Exodus 3:10
Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Exodus

THE CALL OF MOSES

Exodus 3:10 - - Exodus 3:20
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The ‘son of Pharaoh’s daughter’ had been transformed, by nearly forty years of desert life, into an Arab shepherd. The influences of the Egyptian court had faded from him, like colour from cloth exposed to the weather; nor is it probable that, after the failure of his early attempt to play the deliverer to Israel, he nourished further designs of that sort. He appears to have settled down quietly to be Jethro’s son-in-law, and to have lived a modest, still life of humble toil. He had flung away fair prospects,-and what had he made of it? The world would say ‘Nothing,’ as it ever does about those who despise material advantages and covet higher good. Looking after sheep in the desert was a sad downcome from the possibility of sitting on the throne of Egypt. Yes, but it was in the desert that the vision of the bush burning, and not burning out, came; and it would not have come if Moses had been in a palace.

This passage begins in the midst of the divine communication which followed and interpreted the vision. We note, first, the divine charge and the human shrinking from the task. It was a startling transition from Exodus 3:9, which declares God’s pitying knowledge of Israel’s oppression, to Exodus 3:10, which thrusts Moses forward into the thick of dangers and difficulties, as God’s instrument. ‘I will send thee’ must have come like a thunder-clap. The commander’s summons which brings a man from the rear rank and sets him in the van of a storming-party may well make its receiver shrink. It was not cowardice which prompted Moses’ answer, but lowliness. His former impetuous confidence had all been beaten out of him. Time was when he was ready to take up the rôle of deliverer at his own hand; but these hot days were past, and age and solitude and communion with God had mellowed him into humility. His recoil was but one instance of the shrinking which all true, devout men feel when designated for tasks which may probably make life short, and will certainly make it hard. All prophets and reformers till to-day have had the same feeling. Men who can do such work as the Jeremiahs, Pauls, Luthers, Cromwells, can do, are never forward to begin it.

Self-confidence is not the temper which God uses for His instruments. He works with ‘bruised reeds,’ and breathes His strength into them. It is when a man says ‘I can do nothing,’ that he is fit for God to employ. ‘When I am weak, then I am strong.’ Moses remembered enough of Egypt to know that it was no slight peril to front Pharaoh, and enough of Israel not to be particularly eager to have the task of leading them. But mark that there is no refusal of the charge, though there is profound consciousness of inadequacy. If we have reason to believe that any duty, great or small, is laid on us by God, it is wholesome that we should drive home to ourselves our own weakness, but not that we should try to shuffle out of the duty because we are weak. Moses’ answer was more of a prayer for help than of a remonstrance, and it was answered accordingly.

God deals very gently with conscious weakness. ‘Certainly I will be with thee.’ Moses’ estimate of himself is quite correct, and it is the condition of his obtaining God’s help. If he had been self-confident, he would have had no longing for, and no promise of, God’s presence. In all our little tasks we may have the same assurance, and, whenever we feel that they are too great for us, the strength of that promise may be ours. God sends no man on errands which He does not give him power to do. So Moses had not to calculate the difference between his feebleness and the strength of a kingdom. Such arithmetic left out one element, which made all the difference in the sum total. ‘Pharaoh versus Moses’ did not look a very hopeful cause, but ‘Pharaoh versus Moses and Another’-that other being God-was a very different matter. God and I are always stronger than any antagonists. It was needless to discuss whether Moses was able to cope with the king. That was not the right way of putting the problem. The right way was, Is God able to do it?

The sign given to Moses is at first sight singular, inasmuch as it requires faith, and can only be a confirmation of his mission when that mission is well accomplished. But there was a help to present faith even in it, for the very sacredness of the spot hallowed now by the burning bush was a kind of external sign of the promise.

One difficulty being solved, Moses raised another, but not in the spirit of captiousness or reluctance. God is very patient with us when we tell Him the obstacles which we seem to see to our doing His work. As long as these are presented in good faith, and with the wish to have them cleared up, He listens and answers. The second question asked by Moses was eminently reasonable. He pictures to himself his addressing the Israelites, and their question, What is the name of this God who has sent you? Apparently the children of Israel had lost much of their ancestral faith, and probably had in many instances fallen into idolatry. We do not know enough to pronounce with confidence on that point, nor how far the great name of Jehovah had been used before the time of Moses, or had been forgotten in Egypt.

The questions connected with these points and with the history of the name do not enter into our present purpose. My task is rather to point out the religious significance of the self-revelation of God contained in the name, and how it becomes the foundation of Israel’s deliverance, existence, and prerogatives. Whatever opinions are adopted as to the correct form of the name and other grammatical and philological questions, there is no doubt that it mainly reveals God as self-existent and unchangeable. He draws His being from no external source, nor ‘borrows leave to be.’ Creatures are what they are made or grow to be; they are what they were not; they are what they will some time not any more be. But He is what He is. Lifted above time and change, self-existing and self-determined, He is the fountain of life, the same for ever.

This underived, independent, immutable being is a Person who can speak to men, and can say ‘I am.’ Being such, He has entered into close covenant relations with men, and has permitted Himself to be called ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ The name Jehovah lifts Him high above all creatures; the name ‘the God of your fathers’ brings Him into tender proximity with men, and, in combination with the former designation, guarantees that He will forever be what He has been, even to all generations of children’s children. That mighty name is, indeed, His ‘memorial to all generations,’ and is as fresh and full of blessedness to us as to the patriarchs. Christ has made us understand more of the treasures for heart and mind and life which are stored in it. ‘Our Father which art in heaven’ is the unfolding of its inmost meaning.

We may note that the bush burning but not consumed expressed in symbol the same truth which the name reveals. It seems a mistake to take the bush as the emblem of Israel surviving persecution. Rather the revelation to the eye says the same thing as that to the ear, as is generally the case. As the desert shrub flamed, and yet did not burn away, so that divine nature is not wearied by action nor exhausted by bestowing, nor has its life any tendency towards ending or extinction, as all creatural life has.

The closing verses of this passage {Exodus 3:16 - - Exodus 3:20} are a programme of Moses’ mission, in which one or two points deserve notice. First, the general course of it is made known from the beginning. Therein Moses was blessed beyond most of God’s servants, who have to risk much and to labour on, not knowing which shall prosper. If we could see, as he did, the lie of the country beforehand, our journeys would be easier. So we often think, but we know enough of what shall be to enable us to have quiet hearts; and it is best for us not to see what is to fail and what to succeed. Our ignorance stimulates effort, and drives to clinging to God’s hand.

Then we may note the full assurances to be given to the ‘elders of Israel.’ Apparently some kind of civic organisation had been kept up, and there were principal people among the slaves who had to be galvanised first into enthusiasm. So they are to be told two things,-that Jehovah has appeared to Moses, and that He, not Moses only, will deliver them and plant them in the land. The enumeration of the many tribes {Exodus 3:17} might discourage, but it is intended to fire by the thought of the breadth of the land, which is further described as fertile. The more exalted our conceptions of the inheritance, the more willing shall we be to enter on the pilgrimage towards it. The more we realise that Jehovah has promised to lead us thither, the more willing shall we be to face difficulties and dangers.

The directions as to the opening of communications with Pharaoh have often been made a difficulty, as if there was trickery in the modest request for permission to go three days’ journey into the wilderness. But that request was to be made, knowing that it would not be granted. It was to be a test of Pharaoh’s willingness to submit to Jehovah. Its very smallness made it so more effectually. If he had any disposition to listen to the voice speaking through Moses, he would yield that small point. It is useless to speculate on what would have happened if he had done so. But probably the Israelites would have come back from their sacrificing.

Of more importance is it to note that the failure of the request was foreseen, and yet the effort was to be made. Is not that the same paradox which meets us in all the divine efforts to win over hard-hearted men to His service? Is it not exactly what our Lord did when He appealed to Judas, while knowing that all would be vain?

The expression in Exodus 3:19, ‘not by a mighty hand,’ is very obscure. It may possibly mean that Pharaoh was so obstinate that no human power was strong enough to bend his will. Therefore, in contrast to the ‘mighty hand’ of man, which was not mighty enough for this work, God will stretch out His hand, and that will suffice to compel obedience from the proudest. God can force men by His might to comply with His will, so far as external acts go; but He does not regard that as obedience, nor delight in it. We can steel ourselves against men’s power, but God’s hand can crush and break the strongest will. ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ It is a blessed thing to put ourselves into them, in order to be moulded by their loving touch. The alternative is laid before every soul of man.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.3:7-10 God notices the afflictions of Israel. Their sorrows; even the secret sorrows of God's people are known to him. Their cry; God hears the cries of his afflicted people. The oppression they endured; the highest and greatest of their oppressors are not above him. God promises speedy deliverance by methods out of the common ways of providence. Those whom God, by his grace, delivers out of a spiritual Egypt, he will bring to a heavenly Canaan.The natural richness of Palestine, the variety and excellence of its productions, are attested by sacred (compare Jeremiah 32:22; Ezekiel 20:6) and ancient writers, whose descriptions are strongly in contrast with those of later travelers. The expression "flowing with milk and honey" is used proverbially by Greek poets.

The Canaanites ... - This is the first passage in this book where the enumeration, so often repeated, of the nations then in possession of Palestine, is given. Moses was to learn at once the extent of the promise, and the greatness of the enterprise. In Egypt, the forces, situation, and character of these nations were then well known. Aahmes I had invaded the south of Palestine in his pursuit of the Shasous; Tothmosis I had traversed the whole land on his campaign in Syria and Mesopotamia; representations of Canaanites, and of the Cheta, identified by most Egyptologers with the Hittites, are common on monuments of the 18th and 19th Dynasties, and give a strong impression of their civilization, riches, and especially of their knowledge of the arts of war. In this passage, the more general designations come first - Canaanites probably includes all the races; the Hittites, who had great numbers of chariots (892 were taken from them by Tothmosis III in one battle), occupied the plains; the Amorites were chiefly mountaineers, and, in Egyptian inscriptions, gave their name to the whole country; the name Perizzites probably denotes the dwellers in scattered villages, the half-nomad population; the Hivites, a comparatively unwarlike but influential people, held 4 cities in Palestine proper, but their main body dwelt in the northwestern district, from Hermon to Hamath (see Joshua 11:3; Judges 3:3); the Jebusites at that time appear to have occupied Jerusalem and the adjoining district. Soon after their expulsion by Joshua, they seem to have recovered possession of part of Jerusalem, probably Mount Zion, and to have retained it until the time of David.

10-22. Come now therefore, and I will send thee—Considering the patriotic views that had formerly animated the breast of Moses, we might have anticipated that no mission could have been more welcome to his heart than to be employed in the national emancipation of Israel. But he evinced great reluctance to it and stated a variety of objections [Ex 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10] all of which were successfully met and removed—and the happy issue of his labors was minutely described. No text from Poole on this verse. Come now therefore,..... Leave thy flock, thy family, and the land of Midian:

and I will send thee unto Pharaoh: this Pharaoh, according to Eusebius, was Cenchres, the successor of Achoris; but according to Bishop Usher (u), his name was Amenophis, who immediately succeeded Ramesses Miamun, under whom Moses was born. Clemens of Alexandria (w) relates from Apion, and he, from Ptolemy Mendesius, that it was in the times of Amosis that Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt; but Tacitus (x) says, the name of this king was Bocchoris, who obliged them to go out, being advised by an oracle to do so; and so says Lysimachus (y):

that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt; and conduct them through the wilderness to the land of Canaan, and so be their deliverer, guide, and governor under God, who now gave him a commission to act for him.

(u) Annal. Vet. Test. p. 19. (w) Stromat. l. 1. p. 320. (x) Hist. l. 5. c. 3.((y) Apud Joseph. contr. Apion, l. 1. c. 34.

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. Now therefore [Heb. And now = Quae quum ita sint] come. Genesis 31:44; Genesis 37:20; Numbers 22:6 al.

11 ff. In his youth (ch. 2) Moses was confident and impulsive: but now ‘a fugitive and a shepherd, without influence or position’ (Kn., Di.), the greatness of the task laid before him makes him distrustful of his powers to undertake it. Accordingly the narrative which follows describes how four difficulties felt and urged by Moses are successively removed by Jehovah, vv. 11–12, 13–22, Exodus 4:1-17. Moses’ reluctance to undertake the difficult task laid upon him is emphasised, it may be observed, by each narrator, by E in Exodus 3:11 ff., by J in Exodus 4:10-12, and by P in Exodus 6:12, Exodus 7:1.Here, at Horeb, God appeared to Moses as the Angel of the Lord "in a flame of fire out of the midst of the thorn-bush" (סנה, βάτος, rubus), which burned in the fire and was not consumed. אכּל, in combination with איננּוּ, must be a participle for מאכּל. When Moses turned aside from the road or spot where he was standing, "to look at this great sight" (מראה), i.e., the miraculous vision of the bush that was burning and yet not burned up, Jehovah called to him out of the midst of the thorn-bush, "Moses, Moses (the reduplication as in Genesis 22:11), draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (אדמה). The symbolical meaning of this miraculous vision, - that is to say, the fact that it was a figurative representation of the nature and contents of the ensuing message from God, - has long been admitted. The thorn-bush in contrast with the more noble and lofty trees (Judges 9:15) represented the people of Israel in their humiliation, as a people despised by the world. Fire and the flame of fire were not "symbols of the holiness of God;" for, as the Holy One, "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5), He "dwells in the light which no man can approach unto" (1 Timothy 6:16); and that not merely according to the New Testament, but according to the Old Testament view as well, as is evident from Isaiah 10:17, where "the Light of Israel" and "the Holy One of Israel" are synonymous. But "the Light of Israel became fire, and the Holy One a flame, and burned and consumed its thorns and thistles." Nor is "fire, from its very nature, the source of light," according to the scriptural view. On the contrary, light, the condition of all life, is also the source of fire. The sun enlightens, warms, and burns (Job 30:28; Sol. Sol 1:6); the rays of the sun produce warmth, heat, and fire; and light was created before the sun. Fire, therefore, regarded as burning and consuming, is a figurative representation of refining affliction and destroying punishment (1 Corinthians 3:11.), or a symbol of the chastening and punitive justice of the indignation and wrath of God. It is in fire that the Lord comes to judgment (Daniel 7:9-10; Ezekiel 1:13-14, Ezekiel 1:27-28; Revelation 1:14-15). Fire sets forth the fiery indignation which devours the adversaries (Hebrews 10:27). He who "judges and makes war in righteousness' has eyes as a flame of fire (Revelation 19:11-12). Accordingly, the burning thorn-bush represented the people of Israel as they were burning in the fire of affliction, the iron furnace of Egypt (Deuteronomy 4:20). Yet, though the thorn-bush was burning in the fire, it was not consumed; for in the flame was Jehovah, who chastens His people, but does not give them over unto death (Psalm 118:18). The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had come down to deliver His people out of the hand of the Egyptians (Exodus 3:8). Although the affliction of Israel in Egypt proceeded from Pharaoh, yet was it also a fire which the Lord had kindled to purify His people and prepare it for its calling. In the flame of the burning bush the Lord manifested Himself as the "jealous God, who visits the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate Him, and showeth mercy unto thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments" (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9-10), who cannot tolerate the worship of another god (Exodus 34:14), and whose anger burns against idolaters, to destroy them (Deuteronomy 6:15). The "jealous God" was a "consuming fire" in the midst of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:24). These passages show that the great sight which Moses saw not only had reference to the circumstances of Israel in Egypt, but was a prelude to the manifestation of God on Sinai for the establishment of the covenant (Exodus 19 and 20), and also a representation of the relation in which Jehovah would stand to Israel through the establishment of the covenant made with the fathers. For this reason it occurred upon the spot where Jehovah intended to set up His covenant with Israel. But, as a jealous God, He also "takes vengeance upon His adversaries" (Nahum 1:2.). Pharaoh, who would not let Israel go, He was about to smite with all His wonders (Exodus 3:20), whilst He redeemed Israel with outstretched arm and great judgments (Exodus 6:6). - The transition from the Angel of Jehovah (Exodus 3:2) to Jehovah (Exodus 3:4) proves the identity of the two; and the interchange of Jehovah and Elohim, in Exodus 3:4, precludes the idea of Jehovah being merely a national God. The command of God to Moses to put off his shoes, may be accounted for from the custom in the East of wearing shoes or sandals merely as a protection from dirt. No Brahmin enters a pagoda, no Moslem a mosque, without first taking off at least his overshoes (Rosenm. Morgenl. i. 261; Robinson, Pal. ii. p. 373); and even in the Grecian temples the priests and priestesses performed the service barefooted (Justin, Apol. i. c. 62; Bhr, Symbol. ii. 96). when entering other holy places also, the Arabs and Samaritans, and even the Yezidis of Mesopotamia, take off their shoes, that the places may not be defiled by the dirt or dust upon them (vid., Robinson, Pal. iii. 100, and Layard's Nineveh and its Remains). The place of the burning bush was holy because of the presence of the holy God, and putting off the shoes was intended to express not merely respect for the place itself, but that reverence which the inward man (Ephesians 3:16) owes to the holy God.
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