Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Burning Bush, Moses' Well and Jethro's Mountain

Moses Goes to Midian and Marries Jethro's Daughter:

“…Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock.  Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. When the girls returned to Reuel [Jethro] their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?” They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage.” (Exodus 2:15-21)

Inside St. Catherine's Monastery is a well known as Moses' Well. I can't find anything specifically that ties it to the same well where Moses met Zipporah, but I believe it is likely associated with it.  
Moses' Well in St. Catherine's Monastery. Picture taken from here
Jethro's Mountain or Jebel El-Muneijah ("Calling of God") is a mountain we saw on our descent of Jebel Musa, or Mount Sinai. Jethro's Mountain is where the Bedouin and others believe Jethro and his daughters lived when Moses met them. There is a white church on the summit dedicated to some Roman soldiers who were martyred
Jethro's Mountain is in the center behind the first ridge. 
A closer view of the church on the summit. 
Moses and the Burning Bush:

“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb [Sinai], the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”  “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation. “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you…And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land… flowing with milk and honey.’…Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’  But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him.  So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.  “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed…” (Exodus 3:1-21)

“Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent,… I am slow of speech and tongue.”… Please send someone else.”  Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him…Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well.”… So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt..” (Exodus 4:10-20)

Saint Catherine's Monastery was built at the site of the burning bush. In fact, the monks at the monastery have what they believe is the original burning bush inside the monastery. The scientific name of the bush is Rubus sanctus, commonly known as the holy bramble. The bush has been transplanted several yards away from its original spot so that a chapel dedicated to the Annunciation could be built there. The monks maintain that this holy bramble is the only holy bramble growing in the Sinai Peninsula and that every other attempt to transplant a piece of it anywhere else has been unsuccessful. 
The holy bramble or burning bush inside St. Catherine's monastery. We were blocked from going any closer to it. 
A close-up of the mosaic in front of the burning bush. Note God's hand in the upper left-hand corner. 
A mural from inside the monastery shows Moses tending goats and then in front of the burning bush. 


  1. That is an impressive bush, burning or not. Love the mosaic in front of it.

  2. I always thought of Mt. Sinai as a rather isolated peak. It's fun to see it in context of other peaks connected to other Biblical stories. Like Chris, I love the mural with all the little flames and the hand of God.

  3. Galatians 4;25 states that Mt Sinai is in Arabia. It is known as Jabel el Lawz

    1. No one knows where the real Mt. Sinai is. In fact, there are many people that do not believe Moses existed at all. There are many mountains that many claim to be Mt. Sinai. There is no way to prove any of them, just as there is no way to prove that Moses existed. The fun thing about Jebel Musa is that it has a tradition that goes back centuries that allows one to contemplate how the events of the Torah might have occurred. Galations was written by Paul over a thousand years before Moses. Paul had no way of knowing where Sinai was. And even if he did, I believe that the Sinai peninsula was considered to be Arabia at that time anyway.