MOSES’ CALL TO PUBLIC SERVICE.
The solitude of the wilderness gave Moses ample opportunity for profound reflection. His previous experiences made such reflection natural, indeed inevitable. Borne by the caravans over the great highway from the land of the Nile or from desert tribe to tribe came occasional reports of the cruel injustice to which his kinsmen in Egypt were subjected. In these reports he recognized the divine call to duty. When perhaps at last the report came that the mighty despot Ramses II was dead, Moses like his later successor Isaiah (Is. 6) saw that the moment had come for decision and action.
It looks to many scholars as if three originally distinct versions of Moses’ call have been welded together in the narrative of Exodus 3, 4 and 6. Each differs in regard to detail (Hist. Bible I, 161-5). According to the early Judean prophetic account Jehovah spoke audibly to Moses from the flaming thorn bush. In the Northern Israelite version the moment of decision came to him as he stood with his flock on the sacred mountain Horeb. Like Isaiah in his memorable vision of Jehovah’s presence, the inner consciousness of God and the compelling sense of duty led him to cry out: “Here am I.” Likewise in the late priestly story God’s presence and character were so deeply impressed upon him that he seemed to bear an audible voice, according to the view of those who accept this interpretation, even though the later priests believed and taught that God was a spirit, not like man clothed in flesh and blood. Thus the different groups of Hebrew narratives in their characteristic way record the essential facts in Moses’ call to public service. Each has preserved certain important elements in that call, and the late editor has done well to combine them. Even as Isaiah caught his supreme vision of Jehovah and of duty in the temple, so to Moses the prophetic call probably came on the lofty heights of the mountain in which he, in common with the Kenites, believed God dwelt. The wilderness with its flaming bush spoke to him God’s message. Recent writers have felt and forcibly interpreted the fascination and the message of the desert and plain, none more vividly than the Welsh writer Rhoscomyl in describing the experience of one of his rough, self-reliant cowboy heroes: