Editor's Note: The following complete lesson set covering Bulrush to Burning Bush is from Jaymie Derden, State Street UMC, Bristol VA. It is part of a four-lesson set tour d force covering the entire Moses - Exodus story. Jaymie wrote and posted the 1st and 4th sets. For the 2nd and 3rd sets, she used other lessons here at Rotation.org
This first post includes the overview of her entire four-set series, including the Background and Discussion materials that apply to #1 Bulrush to Burning Bush.
Workshops (Lessons) for Rotation #1:
Moses and the Exodus ~ from Bulrushes to Burning Bush!
The following workshops can be seen and copied in the posts below this one.
- ART: Create a mosaic table that tells of Moses’ life.
- COMPUTERS: Review the events of the story in software (ILumina Bible CD now out of print); create an illustrated storybook using Exodus images from the Bible Clipart CD and Kid Pix Deluxe 4.
- COOKING: Children will create Moses in the Basket treats.
- DRAMA: Act out the story in four parts.
- GAMES/BIBLE SKILLS: Locate the story on the map, review the story with a life-sized board game.
- MUSIC and MOVEMENT: Listen and respond to several songs which tell the story. Learn about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
- VIDEO: View the Prince of Egypt.
See the following posts in this lesson topic for the lesson plans.
About our Four set lesson series on Moses & the Exodus
Below is the first in a series of four "rotations" (four-week lesson sets) on the life of Moses. A "rotation" is four to five Sunday morning lessons on the same story but with different workshops each week. In our church, we are teaching the 'entire' Exodus story, aka "Life of Moses" over four different rotations in this lesson plan.
- Rotation #1 covers Moses’ birth and early life including his rescue from the Nile, his education in Pharaoh’s court, his flight from Egypt to Midian, shepherd life, his call from God (Burning Bush experience) and his return to Egypt. (Posted below!!)
- Rotation #2 covers Plagues and Passover – and Escape from Egypt. (Not posted, we used other lessons from Rotation.org to cover this story, later updated to add a new workshop Plagues, Passover and Escape - Story Table Workshop.)
- Rotation #3 covers The 10 Commandments (Not posted, we used other lessons from Rotation.org to cover this story.)
- Rotation #4 covers The Wandering in the Wilderness – Ark of Covenant. (posted here at Rotation.org at https://www.rotation.org/topic...rom-state-street-umc)
Moses and the Exodus ~ Four-part Series Overview
God is with us! God sees, hears, knows, remembers and acts!
Exodus 1:1 through 4:31
“The Lord will not abandon his people; he will not desert those who belong to Him.” Psalm 94:14
Objectives and Life Applications for the Entire Four-Set Exodus Series
- Children will locate the story in their Bible.
- Children will retell the story in their own words.
- Children will identify the book of Exodus as a book of Law (3-6 grades).
- Children will identify Moses, Miriam, Jochebed, Aaron, Pharaoh, prophet.
- Children will recognize that life is a journey and that God is with us always, in good times and bad.
- Children will recognize that God helps us with problems.
- Children will learn to call on God to help them do the right thing even when it is hard.
- Children will learn that God is dependable and keeps his promises.
- Children will understand that God uses all kinds of people to do his work in the world.
- Children will understand that through God all things are possible!
- Children will locate the following areas on the map: Egypt, Nile River, Midian, Mt. Horeb/Sinai.
- Children will describe ways they can hear God’s voice today.
- Children will memorize Psalm 94:14.
The epic story of Moses is central to Israel’s identity. It is foundational to our faith as well. For Christians, it begins the description of God’s ultimate plan of salvation. It is a great story of the Providence of God. There is much that foreshadows the coming of Christ as the true deliverer! Older children can begin to see this, especially later in the rotation and in subsequent rotations as we discuss the Passover and the wanderings in the wilderness. Because this is such a HUGE story, we will spend several rotations studying it. During this first rotation, we will explore Moses’ birth during a time of great persecution and slaughter of Hebrew babies including his ironic rescue by Pharaoh’s daughter herself, his flight from Egypt to Midian, his life as a shepherd and his dramatic call from God through the burning bush.
The book of Exodus is the second book of the Old Testament, a book of Law, traditionally written by Moses himself or at the very least based on his writings and stories. The events of the Exodus are believe to have taken between 1450 and 1200 BC, depending on the sources read. Exodus means “going out.” The book of Exodus tells the story of how the Hebrew descendants of Joseph were delivered from slavery in Egypt. It tells of the dramatic confrontation between the God of the Hebrews and the ruler of Egypt. This book initiates the special relationship between God and the Hebrews as a people. The Hebrews now have an identity as a special “nation” led by God.
A dominant theme throughout the book of Exodus is God wins! God is greater than any human-made god – or any god-like ruler such as Pharaoh. We see that God has a great and ultimate plan – of salvation and delivery for the Hebrews and all people. The book gives us a profound insight into the nature of God, his presence, his glory, his character of mercy, justice, truthfulness, faithfulness, and holiness. We discover that God is a God who sees, hears, knows and remembers!
Exodus 1:1-22 – Rise of Egyptian Oppression and History of the Time.
There is great debate among scholars about the dates of the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus. The Bible does not give the Pharaoh’s individual names, making it difficult to determine exactly which ruler reigned during this time. Historians have traditionally believed the Pharaohs of the Exodus period were Seti I (1308-1290 B.C.) and his son Rameses II (1290-1224 B.C.) Newer archaeological investigation suggests that the Exodus might have taken place much earlier, during the reign of Ahmose or Amenhotep I(~1500-1450 B.C.). The two major events of this period were the series of spectacular cataclysms and the mass departure of a large group of people. There is no historical evidence that either of these events occurred during the later reigns. However, there is evidence for both earlier during Ahmose’s rule (or possibly Amenhotep I who followed Ahmose). A massive volcanic eruption on the Aegean island of Thera brought profound environmental and climatic changes to Egypt and a series of unprecedented disasters (plagues?). The Egyptian chronicler writes, “The Hyksos were defeated, driven out of all the rest of Egypt, and confined in a place called Avaris… [Later] no fewer than 240,000 entire households with their possessions left Egypt and traversed the desert to Syria.” This possible timeline is below:
2000 B.C. Egyptian Middle Kingdom
1870-1800 B.C. evidence for fluctuations in the Nile leading to changes in ownership of land – given to kings (described in Genesis during Joseph’s leadership)
Joseph appointed Egypt’s highest official
Joseph’s family settles in Egypt’s Nile Delta in the area of Goshen
1700 B.C. 2nd Intermediate Period
Semitic Asiatics tribes called Hyksos overrun Egypt, beginning in the Delta area. Establish Avaris as capital in Nile Delta (this city later becomes known as Ramesses)
Joseph and his family grow in numbers during this time.
1600 B.C. New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty
1550-1525 B.C. Pharaoh Ahmose reigns. He re-establishes Egyptian rule by conquering Avaris and enslaving the Hyksos who did not escape.
A huge mud-brick fortress is built in Avaris using slave labor.
A “new king” who had never heard of Joseph imposes slavery on the Hebrews.
A massive volcanic eruption on the island of Thera in the Aegean Sea sends ash and pumice to northern Egypt.
Avaris/Ramesses is abandoned.
? Moses and the Hebrews are allowed to leave Egypt.
The Bible account tells us that when Joseph’s family arrived in Egypt, they settled into an area in the west Nile delta, called Goshen. They multiplied in numbers until they reached an estimated two million! The rulers worried that the great Hebrew population would join forces with Egypt’s enemies and revolt. The first act of oppression was to enslave the adult males. Forced labor was not uncommon at this time, but tended to be seasonal. The enslavement of the Hebrews soon became a bitter, full-time subjection. This provided a steady source of free labor for the great Egyptian building projects. The Hebrews spent their days making bricks from clay, straw, and water. Despite enslavement, the Hebrews continued to grow in numbers. Then Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all Hebrew male babies at birth. This plan failed when the midwives revolted and refused to obey. Instead, they told Pharaoh that the Hebrew women were too vigorous and strong – they gave birth before the midwives arrived! The third and most vicious plan of destruction was next: Egyptian officials were ordered to throw newborn Hebrew boys into the Nile River. This is the setting in which Moses was born.
Exodus 2:1-10 – Birth, Rescue and Early Life of Moses.
Moses was from the tribe of Levi. His mother, Jochebed, gave birth to Moses and hid him for three months. When she was no longer able to hide him, she prepared a basket from bundles of dried papyrus (bulrushes), coated with pitch and placed him in the Nile. She appointed her daughter Miriam to watch and see what happened to the baby. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered and rescued the baby, realizing that he was a Hebrew child and having compassion on him. In God-style irony, she then hired the baby’s true mother to nurse the child! It is important to point out how God used these Old Testament women. At a time in history when women were often without rights and importance, these women: the midwives, Jochebed, Miriam, and Pharaoh’s daughter showed great courage.
After the child was weaned he was taken to live in Pharaoh’s court and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. There he was named “Moses.” The name Moses was a common Egyptian name meaning “son,” “boy,” or “is born.” The closest Hebrew translation of “Moses” was “to draw out” since he had been drawn out of the water. In the ancient near east, one’s name conveyed the essence of a person’s identity. Moses was “drawn out” of the water as a baby, but he would later “draw out” his people through the water as an adult!
Moses had the best of both worlds. As an infant, he had been placed with his mother to be nursed and steeped in Hebrew tradition and life. As a youth, he lived in Pharaoh’s court, experiencing the best in education and culture. Most likely Moses was trained as a scribe, in the arts of battle and in foreign languages. But Moses never lost his true identity as a Hebrew.
Exodus 2:15-22 – Moses Flees to Midian.
It is possible that Moses was tallying the number of completed bricks when he viewed the Egyptian overseer beating the Hebrew slave. Moses lost his temper and in a fit of violent rage killed the Egyptian. When Pharaoh discovers his act of treason, he seeks to kill Moses. Moses flees into the desert, traveling to the land of Midian. Midian was a land of semi-nomadic tribes, located to the east of the Gulf of Aqaba. Here Moses meets Jethro and marries his daughter Zipporah. They start a family and Moses settles into life as a quiet shepherd of Jethro’s large flocks. Some scholars believe Moses stayed in Midian for 40 years. There he lived in relative comfort and isolation, safe from the armies of Pharaoh and away from the suffering of his fellow Hebrews.
The life of a shepherd is a lonely existence. During these many years of isolation and solitude, Moses must have had a great deal of time alone for meditation. Wilderness experiences have long been times of reflection, testing, and preparation. Such was the case for Moses. Moses needed to know how to control his temper for the task God had in store for him. He needed to submit his will to God’s will. For Moses was about to become the shepherd of much more than sheep! He was about to become the shepherd of a group of some 2-3 million Hebrews!
Exodus 2:23-25 – God is going to act!
The conclusion of the second chapter brings us to a great climax! The Pharaoh who knew Moses is dead. The people groan and cry out in their misery. God sees. God hears. God KNOWS. God remembers his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! (The Hebrew word translated in this text actually means “paid attention to". God is going to act! Today, we understand that the God who cared and “paid attention to” the Hebrews in their anguish is there for all who suffer or are in bondage.
Exodus 3:1-10 – The Call!
Moses has been living a satisfied and contented life. Although he no doubt felt compassion for his people’s suffering, would this compassion alone have been enough to lead him to act? If so, why did it take 40 years for Moses to do something? One day Moses takes his father-in-law’s flocks to pasture on the sacred mountain – Mt. Horeb (felt by most scholars to be the same as Mt. Sinai). This mountain had been considered sacred from ancient times. While there, Moses sees an incredible sight. A bush appears to be burning. Moving closer, he discovers that the flames are not consuming the bush! Then he hears a voice coming from the bush. “Moses! Moses!” (In Hebrew literature, calling a name twice signifies intimacy – this is the God of personal relationships!) Fire is associated with God’s presence throughout the Bible and particularly in the Old Testament. Moses is warned not to come closer, for the ground is holy. Rabbi Steve Sager ( reference ) explains that Moses does not need to move any further to reach holy ground. He is standing on holy ground right now. “In other words, Moses is just fine where he is (and, as we will see later, as he is).” God then identifies himself – “I am the God of your father… of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” I have seen, I have heard, I know, I am concerned, I will deliver them, I will send. God’s words are active and forceful! God is calling out the new nation of Israel from their bondage so that they can serve and worship God! Before the Exodus, the people were known as Hebrews; after they were called Israel!
Moses removes his sandals and hides his face in reverence to a holy God.
Exodus 3:11-4:17 – The Excuses!
In one of the longest and most amazing conversations between God and man in the Bible, God reveals his plan to Moses. Moses listens but his anxiety level rises…and the excuses begin. Isn’t it interesting to see the reluctance of this great giant of the faith? God’s perseverance and patience show that he is willing to work with Moses (and us!) just as he is – to bolster his weaknesses, to help him throughout the journey. God once again, chooses unlikely people to do his work! Moses offers the following excuses:
- Who am I? I’m just a nobody shepherd, out here minding my own business. Perhaps at one time, while still in Pharaoh’s court, I had some influence, but now? What Moses fails to see is that his identity is more than who he was – God has been preparing him for 40 years for this task. God has used these years in the wilderness to deal with Moses’ pride and his temper, forming him into the kind of humble leader who looks to God for guidance. God’s response to Moses’ first excuse is, “I will be with you.” Moses is now “God with you.” He is not alone.
- Who are You? Tell me your name. What are your credentials? Remember, in Moses’ understanding, to know one’s name gives knowledge of one’s nature. It also was thought to give power over the other. Pagan gods never revealed their names because of this reason. But God is a personal God. He answers, “Yahweh.” Yahweh is the Hebrew name for God. Elohim is the word for God. God is personal – he has a name! The name Yahweh is written in Hebrew YHWH without vowels. The Jewish people believe the name of God is too holy to be spoken. This is usually translated into English as LORD. The root of the word comes from the verb “to be.” Thus this text is often translated, “I AM” or “I AM WHO I AM” or “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.” (Isn’t it interesting to think about the many times Jesus used the phrase “I AM” as he was describing himself!) The verb can also mean “to blow, sustain or maintain” which connotes God as Creator and Sustainer. In addition, God responds to Moses – I am the God of your father, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is the God of the Hebrew people -- the God who made those promises long ago – to God who does not forget his promises!
- But what if they don’t believe me? God gives Moses three miraculous signs to use to convince the Hebrews that he is God’s messenger:
a. Rod becomes a snake – In Egypt, the rod was a symbol of authority. The snake was a symbol of Pharaoh – a snake was typically used as a decoration on their headpieces.
b. Hand becomes leprous like snow - leprosy was often viewed in Old Testament times as a punishment for pride
c. Water from the Nile will turn to blood – Egypt’s prosperity depended on the Nile.
- But, God… I’m not good enough at speaking… Moses tells God that he is not a good speaker…although he certainly has no trouble arguing with God up to this point! God’s response: I will be with you. I will tell you what to say. I will give you the right words.
- Please, God, send someone else… God agrees to send Aaron, Moses’ brother, to be his spokesperson. God will speak to Moses and Moses will speak to Aaron. Aaron will tell the people what Moses says.
Exodus 4:18-31 – Moses Returns to Egypt.
We conclude this rotation with Moses’ journey back to Egypt. He meets up with Aaron and is successful at convincing the Hebrews about God’s plan. The Hebrews rejoice and worship together!
- Hearing God’s Call
There are some important life application points to make with the children. The Bible is full of examples of God speaking to his people in dramatic ways – burning bushes, dreams and visions, angel visitations, in clouds of smoke and pillars of fire… How do we hear God’s call today? How do we listen for God’s word in our own lives? Be sure the children understand that God is with us today, just as he was for Moses. He still speaks today! God’s voice is heard in many different ways:
- hymns, music in worship
- Sunday school – G.R.E.A.T. Adventure and Wednesday night programs
- Sacraments – baptism and communion
- Conscience (the “still small voice within us") – whenever we ask ourselves, “What is the right thing to do?”
- Making Excuses
Why do we make excuses? What prevents us from answering God’s call? Why do we resist when we know what we should do? We often make excuses to avoid responsibility or because of fear. Talk about who felt fear in this story. The Hebrews – when their babies were being killed. Who showed courage? (the midwives – who refused to kill the babies, Jochebed – who devised a plan to save her baby, even Pharaoh’s daughter who risked defying Pharaoh’s law to save a powerless Hebrew baby) Help the children understand that God helps us to act with courage even when we are afraid. (Recall the story of Esther and her courage despite her fear – her prayers and faith helped her). God helps us through our experiences. God will use everything that happens to us to help us grow. Gradually we grow in our ability to be more and more responsible. God is with us when we face challenges and obstacles. God wants us to choose the right path, to do the right thing. Sometimes this may mean standing up to others or going against the flow. Sometimes we may be afraid. But God is with us. He sees, he hears, he knows, he remembers, he acts!
- God’s Plan (Providence)
Why would a loving and merciful God allow his people to be enslaved for 400 years in Egypt in the first place? During this time, the Promised Land was a huge battlefield with great hordes of conquering armies moving across the land. What would have happened to a tiny band of people in that situation? Instead, God allowed the Hebrews to be safe in Egypt, to grow and multiply. Even during their slavery and suffering, God was at work – accomplishing his plan. (Remind the children of Romans 8:28 – All things work together for good to those who love God who are called according to His purpose.)
- Our Abilities and Our Limitations
God has given each of us different talents and abilities. God wants us to use those abilities to do good in the world, to do what God wants us to do. When God calls us to do something, he equips us with the abilities needed to do the job. Just as God equipped Moses, God will equip us with what we need! When God gives us an opportunity we should take advantage of it! Our experiences will help us grow. On the other hand, we all have limitations. God wants us to understand what we can and cannot do. God wants us to be willing to accept his help. Sometimes God will use our weaknesses to help us do something very much greater than we could have ever done on our own. (Just like he did with Moses!)
- Accept Discipline
God does not like pride. God wants us to be humble and willing to obey. We have to face the consequences of our actions – Moses had to leave his home because he lost his temper and killed the Egyptian. Moses spent 40 years in the Midian wilderness as a result of this rash action.
- Sometimes we are Disappointed
God has not promised that the Christian life will be free of pain, suffering or disappointment. God often uses difficulties and hardships in our lives to prepare us for service later on. (just like being a shepherd in the wilderness prepared Moses) God has promised to be with us always, to lead us and guide us and to love us forever!
Schoville, Keith. Cokesbury Basic Bible Commentary – Exodus and Leviticus. Graded Press, 1988.
Invitation Bible Studies. Graded Press, 1989, 1992.
Richards, Laurence O. Bible Teacher’s Commentary. CO: Cook Communications Ministries, 2002.
Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church – Faith Quest Leader’s Bible Study. http://www.kirkofkildaire.org
Napier, David. Layman’s Bible Commentary. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1963.
Murphy, Michaela. Egypt – Exploring Ancient Civilizations. Carthage IL: Teaching and Learning, 2002.
Walton, John and Victor Matthews and Mark Chavalas. IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament. IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
Disciple: Into the Word Into the World Study Manual. Nashville: Cokesbury, 1991.
Wilson, Ian. The Bible is History. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 1999.
Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993.
More Important Notes to the Teacher
Each workshop begins with the Bible story. One of the primary goals is to improve the children’s Bible literacy! If children did not bring their Bibles from home, use the classroom Bibles. Shepherds should help the children locate the stories. Use the handout “Helping Children Learn to use their Bibles” and Background information to help you introduce the story.
** Remember, that as the rotation progresses, the children will become familiar with the story. When this happens, allow the children to tell you what they know. The children should still locate the story in their Bibles every week. Use the bold headings in their Bibles to guide your discussion. You can then fill in any missing information and add additional details using the Background information. One of the greatest advantages of this model is that the children who come regularly learn the story in great depth.
A lesson set from State Street United Methodist Church, Bristol, Virginia. This lesson created and copyrighted by State Street UMC, Bristol, VA, 2003. Permission granted for non-commercial, local church use, provided credit is give to the source.