Pieris (Burning Bush)

Pieris (Burning Bush)

The Bible reference to Moses seeing a burning bush is a well-liked story. While looking after his father-in-law’s sheep on Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai), Moses saw an amazing sight - a bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. When Moses went over to the burning bush to investigate, he heard the voice of God calling to him. God explained that he had seen how his chosen people, the Israelites, had been treated as slaves in Egypt. He said that he had come down from heaven to rescue them and he had selected Moses to carry out that task.

Moses was terrified. He told God he was not capable of such a huge undertaking. God assured Moses he would be with him. At that point, Moses asked God his name, so he could tell the Israelites who had sent him. God replied, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.”

Biblical scholars see this event as a way of God indicating to Moses that there will be plagues and fires and judgments - but the nation will not be consumed.

So what could Moses have possibly seen?

St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is believed to enshrine the burning bush from which God first revealed himself to Moses. The bush is a bramble of the rose family called Rubus sanctus, which includes the raspberry and blackberry. A native of the Holy Land, it is extremely long-lived. The monastery’s bush neither blooms nor gives any fruit.

Suggestions have been made that the Dictamnus Albus plant, found throughout northern Africa, is a candidate for the burning bush. In the summer the plant, also known as the “gas plant,” exudes a variety of volatile oils that can catch fire readily and may give the impression that the bush is burning.

Or did Moses have a hallucinatory experience?

In moderate climates other plants are associated with the concept of a bush blazing into colour for a short time. The Euonymus Alatus is frequently mentioned as is the Pieris

Exodus 3:1

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God

Acts 7:30

“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush.