The Burning Bush
||Moses tended the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro, sheik of Midian. He led the flock to the edge of the desert, and he came to God's Mountain, in the Horeb area.
||God's angel appeared to [Moses] in the heart of a fire, in the middle of a thorn-bush. As he looked, [Moses] realized that the bush was on fire, but was not being consumed.
||Moses said [to himself], 'I must go over there and investigate this wonderful phenomenon. Why doesn't the bush burn?'
||When God saw that [Moses] was going to investigate, He called to him from the middle of the bush.
'Moses, Moses!' He said.
'Yes,' replied [Moses].
||'Do not come any closer,' said [God]. 'Take your shoes off your feet. The place upon which you are standing is holy ground.'
||[God then] said, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.'
Moses hid his face, since he was afraid to look at the Divine.
||God said, 'I have indeed seen the suffering of My people in Egypt. I have heard how they cry out because of what their slave-drivers [do], and I am aware of their pain.
||I have come down to rescue them from Egypt's power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Yebusites.
||'Right now the cry of the Israelites is coming to Me. I also see the pressure to which Egypt is subjecting them.
||Now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh. Bring My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.'
||'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?' said Moses to God. 'And how can I possibly get the Israelites out of Egypt?'
||'Because I will be with you,' replied [God]. 'Proof that I have sent you will come when you get the people out of Egypt. All of you will then become God's servants on this mountain.'
||Moses said to God, 'So I will go to the Israelites and say, 'Your fathers' God sent me to you.' They will immediately ask me what His name is. What shall I say to them?'
||'I Will Be Who I Will Be,' replied God to Moses.
[God then] explained, 'This is what you must say to the Israelites: 'I Will Be sent me to you.' '
||God then said to Moses, 'You must [then] say to the Israelites, 'YHVH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, sent me to you.' This is My eternal name, and this is how I am to be recalled for all generations.
||'Go, gather the elders of Israel, and say to them, 'YHVH, the God of your fathers, appeared to me - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He said, 'I have granted you special providence regarding what is happening to you in Egypt.
||I declare that I will bring you out of the wretchedness of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Yebusites - to a land flowing with milk and honey.' '
||'They will take what you say seriously. You and the elders of Israel will then go to the king of Egypt. You must tell him, 'YHVH, God of the Hebrews, revealed Himself to us. Now we request that you allow us to take a three day journey into the desert, to sacrifice to YHVH our God.'
||'I know in advance that the Egyptian king will not allow you to leave unless he is forced to do so.
||I will then display My power and demolish Egypt through all the miraculous deeds that I will perform in their land. Then [Pharaoh] will let you leave.
||'I will give the people status among the Egyptians, and when you all finally leave, you will not go empty-handed.
||Every woman shall borrow articles of silver and gold, as well as clothing, from her neighbor or from the woman living with her. You shall load this on your sons and daughters, and you will thus drain Egypt [of its wealth].'
Yithro in Hebrew. See Exodus 18:1; note on Exodus 2:18.
(Ramban on Deuteronomy 1:6). This was the area around Sinai (Exodus 17:6, Deuteronomy 1:6, 4:10, cf. Ben Sirah 48:7). Sinai is thus sometimes referred to as 'the mountain of Horeb' (Exodus 33:6). Others, however, say that Horeb was the lower of the two peaks of Sinai (cf. Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 1:6). Most early sources identify Mount Sinai with Jebel Musa or Mount Catherine on the southern Sinai peninsula, a five day journey (200 miles) from Egypt, and some 40 miles from the Red Sea (Ma'asoth Binyamin 24; Masa Rabbi Obadiah Bertenoro 3). According to this, Moses had traveled approximately 100 miles along the west coast of the Gulf of Aqaba.
There are some difficulties, with this, however, since this 'Mountain of God' seems to have been on a direct route between Midian and Egypt (Exodus 4:27), and not more than a three day journey (some 120 miles) from where the Israelites lived (Exodus 3:18). On the basis of this, it may be conjectured that Mount Sinai was Jebel Ya'llaq (some 32 miles from the northern end of the Gulf of Suez) or Jebel Sinn Bishr (60 miles due east of Bitter Lakes). Obviously, this question is very important in determining the route of the Exodus.
The area was called Horeb (Chorebh) because of its dryness (Ibn Ezra). See note on Exodus 3:2.
(Tanchuma 14; Ibn Ezra; Moreh Nevukhim 1:39; Radak, Sherashim, s.v. Lavav). Or 'flame' (Targum; Rashi; Sekhel Tov), or 'essence' (Ibn Janach).
S'neh in Hebrew. This is most probably the black raspberry (rubus sanctus), which has berries that turn red and then black (Yerushalmi, Ma'asroth 1:2, 3a; cf. Septuagint; Vulgate). The Midrash also identifies it as a species of thorn-bush (Sh'moth Rabbah 1:9, 2:9). Others identify it as the sana plant (Casia obovata), the shurbu (Colutea istria) of the wild juju (Zizyphus spina).
It is most probable that the name Sinai is derived from this word S'neh (Ramban on Deuteronomy 6:1; Radak, Sherashim, s.v. S'neh). Some note that the rocks of Sinai have crystalline markings looking like a s'neh-bush (Rabbi Moshe of Narbonne on Moreh Nevukhim 1:66). Cf. 1 Samuel 14:4.
|afraid to look|
See note on Genesis 32:31.
See note on Genesis 11:7.
See Genesis 15:19-21. The Kenite, Kenizite, Kadmonite, Rephaim and Girgashite mentioned there are not here, and the Hivite here is not mentioned there (see Lekach Tov). See Exodus 13:5, Genesis 10:15-18.
|become God's servants|
(Hirsch). Or 'serve God,' or 'worship God' (cf. Ramban).
|I Will Be...|
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh in Hebrew. This is a Divine Name (Shevuoth 35a), and it is therefore not translated by the Targum. It denotes that God has absolute existence (Moreh Nevukhim 1:63; cf. Septuagint), and that He is outside the realm of time (Sforno). According to the Kabbalists, this Name denotes the Crown (Kether) of creation, that is, the very first thought and impulse of Will that initiated the creative process. Hence it is 'I will be,' since at the time of that impulse, everything was in the future. This first thought is identified with the idea of Israel (Bereshith Rabbah 1:5; Berakhoth 6a; Tikkuney Zohar 17a; see God Man and Tefillin, p. 35 ff.). This name was revealed now that God was about to create the nation Israel.
This is the Tetragrammaton which may not be pronounced under any circumstances (cf. Sanhedrin 90a; Philo, De Vida Moses 3:519, 529). If this section is read out loud, this name should be read as 'Lord' (cf. Septuagint). This name denotes God's utter transcendence (Kuzari 2:2; Moreh Nevukhim 1:61). This name also denotes the creative power that constantly sustains the universe. God is telling Moses that not only is the initial purpose of creation now being fulfilled, but also the process that will insure its continual existence.
The Tetragrammaton denotes the level where past, present and future are the same (Tur, Orach Chaim 5; Rabbi Eliezer of Garmiza on Sefer Yetzirah 1:1).
|elders of Israel|
The 70 elders (Exodus 24:1,9; Numbers 11:16,24) which would later constitute the Great Sanhedrin. Like any other prophet, Moses would first have to establish his credentials with the Sanhedrin (Hai Gaon, in Teshuvoth HaGeonim, Shaarey Teshuvah 14).
The same words used by Joseph (Genesis 50:24,25).
|three day journey|
Around 120 miles. See note on Exodus 3:1.
|unless he is forced...|
(Ralbag; Septuagint). Literally, 'and not with a strong hand.' Alternatively, 'and not even by threat of force' (Ramban; Hirsch); 'even after a show of force' (Chizzkuni; Sforno); 'but not because of his strength' (Rashi; Rashbam); 'even after My miracles' (Abarbanel); or 'and most emphatically so.'
|display My power|
Literally, 'I will send forth My Hand.'
|not go empty-handed|
See Genesis 15:14.
Or, 'dress your children with them' (Targum Yonathan).