Exodus 3:1 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
1. Moses acts as his father-in-law’s shepherd. According to P (Exo 7:7) Moses was now 80 years of age, and some 40 years had elapsed since his flight from Egypt (Exo 2:11). But we must not attempt to fit the narratives of J and E to the chronological scheme of P (cf. on Exo 2:23).
behind (i.e. to the west of) the wilderness ] where there was good pasture. We do not know exactly where the ‘wilderness’ mentioned was; but the change of place from the E. or S. of the Peninsula (Exo 2:15) at least brought Moses to ‘Horeb.’ ‘On the approach of summer all the Bedawin leave the lower country, where the herbage is dried up, and retire towards the higher parts, where the pasture preserves its freshness much longer’ (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 482, quoted by Kn.).
the mountain of God ] i.e. a sacred mountain. So Exo 4:27; Exo 18:5; Exo 24:13 (all E); 1Ki 19:8 †. It is possibly so called proleptically, in virtue of the sanctity acquired by it from the subsequent law-giving (ch. 19); but more probably (Ewald, Hist. ii. 43, 45, 103; Di.; W. R. Smith, Rel. Sem. 2 p. 117 f.; Sayce, EHH. 188; DB. iv. 536 b ; Burney, Journ. of Theol. Studies, ix. (1908), p. 343 f.; and others), as being already an ancient sacred mountain. Lofty mountains towering towards heaven were often regarded as sacred by the Semites; and the very name ‘Sinai’ suggests at once that it is derived from Sin, the name of the moon-god in Babylonian. Antoninus Placentinus ( Itin. c. 38) describes how c. 570 a.d. a white marble idol, representing the moon-god, was worshipped on the traditional Sinai by the native Arabs at every new-moon.
Horeb ] the name used by E (here, Exo 17:6, Exo 33:6), by the Deuteronomist (Deu 1:2; Deu 1:6; Deu 1:19; Deu 4:10; Deu 4:15; Deu 5:2; Deu 9:8; Deu 18:16; Deu 29:1), and in 1Ki 8:9 = 2Ch 5:10 , 1Ki 19:8; Mal. 3:22; Psa 106:19 † ; J and P always speak of ‘Sinai’ (see on Exo 19:1). The two names are almost interchangeable; both denote the mountain of the law-giving (comp. Deu 4:15 with Exo 19:18; Exo 19:20); and there is apparently no place where ‘Horeb’ occurs, in which ‘mount Sinai’ or ‘the wilderness of Sinai’ (‘Sinai’ alone, except in poetry, occurs only in Exo 16:1) could not have been used. As Di. rightly says, ‘the names vary only according to the writers, or, as in Sir 48:7 , in the parallel clauses of the same verse.’ Still, it is unlikely that the two names denote exactly the same place; and probably ‘Horeb’ is a slightly wider term than ‘Sinai,’ and denotes not the mountain only, but the mountain with the circumjacent district (in Deu 4:10; Deu 9:8; Deu 18:16, it must denote not ‘ mount Sinai,’ but the ‘ wilderness of Sinai’ (see on Exo 19:1), i.e. the area in front of it, where the people were standing). The name Horeb (if Semitic) means probably either dry ground, or desolation.
1 5. The vision of the burning bush. Cf. Act 7:30-35.
Exo 3:1 to Exo 4:17 . Moses commissioned by Jehovah at Horeb to deliver His people. The dialogue between Jehovah and Moses, as in other cases (cf. Delitzsch on Gen 12:1), must be pictured, not as one audible externally, but as giving expression, in words which are naturally those of the narrators, to Moses’ mental communings with God, through which he was gradually taught by Him that, in spite of the difficulties which he saw before him, he was nevertheless to be His appointed agent for accomplishing Israel’s deliverance (cf. the dialogue in Jeremiah 14-15). See further, on the sense in which God is to be understood as ‘speaking’ to a man, the Introduction, p. xlvii f.
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".