Click here to read Exodus 3:1-4:17

Today’s passage is very straightforward in its plot, but there is also a lot going on beneath the surface.  In this passage God breaks what had been about 430 years of silence between these events and the last recorded interaction of this type.  It easy to fly right past this since it is only the matter of a few chapters to us.  However, this length of silence explains why Moses was so concerned that the elders of Israel would not believe him, as well as showing why God repeatedly told Moses that He was the “God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  In breaking the 430-year silence God reveals more of who He is, more of His power, and His plan for Israel.

God reveals more of His nature He appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush (the burning bush part isn’t so miraculous—it happens all the time to these types of bushes in the desert. But what is really miraculous is that it burned without being consumed—well, that and that God spoke through it). God first drew attention to His holy nature when God warned Moses not to come any closer and to take off his sandals.  But even though God is so much more powerful, holy, and perfect, He also showed (once again) that He cares deeply for His people.  God exclaims that He heard their cries and saw what they were going through.  He didn’t sit back in heaven and simply say “that stinks,” but He explains that He is going to do something to remedy their misery and bring them to the land He had promised—the land flowing with milk and honey—that is, a land filled with abundance! And, if that weren’t enough, they would also be leaving with gold that the Egyptians would give them. Gold that served partially as a payment for all the work they had done, but also gold that would be later used to be the tabernacle.

God not only reveals more of His nature and His plan to take care of His people, but He also discloses more of His identity as Moses presses God for a name. God is more than just the God of Moses’ fathers, He is also YHWH—“I am” (for more information, see below).

God also shows how He uses unlikely people to do His will.  In the first couple chapters of Exodus Moses has shown us that he is impetuous in his anger, hesitant, and tried to back out of being used by God (it is uncertain if Moses actually had any sort of speech problems.  In fact, in the book of Acts Stephen says that Moses was eloquent). Even Moses’ faith in God’s ability to deliver Israel seems shaky in this passage (not to mention verse 18 of tomorrow’s passage).  But through the book of Exodus we will see how God uses Moses and builds him up to be a man of faith, a leader to God’s people, and a mediator between God and Israel.

Names Places

God/angel of the Lord – God

Moses – baby drawn from water and saved


Egypt – where the sons of Jacob/Israel lived

Mount Horeb – where Moses saw the burning bush (also Mt Sinai)

land God will take Israel – Canaan

Nile – sacred river of Egypt


Pharaohruler of Egypt

Jethro – Moses’ father-in-law (priest of Midian)

Jacob/Israel – Joseph’s father

Abraham – Jacob’s grandfather

Isaac – Jacob’s Father

Aaron – Moses’ brother, a Levite




Interesting facts:

1) The mountain where God speaks to Moses as a burning bush is the same mountain where Moses will later receive the 10 commandments.  It is called Mount Horeb here and Mount Sinai later, but these names probably just refer to a mountain range and not a specific peak.

2) In this passage God says to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.” It is in this passage that God reveals Himself as  “YHWH” or Yahweh (or sometimes it is also “Jehovah”), and this specific name of God is what is translated as LORD in our English Bibles (maybe you have noticed “LORD” before instead of the usual “Lord”).  In addition, YHWH is very similar (and even sounds like) the Hebrew for the verb “I am,” which is why God says that in this passage.  This name (YHWH, Yahweh, or Jehovah) is the name that is used when a passage is focusing on how personal God is—that is, how much He cares about us, loves us, and is interested in everything that we do.  And it also is fitting that God’s name would be so close to “I am” because it accentuates how He really does exist, that He is real, and that His power is not bound by time—He will always be “I am” in past, present, and future.

3) Is God being sneaky when He tells Moses to ask Pharaoh for permission to leave and worship for 3 days?

The short answer is “no.”  Some have argued that God knew what the answer would be and just wanted to give Pharaoh a small test.  Others have argued that it is okay to withhold information because Egypt was not dealing fairly with Israel.  It is true that Pharaoh would have figured that Israel would never return if they were granted freedom to leave, but Pharaoh also would have known that he had no legal grounds to keep Israel as slaves.  They had been kept as a tolerated (albeit treated horribly) alien people, which meant that they would have been free to go at anytime.  But that still doesn’t mean that Pharaoh would have allowed Israel to leave easily, or at all.

4) God offered 3 miracles to Moses to help him convince the people of Israel that Moses spoke for God.  These miracles also were meant to encourage Moses.  Not only did they show God’s power over the world, but they were also symbolic:

Staff/serpent – this miracle showed that God had power of Egypt (even if Egypt was viewed by Israel as being all powerful over them).  A cobra often represented Egypt, so much so that officials and Pharaohs often had jewelry with cobras.

Hand/leprosy – this miracle showed that God would bring Israel out of the defiling circumstance that they were in and he would heal them and purify them as His people.

Blood/water – this miracle showed that God would humiliate the arrogant Egyptians by defiling the Nile, which they considered to be a divine source of life.