What does Exodus 3:2 mean?
ESV: And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.
NIV: There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
NASB: Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not being consumed.
CSB: Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed.
NLT: There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up.
KJV: And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
NKJV: And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.
Verse Commentary:
Moses was raised in an Egyptian palace, though he was born to a Hebrew slave. He is now tending to the sheep of his father-in-law in the land of Midian, as an exile from Egypt and his former life. Without any particular warning, Moses sees "the angel of the LORD." He appears in a "flame of fire" coming from a bush. A burning bush is not itself unique, but this bush burned without being consumed. In other words, the bush had flames coming from it without the bush actually burning up. While many different visions could be described, poetically, as "flames," the specific mention that these flames did not consume the bush makes it likely that what Moses saw appeared as literal, visible flames. This "sign" attracted Moses to investigate it in more detail (Exodus 3:3–4).

The major controversy in this verse is the identification of "the angel of the LORD." Is he an actual angel, or God in human form? Verse 4 says, "God called to him out of the bush." If this is God's voice, most assume it is God's presence in the bush. However, the other option is also possible. In ancient culture, a messenger could speak on behalf of a dignitary, speaking in his voice. So it is possible this was an angelic being speaking on God's behalf. While either view is possible, most interpreters lean towards this being a theophany, or physical manifestation of God in human form.
Verse Context:
Exodus 3:1–8 describes the initial contact between Moses and God. This occurs in one of Scripture's most memorable scenes: the burning bush. Moses is tending sheep for his father-in-law in Midian, after fleeing from Egypt some forty years prior. He sees a bush which is covered in fire, but not being burnt up. Out of this flame, ''the angel of the LORD'' speaks, declaring God's intent to liberate Israel from their slavery in Egypt.
Chapter Summary:
Moses is tending sheep for his father-in-law when he sees a miraculous sight: a bush which is on fire, but not burnt up. From this fire, God speaks to Moses, appointing him as the leader of the nation of Israel, whom God intends to free from Egyptian slavery. God identifies Himself in this passage using the famous terminology ''I AM.'' Despite Moses' fears and doubts, God gives him a message to take to the elders of Israel, and eventually to Pharaoh himself.
Chapter Context:
Prior chapters in Exodus explained how the descendants of Abraham became a nation which was populous, but enslaved, in the land of Egypt. Exodus 3 describes the moment when God calls Moses to lead Israel out of slavery. This is accomplished through the miracle of the burning bush. The beginning of this dialogue between God and Moses includes messages for both Israel and Pharaoh, and will continue into chapter 4.
Book Summary:
The book of Exodus establishes God's covenant relationship with the full-fledged nation of Israel. The descendants of Abraham prosper after settling in Egypt, only to be enslaved by a fearful, hateful Egyptian Pharaoh. God appoints Moses to lead the people out of this bondage. Moses serves as God's spokesman, as the Lord brings plagues and judgments on Egypt, leading to the release of Israel.
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