Who spoke to Moses from the burning bush?

Posted on Sep.11, 2009. Filed in Exodus, Mark, Acts. Average rating: 1.3 / 10 (Rate It).

Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt when God spoke to him from the burning bush. But did God speak to Moses directly, or through an angel as an intermediary?

In Exodus, it is an angel that appears to Moses in the burning bush, but God himself that speaks to him:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ [Exodus 3:1-5, NRSV]

Mark describes this correctly:

‘… have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”?’ [Mark 12:26b, NRSV]

In Acts, however, Stephen seems to suggest that God didn’t speak to Moses directly, but through the angel as an intermediary:

‘It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?” and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.’ [Acts 7:35, NRSV]

So did God speak to Moses from the burning bush directly, or indirectly through an angel?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1

    It’s pretty typical in both Jewish and Christian traditions to view the phrase “the Angel of the LORD” (Malakh YHWH) as referring to the theophanic angel. Strong’s gives this as one of the meanings of “malakh”. In Jewish traditions this means that the Angel of the LORD is a special, temporary, manifestation of God Himself. In Christian traditions, we typically view the Angel of the LORD as Christ. Either way there is no conflict. The Angel of the LORD spoke to Moses, but that is just to say that God spoke to Moses.

    Stephen’s remark may be a case of Stephen making yet another (accurately reported) mistake, or it could be that when Stephen said that God sent Moses “through the angel who appeared to him in the bush” he just meant that God sent Moses “through the manifestation of God that appeared to him in the bush.” And that is not problematic.

  2. 2

    G-d unquestionably spoke directly to Moses. The text is pretty straightforward. The Angel of the Lord may have appeared (and may have been either G-d or a manifestation of G-d), but the text clearly states it was G-d who spoke.

  3. 3

    This not a problem within the New Testament. In the Old Testament, with the angel of the Lord meetings and dialogues, the angel of the Lord speaks such that He alternates between speaking as the angel of the Lord (the Lord referred to as a third party)and the Lord Himself. In 1 Samuel 13 the angel of the Lord seems to be a man, is identified as the angel of the Lord sent by God, then identified as God, the Lord. A multi-personed God (see “us”” in Genesis 1:26)? In 1 Sam.30 we find two other mysteries: firstly how can men see the Lord and not die? No answer given. Secondly what is the Lord’s name? It is too wonderful.The questions raised here are answered only with in the full revelation of God in the NT as the Triune, incarnate, loving, humble and crucified God.

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