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time was come for him to change his mode of life, and again take that work in hand which he had before attempted, but was not allowed to execute. “ 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. And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows: and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now, therefore, behold the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me, and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."*
Now the grand end for which this appearance took place was to call Moses, more effectually and powerfully than he had been before, to the great work of delivering the Israelites; and it was an event quite in accordance with the manner of giving commissions and appointing to great works at the time then being ; nor could it fail to remove all the doubts and scruples that he might retain in consequence of his former failure. But however custom and the general mode of Divine announcements might seem to require the call of Moses to be accompanied with a sign, there can be no doubt that there was something which influenced the Almighty in using this in particular, rather than any other which he might have employed; for signs were often adapted to represent the business with which they were connected, or were intended to introduce.
In what character, then, is the burning bush to be regarded? That it should have been considered as prefigurative, in the strict sense of the word, by the ancient typographers, is not at all to be wondered at, when their predilection is taken into account, and it is remembered how fruitful a source of comparison this interposition would furnish. Accordingly, MEwen, Mather, and others, view it in that light. With them it is a type of the Deity and incarnation of Christ, as well as the afflictions and persecu. tions of his church, and the manner in which it survived them. There is, however, nothing in
* Ex. iii. 2-10.
that part of the sacred history where it is recorded to show that it was intended to teach all this, nor can so much be inferred from any of the other places where it is mentioned, or allusions to it are made. We read of Him who dwelt in the bush; but whether that be considered as God in the person of the Father or the Son, nothing more seems to be intended than a designation of the Deity in which that circumstance is referred to. Our Lord himself alludes to it in his discourse with the Jews, but his design is only to show that the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were living at the time that the appearance took place; and though this event is spoken of by the martyr Stephen, it is merely as a historical fact, or to show how Moses became invested with the authority to deliver Israel. All that can be said of it, as we conceive, is, that at the same time it was a seal to the commission of the great Jewish legis·lator, it was an emblem-a representation of something then existing, and with which it was desirable that Moses should have his mind deeply impressed. It may be regarded as setting forth, . 1. The purity of the Divine Essence, and intended to guard the great deliverer himself against error in reference to this subject. Fire, we know, is a very fitting representation of the purity of the Deity, and, as such, is often spoken of in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, to which there may be an allusion in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where God is called “ a consuming fire.”*
* Heb. xii. 29.
Every one is aware what influence circumstances and examples have upon persons, and how these will prevail sometimes against the best education. Now, Egypt was an idolatrous country; it was, in fact, a land of idols, in which the true God was not known. These false deities had been daily seen and known by Moses while in that country; and though it was many years since he had been a resident there, yet it is a question if he had received much instruction on the subject of the essence of the Divine nature during his absence; besides which, he was about to return to the scene of his former danger. He had not only been in the midst of idols, but it is highly probable that efforts had been made in his early days to train him up in the religion and practices of the Egyptian nation, all the education he had received having had a tendency to that end. The accuracy of this view of the circumstances of Moses, and the appearance of God to him, is favoured by some other events recorded in the sacred history, particularly the choice of Abraham; for since God allowed that patriarch to be brought up in an idolatrous country, if not even to be himself a worshipper of strange gods, at least at first, and in his early life, although he intended him to be the father of the faithful, it is not wonderful that his providence should permit Moses to be in the danger which the preceding remarks suppose.
Not only was this the case with regard to Moses himself, but it was more especially so with the people whom he was about to deliver. They were surrounded with idolatry; and, as
appears by their subsequent history, they imbibed many idolatrous notions; for there are frequent allusions made to what they had beheld in the land of their bondage, and warnings given to guard them against the practices they had seen. Indeed, it is very likely that the calf which they made and worshipped in Horeb represented something with which they had been familiar in the country they had left; so that between the influence of his education on the one hand, and the propensity of the people on the other, there was so much danger of Moses falling into error, that the Almighty deemed it right that this great man should have this sign of the Divine purity, that it might be a protection to him in after years. It was designed to impress the mind of Moses,
2. With a sense of the situation of the people of Israel. It was an emblem of their state and condition. Like this bush, they were burning but not consumed. Such was their meanness and poverty, that as much difference existed between them and the Egyptians, in whose land they dwelt, as between a mean bush and a stately cedar of Lebanon.
But it was a representation, not of their feeble condition as a nation merely, but also of their sore persecution and trouble as the people of God; for God says, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry, by reason of their task-masters; for I know their sorrows :"* and this was the affliction which Moses chose to suffer with them, rather than enjoy the pleasures
* Ex. iii, 7.