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Go Down, Moses

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When Israel was in Egypt's Land

Scripture Songs
Published in 63 hymnals

Printable scores: PDF, MusicXML
Playable presentation: Lyrics only, lyrics + music
Audio files: MIDI, Recording

Song available on My.Hymnary

Representative Text

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

Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt's land,
tell old Pharaoh: Let my people go.

2 The Lord told Moses what to do,
Let my people go,
to lead the Hebrew children through,
Let my people go. [Refrain]

3 As Israel stood by the waterside,
Let my people go,
at God's command it did divide,
Let my people go. [Refrain]

4 When they had reached the other shore,
Let my people go,
they let the song of triumph soar,
Let my people go. [Refrain]

5 Lord, help us all from bondage flee,
Let my people go,
and let us all in Christ be free,
Let my people go. [Refrain]

Psalter Hymnal, 1987


Scripture References:
all st. = Ex. 7

This African American spiritual dates from before the Civil War. It was published in the Jubilee Songs (1872), made popular by the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in their concert tours (see also PHH 356). Often known by its refrain line, "Go down, Moses," the spiritual was also published in J. B. T. Marsh's The Story of the Jubilee Singers with their Songs (1876). "When Israel Was in Egypt's Land" originally had twenty-four stanzas of which the Psalter Hymnal (as well as other modern hymnals) include four narrative stanzas and one stanza of application. Commenting on the spiritual’s message, John Lovell, Jr., writes:

"Go Down, Moses" does not employ the undercurrent symbolism of "Steal Away to Jesus" and other such poems. Only a very obtuse listener can miss its point. It says flatly that Moses freed these Egyptian slaves boldly and justly because slavery is wrong. It clearly projects the principles of this experience to all the world: wherever men are held in bondage, they must and shall be freed. The "Let my people go!" refrain is thunderous. It does not argue economic, sociological, historical, and racial points. . . . It wastes no words and moves relentlessly toward its goal of filling every listener with a pervasive contempt for oppression and a resounding enthusiasm for freedom.
-from Black Song, 1972, pp. 326-327

A stanza not printed in the Psalter Hymnal reiterates Lovell's point:

We need not always weep and moan
Let my people go!
And wear these slavery chains forlorn
Let my people go!

Psalter Hymnal is a prayer to God for freedom for all who are oppressed, a petition for liberation in Christ.

Liturgical Use:
Worship that focuses on the Old Testament Exodus event or on redemption for the oppressed and freedom in Christ; Easter Vigil service.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



The spiritual is in the call-and-response pattern: a leader sings the verses with some rhythmic freedom, either unaccompanied or with only light accompaniment; the entire congregation sings the phrases "Let my people go!" and the refrain, probably in harmony. That practice fits well for stanzas 1-4,…

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The Cyber Hymnal #7404
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
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Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #476
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)
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Worship and Rejoice #618


Instances (1 - 42 of 42)
TextPage Scan

African American Heritage Hymnal #543

Bible Songs on Timeless Themes #13


Chalice Hymnal #663

Church Hymnal, Fifth Edition #679


CPWI Hymnal #548

TextPage Scan

Gather Comprehensive #715

Text InfoTextAudio

Glory to God #52

TextPage Scan

Hymnal Supplement 98 #825

Hymnal #164


Hymns for a Pilgrim People #453


Journeysongs (2nd ed.) #845

TextPage Scan

Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #650


Lift Every Voice and Sing II #228

TextFlexScoreAudioPage Scan

Lift Up Your Hearts #42

TextPage Scan

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism #633

Oramos Cantando = We Pray In Song #488

Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreFlexScoreAudioPage Scan

Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #476

Santo, Santo, Santo #28


Sing With Me #71


Singing the Living Tradition #104


Songs for Life #103


Songs of Zion #112


Songs of Zion #212


The A.M.E. Zion Hymnal #623

TextPage Scan

The Book of Praise #708

Page Scan

The Covenant Hymnal #119


The Cyber Hymnal #7404


The Hymnal 1982 #648

TextPage Scan

The New Century Hymnal #572

TextPage Scan

The New National Baptist Hymnal (21st Century Edition) #490


The Presbyterian Hymnal #334


The United Methodist Hymnal #448

TextPage Scan

This Far By Faith #87


Timeless Truths #89

TextPage Scan

Total Praise #533


Voices Together #193

TextPage Scan

With Heart and Voice #130

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With One Voice #670

TextPage Scan

Worship (3rd ed.) #508

TextPage Scan

Worship (4th ed.) #579

TextScoreAudioPage Scan

Worship and Rejoice #618


Worship in Song #294

Include 21 pre-1979 instances
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