until Herod had died (Matthew 2). Moses was adopted from a slave family into a royal family. Jesus is the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32); He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Yet He took on human flesh and became the adopted son of Joseph (Philippians 2:5–11).
Before beginning their ministry, both Moses and Jesus had a supernatural moment in which God prepared them to go forth. Moses met God at the burning bush and, after some convincing, was filled with God's Word and the power to perform miracles (Exodus 3—4). God said to him, "Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt" (Exodus 3:10). Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and, "behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'" (Matthew 3:16–17). Moses spent forty years in the land of Midian maturing in his faith, forty days and nights on Mount Sinai receiving the Law and fasting, forty days and forty nights fasting and interceding for the Israelites at other times (Deuteronomy 9), and forty years in the wilderness waiting for the Israelites to be able to enter the Promised Land. Jesus spent forty days and nights fasting in the desert resisting the temptation of the Devil (Matthew 4:1–11). Moses worked as a shepherd of livestock in Midian (Exodus 3:1) and Jesus came to be a shepherd of men (John 10:1–18).
During their ministries both Moses and Jesus were leaders. Moses went down to Egypt to lead the people out of the bondage of slavery and into the Promised Land. He acted as a mediator in establishing the old covenant between God and the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 30:15–18). He was a prophet who spoke God's Word to the people and performed miracles. Moses interceded on their behalf and prayed for them (Exodus 32; Numbers 11:2; 12:13; 21:7). He taught them the Law and acted as a judge. The covenant God gave Moses included the sacrificial rituals and the symbolic role of blood. Moses oversaw the construction of the tabernacle as a place for God to dwell among His people and be worshipped. Moses served his people and was known as meek (Numbers 12:3).
Jesus came down to earth to save humanity from sin and bring people to everlasting salvation and relationship with God. He established the new covenant, sacrificing His life on the cross so that we might receive forgiveness for our sins (Jeremiah 31:33; Luke 22:20). Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets and performed miracles. He is our advocate before God that we might be forgiven (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1; Ephesians 1:7–10). Jesus fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17) and will be the Judge on the final judgement day (Matthew 25:31–46). Jesus was the final sacrifice and His blood overcame death (Hebrews 10:1–18). Jesus gives us direct access to God (Hebrews 4:14–16; 10:19–23; Matthew 27:50–51). Jesus promised the indwelling Holy Spirit to all who put their faith in Him (John 16:7–15; Ephesians 1:13–14). He was authoritative in His teaching and powerful in His miracles. He rebuked the self-righteous leaders of the people (Matthew 23). Jesus welcomed little children and the outcast. He came as a servant who would "give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28) and was known as meek (Matthew 11:29).
Moses parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14) and Jesus calmed the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35–41) and even walked on it (Mark 6:45–52). Moses offered water to Jethro's daughters (Exodus 2) and Jesus offered water to the Samaritan woman (John 4). Moses fed the Israelites through the miracle of manna and quail (Exodus 16:35) and Jesus fed the 5,000 and the 4,000 by dividing loaves of bread and fish (Mark 6:30–44; 8:1–10). God gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai; Jesus promised to fulfill that Law (Matthew 5:17). In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7) Jesus gave a new law, expanding on the true essence of the Mosaic Law and addressing the importance of one's heart being right with God. John 1:17 says, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Jesus later told His disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34–35).
Both Moses and Jesus were close to God. Moses talked face to face with God and had to cover his face after because it was illuminated (Exodus 33:7–11; 34:29). Jesus is the Son of God and part of the Trinity. While on earth He experienced the transfiguration and His face shone brightly (Luke 9:28–36). Moses also appeared at the transfiguration. Moses initiated the Passover tradition so that the Israelites might remember how God delivered them from the Egyptians (Exodus 12). At a Passover meal Jesus instituted communion so that His followers would remember how His sacrifice saved them from their sins (Matthew 17:26–29).
Both Moses and Jesus came to save their people and were rejected by some of those very people. The Israelites grumbled against Moses in the wilderness on multiple occasions (Exodus 15:22–25; 16:2–12; 17:2–7). While Moses was on Mount Sinai the Israelites returned to their idol worship (Exodus 32). Jesus was rejected by the majority of the religious leaders as well as some in His hometown (Luke 4:16–30). When Jesus spoke about being the bread of life, many who had been following Him left (John 6:22–71). Judas, one of the twelve disciples, betrayed Him (Mark 14:10–11). Peter, who had witnessed the transfiguration and often professed his allegiance to Jesus (John 6:68–69; Matthew 16:13–20; Luke 22:31–34), denied knowing Him (John 18:15–18, 25–27). All the disciples fled when Jesus was arrested before the crucifixion (Mark 14:50).
The countless comparisons demonstrating the connection between Moses and Jesus is no coincidence. Moses was a savior of the Israelites intended to foreshadow the only true Savior—Jesus Christ. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery and to the Promised Land. Moses himself was not permitted to enter the Promised Land due to sin, though God showed him the land and buried Moses Himself (Deuteronomy 34). Jesus, on the other hand, frees us from the bondage of sin and makes a way for us to heaven. He will one day return to take us to dwell with Him forever (John 14:1–3; Acts 1:6–11; Philippians 3:20). After describing many faithful men and women, the writer of Hebrews says, "And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39–40). God's ultimate promise of salvation is made complete in Jesus Christ, and it will be fully realized when He returns (2 Peter 3:8–9; Revelation 19—22).
While there are numerous similarities between Moses and Jesus, there is one major difference: Moses was only human. Due to his faith in God he did many amazing things, but ultimately, he was still a sinner in need of forgiveness. Jesus, on the other hand, is both human and God. He lived a perfect life and defeated sin. It is through faith in Him that we can be forgiven and receive salvation. Let us not make the mistake of putting Moses on a pedestal, but rather look to the one he was pointing us to all along—Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus Christ?
Who was Moses in the Bible?
The Mosaic covenant – What is it?
What does it mean that Jesus is prophet, priest, and king?
The new covenant – What is it?
Truth about People in the Bible