Chapter 2 continuation

17* But shepherds came and drove them off. Moses rose to their defense, and he watered their flock.

“In the first two episodes (Ex. 2: 11-12, 13, 14) Moses plays the royal role of defending his people and adjudicating among them, and in the third he defends foreigners and strangers (Ex. 2: 16-17), showing that his passion for justice makes no distinctions between nations.”[1]

18* When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?”

Here Moses father-in-law is called Reuel (Ex. 2: 18) and later Jethro (Ex. 3: 1; Ex. 18: 1 ff.), and also Hobab (Judg. 1: 16; Judg. 4: 11; comp. Num.10: 29). Jethro possibly was his official priestly title, not a personal name. In fact, the word might mean “His excellency.” (Cf. Gen. 49: 3 )” [1]

19* They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.”

“So, it is clear that Moses was still readily recognizable as an Egyptian, perhaps by his clothing or manner of speech. He may have addressed them in the Egyptian language or with an Egyptian accent […]”[1]

20* He said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why did you leave the man? Ask him to break bread
21* Moses consented to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah as wife.

“Moses marriage to the daughter of a priest in the land of his exile, which is a result of finding favor with his patron, recalls Joseph’s marriage to Asenath, the daughter of the priest of On (Gen. 41: 50; Ex. 2: 21-2).

In contrast to the book of Ezra, whose protagonists demand that Jews expel “foreign” wives, the story of the Midianite Zipporah, Moses’ wife, affirms that foreign women are beneficial to Israel.” [1]

22* She bore a son who he named Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.
23* A long time after that, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites were groaning under the bondage and cried out; and their cry for help from the bondage rose up to God.

“The text does not say that the children of Israel cried or prayed to God, but that God hear their groaning by reason of their bondage […]”[1]

24* God heard their moaning and God remembered His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob

“The verbs of the passage, repeated when God commissions Moses, are verbs of perception only: “heard…remembered…looked upon…took notice of.” And even fully allowing for the emotive force that the corresponding Hebrew verbs can carry, the sense of abstention from emotion is inescapable here. Classical Hebrew has abundant resources for the expression of emotion, and this passage declines to draw on them”[1]

25* God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

[1] MILES, JACK: God: A Biography, p. 238

[1] FROMM, ERICH: You Shall Be As Gods: A Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Traditions, p. 74

[1] WINSLOW, KAREN STRAND: “Ethnicity, Exogamy and Zipporah,” “Women in Judaism,” Vol. 4, Issue 1, 2006

[1] KIRSCH, JONATHAN: Moses: A Life, p. 99

[1] SARNA, NAHUM, M.: Exploring Exodus: The Origins of Biblical Israel, p. 36

[1] BERLIN, ADELE & BRETTLER, ZVI, MARC: The Jewish Study Bible, p. 109

Exodus Chapter 3

1* Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father- in- law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the farthest end of the wilderness, and come to the mountain of God unto Horeb.

That Moses is called while tending the flock is most significant.

“Moses is not a priest or a prophet; it is an ordinary, everyday journey for him with no “religious” intentions.” [1]

God chooses a mountain in the wilderness named Horeb (“wasteland”) as the place of revelation.

 The location of the mount cannot be settled with certainty because no early traditions about it had survived, and the folklore that places it where St. Catherine’s Monastery is situated is very late, being post Christian, and of little historical value.

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

The angel is not described in the Torah; this could well be a way of alluding to a temporary manifestation of God in human form.

The “Burning bush” is a flame of fire from the midst of a bush that was not consuming it. Moses doesn’t perceive it as a religious manifestation but as an extraordinary event that awakens his curiosity.

Philo of Alexandria, who wrote before the destruction of the Second Temple, read the whole incident as a metaphor. “For the burning bush was a symbol of the oppressed people, and the burning fire was a symbol of the oppressors,” he explained, “and the circumstance of the burning bush not being consumed was an emblem of the fact that the people thus oppressed could not be destroyed by those who were attacking them.”

3* And Moses said: ‘I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is no burn

It was curiosity that prompted Moses’ initial reaction to the sight of the burning bush.  Instead of calling Moses by force, God entices him with a strange flame.

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.’

God had called to him, and Moses responded: “Here I am!” “the response of every prophet of Israel when he encountered God.

However, this doesn’t mean that Moses doesn’t hesitate (like many other Biblical prophets do); Moses puts up every conceivable form of opposition to his call and eventually provokes God’s anger.

5* And He said: ‘Come no closer her. Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place you are standing on is holy ground.’

Moses had no idea that the bush he was seeing was sacred. His amazement at the sight, his carelessness in approaching it, and the fact that he did so without taking off his sandals, all demonstrate his lack of awareness of any particular holiness.

The fundamental idea of holiness that this story is based on is a significant departure from conventional pagan beliefs. This is when the sanctity of space is first made clear in Exodus.
The ground is now holy because of God’s manifestation. The location has no intrinsic holiness or natural sanctity; what was formerly unholy is now made holy by the divine intention.

Because of this change in the character of the place, Moses is asked to follow the custom of removing shoes to show respect.

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

A Hasidic comment: “It is asked why God does not say, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” but rather, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” The answer is that this formulation indicates that no two people have the same God, that God is always an individual experience of each man [Hasidic comment].” [1]

“By invoking the ancestors, the voice reminds Moses of his real identity. He may be Egyptian by adoption and Midianite by choice, but he is Hebrew by birth.” [2]

 “Moses hides his face, but certainly not for long. For the next few chapters, Moses and God engage in what can only be called a face-to-face encounter (cf. Num. 12:8), during which Moses is anything but deferential.” [3]

7* And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people that are in Egypt, and have hear their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their pains;

The phrase “the Israelite people” appears here for the first time.” The refrain “my people” occurs fifteen times in chapters 3- 10 […]”.

This is one of the major themes of Exodus since “my people” occurs only one other time in the Torah (Lev. 26: 12). [1]

 “Cry” or “outcry” is a technical term that describes the cry of a helpless person calling for assistance in the face of injustice.” [2]

They cry out to their God instead of acting.” [3]

8. And I come down to deliver them out of the land of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a goodly and spacious land, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amortie, and Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

The entry into the promised land is the second half of Exodus from Egypt. Already in the burning bush (Ex. 3) the whole plan is clear. God speaks from the fire and says that he has come down “to deliver them (Israel) from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3: 8).” [1]

“Though the early stories of the rise of Israel’s faith- for example, the “call of Abraham” too leave his home and go wherever God led him (Gen. 12) and the commissioning of Moses to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt and into a “promised land” (Ex. 3)- have the form of promises about what God will do in the future, we must remember that these texts themselves were all products of hundreds of years after the events described. From that subsequent vantage point storytellers and writers, who themselves believed God had made possible this succession of events, put together these histories which spoke of God’s intention to lead Abraham to a new land and to bring Moses’ people out of Egypt into Canaan. The notions of God’s “promises” and of the “fulfillment” of those promises were originally generated, The “promise and fulfillment” pattern, which eventually provided a way of seeing the entirety of the future activity of God-and became thus the basis for hopes and faith about the future of Israel and, in due course, of all humankind- was itself actually generated in retrospection.” [2]

The term ‘come down’ is the normal idiom for describing Divine intervention in human affairs.

9. And now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me; moreover, I have seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
10. And now, go that I may send you to Pharaoh, and bring My people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

“Suddenly, if rather subtly, the Bible gives a voice to the man who, until now, has been a mute and indistinct figure. Now he is shown to engage in a long, leisurely, and almost matter-of-fact exchange with the deity who is manifested in the burning bush, the first of many such tête-a-têtes between God and Moses.” [1]

“This is not a refusal to accept the mission or an expression of doubt as to his ability to implement it. At this stage, when Moses is confronted with the plan as a whole, and realizes at the outset the terrible difficulties of his commission, his initial response is to voice his sense of humility and to stress his unworthiness relative to the magnitude of the enterprise.”[2]

10. And He said “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

Moses remains a free man, faced with problems resolvable only by his own skill.

“This is strongly reminiscent of the stories of charismatic leaders in the time of the ‘Judges’, and the wording is in part the same. There is for example the story of Gideon who in the same way ‘is sent’ to perform an action (not merely to pass on a divine proclamation) and who also receives for himself the promise that God will ‘be with him’, He too requests and receives a ‘sign’ as confirmation of his mission (Judg. 6. 14 ff).” [1]

[1] NOTH, MARTIN: Exodus: A Commentary, p. 42

[1] KIRSCH, JONATHAN: Moses: A Life, p. 111

[2] CASSUTO, U.: A Commentary of the Book of Exodus, p. 36

[1] LOHFINK, NORBERT: In The Shadow of Your Wings: New Readings of Great Texts from the Bible, p. 2

[2] KAUFMAN, GORDON, D.: In Face of Mystery: A Constructive Theology, p. 486mnote 8

[1] GOWAN, DONALD, E.: Theology in Exodus: Biblical Theology in the Form of a Commentary, pp. 174-175

[2] PLASTARAS, JAMES: The God of Exodus, p 28

[3] CROATTO, SEVERINO, J.: Exodus: A Hermeneutics of Freedom, p. 19

[1] FROMM, ERICH: You Shall Be As Gods: A Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Traditions, p. 77 note

[2] PROPP, WILLIAM H. C.: Exodus 1-18: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, p. 221

[3] FRETHEIM, TERENCE, E.: Exodus: Interpretation, (Kindle loc. p. 56)

[1] FRETHEIM, TERENCE, E.: Exodus: Interpretation, (Kindle loc. p. 54)