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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Exodus 3



Verse 1

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

Now Moses kept the flock. This employment he had entered on in furtherance of his matrimonial views (see the note at Exodus 2:21); but it is probable he was continuing his services now on other terms, like Jacob during the latter years of his stay with Laban (Genesis 30:28).

Led the flock to the back side of the desert - i:e., on the west of the desert (Gesenius); and assuming Jethro's headquarters to have been at Dahab, the route by which Moses led his flock must have been west through the wide valley called by the Arabs Wady-es-Zugherah (Robinson), which conducted into the interior of the wilderness. The traditional spot is in Wady Shuweib, or Jethro's valley, on the north of Jebel Musa, where the convent of Catherine now stands. Of course, Jebel Musa must be "the mount of God." Lepsius ('Letters, Appendix B') and Ritter ('Erkunde der Sinai-Habbinsel.' etc., 14:, 733-735) contend for Serbal, so called as 'the center of an ancient worship,' (see the note at Exodus 19:1-25.)

Mountain of God - so named either, according to Hebrew idiom, from its great height, as 'great mountains,' Hebrew, 'mountains of God' (Psalms 36:6), "goodly cedars," Hebrew, 'cedars of God' (Psalms 80:10); or, as some think, from its being the old abode of 'the glory;' or, finally, by prolepsis, from its being the theater of transactions most memorable in the history of the true religion (Lepsius).

To Horeb - rather, Horeb-ward; i:e., dry, desert; it was the general name for the mountainous district in which Sinai is situated, and of which it is a part. (See the note at Exodus 19:1-25.) It was used to designate the region comprehending that immense range of lofty, desolate, and barren hills, at the base of which, however, there are not only many patches of verdure to be seen, but almost all the valleys, or wadys, as they are called, show a thin coating of vegetation, which toward the south becomes more luxuriant. The Arab shepherds seldom take their flocks to a greater distance than one day's journey from their camp. Moses must have gone at least two days' journey; and although he seems to have been only following his pastoral course, that region, from its numerous springs in the clefts of the rocks, being the chief resort of the tribes during the summer heats, the providence of God led him there for an important purpose.

Verse 2-3

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

The Angel of the Lord appeared. It is common in the Scriptures to represent the elements and operations of nature, as winds, fires, earthquakes, pestilence-everything enlisted in executing the divine will-as the 'angels' or messengers of God. But in such cases God himself is considered as really, though invisibly, present. Here the preternatural fire maybe primarily meant by the expression. "Angel of the Lord" (Whately, 'Good and Bad Angels,' p. 16); but it is clear that under this symbol the Divine Being was present, whose name is given, Exodus 3:4; Exodus 3:6, and elsewhere called "the Angel of the Lord," "the Angel of God" (Genesis 7:7; Genesis 7:9; Genesis 7:11; Genesis 21:17-18; Genesis 22:12-13; Genesis 31:11); "the Angel of the covenant" (Malachi 3:1). A critical examination of the language fully determines this point: for it is not 'an angel,' but "the Angel of the Lord," who appeared-the use of this title identifying Him with the Divine Revealer of the past. It is important to observe that an advance is here made in the progressive revelation of the Diving Being. In the patriarchal age He manifested Himself as a MYSTERIOUS MAN, who ruled over the world, assuming that form and character to impress the minds of his chosen servants with a sense of his personal existence. These Theophanies were afterward discontinued, and God at this stage began to appear in symbols.

In ... the midst of a bush , [ hac

Verse 4

And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

When the Lord saw that he turned. The manifestations which God anciently made of Himself were always accompanied by clear, unmistakeable signs that the communications were really from heaven. This certain evidence was given to Moses. He saw a fire, but no human agent to kindle it; he heard a voice, but no human lips from which it came; he saw no living Being, but One was in the bush, in the heat of the flames, who knew him, and addressed him by name. Who could this be but a Divine Being?

Verse 5

And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

Put off thy shoes. The direction was in conformity with a usage which was well known to Moses; because the Egyptian priests observed it in their temples, and which is observed in all eastern countries, where the people take off their shoes, or sandals, as we do our hats. But the eastern idea is not precisely the same as the western. With us, the removal of the hat is an expression of reverence for the place we enter, or rather of Him who is worshipped there. With them, the removal of the shoes is a confession of personal defilement, and conscious unworthiness to stand in the presence of unspotted holiness.

Verse 6

Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

I am the God of thy father. The reverential awe of Moses must have been relieved by the Divine Speaker (see the note at Matthew 22:32), announcing himself in his covenant character, and by the welcome intelligence communicated. Moreover, the time, as well as all the circumstances of this miraculous appearance, were such as to give him an illustrious display of God's faithfulness to His promises. The period of Israel's sojourn and afflition in Egypt had been predicted (Genesis 15:13), and it was during the last year of the term which had still to run that the Lord appeared in the burning bush.

Verses 7-22

And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;

I have surely seen the affliction of my people ... literally, seeing I have seen. The verb has here the sense of looking with the watchful eye and sympathetic feeling of love.

And have heard their cry - a vehement cry throughout the land of their dispersion; a cry of oppressed anguish against the oppressor; a cry of pain, resentment, and helpless despondency. Thus the servitude of the Israelites themselves, as well as the cruel destruction of their male children, which followed the accession of the new dynasty in Egypt, effected the subjective preparation of that people for the exodus, by awakening in the general bosom intense longings for release.

Verse 8. I am come down to deliver them (see the note at Genesis 11:5; Genesis 11:7; Genesis 18:21).

And to bring them ... unto a good land and a large - i:e., broad, compared with the narrow belt of land in Egypt.

A land flowing with milk and honey - i:e., a region of extraordinary productiveness, abounding in all things necessary for the support and comfort of life. "Milk" (see the note at Genesis 49:12); "honey" [ d


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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 3:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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