The burning bush. — V.1. Now Moses kept, was pasturing, the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, whose given name was Reuel, chap. 2, 18; and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, beyond the wilderness which separated the country of the Midianites from the Sinaitic mountain range, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb, named so here on account of its later importance in the history of Israel. Even after the lower valleys are dried up, the upper regions of these mountains are still green with rich pastures. V.2. And the Angel of the Lord, the Son of God Himself, appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, the fire being a symbol of the purifying affliction and of the chastening justice of God. And he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. The obvious miracle of a desert thorn-bush which was burning, while at the same time the flames left it intact, drew and held his attention. V.3. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned. It was an appearance or vision decidedly worth investigating. V.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. So the Angel of the Lord of v. 2 is here identified with Jehovah, with God Himself, who addresses Moses with words of solemn warning. V.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. The places where the Lord deigns to appear to sinful men are ever afterward set apart in their eyes and may not be desecrated by irreverent behavior, for man owes to God the highest degree of veneration. Throughout the Orient, the custom of removing the shoes before entering into a place dedicated to divine service, whether true or false, is still observed. V.6. Moreover, He said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. This was the formal declaration of majesty and power. Where deliverance, salvation, is required, there the Angel of the Lord, Jehovah, the mighty God Himself, must come to the rescue of weak and sinful men. But where God is present and visits His children in mercy, there the safety of all those that put their trust in Him is assured. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. Sinful man cannot endure the sight of the holy God, and the eye is naturally overcome by the splendor which reflects the glory of the Lord.
The command to go to Egypt. — V. 7. And the Lord said, I have surely seen, “seeing I have seen,” a very emphatic expression, the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, the burdens which they were forced to bear, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters, in the presence of the cruel drivers; for I know their sorrows, the pains and the suffering which they were enduring; v.8. and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Cp. Gen. 10, 19; 15, 18. The land of Canaan, which was now inhabited by the Canaanitish tribes enumerated here, was to the children of Israel the Land of Promise, a good land on account of its great fertility, and a large or wide land in contrast to the present condition of oppression in the land of Egypt, a land overflowing with milk and honey, supremely rich in flowery and nourishing pastures. V.9. Now, therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me; and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. V.10. Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. This was the object of the Lord’s explanation, to make Moses the leader of the people in effecting their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. With. out the command and call of God no man should venture to undertake work in His kingdom. Even Christ glorified not Himself to be made a High Priest, Heb. 5, 5. 6. Moses received an immediate call from God; His method at the present time is that of the mediate call, through the congregations or their representatives.
The emphatic commission. — V.11. And Moses said unto God, Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? Moses certainly had learned humility in. the school of Midian, not unmixed with dejection; all his youthful rashness was forgotten. “He who once would, when as yet he ought not, now will no longer when he ought.” V.12. And He said, Certainly I will be with thee, the presence, the power, and the wisdom of God was to accompany Moses; and this shall be a token unto thee that I have sent thee: When thou halt brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. This was literally fulfilled, for it was on almost the identical spot then occupied by Moses that the children of Israel were encamped when they entered into the formal relation of worshipers of Jehovah. But Moses had another objection. V.13. And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say unto me, What is His name? what shall I say unto them? The name God Almighty was too general to distinguish the true God from the idols of Egypt, and therefore the inquiry for the name has the purpose of obtaining some expression on the part of God which would indicate His essence and the actual manifestation of the divine essence toward His people, by which they might understand and apprehend Him. V.14. And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM; and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. It is a majestic declaration in which God reveals His essence to Moses as the unchangeable, eternally faithful covenant God. From past to future, from everlasting to everlasting, He is the same merciful Lord over all, without change or shadow of turning. V.15. And God said, moreover, unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is My name forever and ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations. Forward into the endless future, and backward into the past without beginning: there is only that one true God as He should be accepted by all men. V.16. Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, visiting I have visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt; v.17. and I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction, the burden, of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. The apparently cumbersome repetition of the name of God and the long enumeration of the Canaanitish tribes all serve for emphasis to bring out the certainty of the fulfilment. V.18. And they shall hearken to thy voice; and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us, for the present revelation of God to Moses concerned, and had significance for, all the people; and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord, our God. This request was not a deception, but agreed with the plan of God, for because the Lord knew the hard heart of Pharaoh, Moses and the elders were, at the beginning, not to ask more than a leave of absence, for Pharaoh’s denial of this petition would then reveal the hardness of his heart. God intended to make Pharaoh an example for all time.
THE PROMISE OF DELIVERANCE. V.19. And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. The omniscient God knew that Pharaoh would not permanently submit to Him, not even after the ten plagues, but would deliberately harden himself against his better knowledge and thus invite destruction upon himself. V.20. And I will stretch out My hand and smite Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in the midst thereof. The Lord announces that He will glorify Himself by means of great miracles which He would perform in the midst of Egypt, thus letting all men know that He was supreme. And after that he will let you go. V.21. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it sha11 come to pass that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty; v.22. but every woman shall borrow, that is, ask, request, of her neighbor, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment; and ye shall put them upon your sons and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians. By God’s dispensation, the Egyptian women would show their Israelite neighbors all kindness in readily bringing forth all the jewelry and the vessels of precious metals which they desired, this spoiling of the Egyptians being intended by God to compensate the Israelites for the many years of serfdom and slavery. It may often seem that there is neither right nor justice in the world, but the righteousness of God will always bring deliverance to His children, very often with a greater blessing than they expected.