The Meaning of Exodus 3:1 Explained

Exodus 3:1

KJV: Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

YLT: And Moses hath been feeding the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, priest of Midian, and he leadeth the flock behind the wilderness, and cometh in unto the mount of God, to Horeb;

Darby: And Moses tended the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock behind the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God to Horeb.

ASV: Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God, unto Horeb.

What does Exodus 3:1 Mean?

Context Summary

Exodus 3:1-12 - God's Message From The Bush
The learning of Egypt was not sufficient to equip Moses for his life-work. He is taken to the solitudes of the wilderness. That is God's college. All who have done the greatest work in the world have graduated there-Elijah at Horeb, Ezekiel at Chebar, Paul in Arabia, and John in Patmos. God's workers may take their arts course in the universities, but must take their Divinity course alone with Him. Often in the middle of daily duty we come on the outshining of his Presence. Let us be on the outlook for it, and take off our shoes.
This burning bush has generally been taken as the emblem of the Church amid the fires of tribulation; but there is a deeper meaning. The fire was the token of God's presence. The bush was unconsumed, because God's love is its own fuel. Notice the successive steps: "I have seen;" "heard;" "know;" "am come down;" "will send." The "cry" of the previous chapter is answered by the "coming down" of this. See Luke 18:7. [source]

Chapter Summary: Exodus 3

1  Moses keeps Jethro's flock
2  God appears to him in a burning bush
9  He sends him to deliver Israel
13  The name of God
15  His message to Israel, and Pharaoh, whose opposition is foretold
20  He is assured of Israel's deliverance

What do the individual words in Exodus 3:1 mean?

And Moses - was tending - the flock of Jethro his father-in-law the priest of Midian and he led the flock behind the desert and came to the mountain of God Horeb
וּמֹשֶׁ֗ה הָיָ֥ה רֹעֶ֛ה אֶת־ צֹ֛אן יִתְר֥וֹ חֹתְנ֖וֹ כֹּהֵ֣ן מִדְיָ֑ן וַיִּנְהַ֤ג הַצֹּאן֙ אַחַ֣ר הַמִּדְבָּ֔ר וַיָּבֹ֛א אֶל־ הַ֥ר הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים חֹרֵֽבָה

וּמֹשֶׁ֗ה  And  Moses 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: מֹשֶׁה  
Sense: the prophet and lawgiver, leader of the exodus.
הָיָ֥ה  - 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: אֶהְיֶה 
Sense: to be, become, come to pass, exist, happen, fall out.
רֹעֶ֛ה  was  tending 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Participle, masculine singular
Root: רָעָה 
Sense: to pasture, tend, graze, feed.
אֶת־  - 
Parse: Direct object marker
Root: אֹות 
Sense: sign of the definite direct object, not translated in English but generally preceding and indicating the accusative.
צֹ֛אן  the  flock 
Parse: Noun, common singular construct
Root: צֹאן  
Sense: small cattle, sheep, sheep and goats, flock, flocks.
יִתְר֥וֹ  of  Jethro 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יִתְרֹו  
Sense: father-in-law of Moses; also ‘Jether’.
חֹתְנ֖וֹ  his  father-in-law 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular construct, third person masculine singular
Root: חָתַן 
Sense: to become a son-in-law, make oneself a daughter’s husband.
כֹּהֵ֣ן  the  priest 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular construct
Root: כֹּהֵן  
Sense: priest, principal officer or chief ruler.
מִדְיָ֑ן  of  Midian 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: מִדְיָן  
Sense: son of Abraham by Keturah and progenitor of the tribe of Midianites or Arabians.
וַיִּנְהַ֤ג  and  he  led 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: נָהַג 
Sense: to drive, lead, guide, conduct.
הַצֹּאן֙  the  flock 
Parse: Article, Noun, common singular
Root: צֹאן  
Sense: small cattle, sheep, sheep and goats, flock, flocks.
אַחַ֣ר  behind 
Parse: Adverb
Root: אַחַר 
Sense: after the following part, behind (of place), hinder, afterwards (of time).
הַמִּדְבָּ֔ר  the  desert 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine singular
Root: מִדְבָּר 
Sense: wilderness.
וַיָּבֹ֛א  and  came 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: בֹּוא 
Sense: to go in, enter, come, go, come in.
הַ֥ר  the  mountain 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular construct
Root: הַר  
Sense: hill, mountain, hill country, mount.
הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים  of  God 
Parse: Article, Noun, masculine plural
Root: אֱלֹהִים  
Sense: (plural).
חֹרֵֽבָה  Horeb 
Parse: Proper Noun, feminine singular, third person feminine singular
Root: חֹרֵב  
Sense: another name for Mount Sinai from which God gave the law to Moses and the Israelites.