Bible Commentary

Exodus 3

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Exodus 3)

Verse 1

[1] Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

Now Moses - The years of Moses's life are remarkably divided into three forties; the first forty he spent as a prince in Pharaoh's court, the second a shepherd in Midian, the third a king in Jeshurun. He had now finished his second forty when he received his commission to bring Israel out of Egypt. Sometimes it is long before God calls his servants out to that work which of old he designed them for. Moses was born to be Israel's deliverer, and yet not a word is said of it to him till he is eighty years of age.

Even to Horeb — Horeb and Sinai were two tops of the same mountain.

Verse 2

[2] And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him — It was an extraordinary manifestation of the divine glory; what was visible was produced by the ministry of an angel, but he heard God in it speaking to him.

In a flame of fire — To shew that God was about to bring terror and destruction to his enemies, light and heat to his people, and to display his glory before all.

And the bush burned, and yet was not consumed — An emblem of the church now in bondage in Egypt, burning in the brick-kilns, yet not consumed; cast down, but not destroyed.

Verse 3

[3] And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.

I will turn aside and see — He speaks as one inquisitive, and bold in his inquiry; whatever it was, he would if possible know the meaning of it.

Verse 4

[4] And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see it, God called to him — If he had carelessly neglected it, it is likely God had departed and said nothing to him.

God called and said, Moses, Moses — This which he heard could not but surprise him much more than what he saw. Divine calls are then effectual, when the spirit of God makes them particular, and calls us as by name. The Word calls, Ho, every one; the Spirit, by the application of that, calls, Ho, such a one; I know thee by name.

Here am I — Not only to hear what is said, but to do what I am bidden.

Verse 5

[5] And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

Put off thy shoes from off thy feet — The putting off the shoe was then what the putting off the hat is now, a token of respect and submission. The ground is holy ground, made so by this special manifestation of the divine presence. We ought to approach to God with a solemn pause and preparation; and to express our inward reverence, by a grave and reverent behaviour in the worship of God, carefully avoiding every thing that looks light, or rude.

Verse 6

[6] Moreover he said, I am the God of thy 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 upon God.

I am the God of thy father — He lets him know it is God that speaks to him, to engage his reverence, faith and obedience. Thy father, thy pious father Amram, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thy ancestors. Engaged to them by solemn covenant, which I am now come to perform.

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God — The more we see of God, the more cause we shall see to worship him with reverence and godly fear. And even the manifestations of God's grace should increase our humble reverence of him.

Verse 8

[8] And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

I am come down to deliver them — When God doth something very extraordinary, he is said to come down to do it, as Isaiah 64:1. This deliverance was typical of our redemption by Christ, and in that the eternal Word did indeed come down from heaven to deliver us.

A large land — So it was, according to its true and ancient bounds, as they are described, Genesis 15:18, and not according to those narrow limits, to which they were afterwards confined for their unbelief and impiety.

A land flowing with milk and honey — A proverbial expression, abounding with the choicest fruits, both for necessity and delight.

Verse 10

[10] Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

I will send thee — And the same hand that now fetched a shepherd out of a desert to be the planter of the Jewish church, afterwards fetched fishermen from their ships to be the planters of the Christian church, that the excellency of the power might be of God.

Verse 11

[11] And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

Who am I? — He thinks himself unworthy of the honour and unable for the work. He thinks he wants courage, and therefore cannot go to Pharaoh: he thinks he wants conduct, and therefore cannot bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt; they are unarmed, undisciplined, quite dispirited, utterly unable to help themselves, Moses was incomparably the fittest of any man living for this work, eminent for learning, wisdom, experience, valour, faith, holiness, and yet Who am I? The more fit any person is for service, commonly the less opinion he has of himself.

Verse 12

[12] And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

Certainly I will be with thee — Those that are weak in themselves, yet may do wonders being strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. God's presence puts wisdom and strength into the weak and foolish, and is enough to answer all objections.

Verse 13

[13] And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

When they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? — What name shall I use, whereby thou mayest be distinguished from false gods, and thy people may be encouraged to expect deliverance from thee?

Verse 14

[14] And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

And God said — Two names God would now be known by. 1. A name that speaks what he is in himself, I am that I am - This explains his name Jehovah, and signifies, 1st, That he is self-existent; he has his being of himself, and has no dependence upon any other. And being self-existent he cannot but be self-sufficient, and therefore all-sufficient, and the inexhaustible fountain of being and bliss. 2dly, That he is eternal and unchangeable, always the same, yesterday to-day, and for ever: he will be what he will be, and what he is. 3dly. That he is faithful and true to all his promises, unchangeable in his word as well as in his nature, and not a man that he should lie. Let Israel know this, I am hath sent me unto you. 2. A name that speaks what he is to his people. Lest that name I am should puzzle them, he is farther directed to make use of another name of God, more familiar.

Verse 15

[15] And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

The Lord God of our fathers hath sent me unto you — Thus God made himself known, that he might revive among them the religion of their fathers, which was much decayed, and almost lost. And that he might raise their expectations of the speedy performance of the promises made unto their fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are particularly named, because with Abraham the covenant was first made, and with Isaac and Jacob oft expressly renewed, and these three were distinguished from their brethren, and chosen to be the trustees of the covenant. This God will have to be his name for ever, and it has been, is, and will be his name, by which his worshippers know him, and distinguish him from all false gods.

Verse 18

[18] And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.

Hath met with us — Hath appeared to us, declaring his will, that we should do what follows.

Verse 19

[19] And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.

I am sure he will not let you go — God sends his messengers to those whose obstinacy he foresees, that it may appear he would have them turn and live.

Verse 22

[22] But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.

Everywoman shall ask (not borrow!) jewels.

And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians — God sometimes makes the enemies of his people not only to be at peace with them, but to be kind to them. And he has many ways of balancing accounts between the injured and the injurious, of righting the oppressed, and compelling those that have done wrong to make restitution.

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