Context: Because of a famine in their own land, the Hebrews, under the leadership of the patriarch Jacob, settled on the eastern border of Egypt. Kings rose up who did not respect the initial kindness shown to the Hebrews and reduced them to a state of servitude. They set taskmasters over them, "made their lives bitter with hard bondage," and tried to check the spirit and growth of the people. At last to a Hebrew woman of the tribe of Levi was born a son destined to free his people. Because of a decree that all Hebrew male babies be killed, the wise mother hid the infant near the place where Pharaoh's daughter bathed. Pharaoh's daughter found the child, named him Moses, and reared him as her own, securing the child's own mother, unknowingly, as a nurse. Moses grew up as an Egyptian, but his heart was with his own people. Soon his compassion expressed itself in his slaying a cruel Egyptian taskmaster. Forced into self-exile because of this act, he went into the land of Midian, married a Midianite, and settled with his father-in-law, Jethro. When the burden of the Hebrews still in Egypt became unbearable, their cry unto God was heard. Now being the time for the destiny of Moses to be fulfilled, "the angel of the Lord appeared unto him" in a visible manifestation. The place of the appearance was sanctified by the divine presence:
And he (God) said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.