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Now Moses[a] was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert[b] and came to the mountain of God, to Horeb.[c] The angel of the Lord[d] appeared[e] to him in[f] a flame of fire from within a bush.[g] He looked,[h] and[i] the bush was ablaze with fire, but it was not being consumed![j] So Moses thought,[k] “I will turn aside to see[l] this amazing[m] sight. Why does the bush not burn up?”[n]

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  1. Exodus 3:1 sn The vav (ו) disjunctive with the name “Moses” introduces a new and important starting point. The Lord’s dealing with Moses will fill the next two chapters.
  2. Exodus 3:1 tn Or “west of the desert,” taking אַחַר (ʾakhar, “behind”) as the opposite of עַל־פְּנֵי (ʿal pene, “on the face of, east of”; cf. Gen 16:12; 25:18).
  3. Exodus 3:1 sn “Horeb” is another name for Mount Sinai. There is a good deal of foreshadowing in this verse, for later Moses would shepherd the people of Israel and lead them to Mount Sinai to receive the Law. See D. Skinner, “Some Major Themes of Exodus,” Mid-America Theological Journal 1 (1977): 31-42.
  4. Exodus 3:2 sn The designation “the angel of the Lord” (Heb “the angel of Yahweh”) occurred in Genesis already (16:7-13; 21:17; 22:11-18). There is some ambiguity in the expression, but it seems often to be interchangeable with God’s name itself, indicating that it refers to the Lord.
  5. Exodus 3:2 tn The verb וַיֵּרָא (vayyeraʾ) is the Niphal preterite of the verb “to see.” For similar examples of רָאָה (raʾah) in Niphal where the subject “appears,” that is, allows himself to be seen, or presents himself, see Gen 12:7; 35:9; 46:29; Exod 6:3; and 23:17. B. Jacob notes that God appears in this way only to individuals and never to masses of people; it is his glory that appears to the masses (Exodus, 49).
  6. Exodus 3:2 tn Gesenius rightly classifies this as a bet (ב) essentiae (GKC 379 §119.i); it would then indicate that Yahweh appeared to Moses “as a flame.”
  7. Exodus 3:2 sn Fire frequently accompanies the revelation of Yahweh in Exodus as he delivers Israel, guides her, and purifies her. The description here is unique, calling attention to the manifestation as a flame of fire from within the bush. Philo was the first to interpret the bush as Israel, suffering under the persecution of Egypt but never consumed. The Bible leaves the interpretation open. However, in this revelation the fire is coming from within the bush, not from outside, and it represents the Lord who will deliver his people from persecution. See further E. Levine, “The Evolving Symbolism of the Burning Bush,” Dor le Dor 8 (1979): 185-93.
  8. Exodus 3:2 tn Heb “And he saw.”
  9. Exodus 3:2 tn The text again uses the deictic particle with vav, וְהִנֵּה (vehinneh), traditionally rendered “and behold.” The particle goes with the intense gaze, the outstretched arm, the raised eyebrow—excitement and intense interest: “look, over there.” It draws the reader into the immediate experience of the subject.
  10. Exodus 3:2 tn The construction uses the suffixed negative אֵינֶנּוּ (ʾenennu) to convey the subject of the passive verb: “It was not” consumed. This was the amazing thing, for nothing would burn faster in the desert than a thornbush on fire.
  11. Exodus 3:3 tn Heb “And Moses said.” The implication is that Moses said this to himself.
  12. Exodus 3:3 tn The construction uses the cohortative אָסֻרָה־נָּא (ʾasura-nnaʾ) followed by an imperfect with vav (וְאֶרְאֶה, veʾerʾeh) to express the purpose or result (logical sequence): “I will turn aside in order that I may see.”
  13. Exodus 3:3 tn Heb “great.” The word means something extraordinary here. In using this term Moses revealed his reaction to the strange sight and his anticipation that something special was about to happen. So he turned away from the flock to investigate.
  14. Exodus 3:3 tn The verb is an imperfect. Here it has the progressive nuance—the bush is not burning up.

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