Exodus 3

Moses and the Burning Bush

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.
10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.
17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
18 “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’
19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him.
20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed.
22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will 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 57

  • 1. S Exodus 2:18; Judges 1:16
  • 2. S Exodus 2:16
  • 3. ver 12; Exodus 17:6; Exodus 19:1-11,5; Exodus 33:6; Deuteronomy 1:2,6; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 5:2; Deuteronomy 29:1; 1 Kings 19:8; Malachi 4:4
  • 4. Exodus 4:27; Exodus 18:5; Exodus 24:13; Deuteronomy 4:11,15
  • 5. S Genesis 16:7; S Exodus 12:23; S Acts 5:19
  • 6. Exodus 19:18; 1 Kings 19:12
  • 7. ver 4; Exodus 2:2-6; Deuteronomy 33:16; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37; Acts 7:30
  • 8. Exodus 19:3; Leviticus 1:1
  • 9. Exodus 4:5
  • 10. Genesis 31:11; 1 Samuel 3:4; Isaiah 6:8
  • 11. Jeremiah 30:21
  • 12. S Genesis 28:17; Joshua 5:15; Acts 7:33*
  • 13. S Genesis 24:12; S Exodus 4:5; Matthew 22:32*; Mark 12:26*; Luke 20:37*; Acts 3:13; Acts 7:32*
  • 14. 1 Kings 19:13
  • 15. Exodus 24:11; Exodus 33:20; Judges 13:22; Job 13:11; Job 23:16; Job 30:15; Isaiah 6:5
  • 16. 1 Samuel 9:16
  • 17. ver 16; S Genesis 16:11; 1 Samuel 1:11; Nehemiah 9:9; Psalms 106:44
  • 18. S Exodus 2:25; Acts 7:34*
  • 19. S Exodus 1:10
  • 20. S Genesis 11:5; Acts 7:34*; Genesis 50:24
  • 21. S Genesis 12:7; S Genesis 15:14
  • 22. ver 17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 1:25; Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 26:9; Deuteronomy 27:3; Joshua 5:6; Jeremiah 11:5; Jeremiah 32:22; Ezekiel 20:6
  • 23. Joshua 11:3; Judges 3:3; 2 Samuel 24:7
  • 24. S Genesis 15:18-21; Ezra 9:1
  • 25. S Exodus 1:14; Exodus 2:23; S Numbers 10:9
  • 26. Exodus 4:12; Joshua 24:5; 1 Samuel 12:8; Psalms 105:26; Acts 7:34*
  • 27. Exodus 6:13,26; Exodus 12:41,51; Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Samuel 12:6; 1 Kings 8:16; Micah 6:4
  • 28. Exodus 4:10; Exodus 6:12,30; Judges 6:15; 1 Samuel 9:21; 1 Samuel 15:17; 1 Samuel 18:18; 2 Samuel 7:18; 2 Chronicles 2:6; Isaiah 6:5; Jeremiah 1:6
  • 29. S Genesis 26:3; S Exodus 14:22; Genesis 31:3; Joshua 1:5; Romans 8:31
  • 30. Numbers 26:10; Joshua 2:12; Judges 6:17; Psalms 86:17; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 20:3; Jeremiah 44:29
  • 31. S ver 1; Acts 7:7
  • 32. S Genesis 32:29
  • 33. Exodus 6:2-3; John 8:58; Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8
  • 34. Genesis 31:42; Daniel 2:23
  • 35. S Genesis 24:12
  • 36. Exodus 6:3,7; Exodus 15:3; Exodus 23:21; Exodus 34:5-7; Leviticus 24:11; Deuteronomy 28:58; Psalms 30:4; Psalms 83:18; Psalms 96:2; Psalms 97:12; Psalms 135:13; Psalms 145:21; Isaiah 42:8; Jeremiah 16:21; Jeremiah 33:2; Hosea 12:5
  • 37. Psalms 45:17; Psalms 72:17; Psalms 102:12
  • 38. Exodus 4:29; Exodus 17:5; Leviticus 4:15; Numbers 11:16; Numbers 16:25; Deuteronomy 5:23; Deuteronomy 19:12; Judges 8:14; Ruth 4:2; Proverbs 31:23; Ezekiel 8:11
  • 39. S Genesis 24:12
  • 40. Exodus 4:31; 2 Kings 19:16; 2 Chronicles 6:20; Psalms 33:18; Psalms 66:7
  • 41. S Genesis 15:16; Genesis 46:4; Exodus 6:6; Joshua 24:11
  • 42. S ver 8
  • 43. Ex 4:1,8,31; Exodus 6:12,30
  • 44. S Genesis 14:13
  • 45. Numbers 23:4,16
  • 46. S Genesis 30:36
  • 47. Exodus 4:23; Exodus 5:1,3; Exodus 6:11; Exodus 7:16; Exodus 8:20,27; Exodus 9:13; Exodus 10:9,26
  • 48. Exodus 4:21; Exodus 5:2; Exodus 6:6; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 10:1; Exodus 11:9; Deuteronomy 4:34; 2 Chronicles 6:32
  • 49. Exodus 6:1,6; Exodus 7:4-5; Exodus 9:15; Exodus 13:3,9,14,16; Exodus 15:6,12; Deuteronomy 4:34,37; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 26:8; 2 Kings 17:36; 2 Chronicles 6:32; Psalms 118:15-16; Psalms 136:12; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 63:12; Jeremiah 21:5; Jeremiah 51:25; Da Exodus 9:15
  • 50. Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 11:9,10; Exodus 15:11; Exodus 34:10; Numbers 14:11; Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22; Nehemiah 9:10; Psalms 71:19; Psalms 72:18; Psalms 77:14; Psalms 78:43; Psalms 86:10; Psalms 105:27; 10Deuteronomy 6:22; Psalms 135:9; Psalms 136:4; Jeremiah 32:20; Micah 7:15; Ac Exodus 7:36
  • 51. Exodus 11:1; Exodus 12:31-33
  • 52. S Genesis 39:21; Exodus 12:36
  • 53. Exodus 11:2; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 1:11; Psalms 105:37; Psalms 106:46; Jeremiah 42:12
  • 54. Job 27:16-17
  • 55. Exodus 11:2; Exodus 12:35; Ezra 1:4,6; Ezra 7:16; Psalms 105:37
  • 56. S Genesis 15:14; Ezekiel 39:10
  • 57. Ezekiel 29:10

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Masoretic Text; Samaritan Pentateuch (see Acts 7:32) "fathers"
  • [b]. The Hebrew is plural.
  • [c]. Or I will be what I will be
  • [d]. The Hebrew for Lordsounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for I amin verse 14.

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

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