And Jethro, Moses's father in law
This is the third time he is so called in the chapter already, and many more times besides after in it; the reason of which seems to be, either to distinguish him from another of the same name, or to do him honour, that he should be in such a relation to so great and distinguished a man as Moses now was:
came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness;
not with his own sons and wife, but with the sons and wife of Moses; Zipporah and her sons, as before related; with those he came into the wilderness of Arabia, where Moses now was, and which was not at a great distance from Midian, since about the same spot Moses, when he dwelt there, had, and fed the flock of his father-in-law, ( Exodus 3:1 ) , that part of the land of Midian where Jethro lived lay somewhere eastward of Mount Sinai, and was probably situated where Sharme now stands; which, according to Dr. Pocock F9, is about a day and a half's journey from Mount Sinai, from whence the monks of Mount Sinai are chiefly supplied with fish F11: it follows: where he encamped at the mount of God: at Horeb, where the Lord had appeared to Moses; and so the Targum of Jonathan adds,
``where the glory of the Lord was revealed to Moses at the beginning;''and where, afterwards, the Lord, appeared again, and gave the law, and therefore is called the Mount of God; the one as well as the other being past when Moses wrote this book, and called the mountain by this name: it is matter of question at what time Jethro came hither, whether before or after the giving of the law: it seems, by the order in which this story is here placed, as if it was immediately after the battle with Amalek; and Saadiah Gaon is of opinion it was before the giving of the law; and one would think it most reasonable and natural that Jethro would take the first opportunity of visiting Moses, and that Moses would not long defer sending for his wife and children: but Aben Ezra thinks he did not come till the second year after the tabernacle was set up, since, in the context, mention is made of burnt offerings and sacrifices, and no account is given of a new altar built by Moses; and besides, he says, "I do make them know the statutes of God and his laws", ( Exodus 18:16 ) , and it is certain from hence, that the children of Israel were removed from Rephidim, and were now encamped at the mount of God, at Horeb; but whether they had got to the other side of the mount of Sinai as yet is not so clear; though it looks as if what Moses did, by the advice of Jethro, was after the law was given on Sinai, see ( Deuteronomy 1:6-16 ) so that, upon the whole, it seems as if this account, according to the order of time, should be placed after ( Numbers 10:28 ) , or, as Dr. Lightfoot F12 thinks, between the tenth and eleventh verses of that chapter, and is put here to show that though Midian was near Amalek, as he observes, yet Jethro was exempt from the curse and destruction threatened to that, see ( 1 Samuel 15:6 ) .
F9 Travels, p. 137.
F11 See the Bishop of Clogher's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 214.
F12 Works, vol. 1. p. 710, 711.