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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 3

Verses 1-22

The Call of Moses and his Commission to be the Deliverer of Israel

1. Horeb] The names Horeb and Sinai seem to be synonymous, though it has been suggested that Horeb is the name given to the entire mountain range, while Sinai denotes the particular mountain where the Law was given. Assuming that the Pentateuch is composed of different documents, it is better to believe that Horeb is the name used by one set of writers and Sinai by another. Horeb is here called the mountain of God by anticipation. The reason of the appellation follows in Exodus 19. At the same time, it is not improbable that there was a sanctuary on Mt. Sinai from earliest times, connected with the worship of the Babylonian moon-god Sin.

2. Angel of the Lord] i.e. of Jehovah (see on Exodus 3:13). In Exodus 3:4 it is Jehovah Himself who speaks; in Exodus 23:20-21, Exodus 23:22 divine attributes are ascribed to the ’angel of the Lord,’ God’s’ name’ is in him (see on Exodus 3:13), and his voice is identified with that of God. It would therefore appear that the Angel of Jehovah is not a created angel but Jehovah Himself in the act of self-manifestation: see on ’my presence’ in Exodus 33:14. On the other hand, there are passages like Exodus 32:34 where the angel seems to be distinguished from Jehovah, the explanation being probably that the mere manifestation of God gives rise to a distinction between what He is in Himself, and what He is in His special appearance. In this distinction between God in Himself and God in self-manifestation, we may see an adumbration of the Incarnation of God in Christ. By many, the Angel of the Lord is identified with the Second Person of the Trinity. It is to be observed that on this occasion Moses saw no human form: cp. Deuteronomy 4:15. In a flame of fire] Fire is a frequent emblem of God in the Scriptures on account of its illuminating, purifying, and destructive properties, and appears as the accompaniment and indication of His presence: see Exodus 13:21; Exodus 19:18; Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; Psalms 97:3; Ezekiel 1:4; Acts 2:3, etc. On this occasion the bush, though enveloped in flame, was not consumed. This may be symbolical of the graciousness of God who spares the unworthy and restrains the fierceness of His anger while He communicates with them: see on Exodus 24:9-11.

5. Every place where God manifests Himself is holy. To take off the shoes is an ancient as well as modern way of expressing reverence in the East. The Mohammedan takes, off his shoes when he enters the mosque. The action symbolises the removal of the defilement caused by sin or contact with the world on entering the presence of Him with whom ’evil cannot dwell.’

6. The patriarchs are mentioned to show that it is no new or unknown God who speaks, but One who made a covenant with the fathers of the nation and who still remembers it. These words are cited by our Lord as a proof that God’s people continue to live after death: cp. Mark 12:26-27; Moses hid his face] cp. the act of Elijah, 1 Kings 19:13, and see on Exodus 19:9; Exodus 33:18. Reverenee is not only due to God, but is the first condition of receiving divine truth. God manifests Himself to the lowly.

8. Flowing with milk and honey] A proverbial expression indicating fertility and abundance. On the tribes inhabiting Canaan see on Genesis 10; Numbers 34:1-15.

11. With the hesitation of Moses compare that of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1:4-8. Forty years before Moses was more self-confident (cp. Acts 7:25). In the long sojourn in Midian he learned to mistrust himself, and was on that account all the more fitted to be the instrument of Him whose ’strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Moses here puts forward four excuses, each of which is in turn overborne. He pleads (1) that he is personally unfit (Exodus 3:11-12), (2) that the Israelites will not know who sent him (Exodus 3:13-22), (3) that they will not believe that Jehovah has sent him (Exodus 4:1-9), and (4) that he does not possess the gift of persuasive eloquence (Exodus 4:10-17). I will be with thee] The guarantee of fitness and success: cp. our Lord’s promise, Matthew 28:20. A token] The token was still in the future: cp. 1 Samuel 2:34; 2 Kings 19:29; Isaiah 7:14. Experience corroborates the ventures of faith. For the fulfilment of this sign see Exodus 19.

13. What is his name?] The name of God is His revealed character: see Exodus 23:21; Exodus 34:5-7. Here God reveals Himself by the name Jehovah. As already explained (Genesis 2:4) the word ’Jehovah’ is the result of a combination of the consonants of the original name (the consonants alone are written in ancient Hebrew) and the vowels of its substitute ’Adonai.’ Most scholars believe that the original form of the name was ’Jahve’ or ’Yahve.’ Now this resembles in form the third person singular masculine imperfect of a Hebrew verb, and is here connected with the verb hawa or haya, ’to be.’ God calls Himself ’Ehyeh,’ i.e. I am. When He is named by others, He is ’Jahve,’ i.e. He is. The name denotes the absolute self-existence of God. He alone truly exists: cp. Deuteronomy 4:35; Isaiah 45:6; Revelation 1:4. Some scholars, however, prefer to take the word as a future, ’I will be,’ in which case the name expresses rather the faithfulness of God, the assurance that He will be with His people as their helper and deliverer. Others, again, take the word to be the causative form of the verb, in which case it will mean, ’He who causes to be,’ ’the Creator’: see RM and on Exodus 6:3.

15. My memorial] i.e. my name, the designation by which I will be remembered.

16. Elders of Israel] The heads or representatives of the tribes and families. It appears from this that even in Egypt the Israelites had some kind of organisation. In the Pentateuch, when the people of Israel are addressed, it is frequently the ’elders’ who are meant. They are the usual medium of communication between Moses and the people, and act as the representatives of the latter: see e.g. Exodus 17:5; Exodus 19:7; Deuteronomy 27:1; Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 31:28.

18. God of the Hebrews] To the Israelites God is ’Jehovah, the God of your fathers’ (Exodus 3:16), a designation which would appeal to their hearts as it reminded them of God’s covenant, with their forefathers and His faithfulness to it. See on Exodus 3:6. But to Pharaoh He is simply ’the God of the Hebrews.’

Three days’ journey into the wilderness] i.e. most probably to Horeb, the ’wilderness’ being a general term for the region lying between Egypt and Palestine. There was no intention to deceive Pharaoh in this request. Had Pharaoh been willing to grant the people entire release this would have been asked at first. But God, knowing that Pharaoh was not willing to let them go, enjoined Moses to make only this moderate request, so as to emphasise the obstinacy of the king.

19. No, not by a mighty hand] This means either ’in spite of the fact that I will lay My hand heavily upon him’; or better, with a slight change of reading, as LXX has it, ’unless I lay My hand heavily upon him.’

22. Shall borrow] RV ’shall ask.’ The word is the common Hebrew verb meaning ’to ask,’ as used e.g. in Judges 5:25; 1 Kings 3:11; 2 Kings 2:10; Psalms 122:6, where there is no idea of asking under a promise of giving back what is received. Spoil] The same word is rendered ’recover’ in 1 Samuel 30:22, which suggests that if there was any ’borrowing’ it was on the part of the Egyptians, who had been taking the labour of the Israelites without any recompense. For the fulfilment, see chapter Exodus 12:35, Exodus 12:36.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 3". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.