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Poole on Exodus 3:3-5: Moses on Holy Ground

Verse 3:[1] And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this (Ps. 111:2; Acts 7:31) great sight, why the bush is not burnt.

Verse 4:[2] And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called (Deut. 33:16) unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

[Moses, Moses] God reveals that He cares for His own, that He knows and directs them by name. By the repetition of his name, He strikes more keenly upon the ears and heart of Moses, and excites him unto attention.

Moses, Moses: He doubles the name, partly to show kindness and familiarity, and principally to make Moses more attentive to the business before him.

[I am present] I am at hand, so that I might comply (Menochius).

Verse 5:[3] And he said, Draw not nigh hither: (Ex. 19:12; Josh. 5:15; Acts 7:33) put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

Draw not nigh hither; keep thy distance; whereby he checks his curiosity and forwardness, and works him to the greater reverence and humility. Compare Exodus 19:12, 21; Joshua 5:15.

[Loose thy shoe] So that thou mightest pass over entirely into the duty and service of God (certain interpreters in Lapide, Ainsworth). He that surrendered his right to the other, signified this by pulling off his shoe, Deuteronomy 25:9; Ruth 4:7 (Ainsworth). But this rite began after the Law was given (Lapide). This was a sign of grief and humiliation, 2 Samuel 15:30; Isaiah 20:2, 4; Ezekiel 24:17, 23, and consequently of holiness before God: which both the changing and washing of other garments was signifying, Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Psalm 119:101; Ephesians 6:15 (Ainworth). For reverence of the place and of the divine majesty (Munster, Tirinus, Estius, Bonfrerius). For Moses had approached too audaciously and curiously (Lapide). The same was enjoined upon Joshua, Joshua 5:15 (Tirinus). For a sign of reverence, and obedience, and humility (Rivet, Lapide, Bonfrerius). This rite descended from slaves, who went about with bare feet, as a sign of subjection (Lapide). It teaches one to put away all carnal cares and thoughts, while we draw near to God (Tirinus). Hence the custom came down to the Jews (whose priests removed the shoes from their feet at the entry of the Temple, Exodus 30:19-21; 40:31 [Tirinus]; Persius[4] said concerning the Jewish Kings, The kings practiced the solemn Sabbaths with bare feet [Grotius]), and to the Gentiles. Thence their sacred nudipedalia. The Gentiles were putting off their shoes when entering the temple of Apollo, Solinus’ The Wonders of the World 15. Thus the Turks and the Ethiopian Christians; they do not visit their sacred assemblies except with bare feet. Thence Iamblichus,[5] in his The Life of Pythagoras[6] 24:10: Ἀνυπόδητος θύε καὶ προσκύνει, Let him do sacred rites with bare feet. Thus Proclus,[7] in Marinus,[8] was worshipping God with his shoes put off (Grotius). The root of שַׁל[9] is נָשַׁל, to remove (Munster). See concerning this passage Acts 7:33 (Vatablus).

Put off thy shoes: this he requires as an act and token, 1. Of his reverence to the Divine Majesty, then and there eminently present. 2. Of his humiliation for his sins, whereby he was unfit and unworthy to appear before God; for this was a posture of humiliation, 2 Samuel 15:30; Isaiah 20:2, 4; Ezekiel 24:17, 23. 3. Of purification from the filth of his feet, or ways, or conversation, that he might be more fit to approach to God. See John 13:10; Hebrews 10:22. 4. Of his submission and readiness to obey God’s will, for which reason slaves used to be barefooted. Holy ground; with a relative holiness at this time, because of my special presence in it.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֔ה אָסֻֽרָה־נָּ֣א וְאֶרְאֶ֔ה אֶת־הַמַּרְאֶ֥ה הַגָּדֹ֖ל הַזֶּ֑ה מַדּ֖וּעַ לֹא־יִבְעַ֥ר הַסְּנֶֽה׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיַּ֥רְא יְהוָ֖ה כִּ֣י סָ֣ר לִרְא֑וֹת וַיִּקְרָא֩ אֵלָ֙יו אֱלֹהִ֜ים מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֗ה וַיֹּ֛אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֥ה מֹשֶׁ֖ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃

[3] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַל־תִּקְרַ֣ב הֲלֹ֑ם שַׁל־נְעָלֶ֙יךָ֙ מֵעַ֣ל רַגְלֶ֔יךָ כִּ֣י הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ עוֹמֵ֣ד עָלָ֔יו אַדְמַת־קֹ֖דֶשׁ הֽוּא׃

[4] Aulus Persius Flaccus (34-62) was a Roman satirist.

[5] Iamblichus of Chalcis (in Syria) (c. 245-c. 325) was instrumental in both shaping and spreading Neoplatonic philosophy in the ancient world.

[6] De Vita Pythagoræ.

[7] Proclus was a fifth century bishop of Constantinople, and a friend of Chrysostom.

[8] Marcus Marinus was a sixteenth century Hebrew scholar and papal inquisitor/ censor. He deleted from the Basel Talmud five chapters, which reflected negatively upon Christianity.

[9] Exodus 3:5b: “…Draw not nigh hither: put off (שַׁל) thy shoes from off thy feet…”

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