New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

3:4 The double repetition " Moses, Moses" may be some kind of rebuke. " I have" seen the affliction of Israel could suggest that Moses felt God was not sensitive to the pain of His children; he had been living for 40 years feeling forgotten by God . Moses " wondered" at what he saw and heard at the burning bush (Acts 7:31)- a Greek word which is often used in a negative sense concerning people lacking faith and insight when they should have had it.

3:5 God appeared to Moses in the flame of fire in the bush, but Moses had to be told to take off his shoes as a sign of respect- even though taking off shoes was understood as a token of respect and recognition of sin (see 2 Sam. 15:30). " Draw not nigh hither...for the place whereon thou standest is holy" sounds as if Moses did not appreciate the holiness of God.

3:6- see on Lk. 20:37.

3:7 God looked on the sorrows of His people through the sensitivity of Moses, He saw and knew their struggles, their sense of being trapped, their desire to revive spiritually but their being tied down by the painful business of life and living; and He sent Moses to deliver them from this. But these very words are quoted about our deliverance through the 'coming down'  of the Lord Jesus (Ex. 3:7; 4:31 = Lk. 1:68). 
Our guardian Angels are emotional beings, capable of changing their plans in accordance with how moved they are by our prayers, and to an extent they fellowship the sufferings they bring upon us- so the Angel in the burning bush could tell Moses "I have seen the affliction of My people (for whom I am guardian)... and have heard their cry... for I know their sorrows: and I am come down to deliver them. . and to bring them up out of that land (again, the work of the Angel)" (Ex. 3:7,8). The purpose of God in Christ is to "bring together in one all things, which are in Heaven (Angels) and which are on earth (us their charges )", and in the day of judgement we will perhaps be united in some special spiritual sense to our Angel who has redeemed us through this life.

3:8 The Angel at the burning bush said "I am come down to deliver thee . . . to bring thee unto the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites. . ". We know an Angel was physically sent in advance of the Israelites to drive out those tribes, and so the phrase "I am come down" used by the same Angel here may therefore be taken literally- He literally, physically "came down". Although this phrase "came down" is often used to describe God manifestation, it may be that when it is used in connection with the Angels, it does have a physical, literal application. It seems that great stress is placed in Scripture on the Angels physically moving through space, both on the earth and between Heaven and earth, in order to fulfil their tasks, rather than being static in Heaven or earth and bringing things about by just willing them to happen. See on Gen. 18:10.

3:11 Who am I- See on 4:10. Through Moses allowing himself to become part of God manifestation, he found a confidence to achieve that which felt impossible to him. He asks God: "Who am I...?" to do the great things God required... and the answer was "I will be who I will be" (Ex. 3:11-13). Moses' sense of inadequacy was met by the principle of God's manifestation in him; and so will ours be, if we participate in it.

3:12- see on Jud. 6:12,16; Dt. 31:8; Ex. 4:4.
It even seems that Moses had forgotten the significance of God's Name, even though it had been revealed to Abraham (Ex. 3:13). Moses' fear to look upon God suggests a bad conscience.

:17 The promised land was to flow with milk and honey to those who kept covenant. And yet Saul later precluded the people from experiencing the blessings of the covenant by petty legalism and a desire for personal control. The people were obedient to his word, but then totally disobeyed Yahweh's command about not eating blood as a result of it (1 Sam. 14:25,33).

3:18- see on 6:12; 33:14-16.

God had explained to Moses what He wished him to tell Pharaoh: "Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, hath met with us: and now let us go, we pray thee, three days journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to Yahweh our God" (Ex. 3:18). But Moses actualy doesn't say those exact words. Instead he says: "Thus saith Yahweh, the God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness... The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice unto Yahweh our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword" (Ex. 5:1,3). This seems perilously similar to the way in which Eve added to Yahweh's words when telling the serpent that actually, God had told Adam not to even touch the fruit. Moses appears to be painting Yahweh as somewhat draconian and threatening of him personally as well as Israel- as if to say 'Well sir, please do us this favour, or else our God is gonna get mad with us'. Perhaps this was actually how Moses misperceived Yahweh; or perhaps he added to Yahweh's words in order to make his appeal sound more plausible.

Thus we can as it were do the work of the Saviour Himself, if we truly live as in Him. In this spirit, Moses’ faith in keeping the Passover led to Israel’s salvation, they left Egypt by him (Heb. 3:16; 11:28); and when Aaron deserved death, he was redeemed by Moses’ prayer on his behalf (Dt. 9:20). Moses’ prayer, with uplifted hands, resulted in Israel’s victory over Amalek; without his prayer, and the intensity of it, there would have been no victory for them. However, he had to learn this lesson; for God first of all taught him that if he explained the power of God’s Name to Israel’s elders, then they would hearken unto him (Ex. 3:18). But they didn’t hearken unto Moses (5:20), because he didn’t bother expounding the Name to them. Therefore he did explain it to them (6:1-9 = 3:14-17); but then again they refused to hearken to him (6:9 cp. 3:18). He learnt that what was proclaimed by God as possible all the same depends on human effort. And this lead him on even further, to realise that through his spirituality, he could bring salvation for others.

The concepts of being God manifest and also being representative of a sinful Israel come together in Moses in a wonderful way. Ex. 3:18 is an example of this. The elders of Israel were to tell Pharaoh that "the Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us". Yet Yahweh God of Israel had only met with Moses. Yet because he was representative of Israel and also because he himself manifested Yahweh God of Israel, the elders had met Yahweh when they met Moses. In this we see a superb prefigurement of the Lord Jesus. He was the supreme, faultless manifestation of God, and yet also the total, empathetic representative of sinful man. 

3:20 Moses "supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them" ; but God told Moses at the bush: " I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt....". Moses had yet to learn the meaning of God manifestation through men- Ex. 3:20 cp. Acts 7:25.