Exodus 18

1 Moses' father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything that God had done for Moses and the people of Israel when he led them out of Egypt.
2 So he came to Moses, bringing with him Moses' wife Zipporah, who had been left behind, 1
3 and Gershom and Eliezer, her two sons. (Moses had said, "I have been a foreigner in a strange land"; so he had named one son Gershom. 2
4 He had also said, "The God of my father helped me and saved me from being killed by the king of Egypt"; so he had named the other son Eliezer. )
5 Jethro came with Moses' wife and her two sons into the desert where Moses was camped at the holy mountain.
6 He had sent word to Moses that they were coming,
7 so Moses went out to meet him, bowed before him, and kissed him. They asked about each other's health and then went into Moses' tent.
8 Moses told Jethro everything that the Lord had done to the king and the people of Egypt in order to rescue the Israelites. He also told him about the hardships the people had faced on the way and how the Lord had saved them.
9 When Jethro heard all this, he was happy
10 and said, "Praise the Lord, who saved you from the king and the people of Egypt! Praise the Lord, who saved his people from slavery!
11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods, because he did this when the Egyptians treated the Israelites with such contempt."
12 Then Jethro brought an offering to be burned whole and other sacrifices to be offered to God; and Aaron and all the leaders of Israel went with him to eat the sacred meal as an act of worship.
13 The next day Moses was settling disputes among the people, and he was kept busy from morning till night.
14 When Jethro saw everything that Moses had to do, he asked, "What is all this that you are doing for the people? Why are you doing this all alone, with people standing here from morning till night to consult you?"
15 Moses answered, "I must do this because the people come to me to learn God's will.
16 When two people have a dispute, they come to me, and I decide which one of them is right, and I tell them God's commands and laws."
17 Then Jethro said, "You are not doing this right.
18 You will wear yourself out and these people as well. This is too much for you to do alone.
19 Now let me give you some good advice, and God will be with you. It is right for you to represent the people before God and bring their disputes to him.
20 You should teach them God's commands and explain to them how they should live and what they should do.
21 But in addition, you should choose some capable men and appoint them as leaders of the people: leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They must be God-fearing men who can be trusted and who cannot be bribed.
22 Let them serve as judges for the people on a permanent basis. They can bring all the difficult cases to you, but they themselves can decide all the smaller disputes. That will make it easier for you, as they share your burden.
23 If you do this, as God commands, you will not wear yourself out, and all these people can go home with their disputes settled."
24 Moses took Jethro's advice
25 and chose capable men from among all the Israelites. He appointed them as leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.
26 They served as judges for the people on a permanent basis, bringing the difficult cases to Moses but deciding the smaller disputes themselves.
27 Then Moses said good-bye to Jethro, and Jethro went back home.

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 2

  • 1. 18.2,Exodus 2.21, 22.
  • 2. 18.3Acts 7.29.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. gershom: [This name sounds like the Hebrew for "foreigner."]
  • [b]. eliezer: [This name sounds like the Hebrew for "God helps me."]

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS 18

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