Demonstration Role-Play: The Sin of Moses
This teacher training lesson plan can be adapted for classroom use.
1 Introduce the aim.
This is a bible story that teaches us to use our personal power in a way that pleases God.2 Ask an introductory question.
An introductory question is one that gives your students a reason for participating in the role play lesson.
Ask, “If you were president for a day, what is the first thing you would do?” Invite students to share their answers. Then, tell them we will role play The Sin of Moses. After we perform the role play, we will see if anyone wants to change his or her answer to the introductory question.3 Add the historical context.
An essential teaching method for religion teachers is to help students understand why a particular bible story story is important. We do this by identifying the problem among the people in that time and place. And then, we show God’s response to the problem.
Become a storyteller. Ask your students to enter the scene.4 Before reading the text, set the scene. Explain that it describes an event in the story of the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the Sinai desert. The date is sometime between 1350 B.C. and 1250 B.C. It was during those years that Yahweh began teaching the Israelites how to be His People.
Read the bible story aloud.
Numbers 20:1-14 and Deut. 34:1-5
What follows is a step-by-step procedure for doing walk-throughs for four scenes. This biblical text is one of the most important lessons of the bible. Though somewhat complex, you will be just fine if you follow the given sequence.
Do not rush the walk-through. This is the critical element of role playing. Role play is an important teaching method for a religion teacher to master because the walk-through is where much of the actual learning takes place.
As each actor learns their character’s feelings and concerns–and finds ways to express his/her emotions through voice and gestures–he or she becomes that ancient person. This process of “becoming the person you portray” is the educational process. It causes the student to more effectively absorb the teaching of the bible story.6 Explain the staging.
The front of the room will become the “stage.” Your students will role play the Israelites. You will be the stage director and help them learn their movements and dialog. For each scene, first there will be a walk through. Then, the actors will perform the scene.7 Select the actors.
The characters are: God, Moses, Aaron, and the group of Hebrews. For God and Moses, pick good readers with strong voices.8 Provide props and materials.
- One paper cup in each “tent” (desk).
- A staff (long broomstick).
- A robe (solid color, dark bathrobe with a rope-belt).
- A megaphone made from a paper towel roll.
- “Water” (a large sheet of blue paper cut to resemble a stream).
- Copies of the script, The Sin Of Moses, for ‘Moses’ and ‘God.’ (Download options are located further down this page.)
Turn your classroom into the place where the role play, the Sin of Moses, will occur. The floor is the desert floor. Draw a large rock on the blackboard. The desks are tents. Seat one Israelite in each tent. Place two tents, one for ‘Moses’ and one for ‘Aaron’ at stage right. ‘God’ is out of sight in His tent (under the teacher’s desk) at stage center. Lay the staff across the desk.10 Coach the actors.
Storyteller: Invite students to develop the story.
The Israelites blame Moses for all their hardships. They wished they had remained in Egypt.
Many complaints are provided in the text in Numbers. Ask each actor to imagine what it is like to be in a hot desert with no water. “How do you feel toward Moses when you are tired, thirsty, hungry and fear that your children, their pets and your livestock are dying?”
The more questions you ask each actor about the harsh conditions and their character’s feelings, the better they will understand the story and their role within it. Finally, ask each actor to decide on a complaint he will bring to Moses in Scene 1. Ask your students to offer ideas to one another.11 Compliment your actors often as they create their dialog.
Compliments are a powerful teaching method for religion teachers. Your praise will energize your students and increase their enthusiasm for their performance. Never criticize a student in front of other people.
Role Play Script: The Sin Of MosesView & Print Script Download
Scene 1 – The People Protest
First, do a walk-through of the scene.
You may choose to “pump up” your actors. Encourage vigorous expression. It makes the role play more fun.
‘Moses’ and ‘Aaron’ are seated together. The ‘Israelites’ approach Moses in twos and threes. Practice aggressive postures: shaking their fists, hands on hips, etc. Each actor in the role play assaults Moses with his complaint. Moses sympathizes. He tells each he will ask Yahweh for help.
Perform Scene 1.
Scene 2 – Telling God The Problem
Do the walk-through.
Moses and Aaron move to stage center and stop alongside God’s tent. ‘Yahweh’ is out of site behind the teacher’s desk. All of Yahweh’s lines are spoken through the cardboard megaphone.
Continue to create the bible role play: Aaron and Moses relay the complaints of the people to God. Aaron should do most of the talking. Yahweh expresses concern and instructs Moses to take the staff, call the people together, and command the rock to give forth a generous stream of water.
Perform Scene 2.
Scene 3 – Moses Boasts Before The People
Do the walk-through.
Moses calls to the Israelites and asks them to gather before him. Aaron is at his side. Group the Israelites stage left as they arrive. Instruct each Israelite to think of three comments to say:
- First, a sarcastic comment when the water does not flow.
- Second, an exclamation of joy for the water.
- Third, an expression of gratitude to Moses for the water.
Moses speaks to the people. He walks tall and throws out his chest as he faces the Hebrews. As he brags, ask Moses to emphasizes the words, “rebels,” and “we.”
“Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock for you?”
Then Moses approaches the rock drawn on the blackboard and strikes it.
The crowd is silent for a moment. Then people start to jeer and deliver their sarcastic remarks.
Invite your actors to describe Moses’ feelings. (He was so tired of their complaints that he was overcome by a surge of anger. To silence them, he needed to make the rock give water.)
Moses strikes rock again, harder.
Teacher tapes the blue paper, cut in the shape of a stream, to the rock on the blackboard.
The people rush to the ‘water.’ They fill their cups with pretend water. Some drink right away. Some pour it over their heads. Playfully, they splash it on one another.
Then, to each other, the people express their joy for the water.
Finally, as they return to their tents, they stop before Moses, bow to him, and thank him profusely.
Moses and Aaron are all smiles. They enact a dramatic high-five.
Perform Scene 3.
Scene 4 – God Admonishes Moses
Explain to your actors that God is unhappy with Moses. Instead of speaking to the rock as instructed, he struck it not once, but twice! Yahweh’s anger puzzles Moses. What’s the big deal?
Moses and Aaron are standing near the rock when God calls to Moses.
(Speaks from behind the desk in a stern voice.)
Moses, why did you boast that you would cause the rock to give water? Why did you strike the rock? What command did I give you?
(Thinks, scratches his head.)
My Lord, You told me to tell the rock to give water.
Yes, Moses. I told you to speak to the rock, not to strike it.
Ohhh… I don’t know why I struck the rock, Lord. (Pause.) Remember years ago at Rephidim when we had no water? You told me to strike a certain rock with my staff. Maybe I did the same here.
Who made the water come from the rock? Did you think your striking it would cause water to flow? Who is the servant, and Who is the Lord?
Oh, my Lord, I was so angry! The people were shouting insults and I did not think. Lord, I am a strong willed man and sometimes I act impulsively. (Pause.) My Lord, (Pause.) You made me that way.
That is true. But Moses, I also made you capable of controlling your emotions. And, you failed to do so. The leader of My Kingdom on earth cannot allow his anger to separate himself from Me.
My Lord, I do not know why You are so upset. What difference does it make if I spoke to the rock or if I struck it?
Because of your boast, because you struck the rock so vigorously, My People believe the water came from your power. Now, they bow to you, not Me.
Oh, My Lord, I am sorry. Please forgive me.
I accept your apology. But acting as if you are God is a serious sin. And so, with great regret, I must say to you: you will not lead My People into the Promised Land.
My Lord, that is too harsh! For 80 years I have served You faithfully. How can You deny me this reward?
Yes, you have served Me well, Moses. But today, not only did you strike the rock, you also resorted to name-calling. That is when I realized your time as the leader of My People has ended.
(Does not realize what he did.)
(Moses shakes his head.)
Yes. Today you called My People ‘rebels.’
(God pauses. Then, thoughtfully:)
You are an impulsive man Moses, but you are also a very good and loyal man. You deserve a rich reward. I will do this much: there is a mountain near the border. We will go to the top of Mount Nebo together. From there, you will see the Promised Land.
…But another man, Joshua, will lead My People into the Promised Land. Will you be content with that?
Yes Lord. That will satisfy me.
Tomorrow then. Come to Me at dawn.
(Moses bows, walks to his tent and sits down.)
Perform Scene 4.
Questions are an invaluable teaching method for religion teachers because they stimulate thinking. Use a variety of questions. Select the questions that are best for your age group. Please see my commentary The Power of Questions.
1. Questions To Gain KNOWLEDGE
What was the Sin of Moses? (Moses acted as if he were God, as if he were the one with the power. The Sin of Moses is the constant temptation of leaders.)
Define sin. (Anything that fractures a relationship.)
What was the Revelation delivered by the story? (Do not seize power from God.)
2. Questions For UNDERSTANDING
How did Moses feel toward the people?
Do you think the people were justified in the way they felt toward Moses?
Why was God so offended by name-calling that he removed Moses from his leadership position? (Name-calling was a sign that Moses had become emotionally separated from the Israelites. He was no longer their friend. Name-calling is abusive.)
Why was it important that Moses admit his sin and request forgiveness. (Moses blamed God for making him strong-willed. He needed to take personal responsibility for his actions. If he did not own the sin, he would repeat it.)
3. Questions for ANALYSIS
Relate God’s rebuke of Moses to the words, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Why does God want people to be aware, always aware, that He is the source of their power and that this power must be used for the good of the group? (People who assume power for themselves, tend to abuse it. They tend to hurt people. Discuss the villains in television shows, films and books. The villains always seize control and usually use their power in a way that hurts others.)
A 7th grade boy once blurted out, “If I always do God’s Will, I’ll never do anything for myself.” Ask students if they share this worry. (At some point explain the difference between selfishness that harms and solitary activities that do no harm.)
(Remind your students that often, God’s Will and our will are the same. God wants us to enjoy life. That’s why He created beaches, ski slopes, flowers and watermelons. True happiness comes from doing God’s Will.)
Why do you suppose God forbade Moses to enter the Holy Land? (Make clear that we never know the mind of God, but we can speculate. I think it may have been a public act intended to impress Joshua, Moses’ successor, with the need to stand under God.)
4. Questions For APPLICATION
Were you surprised that God was so disturbed when Moses called the Israelites, rebels? Is name-calling such a big deal? (You betcha! It fractures a relationship.) Has anyone called you a nasty name? How did it make you feel toward that person?
Sometimes a candidate for political office uses name-calling to demonize his opponent. Would this practice cause you to hesitate to vote for him/her, even if he were your party’s candidate?
(In politics, sometimes we can only vote for the lesser evil, but followers as well as leaders have responsibilities. We must find a way to pushback against sin. We can always write a letter. It may do no good, but we have done our part. Anything else?)
Return to the Introductory Question.
Recall how you answered the question about your first act as President. Would you give the same answer now, after participating in our role-play?
((Ultimately, suggest that their first act might be to wonder what God might wanted them to do with their power? And then, to pray for guidance.)
Follow Up Activities
End the class by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Before doing so, discuss the words, “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This identifies the purpose of our lives. We are all here to do God’s Will.