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Moses at the Burning Bush


Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6He said further, “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 he was afraid to look at God.

7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

The Divine Name Revealed

13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” 15God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,

and this my title for all generations.

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1. Now Moses kept the flock. We have already said that he was occupied as a shepherd for a long time (viz., about forty years) before this vision appeared to him. The patience, then, of the holy man is commended by his continuance in this work; not that Moses had any intention of boastfully celebrating his own virtues, but that the Holy Spirit dictated what would be useful to us, and, as it were, suggested it to his mouth, that what he did and suffered might be an example for ever. For he must have had much mental struggle at this tedious delay, when old age, which weakens the body, came on, since even in those days few retained their activity after their eightieth year; and although he might have lived frugally, yet temperance could not protect even the most robust body against so many hardships, because it is given to very few persons to be able thus to live in the open air, and to bear heat, and cold, and hunger, constant fatigue, the care of cattle, and other troubles. God, indeed, miraculously supported the holy man in the performance of his arduous duties; but still the internal conflict must have gone on, — why does God so long delay and suspend what he so long ago determined? It was, then, no ordinary virtue which overcame these distracting assaults, which were constantly renewing his anxiety; whilst, in the mean time, he was living poorly, in huts and sheds, as well as often wandering over rough and desert places, though from childhood to mature manhood he had been accustomed to luxury; as he here relates, that, having led his flock across the Desert, he came to Horeb, which certainly could not have been effected without his experiencing the cold as he lay on the ground by night, and burning heat by day. The title of “the mountain of God” refers3535     κατὰ πρόληψιν. — Lat by anticipation to a future period, when the place was consecrated by the promulgation of the Law there. It is well known that Horeb is the same mountain which is also called Sinai, except that a different name is given to its opposite sides, and, properly speaking, its eastern side is called Sinai, its western, Horeb.3636     Horeb appears to have been the general name of the whole mountainous district, of which Sinai formed a part. This solution fully meets the objection of certain modern cavillers, who have argued, at least, against the identity of the author of the Pentateuch, if not against its inspiration, on the ground that the same events are recorded as having taken place sometimes on Horeb, sometimes on Sinai. Vide Hengstenberg on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, Ryland’s Transl., vol. 2, p. 325; Fisk’s Memorial of the Holy Land, p. 146. Since, then, God appeared there and gave so many manifest signs of his heavenly glory, when he renewed his covenant with his people, and furnished them with a rule of perfect holiness, the place became invested with peculiar dignity.

2. And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him. It was necessary that he should assume a visible form, that he might be seen by Moses, not as he was in his essence, but as the infirmity of the human mind could comprehend him. For thus we must believe that God, as often as he appeared of old to the holy patriarchs, descended in some way from his majesty, that he might reveal himself as far as was useful, and as far as their comprehension would admit. The same, too, is to be said of angels, who, although they are invisible spirits, yet when it seemed good to the Almighty, assumed some form in which they might be seen. But let us inquire who this Angel was? since soon afterwards he not only calls himself Jehovah, but claims the glory of the eternal and only God. Now, although this is an allowable manner of speaking, because the angels transfer to themselves the person and titles of God, when they are performing the commissions entrusted to them by him; and although it is plain from many passages, and3737     Calvin’s own commentary on Zechariah 1:8, will best explain this reference; there, also, he inclines to identify the chief of the Angels with the Son of God. “There were then, as it were, a troop of horsemen: but the Prophet says that one appeared as the chief leader, who was accompanied by others.” “There was one more eminent than the rest, and in this there is nothing unusual, for when God sends forth a company of angels, he gives the lead to some one. If we regard this angel to be Christ, the idea is consistent with the common usage of Scripture,” etc. — Com. on Zech., pp. 31-33. especially from the first chapter of Zechariah, that there is one head and chief of the angels who commands the others, the ancient teachers of the Church have rightly understood that the Eternal Son of God is so called in respect to his office as Mediator, which he figuratively bore from the beginning, although he really took it upon him only at his Incarnation. And Paul sufficiently expounds this mystery to us, when he plainly asserts that Christ was the leader of his people in the Desert. (1 Corinthians 10:4.) Therefore, although at that time, properly speaking, he was not yet the messenger of his Father, still his predestinated appointment to the office even then had this effect, that he manifested himself to the patriarchs, and was known in this character. Nor, indeed, had the saints ever any communication with God except through the promised Mediator. It is not then to be wondered at, if 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. There is a great variety of opinions as to the vision. It is too forced an allegory to make, as some do, the body of Christ of the bush, because his heavenly majesty consumed it not when he chose to inhabit it. It is also improperly wrested by those who refer it to the stubborn spirit of the nation, because the Israelites were like thorns, which yield not to the flames. But when the natural sense is set forth, it will not be necessary to refute those which are improbable. This vision is very similar to that former one which Abraham saw. (Genesis 15:17.) He saw a burning lamp in the midst of a smoking furnace; and the reason assigned is, that God will not permit his people to be extinguished in darkness. The same similitude answers to the bush retaining its entireness in the midst of the flame. The bush is likened to the humble and despised people; their tyrannical oppression is not unlike the fire which would have consumed them, had not God miraculously interposed. Thus, by the presence of God, the bush escaped safely from the fire; as it is said in Psalm 46:1, that though the waves of trouble beat against the Church and threaten her destruction, yet “shall she not be moved,” for “God is in the midst of her.” Thus was the cruelly afflicted people aptly represented, who, though surrounded by flames, and feeling their heat, yet remained unconsumed, because they were guarded by the present help of God.

3. And Moses said, I will now turn aside. It is certain that his mind was disposed to reverence from no rashness, but by divine inspiration. Although not yet accustomed to visions, he still perceives that, this is no unmeaning spectacle, but that some mystery was contained in it, which he must by no means neglect, and to the knowledge of which he was divinely called. In this, too, we must observe his tractableness, in turning aside to learn. For it often happens that God presents himself to us in vain, because we presumptuously reject such great mercy. Let us learn, then, by the example of Moses, as often as God invites us to himself by any sign, to give diligent heed, lest the proffered light be quenched by our own apathy. But from his calling it a “great sight,” we gather that he was taught by secret inspiration the depth of the mystery, though it was as yet unknown. In this way God prepared his mind to reverence,3838     A humilite. — Fr. that he might the sooner profit by it.

4. God called unto him out of the midst of the bush. In the first place, my readers will observe that, as is the case in almost all visions, it was not a voiceless spectacle to alarm the holy man, but that instruction accompanied it by which his mind might obtain encouragement. For there would be no use in visions, if the senses of those who see them were kept in alarm. But although God was unwilling to terrify his servant, yet, in two ways, he claims authority and reverence for his intended address; first, by calling Moses twice by name, he makes his way into the depths of his heart, that, as if cited before the tribunal of God, he may be more attentive in listening; and, again, by commanding him to put off his shoes, he prepares him to humility, by admiration and fear. There is much discussion with respect to the latter clause amongst many, who delight in allegory.3939     “En curiositez frivoles;” in frivolous subtleties. — Fr. I will not recite their various opinions, because a simple exposition of the true meaning will dispose of the whole of their subtle triflings. Moses is commanded to put off his shoes, that by the very bareness of his feet his mind might be disposed to reverential feelings; and on this account, too, he is reminded of the holiness of the ground, because, in our prayers, the bending of the knees, and the uncovering of the head, are helps and excitements to the worship of God. And this, I think, is made sufficiently clear by the reason which is immediately added, that the place on which Moses stood was “holy ground,” and, therefore, not rashly, or in a profane manner to be trodden on. Whence we gather, that he was instructed by the outward sign of adoration to enter into the presence of God as a trembling suppliant. He had, indeed, said, “Here am I,” (which was a testimony that his mind was teachable, and prepared to obey,) yet it was good that he should be more actively aroused, in order that he might come before God with greater fear. But if this most noble Prophet of God had need of such a preparation, no wonder that God stirs up our unwilling hearts, by many aids, in order that we may worship him in truth. And although the same command is not given to all which was given to Moses, still let us learn, that this is the object of all ceremonies, that the majesty of God, being duly and seriously perceived in our minds, may obtain its rightful honor, and that he may be regarded in accordance with his dignity. If any prefer the deeper meaning (anagoge,) that God cannot be heard until we have put off our earthly thoughts, I object not to it; only let the natural sense stand first, that Moses was commanded to put off his shoes, as a preparation to listen with greater reverence to God. If the question be now raised as to the holiness of the place, the reply is easy, that it received this honorable title on account of the vision. Mount Sinai did not, therefore, naturally possess any peculiar sanctity; but because God, who sanctifies all things, deigned to give there the sign of his presence. Thus Bethel was dignified by Jacob with high and honorable titles. (Genesis 28:17.)

“How dreadful is this place! this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven;”

because it had been consecrated by a special revelation. For, wherever we see any sign of the glory of God, piety awakens this feeling of admiration in our hearts. In the meantime, however, since we are too prone to superstition, these two errors must be avoided; lest, in our gross imaginations, we should, as it were, draw down God from heaven, and affix him to places on earth; and, also, lest we should account that sanctity perpetual which is only temporary. The remedy of the first evil is to reflect on the nature of God; of the second, to observe his design, how far, and for what use he sanctifies places. For since the nature of God is spiritual, it is not allowable to imagine respecting him anything earthly or gross; nor does his immensity permit of his being confined to place. Again, the sanctity of a place must be restricted to the object of the manifestation. Thus Mount Horeb was made holy in reference to the promulgation of the law, which prescribes the true worship of God. If the descendants of Jacob had considered this, they would never have set up Bethel as a holy place in opposition to Sion; because, although God once appeared there to the patriarch, He had never chosen that place; therefore they were wrong in proceeding from a particular instance to a general conclusion.

6. I am the God of thy father. He does not merely proclaim himself as some heavenly power, nor claim for himself only the general name of God, but recalling to memory his covenant formerly made with the patriarchs, he casts down all idols and false gods, and confirms Moses in the true faith. For hence he knew surely, that he had not set his hopes in vain in the God whom Abraham and the other patriarchs had worshipped, and who, by the privilege of adoption, had separated their race from all other nations. And lest, through the long lapse of time, Moses might think that what had been handed down concerning Abraham was obsolete, He expressly asserts that His faithfulness still held good, by calling Himself “the God of his father.” But since, in setting forth the hope of redemption, He renews the memory of His covenant, we gather that it was not obliterated from the heart of Moses; because it would have been absurd so to speak of a thing unknown; nor would it have been of any use to make mention of promises of which no recollection existed in the heart of Moses. Since, therefore, the hope of the redemption of the chosen people depended on the covenant which God had formerly made with the patriarchs, He shews that He had not been trusted to in vain, because His engagement would not be ineffectual. It was not so much a sign of reverence as of terror that Moses covered his face; yet must we take both feelings into account, that he felt sudden alarm at the sight of God, and voluntarily adored his majesty. It was necessary that his mind should be affected, and impressed with reverential feelings, that he might be more ready to obey. We read in Isaiah, (Isaiah 6:2,) that even the angels veil their faces, because they cannot bear the infinite glory of God; no wonder then that a mortal man dared not to look upon him. The name of God is appropriated to the visible appearance in which his majesty was concealed.

7. And the Lord said. Before he delegates to Moses the office of delivering his people, God encourages him in a somewhat lengthened address to the hope of victory and success; for we know how doubts enfeeble and hold back the mind with anxiety and care; Moses then could not engage in or set about his work earnestly until furnished with the confidence of divine assistance. Therefore God promises to be his guide, that in reliance upon such aid he may gird himself boldly to the warfare. From hence we may gather this general doctrine — that, however slow and unwilling we may naturally be to obey God, we must not turn away from any command when he assures us of success, because no stimulus can be stronger than the promise that his hand shall be always ready to help us when we follow whither he calls us. With this object God thus speaks before he makes mention of the vocation of Moses, that he may more cheerfully enter upon his work, in the assurance of a successful issue. Moreover, when God has founded the redemption of his people upon his gratuitous covenant, and therefore on his own free bounty, he adds another argument derived from his justice, namely, that it is impossible for the judge of the world not to help the oppressed and afflicted when they are undeservedly mistreated, and especially when they implore his assistance. This is true generally, that God will be the avenger of all unjust cruelty; but his special aid may be expected by believers whom he has taken into his friendship and protection. Accordingly, when he has declared that he has been moved by his adoption of this people not to desert it in its extreme necessity, he adds, in confirmation, that he has come to restrain their oppressors’ tyranny, since he has heard the cry of the afflicted. This was said at that particular time to encourage Moses; but it ought to afford no common consolation in the troubles of us all when we are groaning under any unjust burden; for God, whose sight was then so clear, is not now so blind as not to see all injustice, and to pity them that call upon him. Although the expression here used in the original, “seeing I have seen,” is a Hebraism, still it signifies that, while God delays and suspends punishment, his winking at men’s evil deeds is no proof that he does not behold them from heaven, and will in due time appear as their judge, for the words denote a continued observation — as much as to say, that even then he was beholding them, when by his quiescence he might have seemed to neglect the tribulation of his people. By adding that he had heard their cry, he indirectly rebukes their lukewarmness, since we do not read that they cried until compelled by their extremity and despair. Therefore there is no cause for wonder that they almost wasted away under their misfortunes before succor came, because their prayers were scarcely offered4141     “Jusques a ce qu’il ait ete contraint jusques au dernier desespoir;” until they had been driven even to complete despair. — Fr. after a long time. And not even then is it probable (as I said before) that they prayed earnestly; but God had more respect to his mercy and faithfulness than to their right and well-grounded preparedness. In these words the Spirit exhorts us to call upon God, and not to be stunned and stupified by our cares and sorrows, but to learn to fly straightway to this sacred anchor; as the Psalmist also says, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry,” (Psalm 34:15,) and as he testifies in another place, (Psalm 65:2,) that he is a God that heareth prayer; thus does he anxiously invite us to this remedy whenever we are hard pressed. When he speaks of them as his “people which are in Egypt,” the apparent inconsistency does not a little tend to confirmation, implying that the promise which he made to Abraham with regard to inheriting the land of Canaan would not be without effect; for it would not accord with the truth of God that a people to whom an inheritance elsewhere was given should sojourn in Egypt, unless it was to be freed in the appointed season. It might also be understood adversatively — although a people dwelling in Egypt be far from the land of Canaan, and so might seem in a manner to be put away from me, still have I heard their cry. But the probable meaning is, that because it was not fit that a people which was to inherit the Holy Land should always remain sojourning elsewhere, therefore God would shortly deliver them. In the end of the verse the repetition in other words, “I know their sorrows,” is also an amplification of what came before.

8. And I am come down to deliver them. He now more clearly announces his intention not only to relieve their present calamity, but to fulfill the promise given to Abraham as to the possession of Canaan. He therefore marks the end of their deliverance, that they might enjoy the rest and inheritance promised to them. It is a common manner of speaking to say, God descends to us, when he actually puts forth his power and shews that he is near us; as much as to say, that the Israelites would experience plainly that his help was at hand. The “large” land seems to be brought in comparison with the straits in which they now were; for although the land of Goshen was fertile and convenient, still it scarcely afforded room enough for their increasing multitude; besides, there they were kept shut in like slaves in a house of bondage. Finally, he again assures them that he would deal graciously with them, because he had heard their cry, and was not ignorant of their sorrows, although he might have long delayed to avenge them.

10. Come now therefore. After God had furnished his servant with promises to engage him more cheerfully in his work, he now adds commands, and calls him to undertake the office to which he is designed. And this is the best encouragement to duty, when God renders those, who would be otherwise slow through doubt, sure of good success; for although we must obey God’s plain commands without delay or hesitation, still he is willing to provide against our sluggishness by promising that our endeavors shall not be vain or useless. And certainly it is a feeling naturally implanted in us all, that we are excited into action by a confidence of good success; therefore although God sometimes, for the purpose of trying the obedience of his servants, deprives them of hope, and commands them peremptorily to do this or that, still he more often cuts off hesitation by promising a successful issue. Thus, then, he now aroused Moses to perform his commands by setting the hope of the deliverance before him. The copula must be resolved into the illative particle, because the command and vocation undoubtedly depend upon the promise.

11. Who am I? He cannot yet be accused of disobedience, because, conscious of his own weakness, he answers that he is not sufficient for it, and therefore refuses the commission. His comparison of himself with Pharaoh was an additional pretext for declining it. This, then, seems to be the excuse of modesty and humility; and as such, I conceive it not only to be free from blame, but worthy of praise. It is no contradiction to this that he knew God to be the proposer of this very arduous task, for he wonders that some one else was not rather chosen, since God has so many thousands of beings at command. But another question arises, why he, who forty years ago had been so forward in killing the Egyptian, and, relying on the vocation of God, had dared to perform so perilous a deed, should now timidly deny his sufficiency for the deliverance of the people? It does not seem probable that his rigor had decreased from age; though youth is naturally ardent, and age induces coldness and supineness: but it appears that his fault was of another kind, viz., that he advanced hastily at first, not having sufficiently considered his own powers, nor weighed the greatness of his undertaking. For although such precipitation may be praiseworthy, still it often fails in the middle of its course; just as precocious fruits either never arrive at maturity, or soon perish. Therefore, although Moses afforded an example of a noble disposition, when he so hastily devoted himself to God’s work; yet was he not then provided with that firmness which would support him to the end, because the faith, which prevailed in his heart, had not yet struck its roots deeply enough, nor had he thoroughly examined his own capability. Therefore does he tremble when he is brought to the point, though he had been more confident when its difficulty was as yet unconsidered. So daily do we, who appear to ourselves of good courage4242     “Courageux comme lions;” as bold as lions. — Fr. when out of the reach of darts, begin to quake as the battle comes near us; because we perceive the dangers which did not affect us at a distance. No wonder, then, if Moses, who had been ready to obey forty years ago, and who had perseveringly cherished in himself this holy feeling, is filled with new alarm, when he is commanded to enter on the field of battle.

12. And he said, Certainly I will be with thee. It is remarkable that God sets his ready help alone against all to overcome every fear, and to take away every scruple; as much as to say, It matters not who Moses is, or what may be his strength, so that God be his leader. In these words we are taught, that he is never regarded by us with due honor, unless when, contented with his assistance alone, we seek for no ground of confidence apart from him; and, although our own weakness may alarm us, think it enough that he is on our side. Hence these celebrated confessions of his saints:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:4.)


“In God have I put my trust;
I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” (Psalm 56:4.)


“I will not be afraid of ten thousands of the people.”
(Psalm 3:6.)


“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31.)

Therefore, in proportion to our advancement in the faith, when we are exposed to the greatest dangers, do we magnify the power of God, and, exalting ourselves in that, advance boldly against all the world; and this is the ground of firm and unwearied obedience, when the thought that God is with us is deeply rooted in our hearts. But, after Moses is commanded to turn away his reflections from himself, and to fix all his regards upon the promised help of God, he is confirmed by a sign, that the Israelites should sacrifice on Mount Horeb three days after their departure from Egypt. Still this promise appears neither very apt nor opportune, since it would not exist in effect till the thing was done. I pass over the forced interpretations, which some, to avoid this absurdity, have adduced; since others wisely and prudently observe, that the confirmation which we receive from posterior tokens, is neither useless nor vain, and that there are examples of it elsewhere in Scripture. Samuel, by anointing David, promises that he shall be king of the people; and pronounces that this shall be the sign that the anointing is from God. (1 Samuel 16:13.) David had long to battle with misfortunes before he could enjoy this token, yet will it not be thought superfluous, since in its season it confirmed the favor of God. Isaiah, prophesying of the raising of the siege of the city, adds a sign,

“Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.”
(Isaiah 37:30.)

It was said to John the Baptist,

“Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” (John 1:33.)

Yet, before he beheld that sign, he already knew that Christ was the Son of God; for the prophecies of both his parents were well known to him. But there is nothing absurd in the faith, which is founded on the word, being increased by the addition of a sign. In fine, God magnifies his mercy by the new mercy which supervenes, thus, as it were, heaping up the measure; and, in truth, the vocation of Moses was ratified by a remarkable proof, when, in the very place on which he then stood, the people, brought forth by his instrumentality, offered a solemn sacrifice. In the meantime God kept his servant in suspense, as though he had said, Let me perform what I have decreed; in due time you will know that your were not sent by me in vain, when you have brought the people safely to this spot.

13. Behold, when I come to the children of Israel. If we believe that Moses spoke his own sentiments here, he would say, that he could not be the messenger of an unknown God; which seems highly improbable. For who can think that the faith of the holy Prophet was so obliterated, that he was forgetful of the true God, whom he had devoutly served? Whereas, in the name of his elder son, he had borne witness to his solemn recollection of Him, when he voluntarily professed himself a stranger in the land of Midian. Nor does it appear at all more suitable to the children of Israel, in whose mouths the covenant made with their fathers constantly was. It will not, however, be far from the truth, if we suppose that the faith both of Moses and the Israelites had grown somewhat faint and rusty. He himself, with his father-in-law, was altogether without the instruction which would retain him in that peculiar worship, and in that knowledge, which he had imbibed in Egypt; and the whole people had departed far away from the course of their fathers; for although the brightness of the true and ancient religion was not entirely gone, still it only shone in small sparks. But whilst Moses tacitly confesses his ignorance, because he was not sufficiently familiar with the doctrine handed down from the holy patriarchs, yet because he was about to present himself to the people as a stranger, he infers that he shall be rejected, unless he brings with him some watchword which will be acknowledged. “I will declare that which thou commandest, (he seems to say,) that I am sent by the God of our fathers; but they will deride and despise my mission, unless I shall present some surer token, from whence they may learn that I have not falsely made use of thy name.” He therefore seeks for a name which may be a distinguishing mark; since it is not a mere word or syllable which is here in question, but a testimony, by which he may persuade the Israelites that they are heard on the score of the covenant with their fathers.

14. I am that I am. The verb in the Hebrew is in the future tense, “I will be what I will be;” but it is of the same force as the present, except that it designates the perpetual duration of time. This is very plain, that God attributes to himself alone divine glory, because he is self-existent and therefore eternal; and thus gives being and existence to every creature. Nor does he predicate of himself anything common, or shared by others; but he claims for himself eternity as peculiar to God alone, in order that he may be honored according to his dignity. Therefore, immediately afterwards, contrary to grammatical usage, he used the same verb in the first person as a substantive, annexing it to a verb in the third person; that our minds may be filled with admiration as often as his incomprehensible essence is mentioned. But although philosophers discourse in grand terms of this eternity, and Plato constantly affirms that God is peculiarly τὸ ὄν (the Being); yet they do not wisely and properly apply this title, viz., that this one and only Being of God absorbs all imaginable essences; and that, thence, at the same time, the chief power and government of all things belong to him. For from whence come the multitude of false gods, but from impiously tearing the divided Deity into pieces by foolish imaginations? Wherefore, in order rightly to apprehend the one God, we must first know, that all things in heaven and earth derive4343     Precario. — Lat. De grace. — Fr. at His will their essence, or subsistence from One, who only truly is. From this Being all power is derived; because, if God sustains all things by his excellency, he governs them also at his will. And how would it have profited Moses to gaze upon the secret essence of God, as if it were shut up in heaven, unless, being assured of his omnipotence, he had obtained from thence the buckler of his confidence? Therefore God teaches him that He alone is worthy of the most holy name, which is profaned when improperly transferred to others; and then sets forth his inestimable excellency, that Moses may have no doubt of overcoming all things under his guidance. We will consider in the sixth chapter the name of Jehovah, of which this is the root.

15. And God said moreover. God again assumes his name taken from the covenant which he had made with Abraham and his posterity, that the Israelites may know that they do not deceive themselves in an uncertain God, provided they depart not from the religion of their fathers; for as soldiers assemble round their standard to maintain the order of their ranks, so does he command them to look back upon the special grace of their adoption, and to know that they are a people elected of God, because they are Abraham’s sons. He confines them within these limits, that they may not wander about in search of God. For we know that whatever opinions were held by the Gentiles as to the Deity, were not only entangled with many errors, but were also ambiguous, so that they were always wavering with respect to them. God demands another kind of religion from his people, on the certainty of which their hearts may depend. Besides, their long sojourn in the land of Egypt, although it had not destroyed the knowledge of the true God, had yet much obscured that light of revelation which their fathers possessed. And again, the promise might seem to be obsolete, when they had received no assistance, whilst overwhelmed in such an abyss of misery; and on this ground the faith received from their fathers had undoubtedly grown cold. Wherefore, that they may learn to repose upon it, he calls himself the God of their fathers, and declares, that by this title he will be celebrated for ever; for I cannot consent to refer this to the previous expression, “I am that I am,” since the context does not admit of it. Hence might be inferred the incomparable love of God towards his chosen people, because he had passed over all the nations of the earth, and had attached himself to them alone. But we must remember, that although it was honorable to Abraham and the patriarchs for God to take his name from them, yet that the main object of this was to confirm the truth of his promise. There may be an apparent incongruity in saying, “this is my memorial unto all generations,” because a much more excellent memorial succeeded in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ; but my reply is, that since, in the coming of Christ, the truth of the covenant made with Abraham was shewn forth, and was thus demonstrated to be firm and infallible, its memory was rather renewed than destroyed; and that thus it still survives and flourishes in the Gospel, since Abraham even now ceases not to be the father of the faithful, under the one Head. We conclude that God would not be spoken of on earth, without the effects of his gratuitous adoption appearing, by which he may be proved to be faithful and true.