Exodus 3:1

(1) Moses kept the flock.--The natural occupation of one who had thrown in his lot with the Midianites.

Jethro, his father-in-law.--Rather, his relation by marriage. The word is one of very wide use, corresponding with the Latin affinis. It is even applied to a husband, as in Exodus 4:25. The supposition that it means "father-in-law" has led to the identification of Jethro with Reuel, which is very unlikely. He was more probably Reuel's son, and Moses's brother-in-law. His father having died, he had succeeded to his father's position, and was at once priest and sheikh of the tribe.

To the backside of the desert.--Heb., behind the desert--i.e., to the fertile tract which lay behind the sandy plain stretching from the Sinaitic range to the shore of the Elanitic gulf.

The mountain of God--i.e., Sinai. See Exodus 18:5; Exodus 19:2-23, &c.

Even Horeb.--Rather, towards Horeb, or Horeb way. Horeb seems to have been the name of the entire mountain region; Sinai of the group or mass known now as Jebel Musa.

Verse 1. - Moses kept the flock. The Hebrew expresses that this was his regular occupation. Understand by "flock" either sheep or goats, or the two intermixed. Both anciently and at the present day the Sinaitic pastures support these animals, and not horned cattle. Of Jethro, his father-in-law. The word translated "father-in-law" is of much wider application, being used of almost any relation by marriage. Zipporah uses it of Moses in Exodus 4:25, 26; in Genesis 19:12, 14, it is applied to Lot's "sons-in-law;" in other places it is used of "brothers-in-law." Its application to Jethro does not prove him to be the same person as Reuel, which the difference of name renders improbable. He was no doubt the head of the tribe at this period, having succeeded to that dignity, and to the priesthood, when Reuel died. He may have been either Reuel's son or his nephew. The backside of the desert, i.e. "behind" or "beyond the desert," across the strip of sandy plain which separates the coast of the Elanitic Gulf from the mountains, to the grassy regions beyond. He came to the mountain of God, even Horeb. Rather, "the mountain of God, Horeb-way," or "towards Horeb." By "the mountain of God" Sinai seems to be meant. It may be so named either by anticipation (as "the land of Rameses" in Genesis 47:11), or because there was already a sanctuary there to the true God, whom Reuel and Jethro worshipped (Exodus 18:12).

3:1-6 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.Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian,.... Who was either the same with Reuel or Raguel, spoken of in the preceding chapter; or, as others think, a son of his, the father being now dead; seeing it was now forty years since Moses came into Midian, Acts 7:30. Demetrius (c), an Heathen writer, expressly says that Jothor a son of Raguel, and Zipporah or Sepphora, as he calls her, was his daughter, whom Moses married: now this was the business Moses was chiefly concerned in during his stay in Midian; keeping the sheep of his father-in-law, in which great personages have have employed, and who have afterwards been called to the kingly office, as David; and this was an emblem of his feeding and ruling the people of Israel, and in it he was an eminent type of Christ, the great shepherd and bishop of souls: no doubt there were other things besides this in which Moses exercised himself in this course of time, and improved himself in the knowledge of things, natural, civil, and religious, and which the more qualified him for the important work he was designed for: it is thought that in this interval he wrote the book of Genesis, and also the book of Job:

and he led the flock to the backside of the desert; of Sinai or Arabia, on the back part of which, it seems, were goodly pastures; and hither he led his flock to feed, which was about three days' journey from Egypt, Exodus 5:3 or rather into the desert (d), for Horeb or Sinai was not behind the desert, but in it:

and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb; so called either because of the appearance of God at this time, after related, or because of his giving the law and making the covenant with the people of Israel there; and it should be observed that that transaction was past when Moses wrote this book. Hither he led the sheep, they delighting in mountains, hence sometimes mountainous places are called (e), because sheep delight to feed upon them (f).

(c) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 29. p. 439. (d) , Sept. "in desertum", Syr. Samar, so Noldius, p. 11. No. 76. (e) Homer. Odyss. 11. prope finem. (f) , Theocrit. Idyll. 3.

Exodus 2:25
Top of Page
Top of Page