Exodus 18

Jethro Visits Moses

1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.
2 After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her
3 and her two sons. One son was named Gershom,[a] for Moses said, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land”;
4 and the other was named Eliezer,[b] for he said, “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.”
5 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God.
6 Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.”
7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent.
8 Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them.
9 Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians.
10 He said, “Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.
11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”
12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.
13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.
14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.
16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”
17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good.
18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.
19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.
20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.
21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.
22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.
23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.
25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.
26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.
27 Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned 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 43

  • 1. S Exodus 2:18
  • 2. S Exodus 2:16; Exodus 3:1
  • 3. S Exodus 6:6
  • 4. S Exodus 2:21; Exodus 4:25
  • 5. S Exodus 4:20; Acts 7:29
  • 6. Exodus 2:22
  • 7. 1 Chronicles 23:15
  • 8. S Genesis 49:25; S Deuteronomy 33:29
  • 9. S Exodus 3:1
  • 10. S Genesis 17:3; S Genesis 43:28
  • 11. S Genesis 29:13
  • 12. Numbers 20:14; Nehemiah 9:32
  • 13. Exodus 15:6,16; Psalms 81:7
  • 14. Joshua 21:45; 1 Kings 8:66; Nehemiah 9:25; Psalms 145:7; Isaiah 63:7
  • 15. S Genesis 9:26; S Genesis 24:27; Genesis 14:20; Psalms 68:19-20
  • 16. S Exodus 12:12; Exodus 15:11; 2 Chronicles 2:5; S 1 Chronicles 16:25
  • 17. S Exodus 1:10; S Luke 1:51
  • 18. S Exodus 3:1
  • 19. Exodus 10:25; Exodus 20:24; Leviticus 1:2-9
  • 20. Genesis 31:54; Exodus 24:5
  • 21. S Genesis 26:30
  • 22. Deuteronomy 12:7
  • 23. S ver 19; S Genesis 25:22; Numbers 9:6,8; Deuteronomy 17:8-13
  • 24. Exodus 24:14
  • 25. ver 15; Leviticus 24:12; Numbers 15:34; Deuteronomy 1:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Proverbs 24:23; Malachi 2:9
  • 26. Nu 11:11,14,17; Deuteronomy 1:9,12
  • 27. Exodus 3:12
  • 28. ver 15; Numbers 27:5
  • 29. Deuteronomy 4:1,5; Deuteronomy 5:1; Ps 119:12,26,68
  • 30. Psalms 143:8
  • 31. S Genesis 39:11; Deuteronomy 1:18
  • 32. S Genesis 47:6; Acts 6:3
  • 33. S Genesis 22:12
  • 34. Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; 1 Samuel 12:3; Psalms 15:5; Proverbs 17:23; Proverbs 28:8; Ecclesiastes 7:7; Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 22:12
  • 35. Numbers 1:16; Numbers 7:2; Numbers 10:4; Deuteronomy 16:18; Ezr Numbers 7:25; Deuteronomy 1:13,15; 2 Chronicles 19:5-10
  • 36. Leviticus 24:11; Deuteronomy 1:17-18
  • 37. Numbers 11:17; Deuteronomy 1:9
  • 38. Numbers 1:16; Numbers 7:2; Numbers 11:16; Deuteronomy 16:18
  • 39. Deuteronomy 1:13-15
  • 40. Deuteronomy 16:18; 2 Chronicles 19:5; Ezra 7:25
  • 41. Deuteronomy 1:17
  • 42. ver 22
  • 43. Numbers 10:29-30

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. "Gershom" sounds like the Hebrew for "a foreigner there."
  • [b]. "Eliezer" means "my God is helper."

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

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