Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 3

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 3:1. 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 him till he is eighty years of age. To the mountain of God — So called, either from the vision of God here following, (see Acts 7:30,) or by anticipation, from God’s glorious appearance there, and his giving the law from thence. Even to Horeb — Called also Sinai, Exodus 19:1. Probably Horeb was the name of the whole tract of mountains, and Sinai the name of that particular elevation where the vision happened, and the law was delivered: or Horeb and Sinai were two different summits of the same mountain.

Verse 2
Exodus 3:2. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him — Not a created angel, but the Angel of the covenant, Christ, who then and ever was God, and was to be man, and a messenger from God to man. He, termed the Angel of God’s presence, (Isaiah 63:9,) had wrestled with Jacob, (Genesis 32:24;) and had redeemed him from all evil, (Genesis 48:16;) and afterward conducted his posterity through the wilderness, 1 Corinthians 10:4. These his temporary appearances were presages of his more solemn mission and coming, on account of which he is fitly called the Angel or Messenger. That this angel was no creature, appears from his saying, I am the Lord, a language which angels never speak; but, I am sent from God — I am thy fellow-servant. In a flame of fire — Representing God’s majesty, purity, and power, and showing that he was about to bring terror and destruction to his enemies, and light and comfort to his people, and to display his glory before all. The bush burned and 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; for God was in the burning bush, was and always will be present with his people in their sufferings; Isaiah 43:2; Daniel 3:25.

Verse 3-4
Exodus 3:3-4. 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. God called to him, and said, Moses, Moses — Probably there had been no appearance of God to any one since Jacob’s descent into Egypt, above two hundred years before: and Moses, being addressed thus by name, must have been much more surprised by what he heard than by what he saw. Divine calls are then effectual when the Spirit of God makes them particular, and calls us as by name. He said, Here am I — Not only to hear what is spoken, but to do what is commanded.

Verse 5
Exodus 3:5. Draw not nigh hither — Keep thy distance. Thus God checks his curiosity and forwardness, and disposes his mind to the greater reverence and humility. Put off thy shoes from thy feet — This is required as a token of his reverence for the Divine Majesty, then and there eminently present; of his humiliation for his sins, which rendered him unworthy to appear before God; of his putting away all sin in his walk or conversation; and of his submission and readiness to obey God’s will; for which reason slaves were wont to approach their masters barefooted. We find the same direction given to Joshua, for the same reason, Joshua 5:15. And it seems not improbable that putting off the shoes, as a sign of humiliation and veneration, was a ceremony observed by the patriarchs in their religious worship. Buxtorf says, that to this day the Jews go to their synagogues barefoot on the day of atonement, (Jud. Synag., c. 30, p. 57,) and many learned men suppose that the priests officiated barefoot in the tabernacle and temple. The custom of treading barefoot in holy places seems to have been general in the East: the Egyptians used it: and Pythagoras, who recommends to his disciples to worship, putting off their shoes, ( ανυποδητος προσκυνει,) is thought to have learned this rite from them. The Mohammedans observe this ceremony at the present time, as do also the Christians of Abyssinia. The truth seems to be, as Henry observes, that putting off the shoes was then what putting off the hat is now, a token of respect and submission. The ground is holy — Not absolutely, but in relation to him who sanctified it by this peculiar manifestation of his 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
Exodus 3:6. I am, &c. — He lets him know it is God that speaks to him, to engage his reverence, faith, and obedience. The God of 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
Exodus 3:8. 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 afterward 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
Exodus 3:10. 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, afterward 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
Exodus 3:11. 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 he says, Who am I? The more fit any person is for service, the less opinion he has of himself.

Verse 12
Exodus 3:12. 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
Exodus 3:13. When they shall say, 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
Exodus 3:14. God said — Two names God would be known by: 1st, A name that speaks what he is in himself, I AM THAT I AM. The Septuagint renders the words ειμι ο ων, I AM the existing Being, or HE WHO IS and the Chaldee, I AM HE WHO IS, and WHO WILL BE. That is, I am He that enjoys an essential, independent, immutable, and necessary existence, He that IS, and WAS, and IS TO COME. It explains his name Jehovah, and signifies, 1st, That he is self- existent: he has his being of himself, and has no dependance on any other. And being self-existent, he cannot but be self-sufficient, and therefore all-sufficient, and the inexhaustible fountain of being and blessedness. 2d, That he is eternal and unchangeable: the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. For the words are with equal propriety rendered, I WILL BE WHAT I AM, or, I AM WHAT I WILL BE, or, I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. Other beings are, and have been, and shall be; but because what they have been might have been otherwise, and what they are might possibly not have been at all, and what they shall be may be very different from what now is therefore their changeable, dependant, and precarious essence, which to-day may be one thing, to- morrow another thing, and the next day possibly nothing at all, scarce deserves the name of being. There is another consideration which makes this name peculiarly applicable to God, namely that he is the fountain of all being and perfection, and that from him all things have derived their existence; so that it is he alone that has life in himself: and no creature, of whatever rank or order, has so much as an existence of its own: For in him we live, and move, and have our being. And though divers of God’s attributes are, through his goodness, participated by his creatures, yet because they possess them in a way so inferior to that transcendent, peculiar, and divine manner in which they belong to God, the Scriptures seem absolutely to exclude created beings from any title to those attributes.

Thus our Saviour says, There is none good but one, that is God. Thus St. Paul terms God the only Potentate, though the earth be shared by several potentates; and the only wise God, though many men and the holy angels are wise. And thus he describes him as one who only hath immortality, although angels and human souls are also immortal. In so incommunicable a manner does the superiority of God’s nature make him possess those very excellences which the diffusiveness of his goodness has induced him to communicate. 3d, 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.

Verse 15
Exodus 3:15. God will be known, 2d, By a name that speaks what he is to his people. Lest they should not understand the name I AM, Moses is directed to make use of another name of God more familiar to them. The Lord God of your 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 often 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 18-19
Exodus 3:18-19. Hath met with us — Hath appeared to us, declaring his will, that we should do what follows. 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
Exodus 3:22. Every woman shall ask, שׁאלה, shaalah, (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.