Exodus 3

These small group studies of Exodus contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 3 Inductive Bible Study


I. Moses sees the burning bush (1-3)

II. God introduces Himself to Moses (4-6)

III. God has heard His people and commands Moses to go to lead them out of Egypt (7-10)

IV. Moses’ excuse #1: I am a nobody! (11)

V. God’s reply: I will be with you (12)

VI. God reveals His covenant name “YHWH” to Moses (13-15)

VII. God revealed to Moses that after performing many wonders to convince Pharaoh, he would eventually let them go and they would take spoils with them (16-22)

I. Moses sees the burning bush (1-3)

How much time has elapsed between the end of chapter two and the beginning of chapter three?

Why was Horeb called the mountain of God?

Who is the angel of the Lord?

What other names is He called in this chapter (LORD, God Almighty)? What can we learn from this?

What was special about this bush? Did you ever see a fire do that?

Why do you think God chose this way to appear to Moses? What was the significance of appearing in a burning bush?

Acts 7:19-35 – Stephen’s summary including statement that Moses was 40 years old when he fled Egypt and 40 more years elapsed before he went back.

1. Moses had been serving as a shepherd for Jethro for about 40 years at this point. Unlike men, God is very patient. He didn’t save the Israelites immediately, but waited for the right time and the right person. I believe God used these 40 years to teach Moses many valuable lessons about leadership and about Himself. In chapter 2, he was still a headstrong young (by those standards) man. He easily lost his temper and behaved rashly. I guess forty years in the wilderness can create a calm, quiet, and careful spirit.

2. It is called the mountain of God because God appeared there to Moses and then later again once or twice after the Israelites left Egypt.

3. The angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Christ. This is important because it shows us that God did not just choose a person and bestow deity upon them. Neither was Christ a creation. Neither did He spend all of eternity prior to the incarnation doing nothing. He had an important role even long before His incarnation. Also, this passage mentions God the Father (God of Abraham… This would make it seem like it was not just one member of the Trinity appearing in the burning bush, but the whole Godhead.

4. The burning bush was a miracle, the first of many miracles witnessed by Moses. The Bible doesn’t mention any specific reason why God chose this way to appear to Moses. Clearly He knew it would attract Moses to go over there so they could have a conversation. Also we know that fire is a symbol of Holiness (a lot of times heaven is mentioned fire is mentioned as well.) Fire is a purifying force. Besides that it shows us that God is in control over nature. He has supernatural ability. Probably Moses had grown up around many so called gods, who were really idols with no power. Seeing the true God display power over the elements would have helped convince Him that God was true, a faith that would be foundational if Moses was to accept the task given to him.

II. God introduces Himself to Moses (4-6)

Did Moses need to introduce himself to God?

Why does God introduce Himself to Moses?

What did He instruct Moses to do? Why? (You can see the culture is similar to Chinese who always remove their shoes when entering someone’s house:)

What does Moses’ reaction tell us about him? Why do you think He was afraid to look at God?

1. While Moses doesn’t know who or what is going on in the bush, God knows everything about Moses. Moses didn’t know God’s name, but God knew his. This is true about every person who turns to God. Moses thought he was taking initiative and he was in control, but actually God was. God had been watching over him and directing the events of his life for 80 years to bring him to this exact point and give him this exact task. God is the one who takes initiative. God is the one who chose Moses for this task.

As we will see later, Moses didn’t even want this task, but God had chosen him. There really wasn’t anything Moses could do about it. This can be a comforting doctrine for us. God is always watching over us. He knows our future before we do. He has a plan for us, a good plan for us. He will prepare us for everything we will face in life sometimes long ahead of time and sometimes when we didn’t even know it. Think of Moses. He probably laid in bed confused many times. “Why could my real parents not keep me.?” “Why did that guy I shoved have to hit his head and die?” “Why couldn’t I just be born into royalty?” “Why do I have to live way out here in the wilderness so far from all the action?” He didn’t know why all these things happened to him, but God had a reason. So this should build our faith in God. Even when we don’t understand why things are happening to us, know God has a reason. Make up your minds to have faith in Him and let nothing sway you. He knows what you need, what you will do, and what you need to do what you need to do.

2. Moses’ response indicates submissiveness. He didn’t run away in fear. He didn’t say “What do you want?” He seemed to understand that it was, God, the Authority, talking to him. His response shows a healthy respect for God and a willingness to listen instead of taking the leadership or starting to make demands. We do know from other Scriptures that Moses was extremely humble so this attitude is not surprising.

3. This is yet another verse that makes me think Moses and other Bible characters are Chinese. 🙂 Not really. But there are a lot of similarities between Middle Eastern culture and Chinese culture. Taking off your shoes or sandals to show respect is one. Again, Moses obeyed. This concept is probably easier for a Chinese to accept than an American since we didn’t have any cultural concept that wearing shoes indoors or pointing them at somebody shows disrespect.

4. God answers what was likely one of Moses’ most burning questions “Who are you?” He introduces Himself by explaining that He is the same God Moses’ ancestors worshiped. This clearly assumes that Moses knew who those ancestors were, reinforcing the fact that he understood his heritage and had studied Jewish history. There seems almost an implied command in this introduction as if God is saying “I am the one true God your ancestors worshiped, now it is your turn to know and follow me.” And indeed Moses would become perhaps the most respected of all of them.

III. God has heard His people and commands Moses to go to lead them out of Egypt (7-10)

This passage doesn’t tell us why God is concerned with their suffering. Why do you think? Do you think God is concerned with our suffering today? Then why not save us/them immediately?

Where was God going to lead His people? What did the Israelites later call this region (Promised Land)?

What command did God have for Moses? What does this indicate about what God thought of Moses?

A. Here God answers three more burning questions Moses might have had.

1. Why? Why do you appear like this? Why do you want to talk with me? The answer is that God knew the suffering His people were going through. He was moved by it, just as He would be throughout their history time and time again. What parent sees a child suffering and is not touched? While the passage doesn’t directly tell us why God cares, we can infer it from many other Scriptures, which describe God’s character to us. First of all, we know that God is not a distant God. He is not a God like deists portray who only created the world and then lets everything be. God cares. God is love. God did not take pleasure in their pain and neither was He apathetic about it. Every whipping, every insult, every beating went straight to His heart. Only because of His great patience and attention to putting everything in place for His plan for the long term good of His people and the long term glorification of His name on the earth did He delay as long as He did.

2. What? What did God plan to do about it? Egypt was a powerful nation, likely the most powerful in the world at the time. What could be done to save His people? The answer: I will rescue them and will lead the to a new and extremely prosperous land. This must have been exciting for Moses to hear. Finally, God is going to do something! Something is going to happen! But then the next question.

3. How? How would God accomplish this great task? Again, Egypt is powerful. No one just leaves. They will be killed. The answer: You, Moses, will go and bring my people out of Israel. God’s chosen tool to accomplish this great mission, Moses.

IV. Moses’ excuse #1: I am a nobody! (11)

Did Moses accept the task immediately?

What was his objection? Summarize it in your own words. Was this a reasonable objection? Why or why not?

1. This is like Mission Impossible, but Moses wasn’t like Ethan Hunt. He didn’t feel like he had any preparation for this (although God had been preparing Him his whole life.) He certainly didn’t feel capable. What could he, a shepherd, possibly do to free two million people from a tyrannical dictator who believed he was a god and his nations’ hundreds of thousands of well trained soldiers.

2. This is another example where the Bible seems almost like Chinese culture. Professing one’s own modesty and low status is a staple of Chinese people. “Your English is good!” “No. It’s very poor.” “Your house/career is very good!” “No. It’s only so so. It’s very small. The pay is not good.” Do you think in this case Moses’ objection is reasonable. Numbers 12:3.

3. I think the first of Moses’ many objections is pretty reasonable. Its natural to question one’s own ability to accomplish this immense task. Moses was a humble person and wondered why in the world God had chosen him. However, God looked at Moses differently. Moses was just the man for the job. He was the vessel God had been preparing his whole life for just this moment, just this time. This reminds us again that God puts people in just the place He wants to accomplish just the thing He wants at just the time He wants.

V. God’s reply: I will be with you (12)

What was God’s answer?

How about if we face difficulties? Will God be with us? How do you know? Why is it important to remember that God will always be with us?

How would Moses know God would be with him?

Isaiah 63:9 – He was afflicted when they were afflicted.

Hebrews 13:5 – I will never leave or forsake you.

Psalms 56:11 – What can mere man do to me.

1. We can see that God didn’t get upset with Moses (like He does later in chapter 4). He didn’t refuse to answer the question. He seemed to take it as a legitimate question and proceeded to give a strong answer that couldn’t reasonably be questioned meant to calm all of Moses’ fears and assure him.

2. This is a reminder that God is an understanding God. He isn’t quick to point out our faults or weaknesses or even our lack of faith. He gives every reason to believe, answers all necessary questions, and assures us and encourages us at every opportunity.

3. He would be with Moses. This is the reason that Moses didn’t need to fear. God would be with him. And if God was with him, he couldn’t fail. What could man do to him? Moses was too weak for this job. He had no chance to accomplish it on his own. But he wasn’t on his on. God would strengthen him. God would accomplish it. This is an encouragement for us. Whenever God gives us a task we can be sure He will be with us to help us accomplish it. He won’t send us off on our own to certain failure. He is not like the Japanese commanders who sent their men in a line straight into the teeth of the enemy. He is like the commander who leads His troops in battle, is at the front of the lines, has a battle strategy, protects His men at all costs, and personally carries the wounded. But as the commander, He also expects His troops to give their absolute best 24/7. Nothing less than 100% is acceptable.

VI. God reveals His covenant name “YHWH” to Moses (13-15)

What was Moses’ next response? Was this a reasonable question? What does asking this question reveal about Moses’ character (boldness)? Why or why not?

Why did Moses think they might ask for God’s name?

So what was God’s name? Have you ever heard a name like that? What does it mean? What kind of applications can we get (how should we respond) to God’s name?

What can this name teach us about God’s character? Why was hearing this important for Moses at that time?

Psalms 9:10 – Those who know His name will put their trust in Him.

1. Moses asks for God’s name. This is a little bit of a strange request. But perhaps the Israelites would wonder how they could sure which God or so called god sent Moses. They already doubted Moses’ credentials as a “spoiled rich kid.” Knowing God’s name could give Moses significant rep/credibility with the Jews. This is yet another similarity to Chinese culture where names are very important. There are some things easier for you guys to understand about the Bible than Westerners (some say the Bible is Western culture).

2. I AM WHO I AM. YHWH – I AM who I AM (translated LORD in English versions, YHWH and I AM built on same word, in Exodus 3:13-15 these two words used interchangeably) “I Am that I Am” is a common English translation of the response God used in the Hebrew Bible when Moses asked for His name (Exodus 3:14). It is one of the most famous verses in the Torah. Hayah means “existed” or “was” in Hebrew; “ehyeh” is the first person singular imperfect form. Ehyeh asher ehyeh is generally interpreted to mean I am that I am, though it can also be translated as “I-shall-be that I-shall-be.” Septuagint Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I am HE WHO IS (ho on): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, HE WHO IS (ho on) hath sent me unto you.[2]

· Philo : And God said, “At first say unto them, ‘I am (ego eimi) THE BEING,'(ho on, nominative of ontos) that, when they have learnt that there is a difference between THE BEING (ontos, genitive of ho on) and that-that-is-not (me ontos), they may be further taught that there is no name whatever that can properly be assigned to Me (ep’ emou kuriologeitai), to whom (oi) only (monoi) belongs (prosesti) the existence (to einai). (Philo Life Of Moses Vol.1 :75)[3][4]

· ho On, “He who is” (Philo, Life of Moses I 75)

· to On, “the Being who is” (Philo, Life of Moses II 67),

· tou Ontos, “of Him that is” (II 99)

· tou Ontos, “of the Self-Existent” (II 132)

· to On, “the Self-Existent” (II 161)[5]

1. Key Verses (Exodus 3:13-15)

2. Implications (Ask people first what implications they can think of)

1. God exists

1. Application/Implication for us: Most people acknowledge God exists, but live as if He doesn’t. We will be judged for our conduct. We will have no excuse. For example you know God is watching you, but you still sin anyway; you ignore Him.

2. God’s personality and power are not dependant on anything else. The come solely from himself His character is solely from His own and hasn’t been shaped by anything else or any law/standard outside Himself. People are shaped and formed by their upbringing, culture, and environment.

3. God does not change – He is our foundation that doesn’t move and we can have complete confidence in Him. Family, friends, science, and our situation in life all change. God is the only one who doesn’t. He can’t improve because He is already perfect. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

1. Application/Implication for us: Anyone ever have someone break a promise to you because they changed their mind? Most of us have. God will never change His mind. Circumstances don’t affect Him. He will keep His promises.

4. God is what He is. He is not bound to our standards.

1. Application/implication for us: We must conform to God and not God to us. He is the standard; we are not. Therefore we cannot question Him, His plans, or His wills. We often try to make God do what we want. We expect Him to deal with things the way we would. We sometimes doubt when He doesn’t. We don’t know why sin, death, pain, etc. are still in the world. Why doesn’t God just wipe them out? We would! He is perfect and His ways are too high for us to understand. Isaiah 55:8-9. We must have faith and trust Him because we know what kind of God He is. This fact should comfort us.

5. God is different than we are. To some extent, He is imcomprehensible. In other words, if we were to sit around a table and try to imagine what God is like, it would be impossible. The only way we can know what He is like, is if He tells us. We will never understand everything about God or what He does. His ways are higher than our ways.

6. This great, infinite God has drawn near to us sinful humans in Jesus Christ. John 8:58-59. We can approach Him freely through Christ. What a great privilege this is! We can be friends with I AM and have a special relationship with Him!

3. Application/Implication for us: He has drawn near to us so we should rejoice in this and draw near to Him.

VII.  God revealed to Moses that after performing many wonders to convince Pharaoh, he would eventually let them go and they would take spoils with them (16-22)

Did God say how long until this promise would be fulfilled? How long did it take? What does this teach us about God’s sovereignty, but also humans’ responsibility?

Did the elders listen to Moses immediately? Why not? Did they eventually?

What was all this about taking a three day journey into the wilderness to sacrifice? Why not directly ask to leave Egypt?

Would Moses’ task be easy? Why not?

What applications can we get in knowing that God can make anyone do what He wants?

What was God going to do to the Egyptians? Why? (Because of their sin in refusing to obey.)

What would happen before the Israelites left? Why would the Egyptians give them all these treasures?

2 Peter 3:9 – God is no slow about keeping His promises.

1. The command to assemble the elders was easier said than done. It finally was done, after some of their doubts and skepticism was solved through some miracles.

2. Asking for a three day journey rather than just permission to leave was an easier request to grant. I don’t know if the idea was go for three days and bolt or not. However, perhaps God wanted to demonstrate to everyone the depth of Pharaoh’s pride and his extreme stubbornness to show that all the blame was his when he couldn’t even honor a simple request such as a three day break.

3. God would compel him.

4. He would compel him by striking them with wonders.

5. They would finally leave their with the spoils of the country.

Study Exodus 4


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