Exodus 3 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

(Read all of Exodus 3)
God sees His people, gives faith, displays His power, and sends Moses as a prince and a deliverer

But at last God looks upon His people, and not only gives the faith that identifies itself with His people, but displays the power which delivers them. That Moses, who was rejected as a prince and a judge, must now appear in the midst of Israel and of the world as a prince and a deliverer.

Stephen made use of these two examples, in order to convict the consciences of the Sanhedrim of their similar and still greater sin in the case of Christ.

God—who to appearance had left Moses in the power of his enemies, without recognising his faith—manifests Himself now to him when alone, in order to send him to deliver Israel and to judge the world.

The hope of the flesh destroyed and its strength humbled

Considered as a practical history, this sending away of Moses into the wilderness, and his long sojourn there, is full of instruction. God shews Himself to us as destroying the hope of the flesh, and humbling its strength. He makes of the adopted son of the house of the king, a shepherd, under the protection of a stranger; and this during forty years, before he can undertake God's work, in order that the work might be a work of obedience, and the strength that of God; and Moses' hope and the affection of his heart were left in abeyance all this time. No human issue was apparent.

God's manifestation of Himself in His name

But God was now about to manifest Himself under the name of Jehovah. He had put Himself in relation with the fathers under the name of God Almighty. That was what they wanted, and this was His glory in their pilgrimage. Now He takes a name in relationship with His people, which implies constant relationship with them; and in which, being established with Him who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, He accomplishes in faithfulness what He has begun in grace and promise, all the while shewing what He is in patience and in holiness in His government in the midst of His people. For us He calls Himself Father, and acts towards us according to the power of that blessed name to our souls [1].

The grace of God shown: Moses sent to Pharaoh

But Jehovah is not the first name He takes in His communications with the people through the mediation of Moses. He first presents Himself as interested in them for their fathers' sakes, whose God He was. He tells them their cry had come up to Him; He had seen their affliction, and was come down to deliver them. Touching expression of the grace of God! Upon this He sends Moses to Pharaoh, to lead them up out of Egypt.

Moses raises difficulties in unbelief: God's gracious answers

But, alas! obedience, when there is only that, and when carnal energy does not mix itself with it, is but a poor thing for the human heart. The fleshly energy with which Moses had slain the Egyptian was now gone; and when God calls upon Moses to go into Egypt for the deliverance of His people, Moses raises difficulties. God gives thereupon a sign, in token that He will be with him, but a sign which was to be fulfilled after the obedience of Moses, and was to strengthen him and to rejoice him when he had already obeyed.

God's names revealing Himself and His relationship with the earth

Moses still makes difficulties, to which God answers in grace, until they cease to be weakness, and become rather the working of self in unbelief. For thither self-indulgence in weakness tends. In the mission which God thus confided to Moses, He declares His name "I Am." At the same time, while declaring that He is that He is, He takes for ever, as His name upon the earth, the name of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob: an important principle, as regards God's ways. "I Am" is His own essential name, if He reveals Himself; but as regards His government of, and relationship with, the earth, His name, that by which He is to be remembered to all generations, is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. This gave Israel, now visited and taken up of God under this name, a very peculiar place.

Abraham and his seed; election, inheritance and foreknowledge

In Abraham first God had called any out, first to him given any promises. He first had been publicly called apart from the world, so that God called Himself his God. He never calls Himself God of Abel or of Noah, though in a general sense He is the God, of course, of every saint. Faith itself is first here pointed out as the way of righteousness. In Eden, God, in judging the serpent, had announced the final victory of the promised Seed; in Abel, He had shewn what acceptable sacrifice from a sinner was—not the fruits of his labour under judgment, but the blood God's grace had given to him, which answered his need; and this established a righteousness in which he who came to God through the offered sacrifice stood, and of which he had himself the witness, and which was measured by his gift, that is by Christ Himself [2]; in Enoch, clear and absolute victory over death, and removal from earth, God taking him; in Noah, deliverance through judgments, when the world was judged. Then a new world began, and a ceasing, through the sweet savour of sacrifice, to curse the earth, and a covenant for its preservation from any future destruction by water. But in Abraham we have, after the judgment of Babel, one called out from the world now worshipping other gods, brought into separate and immediate connection with God, and promises given to him; a person called to be the object and depositary of God's promises. This gave him a very peculiar place. God was his God. He had a separate place from all the world with Him, as heir of the promises. He is the root of all the heirs of them. Christ Himself comes as seed of Abraham, who is the father also of the faithful as to the earth. Israel is the promised nation under this title. As regards election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. In this name, consequently, as His eternal memorial, God would now deliver them. At the same time, God foretells that Pharaoh will not let the people go; but takes clearly the ground of His authority and of His right over His people, and of authoritative demand upon Pharaoh that he should recognise them. Upon his refusal to do so, he would be judged by the power of God.

[1] Compare Matthew 5 and John 17. His millennial name is Most High. See the interesting connection of three of these names in Psalm 91. That of Father is not found in the psalms: the Son has revealed it. The other three connect themselves with the earth and the government of the world., Father puts us in the place of sons with God, in the same relationship with God in which Christ Himself is, and, when the time comes, to be like Him and to be heirs of God.

[2] Note in Hebrews 11 it is not the divine gift of Christ for us, but the coming in faith by Him to God.