a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

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 L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord, 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.

16 Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘The L ord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. 17I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ 18They will listen to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The L ord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; let us now go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice to the L ord our God.’ 19I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go. 21I will bring this people into such favor with the Egyptians that, when you go, you will not go empty-handed; 22each woman shall ask her neighbor and any woman living in the neighbor’s house for jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters; and so you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

22. But every woman shall borrow.4747     Lat., “et postulabit mulier;” and every woman shall ask. It will be observed that C. has avoided the error of employing the word borrow here. The verb שאל, shal, means simply to ask or request, and cannot properly be rendered borrow, unless the context makes it incontestable that an engagement to return the thing asked for is implied. C. has followed S M. in employing the word postulabit; and apologizes for using hospes in the next clause, where S M. had used cohabitatrix W Those who consider these means of enriching the people to be but little in accordance with the justice of God, themselves reflect but little how widely that justice of which they speak extends. I acknowledge that it is His attribute to defend every one’s rights, to prohibit theft, to condemn deceit and rapine; but let us see what every one’s property is. Who will boast that he has anything, except what is given him by God? And all is given on this condition, that each one should possess according to His will whatever God pleases, who is free to take away at any moment whatsoever He has given. The Hebrews spoiled the Egyptians; and should the latter complain that an injury is done them, they would argue against God that He had transferred His own free gifts from them to others. Would this complaint be listened to, that God, in whose hands are the ends of the earth, who by His power appoints the bounds of nations, and reduces their kings to poverty, had deprived certain persons of their furniture and jewels? Another defense is set up by some, that the Hebrews took nothing which was not their own, but only the wages which were due to them; because they were iniquitously driven to servile labors, and had subsisted meanly upon what belonged to themselves. And certainly it would have been just that their labor should have been recompensed in some way. But there is no need of weighing the judgment of God by ordinary rules, since we have already seen that all the possessions of the world are His, to distribute them according to His pleasure. Nevertheless I do not thus suppose Him to be without law; for although His power is above all laws, still, because His will is the most certain rule of perfect equity, whatever He does must be perfectly right; and therefore He is free from laws, because He is a law to Himself, and to all. Neither would I simply say with Augustin,4848     Contra Faustum, lib. 22. cap. 71. that this was a command of God which should not be canvassed but obeyed, because He knows that He commands justly, and that his servants must obediently perform whatever He commands. This indeed is truly said, and yet we must hold fast that higher principle, that, since whatever people call their own they possess only by God’s bounty, there is no juster title to possession than His gift. We will not therefore say that the Hebrew women purloined that which God ordered them to take, and which He chose to bestow upon them; neither will God be accounted unjust in bestowing nothing but what was His own.4949     Prof. Hengstenberg quotes this passage from C., and calls it “the traditional vindication,” — “which leaves quite untouched the point in which the difficulty peculiarly lies.” He also notices the solution of Michaelis, viz., that the Israelites borrowed with the intention of returning the goods; as well as other no less unsatisfactory explanations. His own is, that the idea of a gift, and not a loan, is the only one which either the circumstances of the case or the language itself admits. “They, (the Israelites,)” he says, “asked,” and this reference leads to a contest of asking and giving, in which the latter gains the upper hand. It is immediately connected with “the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians,” and is marked as a consequence of it. The liberal giving of the Egyptians proceeded from the love and good-will which the Lord awakened in their hearts towards Israel. He traces the misapprehension to “an error in the very faulty Alexandrian version, which substitutes lending for giving. Jerome, who commonly follows it, was led by it to a similar mistake, and, through him, Luther, who alludes mostly to his translation — the Vulgate.” — Hengstenberg, vol. 2, pp. 417-432. The word which I have translated “hospitem,” or “hostess,” some understand as a “fellow-sojourner;” and this is not very important, because we gather from the other word, that the Egyptians were mixed among the Hebrews. In the end of the verse, because the original expresses, “ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters,” almost all interpreters expound it to mean that they should ornament them; but it seems to me that it only refers to the abundance of the spoil; as much as to say, you shall not only obtain as much as you can carry yourselves, but shall also load your sons and daughters.

VIEWNAME is study