Moses at the Burning Bush

The following monitorial instructions on Moses at the Burning Bush appear on pp. 146-148 of the “Guide to the Royal Arch Chapter” by John Sheville and James Gould.

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of lire, 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, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses! Moses! And he said, Here am I. And he said Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover, he said, 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. — Exod. iii, 1-6.

As the Royal Arch Mason must make himself thoroughly acquainted with the leading events in the exodus of the children of Israel, if he would understand those instructions which distinguish him from the rest of the Fraternity, it is peculiarly appropriate that his attention should be drawn to that passage of Scripture which relates the circumstances under which the Jewish law-giver was commissioned by the Almighty to conduct the children of Israel out from the land of Egypt.

It was in the seclusion and simplicity of his shepherd life that Moses received his call as a prophet. The traditional scene of this great event is in the valley of Shoayb, on the north side of Jebel Musa, or Mount Horeb. Upon the mountain was the well-known acacia or shittim tree, the thorn tree of the desert, spreading out its tangled branches, thick set with white thorns, over the rocky ground. It was this tree which became the symbol of Divine Presence; a flame of fire in the midst of it, in which the dry branches would have naturally crackled and burnt in a moment, but which played around it without consuming it. The rocky ground at once became holy, and that it might not be polluted, Moses was commanded to put off his shepherd’s sandals. Removing the shoes was an ancient custom of general practice in performing religious rites. The Jewish priesthood sacrificed with bare feet. The Cretans made it penal for any person to enter the Temple of Diana with covered feet: and even the Roman ladies of the highest rank were not excused from this requirement when they entered the Temple of Vesta. This custom is still preserved among the nations of the East. A learned writer thus symbolizes the lesson of the Burning Bush: “As Moses was commanded to pull his shoes from off his feet, on Mount Horeb, because the ground whereon he trod was sanctified by the presence of the Divinity; so the Mason who would prepare himself for this august stage of Masonry should advance in the path of truth, be divested of every degree of arrogance, and come as a true Acacian, or blameless worshiper, with innocence, humility, and virtue, to challenge the ensigns of an Order, whose institutions are founded on the most sacred principles of religion.”

The partial text of Sheville and Gould’s monitorial instructions for the Royal Arch Chapter may be found at:

Sheville and Gould’s “Guide to the Royal Arch Chapter”