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International Music & Culture
Go Down Moses
(American Spiritual)

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"Go Down Moses" is originally an African American Spiritual. Now a shorter version is sung for the Jewish holiday Passover.

Go Down Moses
Spiritual

When Israel was in Egypt's land
Let my people go.
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go.

(Chorus)
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt land.
Tell ol' Pharaoh,
Let my people go.

"Thus saith the Lord", bold Moses said,
"Let my people go,
If not, I'll smite your first-born dead,
Let my people go."
(Chorus)

No more shall they in bondage toil,
Let my people go,
Let them come out with Egypt's spoil,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

The Lord told Moses what to do,
Let my people go,
To lead the children of Israel through,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

O come along Moses, you'll not get lost,
Let my people go,
Stretch out your rod and come across,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

As Israel stood by the waterside,
Let my people go,
At God's command it did divide,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

When they reached the other shore,
Let my people go,
They sang a song of triumph o'er,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

Pharaoh said he'd go across,
Let my people go,
But Pharaoh and his host were lost,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

Jordan shall stand up like a wall,
Let my people go,
And the walls of Jericho shall fall,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

Your foes shall not before you stand,
Let my people go,
And you'll possess fair Canaan's land,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

O let us all from bondage flee,
Let my people go,
And let us all in Christ be free,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

We need not always weep and mourn,
Let my people go,
And wear these slavery chains forlorn,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)
 
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Notes

Here's a shorter version sung for Passover (sometimes only the first verse and the chorus are sung):

When Israel was in Egypt's land
Let my people go.
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go.

(Chorus)
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt land.
Tell ol' Pharaoh,
Let my people go.

Thus saith the Lord, bold Moses said,
Let my people go,
If not, I'll smite your first-born dead,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

No more shall they in bondage toil,
Let my people go,
Let them come out with Egypt's spoil,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

O let us all from bondage flee,
Let my people go,
And soon may all the Earth be free,
Let my people go.
(Chorus)

Comments

Harriet Tubman, a former slave, led many people to safety in the underground railroad. She was called "Moses" because she led her people to freedom in the Northern United States, just like Moses did for the Jewish people who were slaves in Egypt. He led them out of Egypt. According to the book, "A treasury of Afro-American folklore: the oral literature, traditions" by Harold Courlander, the "Moses" of this song refers to Harriet Tubman. Courlander wrote: "Remineses of former slaves… have pinpointed Harriet Tubman… as the Moses of the song…" Later he wrote: "The situation of the Israelites in Egypt as described in the Old Testament was one with which people in bondage could easily identify themselves."

It's interesting that Jewish people took up an African American slavery song to sing for Passover.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Thanks to Susan and Lenny Pomerantz for contributing this song!

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