Someone said that Moses was a mass murderer having killed thousands of of his own people out of anger and frustration. Where in the Bible does it state this, if anywhere?

  • 12
    In my experience, people who throw around sensationalistic descriptions like "mass murderer" are looking for a fight, not an answer. It would probably be safer to have someone substantiate that claim with some details instead of relaying only the emotionally-worded charge against him.
    – mojo
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:07

3 Answers 3


It doesn't and he didn't.

It does say he killed A man. And murder is murder whether you kill one or a thousand, so he was a murderer.

Exodus 2:12 (ESV)
12  He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

In my experience, the accusation of 'mass-murder' usually stems from a gross misinterpretation of the Exodus story caused by the presupposition that God was not involved.

If you rule out supernatural intervention, the plague episodes and the Red Sea drownings become folk tales. While nobody expects all the details of such legends to be real, they do assume such tales were based of a 'kernel of truth', and in this case that must have been a temperamental, vindictive and cruel Moses who terrorized the Egyptians in order to achieve his own political ends. It's amazing how twisted a story Exodus becomes if you do not assign God the role he claims for himself in the narrative.

  • very insightful!
    – Rick
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 11:29
  • 1
    I think you are omitting the Exodus 32 incident. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 17:59
  • @DJClayworth I think it falls under the same general bracket (either "thus sayeth the Lord" means something or the whole story is nonsense), although it wouldn't hurt to mention it just in case that's the specific incident somebody has in mind.
    – Caleb
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 19:46
  • 2
    @Darryl Moses killed one man against God's law -- that made him a murderer. Moses gave the command to kill thousands according to God's law -- that made him God's appointed judge. Are you calling our civil judges mass murderers who sentence people to the death penalty?
    – Steve
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 13:35
  • 1
    "If some judge..." God is not "some judge." Idolatry is punishable by death. Moses was zealous in carrying out God's law (Exod. 20:3-5). All the Israelites heard this at Mt. Sinai.
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 3:27

This might be the instance referred to:

Exodus 32:25-28 (NASB)
Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies—then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’ ” So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.

This could hardly be described as him killing people out of anger and frustration, though. The punishment for idolatry was (to be) execution. God himself considered their actions worthy of death, just before Moses came down the mountain:

Exodus 32:9-10 (NASB)
"I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them."

After Moses asks God not to destroy the entire nation, he comes down the mountain and witnesses first-hand what they are doing. When Moses gives the command for those loyal to the LORD to start killing people, he even says that it is God's command: "Thus says the LORD." The deaths of these thousands come at the command of God, not from Moses, the man who just prior to this had pleaded with God not to destroy the entire nation.

As for being a "mass murderer," we would need to settle on a specific definition for me to make a specific defense. Generally, though, to be a mass murderer, one would have to have committed murder (which, by definition, is an unjustified killing), and none of these incidents could be described as killing people without justification. There's also the matter of Moses' actions being directed by God, who is a good judge regarding guilt and innocence.

The text doesn't provide us with any evidence to support the claim that Moses was any sort of mass murderer.

  • Thank you. That was most certainly what was being referred to. Weird that this fact seems to be relatively unknown by many.
    – Darryl
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:27
  • @mojo based on the OP's response here, it would be awesome if you had time to expand this to explain why this incident does not have the implications he wants to saddle it with. How does this not make him a mass murderer?
    – Caleb
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 9:04
  • In Numbers 31 he commanded his army to kill all Midianite men and non-virgin women and for the virgin girls, “keep for yourselves. Commented May 13, 2022 at 20:24
  • @RobertF.Dickerson, In that passage, Moses is acting on God's command (Nu 31:2). The explicit command does not include details, but it is reasonable to conclude (by lack of divine rebuke) that Moses was "commanding" what God wanted.
    – mojo
    Commented May 16, 2022 at 15:05

Moses first killed a Egypt soldier, then by Exodus 32:27–28 killed 3000 men, then he and Aaron have killed two hundred and fifty men related with Korach. In total written 3251 kills by Moses. Then Numbers 31:14-18 it is not documented how many children and woman killed Moses. Then the genocide of 60 cities, Deuteronomy 3:2-7. And of course, first born babies Exodus 11:4

  • If you just want to criticize a text, at least read and comment on what it actually says. This is not what the the Bible says (and you have nothing else on which to base these numbers). Moses didn't kill all the first born. He didn't even order it. He just bore the warning from God that it was going to happen. Same with most of these other cases. Moses was a murderer, but this accounting is representative of neither history nor the Bible's account nor Christianity's beliefs. As such I'm not sure what it's doing as an answer here at all.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 7:14
  • Hi and welcome to the site! Please take time to review our site guidelines in our help centre and edit your posts to meet them if possible. Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 10:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .