on Exodus 3 :2
The angel of the Lord - Not a created angel certainly; for he is called יהוה Jehovah, Exodus 3:4, etc., and has the most expressive attributes of the Godhead applied to him, Exodus 3:14, etc. Yet he is an angel, מלאך malach, a messenger, in whom was the name of God, Exodus 23:21; and in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9; and who, in all these primitive times, was the Messenger of the covenant, Malachi 3:1. And who was this but Jesus, the Leader, Redeemer, and Savior of mankind? See Clarke's note on Genesis 16:7.
A flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush - Fire was, not only among the Hebrews but also among many other ancient nations, a very significant emblem of the Deity. God accompanied the Israelites in all their journeying through the wilderness as a pillar of fire by night; and probably a fire or flame in the holy of holies, between the cherubim, was the general symbol of his presence; and traditions of these things, which must have been current in the east, have probably given birth, not only to the pretty general opinion that God appears in the likeness of fire, but to the whole of the Zoroastrian system of fire-worship. It has been reported of Zoroaster, or Zeradusht, that having retired to a mountain for the study of wisdom, and the benefit of solitude, the whole mountain was one day enveloped with flame, out of the midst of which he came without receiving any injury; on which he offered sacrifices to God, who, he was persuaded, had then appeared to him. M. Anquetil du Perron gives much curious information on this subject in his Zend Avesta. The modern Parsees call fire the off-spring of Ormusd, and worship it with a vast variety of ceremonies. Among the fragments attributed to Aeschylus, and collected by Stanley in his invaluable edition of this poet, p. 647, Colossians 1, we find the following beautiful verses:
Χωριζε θνητων τον Θεον, και μη δοκει
Ὁμοιον αυτῳ σαρκινον καθεσταναι.
Ουκ οισθα δ' αυτον· ποτε μεν ὡς πυρ φαινεται
Απλαστον ὁρμῃ· ποτε δ' ὑδωρ, ποτε δε γνοφος.
"Distinguish God from mortal men; and do not suppose that any thing fleshly is like unto him. Thou knowest him not: sometimes indeed he appears as a formless and impetuous Fire, sometimes as water, sometimes as thick darkness." The poet proceeds:
Τρεμει δ' ορη, και γαια, και πελεριος
Βυθος θαλασσης, κωρεων ὑψος μεγα,
Ὁταν επιβλεψῃ γοργον ομμα δεσποτου.
"The mountains, the earth, the deep and extensive sea, and the summits of the highest mountains tremble whenever the terrible eye of the Supreme Lord looks down upon them."
These are very remarkable fragments, and seem all to be collected from traditions relative to the different manifestations of God to the Israelites in Egypt, and in the wilderness. Moses wished to see God, but he could behold nothing but an indescribable glory: nothing like mortals, nothing like a human body, appeared at any time to his eye, or to those of the Israelites. "Ye saw no manner of similitude," said Moses, "on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the Fire," Deuteronomy 4:15. But sometimes the Divine power and justice were manifested by the indescribable, formless, impetuous, consuming flame; at other times he appeared by the water which he brought out of the flinty rock; and in the thick darkness on Horeb, when the fiery law proceeded from his right hand, then the earth quaked and the mountain trembled: and when his terrible eye looked out upon the Egyptians through the pillar of cloud and fire, their chariot wheels were struck off, and confusion and dismay were spread through all the hosts of Pharaoh; Exodus 14:24, Exodus 14:25.
And the bush was not consumed - 1. An emblem of the state of Israel in its various distresses and persecutions: it was in the fire of adversity, but was not consumed. 2. An emblem also of the state of the Church of God in the wilderness, in persecutions often, in the midst of its enemies, in the region of the shadow of death - yet not consumed. 3. An emblem also of the state of every follower of Christ: cast down, but not forsaken; grievously tempted, but not destroyed; walking through the fire, but still unconsumed! Why are all these preserved in the midst of those things which have a natural tendency to destroy them! Because God Is In The Midst Of Them; it was this that preserved the bush from destruction; and it was this that preserved the Israelites; and it is this, and this alone, that preserves the Church, and holds the soul of every genuine believer in the spiritual life. He in whose heart Christ dwells not by faith, will soon be consumed by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
on Exodus 3 :2
The angel of the Lord - See the note at Genesis 12:7. What Moses saw was the flame of fire in the bush; what he recognized therein was an intimation of the presence of God, who maketh a flame of fire His angel. Compare Psalm 104:4. The words which Moses heard were those of God Himself, as all ancient and most modern divines have held, manifested in the Person of the Son.
Of a bush - Literally, of the bush or "seneh," a word which ought perhaps to be retained as the proper name of a thorny shrub common in that district, a species of acacia.
on Exodus 3 :2
3:2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him - It was an extraordinary manifestation of the divine glory; what was visible was produced by the ministry of an angel, but he heard God in it speaking to him. In a flame of fire - To shew that God was about to bring terror and destruction to his enemies, light and heat to his people, and to display his glory before all. And the bush burned, and yet was not consumed - An emblem of the church now in bondage in Egypt, burning in the brick - kilns, yet not consumed; cast down, but not destroyed.