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Out of idle curiosity, when I was writing something else, I started wondering what happened to the burning bush after Moses "left the scene" -- I wondered if it just kept on burning or something. Half convinced that my memory was just terrible, I reread the beginning of Exodus from the Mechon Mamre site and realized that I actually couldn't find anything:

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him 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 turn aside now, 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.' (3:2-4)

This would suggest to me that the bush was still burning when Moses began talking to God, and the episode ends merely with Moses returning to Jethro (4:18). Between this, we do read that Moses is talking to God, but this I interpreted to just mean that he was talking to God through the bush.

Given this, what actually ended up happening to the bush? Am I just missing something, or is there really no explanation in this specific portion of the text? If so, are there any standard explanations from other souces?

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    i would say that at some point it would have had to extinguish because Eliyahu haNavi goes to Har Sinai and doesn't run into a burning bush – Aaron Aug 31 '15 at 18:06
  • Just a guess....Since an angle has a sole mission to achieve, perhaps after the angle succeeded drawing Moses' attention to the burning bush, the bush stopped burning? – JJLL Aug 31 '15 at 18:06
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    @aaron and if the bush continued to burn, it would be, in my view, a potential place for pagan worship. – JJLL Aug 31 '15 at 18:09
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I'm citing two contrasting answers:

1 - Sforno on Exodus 3:2:1 (using Sefaria.com's translation):

וירא מלאך ה' אליו במראה הנבואה, כי אמנם כאשר יגלו המלאכים בדמות אנשים בלתי נבואה, כענין לאברהם וללוט ולבלעם ולזולתם, לא יאמר עליהם וַיֵרָא, אבל יאמר עליהם וַיַרְא, כמו וירא והנה שלשה אנשים, וירא לוט, וירא את מלאך ה' נצב בדרך:

וירא מלאך ה' אליו, in a prophetic vision. When angels appear to humans in human garb this is not considered a prophetic vision, i.e. it is something of a lower order of Divine manifestation. Divine communications to Avraham, Lot, Bileam, and others like them are not described as וירא, vayeyrah, “it appeared.” However, the recipient is described as וירא (vayar), “he saw,” i.e. he is described only in his active role, not his role as receptacle of G’d’s communication. Examples of the latter kind of communication occur in Genesis 18,2 as well as in Genesis 19,1 and in Numbers 22,31.

So, essentially, this explanation would state that this was not a physical bush but a vision, only.

2 - Wikipedia states:

Christian hermits originally gathered at Mount Serbal, believing it to be the biblical Mount Sinai. However, in the 4th century, under the Byzantine Empire, the monastery built there was abandoned in favour of the newer belief that Mount Saint Catherine was the Biblical Mount Sinai; a new monastery - Saint Catherine's Monastery was built at its foot, and the alleged site of the biblical burning bush was identified. The bush growing at the spot (a bramble, scientific name Rubus sanctus[27]), was later transplanted several yards away to a courtyard of the monastery, and its original spot was covered by a chapel dedicated to the Annunciation, with a silver star marking where the roots of the bush had come out of the ground. The Monks at Saint Catherine's Monastery, following church tradition, believe that this bush is, in fact, the original bush seen by Moses, rather than a later replacement[citation needed], and anyone entering the chapel is required to remove their shoes, just as Moses was said to have done so in the biblical account.

However, in modern times, it is not Mount Saint Catherine, but the adjacent Jebel Musa (Mount Moses), which is currently identified as Mount Sinai by popular tradition and guide books; this identification arose from Bedouin tradition.

Personally, the only credibility I give is to the concept that the bush was located at the spot that was later known as Mt. Sinai. The verse in Exodus 3:1 says that Moses led Jethro's sheep to Horeb, which was later known as Mt. Sinai. Whether Mt. Sinai is the place that is now called St. Catherine or whether at the time when Israel appeared at Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah that same bush was still there, would both be speculative. The Torah mentions nothing about either.

  • Am I missing something, or is Saint Catherine's Monastery being cited as a source? – mevaqesh Aug 31 '15 at 18:56
  • The first answer seems reasonable. I reread the section I quoted this morning and realized that it could have been taken to mean that at the very least, the flame wasn't natural (something which I had missed in my reading the night before, probably since I was tired and since there's still some ambiguity there). – Maroon Aug 31 '15 at 19:19
  • @mevaqesh No, you didn't misread the intention. I'm not suggesting that what Wikipedia posts may be a credible source, which is what I stated after the quotation. It MAY have some credibility, since Horev and Mt. Sinai are the same place, Also, see the last sentence in OP's question that states "... other sources". – DanF Aug 31 '15 at 19:26
  • @DanF I am still not following. Whether or not Horev and Mt. Sinai are the same place, all we see is that Christians assumed the bush was physical. That does not tell us when they thought it stopped burning, and shows neither internal evidence from the implication of the Torah, nor external evidence from Chazal about when the bush stopped burning, or whether it ever physically burned. – mevaqesh Aug 31 '15 at 22:10
  • @mevaqesh I see your point. I have no counterargument for that claim. The only claim Wikipedia is making, FWIW is that the Christians believe that this is the same bush that Moses saw, implying that they believe that the entire story about the burning bush represented a physical bush. As for what they believed regarding the specifics of the story, itself, I couldn't infer anything either way. OP is just asking what happened to the bush, itself. FWIW, this is one theory. I don't think they assumed that there was a vision and then after the vision, a physical bush appeared. – DanF Aug 31 '15 at 22:16

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