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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Exodus 3

Verses 1-6


Moses is called by the LORD when he is eighty years old. That is at the end of his natural life. In Psalm 90 he says this himself: “As for the days of our life, they are seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years” (Psalms 90:1; Psalms 90:10). Before the Lord can use someone, a person must learn to renounce his natural abilities. Moses has learned this. However, it is not enough not to rely on one’s own skills. Now he must learn to trust in God’s power.

The LORD Appears to Moses

Moses learned the shepherd’s calling for forty years. Now he is with his flock “to the west side of the wilderness”, or “beyond the wilderness”. He has, as it were, the wilderness experiences behind him. Many men of God have been shepherds. According to God’s heart the shepherd gives the best indication of the way in which He wants to lead His people. David is a shepherd: “He also chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them with his skillful hands” (Psalms 78:70-Baruch :). It is written of the Lord Jesus that He is a Ruler who will “shepherd” the people of God, that is to say, as a Shepherd would be to them (Matthew 2:6).

While Moses shepherds the sheep, he comes to the mountain of God, Horeb. Horeb is another name for the Sinai, the mountain where later the law is given (cf. Exodus 19:11; Deuteronomy 4:10). That is why the mountain is called “the mountain of God”. There the Angel of the LORD appears to him. Exodus 3:4 shows that it is God Himself.

The Angel of the LORD is the manifestation of the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament. Wherever God appears to man, He does so through the Lord Jesus. It is the first time after many years that the LORD appears again to someone. Apparitions have never been the order of the day. God appears only at special occasions.

God also appears in different ways. To Moses He appears in a burning thorn bush. To Hagar He appeared at a well (Genesis 16:7; Genesis 16:13-2 Chronicles :). He has chosen a ladder with Jacob (Genesis 28:13).

The LORD appears to Moses and calls him when he is busy with his daily work. We also see this with the brothers Peter and Andrew and the brothers James and John. When the Lord Jesus calls them to follow Him, Peter and Andrew are busy casting out the nets to catch fish; James and John are busy repairing the nets (Matthew 4:18-Song of Solomon :). This is how the Lord still works today. He calls people who are faithful in their daily work.

Moses notices that the bush burns but is not consumed. The bush represents man by nature, the sinful man. We also see the whole people of Israel in it, as in Egypt the burning oven. We also see that God is in the fire. Therefore, the bush is not consumed. God uses the fire of trial to purify His people, and us. What is not in agreement with Him is consumed by the fire. As a result, we will increasingly answer to His purpose for us: to become more like the Lord Jesus. He is with us in the trial (Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 3:25).

The LORD sees that Moses is approaching the bush to see the miraculous phenomenon. He sees in what we are interested. He rejoices when we show interest when He reveals Himself. At the same time He maintains His holiness. Where God is, is holiness. Moses must take off his shoes (cf. Joshua 5:15).

When God has gained Moses’ attention, He makes Himself known as the God of the patriarchs with whom He has made a covenant: with Abraham (Genesis 15:13-2 Chronicles :; Genesis 15:18), with Isaac (Genesis 26:3) and with Jacob (Genesis 46:3-Numbers :). That is the ground on which He will start to act. He is and remains their God, even though they have died, for in Him they remain alive, which will be proved in the resurrection: “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the [passage about the burning] bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB. Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him” (Luke 20:37-Zechariah :).

Verses 7-10

Moses Must Go to Pharaoh

God says to Moses that He has seen what is being done to His people and He has heard them moan about it. He is familiar with their sorrows. That brings Him to action. He has come down to redeem them and bring them to a land He has chosen for them. And Moses is the man whom He will use to carry out His purpose, that is to say the first part of it, which is to lead the people out of Egypt. God knows that Moses will not enter the promised land.

The fact that it is a land flowing with milk means that it is extremely suitable for animal husbandry. The juicy meadows will ensure that the goats, sheep and cows give a lot of milk. The flowing with honey is another proof of the riches of the soil conditions of the land. The expression “flowing with milk and honey” occurs here for the first time and is repeated many times after (Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; Numbers 14:8Numbers 16:13-2 Chronicles :; Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 11:9Deuteronomy 26:9; Deuteronomy 26:15Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 31:20; Joshua 5:6; Jeremiah 11:5; Jeremiah 32:22; Ezekiel 20:6; Ezekiel 20:15).

In the coming down of God and the sending of Moses we see a picture of what God has done through His Son. The Lord Jesus descended to earth to save people who sigh under the yoke of sin. As with Israel, He did not speak from heaven, but came from heaven to earth. He did so to bring all who believe in Him into the heavenly land, that is, to bless them “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

Verses 11-12

First Objection and God’s Answer

Moses comes with his objections. He sees his own
1. incapacity,
2. ignorance,
3. incredibility.
4. inarticulacy,
5. after which he finally shows his unwillingness.

Moses is full of objections. His first objection shows that he considers himself totally unfit for his task. When he was still in Egypt he was full of vigor. Then he would do it. There his self-assured ‘I’ forms the hindrance to God’s work. Now his humble ‘I’ is the hindrance. When God calls, it does not matter who we are, but Who He is. He says: “I will be with you.”

This answer the LORD also gives to Gideon when he raises the same objection as Moses to the commission he receives from him: “He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man”” (Judges 6:15-Nehemiah :).

Moses also receives a sign that he and the people will serve God on His mountain. With this, God also gives the actual purpose of the redemption of His people: that they may serve Him. Serving here means serving as a slave. So far the people have served the Egyptians as slaves; after their redemption they will serve God and worship Him as His people (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9).

As fast as Moses acted the first time when he struck the Egyptian to death, so slow is he now to respond to God’s calling. The man who has shown the progressive development of human nature now shows a reluctance that also stems from human experience. Neither of them can have a place in the work of God.

Verses 13-22

Second Objection and God’s Answer

Moses comes up with a second objection. He is not convinced. Who actually sends him? He thinks he does not know enough about God to be able to speak of Him when asked. In His goodness and grace God also meets this objection of Moses. He acts with us the same way. He meets all our objections as long as they arise from our weakness and not from our unwillingness. In that way He speaks with an objecting Ananias whom He sends to Paul (Acts 9:10-Esther :) and with an objecting Peter whom He sends to Cornelius (Acts 10:9-Nehemiah :).

First God points out the immutability of His Person: “I AM WHO I AM.” He is the eternal Being Himself, the totally independent One. He finds everything in Himself and everything and everyone depends on Him. The Lord Jesus calls Himself so too. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58), which means that before Abraham’s existence He has always been there as the I AM. He is the eternal One, always true to Himself.

Then God continues, ”furthermore”, (Exodus 3:15) with His answer, pointing out that He has Himself made contact with the patriarchs: He is “the LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. This also means that He will fulfill the covenant He has made to them. The patriarchs have died, but the promises of God have not lapsed. To relieve Moses, God then tells him what will happen. He is the One “declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done” (Isaiah 46:10).

Moses and the elders must tell the king of Egypt that “the LORD, the God of the Hebrews” has come to them (Exodus 3:18). In this name, which Moses later mentions to Pharaoh (Exodus 5:3; Exodus 7:16Exodus 9:1; Exodus 9:13Exodus 10:3), the LORD shows that his people are a company of pilgrims. They were instructed by Him to “go a three days’ journey into the wilderness”, that they “may sacrifice to the LORD” their God. In Exodus 3:12 we have read the purpose of salvation: serving God. Now we see a special aspect of serving God: to sacrifice to Him.

They cannot sacrifice to God in Egypt. This requires “a three days’ journey into the wilderness”. The number three is associated with the thought of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus: from the death of the cross to the resurrection are three days (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22-Isaiah :Matthew 20:18-Psalms :. The three days’ journey speaks of this. By believing in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus a person is freed from the power of the world, sin and death and can serve and sacrifice to God.

Pharaoh, by his refusal, gives God the opportunity to show His power. It is ultimately a battle between God and Pharaoh with God’s people as a stake.

When they leave Egypt, the Israelites have to claim the outstanding wages of many years of slave labor. In this way God settles the debt Egypt has with His people. The payment will be made in kind, in the form of objects of valuable metals and clothing. These are things that are used in Egypt by the Egyptians to dishonor God. However, these objects can be used by God’s people for God’s glory. Thus, the metal objects are later used for the construction of the tabernacle.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.