The Unappreciated Leadership Of Moses

Posted by Dave

The Bible tells us that Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt. Their goal was Canaan, but – as it is commonly stated – they wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years before reaching that “land of milk and honey.” (40 is a very popular Biblical number. It also pops up again in the stories of Noah’s Ark and Jesus in the desert.)

But that’s not really what happened. At least – not necessarily.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. And apparently, the early Hebrews didn’t have much use for terms like “billion” and “trillion.” In fact, they seldom needed anything much bigger than – you guessed it – 40. So, their word for “40″ and their word for “many” (or “lots of”) was the same word. This means that Noah could have endured “many” days and nights of rain, but not necessarily exactly 40. And Moses – who spent 40 years in Egypt, 40 years as a shepherd, and then 40 in the Wilderness – may have had a less symmetrical life than we’ve been told. He could just as easily have spent “lots of” years doing those things.

This may be a case where Biblical scholars gave us an exact translation of the Hebrew, yet failed to convey the actual intent of the Torah writer.

So now the question arises, “Why did Moses wander for so long – however long it actually was?” And the answer is, because he was a good leader. It’s not that he didn’t know the way to Canaan, or that he was too stubborn to ask for directions. His people weren’t ready. (And I don’t mean that only in the Spiritual sense.)

You see, Canaan wasn’t vacant. In fact, it was pretty well full of local tribes who had absolutely no intention of simply handing over the keys to Jericho and Hazor without a fight. Moses needed time to turn a group of freed slaves into an army – a well-trained military force capable of laying siege, of winning pitched battles, and (most importantly) of following orders.

Sam Houston displayed similar leadership, leading up to the Battle of San Jacinto. Like Moses, he had to ignore complaints that sapped group morale, and to resist the temptation of committing his troops before they were ready. It made him extremely unpopular among his men – until they won the battle.

From time to time, you may have to exercise leadership in this same way. It means doing what you know is right, even when it’s unpopular. But real leaders don’t take their troops where they want to go – they take them where they need to go.

Even when it seems like it takes 40 years for them to see the wisdom in your plan.


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