Exodus 18

1 And Jothor the priest of Madiam, the father-in-law of Moses, heard of all that the Lord did to his people Israel; for the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt.
2 And Jothor the father-in-law of Moses, took Sepphora the wife of Moses after she had been sent away,
3 and her two sons: the name of the one was Gersam, saying, I was a sojourner in a strange land; —
4 and the name of the second Eliezer, saying, For the God of my father my helper, and he has rescued me out of the hand of Pharao.
5 And Jothor the father-in-law of Moses, and his sons and his wife, went forth to Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped on the mount of God.
6 And it was told Moses, saying, Behold, thy father-in-law Jothor is coming to thee, and thy wife and two sons with him.
7 And Moses went forth to meet his father-in-law, and did him reverence, and kissed him, and they embraced each other, and he brought them into the tent.
8 And Moses related to his father-in-law all things that the Lord did to Pharao and all the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the labour that had befallen them in the way, and that the Lord had rescued them out of the hand of Pharao, and out of the hand of the Egyptians.
9 And Jothor was amazed at all the good things which the Lord did to them, forasmuch as he rescued them out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharao.
10 And Jothor said, Blessed be the Lord, because he has rescued them out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharao.
11 Now know I that the Lord is great above all gods, because of this, wherein they attacked them.
12 And Jothor the father-in-law of Moses took whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices for God, for Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with the father-in-law of Moses before God.
13 And it came to pass after the morrow that Moses sat to judge the people, and all the people stood by Moses from morning till evening.
14 And Jothor having seen all that did to the people, says, What is this that thou doest to the people? wherefore sittest thou alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning till evening?
15 And Moses says to his father-in-law, Because the people come to me to seek judgment from God.
16 For whenever there is a dispute among them, and they come to me, I give judgment upon each, and I teach them the ordinances of God and his law.
17 And the father-in-law of Moses said to him, Thou dost not this thing rightly,
18 thou wilt wear away with intolerable weariness, both those and all this people which is with thee: this thing is hard, thou wilt not be able to endure it thyself alone.
19 Now then hearken to me, and I will advise thee, and God shall be with thee: be thou to the people in the things pertaining to God, and thou shalt bring their matters to God.
20 And thou shalt testify to them the ordinances of God and his law, and thou shalt shew to them the ways in which they shall walk, and the works which they shall do.
21 And do thou look out for thyself out of all the people able men, fearing God, righteous men, hating pride, and thou shalt set over the people captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, and captains of fifties, and captains of tens.
22 And they shall judge the people at all times, and the too burdensome matter they shall bring to thee, but they shall judge the smaller cases; so they shall relieve thee and help thee.
23 If thou wilt do this thing, God shall strengthen thee, and thou shalt be able to attend, and all this people shall come with peace into their own place.
24 And Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did whatsoever he said to him.
25 And Moses chose out able men out of all Israel, and he made them captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, and captains of fifties and captains of tens over the people.
26 And they judged the people at all times; and every too burdensome matter they brought to Moses, but every light matter they judged themselves.
27 And Moses dismissed his father-in-law, and he returned to his own land.

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.

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. The meaning appeaars to be, The Lord shewed his superiority on this occasion, when the enemy attacked the Israelites.
  • [b]. does.
  • [c]. words.
  • [d]. them.
  • [e]. his own.
  • [f]. 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 Brenton translation of the Septuagint is in the public domain.