Images of the Burning Bush are Unlawful

“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.  And Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside, and see this great sight…’ 

And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush…  ‘I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’  And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God…  And God said…  ‘I Am That I Am.’

Ex. 3:2-6, 14




Images of God: Forbidden



Order of Contents

Bible Verses  16
History  4
Images of Burning Bush: Unlawful  22
God Appeared in Bush  18+




Church History

Before the Reformation Romanists had used the image of the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-9) with respect to Mary.¹  After the Reformation John Calvin (†1564) notably commented on this flaming bush in his commentary on Acts 7, verses 30 & 32.  A London printer put the symbol on the title page of the first edition of Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Common Places in Latin in 1576 (Vermigli had died in 1562 and the image was not used in subsequent editions).

¹ The burning bush was likened to Mary conceiving by the Holy Ghost without being consumed by the flames of concupiscence.  The idea may have been that the people of God’s deliverance would come through her.

The fiery bramble began to be employed as a seal by the national synods of the French Reformed Churches following 1583.  However, that it was not necessarily universally received by the French Huguenots may be seen in the article and quote below by the Huguenot theologian, Andrew Rivet.  Johann H. Heidegger, a major theologian of Reformed Orthodoxy in Zurich, Switzerland (which locale typically had a familiar converse with French happenings)¹ taught against it in 1690 against the Romanist Council of Trent (see below), citing a common strain of previous protestant precedent.

¹ e.g. Ryan Glomsrud, ‘Biographical and Historical Introduction’ in Heidegger, The Concise Marrow of Theology, trans. Casey Carmichael (RHB, 2019), xvii-xix.


Church of Scotland, post-1690

The image of the flaming bush as a seal began to be applied in the Church of Scotland only after 1690, just after after she was delivered from the worst persecution in her history.  George Mossman, a printer, first used the image on the title page of the General Assembly’s published acts in 1691.  The previous Scottish covenanters and much or most of the other reformed did not use it.  The symbol was never officially authorized by the Church of Scotland.¹

¹ A.I. Dunlop, ‘Burning Bush’ in ed. Nigel Cameron, Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 112


What the Burning Bush Means

The burning bush has been understood in Ex. 3 to signify both (1) the presence of God with his people (whether He be represented by the fire, Heb. 12:29, or not), and (2) the Church’s perseverance under fiery trials (pertinent to the oppression in Egypt).  Calvin interprets the burning bush in both these ways.†

† “…the people being oppressed with cruel tyranny, is, as it were, a pile of wood set on fire at every corner, neither is there any thing which keepeth it from being consumed to ashes, save this, because the Lord sits in the midst thereof…” v. 30

“‘And Moses being afraid.’…  it was good for Moses to be thus terrified with the presence of God…  neither does the voice of God alone strike his mind, but his majesty, whereof he saw a sign in the burning bush.” v. 32

The numerous reformed quotes below (out of many more that could be gathered) show how, in the Post-Reformation, the flaming bramble was commonly taken as an appearance or manifestation of God’s presence, though it is affirmed it was also understood in that era as an image of the Church, even by some of those same divines.


Some Reformed Theological

The reformed, from previous precedents, did not consider the burning bush to be an image of God’s essence, as our invisible God cannot properly be imaged (notice Calvin’s use of ‘sign’ above).  Yet some, as John Owen, taught (notice the difference), “of his presence the fire was a proper representation,” it being “some simple effects of his power whereby the images of some of his perfections were in some sort delineated,” per Jean Daille.  Calvin speaks to this effect in the quotes below.

It is noteworthy Scripture uniformly interprets the blazing bush as an appearance of God (see Acts 7:30-35 and the other Bible verses below).  Owen, as others through Church history, held that the “fire was a type or declaration of the presence of God in the Person of the Son.”  Exegetical points in the story of the burning bush in Acts 7:30-35 will bear this out, though first an objection will be answered.


Objection: Dt. 4:12-16

Dt. 4:12-16 gives as a reason that the Israelites were not to make an image of God: “for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire” (vv. 15-16).  If this be the case then it may seem likely the figure of the bush aflame did not include a similitude of God.

The opposite, however, is the case.  Irrespective of the flaming bush, as Calvin recognized in Dt. 4’s context,¹ God has often been represented in Scripture by “visible forms…  wherein He testified His presence,” such as by a fiery oven and lamp (Gen. 15:17), three men (Gen. 18:2), the pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21), the shekinah glory-cloud (Ex. 40:34-38), Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9), Ezekiel’s vision (Eze. 1:26-28), a dove (Mt. 3:16), etc.

¹ Commentary on Dt. 4, verse 12; Calvin refered to the whole issue of God being in some way figured in Scripture, in polemics with Romanists, as a “difficult question.”

God not appearing in the fire at Sinai while giving the Ten Commandments was a special case, apparently related, besides other reasons, to Israel’s hard-heartedness and their liability to corrupt themselves into idolatry (Dt. 4:16).  That was not necessarily the case for the patriarchs and others God appeared to.  Thus, there is prima facie reason to believe God did in some way appear visually in the fiery bramble, like in the other many Scriptural theophanies.


Exegetical Points:
Acts 7

Acts 7:30-35 gives an account of the burning bush story and says that in it the Angel of the Lord “appeared” to Moses.  While “appeared” (Acts 7:30, 35) in the Greek (root verb: ὁράω) may refer to perceiving a voice (as it does in Acts 7:2 with Gen. 12:1), it commonly refers to seeing,¹ and its noun form is used in the middle of the Acts 7 passage with reference to the “sight” that caught Moses’s attention and caused him to draw closer to inspect the wonder: “When Moses saw [ὁράω] it, he wondered at the sight [ὅραμα]: and as he drew near to behold it…” (Acts 7:31).  Ex. 3:2-4 confirms the ‘sight’ described in Acts 7:31 was visual.

¹ Logeion: ὁράω.

Thus the appearance described in Acts 7:3035 was inclusive of Moses seeing the sight of the “Angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush” (Acts 7:30).  This Angel of the Lord (Ex. 3:2; 14:19; 23:20), who speaks as God (Ex. 3:6, 14; Acts 7:31-33), could be no other than the divine Son (Judg. 2:1; 13:18 with Isa. 9:6 in the Hebrew; Mal. 3:1; Acts 7:37-38; many reformed theologians agree).


Biblical Typology

Some persons nonetheless will still prefer to take as the flaming bush’s primary reference the Church under a fiery trial.  Very well.  Yet Israel was often a type of Christ in the Old Testament,¹ and the same Biblical figure often portrayed both Israel and the Messiah.²

¹ e.g. Hos. 11:1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt;” with Mt. 2:15.

² e.g. Ps. 80:8, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt…” with Jn. 15:1, “I am the true vine…” and Rom. 11:17.

Israel in Egypt and in the fiery bush typified her Head, the true Israel, or ‘Prince with God’ (which ‘Israel’ means), even Immanuel, ‘God with us,’ who would not only assume to his divine Person (which is as a consuming fire) a common, lowly nature (as the bramble), without it being consumed,º but He, as a root out of dry ground (or the desert, Ex. 3:1), would spring up as a plant (Isa. 53:2) and go through the valley of the wrath of men and God in Isa. 53 without being consumed, delivering his people.†

º That the inflamed bush figured Christ in his two natures, or was a type of this, was a common view in the Middle Ages and not uncommon amongst the Reformed Orthodox.  See for instance Ussher, Owen, Mastricht and Edwards below.

† So Jonathan Edwards, below.

God’s people’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and entering into the promised land of Canaan was a shadow of our greater spiritual salvation (Heb. 3-4; 11:9-10) and was a far greater wonder than the burning bush.


A Visual & Auditory Appearance of God the Son
in the Fire: the Primary Reference

Ex. 3:2 specifies the ‘Angel,’ or Messenger of the Lord (Mal. 3:1, which is what ‘angel’ means), appeared particularly, not as the bush, but as the fire.  The bush is where the fire was:

“the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush…”

Owen was faithful.  To quote him again: “of his presence the fire was a proper representation.”

The word ‘appeared’, רָאָה  fundamentally means “see” (Strongs), and it must here mean this as in the next verse Moses says:

“I will now turn aside, and see (רָאָה) this great sight (מַרְאֶה), why the bush is not burnt.”

Stephen in Acts 7 was simply relating what Ex. 3 says.  The Captain of God’s people (Heb. 2:10) in Ex. 3, God the Son, said He was come for his people’s deliverance:

“I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8).

That the Son as the Angel of the Lord did so deliver Israel out of Egypt and lead them through the wilderness into the Promised Land, vanquishing their enemies, is clear from Ex. 3:17; Num. 20:16; 22:35; Judg. 2:1; 5:23; 6:12; 13:3.  Immanuel tells Moses in Ex. 3, “I will be with thee” (v. 12).

Ex. 3 makes no explicit reference to the sight of the fiery bush being reflective of God’s people, though vv. 7 & 9 do describe Israel’s afflicted condition in Egypt, from whence many commentators infer that the bramble symbolized Israel dwelling as a common thing in the desert.

While the flames could have in some sense spoke of Israel’s oppression by Egypt, yet this divine fire may have more directly represented God’s protecting and consuming presence with Israel in his destroying judgments upon everything that touched her, such as the Egyptians and every opposing nation as she tread through the wilderness into the promised land:º

“For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” (Zech. 2:5)

“In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.” (Zech. 12:6)

º So the reformed Charles-Marie du Veil (†1685), A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, F.A. Cox (London: Haddon, 1851), on Acts 7:30, p. 165.  Ussher, below, assumes the foundation of this understanding.

Nor yet through all of this were God’s people consumed (Ex. 3:2), but safe, just as the bush with God in the midst of her.

That the fire represented God is confirmed in Dt. 33:16 where it speaks, not of God dwelling in the “burning bush,” but of Him (as fire) dwelling in a plain bush.  James Ussher, Heidegger and Wilhelmus a Brakel assume this understanding.  That bush is made parallel with God’s people, particularly Joseph (the youngest, sold by a lie into Egypt for witnessing to the truth against his brothers) and his tribe:

“…for the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing [Ex. 3:8] come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren.”

Moses’s response, contrary to that of many persons today, was not wrong: “And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God” (Ex. 3:6).  The fire representing primarily the Son, and the bush primarily Israel, goes towards explaining in part how so many reformed commentators have understood the fiery bramble to be both an appearance of God and a figure of the church, especially as this view was expressly allowed by Augustine before them.ª

ª Augustine, Sermons I (1-19) on the Old Testament, trans. Edmund Hill in The Works of Saint Augustine: a Translation for the 21st Century (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1990), Sermon 6, pp. 227-28, 234-35

If a primary reference in the burning bush was not Christ (check yourself), the fiery bush at least contained a type of the Son.  As extraordinary, unique and personal to Him, the burning bramble is on par with Scripture’s other messianic symbols of Christ’s Person, as a lamb, lion, etc.† which representations the reformed tended to consistently and rightly forbid images of.‡

† which animals have also represented God’s people frequently through Scripture.

‡ ‘Contra Making Images of the Persons of God by Means of a Lamb, Lion, Dove, etc.’


Even if Not, Images are Nonetheless Forbidden:
the Analogy of Scripture

Even if all the above be denied (!!), the burning bush being held to be only a picture of the Church under fiery oppression,º with God invisibly with her, yet even this was at least still an extraordinary and miraculous sign of, and inextricably tied to, God’s special, personal, living presence, which Scriptural signs immediately expressed God’s incomparable glory, regularly called for physical homage to and worship of God (Ex. 3:5, unlike other regular signs of God’s presence),¹ and were considered equivelent to looking upon God (Ex. 3:6), He speaking out of and from them, they being extraordinary, visualized and temporary mediums of God revealing Himself.

º What kind of hermeneutic are you using?

¹ Such as the temple, altar, sacraments, etc. all of which did not necessarily require a special physical homage and may be safely imaged.

The blazing of the unconsumed bush was not just a miracle, something that might be pictured like Moses’s other miracles.  It was a demonstration of God’s uncreated power through which He spoke, judged, promised and comforted (compare Mt. 17:5).  The Lord declared out of that fiery bush (and no other): “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex. 3:14).  The English puritan George Hughes: “Signals of God’s appearance are owned by God to be Himself.”¹

¹ An Analytical Exposition of…  Genesis, and of XXIII chap. of his second book, called Exodus…  (d. 1667; 1672), on Ex. 3, p. 658.

Thus the burning bush is on par with God manifesting Himself to Adam (Gen. 3:8), the burning oven and lamp that passed through the animals in making covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:17, also a picture of Israel in Egypt, per Matthew Poole), the pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21), the fire, smoke and cloud on Sinai when God spoke the Ten Commandments (Ex. 19:18; 24:17; Ps. 97:5; Calvin calls them “symbols of Heavenly glory”), the shekinah glory-cloud (Ex. 40:34-35), Moses seeing God’s back-parts (Ex. 33:22-23), God as the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), the throne of God in Heaven (Dan. 7:9-10; Rev. 4:2-10), with the train of his glory (Isa. 6:1) and the Lord’s inaccessible light (1 Tim. 6:16), all these being unimitable signs of God’s immediate presence through which his special glory shined through.


“Whatsoever is Not of Faith is Sin”

Not to play the trump card, but God’s truth and glory must prevail: there is no way out.  For the image of the fiery bush to be disallowed, the burden of proof is not on a person to show it must contain a representation of God or be otherwise unimitable; rather, for the image to be used at all, the burden of proof is on the one using it, especially the public authority, to demonstrate that the burning bush cannot reasonably be a representation of God or be unimitable.

That cannot be done, as it has already been proven that the burning bush being unimitable is reasonably possible.

Scripture, in accord with nature and your conscience, teaches that you may not do something you are not sure is right and is the Lord’s will.†

‘It is Wrong to Act Not being Assured that it is Right or Beneficial, or with an Unsure Conscience’

We have been given no power or authority for what is wrong, or to risk it unto what is detrimental.  If one is morally unsure of something, you cannot do it in faith unto the Lord;ª yet you are to do everything in faith unto the Lord and his glory (Mt. 5:8, 48; 1 Cor. 10:30; Col. 3:17; 1 Tim. 1:5; 3:11).

ª For help, see ‘Does an Erroneous Conscience Oblige, or Bind?’

To doubt of the matter, and do it anyway, is to sin and condemn yourself:

“And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23)

We are obliged by the apostle’s injunction: “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5) and this is to be the character of the religious obedience that flows therefrom: “I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself” (Rom. 14:14).

To be aware the flaming bramble may be unimitable, and yet go on as if it were indifferent, often seeing it and being uneasy whether it be good or bad, is to sin against your conscience and the Word of the Lord.  One need not be persuaded the image is inherently wrong: I am unsure, therefore it is unlawful to me.  Serving the Lord by the light of your conscience, under the Word, is a matter of divine worship.º

º See ‘Worship Includes Conscience Issues’ and ‘On God as Lord of the Conscience’.

As of this article, the burden of proof for the permissibility of the burning bush image has been demonstrated to be insufficient, its allowance not being “deduced from Scripture” “by good and necessary consequence” (WCF 1.6), nor is it able to be so deduced.  Therefore the image, by the very inherent data of Scripture (irrespective of this article), is unlawful in its use.



If the burning bush image may yet somehow be considered indifferent, yet not-necessary indifferent things are not to be exercised when they cause scandal, this being sinful.¹  There is no necessity to use the image, as other images may be used, if seals or images are to be used at all.

¹ See ‘On Scandal & Offenses’.

Many people, after simply reading Ex. 3 or Acts 7, cannot see the fiery bramble without perceiving the divine majesty of the Lord, which inherently tends to draw one to awe and worship, through this image.  Many of those same people teach their children (the upcoming generation), by God’s 2nd Commandment:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…  for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Ex. 20:4-6)

The image tends to the stumbling, offense and spiritual hurt of some of Christ’s little ones (Mt. 18:6-7).  What Paul said of indifferent food directly applies:

“But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.  Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died…

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  For meat destroy not the work of God.” (Rom. 14:15, 19-20)

If no one is scandalized by the image, it is still a giving of scandal (though not taken), which is yet a wronging of men (though they know it not; they may reform to the Word later) and wrong before God.†

† See ‘Gillespie’s 12 Propositions on Scandal’.

If this article be fundamentally wrong and the burning bush image be lawful, persons taking offense at it, due to their own faulty mistake, is called passive scandal.  George Gillespie, the Scottish Westminster divine, rightly taught:

“The occasion of a scandal which is only passive, should be removed, if it be not some necessary thing, and we are not only to shun that which gives scandal, but also that whereupon follows a scandal taken, whatsoever it be, if it be not necessary…”  A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 2, ch. 8, p. 32

It was presumption, without warrant from the Word, for the printer to begin putting the flaming bush on the collected acts of the Scottish General Assembly, as well for the national synods of the French Reformed Churches to use it as their seal.  We are not to be followers of men (1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 1:10; Eph. 6:6), but as Paul says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).


Conclusion &
Resources Below

For many the issue of the burning bush is not deeply personal, but to some it is.  If you find yourself undone before God’s Word, there is yet a God-glorifying solution: Repentance.  By repentance:

“…a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of his commandments.” (WCF 15.2)

That “good will of Him that dwelt in the bush” (Dt. 33:16) remains.  He says, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my Word” (Isa. 66:2).

On the resources below: Many of the quotes, such as from the Scots: Calderwood, Gillespie, Durham, Craghead and Boston, as well from other reformed divines, as Beza, Zanchi, Jenkins, Owen, Bates, Mastricht and à Brakel, support that the burning bush is in a unique category and images are not to be made of it.  Nicholas de Lyra (a fountain-head of Medieval instruction), John Corbet (an English puritan) and Heidegger, that paragon of Reformed Orthodoxy, directly teach this, as Calvin (who was French and very tied to his homeland) seems to by inference.



Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. 

Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.  Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”

Ps. 80:1-3



Bible Verses

Old Testament

Gen. 15:17-18  “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.  In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram…”

Ex. 13:21  “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:”

Ex. 19:18  “And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.”

Ex. 24:17  “And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.”

Num. 9:15-16  “And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.  So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.”

Num. 14:14  “…that thou Lord art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.”

Dt. 4:11-12, 15-16  “And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.  And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice…

Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image…”

Dt. 4:23-24  “Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee.  For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.”

Dt. 4:33, 35-36  “Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?…

Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him.  Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.”

Dt. 5:4  “The Lord talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire…”

Dt. 5:26  “For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?”

Dt. 33:16  “…and for the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph…”

Dan. 7:9-10  “…and the Ancient of days did sit…  his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.  A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him…”


New Testament

Mk. 12:26  “…have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?”

Acts 7:30-31, 35  “…there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bushWhen Moses saw it…  he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying, ‘I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’…  This Moses…  the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.”

Heb. 12:29  “For our God is a consuming fire.”



History of the Image of the Burning Bush

On the Early & Medieval Church


Watson, Arthur – ‘Mary in the Burning Bush’  Journal of the Warburg Institute, vol. 2, no. 1 (July, 1938), pp. 69-70


Post-Reformation Primary Sources

Vermigli, Peter Martyr – Title Page  to Loci Communes…  1st ed.  (London: Joann Kyngston, 1576)

The title page to the first edition of Vermigli’s Common Places in Latin (1576) had an image of the burning bush on it, with the letters YHWH in the middle, though no written motto around the emblem.  This was most likely the London printer’s doing, as Vermigli had died in 1562.

None of the rest of the editions on PRDL have this image, including from Zurich, Basil, Geneva and Heidelberg, ranging from the 2nd edtion in 1580 to the 11th edition in 1624.

French Reformed Churches & ed. John Quick – 2nd National Synod, in Vitre (1583), ch. 2, section 21, p. 146 margin note mid  in ed. John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata: or the Acts, Decisions, Decrees & Canons of those Famous National Councils of the Reformed Churches in France…  (London: Parkhurst, 1692)

XXI. * It was resolved that a seal should be made for the use of the National Synod, that all letters of importance written in its name may be sealed by it; and this seal shall constantly be sent unto that province in which the next is to be celebrated.”

Margin note: * “There is engraven on the seal a burning bush, in the midst whereof is written YHWH, and round the circle, Flagror, non Consumor [I burn, I am not consumed], a true emblem of the Christian Church.” – p. 146

Quick gives the motto in the emblem in the Dedicatory Epistle to the volume as “Comburo non consumor.”


On the Post-Reformation


Henderson, G.D. – p. 3 and surrounding in The Burning Bush: Studies in Scottish Church History  (St. Andrews, 1957)

Denlinger, Aaron – ‘The Symbol of the Burning Bush in Church History’  in ed. R.C. Sproul, The Reformation Study Bible



That the Burning Bush is in a Unique Category & Images of it are Unlawful, or Support for This

Order of Quotes

à Brakel



Nicholas de Lyra

as paraphrased in Matthew Poole, Synopsis criticorum…  (Utrecht: Ribbi, 1684), on Ex. 3:2, p. 326 rt col, lines 73-75.  See Lyra, Biblia sacra cum glossis…  (d. 1349; Leiden: 1545), vol. 1, on Ex. 3, p. 127 lt col bot

“God appeared in the flame, which is not able to be figured by an image because Israel was prone to idolatry.”



John Calvin

Commentary on Dt. 4

verse 12

“…those who are not contented with His voice, but seek His visible form, substitute imaginations and phantoms in His place.

But here arises a difficult question, for God made Himself known to the patriarchs in other ways besides by His voice alone; thus Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew Him not only by hearing, but by sight.  Moses himself saw Him in the midst of the burning bush; and He also manifested Himself to the prophets under visible figures….  And yet God was not forgetful of Himself when He thus presented Himself to the sight of His servants.

Wherefore, this argument does not appear to be valid and good, that it is sinful to represent God in a visible image, because His voice was once heard without His being seen [Dt. 4:15-16]; when, on the other side, it is easy to object that visible forms have often been exhibited, wherein He testified His presence.

The solution is twofold: first, that, although God may have invested Himself in certain forms for the purpose of manifesting Himself, this must be accounted as a peculiar circumstance, and not be taken as a general rule;”

[Calvin is saying that God investing Himself in certain forms in Scripture is not warrant for persons to represent God in a visible image, because those instances, such as the burning bush, were peculiar circumstances.

The seemingly necessary conclusion is that one ought not to make an image of those peculiar circumstances, such as the burning bush.  The passage following this quote in Calvin is consistent with this, and the following Calvin quotes confirm it.]


verse 23

“for it is already in itself a wicked error to attribute any image to God…  He may not be represented by any visible effigy…

Let the Papists dispute as they please, that images are not to be removed because they are useful for the people’s instruction…”


The Sermons of…  Calvin upon the Fifth Book of Moses…  (London: Middleton, 1583), Sermon 196, pp. 1215-16

“why does Moses in this place [Dt. 33:16] set Him in the bush?  It is because God had there showed Himself unto Him…

God considers how it is for our benefit to have some familiarity with Him: and thereupon He yields to our rudeness, and takes upon Him as it were a new shape, howbeit not which is contrary (as I said afore), but to the intent that we should not be scared, nor take occasion to shrink from Him.  Now then, He allures us gently, and therewithal He stops to us and makes Himself as it were mean [lowly] unto us….

But we see how He showed Himself to the fathers of old-time under certain shapes.  As for example when He talked with Jacob in Bethel, it was because Jacob needed such confirmation (Gen. 28:13)…

…as if he should say, ‘…he appeared to me in the bush, and there I knew his majesty…'”


The Sermons of…  Calvin upon the Fifth Book of Moses…  (London: Middleton, 1583), Sermon 23, the 5th upon Dt. 4, p. 138

“if any man go about to express God’s Majesty by any shape: he does Him wrong, and it is high treason to Him, because He is uncomprehensible in his glory…  Now we see that the Papists have gone about to express God by shapes: therefore it follows that they have marred all religion.  And whereas they allege that there were cherubins painted upon the vail of the Temple, and that two likewise did cover the ark: it serves to condemn them the more.

When the Papists pretend that men may make any manner of image: What, say they? Has not God permitted it?  No: but the imagery that was set there, served to put the Jews in mind that they ought to abstain from all counterfeiting of God, insomuch that it was a mean to confirm them the better, that it was not lawful for them to represent God’s Majesty, or to make any resemblance thereof.”


Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (1559; Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), vol. 1, bk. 1, ch. 11, section 3, pp. 122-23

“It is true that the Lord occasionally manifested his presence by certain signs, so that He was said to be seen face to face; but all the signs He ever employed were in apt accordance with the scheme of doctrine, and, at the same time, gave plain intimation of his incomprehensible essence.  For the cloud, and smoke, and flame, though they were symbols of heavenly glory (Dt. 4:11), curbed men’s minds as with a bridle, that they might not attempt to penetrate farther…

The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of a dove, but as it instantly vanished, who does not see that in this symbol of a moment, the faithful were admonished to regard the Spirit as invisible, to be contented with his power and grace, and not call for any external figure?

God sometimes appeared in the form of a man, but this was in anticipation of the future revelation in Christ, and, therefore, did not give the Jews the least pretext for setting up a symbol of Deity under the human form.  The mercy-seat, also (Ex. 25:17-18, 21) where, under the Law, God exhibited the presence of his power, was so framed as to intimate that God is best seen when the mind rises in admiration above itself: the cherubim with outstretched wings shaded, and the veil covered it, while the remoteness of the place was in itself a sufficient concealment.  It is therefore mere infatuation to attempt to defend images of God and the saints by the example of the cherubim.

For what, pray, did these figures mean, if not that images are unfit to represent the mysteries of God, since they were so formed as to cover the mercy-seat with their wings, thereby concealing the view of God, not only from the eye, but from every human sense, and curbing presumption?…  Moreover, all men of sound judgment acknowledge that the cherubim in question belonged to the old tutelage of the law.  It is absurd, therefore, to bring them forward as an example for our age.  For that period of puerility, if I may so express it, to which such rudiments were adapted, has passed away.”


Theodore Beza

Lutheranism vs. Calvinism: The Classic Debate at the Colloquy of Montbeliard 1586  (Concordia Publishing House, 2017), ch. 4, p. 462

“…the everlasting and precise observation of this favorable precept [2nd Commandment] in the ancient, purely Christian Church…  They observed the rule with the Cherubim, too; it was exactly as if they had not been put in the temple, even outside the gaze of all the Priests, and they were put forth as types of the Majesty of the Messiah who rules over the angels themselves, the truth of which we now maintain.

[Note that numerous reformed theologians (such as Owen below), in accord with many in the Christian Church before them, irrespective of possibly a more direct figuring of Israel under Egyptian persecution, taught that the burning bush was a type of the majesty of the Messiah (the true Israel) who would join the divine nature to his human nature in his Person (who spoke both as the angel of the Lord, and God, out of the bush), and not be consumed.  Beza’s and the Reformed’s caution is here evident.]

But the other images, like the lions and the bulls, pertain in no way to this matter, (r) since they were like decorations of holy vases, lacking any danger of idolatry, and besides this, constructed in this way by the express word of God.”


Jerome Zanchi

A Volume of Theological Tracts...  (d. 1590; Neustadt: Schrammius, 1603) ,bk. 1, ch. 15, ‘On Images,’ p. 502 lt col bot

“Another thing follows from this thesis: It is allowed, indeed, that angels are not able to be pictured, because they are spirits; however their corporal forms, which they assumed, are able to be images.

Yet by this reason, is it indeed allowed to make and express images of bodies in which God was accustomed to appear, either by those men, or by the burning of the bush, or of the cloud, or of the column of fire?  They are not similar things.”  [See the rest of the paragraph]



David Calderwood

Perth Assembly…  (Leiden, 1619), ‘Kneeling considered, as it is a Breach of the Second Commandment’, p. 51

“It is true, likewise, that God directed his people under the Law to bend and bow themselves toward the ark and the temple, wherein the ark was, and the mountain whereon the temple was situate: partly lest that rude people should turn their worship another way, partly because of his promise to hear them when they should pray toward the temple or the ark; partly because of his singular manner of presence in the ark: He was said to dwell between the cherubims, the ark is called his ‘foot-stool,’ and sometime the ‘face of God,’ ‘the glory of the Lord.’

It is reason, where God is present after an extraordinary manner, as when He spake out of the bush and the cloud, that adoration be directed to the place of his extraordinary presenceThe altars, the offerings and other holy things wanted [lacked] the like presence and the like promise.  The ark and the cherubims upon the ark were not seen [being in the Holy of Holies]: and therefore could not be readily abused to idolatry.”


Thomas Wilson

A Complete Christian Directory…  (d. 1622; London: Cotes, 1661), ‘Fire’, pp.

Extraordinary [fire]…  That which has been already, as the fire which was in the Bush, Ex. 3:2, and the Pillar of fire, Ex. 13:21, both signs of God’s extraordinary presence.”


James Ussher

The Mystery of the Incarnation  in The Whole Works…  (1631), vol. 4, pp. 585-86

“When Moses beheld the bush burning with fire, and yet no whit consumed, he wondered at the sight, and said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’  But when God thereupon called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, ‘Draw not night hither,’ and told him who He was; Moses trembled, hid his face, and durst not behold God.  Yet although being thus warned, we dare not draw so nigh; what doth hinder but we may stand aloof off, and wonder at this great sight?  ‘Our God is a consuming fire;’ (Heb. 12:29) says the apostle: and a question we find propounded in the prophet, ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with the everlasting burnings?’…

With what astonishment then may we behold our dust and ashes assumed into the undivided unity of God’s own person; and admitted dwell here, as an inmate under the same roof? And yet in the midst of those everlasting burning, the bush to remain unconsumed, and to continue fresh, and green for evermore.  Yea, how should not we with Abraham rejoice to see this day, wherein not only our nature in the person of our Lord Jesus is found to dwell for ever in those everlasting burnings; but, in and by Him, our own persons also are brought so night thereunto, that God does set his sanctuary among us, and dwell with us; and (which is much more) makes us ourselves to be the house and habitation, wherein He is pleased to dwell by his Spirit…”


George Gillespie

English-Popish Ceremonies (1637), pt. 3, ch. 4, p. 69

“…God was immediately present in and with the ark, the temple, the holy mountain, the bush, the cloud and the fire which came from heaven, speaking and manifesting Himself to his people by his own immediate voice and miraculous extraordinary presence: So that worshipping before these things had the same reason which makes the 24 elders in heaven worship before the throne.  For in these things God did immediately manifest his presence, as well as in heaven.  Though there be a difference in the degrees of the immediate manifestation of his presence in earth and in heaven, yet magne et minus non variant speciem [greater and less do not vary the species].  Now God is present in the sacrament, not extraordinarily, but in the way of an ordinary dispensation, not immediately but mediately.

[While pictures of the ark, temple and Mt. Sinai might be lawfully made, because those things only extraordinarily revealed God’s presence at extraordinary times, and apart from that they did not but only revealed God’s presence in an ordinary manner (as like the sacraments, which pictures may be made of), yet there were no times at which the burning bush and the pillar and cloud of fire did not extraordinarily reveal God’s presence.]

Yet to no better purpose they [formalist opponents] tell us that when God spake Abraham fell on his face.  And when the fire came down at Elijah’s prayer, the people fell on their faces.  What is this to the purpose?  And how shall kneeling in a mediate and ordinary worship [such as in receiving the Supper] be warranted by kneeling in the hearing of God’s own immediate voice, or in seeing the miraculous signs of his extraordinary presence?…

Moreover it is objected out of Lev. 9:24; 2 Chron. 7:3; Mic. 6:6; 2 Chron. 29:28-30, that all the people fell on their faces before the legal sacrifices when the fire consumed the burnt-offering.

Whereunto it may be answered that the fire which came from God and consumed the burnt offerings was one of the miraculous signs of God’s extraordinary and immediate presence…  But if we will particularly consider all these places, we find in the first two, that beside the fire, the glory of the Lord did also appear in a more miraculous and extraordinary manner, Lev. 9:23, ‘The glory of the Lord appeared to all the people,’ 2 Chron. 7:1, 12, ‘The glory of the Lord filled the house.’”


Andrew Rivet

Theological Works  (Rotterdam: Leers, 1651), vol. 1, ‘Whether God immediately appeared to Moses in the bush?’  in Commentary on Exodus 3:2, pp. 766-67  See especially p. 767 rt col end.  Rivet (1572–1651) was a French Huguenot theologian and professor at Leiden.

“This indeed, amongst other reasons, some ancients hold, that God appeared in the bush and in the flame of fire, nor ever did He appear in another tree…

Indeed, the glosses [of Lyra] give a similar reason concerning the fire, as its figure is not imitable.” – p. 767 rt col mid


William Jenkins

An Exact Collection of Farewell Sermons preached by the Late London-Ministers…  (London: 1662), Mr. Jenkin’s Afternoon Sermon

pp. 287-88

“The extraordinary presence of God was by his miraculous apparitions and discovering Himself by some miraculous token, vision, sign, or manifestation of his presence, as now here in this burning, and not consumed bush; here was a miraculous token of God’s presence.

We shall and in the fifth of Joshua…  I conceive, hence it is, the mountain in which Christ was transfigured is called, ‘the holy mountain,’ 2 Pet. 1:18…  Why holy?  Not as if it were holy at that time when the apostle writ that epistle, but it were manifest there was an extraordinary manifestation and sign of God’s presence, and so long as this extraordinary manifestation of God’s presence continued it was called ‘holy.’…

And remember this place now, of God’s extraordinary miraculous manifestation of Himself in the bush was holy for that time, and no longer, wherein He did manifest Himself; for otherwise, in the time of the Law, it were unholy to offer up sacrifice there.”


pp. 297-98

“…we have not now the miraculous presence of God, his appearing as at the bush.  God has not given us under the Gospel those symbols of his standing presence and residency, as by the ark, and mercy-seat, and altar of old He gave unto his people.”


The Burning, Yet Unconsumed Bush: or the Holiness of Places Discussed…  (1672), Afternoon Sermon, p. 25

“…the extraordinary presence of God is seen by his miraculous discovering of Himself, by some sign, as here in the bush…”


George Hughes

An Analytical Exposition of…  Genesis, and of XXIII chap. of his second book, called Exodus…  (d. 1667; 1672), on Ex. 3

p. 654

“3. The apparition itself, it was a visible discovery; He was at this time seen by Moses, manifested to his eye in the daytime.

4. The form of this apparition, it was in a flame of fire…  so God is called a consuming fire, but here is He seen in a fire not consuming.”


p. 655

“Observe we: D. 1. Unusual apparitions of God may well put the best men upon self-reasoning…

2. The object, the diversion of Moses and his approach to see the fire in the bush wherein Jehovah Himself appears.”


p. 658

“Learn hence…

D. 3. Signals of God’s appearance are owned by God to be Himself.  ‘It is I.’

D. 4. God in truth is He who appeared in the fire and the bush.”


p. 663

“3. The subject bespoken is God Himself appearing in the fire upon the bush.”


p. 664

“2. The demonstrative particle, this so seems to refer to the vision of God in the bush.  This which you see of my appearance is a sign that I will be with you in your work…”

Jean Daille

49 Sermons upon the Whole Epistle…  to the Colossians  (d. 1670; London: White, 1672), pt. 2, 21st Sermon, on Col. 2:9, pp. 225-26

“God dwelt heretofore in his ark, inasmuch as He manifested his presence in it.  But because the things which He set and made to be seen there were not [the] very nature, or the self-same perfections wherewith it is filled, but some simple effects of his power whereby the images of some of his perfections were in some sort delineated, it is evident that it cannot be truly said that the fulness of his Godhead dwelt there bodily [as in Col. 2:9].

Thus also manifested He Himself to Moses in the burning-bush, and afterwards to the apostles in cloven tongues as of fire, and before that the Holy Ghost appeared in the form of a dove.  But besides that these manifestations being but transient, it cannot, upon them be affirmed that God ‘dwelt’ [as in Col. 2:9] in the bush or in the places where those other symbols appeared; besides this, I say, it is evident that the flame at the bush was not at all the divine nature, or any one of its perfections; and that neither the dove, nor the fiery tongues were any more the proper essence of the Holy Ghost or any one of his real and divine perfections, all these things being but forms created of God and consequently productions and works of his wherein He represented to his servants, as in a portrait or a rough-draught, some slight resemblance of what He is indeed.

Whence it follows that though it might be said (which yet may not) of the places where these things appeared that the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in them, nevertheless it would be false to say that it dwelt in them bodily, it being clear that the things by reason whereof it should be said to have dwelt there, were not the body and the truth of his nature, but its shadow and symbol only…

It remains then, we conclude, since the apostle here [in Col. 2:9] expressly asserts that all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ, that the divinity is in Him after a quite other manner than either in the symbols by which it is represented, or the creatures on which it sheds forth its grace and glory; that it so dwells in Jesus Christ as He has in Him, not some delineations and models by which it is figured forth, not those qualities and dispositions alone which it works by the presence of its grace in the most holy of its creatures, but its very self…”


James Durham

An Exposition of the Ten Commandments…  (London, 1675), 2nd Commandment, p. 55

“Therefore upon these grounds, 1. We simply condemn any delineating of God, or the Godhead, or Trinity, such as some have upon their buildings, or books, like a sun shining with beams and the Lord’s Name, Jehova, in it, or any other way, this is most abominable to see, and a heinous wronging of God’s Majesty.”


John Owen

Meditations & Discourses concerning the Glory of Christ…  (d. 1683; London: Marshall, 1691), ch. 3, pp. 41-42

“This fire was a type or declaration of the presence of God in the Person of the Son.  For with respect unto the Father He is called an angel, the Angel of the Covenant; but absolutely in Himself, He was Jehovah, the God of Abraham, etc.  And of his presence the fire was a proper representation.

For in his nature He is as a consuming fire; and his present work was the delivery of the Church out of a fiery trial.  This fire placed itself in a bush, where it burned, but the bush was not consumed:  And although the continuance of the fire in the bush was but for a short season, a present appearance; yet thence was God said to dwell in the bush; the goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush; Deut. 33:16.

And this is so spoken because the being of the fire in the bush for a season was a type of Him in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, and that forever, Col. 2:9.  Of Him who was made flesh and dwelt among us, Jn. 1:14.  The eternal fire of the divine nature dwells in the bush of our frail nature, yet is not consumed thereby.  God thus dwells in this bush, with all his goodwill towards sinners.”


John Corbet

Of Divine Worship, 2nd Part  in The Remains of…  John Corbet…  (London: Parkhurst, 1684)

section 16, pp. 202-3

“To make an image of God is to blaspheme Him.  An infinite nature cannot be represented, but it must be an infinite disparagement to it.

It may be asked, May not God be represented by such corporeal forms as sometimes He appeared in?

Answer: In the burning bush and in the glory on Mount Sinai, God appeared not as in an image or representation of Himself, but as in symbols of his presence.  Whether it were God or angels only that appeared to Abraham and Jacob in human shape, is controvertible; or it might be God the Son as a preludium to his incarnation.  Besides, God did not take those human shapes as images or representations of Himself, but as signs of his presence.”


section 18, p. 205

“To make such images and representations to be used in divine worship, is not simply evil, as appears by the brazen serpent, a temporary ordinance for an occasion in the wilderness; and by the cherubims on the mercy-seat, a stated ordinance for the Mosaical dispensation.

There were also supernatural unimitable representations, though not of the divine nature, yet of the divine presence, as the burning bush and the appearances on Mount Sinai.

Divine worship directed to such images or representations as to a mediate object, is idolatry.  The ark and the cherubims, and the temple, were not made the object of worship.  A learned man writes that incurvation in way of religion towards any symbolical presence, as to an object, is flat idolatry; if it be in worship of saints, angels, and demons, it is double idolatry; if in the worship of the true God, single [idolatry].

I suppose it is one thing to make somewhat (as for instance, the ark of the Covenant, and the mercy-seat, and the temple) an object of our consideration in the worship of God, as instructing and exciting therein; and another thing to make it the object of worship itself.  And the said author says that to direct our adoration towards a supernatural and unimitable transplendency of the divine presence, is not idolatry.  I suppose he means that the burning bush which Moses saw, and the visible glories on the Mount, were only media cultus, not objects thereof, the presence of God shining through the same as a bright medium.”


William Bates

A Short Description of the Blessed Place & State of the Saints Above…  (London: J.D., 1687), pp. 16-18

“The Sanctity of this blessed House [of the saints in Heaven]…  Sanctity of place is relative and is founded either upon the manifestation of God’s special Presence, or consecration of it to his service.  ‘Tis consistent with the Divine Immensity to be differently present in several places: as the soul is in another manner present in the head, where it performs its noblest operations, than in other parts of the body; and upon any special appearance of God, a place is sacred.

Thus when Moses approached to see the flaming bush, he was enjoined, ‘Do not come near hither; pluck off thy shoes from off thy feet, the place where thou standest is holy ground.’  The visible testimony of the divine Presence sanctified the place, and the most humble outward reverence was due, a sign and effect of the internal respect that is owing to his most adorable Majesty.  The sanctity of that place was an extraordinary relation and ceased upon the vanishing of the flame, the sign of God’s Presence.”


Johann H. Heidegger

Intro to Quote

The context to the below quote is that the Romanist Council of Trent had argued that the saints in the Old Testament had worshipped God under visions, figures and corporal images (using the burning bush as an example of this, p. 895 mid, as did a defender of Trent, p. 896 mid); therefore it is lawful to venerate images or corporal figures of God (p. 895 mid).

Heidegger contrasts the pictures of God and the Trinity in Romanists’ Bibles and paraphanilia with protestant Bibles, where these things do not occur.  When he speaks of the bush pictured as a historical illustration alongside the narrative in protestant Bibles, he does not speak of it as burning, and he says it would be wrong to picture “God appearing in the bramble bush.”

Heidegger’s point is not that the burning bush is not an image of God, which doesn’t make good sense of the last sentence, but his contrast is between a plain bush and God appearing in it.


The Mound of the Council of Trent…  where is a Historical-Theological Anatomy of the Council of Trent...  (Zurich: Gessner, 1690), vol. 2, ‘Of Sacred Images’, p. 897 top

“Idolatry is not to picture any historical thing, but to worship or adore an image.  This indeed they have not made who have sometimes in our Bibles conjoined pictured histories with the narratives…

For instance, at Ex. 3:2-3 a picture of the bramble bush is certainly represented, in which Jehovah appeared, but there is no likeness or image of Jehovah, who appeared in the bramble bush.  The bramble bush is indeed one thing, God appearing in the bramble bush another.”


A Body of Christian Theology…  (Tigur, 1700), vol. 1, Locus 13, section 63, p. 480 rt col mid


Robert Craghead

An Answer to a Late Book entitled, A Discourse concerning the Inventions of Men in the Worship of God, by William, Lord Bishop of Derry...  (Edinburgh: Anderson, 1694), ch. 4, ‘Of Bodily Worship’, section 2, p. 96  Craghead (1633–1711) was a presbyterian minister, born in Scotland, who ministered in Ireland.

“…external adoration is due two ways:

1. When we approach God in immediate acts of worship, as prayer, and praises.

2. When it pleases God in an extraordinary manner to appear in his glory; the due season then for external signs of inward homage and reverence is when we perform these immediate acts of worship in our assemblies, or if God shall please, to give glorious signs of his extraordinary presence, as he did to Moses when the Bush was burning but not consumed, or as the Lord appeared, after Solomon had made an end of praying, when the fire came down from Heaven and the glory of the Lord filled the house; then all the Children of Israel, beholding the fire and glory of the Lord, bowed themselves and worshipped; whensoever the Lord does thus appear, external adoration is due.”


Peter van Mastricht

Theoretical Practical Theology. trans. Todd Rester & Michael Spangler  (RHB)

vol. 1, bk. 2, ch. 6

Section 9

“If they allege that we read often in the Old Testament that God appeared to men, I respond, He appeared either without any human form, manifesting his extraordinary presence only by some extraordinary sign, or, if He was present in some form, it was not his own but one that He had assumed.”


section 11

“The papists and Lutherans do not have anything to argue for their images, except what we recently rejected in §IX, namely, that God quite often appeared in the Old Testament under certain forms, even human ones.  The reply is easy: He never appeared for the purpose that He might be portrayed; indeed, that is what, throughout Scripture, he has forbidden as strictly as possible…”

vol. 4, bk. 5

ch. 4, section 35

“At which union [of the two natures in Christ’s incarnation] also, (4) prefigured in the bush that was burning yet not consumed, in which was the angel of Jehovah (the angel of the presence, Isa. 63:9; the angel of the covenant, Mal. 3:1), Moses marveled in Exodus 3:2–3, ‘I will now turn aside, and see this great sight.’”

ch. 10

section 8

“…that temporal birth by which He was conceived by the Holy Spirit of his virgin mother, and was brought forth into the light. This happened according to so many:…  (b) figures and types, in the burning bush (Ex. 3:3)…”

Section 11

“the birth itself, which was:…  (2) wonderful and extraordinary, for which reason it is called a new thing ( Jer. 31:22), such that it can be compared with wonderful things, for example, with…  the burning bush which was not consumed by fire (Ex. 3:2–3; cf. Deut. 9:3; 4:12; 5:4)…”


Section 33

“…it urges us, now persuaded by so many testimonies of angels, of men, and of the matter itself regarding the truth of our incarnate Messiah, to stir up ourselves and others, as much as can be done, to examine and investigate the mystery of the incarnation, so great and excellent as it is. By the example:…  (2) Of Moses (Ex. 3:2–3), who when the angel of Jehovah appeared to him in the midst of the bush that burned and was not consumed, stirred himself up, ‘I will now turn aside to see this great sight.’”


ch. 15, section 3

“Therefore it is more certain than certain that Christ rose again on the third day after his death. This is:…  (2) prefigured…  Compare the bush that was burning yet not consumed (Ex. 3:2)…”



Wilhelmus à Brakel

The Christian’s Reasonable Service  ed. Joel Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout  (1700; RHB, 1992/1999)

vol. 2, ch. 41, ‘Practice of the Lord’s Supper’, ‘Preparation for the Lord’s Supper’, ‘The Need for Preparation’, p. 570

“…it is also God‟s command that he who approaches unto God in an extraordinary manner should also prepare himself to that end.  When the Lord was about to descend to the people upon Mount Sinai, the Lord gave command to Moses, saying, ‘Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day’ (Ex. 19:10-11).

When Israel was about to cross the Jordan dry-shod by a divine miracle, it was commanded, ‘Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’ (Josh 3:5).

When Moses approached the burning bush—a symbol of God’s extraordinary presence—he heard the voice, ‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground’ (Ex. 3:5).”


vol. 3

ch. 45, ‘The Law of God’, ‘The Giver of the Law’, p. 37

“He is called ‘the angel,’ that is, the messenger, because He was appointed by the Father as Mediator…  ‘…He shall…  suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant’ (Mal 3:1).  He is the angel who has the name Jehovah in His bosom (Ex. 23:20-21); this was the Angel Jehovah who appeared unto Abraham (Gen 18:1); this was the Angel who appeared unto Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2, 4, 6); and this same Angel, in His function as King, has given the law.  This is evident in the following passage:

‘And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.  This Moses…  did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.  This is he (Moses), that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers’ (Acts 7:30, 35, 38).”


ch. 47, ‘The Second Commandment’, ‘The Sins Prohibited,’ p. 113

[Note that a Brakel, in contrast to the objection, does not initially specify the “burning bush,” but only the “bush,” assuming that the fire represented God, as Heidegger.  Then when a Brakel speaks of God in an extraordinary manner revealing Himself, he specifies the “burning bush”.]

“Objection #1: ‘And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.  And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God’ (Ex. 3:5-6).  Here (so they say [defending veneration of images]) God commanded Moses to conduct himself reverently toward the burning bush, and Moses demonstrated great veneration.

Answer: This was not an image, for it remained a bush; moreover Moses did not render honor to the bush, nor was he commanded to do so. Rather, he was charged to conduct himself reverently toward God who in an extraordinary manner revealed Himself to him in the burning bush.  Moses did not cover his face for the bush, but for God, ‘for,’ it reads, ‘he was afraid to look upon God.'”


vol. 4, ch. 77, ‘Solitude’, ‘Exhortation to be in Solitude’, p. 24

“When Moses was alone in the wilderness, the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush and granted him that grace to be sent forth to deliver the people of God from Egypt.”


Thomas Boston

An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion…  ‘Of the 2nd Commandment,’ ‘Sins Forbidden,’  in The Whole Works...  ed. Samuel M’Millan  (Aberdeen: King, 1848), vol. 2, p. 150

“…it is abominable imagery, and highly injurious to the great God, to represent Him any manner of way.  Such abominations are the representing of God by a sun shining with beams, with the name JEHOVAH in it or over it, as in several Bibles: the representing of the Father by an image of an old man, the Son by that of a lamb, or a young man; or the Father by a large shining sun, the Son by a lesser sun shining, and the Holy Spirit by a dove, as in some great Bibles from England.”


Jonathan Edwards

The Works…  ed. Edward Hickman  (London: Ball, 1840)

vol. 1, History of Redemption, period 1, pt. 4, p. 546

“And indeed it [the Exodus] was the greatest typ of Christ’s redemption of any providential event whatsoever.  This was by Jesus Christ, for it was wrought by Him who appeared to Moses to redeem that people.  But that was Christ, as is evident, because He is called ‘the angel of the Lord,’ Ed. 3:2-3.

The bush represented the human nature of Christ, who is called the ‘branch.’  This bush grew on mount Sinai or Horeb, a word that signifies a dry place, as the human nature of Christ was a root out of dry ground.  The bush burning with fire, represented the sufferings of Christ, in the fire of God’s wrath.  It burned, and was not consumed; so Christ, though He suffered extremely, yet perished not; but overcame at last, and rose from his sufferings.  Because this great mystery of the incarnation and sufferings of Christ was here represented, therefore Moses says, ‘I will turn aside, and behold this great sight.’  A great sight he might well call it, when there was represented, ‘God manifest in the flesh,’ suffering a dreadful death, and rising from the dead.”


vol. 2

Miscellaneous Observations, ‘Confirmation of the Angels,’ p. 615

“…so are all those that taste of the fruit of this tree [of life], this branch that grows out of the stem of Jesse, this tender plant and root out of a dry ground, this branch of the Lord and fruit of the earth, this bush that God dwells in, this low tree which God exalts.”


Types of the Messiah, p. 653

“The things that are said of the burning bush, do wonderfully agree with the Old-Testament representations of the Messiah.  It was not a high tree, but a bush; as the Messiah is called the low tree; Eze. 17:24, and elsewhere, the twig and the tender plant.  This bush was a root out of dry ground; for it was a bush that grew in mount Horeb, which was so called for the remarkable dryness of the place.  The word signifies ‘dryness;’ there was no spring about the mountain, till Moses there fetched water out of the dry rock.  It was in a thirsty wilderness, where was wont to be no rain…  That bush was the growth of the earth, as the human nature of Christ in the Old Testament is represented to be.  Yet it had the divine nature of Christ in it; for this angel of the Lord that is said to appear in the bush, has been proved to be the same with the Messiah from the Old Testament, in my discourse on the prophecies of the Messiah.  This angel is said to ‘dwell’ in this bush, Dt. 33:16, the more to represent the divine nature of the Messiah dwelling in the human nature.  This bush burnt with fire, agreeably to what the prophecies speak of the sufferings of Christ; great calamity and affliction in the Old Testament are often called fire.  This was especially a resemblance of the wrath of God, that is often called fire in the Old Testament, and which the prophecies represent the Messiah as enduring…  The bush was preserved from being consumed, though it burnt with fire, agreeably to the prophecies of the preservation and upholding of the Messiah, God’s not suffering his Holy One to see corruption, etc.  The bush emerged alive and frech out of the fire, agreeably to the prophecies of the Messiah’s resurrection from the dead, and deliverance from all his sufferings.  The angel that dwelt out of that bush, who was the Messiah, comes out of the fire, and appears in the bush, and delivered alive from the flames, to work redemption for his people.  See Ex. 3:8.  So the prophecies represent the Messiah rising from the dead, and exalted out of his state of humiliation, to work salvation for his people.”



God, or Christ, Appeared in the Burning Bush

Order of Quotes

Ancient Jews



On the Ancient Jews

Andrew Willet, Hexapla in Genesin & Exodum: that is, A Sixfold Commentary...  (London: Haviland, 1633), on Ex. 3, Question 5, ‘What is signified by the burning of the fire without consuming the bush’

“The Hebrews think that God made choice of these two, the fire, and the bush: whereof the one is a base thing, and the other has no shape, that they should make no image or representation of God.”


Early Church


Quoted in Gervase Babington, Comfortable Notes upon the books of Exodus & Leviticus...  (London: Chard, 1604), ch. 3, p. 32  Theodoret (c. 393–c. 458/466)

“The whole place shows it was God: but He is called an angel, that we might know that He which was seen, was not God the Father (for whose angel should the Father be) but the only begotten Son of God, which is the Angel of the great Counsel, which said to his holy apostles, ‘All things which I have heard of my Father, I have declared unto you.’  And even as He gave Him the name of an angel, not meaning thereby to note any other minister or messenger, but to show the Person of the only begotten Son: so again he sets forth both his nature and power, saying He said: ‘I AM THAT I AM,’ and ‘I the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’…”


“Universus locus demonstrat deum esse, qui apparuit.  Dicitur Angelus, ut cognoscamus, quod is, qui visus est, non est Deus Pater (cuius enim Angelus esset Pater) sed unigenitus Filius, qui magni consilij est angelus, qui sacris discipulis dixit; Omnia quaecun{que} audiui apatre meo, nota fecivobis.  Quemadmodum autem angeli nomen posuit, non quidem volens ministrorum quempiam innuere, sed personam unigeniti demonstrare: sic iterum ipsius tum naturam, tum potentiam praedicat, inquiens ipsum dixisse: Ego sum qui sum, et Ego Deus Abraham, Deus Isaack, Deus Iacob, etc.”



John Mayer

A Commentary, or Larger Explanation of the Short Catechism…  (London: Mathewes, 1622), ‘Of the Commandments’, p. 334

“Saint Steven shows that Moses, even before the solemn commission given him by God appearing in the flaming bush, had an inward vocation and notice of his own office of a deliverer…”


Henry Burton

The Seven Vials or a Brief & Plain Exposition upon the 15th & 16th Chapters of the Revelation…  (London: Jones, 1628), Second Vial, p. 38

“‘Put off thy shoes from thy feet,’ (said the Lord to Moses) ‘for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’  Now what made it holy ground?  Was it not the Lord’s presence shadowed in the burning bush?”


Andrew Willet

Hexapla in Genesin & Exodum: that is, A Sixfold Commentary...  (London: Haviland, 1633), Question 20, ‘Whether Jehovah Christ Jesus appeared not in the Old Testament, but only, or usually the angels’

“…to appear in the likeness of a flame of fire in a bush, and the bush not consumed, is not an impossible work to a created angel: yet it was God Himself, even Christ the Son of God that so appeared: for He is called the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, Ex. 3:6, which could be no angel.  And Moses pronouncing a blessing upon Joseph, says, The good will of him that dwelt in the bush, shall come upon the head of Joseph, Deut. 33:16, but God only has the power and authority of blessing…

It was God therefore, and not an angel that appeared in the bush.  Now then by these places given in instance it is evident, that some things said to be done by God in the Scriptures, not exceeding the power of angels, were so done by the Lord Himself, and not by the angels.”


Henry Ainsworth

Annotations upon the Five Books of Moses…  (London: Bellamie, 1627), on Exodus, ch. 3, p. 8

“God appears to him in a burning bush.”


John Weemes

An Exposition of the Laws of Moses: viz. Moral, Ceremonial, Judicial. The Second Volume…  (London: Dawson, 1632), ‘Of the Ceremonial Laws’, Exercitation 4, p. 12

“The Lord dwelt in the cloud, in the pillar of fire, in the rock, and in the bush, Dt. 33:16, ‘for the good will of Him who dwelt in the bush.'”


Samuel Rutherford

A Sermon preached to the Honourable House of Commons at their Late Solemn Fast, Wed., Jan. 31, 1644…  (Edinburgh: Tyler, 1644), p. 59

“From the perpetuity of the Lord’s Kingdom, we may infer
that this cause of God shall prevail, and that the Church, though in the burning bush, cannot be consumed; for Jehovah is in the bush.”


Joshua redivivus, or, Mr. Rutherford’s Letters…  (Rotterdam, 1664), pt. 1, p. 172, Letter 84, to Marion McKnaught

“…be strong in the Lord: that burning bush in Galloway and Kirkcudbright shall not be burnt to ashes, for the Lord is in the bush.”


John Ward

The Goodwill of Him that dwelt in the Bush: or the Extraordinary happiness of living under an extraordinary providence. A sermon preached before the…  the House of Lords…  1645  (London: 1645), pp. 14-15  Ward (d. 1665) was a Westminster divine.

“…for as the state of the Church and people of God, some years since, was not unlike to that which was figured in the smoking furnace which was showed to Abraham, when horror and darkeness had fallen upon Him at the going down of the sun; so the late and present providences of God are not unanswerable to that which was shadowed in the vision which Moses saw when God appeared to him in a flame of fire in the bramble; The good will of Him that dwelt in the bush has come abundantly,”


Anthony Burgess

Vindiciae legis, or, A Vindication of the Moral Law & the Covenants…  (London: Young, 1647), lecture 16, p. 154

“It’s further also to be observed in the general, that God has always had apparitions suitable to the matter in hand.  Thus He appeared in a burning bush to Moses, like an armed man to Joshua; and with all signs of majesty, and a great God, being to deliver laws to the people that they might see how potent He was to be avenged for every breach.”


William Gouge

A Learned & Very Useful Commentary on the Whole Epistle to the Hebrews…  (London: A.M., 1655), section 83, ‘Of the title ‘angel’ given to Christ’, p. 59

“5. God’s proper title which is Jehovah: wheresoever He that appeared as an angel, and is styled an angel, has this title Jehovah attributed to Him, there Christ Jesus is meant: On this ground it is evident that the angel which appeared to Moses in the burning bush was Christ, because He is called Jehovah, Ex. 3:3-4.”


Thomas Blake

The Covenant Sealed. Or a Treatise of the Sacraments of both Covenants…  (London, 1655), ch. 11, section 7, pp. 411-12

“Who would not wish that these elegancies might universally hold, and that as sure as Moses knew that God was extraordinarily present in the burning bush…  and the apostles that the Spirit was come down when they saw the fiery cloven tongues…”


Joseph Caryl

An Exposition with Practical Observations continued upon the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth & Seventh Chapters of the Book of Job…  (London: Fawne, 1656), on Job 4:14-16

“…yet when Jehovah appeared in that flaming bush, the text says, Ex. 3:6, that Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God; holy Moses could not bear that glory.”


Moses Amyraut

A Discourse concerning the Divine Dreams Mentioned in Scripture…  (d. 1664; London: Kettilby, 1676), ch. 3, pp. 42-43

“As for the external [senses], God makes little use of three of them for this end, viz. touching, smelling and tasting, but does frequently employ the other two: for He has been presented visibly to our eyes, as well in human appearance, as to Abraham and Manoe and to some others, as in other shapes, as to Moses in the burning Bush:”


Samuel Lee

Contemplations on Mortality…  (London, 1669), ch. 8, p. 85

“Perhaps the Father’s flock, the little chosen flock of Christ, is with his son Moses, some faithful shepherd in the backside of a desert coming to the mountain of God, and there see visions of the flaming bush and the Angel of the Covenant in it?  Dost thou delight where Christ does feed, though in secret and retired corners, and holdest communion with saints there?”


Joseph Mede

The Works of the Pious & Profoundly-Learned Joseph Mede...  (d. 1671; London: Norton, 1672), 4th Book, Mede’s Epistles, Epistle 58, p. 823

“But there is a third kind of holiness, Relative Holiness, being nothing but a state of relation of peculiarity to God-ward, either in respect of presence, or propriety and dominion.

1. Of Presence, when God is peculiarly and in a special manner present; as when He appeared to Moses in the flaming bushEx. 3:5…”


John Lightfoot

The Works of…  John Lightfoot…  (d. 1675; London: Scot, 1684), Sermon on 2 Sam. 19:29, p. 1246

“They [difficulties in Scripture] are not to drive us from the holy ground where God shines in majesty in the flaming bush, but to teach us to put off our shoes at the holy ground; not to stand upon our own skill or wisdom, but to strike sail to the divine wisdom and mysteriousness that shines there.”


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter’s Dying Thoughts upon Phil. 1:23…  (London: Snowden, 1683), 2. The Final Reasons, p. 132

“If the Law was given by angels, and the Angel of God was in the burning bush, and the Angel conducted the people through the wilderness, and yet all these things are ascribed to God, much more near and glorious will the Divine Regiment there be…”


John Collinges

The Intercourses of Divine Love betwixt Christ & his Church…  (), Sermon 61, on Cant. 1:17, p. 889

“And God bid Moses put off the shoes from off his feet, upon this account, because he was upon holy ground (he was near the burning bush) where God made Himself a temporary habitation.”


Thomas Boston

An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion…  ‘Preface of the Ten Commandments’  in ed. Samuel M’Millan  (Aberdeen: King, 1848), vol. 2, p. 84

“It is the Lord, particularly Jesus Christ, who gave this law in the name of the Trinity.  This is plain from the Scripture, Acts 7:38; Heb. 12:24-26.  It was He that brought the people out of Egypt, and that appeared in the bush that burned with fire, and yet was not consumed, giving commission to Moses for their deliverance, Ex. 3:2-8.”




“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:

for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

Ex. 20:4-6




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Homage to Images is Wrong Despite Intentions Otherwise

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