Exodus 3

Listen to Exodus 3

The Burning Bush

1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the 1mountain of God.
2 2And 3the 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.
3 And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned."
4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, 4God called to him 5out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."
5 Then he said, "Do not come near; 6take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."
6 And he said, 7"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for 8he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the LORD said, 9"I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their 10taskmasters. I know their sufferings,
8 and 11I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and 12to bring them up out of that land to a 13good and broad land, a land 14flowing with milk and honey, to the place of 15the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
9 And now, behold, 16the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the 17oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.
10 18Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."
11 But Moses said to God, 19"Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?"
12 He said, 20"But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, 21you shall serve God on this mountain."
13 Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM."[a] And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 22'I AM has sent me to you.'"
15 God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'The LORD,[b] the 23God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is 24my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
16 Go and 25gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, 26"I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,
17 and I promise that 27I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land 28flowing with milk and honey."'
18 And 29they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel 30shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has 31met with us; and now, please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.'
19 But I know that the king of Egypt 32will not let you go unless compelled 33by a mighty hand.[c]
20 So 34I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with 35all the wonders that I will do in it; 36after that he will let you go.
21 And 37I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty,
22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for 38silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So 39you shall plunder the Egyptians."

Exodus 3 Commentary

Chapter 3

God appears to Moses in a burning bush. (1-6) God sends Moses to deliver Israel. (7-10) The name Jehovah. (11-15) The deliverance of the Israelites promised. (16-22)

Verses 1-6 The years of the life of Moses are divided into three forties; the first forty he spent as a prince in Pharaoh's court, the second as a shepherd in Midian, the third as a king in Jeshurun. How changeable is the life of man! The first appearance of God to Moses, found him tending sheep. This seems a poor employment for a man of his parts and education, yet he rests satisfied with it; and thus learns meekness and contentment, for which he is more noted in sacred writ, than for all his learning. Satan loves to find us idle; God is pleased when he finds us employed. Being alone, is a good friend to our communion with God. To his great surprise, Moses saw a bush burning without fire to kindle it. The bush burned, and yet did not burn away; an emblem of the church in bondage in Egypt. And it fitly reminds us of the church in every age, under its severest persecutions kept by the presence of God from being destroyed. Fire is an emblem, in Scripture, of the Divine holiness and justice, also of the afflictions and trials with which God proves and purifies his people, and even of that baptism of the Holy Ghost, by which sinful affections are consumed, and the soul changed into the Divine nature and image. God gave Moses a gracious call, to which he returned a ready answer. Those that would have communion with God, must attend upon him in the ordinances wherein he is pleased to manifest himself and his glory, though it be in a bush. Putting off the shoe was a token of respect and submission. We ought to draw nigh to God with a solemn pause and preparation, carefully avoiding every thing that looks light and rude, and unbecoming his service. God does not say, I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but I am. The patriarchs still live, so many years after their bodies have been in the grave. No length of time can separate the souls of the just from their Maker. By this, God instructed Moses as to another world, and strengthened his belief of a future state. Thus it is interpreted by our Lord Jesus, who, from hence, proves that the dead are raised, Lu. 20:37 . Moses hid his face, as if both ashamed and afraid to look upon God. The more we see of God, and his grace, and covenant love, the more cause we shall see to worship him with reverence and godly fear.

Verses 7-10 God notices the afflictions of Israel. Their sorrows; even the secret sorrows of God's people are known to him. Their cry; God hears the cries of his afflicted people. The oppression they endured; the highest and greatest of their oppressors are not above him. God promises speedy deliverance by methods out of the common ways of providence. Those whom God, by his grace, delivers out of a spiritual Egypt, he will bring to a heavenly Canaan.

Verses 11-15 Formerly Moses thought himself able to deliver Israel, and set himself to the work too hastily. Now, when the fittest person on earth for it, he knows his own weakness. This was the effect of more knowledge of God and of himself. Formerly, self-confidence mingled with strong faith and great zeal, now sinful distrust of God crept in under the garb of humility; so defective are the strongest graces and the best duties of the most eminent saints. But all objections are answered in, Certainly I will be with thee. That is enough. Two names God would now be known by. A name that denotes what he is in himself, I AM THAT I AM. This explains his name Jehovah, and signifies, 1. That he is self-existent: he has his being of himself. 2. That he is eternal and unchangeable, and always the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever. 3. That he is incomprehensible; we cannot by searching find him out: this name checks all bold and curious inquiries concerning God. 4. That he is faithful and true to all his promises, unchangeable in his word as well as in his nature; let Israel know this, I AM hath sent me unto you. I am, and there is none else besides me. All else have their being from God, and are wholly dependent upon him. Also, here is a name that denotes what God is to his people. The Lord God of your fathers sent me unto you. Moses must revive among them the religion of their fathers, which was almost lost; and then they might expect the speedy performance of the promises made unto their fathers.

Verses 16-22 Moses' success with the elders of Israel would be good. God, who, by his grace, inclines the heart, and opens the ear, could say beforehand, They shall hearken to thy voice; for he would make them willing in this day of power. As to Pharaoh, Moses is here told that petitions and persuasions, and humble complaints, would not prevail with him; nor a mighty hand stretched out in signs and wonders. But those will certainly be broken by the power of God's hand, who will not bow to the power of his word. Pharaoh's people should furnish Israel with riches at their departure. In Pharaoh's tyranny and Israel's oppression, we see the miserable, abject state of sinners. However galling the yoke, they drudge on till the Lord sends redemption. With the invitations of the gospel, God sends the teaching of his Spirit. Thus are men made willing to seek and to strive for deliverance. Satan loses his power to hold them, they come forth with all they have and are, and apply all to the glory of God and the service of his church.

Cross References 39

  • 1. Exodus 4:27; Exodus 18:5; Exodus 24:13; Numbers 10:33; 1 Kings 19:8
  • 2. For ver. 2-10, see Acts 7:30-35
  • 3. Isaiah 63:9
  • 4. Exodus 19:3
  • 5. Deuteronomy 33:16
  • 6. Joshua 5:15; [Exodus 19:12; Ecclesiastes 5:1]
  • 7. Exodus 4:5; Genesis 28:13; 1 Kings 18:36; Cited Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:26; [Luke 20:37]
  • 8. [1 Kings 19:13; Isa. 6:1, 2, 5]
  • 9. Exodus 2:23-25; Nehemiah 9:9; Psalms 106:44
  • 10. Exodus 5:13, 14
  • 11. Genesis 11:5, 7; Genesis 18:21
  • 12. Exodus 6:6; Exodus 12:51; [Genesis 50:24]
  • 13. Deuteronomy 1:25; Deuteronomy 8:7, 8, 9
  • 14. Exodus 13:5; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 26:9, 15; Jeremiah 11:5; Jeremiah 32:22; Ezekiel 20:6
  • 15. Genesis 15:18-21
  • 16. Exodus 2:23
  • 17. Exodus 1:11-14, 22
  • 18. [Psalms 105:26; Micah 6:4]
  • 19. Exodus 6:12; [1 Samuel 18:18; Isaiah 6:5, 8; Jeremiah 1:6]
  • 20. Exodus 4:12, 15; Deuteronomy 31:8, 23; Joshua 1:5
  • 21. See Exodus 19
  • 22. Exodus 6:3; Psalms 68:4; John 8:58; Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 4:8
  • 23. ver. 6
  • 24. Hosea 12:5; [Psalms 135:13]
  • 25. Exodus 4:29
  • 26. Exodus 4:31; Genesis 50:24; [Luke 1:68]
  • 27. ver. 8
  • 28. ver. 8
  • 29. Exodus 4:31
  • 30. Exodus 5:1
  • 31. Num. 23:3, 4, 15, 16
  • 32. Exodus 5:2; Exodus 7:4
  • 33. Exodus 6:1; Exodus 13:3
  • 34. Deuteronomy 6:22; Nehemiah 9:10; Jeremiah 32:20; Acts 7:36; See Exodus 7 - 12
  • 35. Exodus 4:21
  • 36. Exodus 12:31
  • 37. Exodus 11:2, 3; Exodus 12:35, 36; [Genesis 15:14]
  • 38. [Exodus 33:6]
  • 39. [Ezekiel 39:10]

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Or I am what I am, or I will be what I will be
  • [b]. The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, "to be" in verse 14
  • [c]. Septuagint, Vulgate; Hebrew go, not by a mighty hand

Chapter Summary


In this chapter we are informed how that the Lord appeared to Moses in a bush on fire, but not consumed, Ex 3:1-6, declared unto him that he had seen and observed the afflictions of the children of Israel, and was determined to deliver them, Ex 3:7-9, that he gave him a call to be the deliverer of them, answered his objections to it, and instructed him what he should say, both to the elders of Israel and to Pharaoh, Ex 3:10-18, and assured him, that though at first Pharaoh would refuse to let them go, yet after many miracles wrought, he would be willing to dismiss them, when they should depart with great substance, Ex 3:19-22.

Exodus 3 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.