The story of Moses is one of the most pivotal in the Old Testament. Called by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Moses played a key role in the history of the Jewish people. But how old was Moses when he received his divine calling?
In this comprehensive article, we’ll examine the biblical accounts to uncover details about Moses’ age and life story.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: most biblical scholars believe Moses was around 80 years old when God first appeared to him in the burning bush and called him to liberate the Israelites from Egypt.
In the sections below, we’ll look at clues from the Book of Exodus and other sources to give context and paint a full picture of Moses’ age and life stages when he took on the monumental task God entrusted him with.
Moses’ Early Life in Egypt
Moses Was Born Into Hebrew Slavery in Egypt
Moses was born during a time when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. The Pharaoh at the time had ordered that all newborn Hebrew boys be killed, but Moses’ mother hid him for three months after his birth.
When she could hide him no longer, she put him in a papyrus basket and placed it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River, where he was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter.
She took pity on the Hebrew baby and adopted him as her own son, naming him Moses. As a member of the royal family, Moses was educated in Egyptian arts, science, and philosophy. He likely enjoyed a life of privilege and luxury in the palace that was a stark contrast to the lives of his fellow Hebrews who remained in bondage.
Moses Grew Up In the Egyptian Palace
Though raised as an Egyptian prince, Moses was aware of his Hebrew heritage. When he was around 40 years old, Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and was moved to intervene. He killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand.
When Pharaoh learned what Moses had done, he sought to kill him. Fearing for his life, Moses fled Egypt and went to Midian, where he stayed with a priest named Jethro. He ended up marrying Jethro’s daughter Zipporah and becoming a shepherd.
Moses lived as a shepherd for 40 years until God appeared to him in a burning bush and told him he had been chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Although Moses felt unworthy of the task, he obeyed God’s call and returned to Egypt to face Pharaoh.
After a series of 10 plagues, Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go, and Moses led them out of Egypt towards the Promised Land.
Moses’ Life in Midian Before God’s Call
Moses Flees Egypt After Killing an Egyptian Slavemaster
After Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s palace as an adopted son, he went out to see the suffering of his fellow Hebrews. When he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, Moses was so angered that he killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand (Exodus 2:11-12).
However, the next day Moses saw two Hebrews fighting and tried to make peace between them. Shockingly, one of them said “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14).
Moses realized that his deadly act had become known, so he fled from Pharaoh out of fear. This was a radical change in Moses’ life, as he went from living in the royal palace to becoming a fugitive.
Moses Marries and Works as a Shepherd in Midian
After fleeing Egypt, Moses ended up in Midian, an arid land east of the Gulf of Aqaba. There he met Jethro, a priest of Midian, whose seven daughters helped water their father’s flock. Some rude shepherds tried to drive Jethro’s daughters away from the well, but Moses defended them and watered their flock.
The daughters brought Moses home to meet their father, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses as a wife (Exodus 2:15-22). For decades, Moses lived a simple life as a shepherd caring for Jethro’s flock. This was an ironic change for someone who grew up in the Egyptian palace.
Yet through this humbling experience, God was preparing Moses’ heart for the great work ahead.
According to ancient Jewish historians like Josephus, Moses was about 40 years old when he fled Egypt. So Moses likely spent around 40 years in Midian shepherding before God called him from the burning bush at around 80 years old (Acts 7:30).
This prolonged time in the wilderness transformed Moses from a proud Egyptian prince to a humble shepherd ready to serve God. The patience, leadership, and trust in God that he learned as a shepherd would prove invaluable in leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
The Burning Bush: God Appears to Moses
The Angel of the Lord Appears to Moses in a Burning Bush
As Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.
Though the bush was on fire, it did not burn up. When Moses saw this strange sight, he thought, “I will go over and see this remarkable sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that Moses had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses responded, “Here I am.” God told Moses to take off his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground.
He then revealed his identity: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
God Reveals His Plan to Rescue the Israelites from Egypt
The Lord told Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land flowing with milk and honey.”
God then revealed his plan to send Moses to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
God assured Moses by saying, “And I will be with you when you speak to Pharaoh. Tell the elders of Israel that the Lord, the God of your fathers appeared to you—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” God further instructed Moses regarding what he must say to the elders and to Pharaoh.
He also promised Moses that after the Israelites leave Egypt, “You will worship God on this mountain.”
As expected, Moses raised several objections about his suitability for this task. But the Lord promised to be with Moses and empower him with signs to convince Pharaoh. The Lord also assured Moses that He would provide the words he should speak.
With God’s constant presence and power, Moses would lead the Israelites out of their misery in Egypt.
Moses Returns to Egypt as God’s Chosen Liberator
Moses Is 80 Years Old When He Returns to Egypt
After living in Midian for 40 years, Moses was now 80 years old when God called him to return to Egypt to liberate the Israelites. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and told him he had been chosen to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of slavery.
Though reluctant at first, Moses accepted this monumental calling. He was now ready to fulfill the purpose God had been preparing him for during his long exile.
Can you imagine how Moses must have felt returning to Egypt after so many years away? He had fled as a young man accused of murder. Now he came back as an octogenarian prophet with a divine mandate. Moses’ preparation through his life experiences allowed him to be an effective leader despite his advanced age.
His time in the royal courts gave him an understanding of Egyptian culture. His years as a shepherd hardened him to survive in the wilderness. God had perfectly orchestrated each season of Moses’ life to shape him into the deliverer the Israelites needed.
Moses and Aaron Demand the Israelites’ Release from Pharaoh
After reconnecting with his brother Aaron in Egypt, Moses and Aaron went together to appear before Pharaoh to demand he let the Israelites leave Egypt to worship their God in the wilderness. Pharaoh arrogantly refused, starting a power struggle between the earthly king and the heaven-appointed prophet that would unleash God’s astounding miracles and bring about both Israel’s liberation and Egypt’s devastation.
Aaron served as Moses’ spokesman because Moses argued he was “slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). As brothers working in tandem, Moses and Aaron courageously confronted the imposing Pharaoh, who considered himself a god, with God’s command to release His people.
This initial demand began the plagues God would use both to force Pharaoh’s hand and reveal His supremacy over Egypt’s false gods.
Pharaoh and Egypt would face calamity after calamity before finally allowing Israel to leave. Even then, Pharaoh would regret letting his forced labor force go and chase after them with his army – leading to God’s mighty intervention through the parting of the Red Sea.
But it all started with two brothers speaking God’s words – without fear and with unwavering faith in the God who had commissioned them.
Moses Leads the Exodus and 40 Years in the Wilderness
Moses Spends 40 Years Guiding Israelites Through the Wilderness
After freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt through miraculous plagues and parting the Red Sea, Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land.
This was a time of great hardship and testing, but also a time of incredible faith and provision by God.
Imagine traveling on foot with all your possessions, living in tents, dependent on manna from heaven and water from rocks for survival. It was not an easy journey! Yet God used this time to transform the Israelites from a ragtag group of slaves into a mighty nation, ready to conquer Canaan.
What patience and perseverance Moses must have had! Yet God also performed miracles like causing water to flow from a rock at Rephidim (Exodus 17:5-7), sending manna from heaven to feed the Israelites daily (Exodus 16), and causing Aaron’s staff to bud as a sign of his leadership (Numbers 17:8).
With God’s help, Moses was able to lead the people safely through the wilderness until they approached the Promised Land.
Moses Continues Leading Until His Death Around Age 120
Moses was already 80 years old when God first called him from the burning bush to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 7:7). Scholars estimate Moses was around 120 years old when he finally died before the Israelites entered Canaan.
So he dedicated the last 40 years of his life to guiding the Israelites through the wilderness.
Shortly before entering Canaan, Moses delivered his farewell speeches in Deuteronomy to prepare the people for the conquest of Canaan. He appointed Joshua as his successor and charged him to lead the people with courage and obedience to God’s laws (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).
Then Moses went up to Mt. Nebo where God showed him the Promised Land. Moses died at age 120 having completed his mission, leaving behind an incredible legacy of leadership that prepared Israel to flourish in Canaan.
|Moses’ Age at God’s Calling from the Burning Bush
|Around 80 years old (Exodus 7:7)
|Length of Time Leading Israelites in Wilderness
|Moses’ Age at Death Before Entering Promised Land
|Around 120 years old (Deuteronomy 34:7)
Moses’ perseverance and dedication to leading the Israelites until his final days is an inspirational example of lifelong commitment to the purpose God places on our lives. His leadership molded Israel into a mighty nation and fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham centuries before.
In examining key events from Moses’ life story, we can determine he was around 80 years old when God first appeared to him and called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Though Moses was born a slave, he spent his early years being educated in the Egyptian palace before fleeing after killing an Egyptian.
He then lived quietly as a shepherd in Midian for decades before receiving his divine calling. Moses played his pivotal role in Israelites’ history in his later years, demonstrating that God can call ordinary people to do extraordinary things regardless of age or background.
Moses’ story provides inspiration for people of all ages who feel called to a purpose or are awaiting a new chapter in life. His story shows that our age and stage of life do not limit what God can do through us. As Moses would discover, God equips those He calls, at exactly the right time and place.