Was Moses’ Authority “Delegated Authority”


I have read on several occasions in the writings of christian authors the claim that Moses was a “delegate(d) authority” of God.  This writing intends to clarify the definition of “delegate authority” and then to show that Moses was not a “delegate(d) authority” to the extent that some assume.  In fact, the level of delegation was much smaller than what I have understood modern christian teachers and leaders to presume.

It would be better to introduce a new concept to describe Moses’s authority.  I have found one author who has done this and I believe his authorship on Moses is the best I have come across to date.

Giving full credit to this author, I intend to expand on portions of his writing that are related to Moses and Moses’s authority to show how God’s authority can be thought about in the church age.  I will not put forward a clear model of how to wield God’s authority because I do not believe I am clear enough yet to do that.

However, I will attempt to identify errant views and show the problems in these errant views.  This is not an attack on any person, but against a concept that I believe runs counter to the mind of God.

In summary, it is put forward by some in christian leadership that Moses was a “delegate authority” of God and he established a pattern for leadership in the future.  In modern terms, this has resulted in some pastors, priests and/or elders internally presuming or externally claiming that they should be listened to and/or obeyed because they are God’s “delegate authority” within a particular gathering of believers.

Once you study Moses and all of his interactions with God and the children of Israel closely, the idea that he thought of himself as a “delegate authority” as some do in the modern church, becomes quite far fetched.

Subjects to Be Addressed

  • Core definitions of delegate(d)/delegation and authority
  • What are the components of delegation which will allow us to measure the extent of delegation from God to Moses?
  • What can we see about the type and amount of delegation of authority to Moses through each interaction between God, Moses and the children of Israel as they wandered through the wilderness?
  • Does using the word “delegate” improperly convey to a sufficient extent the level of authority Moses wielded on God’s behalf to cause us to evaluate using an entirely different word?

Definition – Delegate

  1. (Noun) Person designated to act for or represent another or others; deputy; representative, as in a political convention.
  2. (Verb) To send or appoint (a person) as a deputy or representative
  3. (Verb) To commit (powers, functions, etc) to another as agent or deputy

Moses Interactions

Here is an exhaustive review of Moses’ interactions with the children of Israel.

1. Moses & Aaron Sent to Pharaoh

GOD SPOKE (to Moses): Exodus 3:10 (LEB) – And now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh, and you must bring my people, the Israelites, out from Egypt.”

GOD SPOKE (to Aaron): Exodus 4:27 (LEB) – And Yahweh said to Aaron, “Go to the desert to meet Moses.” And he went and encountered him at the mountain of God and kissed him.

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 5:1 (LEB) – And afterward, Moses and Aaron went, and they said to Pharaoh, “Thus says Yahweh the God of Israel, ‘Release my people so that they may hold a festival for me in the desert.’ ”

2. Moses Speaks to Children of Israel

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 6:1–8 (LEB) – 1 And Yahweh said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, because with a strong hand he will release them, and with a strong hand he will drive them out from his land.” 2 And God spoke to Moses, and he said to him, “I am Yahweh. 3 And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Shaddai, but by my name Yahweh I was not known to them. 4 And I not only established my covenant with them to give to them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, in which they dwelt as aliens, 5 but also I myself heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are making to work, and I remembered my covenant. 6 Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the forced labor of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their slavery, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great punishments. 7 And I will take you as my people, and I will be your God, and you will know that I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out from under the forced labor of Egypt. 8 And I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am Yahweh.”

3. Moses & Aaron Set to Speak to Pharaoh

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 7:1–2 (LEB) – 1 And Yahweh said to Moses, “See, I have made you as a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother will be your prophet. 2 You will speak all that I will command you, and Aaron your brother will speak to Pharaoh, and he will release the Israelites from his land.

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 7:6 (LEB) – And Moses and Aaron did it; as Yahweh commanded them, so they did.

4. Moses & Aaron Address Pharaoh

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 7:8–9 (LEB) – 8 And Yahweh said to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 9 “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Do a wonder for yourselves,’ you will say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it before Pharaoh, and it will become a snake.’ ”

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 7:10 (LEB) – And Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and they did so, as Yahweh had commanded. And Aaron threw his staff before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a snake.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 7:14-20

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 7:20 (LEB) – 20 And Moses and Aaron did so, as Yahweh had commanded, and he raised the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile before the eyes of Pharaoh and before the eyes of his servants, and all of the water that was in the Nile was changed to blood.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 8:1-5

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 8:6 (LEB) – And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs went up and covered the land of Egypt.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 8:16 (LEB) – And Yahweh said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the land, and it will become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’ ”

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 8:17 (LEB) – And he did so, and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and he struck the dust of the land, and it became gnats on the humans and on the animals; all of the dust of the land became gnats in all the land of Egypt.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 8:20-23, 9:1-6
* In these cases, there are no verses that explicitly show that Moses & Aaron did what God commanded, but implicitly we can tell that they did because of Pharaoh’s reactions.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 9:8-9 (LEB) – 8 And Yahweh said to Moses and to Aaron, “Take for yourselves full handfuls of soot from a smelting furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heavens before the eyes of Pharaoh. 9 And it will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and it will become on humans and on animals a skin sore sprouting blisters in all the land of Egypt.”

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 9:10 (LEB) – And they (Moses & Aaron) took the soot of the smelting furnace, and they stood before Pharaoh, and Moses sprinkled it toward the heavens, and it became skin sores sprouting blisters on humans and on animals.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 9:13-22

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 9:23 – And Moses stretched out his staff to the heavens, and Yahweh gave thunder and hail, and fire went to the earth, and Yahweh caused hail to rain on the land of Egypt.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 10:1–2 (LEB) – 1 And Yahweh said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart insensitive and the heart of his servants in order to put these signs of mine in his midst, 2 so that you will tell in the ears of your child and your grandchild that I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and so that you will tell about my signs that I have done among them, and so you will know that I am Yahweh.”

MOSES & AARON RESPONDED: Exodus 10:3 (LEB) – And Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and they said to him, “Thus says Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Until when will you refuse to submit before me? Release my people so that they may serve me.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 10:12 (LEB) – And Yahweh said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt with the locusts so that they may come up over the land of Egypt, and let them eat all the vegetation of the land, all that the hail left behind.”

MOSES RESPONDED: Exodus 10:13 (LEB) – And Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and Yahweh drove an east wind into the land all that day and all night. The morning came, and the east wind had brought the locusts.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 10:21 (LEB) – And Yahweh said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the heavens so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt and so that a person can feel darkness.”

MOSES RESPONDED: Exodus 10:22 (LEB) – And Moses stretched out his hand toward the heavens, and there was darkness of night in all the land of Egypt for three days.

5. God Establishes Passover & Initial Exodus

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 12:1-20 – God describes the Passover feast

MOSES RESPONDED: Exodus 12:21 (LEB) – And Moses called all the elders of Israel, and he said to them, “Select and take for yourselves sheep for your clans and slaughter the Passover sacrifice.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 12:43-49 (LEB) – And Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: No foreigner may eat it. (More…)

PEOPLE RESPONDED TO MOSES & AARON’S RELAYED COMMAND FROM GOD: Exodus 12:50–51 (LEB) – 50 And all the Israelites did as Yahweh had commanded Moses and Aaron; so they did. 51 And it was on exactly this day Yahweh brought the Israelites out from the land of Egypt by their divisions.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 13:1–2 (LEB) – 1 And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Consecrate to me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the Israelites, among humans and among domestic animals; it belongs to me.”

MOSES RESPONDED: Exodus 13:3-16 (LEB) – 3 And Moses said to the people, “Remember this day when you went out from Egypt, from a house of slaves, because with strength of hand Yahweh brought you out from here, and food with yeast will not be eaten.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 14:1–2 (LEB) – 1 And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the Israelites so that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; before Baal Zephon, which is opposite it, you will camp by the sea.

MOSES RESPONDED: Exodus 14:4b (LEB) – … And they did so.

6. After Crossing the Red Sea

THE PEOPLE GRUMBLE: Exodus 15:24 (LEB) – And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

MOSES INTERCEDES WITH GOD: Exodus 15:25a (LEB) – And he cried out to Yahweh, and Yahweh showed him a piece of wood, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

GOD RESPONDED AND MOSES ACTED: Exodus 15:25b–26 (LEB) – 25 And he cried out to Yahweh, and Yahweh showed him a piece of wood, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There he made a rule and regulation for them, and there he tested them. 26 And he said, “If you carefully listen to the voice of Yahweh your God and you do what is right in his eyes and give heed to his commands and you keep all his rules, then I will not bring about on you any of the diseases that I brought about on Egypt, because I am Yahweh your healer.

THE PEOPLE GRUMBLE: Exodus 16:2–3 (LEB) – 2 And all the community of the Israelites grumbled against Moses and against Aaron in the desert. 3 And the Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread until we were full, because you have brought us out to this desert to kill all of this assembly with hunger.”

GOD GIVES THE MANNA FROM HEAVEN: Exodus 16:4-5; Exodus 16:11-14; Exodus 16:28-29

MOSES INSTRUCTS THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL: Exodus 16:6-10; Exodus 16:15-16; Exodus 16:19; Exodus 16:23; Exodus 16:25-26; Exodus 16:32-34

THE PEOPLE GRUMBLE: Exodus 17:2–3 (LEB) – 2 And the people quarreled with Moses, and they said, “Give us water so that we can drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test Yahweh?” 3 And the people thirsted for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why ever did you bring us up from Egypt to kill me and my sons and my cattle with thirst?”

MOSES APPEALS TO GOD: Exodus 17:4 (LEB) – 4 And Moses cried out to Yahweh, saying, “What will I do with this people? A little longer and they will stone me.”

GOD INSTRUCTS MOSES AND MOSES DOES IT: Exodus 17:5–6 (LEB) – 5 And Yahweh said to Moses, “Go on before the people and take with you some from the elders of Israel, and the staff with which you struck the Nile take in your hand, and go. 6 Look, I will be standing before you there on the rock in Horeb, and you will strike the rock, and water will come out from it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel.

8. Jethro (Moses’ Father-in-Law) Gives Advice*

*Here is a unique item. See/Read Exodus 18. God does not command Moses directly. Moses’ father-in-law consults with Moses and recommends that Moses implement a new approach that will allow for many things to be addressed without Moses being involved in every situation of the Children of Israel.

9. Israel at Mount Sinai

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 19:3–6, 9a (LEB) – 3 And Moses went up to God, and Yahweh called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you will say to the house of Jacob and you will tell the Israelites, 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and I brought you to me. 5 And now if you will carefully listen to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be a treasured possession for me out of all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, 6 but you, you will belong to me as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you will speak to the Israelites.”

9 And Yahweh said to Moses, “Look, I am going to come to you in a thick cloud in order that the people will hear when I speak with you and will also trust in you forever.

MOSES RESPONDED: Exodus 19:7–9b (LEB) – 7 And Moses came and called the elders of the people, and he placed before them all these words that Yahweh had commanded him. 8 And all the people together answered and said, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do.” And Moses brought back the words of the people to Yahweh. 9 … And Moses told the words of the people to Yahweh.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 19:10–13 (LEB) – 10 And Yahweh said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. They must wash their clothes, 11 and they must be prepared for the third day, because on the third day, Yahweh will go down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people. 12 And you must set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Guard yourselves against going up to the mountain and touching its edge. Anyone touching the mountain will certainly be put to death. 13 Not a hand will touch it, because he will certainly be stoned or certainly be shot; whether an animal or a man, he will not live.’ At the blowing of the ram’s horn they may go up to the mountain.”

MOSES RESPONDED: Exodus 19:14–15 (LEB) – 14 And Moses went down from the mountain to the people, and he consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day. Do not go near to a woman.”

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 19:20–24 (LEB) – 20 And Yahweh went down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, and Yahweh called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 And Yahweh said to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to Yahweh to see and many from them fall. 22 And even the priests who come near Yahweh must consecrate themselves, lest Yahweh break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to Yahweh, “The people are not able to go up to Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’ ” 24 And Yahweh said to him, “Go, go down, and come up, you and Aaron with you and the priests, but the people must not break through to go up to Yahweh, lest he break out against them.”

MOSES RESPONDED: Exodus 19:25 (LEB) – 25 And Moses went down to the people, and he told them.

GOD SPOKE: Exodus 20-24:2 – Ten commandments and additional regulations from God

MOSES AND CHILDREN OF ISRAEL RESPONDED: Exodus 24:3-4, 7-8 (LEB) – 3 And Moses came, and he told the people all the words of Yahweh and all the regulations. And all the people answered with one voice, and they said, “All the words that Yahweh has spoken we will do.”
7 And he took the scroll of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do, and we will listen.” 8 And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and he said, “Look, the blood of the covenant that Yahweh has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

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