Exodus 18

Listen to Exodus 18

Jethro's Advice

1 1Jethro, 2the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.
2 Now Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her home,
3 along with her 3two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (4for he said, 5"I have been a sojourner[a] in a foreign land"),
4 and the name of the other, Eliezer[b] (for he said, "The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh").
5 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the 6mountain of God.
6 And when he sent word to Moses, "I,[c] your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,"
7 Moses 7went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and 8kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.
8 Then Moses told his father-in-law 9all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them.
9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians.
10 Jethro said, 10"Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
11 Now I know that 11the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they 12dealt arrogantly with the people."[d]
12 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law 13before God.
13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.
14 When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?"
15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because 14the people come to me to inquire of God;
16 15when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I 16make them know the statutes of God and his laws."
17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good.
18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. 17You are not able to do it alone.
19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall 18represent the people before God and 19bring their cases to God,
20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know 20the way in which they must walk and 21what they must do.
21 Moreover, look for 22able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.
22 And 23let them judge the people at all times. 24Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will 25bear the burden with you.
23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be 26able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace."
24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
25 27Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.
26 And 28they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves.
27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and 29he went away to his own country.

Exodus 18 Commentary

Chapter 18

Jethro brings to Moses his wife and two sons. (1-6) Moses entertains Jethro. (7-12) Jethro's counsel to Moses. (13-27)

Verses 1-6 Jethro came to rejoice with Moses in the happiness of Israel, and to bring his wife and children to him. Moses must have his family with him, that while he ruled the church of God, ( 1 Timothy. 3:5 )

Verses 7-12 Conversation concerning God's wondrous works is good, and edifies. Jethro not only rejoiced in the honour done to his son-in-law, but in all the goodness done to Israel. Standers-by were more affected with the favours God had showed to Israel, than many were who received them. Jethro gave the glory to Israel's God. Whatever we have the joy of, God must have the praise. They joined in a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Mutual friendship is sanctified by joint worship. It is very good for relations and friends to join in the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and praise, as those that meet in Christ. This was a temperate feast; they did eat bread, manna. Jethro must see and taste that bread from heaven, and though a gentile, is welcome: the gentiles are welcomed to Christ the Bread of life.

Verses 13-27 Here is the great zeal and the toil of Moses as a magistrate. Having been employed to redeem Israel out of the house of bondage, he is a further type of Christ, that he is employed as a lawgiver and a judge among them. If the people were as quarrelsome one with another as they were with God, no doubt Moses had many causes brought before him. This business Moses was called to; it appears that he did it with great care and kindness. The meanest Israelite was welcome to bring his cause before him. Moses kept to his business from morning to night. Jethro thought it was too much for him to undertake alone; also it would make the administration of justice tiresome to the people. There may be over-doing even in well-doing. Wisdom is profitable to direct, that we may neither content ourselves with less than our duty, nor task ourselves beyond our strength. Jethro advised Moses to a better plan. Great men should not only study to be useful themselves, but contrive to make others useful. Care must be taken in the choice of the persons admitted into such a trust. They should be men of good sense, that understood business, and that would not be daunted by frowns or clamours, but abhorred the thought of a bribe. Men of piety and religion; such as fear God, who dare not to do a base thing, though they could do it secretly and securely. The fear of God will best fortify a man against temptations to injustice. Moses did not despise this advice. Those are not wise, who think themselves too wise to be counselled.

Cross References 29

  • 1. [Exodus 2:18]
  • 2. ver. 12; Exodus 2:16
  • 3. Exodus 4:20; Acts 7:29
  • 4. Exodus 2:22
  • 5. Psalms 39:12; Hebrews 11:13
  • 6. See Exodus 3:1
  • 7. Genesis 14:17; Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1; 1 Kings 2:19
  • 8. [Genesis 29:13; Genesis 33:4]; 2 Samuel 19:39
  • 9. See Nehemiah 9:9-15; Ps. 78:12-28, 42-53; Psalms 106:7-12
  • 10. Genesis 14:20; 2 Samuel 18:28; Luke 1:68
  • 11. 1 Chronicles 16:25; 2 Chronicles 2:5; Psalms 95:3; Psalms 97:9; Psalms 135:5
  • 12. Nehemiah 9:10; [Psalms 119:21; Daniel 4:37; Luke 1:51]
  • 13. Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 14:26; 1 Chronicles 29:22; [Exodus 24:11; Genesis 31:54]
  • 14. [Leviticus 24:12; Numbers 15:34]
  • 15. Exodus 24:14; Deuteronomy 17:8; [2 Samuel 15:2, 3; 1 Corinthians 6:1]
  • 16. Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 5:1
  • 17. Numbers 11:14, 17; Deuteronomy 1:9, 12
  • 18. Exodus 4:16; [Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 5:5]
  • 19. Numbers 27:5
  • 20. Psalms 143:8
  • 21. Deuteronomy 1:18
  • 22. Deuteronomy 1:15; Deuteronomy 16:18; See 2 Chronicles 19:5-10; [Acts 6:3]
  • 23. ver. 26
  • 24. Leviticus 24:11; Numbers 15:33; Numbers 27:2; Numbers 36:1; Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 17:8
  • 25. Numbers 11:17
  • 26. ver. 18
  • 27. Deuteronomy 1:15
  • 28. ver. 22
  • 29. [Numbers 10:29, 30]

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Gershom sounds like the Hebrew word for sojourner
  • [b]. Eliezer means My God is help
  • [c]. Hebrew; Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac behold
  • [d]. Hebrew with them

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, with Zipporah his daughter, the wife of Moses, and her two sons, meeting him in the wilderness, who was kindly received by him, Ex 18:1-7 and on Moses' relating the great things God had done for Israel, Jethro expressed his joy on that account, gave praise to God, offered sacrifice, and kept a feast with the elders of Israel, Ex 18:8-12, and observing the constant and fatiguing business Moses had on his hands from morning to evening in judging the people, Ex 18:13-18, he gave him advice to appoint persons under him to receive laws and ordinances from him, he should have from God, and, according to them, judge and govern the people under them, some being rulers of thousands, others of hundreds, others of fifties, and some of tens, Ex 18:19-23, which counsel was acceptable to Moses, and he took it, Ex 18:24-26 and the chapter is concluded with their friendly parting, Ex 18:27.

Exodus 18 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.