Moses and the Burning Bush Bible Story Study Guide

God used a burning bush to catch Moses' attention

Painting of Moses and the burning bush.
Pascal Deloche / Getty Images

The people of Israel cried out to God to be rescued from their misery as slaves in Egypt, and God heard them. He was ready to set them free. But first God had to reveal himself to Moses in a convincing manner that would prove his power and his purposes. God had to get Moses' full attention. He did this by appearing to Moses in a burning bush, yet a bush that was not consumed. In this stunning appearance, the Lord distinguished himself as the God of Israel who was aware of his people’s affliction and was coming to deliver them.

Moses and the Burning Bush

  • In the miracle of the burning bush, God revealed himself to Moses in an unpredictable yet unmistakable manner.
  • God used a mysterious burning bush to get Moses' attention. He chose a man who felt unworthy and inadequate, an unlikely shepherd, to lead Israel out of bondage.
  • The burning bush Bible story appears in the book of Exodus 3:1-14 -4:17.
  • Moses was about 80 years old when God appeared to him in a burning bush and called him to return to Egypt (Exodus 7:7; Acts 7:23, 30).

The Burning Bush Story Summary

While tending his father-in-law Jethro's sheep in the land of Midian, Moses saw a baffling sight on Mount Horeb. A bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. Moses went over to the burning bush to investigate, and the voice of God called to him.

God explained that he had seen how miserable his chosen people, the Hebrews, were in Egypt, where they were being held as slaves. God had come down from heaven to rescue them. He picked Moses to carry out that task.

Moses was terrified. He told God he was not capable of such a huge undertaking. God assured Moses he would be with him. At that point, Moses asked God his name, so he could tell the Israelites who had sent him. God replied,

"I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:14)

God wanted Moses and people to know that He was the living God, immediate and present. He was going to rescue his people from slavery.

Then God revealed that he would perform miracles to force Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the enslaved Israelites go. To show his power, the Lord turned Moses' staff into a snake, and back into a staff, and made Moses' hand white with leprosy, then healed it. God instructed Moses to use those signs to prove to the Hebrews that God truly was with Moses.

Still afraid, Moses complained that he could not speak well:

"Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."
The Lord said to him, "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? ​Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." (Exodus 4:10-12, ​NIV)​

Moses wanted God to send someone else (Exodus 4:13). He felt wholly inadequate for the task. The Lord was angry with Moses' lack of faith but promised Moses that his brother Aaron would join him and speak for him. Moses would tell Aaron what to say.

After saying goodbye to his father-in-law, Moses met Aaron in the desert. Together they went back to Goshen, in Egypt, where the Jews were slaves. Aaron explained to the elders how God was going to free the people, and Moses showed them the signs. Overcome that the Lord had heard their prayers and seen their affliction, the elders bowed down and worshiped God.

Points of Interest

  • The names Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai are used interchangeably in the Bible. Several sites in the Sinai Peninsula have been proposed by scholars, including Jebel Musa (Mount Moses) and Jebel al-Lawz, but the Bible does not give a specific geographic location.
  • Scientists have tried to deny the miracle of the burning bush with various theories. Some say it was a "gas-plant," vegetation which emits a flammable substance. Others claim the fire was caused by a volcanic vent near the bush. Still others say it was merely a plant with red flowers and there was no fire at all, but the Bible clearly states the bush burned but was not consumed.
  • In the passage, God's name, "I AM", reveals his independent existence and eternal nature, unbound by past, present or future. Jesus Christ used this term to express his divinity: "Very truly I tell you," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58, NIV) The Jews picked up stones to kill Jesus, claiming he committed blasphemy.
  • After Moses completed his assignment of leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, he returned to this same holy mountain, where God gave him the Ten Commandments.

Question for Reflection

God promised Moses from the burning bush that he would be with him throughout this difficult ordeal. In predicting the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah said, "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). (Matthew 1:23, NIV) All throughout His Word, God promises always to be with us. If we take hold of this truth that God is with us every moment, how would that change our lives?

Sources

  • The New Compact Bible Dictionary, edited by T. Alton Bryant.
  • The Bible Almanac, edited by J.I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney, and William White Jr.
  • The Bible as History, by Werner Keller.
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Zavada, Jack. "Moses and the Burning Bush Bible Story Study Guide." Learn Religions, Jun. 7, 2022, learnreligions.com/moses-and-the-burning-bush-700196. Zavada, Jack. (2022, June 7). Moses and the Burning Bush Bible Story Study Guide. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/moses-and-the-burning-bush-700196 Zavada, Jack. "Moses and the Burning Bush Bible Story Study Guide." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/moses-and-the-burning-bush-700196 (accessed October 6, 2022).

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