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Exodus 3:1–6

“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed” (v. 2).

Today we return to the book of Exodus, resuming our study in chapter 3. Approximately forty years have passed since the end of chapter 2, for Moses left Egypt when he was forty and the confrontation with Pharaoh that took place not long after the events recorded in today’s passage occurred when Moses was eighty (Ex. 7:7; Acts 7:23–30). No doubt this was an important period of training for Moses, for living with the Midianites in wilderness regions harsher than Egypt’s environment would prepare him to lead the Israelites through the wilderness after the exodus. The fact that Moses was a shepherd at this time, as well as the fact that he was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro (also called Reuel; see Ex. 2:16–22), indicates also that he had fully thrown off his Egyptian heritage. No Egyptian would work as a shepherd (see Gen. 46:34), and having no flock of his own meant that Moses had been unable to amass much wealth of his own and could thus identify with the poverty of the enslaved Israelites.

Moses came to Mount Horeb, located some distance from the normal Midianite territory (Ex. 3:1). Probably he had traveled so far because Horeb was the closest place where he could find sufficient grass to feed the flock. Horeb was known as the mountain of God because by the time Moses wrote this record, God had appeared to him and to the Israelites there (see Mal. 4:4). Finally, Mount Horeb is perhaps better known as Mount Sinai (see Ex. 19).

At Horeb, Moses saw a strange sight: a bush that was burning but not being consumed by the fire. Soon he learned the reason for this: God was manifesting His presence in the bush. Specifically, the text refers to the “angel of the Lord,” who in the Old Testament is frequently God Himself, as in the burning bush (3:2–4). Christian interpreters have long regarded the angel here as the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, appearing to Moses before His incarnation, because an angel is one who is sent and the Son would later be sent by the Father. Note the comments of John Calvin: “The Eternal Word of God, of one Godhead and essence with the Father, assumed the name of ‘the Angel’ on the ground of his future mission.”

At that time, to repeat a person’s name twice was a sign of affection, so the Lord’s call of “Moses, Moses” (v. 4) indicated God’s love for the man. Yet, awareness of God’s holiness moved Moses to fear (vv. 5–6). Because God is holy love, we must fear and obey Him.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

If we do not understand that the God of the Bible is the God who is holy love, we will fall into all kinds of error. We will treat Him too lightly if we do not understand that He is holy, and we will not have assurance of our salvation if we who are believers do not understand that He is love. Let us strive always to remember these aspects of God’s character so that we will revere our Lord as the Bible describes Him.


For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 34:10
  • Acts 7:35

Filling Heaven and Earth and Beyond

Our All-Glorious Messiah

Keep Reading Jewish Life in the Days of Jesus

From the February 2022 Issue
Feb 2022 Issue