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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-6


Verses 1-6:

"Moses kept the flock" of his father-in-law. The text indicates this was his regular occupation. At least three different names are given in the KJV for Moses’ father-in-law: (1) Reuel, Ex 2:17; (2) Jethro; and (3) Hobab, Nu 10:29; Jg 4:11. There is no contradiction in these names. "Reuel" means "friend of God," and appears to be a personal name. "Jethro" means "excellence," and appears to be a title. "Hobab" means "beloved." This name occurs only twice in the Scriptures. In Jg 4:11, the KJV refers to Hobab as the "father-in-law" of Moses. The ASV translates this as "Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses." The text and translation occurs in Nu 10:29.

The Hebrew word translated "father-in-law" generally means the wife’s father. However, among the Orientals words of relationship are often used loosely. In Ex 4:25, 26 Zipporah uses this word to refer to Moses. In Ge 19:12, 14 the term applies to Lot’s son-in-law. It is also translated "son-in-law" in Jg 15:6; 19:5; 1Sa 18:18, 23, 26, 27.

"Horeb" appears to be the same as "Sinai." Designation of Horeb as "the mountain of God" implies there may have already been there a sanctuary where Jethro and perhaps Moses worshipped God.

The "Angel of the Lord" is "The Angel of Jehovah." This is likely the Second Person in the Godhead, Jesus Christ.

"Bush" is seneh, denoting a thorny shrub, a species of acacia indigenous to that region. It is accompanied by the definite article. This indicates that Moses had spoken of it so often that his hearers knew the one of which he spoke.

"A flame of fire" denotes a literal flame. Some seek to explain this phenomenon by natural means, that it was a bush with brightly colored leaves or fruit. This, however, is inconsistent with the text. A bush with brightly-colored leaves or fruit would not have attracted Moses’ attention. There is no reason to suppose this was anything but what the text declares: a bush which burned with literal fire, but which was not consumed.

"Lord" is Jehovah, the God of the Covenant. When He saw that Moses had turned aside from his work to investigate the burning bush, Jehovah called to him by name.

The sanctity of Jehovah’s presence is evident in His command that Moses remove his shoes in recognition of this fact.

The Voice that spoke from the burning bush identified Himself to Moses as the Covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. "Father" is used collectively, to include all Moses’ pious ancestor.

Moses was filled with reverential fear at Jehovah’s Presence. He hid his face, a natural and instinctive action. Elijah did the same year’s later at this same location, 1 Kings 19:13. The angels before God’s throne in Heaven do likewise, Isa 6:2.

Verses 7-10

Verses 7-10:

"I have surely seen" is "seeing I have seen." This denotes continuance. It demonstrates God’s continual care for His people, regardless of their circumstances.

"Taskmasters" refers to the subordinate officials who were directly over the Israelites, and who applied the rod to their backs.

"I am come down" is a common anthropomorphism, see Ge 11:5, 7; 18:21; Ps 18:9; 144:5, et.al. It implies that God has a permanent dwelling place, which is above the earth. Jehovah’s purpose in coming down was to bring His people Israel to "a good land and a large." This was the Land He had promised to Abraham and his descendants.

The fertility of Palestine was legendary. East of Jordan lay fertile plains of rich soil, ideally suited for farming and animal husbandry. The land to the west of Jordan was not so productive as that to the east, but by careful cultivation it bore excellent crops of grain, figs, and olives. The actual Land of Palestine itself consisted of about 11,000 square miles. But the territorial grant which God promised to Abraham’s seed extends from the Euphrates on the east to the "River of Egypt" on the west, and likely includes all the Arabian Peninsula (see Ge 15:18-21), an area in excess of 60,000 square miles.

God’s purpose was not to leave Israel in Egypt. He had promised their return to their Land. The time was at hand to fulfill that promise.

The phrase "flowing with milk and honey" first occurs in this text, though it is common in later Old Testament Books, Nu 13:27; De 26:9-15; 31:20; Jer 11:5; 32:22, et.al. It is not to be taken literally. It denotes a land of plenty.

Verse 8 lists five of the Canaanite tribes to be displaced to make room for Israel. This partial list does not include all those mentioned to Abraham (Ge 15:19-21). Added is the term "Hivites." These people likely succeeded the Kadmonites of an earlier time.

Verses 11-12

Verses 11, 12:

The 40 years in the desert had humbled Moses. When he fled Egypt, he was quick to set himself forward as Israel’s "deliverer," Acts 7:25. His brethren misunderstood him, and rejected his efforts. The reason: Moses was filled with pride and selfish ambition. He was not ready for a leadership role. He must learn the lessons of humility and service. This was accomplished during the forty years’ training session in the desert, under the authority of his father-in-law.

Moses was at this time eighty years old. He had been isolated from his brethren for forty years. During that time he had not achieved any fame of recognition as a leader. He was fully aware of his own inadequacy. He knew he could of himself do nothing.

This is the primary element of successful spiritual leadership. One must first recognize his own inadequacy in the flesh. Until he does this, he will never allow the Spirit of God to work through him.

"Certainly I will be with thee," is literally "since I will be with thee." God assured Moses that he would not be unfit for leadership, since He Himself would be with him to give him all the qualities necessary for his mission.

God promised to Moses a "sign" of His Presence, one that appealed to faith only. Long ago Moses had "by faith" made a choice to identify with God’s people Israel rather than Egypt (Heb 11:24, 25). Now this faith must look to the future when he would lead Israel to worship on "this mount," Sinai. When he would stand there, this would be the sign to confirm God’s presence with him.

God confirms His presence with His people today with signs future, as well as those past. Faith takes hold of these future signs with as much confidence as those in the present and the past.

Verses 13-14

Verses 13, 14:

In spite of God’s reassurance Moses continued to doubt the validity of the Divine call. He remembered his earlier rejection by his brethren. He feared a repetition of this. He asked for the Name of the One sending him, that he might identify Him to Israel’s elders. That Name is: "I AM THAT I AM," literally "I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE." This denotes real, perfect, continual and unconditional existence. "I AM" is the abbreviated form, conveying the same meaning.

Verses 15-18

Verses 15-18:

"The Lord God" is literally "Jehovah Eloche." This Name is the same as "I AM" in verse 14. God here identifies this as the Name by which He is to be known forever, the "Existent One," the One "Who Is, and Was, and Is to Be," Re 1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5. He is the God of the Patriarchs, the Covenant God upon whose Name the validity of the Covenant depends.

God instructed Moses to go first to Israel’s "elders," those men who by reason of age and experience and wisdom were leaders. They were to accompany him before Pharaoh when Moses made known the command of God to let His people go that they might worship Him.

Verses 19-22

Verses 19-22:

"I am sure," literally, "I know." By His fore-knowledge, God was fully aware what Pharaoh would do. But His fore-knowledge did not limit Pharaoh’s free will. Pharaoh made his own choice, and refused to let Israel go, even when a mighty hand was laid upon him.

God promised to send "wonders" upon the land of Egypt, in order to secure Israel’s release. Some critics object to the provision that Israel would "spoil" Egypt. But this is not a valid objection. The Egyptians had enslaved Israel, terribly oppressing them for many years. The gold and jewels and other valuables they were to take with them were just compensation for their years of servitude.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-3.html. 1985.
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