Exodus 3:2
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) The angel of the Lord.—Heb., an angel of Jehovah. In Exodus 3:4 the angel is called both “Jehovah and “Elohim,” whence it is concluded, with reason, that it was the Second Person of the Trinity who appeared to Moses.

Out of the midst of a bush.—Literally, out of the midst of the acacia. As the seneh, or acacia, is very common in the Sinaitic region, we can scarcely suppose that a special tree, growing alone, is intended. Probably the article is one of reference, and the meaning is, “the bush of which you have all heard.” (Comp. John 3:24.)

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.

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.The angel of the Lord - See the note at Genesis 12:7. What Moses saw was the flame of fire in the bush; what he recognized therein was an intimation of the presence of God, who maketh a flame of fire His angel. Compare Psalm 104:4. The words which Moses heard were those of God Himself, as all ancient and most modern divines have held, manifested in the Person of the Son.

Of a bush - Literally, of the bush or "seneh," a word which ought perhaps to be retained as the proper name of a thorny shrub common in that district, a species of acacia.

2, 3. the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire—It is common in Scripture to represent the elements and operations of nature, as winds, fires, earthquakes, pestilence, everything enlisted in executing the divine will, as the "angels" or messengers of God. But in such cases God Himself is considered as really, though invisibly, present. Here the preternatural fire may be primarily meant by the expression "angel of the Lord"; but it is clear that under this symbol, the Divine Being was present, whose name is given (Ex 3:4, 6), and elsewhere called the angel of the covenant, Jehovah-Jesus.

out of the midst of a bush—the wild acacia or thorn, with which that desert abounds, and which is generally dry and brittle, so much so, that at certain seasons, a spark might kindle a district far and wide into a blaze. A fire, therefore, being in the midst of such a desert bush was a "great sight." It is generally supposed to have been emblematic of the Israelites' condition in Egypt—oppressed by a grinding servitude and a bloody persecution, and yet, in spite of the cruel policy that was bent on annihilating them, they continued as numerous and thriving as ever. The reason was "God was in the midst of them." The symbol may also represent the present state of the Jews, as well as of the Church generally in the world.

The angel of the Lord; not a created angel, but the Angel of the covenant, Christ Jesus, who then and ever was God, and was to be man, and to be sent into the world in our flesh, as a messenger from God. And these temporary apparitions of his were presages or forerunners of his more solemn mission and coming, and therefore he is fitly called an Angel. That this Angel was no creature, plainly appears by the whole context, and specially by his saying,

I am the Lord, & c. The angels never speak that language in Scripture, but, I am sent from God, and, I am thy fellow servant, &c. And it is a vain pretence to say that the angel, as God’s ambassador, speaks in God’s name and person; for what ambassador of any king in the world did ever speak thus, I am the king, &c.? Ministers are God’s ambassadors, but if any of them should say, I am the Lord, they would be guilty of blasphemy, and so would any created angel be too, for the same reason. By a flame of fire was fitly represented God’s majesty, and purity, and power.

The bush was not consumed; which doubtless represented the condition of the church and people of Israel, who were now in the fire of affliction, yet so as that God was present with them, and that they should not be consumed in it, whereof this vision was a pledge.

And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him,.... Not a created angel, but the Angel of God's presence and covenant, the eternal Word and Son of God; since he is afterwards expressly called Jehovah, and calls himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which a created angel would never do: the appearance was:

in a flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush; not in a tall, lofty, spreading oak or cedar, but in a low thorny bramble bush, which it might have been thought would have been consumed in an instant of time:

and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed; this was not imaginary, but a real thing; there wassuch a bush, and Jehovah appeared in it in this manner, and though it was all on fire yet was not consumed, but remained entire after it: reference is frequently had to it as a matter of fact, Deuteronomy 33:16. Artapanus (g), an Heathen writer, had got some hint of it; his account is this, that while Moses was praying to God, and entreating the afflictions of his people might cease, he was propitious to him, and on a sudden fire broke out of the earth and burned, when there was no matter nor anything of a woody sort in the place: nor need this account Moses gives be thought incredible, when so many things similar to it are affirmed by Heathen writers, who speak of a whole forest in flames without fire, and of a spear that burned for two hours, and yet nothing of it consumed; and of a servant's coat all on fire, and yet after it was extinguished no trace or mark of the flames were to be seen on it; and several other things of the like kind are related by Huetius (h) out of various authors: as to the mystical signification of this bush, some make it to be a type of Christ, and of his manifestation in the flesh; of the union of the two natures in him, and of their distinction of the glory of the one, and of the meanness of the other; of his sustaining the wrath of God, and remaining fearless and unhurt by it; and of his delivering and preserving his people from it: the Jews commonly interpret it of the people of Israel, in the furnace of affliction in Egypt, and yet not consumed; nay, the more they were afflicted the more they grew; and it may be a symbol of the church and people of God, in all ages, under affliction and distress: they are like to a thorn bush both for their small quantity, being few, and for their quality, in themselves weak and strengthless, mean and low; have about them the thorns of corruptions and temptations, and who are often in the fire of afflictions and persecutions, yet are not consumed; which is owing to the person, presence, power, and grace of Christ being among them; See Gill on Acts 7:30.

(g) Apud Euseb. ib. c. 27. p. 434. (h) Alnetan. Quaest. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 10. p. 193, 194.

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

(c) This shows that the Church is not consumed by the fires of affliction, because God is in the midst of it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. the angel of Jehovah] The ‘angel of Jehovah,’ or, in E (Exodus 14:19, Genesis 21:17; Genesis 31:11), ‘of God,’ is a temporary, but full, self-manifestation of Jehovah, a manifestation usually, at any rate, in human form, possessing no distinct and permanent personality, as such, but speaking and spoken of, sometimes as Jehovah Himself (e.g. v. 4a here, comp. with v. 2; Genesis 16:10; Genesis 16:13; Genesis 31:11; Genesis 31:13; Jdg 6:12; Jdg 6:14; Jdg 13:21 f.), and sometimes as distinct from Him (e.g. Genesis 16:11; Genesis 19:13; Genesis 19:21; Genesis 19:24; Genesis 21:17; Numbers 22:31): cf. Gray, EB. iv., Theophany, § 4. As Davidson remarks (DB. i. 94b, s.v. Angel), the ‘angel of Jehovah’ differs from ‘Jehovah’ only in being sensibly manifest: ‘the mere manifestation creates a distinction between the “angel of Jehovah” and “Jehovah,” though the identity remains.’ The angel of Jehovah is mentioned chiefly in the older parts of the historical books, J, E (never P), and the older narratives in Judges (Exodus 2:1; Exodus 2:4, Exodus 5:23, Exodus 6:11 f., Exodus 20-22, Exodus 13:3-21).

a flame of fire] A frequent form of the Divine manifestation (Exodus 19:18, Exodus 24:17; Ezekiel 1:27; Ezekiel 8:2; and in the ‘pillar of fire,’ Exodus 13:21 f.). On the present occasion, however, the fire was not a ‘devouring’ fire, but only the brilliancy of fire. Cf. Hom. Od. xix.39 f. (Kn.).

out of, &c.] i.e. rising up out of the bush.

a bush] only besides Deuteronomy 33:16 ‘the favour of him that dwelt in the bush.’ Properly, as Aram. shews (PS. 2671; Löw, Aram. Pflanzennamen, No. 219), the bramble bush, rubus fruticosus, Linn. (so LXX. βάτος, [Luke 6:44], Vulg. rubus), which however does not seem to grow in the Sin. Peninsula.

Verse 2. - The angel of the Lord. Literally, "an angel of Jehovah." Taking the whole narrative altogether, we are justified in concluding that the appearance was that of "the Angel of the Covenant" or" the Second Person of the Trinity himself;" but this is not stated nor implied in the present verse. We learn it from what follows. The angel "appeared in a flame of fire out of the midst of the thorn-bush" - not out of "a thorn-bush - which may be explained by there being only one on the spot, which however seems improbable, as it is a common tree; or by Moses having so often spoken of it, that, when he came to write to his countrymen, he naturally called it "the bush," meaning "the bush of which you have all heard." So St. John says of the Baptist (John 3:24) that "he was not yet cast into the prison, meaning, prison into which you all know that he was cast. Seneh, the word translated "bush," is still the name of a thorny shrub, a species of acacia, common in the Sinaitic district. Exodus 3:2Here, 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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