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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 3

Verses 1-22


In tending Jethro's sheep Moses came to Mount Horeb, called "the mountain of God," because it signified Israel's relationship with God as under law. It is also called Sinai. Only after Moses' long years of desert experience does God finally reveal Himself to him, attracting him by the amazing sight of fire raging in a bush without consuming it (vs.2-3). As he goes closer to observe this miraculous sight, God calls him by name, warning him not to come near, but rather to remove his sandals, for He says, "The place where you stand is holy ground" (v.5).

The bush speaks of Israel, and the fire is significant of the persecution they suffered at the hand of the Egyptians. But God is His sovereign power would not allow Israel to be consumed by all the opposition of their enemies. He would allow the fire, but would limit its power. But the fact of this being holy ground intimates a much deeper lesson than this, for it is a reminder of the cross of Christ, where all the awesome fire of God's judgment fell upon the Lord Jesus because of our sins. But that fire did not consume Him. Animal sacrifices were consumed by fire, but in great contrast, the Lord Jesus bore and consumed all the fire of God's judgment and has come forth victorious in resurrection. This is truly "holy ground."

God's revelation to Moses then is full and real. He speaks of Himself as "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob" (v.6). This is significant of the tri-unity of the Godhead. For Abraham is typical of God the Father, Isaac, of God the Son, and Jacob is significant of the work of God the Holy Spirit in a believer. The Old Testament characteristically uses the expression continually, "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." The New Testament is rather characterized by the expression, "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

When God spoke to him, Moses hid his face, being afraid to think of looking at God. Now God speaks to him of His people Israel, and that He had observed their oppression by cruel masters. Moses had seen this forty years before, and God knew it well, but the time has only now arrived when God has decided to deliver them out of the bondage of Egypt and to bring them to a good and large land, "flowing with milk and honey, "-- a land at the time inhabited by others (v.8). The reason that the six nations mentioned here were to be dispossessed is intimated inGenesis 15:16; Genesis 15:16, where it is said at the time of Abraham, "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet compete." However, Deuteronomy 7:1-6 shows that, at the time of Israel's entrance into the land, the iniquity of the Amorites was complete. Along with this, the cry of the children of Israel in Egypt had come into the ears of God, and He was about to act.

God had used various circumstances to prepare Moses for this time when He tells him He is sending him to Egypt to deliver Israel from their bondage (v.10). Perhaps by this time he thought he was past the age of being usable by God at all, for he was 80 years (Acts 7:30). But God knew that at 40 he was not ready, and 80 is just the right time, for God does not use one because of his strength, but more likely because of his weakness.

Moses feels himself totally incapable of this great work. He says, "Who am I?" Forty years before he had been ready to act: now he does not feel ready at all. For he has had to learn that human strength is nothing, and only when this has been learned is one really ready for the Lord's service. Therefore, the one sufficient answer to his question is the Lord's assurance, "I will certainly be with you" (v.12). Without Him all would be hopeless: with Him all is perfectly certain.

However, God adds as a sign that He has actually sent Moses that he and the nation Israel would serve God on this very mountain (Mt.Horeb) when God brought them out of Egypt. No doubt Moses would have desired a previous sign, but God sought to encourage faith in His own Word that would act in view of the future.

Moses was filled with trepidation, as God's servants usually are when called to do His work. He asks that, when he tells the Israelites that the God of their fathers has sent him, what will he say when they ask as to God's name. However, the weakness of Moses' faith does give occasion for God to reveal one great aspect of His name which should encourage every believer. He tells Moses, "I am I who am" (v.14, Numerical Bible). Therefore Moses was to declare, "I Am has sent me to you." In this name is implied the fact that God is the self-existent, eternally existent One. With Him there is no question of past and future, as there is with us. He is the omni-present One, infinite and eternal. This name is equally applied to the Lord Jesus, who uses the expression many times in the Gospel of John, and seals the matter with the declaration, "Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). Wonderful name to fill a believer's heart with adoration!

God has told Moses that Israel is to know that God's name is "I Am", the eternal, self-existent Creator; but they must know also that He is a God who draws near to Israel as "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." This is His name forever, and His memorial to all generations (v.15). We have seen that this emphasizes the truth of God's eternal tri-unity. Thus He is made known to mankind, and He assures Israel of unchanging love and care toward that nation. Moses is therefore told to gather the elders of Israel together and give them this message, that the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob had appeared to him, to declare His knowledge of the sufferings of Israel under the hand of the Egyptians, and that He will bring them back from this bondage to the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey (v.17).

After years of prolonged suffering, Israel would now be ready to listen to Moses, God tells him (v.18). Then he must bring the elders of Israel with him to the king of Egypt and tell him that Lord God of the Hebrews had met with them, and at His direction they were to ask that Israel might take a three days journey into the wilderness with the object of sacrificing to Him. Such a journey involves a complete separation from Egypt (the world), for the three days symbolizes the truth of death and resurrection, because the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the only basis of worship that God can allow.

Yet Moses was forewarned that the king of Egypt would not allow them to go unless he is compelled by a mighty hand. For this reason God would gradually increase the pressure upon Pharaoh, not at first showing the power of His might, but bringing miraculous signs to bear upon Egypt in such a way that their conscience ought to be awakened to seriously listen and obey the living God. finally the affliction from God's hand would be so dreadful that Pharaoh would be forced to let them go (v.20).

More than this, God would dispose the people of Egypt to give the Israelites many necessities for their journey. They were to ask (not "borrow") these from the Egyptians (v.22). Of course in their years of slavery they had fully earned all of this, and God would impress on them also that the silver and gold were His: they could therefore receive these things as from His own hand. Compare 1 Corinthians 3:21, written to believers, "all things are yours."

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 3". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.