Exodus 3:1
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.
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(1) Moses kept the flock.—The natural occupation of one who had thrown in his lot with the Midianites.

Jethro, his father-in-law.—Rather, his relation by marriage. The word is one of very wide use, corresponding with the Latin affinis. It is even applied to a husband, as in Exodus 4:25. The supposition that it means “father-in-law” has led to the identification of Jethro with Reuel, which is very unlikely. He was more probably Reuel’s son, and Moses’s brother-in-law. His father having died, he had succeeded to his father’s position, and was at once priest and sheikh of the tribe.

To the backside of the desert.—Heb., behind the deserti.e., to the fertile tract which lay behind the sandy plain stretching from the Sinaitic range to the shore of the Elanitic gulf.

The mountain of Godi.e., Sinai. See Exodus 18:5; Exodus 19:2-23, &c.

Even Horeb.—Rather, towards Horeb, or Horeb way. Horeb seems to have been the name of the entire mountain region; Sinai of the group or mass known now as Jebel Musa.



Exodus 3:2

It was a very sharp descent from Pharaoh’s palace to the wilderness, and forty years of a shepherd’s life were a strange contrast to the brilliant future that once seemed likely for Moses. But God tests His weapons before He uses them, and great men are generally prepared for great deeds by great sorrows. Solitude is ‘the mother-country of the strong,’ and the wilderness, with its savage crags, its awful silence, and the unbroken round of its blue heaven, was a better place to meet God than in the heavy air of a palace, or the profitless splendours of a court.

So as this lonely shepherd is passing slowly in front of his flock, he sees a strange light that asserted itself, even in the brightness of the desert sunshine. ‘The bush’ does not mean one single shrub. Rather, it implies some little group, or cluster, or copse, of the dry thorny acacias, which are characteristic of the country, and over which any ordinary fire would have passed like a flash, leaving them all in grey ashes. But this steady light persists long enough to draw the attention of the shepherd, and to admit of his travelling some distance to reach it. And then-and then-the Lord speaks.

The significance of this bush, burning but not consumed, is my main subject now, for I think it carries great and blessed lessons for us.

Now, first, I do not think that the bush burning but not consumed, stands as it is ordinarily understood to stand, for the symbolical representation of the preservation of Israel, even in the midst of the fiery furnace of persecution and sorrow.

Beautiful as that idea is, I do not think it is the true explanation; because if so, this symbol is altogether out of keeping with the law that applies to all the rest of the symbolical accompaniments of divine appearances, all of which, without exception, set forth in symbol some truth about God, and not about His Church; and all of which, without exception, are a representation in visible and symbolical form of the same truth which was proclaimed in articulate words along with them. The symbol and the accompanying voice of God in all other cases have one and the same meaning.

That, I think, is the case here also; and we learn from the Bush, not something about God’s Church, however precious that may be, but what is a great deal more important, something about God Himself; namely, the same thing that immediately afterwards was spoken in articulate words.

In the next place, let me observe that the fire is distinctly a divine symbol, a symbol of God not of affliction, as the ordinary explanation implies. I need not do more than remind you of the stream of emblem which runs all through Scripture, as confirming this point. There are the smoking lamp and the blazing furnace in the early vision granted to Abraham. There is the pillar of fire by night, that lay over the desert camp of the wandering Israelites. There is Isaiah’s word, ‘The light of Israel shall be a flaming fire.’ There is the whole of the New Testament teaching, turning on the manifestation of God through His Spirit. There are John the Baptist’s words, ‘He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’ There is the day of Pentecost, when the ‘tongues of fire sat upon each of them.’ And what is meant by the great word of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ‘Our God is a consuming fire’?

Not Israel only, but many other lands-it would scarcely be an exaggeration to say, all other lands-have used the same emblem with the same meaning. In almost every religion on the face of the earth, you will find a sacred significance attached to fire. That significance is not primarily destruction, as we sometimes suppose, an error which has led to ghastly misunderstandings of some Scriptures, and of the God whom they reveal. When, for instance, Isaiah 33:14 asks, ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ he has been supposed to be asking what human soul is there that can endure the terrors of God’s consuming and unending wrath. But a little attention to the words would have shown that ‘the devouring fire’ and the ‘everlasting burnings’ mean God and not hell, and that the divine nature is by them not represented as too fierce to be approached, but as the true dwelling-place of men, which indeed only the holy can inhabit, but which for them is life. Precisely parallel is the Psalmist’s question, ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in His holy place?’

Fire is the source of warmth, and so, in a sense, of life. It is full of quick energy, it transmutes all kinds of dead matter into its own ruddy likeness, sending up the fat of the sacrifices in wreathes of smoke that aspire heavenward; and changing all the gross, heavy, earthly dullness into flame, more akin to the heaven into which it rises.

Therefore, as cleansing, as the source of life, light, warmth, change, as glorifying, transmuting, purifying, refining, fire is the fitting symbol of the mightiest of all creative energy. And the Bible has consecrated the symbolism, and bade us think of the Lord Himself as the central fiery Spirit of the whole universe, a spark from whom irradiates and vitalises everything that lives.

Nor should we forget, on the other side, that the very felicity of this emblem is, that along with all these blessed thoughts of life-giving and purifying, there does come likewise the more solemn teaching of God’s destructive power. ‘What maketh heaven, that maketh hell’; and the same God is the fire to quicken, to sanctify, to bless; and resisted, rejected, neglected, is the fire that consumes; the savour of life unto life, or the savour of death unto death.

And then, still further, notice that this flame is undying-steady, unflickering. What does that mean? Adopting the principle which I have already taken as our guide, that the symbol and the following oral revelation teach the same truth, there can be no question as to that answer. ‘I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. ‘I AM THAT I AM.’

That is to say, the fire that burns and does not burn out, which has no tendency to destruction in its very energy, and is not consumed by its own activity, is surely a symbol of the one Being whose being derives its law and its source from Himself, who only can say-’I AM THAT I AM’-the law of His nature, the foundation of His being, the only conditions of His existence being, as it were, enclosed within the limits of His own nature. You and I have to say, ‘I am that which I have become,’ or ‘I am that which I was born,’ or ‘I am that which circumstances have made me.’ He says, ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ All other creatures are links; this is the staple from which they all hang. All other being is derived, and therefore limited and changeful; this Being is underived, absolute, self-dependent, and therefore unalterable for evermore. Because we live we die. In living the process is going on of which death is the end. But God lives for evermore, a flame that does not burn out; therefore His resources are inexhaustible, His power unwearied. He needs no rest for recuperation of wasted energy. His gifts diminish not the store which He has to bestow. He gives, and is none the poorer; He works, and is never weary; He operates unspent; He loves, and He loves for ever; and through the ages the fire burns on, unconsumed and undecayed.

O brethren! is not that a revelation-familiar as it sounds to our ears now, blessed be God!-is not that a revelation of which, when we apprehend the depth and the preciousness, we may well fix an unalterable faith upon it, and feel that for us, in our fleeting days and shadowy moments, the one means to secure blessedness, rest, strength, life, is to grasp and knit ourselves to Him who lives for ever, and whose love is lasting as His life? ‘The eternal God, the Lord . . .fainteth not, neither is weary. They that wait upon Him shall renew their strength.’

The last thought suggested to me by this symbol is this. Regarding the lowly thorn-bush as an emblem of Israel-which unquestionably it is, though the fire be the symbol of God-in the fact that the symbolical manifestation of the divine energy lived in so lowly a shrine, and flamed in it, and preserved it by its burning, there is a great and blessed truth.

It is the same truth which Jesus Christ, with a depth of interpretation that put to shame the cavilling listeners, found in the words that accompanied this vision: ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He said to the sneering Sadducees, who, like all other sneerers, saw only the surface of what they were sarcastic about, ‘Did not Moses teach you,’ in the section about the bush, ‘that the dead rise, when he said: I AM the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ A man, about whom it can once be said that God is his God, cannot die. Such a bond can never be broken. The communion of earth, imperfect as it is, is the prophecy of Heaven and the pledge of immortality. And so from that relationship which subsisted between the fathers and God, Christ infers the certainty of their resurrection. It seems a great leap, but there are intervening steps not stated by our Lord, which securely bridge the gulf between the premises and the conclusion. Such communion is, in its very nature, unaffected by the accident of death, for it cannot be supposed that a man who can say that God is His God can be reduced to nothingness, and such a bond be snapped by such a cause. Therefore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living, ‘for all’ those whom we call dead, as well as those whom we call living, ‘live unto Him,’ and though so many centuries have passed, God still is, not was, their God. The relation between them is eternal and guarantees their immortal life. But immortality without corporeity is not conceivable as the perfect state, and if the dead live still, there must come a time when the whole man shall partake of redemption; and in body, soul, and spirit the glorified and risen saints shall be ‘for ever with the Lord.’

That is but the fuller working out of the same truth that is taught us in the symbol ‘the bush burned and was not consumed.’ God dwelt in it, therefore it flamed; God dwelt in it, therefore though it flamed it never flamed out. Or in other words, the Church, the individual in whom He dwells, partakes of the immortality of the indwelling God. ‘Every one shall be salted with fire,’ which shall be preservative and not destructive; or, as Christ has said, ‘Because I live ye shall live also.’

Humble as was the little, ragged, sapless thorn-bush, springing up and living its solitary life amidst the sands of the desert, it was not too humble to hold God; it was not too gross to burst into flame when He came; it was not too fragile to be gifted with undying being; like His that abode in it. And for us each the emblem may be true. If He dwell in us we shall live as long as He lives, and the fire that He puts in our heart shall be a fountain of fire springing up into life everlasting.

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.

3:1-6 The years of the life of Moses are divided into three forties; the first forty he spent as a prince in Pharaoh's court, the second as a shepherd in Midian, the third as a king in Jeshurun. How changeable is the life of man! The first appearance of God to Moses, found him tending sheep. This seems a poor employment for a man of his parts and education, yet he rests satisfied with it; and thus learns meekness and contentment, for which he is more noted in sacred writ, than for all his learning. Satan loves to find us idle; God is pleased when he finds us employed. Being alone, is a good friend to our communion with God. To his great surprise, Moses saw a bush burning without fire to kindle it. The bush burned, and yet did not burn away; an emblem of the church in bondage in Egypt. And it fitly reminds us of the church in every age, under its severest persecutions kept by the presence of God from being destroyed. Fire is an emblem, in Scripture, of the Divine holiness and justice, also of the afflictions and trials with which God proves and purifies his people, and even of that baptism of the Holy Ghost, by which sinful affections are consumed, and the soul changed into the Divine nature and image. God gave Moses a gracious call, to which he returned a ready answer. Those that would have communion with God, must attend upon him in the ordinances wherein he is pleased to manifest himself and his glory, though it be in a bush. Putting off the shoe was a token of respect and submission. We ought to draw nigh to God with a solemn pause and preparation, carefully avoiding every thing that looks light and rude, and unbecoming his service. God does not say, I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but I am. The patriarchs still live, so many years after their bodies have been in the grave. No length of time can separate the souls of the just from their Maker. By this, God instructed Moses as to another world, and strengthened his belief of a future state. Thus it is interpreted by our Lord Jesus, who, from hence, proves that the dead are raised, Lu 20:37. Moses hid his face, as if both ashamed and afraid to look upon God. The more we see of God, and his grace, and covenant love, the more cause we shall see to worship him with reverence and godly fear.Jethro his father-in-law - Or "brother-in-law." The word in the Hebrew is a word signifying relative by marriage. When Moses arrived in Midian, Reuel was an elderly man Exodus 2:16; 40 years later (Exodus 2:23 note), Reuel's son, Jethro, had probably succeeded him.

The backside - i. e. "to the west of the district." Among the Hebrews the East is before a man, the west behind him, the south and north on the right and left hand.

Desert - Or wilderness, not a barren waste, but a district supplying pasturage. The district near Sherm, on the west of the gulf of Akabah, where Jethro may have resided, is described as barren and parched; on the west and east are rocky tracts, but to the northwest lies the district of Sinai, where the pasturage is good and water abundant. The Bedouins drive their flocks there from the lowlands at the approach of summer. From this it may be inferred that the events here recorded took place at that season.

To Horeb - More exactly, toward Horeb. Moses came to the mountain of God, i. e. Sinai, on his way toward Horeb, a name given to the northern part of the Sinaitic range. Moses calls Sinai "mountain of God" by anticipation, with reference to the manifestation of God. There is no authority for assuming that the spot was previously held sacred (see Exodus 5:5); but it has been lately shown that the whole Peninsula was regarded by the Egyptians as specially consecrated to the gods from a very early time.


Ex 3:1-22. Divine Appearance and Commission to Moses.

1. Now Moses kept the flock—This employment he had entered on in furtherance of his matrimonial views (see on [15]Ex 2:21), but it is probable he was continuing his service now on other terms like Jacob during the latter years of his stay with Laban (Ge 30:28).

he led the flock to the backside of the desert—that is, on the west of the desert [Gesenius], assuming Jethro's headquarters to have been at Dahab. The route by which Moses led his flock must have been west through the wide valley called by the Arabs, Wady-es-Zugherah [Robinson], which led into the interior of the wilderness.

Mountain of God—so named either according to Hebrew idiom from its great height, as "great mountains," Hebrew, "mountains of God" (Ps 36:6); "goodly cedars," Hebrew, "cedars of God" (Ps 80:10); or some think from its being the old abode of "the glory"; or finally from its being the theater of transactions most memorable in the history of the true religion to Horeb—rather, "Horeb-ward."

Horeb—that is, "dry," "desert," was the general name for the mountainous district in which Sinai is situated, and of which it is a part. (See on [16]Ex 19:2). It was used to designate the region comprehending that immense range of lofty, desolate, and barren hills, at the base of which, however, there are not only many patches of verdure to be seen, but almost all the valleys, or wadys, as they are called, show a thin coating of vegetation, which, towards the south, becomes more luxuriant. The Arab shepherds seldom take their flocks to a greater distance than one day's journey from their camp. Moses must have gone at least two days' journey, and although he seems to have been only following his pastoral course, that region, from its numerous springs in the clefts of the rocks being the chief resort of the tribes during the summer heats, the Providence of God led him thither for an important purpose.Moses keeping Jethro’s flock, cometh to mount Horeb, Exodus 3:1. There God appears to him in a burning bush, Exodus 3:2. Moses beholds it, Exodus 3:3. God calls to him out of the burning bush, Exodus 3:4; cautions him what to do, Exodus 3:5,6. God seeth their afflictions, Exodus 3:7; promises them a happy deliverance, Exodus 3:8; sends Moses to Pharaoh, Exodus 3:10. He desires to be excused because unworthy, Exodus 3:11. God encourages him, Exodus 3:12, and directs him what to say to the children of Israel, Exodus 3:13,14; makes his name known to Moses, Exodus 3:15; commands him to gather the elders of Israel, Exodus 3:16; and what he was to say to them, Exodus 3:17; likewise to Pharaoh, Exodus 3:18. Pharaoh’s obstinacy, Exodus 3:19. God threatens the Egyptians, Exodus 3:20; and tells Moses with what plenty the Israelites should depart, Exodus 3:21,22.

1401 Jethro was either the same with Reuel, or his son, who, upon his father’s death, succeeded into his office. See Exodus 2:18. To the backside of the desert, to its innermost parts, which were behind Jethro’s habitation, and the former pastures, whither he went for fresh pastures.

The mountain of God; so called, either as a high or eminent mountain; or from the vision of God here following; see Acts 7:30; or by anticipation, from God’s glorious appearance there, and giving the law from thence, Exodus 18:5 19:3: see also 1 Kings 19:8. Horeb, called also Sinai, Exodus 19:1 Acts 7:30. Or Horeb was the name of the whole tract or row of mountains, and Sinai the name of that particular mountain where this vision happened, and the law was delivered. Or Horeb and Sinai were two several tops of the same mountain.

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian,.... Who was either the same with Reuel or Raguel, spoken of in the preceding chapter; or, as others think, a son of his, the father being now dead; seeing it was now forty years since Moses came into Midian, Acts 7:30. Demetrius (c), an Heathen writer, expressly says that Jothor a son of Raguel, and Zipporah or Sepphora, as he calls her, was his daughter, whom Moses married: now this was the business Moses was chiefly concerned in during his stay in Midian; keeping the sheep of his father-in-law, in which great personages have have employed, and who have afterwards been called to the kingly office, as David; and this was an emblem of his feeding and ruling the people of Israel, and in it he was an eminent type of Christ, the great shepherd and bishop of souls: no doubt there were other things besides this in which Moses exercised himself in this course of time, and improved himself in the knowledge of things, natural, civil, and religious, and which the more qualified him for the important work he was designed for: it is thought that in this interval he wrote the book of Genesis, and also the book of Job:

and he led the flock to the backside of the desert; of Sinai or Arabia, on the back part of which, it seems, were goodly pastures; and hither he led his flock to feed, which was about three days' journey from Egypt, Exodus 5:3 or rather into the desert (d), for Horeb or Sinai was not behind the desert, but in it:

and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb; so called either because of the appearance of God at this time, after related, or because of his giving the law and making the covenant with the people of Israel there; and it should be observed that that transaction was past when Moses wrote this book. Hither he led the sheep, they delighting in mountains, hence sometimes mountainous places are called (e), because sheep delight to feed upon them (f).

(c) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 29. p. 439. (d) , Sept. "in desertum", Syr. Samar, so Noldius, p. 11. No. 76. (e) Homer. Odyss. 11. prope finem. (f) , Theocrit. Idyll. 3.

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 {a} mountain of God, even to {b} Horeb.

(a) It was so called after the law was given.

(b) Called also Sinai.

1. Moses acts as his father-in-law’s shepherd. According to P (Exodus 7:7) Moses was now 80 years of age, and some 40 years had elapsed since his flight from Egypt (Exodus 2:11). But we must not attempt to fit the narratives of J and E to the chronological scheme of P (cf. on Exodus 2:23).

Jethro] The name of Moses’ father-in-law in E (Exodus 4:18, ch. 18). In J (Numbers 10:29), as also in Jdg 4:11 (RVm.), he is called Hobab. See on Exodus 2:18.

behind (i.e. to the west of) the wilderness] where there was good pasture. We do not know exactly where the ‘wilderness’ mentioned was; but the change of place from the E. or S. of the Peninsula (Exodus 2:15) at least brought Moses to ‘Horeb.’ ‘On the approach of summer all the Bedawin leave the lower country, where the herbage is dried up, and retire towards the higher parts, where the pasture preserves its freshness much longer’ (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 482, quoted by Kn.).

the mountain of God] i.e. a sacred mountain. So Exodus 4:27; Exodus 18:5; Exodus 24:13 (all E); 1 Kings 19:8 †. It is possibly so called proleptically, in virtue of the sanctity acquired by it from the subsequent law-giving (ch. 19); but more probably (Ewald, Hist. ii. 43, 45, 103; Di.; W. R. Smith, Rel. Sem.2 p. 117 f.; Sayce, EHH. 188; DB. iv. 536b; Burney, Journ. of Theol. Studies, ix. (1908), p. 343 f.; and others), as being already an ancient sacred mountain. Lofty mountains towering towards heaven were often regarded as sacred by the Semites; and the very name ‘Sinai’ suggests at once that it is derived from Sin, the name of the moon-god in Babylonian. Antoninus Placentinus (Itin. c. 38) describes how c. 570 a.d. a white marble idol, representing the moon-god, was worshipped on the traditional Sinai by the native Arabs at every new-moon.

Horeb] the name used by E (here, Exodus 17:6, Exodus 33:6), by the Deuteronomist (Deuteronomy 1:2; Deuteronomy 1:6; Deuteronomy 1:19; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 5:2; Deuteronomy 9:8; Deuteronomy 18:16; Deuteronomy 29:1), and in 1 Kings 8:9 = 2 Chronicles 5:10, 1 Kings 19:8; Mal. 3:22; Psalm 106:19†; J and P always speak of ‘Sinai’ (see on Exodus 19:1). The two names are almost interchangeable; both denote the mountain of the law-giving (comp. Deuteronomy 4:15 with Exodus 19:18; Exodus 19:20); and there is apparently no place where ‘Horeb’ occurs, in which ‘mount Sinai’ or ‘the wilderness of Sinai’ (‘Sinai’ alone, except in poetry, occurs only in Exodus 16:1) could not have been used. As Di. rightly says, ‘the names vary only according to the writers, or, as in Sir 48:7, in the parallel clauses of the same verse.’ Still, it is unlikely that the two names denote exactly the same place; and probably ‘Horeb’ is a slightly wider term than ‘Sinai,’ and denotes not the mountain only, but the mountain with the circumjacent district (in Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 9:8; Deuteronomy 18:16, it must denote not ‘mount Sinai,’ but the ‘wilderness of Sinai’ (see on Exodus 19:1), i.e. the area in front of it, where the people were standing). The name Horeb (if Semitic) means probably either dry ground, or desolation.

1–5. The vision of the burning bush. Cf. Acts 7:30-35.

Exodus 3:1 to Exodus 4:17. Moses commissioned by Jehovah at Horeb to deliver His people. The dialogue between Jehovah and Moses, as in other cases (cf. Delitzsch on Genesis 12:1), must be pictured, not as one audible externally, but as giving expression,—in words which are naturally those of the narrators,—to Moses’ mental communings with God, through which he was gradually taught by Him that, in spite of the difficulties which he saw before him, he was nevertheless to be His appointed agent for accomplishing Israel’s deliverance (cf. the dialogue in Jeremiah 14-15). See further, on the sense in which God is to be understood as ‘speaking’ to a man, the Introduction, p. xlvii f.

Verse 1. - Moses kept the flock. The Hebrew expresses that this was his regular occupation. Understand by "flock" either sheep or goats, or the two intermixed. Both anciently and at the present day the Sinaitic pastures support these animals, and not horned cattle. Of Jethro, his father-in-law. The word translated "father-in-law" is of much wider application, being used of almost any relation by marriage. Zipporah uses it of Moses in Exodus 4:25, 26; in Genesis 19:12, 14, it is applied to Lot's "sons-in-law;" in other places it is used of "brothers-in-law." Its application to Jethro does not prove him to be the same person as Reuel, which the difference of name renders improbable. He was no doubt the head of the tribe at this period, having succeeded to that dignity, and to the priesthood, when Reuel died. He may have been either Reuel's son or his nephew. The backside of the desert, i.e. "behind" or "beyond the desert," across the strip of sandy plain which separates the coast of the Elanitic Gulf from the mountains, to the grassy regions beyond. He came to the mountain of God, even Horeb. Rather, "the mountain of God, Horeb-way," or "towards Horeb." By "the mountain of God" Sinai seems to be meant. It may be so named either by anticipation (as "the land of Rameses" in Genesis 47:11), or because there was already a sanctuary there to the true God, whom Reuel and Jethro worshipped (Exodus 18:12). Exodus 3:1When Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, he drove them on one occasion behind the desert, and came to the mountains of Horeb. רעה היה, lit. "he was feeding:" the participle expresses the continuance of the occupation. המּדבּר אחר does not mean ad interiora deserti (Jerome); but Moses drove the sheep from Jethro's home as far as Horeb, so that he passed through a desert with the flock before he reached the pasture land of Horeb. For "in this, the most elevated ground of the peninsula, you find the most fertile valleys, in which even fruit-trees grow. Water abounds in this district; consequently it is the resort of all the Bedouins when the lower countries are dried up" (Rosenmller). Jethro's home was separated from Horeb, therefore, by a desert, and is to be sought to the south-east, and not to the north-east. For it is only a south-easterly situation that will explain these two facts: First, that when Moses returned from Midian to Egypt, he touched again at Horeb, where Aaron, who had come from Egypt, met him (Exodus 4:27); and, secondly, that the Israelites never came upon any Midianites on their journey through the desert, whilst the road of Hobab the Midianite separated from theirs as soon as they departed from Sinai (Numbers 10:30).

(Note: The hypothesis, that, after the calling of Moses, this branch of the Midianites left the district they had hitherto occupied, and sought out fresh pasture ground, probably on the eastern side of the Elanitic Gulf, is as needless as it is without support.)

Horeb is called the Mount of God by anticipation, with reference to the consecration which it subsequently received through the revelation of God upon its summit. The supposition that it had been a holy locality even before the calling of Moses, cannot be sustained. Moreover, the name is not restricted to one single mountain, but applies to the central group of mountains in the southern part of the peninsula (vid., Exodus 19:1). Hence the spot where God appeared to Moses cannot be precisely determined, although tradition has very suitably given the name Wady Shoeib, i.e., Jethro's Valley, to the valley which bounds the Jebel Musa towards the east, and separates it from the Jebel ed Deir, because it is there that Moses is supposed to have fed the flock of Jethro. The monastery of Sinai, which is in this valley, is said to have been built upon the spot where the thorn-bush stood, according to the tradition in Antonini Placent. Itinerar. c. 37, and the annals of Eutychius (vid., Robinson, Palestine).

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