Ex 3:1-10 During his fifty years in Midian, Moses learns much about his Jewish ancestors from his father-in-law Jethro, a priest and chieftain of Midian. One day in c.1452BC, when he is seventy six years old, Moses is leading his flock of sheep and goats across the semi-arid desert to Mt Horeb (also called Mt Sinai) (see 4 on Map 43).
View from the summit of Mount Sinai (Mohammed Moussa)
Quite by surprise, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush and calls him to rescue his people from Egypt and lead them back to Canaan, the land he promised to Abraham and his descendants (see Genesis 12:1-3).
Ex 3:11-22 God tells Moses, “after you lead the people out of Egypt, all of you will worship me on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12). Moses asks God what he should tell the people if they ask on whose authority he has been sent. God says, “ 'I AM WHO I AM' ... tell them, ‘ I AM sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).
God spoke to Moses while he was tending his flock of sheep in the mountains of Midian. The traditional site of this encounter is at Mt Horeb in the Sinai Desert, a 7363 ft / 2244 m high mountain now known locally as Gebel Musa (the ‘Mountain of Moses’).
The reputed site of the burning bush (and also the traditional site where Moses received the Ten Commandments eight years later – see Exodus 20:1-17) can be visited today at St Catherine’s Monastery, a fortified monastery founded in the Sinai Desert by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 527AD. The Chapel of the Burning Bush, built originally by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine I, was enclosed within the walls of the monastery. The monastery later became associated with St Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian martyr whose bones were believed to have been discovered here by monks. Just behind the monastery, a path leads to the summit of Mt Sinai.
St Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai desert (Mohammed Moussa)
The monastery is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world, and is still maintained today by a community of Greek Orthodox monks. It houses an incomparable collection of 6th century mosaics, early icons and Christian art, and the second largest library of early Biblical manuscripts in the world.
Twenty miles / 33 km to the south, the nearby Oasis of Feiran - the largest fertile patch of land in the Sinai peninsula - is believed by some to be the site of the Battle of Rephidim. This battle was fought between the Israelites and the Amalekites just before God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses in c.1446BC (see Exodus 17:8-14). In the mountains surrounding this area are numerous scattered remains of hermit cells, chapels and monasteries built by early Christian monks who believed this to be the site of the Biblical oasis of Elim (see Exodus 15:27). Indeed, by the Middle Ages, Feiran had become a bustling cathedral city, and the ruins of the cathedral have recently been excavated.
Ex 4:1-17 Moses asks for ‘signs’ of God’s authority, and God appoints Aaron to be his right-hand man.
Ex 4:18-31 Aaron meets Moses “at Sinai, the mountain of God” (Mt Horeb) (Exodus 4:27). Together they return to Egypt in c.1450BC (see 5 on Map 43).
Sunrise at Mount Sinai (Mabdalla)
Ex 5:1-23 The Pharaoh who brought Moses up in his royal household (probably Pharaoh Khaneferre Sobekhotep IV) had died not long after Moses’ flight from Egypt. Moses and Aaron approach the recently crowned Pharaoh - probably Djedneferre Dudimose (c.1450-1446BC) - but he will not let the Israelites leave Egypt to worship God in the desert. In his fury, the pharaoh makes the Israelites’ working conditions even harder by refusing to give them straw for making bricks.
Ex 6:1-30 God renews the covenant promise he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the ancestors of Moses and Aaron are listed.