Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Fed for the space of forty years. During which time, he composed the books of Genesis and Job, for the consolation of his countrymen; (Menochius) though others believe he wrote all the Pentateuch in the desert. (Theodoret; &c.) — Of God, on account of its height; or on account of God’s appearing to Moses. — Horeb is so close to Mount Sinai, that the shadow of the latter reaches it when the sun rises. It is watered with three fine springs; and the summit is adorned with fruit trees. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. The Lord appeared. That is, and angel representing God, and speaking in his name. (Challoner) (Acts vii. 30; Galatians iii. 19.) — The apparitions of God to the patriarchs are generally understood in this sense. (St. Augustine, de Trin. iii. 11.) (Worthington) — Yet many of the Fathers suppose, that this angel was no other than the Son of God, the angel of the great council, (Malachias iii. 1,) and St. Augustine (q. 2, in Ex.) does not disapprove of this opinion. (Calmet) — Not burnt. Thus the Hebrews were afflicted, but not destroyed. (Menochius) — God is styled a consuming fire, Deuteronomy iv. 24. He appeared in fire again, chap. xxiv. 17. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Shoes. Juvenal, sat. 6, takes notice of this custom. Observant ubi festa mero pede sabbata reges. (Du Hamel) — The Ethiopian Christians and the Turks never enter their churches, or mosques, without putting off their shoes. The priests did the like when they entered the temple of Jerusalem, and God ordered them moreover to wash their feet and hands, Exodus xxx. 19. (Calmet) — We observe the same ceremony, out of respect for Jesus Christ, when we go to kiss the cross. Pythagoras said, “Offer sacrifice and adoration barefoot.” (Jamblic. 24.) On such occasions, we ought to have our hearts disengaged from the world. (Haydock) See Leviticus ii. 25.
Ver. 6. Hid, out of respect, and perhaps fearing lest he should die, Genesis xvi. 13. (Calmet) — God takes the title of these three patriarchs, because he had promised Chanaan to each of them, and because they were eminent for virtue. God is repeated thrice, to insinuate the mystery of the blessed Trinity, and to shew that the Lord watches over each individual, as if that one alone existed. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Spacious, compared with that of Gessen. Chanaan was not above 210 miles long, and 70 broad. (Brocard.) St. Jerome does not allow so much. Hecateus says the Jews had three million acres of excellent land. — Milk and honey are still very plentiful in Palestine, (Calmet) though the country has lost much of its ancient beauty and luxuriance, for want of cultivation. The Samaritan and Septuagint number the Gergesites among the rest of the Chanaanites.
Ver. 12. A sign. Moses had modestly represented his own inability to perform so great a work, and such God generally selects. He encourages them therefore with a sign; to the splendour of which he was then a witness; and with another, which should appear in future, to convince him and all the world, that the undertaking was from God, when they should see him offering sacrifice in that place, out of the reach of Pharao, chap. xxiv. 3. Thus a future event is assigned to Achaz and Ezechias, as a sign of something that was to happen first. (Isaias vii; 4 Kings xix. 29.) Perhaps the sign here appointed is the presence of God enabling Moses to work miracles. (Menochius)
Ver. 13. His name. Many of them had embraced idolatry, and had forgotten God. Moses very properly begs to have his extraordinary mission sanctioned by miracles, without which he might well have been rejected, as heretics are. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. I am who am. That is, I am being itself, eternal, self-existent, independent, infinite; without beginning, end, or change; and the source of all other beings. (Challoner) — Hebrew agrees with the Vulgate, though it seems to read aeje, “I shall be,” &c. (Cornelius a Lapide; &c.) — No name can fully explain the divine perfections. As God is alone, he stands in need of no distinctive appellation, as Lactantius, and even the pagans have confessed. (Origen, contra Cels. vi.) (Calmet) — All other beings are just nothing, compared with God. He alone is self-existent and infinitely perfect. (Worthington)
Ver. 15. Memorial. By this title he is still known among Christians. (Menochius) — Hitherto God had generally been called Elohim. But now he assumes the incommunicable name (Tirinus) consisting of four vowels, Jod, He, Vau, He, Jehovah, the essence, or OWN, a word which the Greek Scriptures leave undeclined, to denote the unchangeable nature of the Deity. The word has been pronounced Jehovah by the moderns, and by the ancients Jevo, Jao, Jave, &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 16. Ancients. Perhaps there might be 72 magistrates already among the Hebrews, as there were afterwards in the desert (Grotius); or more probably they were only the chiefs of families, and leading men among their brethren, though without any public authority derived from the king of Egypt. — Visiting. So Joseph had foretold, Genesis l. 23. God examines before he punishes, Genesis xviii. 21. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Called. Samaritan and Septuagint, “hath been invoked upon us.” Hebrew, “hath occurred or appeared to us.” (Haydock) — Journey, to Sinai, which was about this distance, to go straight. But the Israelites spent 48 days in arriving at it by a circuitous road. (Calmet) — In Hebrew they ask, “Let us go, we beseech thee.” They do not tell a lie, but withhold the truth. (Menochius)
Ver. 21. Egyptians, among whom the Hebrews were forced to live, not being now allowed to enjoy the fertile country of Gessen alone, according to Joseph’s disposition. The subsequent kings altered that wise regulation. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. Shall spoil, &c. That is, you shall strip, and take away the goods of the Egyptians. This was not authorizing theft or injustice: but was a just disposal made by him, who is the great Lord and master of all things; in order to pay the children of Israel some part of what was due to them from the Egyptians for their labours. (Challoner) — Wisdom (x. 17) rendered to the just the wages of their labours; and (ver. 19,) the just took the spoils of the wicked, in a just war. It is an ancient tradition of the Jews, that the Egyptians appealed to Alexander the Great for the recovery of these spoils; but when the Jews demanded their wages, they were willing to desist from their claims. (Selden, de Ture vii. 8; Tertullian, contra Marcion ii. 20.) (Calmet) — God had a mind to punish the extravagance of the Egyptians, while he enabled his people to appear with suitable presents before him. It was on this last plea that the Hebrews borrowed precious garments, gold, &c. (Haydock) See St. Clement of Alexandria, strom. 1; St. Augustine, q. 23.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
God appeareth to Moses in a bush, and sendeth him to deliver Israel.
1 Now* Moses fed the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Madian: and he drove the flock to the inner parts of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, Horeb.
2 *And the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he saw that the bush was on fire, and was not burnt.
3 And Moses said: I will go, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4 And when the Lord saw that he went forward to see, he called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said: Moses, Moses. And he answered: Here I am.
5 And he said: Come not nigh hither, put off the shoes from thy feet; for the place, whereon thou standest, is holy ground.
6 And he said: *I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face: for he durst not look at God.
7 And the Lord said to him: I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of the rigour of them that are over the works;
8 And knowing their sorrow, I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land into a good and spacious land, into a land that floweth with milk and honey, to the places of the Chanaanite, and Hethite, and Amorrhite, and Pherezite, and Hevite, and Jebusite.
9 For the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have seen their affliction, wherewith they are oppressed by the Egyptians.
10 But come, and I will send thee to Pharao, that thou mayst bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.
11 And Moses said to God: Who am I that I should go to Pharao, and should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
12 And he said to him: I will be with thee: and this thou shalt have for a sign that I have sent thee: When thou shalt have brought my people out of Egypt, thou shalt offer sacrifice to God upon this mountain.
13 Moses said to God: Lo I shall go to the children of Israel, and say to them: The God of your fathers hath sent me to you. If they should say to me: What is his name? What shall I say to them?
14 God said to Moses: I am who am. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: He who is, hath sent me to you.
15 And God said again to Moses: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath sent me to you; this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
16 Go gather together the ancients of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared to me, saying: Visiting I have visited you; and I have seen all that hath befallen you in Egypt.
17 And I have said the word to bring you forth out of the affliction of Egypt, into the land of the Chanaanite, and Hethite, and Amorrhite, and Pherezite, and Hevite, and Jebusite, to a land that floweth with milk and honey.
18 And they shall hear thy voice; and thou shalt go in, thou and the ancients of Israel, to the king of Egypt, and thou shalt say to him: The Lord God of the Hebrews hath called us; we will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, to sacrifice unto the Lord our God.
19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go, but by a mighty hand.
20 For I will stretch forth my hand, and will strike Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst of them: after these he will let you go.
21 And I will give favour to this people, in the sight of the Egyptians:* and when you go forth, you shall not depart empty:
22 But every woman shall ask of her neighbour, and of her that is in her house, vessels of silver and of gold, and raiment: and you shall put them on your sons and daughters, and shall spoil Egypt.
1: Year of the World 2513, Year before Christ 1491.
2: Acts vii. 30.
6: Matthew xxii. 32.; Mark xii. 26.; Luke xx. 37.
21: Exodus xi. 2. and xii. 35.