What does Exodus chapter 3 mean?This chapter provides one of Scripture's most famous encounters: Moses and the burning bush. This chapter can be divided into four sections, as God calls Moses to a position of leadership and vows to bring judgment on Egypt for their treatment of Israel.
First, Moses served as a shepherd of his father-in-law's sheep. He was with the sheep on the west side of the Sinai wilderness at a place called Horeb, later associated with Mount Sinai, which would later be called the mountain of God (Exodus 24:13). While there, the Lord appears to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3:1–8). The text notes "the angel of the LORD" appeared in the flames of a bush with fire that would not extinguish. Moses was curious about this fire so turned to see it. The Lord spoke to Moses from the bush, and Moses answered. Moses is told to remove his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. God reveals Himself as the same God as his father and of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses feared greatly and hid his face from God. God also expressed to Moses that He had seen the affliction of the Israelites in Egypt and came so that He could deliver them from Egypt and bring them to what later became known as the Promised Land.
The second section (Exodus 3:9–15) includes the first calling of Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt. God had heard the cry of the Israelites and called Moses for the task. Moses presents his first excuse to not be the one God sends, claiming, "Who am I…?" (Exodus 3:11). God promises to be with him and that he would serve the Lord at this same mountain. Moses then makes another excuse, saying the people will ask about God's name. It is in God's response to Moses that we find the closest thing to a personal name used by God in the Bible (Exodus 3:13–14). Moses asks the name of God and is told, "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). He claims to be the self-existent one, as well as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6, 15, 16).
This same passage connects God's use of the "I AM" terminology to the Hebrew word YHWH, which is sometimes transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah. Most often, this is seen in English translations using small capitals: "The LORD."
The third section (3:16–19) consists of God's message to the elders of Israel, including instructions for their appeal to Pharaoh. Moses was to appear to the elders of Israel, telling them they would leave slavery and travel to a new land. They would then tell Pharaoh to let them go, but would be denied until God "compelled" him (Exodus 3:19).
The fourth section (Exodus 3:20–22) assures Moses of Israel's upcoming deliverance. The Lord promises to judge Egypt and perform signs. When the people leave, they would plunder the Egyptians. In fact, God is specific regarding the taking of silver and gold jewelry and clothing. These items would then be placed on the Israelites' own children as a sign of victory over the Egyptians.
All of these predictions would come true as promised in chapter 3. However, Moses continued to object, offering further doubts throughout chapter 4 until the Lord convinces him to obey His calling. Egyptian slavery would end through many signs and wonders, the people would leave Egypt, would plunder the Egyptians, worship God at Mount Sinai, and eventually enter a new land as their own nation.