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Exodus 3:2

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The angel of the Lord - Not a created angel certainly; for he is called יהוה Jehovah, Exodus 3:4, etc., and has the most expressive attributes of the Godhead applied to him, Exodus 3:14, etc. Yet he is an angel, מלאך malach, a messenger, in whom was the name of God, Exodus 23:21; and in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9; and who, in all these primitive times, was the Messenger of the covenant, Malachi 3:1. And who was this but Jesus, the Leader, Redeemer, and Savior of mankind? See Clarke's note on Genesis 16:7.

A flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush - Fire was, not only among the Hebrews but also among many other ancient nations, a very significant emblem of the Deity. God accompanied the Israelites in all their journeying through the wilderness as a pillar of fire by night; and probably a fire or flame in the holy of holies, between the cherubim, was the general symbol of his presence; and traditions of these things, which must have been current in the east, have probably given birth, not only to the pretty general opinion that God appears in the likeness of fire, but to the whole of the Zoroastrian system of fire-worship. It has been reported of Zoroaster, or Zeradusht, that having retired to a mountain for the study of wisdom, and the benefit of solitude, the whole mountain was one day enveloped with flame, out of the midst of which he came without receiving any injury; on which he offered sacrifices to God, who, he was persuaded, had then appeared to him. M. Anquetil du Perron gives much curious information on this subject in his Zend Avesta. The modern Parsees call fire the off-spring of Ormusd, and worship it with a vast variety of ceremonies. Among the fragments attributed to Aeschylus, and collected by Stanley in his invaluable edition of this poet, p. 647, col. 1, we find the following beautiful verses:

Χωριζε θνητων τον Θεον, και μη δοκειπ

Ὁμοιον αυτῳ σαρκινον καθεσταναιπ .

Ουκ οισθα δ ' αυτον· ποτε μεν ὡς πυρ φαινεταιπ

Απλαστον ὁρμῃ· ποτε δ ' ὑδωρ, ποτε δε γνοφοςπ .

"Distinguish God from mortal men; and do not suppose that any thing fleshly is like unto him. Thou knowest him not: sometimes indeed he appears as a formless and impetuous Fire, sometimes as water, sometimes as thick darkness." The poet proceeds:

Τρεμει δ 'ορη, και γαια, και πελεριοςπ

Βυθος θαλασσης, κωρεων ὑψος μεγαπ,

Ὁταν επιβλεψῃ γοργον ομμα δεσποτουπ .

"The mountains, the earth, the deep and extensive sea, and the summits of the highest mountains tremble whenever the terrible eye of the Supreme Lord looks down upon them."

These are very remarkable fragments, and seem all to be collected from traditions relative to the different manifestations of God to the Israelites in Egypt, and in the wilderness. Moses wished to see God, but he could behold nothing but an indescribable glory: nothing like mortals, nothing like a human body, appeared at any time to his eye, or to those of the Israelites. "Ye saw no manner of similitude," said Moses, "on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the Fire," Deuteronomy 4:15. But sometimes the Divine power and justice were manifested by the indescribable, formless, impetuous, consuming flame; at other times he appeared by the water which he brought out of the flinty rock; and in the thick darkness on Horeb, when the fiery law proceeded from his right hand, then the earth quaked and the mountain trembled: and when his terrible eye looked out upon the Egyptians through the pillar of cloud and fire, their chariot wheels were struck off, and confusion and dismay were spread through all the hosts of Pharaoh; Exodus 14:24, Exodus 14:25.

And the bush was not consumed - 1. An emblem of the state of Israel in its various distresses and persecutions: it was in the fire of adversity, but was not consumed. 2. An emblem also of the state of the Church of God in the wilderness, in persecutions often, in the midst of its enemies, in the region of the shadow of death - yet not consumed. 3. An emblem also of the state of every follower of Christ: cast down, but not forsaken; grievously tempted, but not destroyed; walking through the fire, but still unconsumed! Why are all these preserved in the midst of those things which have a natural tendency to destroy them! Because God Is In The Midst Of Them; it was this that preserved the bush from destruction; and it was this that preserved the Israelites; and it is this, and this alone, that preserves the Church, and holds the soul of every genuine believer in the spiritual life. He in whose heart Christ dwells not by faith, will soon be consumed by the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

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.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 22.3

But the Lord had singled out Moses as the one to deliver the oppressed race, and by forty years of exile, under the discipline of God, he was prepared for the work. Understanding the evil disposition of his own countrymen, knowing how many would be perverse and unreasonable, understanding that they might betray him, he was yet considering ways and means to accomplish their deliverance, though supposing that he himself had forfeited all right to be the instrument. But God, in the bush which though burning was yet unconsumed by the fire, presented Himself, and selected Moses as His agent.... TMK 22.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 23

Nearly two thousand years ago, a voice of mysterious import was heard in heaven, from the throne of God, “Lo, I come.” “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me.... Lo, I come (in the volume of the Book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God.” Hebrews 10:5-7. In these words is announced the fulfillment of the purpose that had been hidden from eternal ages. Christ was about to visit our world, and to become incarnate. He says, “A body hast Thou prepared Me.” Had He appeared with the glory that was His with the Father before the world was, we could not have endured the light of His presence. That we might behold it and not be destroyed, the manifestation of His glory was shrouded. His divinity was veiled with humanity,—the invisible glory in the visible human form. DA 23.1

This great purpose had been shadowed forth in types and symbols. The burning bush, in which Christ appeared to Moses, revealed God. The symbol chosen for the representation of the Deity was a lowly shrub, that seemingly had no attractions. This enshrined the Infinite. The all-merciful God shrouded His glory in a most humble type, that Moses could look upon it and live. So in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, God communicated with Israel, revealing to men His will, and imparting to them His grace. God's glory was subdued, and His majesty veiled, that the weak vision of finite men might behold it. So Christ was to come in “the body of our humiliation” (Philippians 3:21, R. V.), “in the likeness of men.” In the eyes of the world He possessed no beauty that they should desire Him; yet He was the incarnate God, the light of heaven and earth. His glory was veiled, His greatness and majesty were hidden, that He might draw near to sorrowful, tempted men. DA 23.2

God commanded Moses for Israel, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8), and He abode in the sanctuary, in the midst of His people. Through all their weary wandering in the desert, the symbol of His presence was with them. So Christ set up His tabernacle in the midst of our human encampment. He pitched His tent by the side of the tents of men, that He might dwell among us, and make us familiar with His divine character and life. “The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.” John 1:14, R. V., margin. DA 23.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1 (EGW), 1099

11 (Acts 7:22). Training for Two Generalships—Moses was a man of intelligence. In the providence of God he was given opportunity to gain a fitness for a great work. He was thoroughly educated as a general. When he went out to meet the enemy, he was successful; and on his return from battle, his praises were sung by the whole army. Notwithstanding this, he constantly remembered that through him God purposed to deliver the children of Israel (The Youth's Instructor, January 29, 1903). 1BC 1099.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 711

The evils that have been gradually creeping in among us have imperceptibly led individuals and churches away from reverence for God, and have shut away the power which He desires to give them. 5T 711.1

My brethren, let the word of God stand just as it is. Let not human wisdom presume to lessen the force of one statement of the Scriptures. The solemn denunciation in the Revelation should warn us against taking such ground. In the name of my Master I bid you: “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” 5T 711.2

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