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Poole on Exodus 3:2: Jesus Christ in the Burning Bush

Verse 2:[1] And (Deut. 33:16; Is. 63:9; Acts 7:30) 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.

[The Lord] Hebrew: the Angel of the Lord,[2] namely, Christ, the Angel of great counsel (thus Vatablus, Castalio,[3] Clario,[4] Junius, Piscator out of the Rabbis). Thus Theodoret,[5] Ambrose, Chrysostom, Justin, Tertullian,[6] and Hillary (Bonfrerius). They prove this out of verses 4 and 6, and Deuteronomy 33:16 (Dutch, Ainsworth). Who is called the Angel, because that redemption of the people shadowed forth our own, on account of which Christ was sent (Vatablus). Others otherwise: The Angel was bearing the character of the Lord (Menochius, Lyra, Estius). Thus certain of the Fathers and Scholastics. The Son of God is never called an Angel without addition (Bonfrerius). He is called an Angel in Acts 7:30 (Lapide). However, an Angel should not be called Jehovah, nor should he command with such great authority (Castalio).

The angel of the Lord; not a created angel, but the Angel of the covenant, Christ Jesus, who then and ever was God, and was to be man, and to be sent into the world in our flesh, as a messenger from God. And these temporary apparitions of his were presages or forerunners of his more solemn mission and coming, and therefore he is fitly called an Angel. That this Angel was no creature, plainly appears by the whole context, and specially by his saying, I am the Lord, etc. The angels never speak that language in Scripture, but, I am sent from God, and, I am thy fellow servant, etc. And it is a vain pretence to say that the angel, as God’s ambassador, speaks in God’s name and person; for what ambassador of any king in the world did ever speak thus, I am the king, etc.? Ministers are God’s ambassadors, but if any of them should say, I am the Lord, they would be guilty of blasphemy, and so would any created angel be too, for the same reason.

[In a flame of fire (thus Onkelos, Samaritan Text, Syriac, Arabic), בְּלַבַּת־אֵשׁ] In the heart[7] (that is, in the midst) of the fire. Or לַבַּת is in the place of לַהֲבַת/flame (Munster).

By a flame of fire was fitly represented God’s majesty, and purity, and power.

[From the midst of a bramble, הַסְּנֶה] סְנֶה/seneh is a tree, barren and thorny (Munster). סִינַי/Sinai is named after the numerous brambles on this mountain (Tirinus, Munster).

[The bramble burned, and was not consumed] This was an image both of Moses, an afflicted exile (Junius, Piscator), and of the Israelite people, who, about to go out, would be unharmed and the more splendid on account of the fire of afflictions (Menochius, Tirinus). God was concurring with this fire, so that it would give light, not so that it would burn (Tirinus); however, it was a true fire (Tirinus, Rivet). The verses are cited out of a Greek tragedy concerning God: Οὐκ οἶσθα δ᾽ αὐτόν· ποτὲ μὲν ὡς πῦρ φαίνεται, Thou didst not know him: He appears sometimes as fire. The nations at that time believed that such a vision was portending great glory for the one seeing it, as Josephus here notes[8] (Grotius). God appeared in a flame, which cannot be molded into an image, for Israel was prone to idolatry (Lyra).

The bush was not consumed; which doubtless represented the condition of the church and people of Israel, who were now in the fire of affliction, yet so as that God was present with them, and that they should not be consumed in it, whereof this vision was a pledge.

[1] Hebrew: וַ֠יֵּרָא מַלְאַ֙ךְ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֵלָ֛יו בְּלַבַּת־אֵ֖שׁ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֑ה וַיַּ֗רְא וְהִנֵּ֤ה הַסְּנֶה֙ בֹּעֵ֣ר בָּאֵ֔שׁ וְהַסְּנֶ֖ה אֵינֶ֥נּוּ אֻכָּֽל׃

[2] Hebrew: מַלְאַ֙ךְ יְהֹוָ֥ה.

[3] Sebastian Castalio (1515-1563) distinguished himself as a scholar by means of his linguistic talents, evident in his Annotationes in Vetus et Novum Testamentum. After a period of working closely with Calvin, the two fell into controversy. Castalio was inclined towards Pelagianism, and his views were influential in the development of Socinianism. As a translator of the Bible, he takes great liberty with the text, molding the speech of the prophets to conform to the standards of classical Latin.

[4] Isidore Clario (1495-1555) was a Benedictine monk. He served as the Prior of the Monastery of St. Peter in Modena, in northern Italy (1537), and as the Bishop of Foligno, in central Italy (1547). He was present at the Council of Trent. Clario produced a corrected edition of the Latin Vulgate, accompanied by his Annotationes in Vetus et Novum Testamentum.

[5] Theodoret (393-457) was bishop of Cyrus, and a significant participant in the Christological controversies of his age. He was an advocate of Antiochian dyophysitism, or moderate Nestorianism, although he condemned the Nestorian affirmation of two Sons in Christ, and the Nestorian denial that Mary was Theotokos, that is, the Mother of God. His orthodoxy was cleared at the Council of Chalcedon (451). With respect to exegetical method, Theodoret came up under the tutelage of Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom. He commented on most of the books of the Bible; his comments on the Scripture are sober, and clear in expression.

[6] Tertullian was a Latin Father of the second century. He labored as an apologist during times of persecution. He is remembered for his contribution of the vocabulary concerning the doctrine of the Trinity in the Latin-speaking West, and his involvement in the Montanist movement.

[7] Here, לַבַּת is being related to לֵבָב/heart.

[8] Antiquities 2:12.

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