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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 3

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-12

God calls Moses (3:1-12)

While Moses was minding sheep at Mount Sinai (also called Mount Horeb, after the range in which it was situated), the unseen God, who for eighty years had silently guided his life, made himself known to him. The revelation of God in the burning bush showed that though this God was unapproachably holy, he could dwell among earthly things without destroying them (3:1-6).
God was now going to use Moses to deliver his people from bondage in Egypt and bring them into a new homeland in Canaan. Moses was hesitant when he saw the task that lay ahead, but God assured him of divine help. Once Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and brought them to Mount Sinai, he would know with assurance that Israel would conquer all enemies and possess the promised land (7-12).

Verses 13-22

The God of Israel (3:13-22)

If Moses was to present himself to the people of Israel as the one who would lead them out of Egypt, he would need to convince them that he knew God’s purposes for them. But he doubted whether they would understand, since they did not know the character of him whom they vaguely called the God of their ancestors. In asking God for help in explaining his purposes to them, Moses was wanting to know not simply the name of God, but the character of the God who owned that name (13).
On certain occasions when God gave a fresh revelation of himself, he revealed a new title for himself that summarized the revelation in one or two words. The name that God announced to Moses on this occasion was ‘I am’.
The name ‘I am’ and the few words of divine explanation that accompanied it were deliberately mysterious, for God’s concern was not to satisfy curiosity, but to make himself known to those who wished to know him. His name indicated a character that would be revealed in the triumphant events to come. The eternal, unchangeable, ever-present, ever-active God would prove himself to be always dependable and completely able to meet every need of his people. He would be whatever he would choose to prove himself to be in the varied circumstances Israel would meet (14-17).
Although Moses would eventually be accepted by the Israelites, he would meet only stubbornness in the Egyptian king. He would have an early demonstration of the character of his opponent in Pharaoh’s refusal to allow the Israelites’ reasonable request to offer sacrifices in a place that was not offensive to the Egyptians (cf. 8:26-27). So great would be the display of God’s power in overcoming such stubbornness, that the Egyptians would gladly give their riches to the Israelites (a debt they owed after so many years of slave labour) in order to be rid of them (18-22; see 12:33-36).

The name of God

Israel’s ancestors knew God as ‘the LORD’, Yahweh (or Jehovah) (Genesis 2:4; Genesis 12:1; Genesis 26:2; Genesis 28:21; Genesis 49:18), but the name meant little to the Israelites of Moses’ time. God’s revelation to Moses in the ‘I am’ statement of Exodus 3:14 was an explanation of what the name Yahweh should have meant to God’s people.

In the Hebrew language the word translated ‘I am’ is related to the name Yahweh. Originally, Hebrew was written with consonants only, and the readers put in the vowels as they read. It is believed that ‘Yahweh’ is the correct pronunciation of the word YHWH (the name of Israel’s God), though absolute certainty is not possible, as there are no Hebrew records old enough to preserve the original pronunciation. By the time it had become the practice to add the vowels in written Hebrew, the Jews no longer spoke the name YHWH. They claimed this showed their reverence for the holy name of God, but for many it was more a superstition. Whatever the reason, the practice developed that when Jews read the Scriptures, instead of speaking the word YHWH, they substituted the word adonai, meaning ‘lord’ or ‘master’.

When the Hebrew Bible added vowels to the consonants for the first time (about 300 BC), it put the vowels of adonai to the consonants YHWH. This produced a new word, Jehovah, though Jews continued to substitute adonai for YHWH when speaking. Translators of English versions of the Bible usually avoid the pronunciation problem by using the expression ‘the LORD’ (in capital letters) as the substitute for YHWH.

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Exodus 3". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/exodus-3.html. 2005.
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