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Exodus 3:1-5

Context

3:1 Now Moses 1  was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert 2  and came to the mountain of God, to Horeb. 3  3:2 The angel of the Lord 4  appeared 5  to him in 6  a flame of fire from within a bush. 7  He looked 8  – and 9  the bush was ablaze with fire, but it was not being consumed! 10  3:3 So Moses thought, 11  “I will turn aside to see 12  this amazing 13  sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” 14  3:4 When the Lord 15  saw that 16  he had turned aside to look, God called to him from within the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” 17  And Moses 18  said, “Here I am.” 3:5 God 19  said, “Do not approach any closer! 20  Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy 21  ground.” 22 

1 sn The vav (ו) disjunctive with the name “Moses” introduces a new and important starting point. The Lord’s dealing with Moses will fill the next two chapters.

2 tn Or “west of the desert,” taking אַחַר (’akhar, “behind”) as the opposite of עַל־פְּנֵי (’al-pÿne, “on the face of, east of”; cf. Gen 16:12; 25:18).

3 sn “Horeb” is another name for Mount Sinai. There is a good deal of foreshadowing in this verse, for later Moses would shepherd the people of Israel and lead them to Mount Sinai to receive the Law. See D. Skinner, “Some Major Themes of Exodus,” Mid-America Theological Journal 1 (1977): 31-42.

4 sn The designation “the angel of the Lord” (Heb “the angel of Yahweh”) occurred in Genesis already (16:7-13; 21:17; 22:11-18). There is some ambiguity in the expression, but it seems often to be interchangeable with God’s name itself, indicating that it refers to the Lord.

5 tn The verb וַיֵּרָא (vayyera’) is the Niphal preterite of the verb “to see.” For similar examples of רָאָה (raah) in Niphal where the subject “appears,” that is, allows himself to be seen, or presents himself, see Gen 12:7; 35:9; 46:29; Exod 6:3; and 23:17. B. Jacob notes that God appears in this way only to individuals and never to masses of people; it is his glory that appears to the masses (Exodus, 49).

6 tn Gesenius rightly classifies this as a bet (ב) essentiae (GKC 379 §119.i); it would then indicate that Yahweh appeared to Moses “as a flame.”

7 sn Fire frequently accompanies the revelation of Yahweh in Exodus as he delivers Israel, guides her, and purifies her. The description here is unique, calling attention to the manifestation as a flame of fire from within the bush. Philo was the first to interpret the bush as Israel, suffering under the persecution of Egypt but never consumed. The Bible leaves the interpretation open. However, in this revelation the fire is coming from within the bush, not from outside, and it represents the Lord who will deliver his people from persecution. See further E. Levine, “The Evolving Symbolism of the Burning Bush,” Dor le Dor 8 (1979): 185-93.

8 tn Heb “And he saw.”

9 tn The text again uses the deictic particle with vav, וְהִנֵּה (vÿhinneh), traditionally rendered “and behold.” The particle goes with the intense gaze, the outstretched arm, the raised eyebrow – excitement and intense interest: “look, over there.” It draws the reader into the immediate experience of the subject.

10 tn The construction uses the suffixed negative אֵינֶנּוּ (’enennu) to convey the subject of the passive verb: “It was not” consumed. This was the amazing thing, for nothing would burn faster in the desert than a thornbush on fire.

11 tn Heb “And Moses said.” The implication is that Moses said this to himself.

12 tn The construction uses the cohortative אָסֻרָה־נָּא (’asura-nna’) followed by an imperfect with vav (וְאֶרְאֶה, vÿereh) to express the purpose or result (logical sequence): “I will turn aside in order that I may see.”

13 tn Heb “great.” The word means something extraordinary here. In using this term Moses revealed his reaction to the strange sight and his anticipation that something special was about to happen. So he turned away from the flock to investigate.

14 tn The verb is an imperfect. Here it has the progressive nuance – the bush is not burning up.

15 tn The preterite with the vav (ו) is subordinated as a temporal clause to the main point of the verse, that God called to him. The language is anthropomorphic, as if God’s actions were based on his observing what Moses did.

16 tn The particle כִּי (ki, “that”) introduces the noun clause that functions as the direct object of the verb “saw” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 81, §490).

17 sn The repetition of the name in God’s call is emphatic, making the appeal direct and immediate (see also Gen 22:11; 46:2). The use of the personal name shows how specifically God directed the call and that he knew this person. The repetition may have stressed even more that it was indeed he whom the Lord wanted. It would have been an encouragement to Moses that this was in fact the Lord who was meeting him.

18 tn Heb “And he said”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

19 tn Heb “And he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 sn Even though the Lord was drawing near to Moses, Moses could not casually approach him. There still was a barrier between God and human, and God had to remind Moses of this with instructions. The removal of sandals was, and still is in the East, a sign of humility and reverence in the presence of the Holy One. It was a way of excluding the dust and dirt of the world. But it also took away personal comfort and convenience and brought the person more closely in contact with the earth.

21 sn The word קֹדֶשׁ (qodesh, “holy”) indicates “set apart, distinct, unique.” What made a mountain or other place holy was the fact that God chose that place to reveal himself or to reside among his people. Because God was in this place, the ground was different – it was holy.

22 tn The causal clause includes within it a typical relative clause, which is made up of the relative pronoun, then the independent personal pronoun with the participle, and then the preposition with the resumptive pronoun. It would literally be “which you are standing on it,” but the relative pronoun and the resumptive pronoun are combined and rendered, “on which you are standing.”



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