The story of Moses is setting up to be really good. Now, there is a turning point. The most current pharaoh, probably Ramses II, has just died. The children of Israel have endured one pharaoh of oppression at this point. Hoping that the bondage will stop, they pray mightily to God to deliver them.
God Hears the Israelite Prayers
I love verse 24 and 25. God heard their prayers and was cognizant of their predicament. He remembered the covenant he made with Abraham. Cross reference Genesis 15:14. God covenanted with Abraham that he would deliver the nation that his posterity would serve and that they would have wealth. That’s crazy that God already knew! How many hundreds of years was this in advanced? Good stuff. God looked upon Israel and knew them and their bondage. I think this is one of the very few times we actually get a reference, though not direct, of God doing something as a person would. He isn’t some abstract concept that certain people can talk to. He is a living being and he is able to look upon us in a very literal sense.
The Mount of the Lord
Moses is one day watching the herds of his father-in-law, Jethro, and takes them to the backside of the desert. He came to the mountain of God, Horeb. Cross reference Exodus 4:27; 18:5; 24:13, this isn’t the last time he will go into Mount Horeb. Otherwise known as Mount Sinai. Cross reference Mosiah 13:5 to know it is Mount Sinai. The actual location is disputed among scholars. Here is an interesting thought. In the Pearl of Great Price, God tells Moses that no man will know the name of the mountain. But we know it? Maybe no one will know the location? Maybe no one will know the time at which these things happened? I can see that.
While we are on the topic, Sinai had been a Babylonian sanctuary to the moon god Sin. Hence the name of the mountain. It’s the mountain that the 10 commandments were received and where the tabernacle was built. One last thought on Sinai, where indeed Moses is at this point in the story. Why is it called the Mountain of God? Was this record written in light of the experiences of Moses after he had already received the commandments? Or before? If before, what happened on the mountain to warrant such a name? What people were involved? Food for thought.
The Burning Bush Experience
The presence of the Lord appears to Moses in a burning bush. But the bush wasn’t burning up. Moses sees it and goes to find out why this bush isn’t burning. He thought it was quite a sight to behold. Why a burning bush? Maybe it was just the right way? It would intrigue Moses but not necessarily freak him out.
The bush calls out, “Moses, Moses.” And Moses says, “Here am I.” How does this not scare him? Maybe he already had encounters with the Lord that this particular circumstances didn’t scare him. Or maybe since this was called the Mountain of God, he was expecting some manifestation from him while there. If that were the case, this would have been expected.
The Lord tells him to take off his shoes because he is standing on holy ground. Cross reference D&C 45:32 and 101:64. These two scriptures talk about standing in holy places and not being moved. Like the mutual theme, stand ye in holy places. Cross reference D&C 115:7, the land of Far West is a consecrated and holy place. Similar language is used to that of the burning bush. Whenever I hear of holy places, I think of the temple. In temples, the spirit of the Lord dwells and that is pretty much what is happening here. Moses is in the “Mountain of God” with God there, it is no surprise then, this is holy ground.
The speaker in the bush identifies himself as Jesus Christ, A.K.A. Jehovah. Cross reference Ether 3:6, the veil was taken from the brother of Jared’s eyes and he saw the finger of the Lord. He was struck with fear. Same thing probably with Moses, the veil was taken from him and he was scared to look because he saw something more than a burning bush.
Christ tells Moses that he has seen the suffereings of his people in Egypt and heard their prayers to him. He knows their sorrows. Cross reference D&C 38:16. This scripture is a foreshadowing of what will be happening later in the story. The wrath of God is kindled against the wicked.
God is going to deliver them out of Egypt and take them to a good land. One that flows with milk and honey, land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. What significance, if any can be found, is there of milk and honey being used together? Cross reference Deuteronomy 8:7. It describes this promised land. Brooks, hills, rivers, streams, and stuff like that. Jeremiah 11:5 and D&C 38:18 talk about lands flowing with milk and honey. In the D&C scripture it is referring to Utah. Interesting to note that we are the beehive state and what do bees make? Honey! What I’m getting out of this is that flowing with milk and honey is an epithet that usually is associated with a promised land.
The People Inhabiting Canaan
Let’s go over all the peoples mentioned in the verse. Some I recognize. Canaanites refers to a land of origin or someone of the lineage of Canaan, son of Ham. In this case, I believe it would be the land of their origin.
Hittites were an ancient people descended from Heth (Heth is a descendent of Ham). They were a branch of the Canaanites. Hittites in the Bible refer to all Canaanite nations north of Palestine, from Orontos to the Euphrates. See the maps in the back of the Bible to try and get an idea of how big these peoples were. The empire stretched to the extreme northwest of Asia minor and could contend with the kings of Egypt or Assyria on equal terms. They loved literature and art. Based off Egyptian representations of them, they had dark hair, dark eyes, yellow skin, and receding foreheads and chins.
Amorites is a slightly not-known-how-it-is-used-in-the-Bible term. From Egyptian monuments, it seems as if they were fair skinned and blue eyed race who inhabited south of Palestine before semitic tribes such as the Israelites, Ammonites, Edomites etc…made their appearance there. According to the Tell-El-Amarna tablets, Amurri is the common name for Palestine.
Perrizites means villagers. A people of Palestine. Also, a general name for a Canaanite tribe who had no fortified towns.
Hivites are a Canaanite race. A main body appears to have lived in northern Palestine. A colony did settle in Gibeon though (can’t find it on the map.)
Nothing on the Jebusites. But Jebus is in the Bible dictionary. Jebus is an ancient name of Jerusalem. That means Jebusites were the people living in what is now Jerusalem. It was a hill fortress which maintained its independence until it was stormed by David.
Called of God
The Lord says to Moses, “Come now therefore and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” Boom! You have just been footnote 10a-ed! Called of God! I wonder what Moses was thinking while God was saying this. God is going along talking about how he has heard the prayers of the people and then he drops that he wants Moses to save them. Moses must have been like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I think I heard you say that you want me to deliver them? Did you say that?” But that isn’t how it went because we have his reply in the next verse. Moses says, “Who am I, that I should go unto pharaoh, and that I shoud bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
Cross reference Moses 6:31. Apparently Moses does the same thing that Enoch did. I am but a lad (Moses is at least 40) and slow of speech (that’s why Aaron was his mouthpiece). He doubts his ability to do this. He is this insignificant man with all these weaknesses and God wants him to go to pharaoh and deliver the people? By small and simple things are great things brough to pass. And small things in many instances doth confound the wise. The Lord doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
Moses Doubts His Abilities
In response to Moses’ doubts, the Lord comforts him by telling him that he will be with him, he will give him authority and when he has done the thing that is required of him, he will know it was through and by God that this thing was done. I love the Lord’s confidence in Moses. He is showing perfect faith in Moses that he will be able to do this thing. There is no doubt or fear that this mortal will fail. Because in reality, it isn’t Moses freeing the people of Egypt, it’s God. God is just working through Moses. Moses just needs to worry about listening and doing what God tells him to. I think listening and doing what God tells you to do is a lot easier than freeing the children of Israel. The freeing comes as a result of Moses listening and obeying. This is God’s work and glory. Really, it takes the burden off Moses. It’s wonderful to know that if you do your part, God will take care of the “hard part”.
Moses is still doubting himself. Actually, I think he believes but is doubtful about the children of Israel’s ability to believe. He asks God, “What do I say after I have told them you sent me? They are just going to say, ‘Who is this guy? Who does he think he is?'” The reply from the Lord is pretty powerful and famous: “I AM THAT I AM” He is supposed to say, “I AM hath sent me unto you.” Let’s look at, “I AM THAT I AM”. The footnote reveals this is Jehovah, otherwise known as Jesus Christ. Look at “I AM” as a title or name and the entire phrase becomes more meaningful. It’s like saying in English, “The name’s Bond, James Bond.” Implying that he is a person of extreme reputation or ability. Except in this case, it’s Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Jesus Christ.
The Use of I AM
We are going to drive our car off a giant ramp into the philosophical, metaphysical, and abstract world of I AM. Perhaps I am overthinking this but it is still a cool thought. Cross reference the quote, “I think, therefore I am”. In the pre-earth life we were all intelligences. Technically no one existed physically (in the bodily sense) yet. Jesus Christ was the first begotten of the father. In a sense, he was the first I AM. The first person with a mind, the ability to think. Jesus Christ existed to create our world so that others could be “I AM”s. Something to think about.
Notice the use of “I AM” in chapter 3. God says “I AM” (capitalized or not) whereas Moses only uses “am I”. Moses says here, “Here am I.” and “Who am I?” Any significance in that? Using the reverse of what God says? Food for thought.
Speaking of food, here another thought. Looking at I AM as a title held by significant people. Jesus Christ is the I AM. The only other person who could hold that title is Heavenly Father. So, if Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are both I AM, then you could say that I AM that I AM means Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father are the same. But we know that isn’t true physically speaking. They are one in purpose. No beginning, no end, just one eternal round of bringing to pass the eternal life and happiness of man….Maybe that’s too deep?
Will the People Believe Me?
Jesus tells Moses to just tell the children of Israel that the God of their fathers has appeared unto him and he has seen their afflictions and will deliver them to the land of their origin. Moses is supposed to speak with the elders because they will hearken unto him. After that, he is supposed to go to Pharaoh with the elders and ask to let the people go for three days into the wilderness that they may offer sacrifice unto God. Verse 19 is cool. God says he already knows that the king of Eygpt will not let them go. So he will smite the earth with plagues and then the king will let the Hebrew people go. Jesus Christ for the win!
Moses says that the people still won’t believe him. That they will say the Lord hasn’t appeared unto him. Cross reference Exodus 4:31 (last verse in the chapter. They believe him. Sorry to spoil the story). God does something really cool right here to help Moses with the people who don’t believe him. He tells Moses to cast his rod (shepherd’s staff?) on the ground. When he does, it becomes a snake. Moses freaks out and puts distance between him and the serpent. God says to pick the snake up by the tail. As he does this, the snake becomes a rod again. I want to know the science behind this one! What logical transition has to be made to turn wood into scales? Was the snake “born”–given a spirit–and then “died” when the staff returned? Perhaps the wood’s spirit was used for the snake? Hmmm…
There is another sign he gives Moses. He tells him to touch his chest. When he does and looks at his hand, it has leprosy (ohhhhh freak out!) God tells him to touch his bosom again and his hand will be restored. So he does and it is. God tells Moses that if they will not hearken to the first sign, they will hearken to this one. What is the science behind this one? God is so cool! The priesthood is so cool!
God gives Moses one more sign just in case they don’t believe the first two. He is supposed to take water from the river and pour it upon the ground and it will be blood. Wow! That’s crazy! I feel like the transition from water to blood would be easier to make than the first two signs. But I don’t know. The priesthood can do everything so there is probably no distinguishing between levels of difficulty.
Being Slow of Speech
Moses says he is not eloquent. He is slow of speech and slow of tongue. Cross reference D&C 60:2. Slow of speech means you don’t like to talk. You have a hard time opening your mouth. Cross reference Jeremiah 1:6-9. He was also slow of speech. The Lord told him not to worry, just speak the words I put into your mouth. God touches his mouth so that he is able to do these things.
I’ve always been slow of speech. I don’t do well when I have to. I would rather listen and think about what people have to say. Maybe write something about it. The D&C 60:2 verse interested me because he (God) is talking to people who he gave the specific talent for talking to. Don’t waste your talents! I have a talent for writing. I’m trying to use my talents to help people come closer to the gospel through my notes. I’m trying to help people realize this life, this gospel, this plan of happiness and salvation is a lot more cool than everyone thinks it is.
Slow tongue would mean after taking into account what slow speech means, that when you do have to talk, you can’t put setences together. Maybe you stutter or can’t think straight.
The Lord says, “Who made man’s mouth? Who made the dumb, blind, or deaf? I did.” This implies that he can make Moses’ mouth work if he wills it. He tells Moses to go, he will be with his mouth and teach him what to say. Moses is having a hard time believing this and asks if he can send another to talk becuase he really doesn’t think he can. The anger of the Lord is kindled against Moses and he appoints Moses’ brother Aaron as his spokesperson.
First off, you do not want the anger of the Lord kindled against you. The Lord has given Moses every piece of comfort and assurance that he will be able to talk when he needs to to the people. But he still doesn’t think he can. I don’t know the reasoning behind that other than slow of speech and tongue. Despite Moses’ difficulties, he was still a great man and did great things.
If you won’t step up, the Lord will choose another person. One who is more willing and able. In this case, it was Moses’ brother. But Moses is still the prophet, he just has Aaron talk for him. A quote by Jeffrey R. Holland is applicable.
“Imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.”
God is going to be with Moses’ mouth as well as Aaron’s. He is going to teach them both what to do. The work of God will go forth as a stone cut without hands from the mountain, not stopping till the work is complete. The work of God cannot be hindered! The Lord finishes by telling Moses to take the rod with him so that he can work the miracles that have been spoken of.