on Exodus 3 :1
Jethro his father-in-law - Concerning Jethro, see Clarke's note on Exodus 2:18. Learned men are not agreed on the signification of the word חתן chothen, which we translate father-in-law, and which in Genesis 19:14, we translate son-in-law. It seems to be a general term for a relative by marriage, and the connection only in which it stands can determine its precise meaning. It is very possible that Reuel was now dead, it being forty years since Moses came to Midian; that Jethro was his son, and had succeeded him in his office of prince and priest of Midian; that Zipporah was the sister of Jethro; and that consequently the word חתן chothen should be translated brother-in-law in this place: as we learn from Genesis 34:9, Deuteronomy 7:3, Joshua 23:12, and other places, that it simply signifies to contract affinity by marriage. If this conjecture be right, we may well suppose that, Reuel being dead, Moses was continued by his brother-in-law Jethro in the same employment he had under his father.
Mountain of God - Sometimes named Horeb, at other times Sinai. The mountain itself had two peaks; one was called Horeb, the other Sinai. Horeb was probably the primitive name of the mountain, which was afterwards called the mountain of God, because God appeared upon it to Moses; and Mount Sinai, סיני, from סנה seneh, a bush, because it was in a bush or bramble, in a flame of fire, that this appearance was made.
on Exodus 3 :1
Jethro his father-in-law - Or "brother-in-law." The word in the Hebrew is a word signifying relative by marriage. When Moses arrived in Midian, Reuel was an elderly man Exodus 2:16; 40 years later (Exodus 2:23 note), Reuel's son, Jethro, had probably succeeded him.
The backside - i. e. "to the west of the district." Among the Hebrews the East is before a man, the west behind him, the south and north on the right and left hand.
Desert - Or wilderness, not a barren waste, but a district supplying pasturage. The district near Sherm, on the west of the gulf of Akabah, where Jethro may have resided, is described as barren and parched; on the west and east are rocky tracts, but to the northwest lies the district of Sinai, where the pasturage is good and water abundant. The Bedouins drive their flocks there from the lowlands at the approach of summer. From this it may be inferred that the events here recorded took place at that season.
To Horeb - More exactly, toward Horeb. Moses came to the mountain of God, i. e. Sinai, on his way toward Horeb, a name given to the northern part of the Sinaitic range. Moses calls Sinai "mountain of God" by anticipation, with reference to the manifestation of God. There is no authority for assuming that the spot was previously held sacred (see Exodus 5:5); but it has been lately shown that the whole Peninsula was regarded by the Egyptians as specially consecrated to the gods from a very early time.
on Exodus 3 :1