Just curious over here. Is there any known sources for where Moshe Rabbeinu was in the break between him leaving Bais Pharaoh to the incident of the Sneh (the burning bush)?

I heard that there are Midrashim of him becoming a ruler in Ethiopia for some time, but I have never really heard much of his spiritual attainment to becoming the greatest Prophet ever to exist.

We know Yaakov Avinu learned in Shem V'Ever from the Midrashim and Yosef HaTzaddik lived with his father for some time before going to Mitzrayim and therefore was raised with Torah values. Moshe Rabbeinu, who (seemingly) had neither of these was able to become the greatest Prophet to exist and a leader of Klall Yisrael.

When? Where? How?

Is that acceptable to ask?

Sources will be appreciated.


3 Answers 3


I found a reference at Did Moshe have a son with Ethiopian Queen prior to Exodus and also Where Was Moses?


Scripture tells us that Moses left Egypt a young man, and yet he comes back an octogenarian. Where was he for all those years?


Yalkut Me’am Loez on Shemot 2:15. With more details: Yalkut Shimoni on Shemot, remez 168.


The Midrash fills in the gap with the following fascinating account:

Bilam was advisor to the king of Kush (Ethiopia) and rebelled and took over his city while he was fighting foreign rebels. Nine years after the king returned and started trying to retake the city, he died and Moshe was appointed king.

Moses was crowned king of Kush, and was also given the young widow of King Kinkos as a wife. However, since she was a descendant of Canaan, with whom marriage was prohibited to Abraham’s descendants, he was never intimate with her.

Moses remained there as king for forty full years, and during this period the nation prospered greatly. But the queen was unhappy. She approached the supreme council of Kush and said, “What have you done to me? I am the royal queen, but the king never even touches me. Moreover, he does not believe in our gods. A king should have the same religion as his subjects. Kinkos’ son is now mature, and he is experienced in running the government. It is time for him to be appointed king.”

The council heard her plea and agreed with her argument. The next day they voted to crown Kinkos’s son as king. Swearing that they would do him no harm, the council approached Moses and explained the situation. They gave him many gifts and sent him off with great honor, befitting a former king. Moses thus left Kush and settled in Midian.

  • The original Yalkut Shimoni can be found here: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14573&st=&pgnum=101 in the left column, continuing onto the next page. Note, this is also the incredible source for the story of King Arthur's Sword in the Stone! Although it's about Moshe and Yisro's daughter.
    – Chaim
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 13:26

The accounts of Moses going to Cush tend to vary and are a bit problematic. If you say that Moses went to Cush after murdering the Egyptian, he would not have had enough time to really settle a family with Zipporah in Midian. So of all the stories regarding Moses and Cush, the most "believable version" are the ones cited by Josephus and the Quran which state that while Moses was prince of Egypt he conquered Cush, married the queen (which then solves the issue of the "Cushite wife" in Numbers), and eventually went back to Egypt.

I believe that the simplest answer to your question is probably the correct one. Moses became great because Jethro taught him to be. There is a hint to how this would be possible in Genesis Rabbah, though it is contradicted in other midrashim (actually all the midrashim on account of Jethro contradict each other)

It is further said (Exodus Rabba l.c.) that Jethro, having remarked that the worship of an idol was foolish, abandoned it.[1] The Midianites therefore excommunicated him, and none would keep his flocks; so that his daughters were compelled to tend them and were ill-treated by the shepherds.

Source: http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8620-jethro#1035

If Jethro had become a monotheist, and was willing to give up being the head priest of the nation of Midian, he would be the best candidate to help Moses become great. And would explain why Moses continued to hold him in such high regard throughout the rest of the Torah.

  • How long does it take to "settle a family"? On a simple reading, they were a new couple, with one of their son's circumcision on the way back to Egypt. Plus only Gershom is recorded as born before then.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 20:53
  • @DoubleAA Not true that only gershom was born then. Shemoth 4:20 " וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת-בָּנָיו" he took his SONS. If he had sons in Misrayim, then he had to be there at least 2 years. Which throws off the timings since Moses was only supposed to be in exile 40 years, not at least 42
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 20:58
  • I said 'recorded as born' for a reason. It takes 1.5 years to have two kids, and there's reason to think one was a newborn. Plus we can speculate that בניו could be singular, as in ובני דן חשים. Plus 40 years could be a nice round number, as would be unsurprising from a midrash, no?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 21:00
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 21:54

There are no specific references to what Moshe Rabbeinu did from the time he fled Egypt to the time he arrived in Midian. However, there are those (such as Nechama Leibowitz) who discuss the three incidents which show his midos.

  1. He sees an Egyptian beating a "Jew" and steps in to protect the "Jew". This, however, could mean that he was trying to take advantage of his position and the "grandson" of Par'o to defend someone from the people of his origin.

  2. He sees two "Jews" fighting and steps in to separate them. Here again there could be an explanation since he is stepping in to prevent a dispute among his own people.

  3. He steps in to defend gentiles (the daughters of Yisro) from other gentiles (the shepherds. Here we see that he cannot restrain himself from attempting to enforce justice no matter who the two patters are and which one is in the wrong.

We see from the fact that after he marries Tziporah that he is still taking care of Yisro's sheep with no attempt to build a flock for himself (as with Lavan and Yaakov) that he does not care for position or money. It is these midos that cause Hashem to cal;l on him to lead the Bnei Yisral and free them.

While he was probably taught by his family (since he knew Aharon was his brother and the leader of Klal Yisrael), he did not have the time to learn all the knowledge that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov did.. He had to flee Egypt almost as soon as he "went out to his brothers".

Knowledge can be taught (as Moshe was taught during the 40 day on Sinai), but it is midos that allow someone to rise to greatness.

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