Tag Archives: Moses

The “Burning Bush” in Saint Catherine’s Monastery

Bible students are familiar with the Exodus account of Moses and the burning bush. Note these verses.

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.  3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”  4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”  5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  (Exodus 3:1-5 ESV)

There are later biblical references to this event. Deuteronomy 33:16 speaks of “Him who dwelt in the bush.” Jesus called attention to the account in his answer to the questions about the resurrection.

And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Mark 12:25 ESV)

Both Mark and Luke use the Greek term batos for the bush. This word describes a thorn bush or a bramble bush. Luke’s account of Stephen’s speech also mentions the “burning thorn bush” (Acts 7:30, 35). Josephus also refers to a “thorn bush” (Ant. 2:266).

for a fire fed upon a thornbush, yet did the green leaves and the flowers continue untouched, and the fire did not at all consume the fruit branches, although the flame was great and fierce.

From this event follows the commissioning of Moses to go to Pharaoh to bring God’s people out of oppression in Egypt. When Moses has brought the people out of Egypt he is to “serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12).

Brown-Driver-Briggs define the Hebrew word seneh as “a thorn bush, perh. black-berry bush.”

Another of the traditions associated with Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the burning bush. I am using another of the photos by Michael Lusk. Our visit to the Monastery was in the morning — a time when the lighting was bad for a photo of this bush. Michael went a little later than I did and his phot0 is better. I think the fire extinguisher is a nice touch.

The "burning bush" in Saint Catherine's Monastery. Photo by Michael Lusk.

The "burning bush" in Saint Catherine's Monastery. Photo by Michael Lusk.

I have no idea about the specific kind of bush mentioned in Exodus. Here is a close up of the bush in Saint Catherine’s Monastery. A careful look reveals that this bush has small thorns on it.

Close up of "burning bush" in St. Catherine's Monastery. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Close up of "burning bush" in St. Catherine's Monastery. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Reeds, Rushes, or Bulrushes along the Nile

One of the best known stories of the Bible is the account of the mother of Moses hiding the baby among the reeds, rushes, or bulrushes along the edge of the Nile. The terms mentioned above are used interchangeably in various English Bible versions.

Read the full account in Exodus 21. Here are the first few verses.

A man from the household of Levi married a woman who was a descendant of Levi.  The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a healthy child, she hid him for three months.  But when she was no longer able to hide him, she took a papyrus basket for him and sealed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and set it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile.  (Exodus 21:1-3 NET Bible)

In the past few days we traveled on the Nile River and saw many examples of the reeds or rushes along the banks of the River.

Reeds or rushes along the edge of the Nile River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reeds or rushes along the edge of the Nile River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.