Acts 7:30

30 After 40 years had passed, an angel[a] appeared to him in the desert of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush.

Acts 7:30 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 7:30

And when forty years were expired
"Forty other years" the Arabic version reads; for so long the Jews F7 say Moses kept Jethro's flock, and so many years he lived in Midian; and so the Syriac version, "when then he had filled up forty years"; which agrees exactly with the account of the Jewish writers observed on ( Acts 7:23 ) who say, that he was forty years in Pharaoh's court, and forty years in Midian; so that he was now, as they F8 elsewhere justly observe, fourscore years of age:

there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai;
the same with Horeb, ( Exodus 3:1 ) where it is said, "Moses came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb"; where he saw the sight of the burning bush, and out of which the angel appeared to him: and Stephen is to be justified in calling it Mount Sinai; the account which Jerom F9 gives of it is this;

``Horeb is the Mount of God in the land of Midian, by Mount Sinai, above Arabia, in the desert, to which is joined the mountain and desert of the Saracenes, called Pharan: but to me it seems, that the same mountain was called by two names, sometimes Sinai, and sometimes Horeb;''

and in which he was right. Some think the same mountain had two tops, and one went by one name, and the other by another; or one side of the mountain was called Horeb, from its being dry and desolate; and the other Sinai, from the bushes and brambles which grew upon it. So (Nynyo) , "Sinin", in the Misna F11, signifies the thin barks of bramble bushes; and the bush hereafter mentioned, in the Hebrew language, is called (hno) , "Seneh"; from whence, with the Jews, it is said to have its name.

``Says F12 R. Eliezer, from the day the heavens and the earth were created, the name of this mountain was called Horeb; but after the holy blessed God appeared to Moses out of the midst of the bush, from the name of the bush "(Seneh)", Horeb was called Sinai.''

Some say the stones of this mountain, when broken, had the resemblance of bramble bushes F13 in them. Add to this, that Josephus F14 calls this mountain by the same name as Stephen does, when he is reciting the same history. Moses, he says,

``led the flock to the Sinaean mountain, as it is called: this is the highest mountain in that country, and best for pasture, abounding in good herbage; and because it was commonly believed the Divine Being dwelt there, it was not before fed upon, the shepherds not daring to go up to it.''

Here Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law; for to such a life did he condescend, who for forty years had been brought up in the court of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Here appeared to him

an angel of the Lord,
and who was no other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as appears from ( Acts 7:32 ) and was the second person in the Trinity, the Son of God, the angel of the divine presence, and of the covenant, an uncreated angel. And this is the sense of many of the Jewish writers, who interpret it of the angel the Redeemer, the God of Bethel F15; though Jonathan the paraphrast seems to understand it of a created angel, whose name he calls Zagnugael F16, and some say it was Michael, and some Gabriel F17.

In a flame of fire in a bush;
and which yet was not consumed by it. This bush was a bramble bush, or thorn; so Aben Ezra F18 says it was a kind of thorn, and observes, that in the Ishmaelitish or Turkish language, the word signifies a kind of dry thorn; and so Philo the Jew says F19, it was a thorny plant, and very weak; and therefore it was the more wonderful, that it should be on fire, and not consumed. Josephus F20 affirms, that neither its verdure, nor its flowers were hurt, nor any of its fruitful branches consumed, though the flame was exceeding fierce. The Jerusalem Targum of ( Exodus 3:2 ) is,

``and he saw and beheld the bush burned with fire, and the bush (byjrm) : "became green"; or, as Buxtorf renders it, "emitted a moisture", and was not burnt.''

This sight, the Arabic writers F21 say, Moses saw at noon day. Artapanus F23, an ancient writer, makes mention of this burning, but takes no notice of the bush; yea, denies that there was anything woody in the place, and represents it only as a stream of fire issuing out of the earth: his words are,

``as he (Moses) was praying, suddenly fire broke out of the earth, and burned, when there was nothing woody, nor any matter fit for burning in the place.''

But Philo better describes it; speaking of the bush, he says F24,

``no one bringing fire to it, suddenly it burned, and was all in a flame from the root to the top, as if it was from a flowing fountain, and remained whole and unhurt, as if it was no fuel for the fire, but was nourished by it.''

The Jews allegorize this vision different ways: sometimes they say {y},

``the fire designs the Israelites, who are compared to fire, as it is said, ( Obadiah 1:18 ) "the house of Jacob shall be a fire"; and the bush denotes the nations of the world, which are compared to thorns and thistles; so shall the Israelites be among the people, their fire shall not consume the people, who are like to thorns and briers; nor shall the nations of the world extinguish their flame, which is the words of the law: but in the world to come, the fire of the Israelites shall consume all people, who are compared to thorns and thistles, according to ( Isaiah 33:12 ) ''

But it is much better observed in the same place;

``the bush pricks, afflicts, and gives pain, why does he (the Lord) dwell in affliction and anguish? because he saw the Israelites in great affliction, he also dwelt with them in affliction, as it is said, ( Isaiah 63:9 ) "in all their affliction he was afflicted"''

And very appropriately is it remarked by Philo F26;

``the burning bush (says he) is a symbol of the oppressed, the flaming fire, of the oppressors; and whereas that which was burning was not burnt, it shows, that they that are oppressed shall not perish by those who attempt it; and that their attempt shall be in vain, and they shall escape safe.''

And so Aben Ezra has this note on ( Exodus 3:2 ) .

``the enemy is compared to fire, and Israel to the bush, wherefore it was not burnt:''

this may be very well considered as an emblem of the state of the Jewish people in fiery trials, and very severe afflictions; who were like a bush for the number of its twigs and branches, they being many, and for its weakness and liableness to be consumed by fire, and yet wonderfully preserved by the power and presence of God among them.


F7 Pirke Eliezer, c. 40.
F8 Sepher Cosri, fol. 38. 1. & Moses Kotsensis praefat ad Mitzvot Tora.
F9 De locis Hebraicis, fol. 92. E.
F11 Misn. Celim, c. 10. sect. 6.
F12 Pirke Eliezer, c. 41. Aben Ezra in Exod. iii. 2.
F13 R. Moses Narbonensis apud Drusii Preterita in loc. Vid. Hilleri Onomasticum, p. 523.
F14 Antiqu l. 2. c. 12. sect. 1.
F15 R. Menachem in Ainsworth in Exod. iii. 2.
F16 Targum Jon. in ib.
F17 Shemot Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 92. 4.
F18 Comment. in Exod. iii. 2.
F19 De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 612, 613.
F20 In loc. supra citat.
F21 Patricides, p. 26. Elmacinus, p. 47. apud Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. l. 1. c. 8. p. 415.
F23 Apud Euseb. Evangel. praepar. l. 9. c. 27. p. 434.
F24 Ut supra. (De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 612, 613.)
F25 Pirke Eliezer, c. 40. Vid. Shemot Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 92. 4.
F26 Ut supra. (De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 612, 613.)

Acts 7:30 In-Context

28 Do you want to kill me, the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?
29 "At this disclosure, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons.
30 After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the desert of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush.
31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he was approaching to look at it, the voice of the Lord came:
32 I am the God of your forefathers-the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. So Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Other mss add of the Lord
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