For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

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.”


Jethro means a remnant: excellence; and Midian contention: strife; and as has been noted already, his other name Reuel, means associate ye with God: tend ye God.  It was not unusual for a man to have two names in those days, but the spiritual lesson being taught in such double naming isn’t readily apparent in the present instance.


The “back side of the desert” was what is present-day Arabia.


Horeb, also called Sinai, was located in the southwestern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, where Moses later received the tables of the Law.  It means a waster, and appropriately so, for the Law is indeed a waster as far as being a means of life is concerned, for it can only condemn us, and leave us at the feet of Christ either to accept Him as Savior, or to reject Him, and perish.


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.”


That burning bush is an easily recognized type of Christ at Calvary where He endured the fire of God’s wrath against sin, but without being Himself consumed.  It is also a type of the holiness of God, of Whom it is declared in Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3, and Hebrews 12:29 that, “... our God is a consuming fire.”


3:3.  “And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”


That burning, but unconsumed bush, was indeed a great sight, but an infinitely greater is that of which it was but the type: the Lord Jesus Christ hanging on the cross enduring the judgment of God against my sin and yours, experiencing the awful anguish spoken of in Psalm 102:3, “... my bones are burned as an hearth,” and in Jeremiah 1:13, “From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them.” 


That same sight is set before the eyes of men today on the pages of Scripture, but the giddy multitudes, busy pursuing the world’s worthless wealth, fame, and pleasure, hurry past with unseeing eyes, unaware of the fact that the road they travel ends in hell and the lake of fire.


3:4.  “And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses.  And he said, Here am I.”


3:5.  “And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”


Simple curiosity impelled Moses to turn aside, but God doesn’t gratify mere idle inquisitiveness.  He had something to teach His servant.


First, Moses was commanded to remove his shoes, and for a very good reason.  The shoe, which separates the foot from the ground, is the symbol of separation from the evil of the world through which believers pass on their way home to heaven, it being instructive to note that during all their years of wandering in the wilderness the Israelites’ shoes never wore out, see Deuteronomy 29:5.  But the ground upon which Moses stood that day was sanctified by the presence of God: the symbol of separation wasn’t needed.


3:6.  “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”


Moses was well aware of God’s gracious dealings with the Patriarchs; and the consciousness that he was standing in the very presence of that same omnipotent Jehovah produced a reverential awe which led him to cover his face.  This is a far cry from today’s irreverence which mocks God to His face.


3:7.  “And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;”


Nothing escapes the omniscient eye of God.


Affliction means distress, sorrow, humiliation, oppression, all the misery caused His people by the Egyptians.  He had taken note of it all, and was about to deliver them.  Egypt typifies the ruthless world of business and pleasure in the midst of which His people, true believers, have always had to dwell as the small, despised, and afflicted minority, their distress being almost invariably in proportion to the faithfulness of their testimony for Him.  And so has it been in every age right down to the present, their comfort being the knowledge that He takes note of all they suffer for His sake, and will bestow an abundant recompense on that day, now surely very near, when He will repay their faithfulness with an eternal reward.


3:8.  “And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.”


This promise was fulfilled when God delivered them out of Egypt on the night of the Passover, and brought them into Canaan after a forty-year sojourn in the wilderness.  Their preservation from death, by the blood of the Passover lamb, is a type of every believer’s deliverance from spiritual death through the blood of the true Passover Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ; and their being brought into “a good land,” Canaan, typifies the believer’s being brought into the enjoyment of those spiritual blessings which only faith can appropriate and appreciate.


The fact that their taking possession of that good land would include warfare is the reminder that our enjoyment of spiritual blessings also involves combat with the spiritual foes represented here by the hostile Canaanite tribes.


Canaanite, a general term for all the occupants of Canaan, means trafficker, a term which implies illicit or immoral activity; and as such he represents earth’s unconverted masses and their sinful activities.


Hittite, meaning terror, represents the world’s inhabitants as those who both cause and suffer fear, the activity of some causing apprehension to others, through oppression, crime, or war, etc., all of them in turn occupying the role of tyrant or victim, but all living, even though unconsciously, in the fear of death.


Amorite, meaning a sayer, scarcely needs comment.  All men are talkers, much of their talk being profitless as far as eternity is concerned; but it is instructive to note that almost invariably they display a strange reluctance to discuss spiritual matters.


Perizzite means rustic, with squatter as a possible second meaning, a rustic being one who is unsophisticated, uncouth, rude, boorish, capable of little else except digging in the earth.  Such is the natural man relative to spiritual things.  He may be educated, cultured, rich ... but when it comes to spiritual matters he is abysmally ignorant, as it is written, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Corinthians 2:14.


Hivite means shower of life: liver.  He represents the moral natural man who, though totally lacking in the knowledge of spiritual things, teaches men that the way to heaven is by morality rather than faith.


Jebusite means he will be trodden down.  He portrays the unbeliever, the one who will be trodden down, i.e., condemned,  when he is arraigned before God at the Great White Throne.


All of these literal foes against whom the Israelites had to fight, are types of the evil spirits of the air who oppose us as we seek to take possession of our spiritual inheritance, as it is written, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” Ephesians 6:12.


3:9.  “Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.”


God heard the cry of His oppressed people, and took note of the cruelty with which the Egyptians afflicted them, nor is He any less attentive to us.  He is fully aware of all that befalls us; hears us when we cry to Him, and is no less ready to aid us than He was to deliver His ancient people out of the hand of their oppressors, His assurance being, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him,” Psalm 91:15.  While the application of these words is first to the Lord Jesus Christ, they are no less relevant to us also.


3:10.  “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.”


Pharaoh, incidentally, means his nakedness.  In spite of the honor accorded him by men, he was but a naked thing in God’s sight, for he lacked the covering of righteousness which enables a man to stand unafraid in the divine presence.  The haughty master of Egypt was about to learn that he was but a worm in the sight of the Almighty, and that he could hold God’s people captive only by His authority.  That permission was now to be withdrawn.  Israel was about to be liberated, and the power of Egypt broken.


The miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egypt foreshadows another miracle that is now imminent: the rapture of the Church, for all the signs point to the fact that it could occur today.


3:11.  “And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”


Seemingly appalled by the magnitude of the task being assigned him, Moses pleaded his own inadequacy, forgetting apparently that God works as described in Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”  We too should remember that nothing is impossible to God, and that though we can do nothing of ourselves, there is nothing that we can’t do by His enablement when we are submissive to His will, as declared by Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:14.


A practical lesson being taught here is that as Moses was to lead the Israelites out of bondage, so are we also to seek to lead men and women out of their bondage to Satan and sin, by declaring to them the good news of the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes,” Romans 1:16.


3:12.  “And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.”


“Certainly I will be with thee” is the same assurance as is given us, the Lord Himself declaring, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age,” and again, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5.


It is noteworthy that the confirming sign wasn’t to be given until Moses had obeyed God’s command, and the lesson being taught is that there must be first faith on the part of the sinner to trust Christ as Savior before God bestows the spiritual ability to find in Scripture the confirmation of believing faith.  Only the obedient believer can understand the deeper truth woven into the fabric of the Bible’s literal language; and I emphasize obedient because the disobedient believer can no more grasp those things than can the unbeliever, for disobedience grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit, and cuts off His enlightenment, without which we will be as blind to the deeper truths of Scripture as is the unbeliever.


Redeemed Israel must be brought out of Egypt, and the lesson being taught in this is that faith makes a man a citizen of heaven, as it is written, “For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven ....” Philippians 3:20.  We are in the world, but no longer of it.  Our separation however, is twofold: it is not only from the world: it is also unto God.  But we are not saved to become recluses.  We are to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world, bringing to sinners the good news of salvation, and to believers the revelation of the deeper truths of Scripture.


The future worship of the people “on this mountain” Horeb, may be a typological foreshadowing of the worship that will be presented by the redeemed in heaven.


3:13.  “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?”


The ancients believed that an evidence of special privilege was for the worshiper to have had disclosed to him a unique name of the so-called “god” which he worshiped; and Moses, anticipating such an inquiry from the people, desired to know what name he was to give when responding to their question.


3:14.  “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”


This name declared Him to be the eternally existing One who had never had a beginning, and who will never have an end.


3:15.  “And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”


“... my memorial” is also translated thus I am to be remembered: by this name I shall be invoked: it shall stand recorded for ever: this shall remain my title.


3:16.  “Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt.”


The Israelites were here being directed back to the beginning of God’s dealings with them in the days of Abraham, their knowledge of that part of their history which began with the patriarch being material with which they were very familiar, His faithful dealings with them during those years being that which would inspire their confidence in His continued care for them in their present straits.


His past gracious dealings with us ought to beget the same confidence when adversity causes us to doubt His faithfulness.


3:17.  “And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.”


Since the meanings and significance of these names have already been discussed in our study of verse 8, the reader may review the comments on that verse.


3:18.  “And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, the Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.”


Since three is the number of resurrection, the spiritual message of the three days is that those who would worship God “in spirit and in truth,” and not just according to the dead religious forms of Christendom’s sects, must be those who stand spiritually on resurrection ground, i.e., those who have been born again, having passed from death to life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Their having to leave Egypt in order to worship, teaches the further lesson that only those who live in separation from the things of this present evil world can worship God acceptably.  The world must be for them a spiritual desert.  The essence of spiritual worship is distilled only in the separated place where the believer, undistracted by the things of the world, can meditate on the Scriptures, and commune with God in prayer, for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit is rarely heard amid the cacophony of the world’s business and pleasure.


“... that we may sacrifice” teaches the further lesson that true worship involves sacrifice: the relinquishing of time that might have been given to other things, even those that are legitimate.


In this connection a word of caution is needed.  While attendance at the Lord’s Table should never be apart from our bringing something to offer in worship, there is equally great need to be sure that we not attempt to present that worship apart from the clear leading of the Holy Spirit.  What I have prepared may be indeed the material of genuine worship, but this may not be the Lord’s day on which the Holy Spirit would have me present it.  The brother who would lead the congregation audibly in the expression of their worship should consider carefully whether what he has to say is in harmony with the general theme of the hymns, prayers, and Scripture readings that have preceded.


3:19.  “And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.”


“... no, not by a mighty hand” is also translated except by a mighty hand: unless he is compelled: without the use of force: only because of a greater might.”


The question may well be asked, Why did God command them to make the request of Pharaoh, when He knew that the king would refuse? One reason at least is obvious: it tested the obedience of the people; and the lesson God would teach us in this is that He is to be obeyed even when it seems that obedience will not accomplish the desired result.


A further lesson is that He was willing to give Pharaoh the opportunity to obey the command and thus save his life, for, “God is longsuffering ... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.


3:20.  “And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.”


Egypt had filled its cup of wickedness to overflowing, and now, rejecting the last opportunity to save themselves, must perish; and only spiritual myopia will prevent men from seeing that those cataclysmic judgments which destroyed Egypt are but the typological foreshadowings of those that will devastate the world in the now imminent Great Tribulation, and that will see the believing remnant of Israel and of the nations delivered, and brought into the enjoyment of millennial blessing.


3:21.  “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:”


So will it be also with those who survive the Tribulation judgments and pass into the millennial kingdom: all that will have been the possession of the banished unbelievers will be inherited by the believing survivors.


3:22.  But every woman shall borrow of her neighbor, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.”


In the present context “borrow” means to demand.  The silver and gold and raiment were not to be returned: they were the wages due to the Israelites for all the slave labor they had rendered to the Egyptians.  This was God’s method of ensuring that His people were given the wages due to them for that compelled and unpaid toil.


According to normal order the gold should have been mentioned before the silver, but God has a reason for everything He does.  This is the symbolic picture of those who will pass out of the Tribulation into the Millennium.  All of them will be believers. Silver however, represents redemption; gold, glory; and raiment, the garment of salvation that clothes every believer.  One must be redeemed before he can be glorified and clothed in the garment of salvation.


As the possession of the Egyptians these precious things represent what the unbeliever mistakenly thinks is redemption, e.g., church membership, morality, generosity, etc., but as the Egyptians were stripped of all these things when the redeemed Israelites departed, so will it be at the Rapture of the Church. Those who have religion, but not salvation, will be left behind to suffer the terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation, those of them who had heard the Gospel, but without believing it, having no further possibility of being saved.  The only converts in the Tribulation will be those who had not previously heard the Gospel.

[Exodus 4]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough