Exodus 18

Jethro, Moses' Father-in-law

1 Now 1Jethro, the 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 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took Moses' wife 2Zipporah, after he had sent her away,
3 and her 3two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, "I have been 4a sojourner in a foreign land."
4 The other was named 5Eliezer, for he said, "6The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh."
5 Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where * he was camped, at 7the mount of God.
6 He sent word to Moses, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her."
7 Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and 8he bowed down and 9kissed him; and they 10asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.
8 Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians 11for Israel's sake *, all the 12hardship that had befallen them on the journey, and how 13the LORD had delivered them.
9 Jethro rejoiced over all 14the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians.
10 So Jethro said, "15Blessed be the LORD who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
11 "Now I know that 16the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, 17it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people."
12 18Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses' father-in-law before God.
13 It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening.
14 Now when Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?"
15 Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me 19to inquire of God.
16 "When they have a 20dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws."

Jethro Counsels Moses

17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you are doing is not good.
18 "21You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; 22you cannot * do it alone.
19 "Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people's representative before God, and you 23bring the disputes to God,
20 24then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them 25the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.
21 "Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people 26able men 27who fear God, men of truth, those who 28hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.
22 "Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be 29that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and 30they will bear the burden with you.
23 "If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace."
24 So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
25 Moses chose 31able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.
26 They judged the people at all times; 32the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge.
27 Then Moses 33bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into 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.

Cross References 33

  • 1. Exodus 2:16, 18; Exodus 3:1
  • 2. Exodus 2:21; Exodus 4:25
  • 3. Exodus 2:22; Exodus 4:20; Acts 7:29
  • 4. Exodus 2:22
  • 5. 1 Chronicles 23:15, 17
  • 6. Genesis 49:25
  • 7. Exodus 3:1, 12; Exodus 4:27; Exodus 24:13
  • 8. Genesis 43:26, 28
  • 9. Genesis 29:13; Exodus 4:27
  • 10. Genesis 43:27; 2 Samuel 11:7
  • 11. Exodus 4:23; Exodus 7:4, 5
  • 12. Numbers 20:14; Nehemiah 9:32
  • 13. Exodus 15:6, 16
  • 14. Isaiah 63:7-14
  • 15. Genesis 14:20; 2 Samuel 18:28; 1 Kings 8:56; Psalms 68:19, 20
  • 16. Exodus 12:12; Exodus 15:11; 2 Chronicles 2:5; Psalms 95:3; Psalms 97:9; Psalms 135:5
  • 17. Luke 1:51
  • 18. Genesis 31:54; Exodus 24:5
  • 19. Numbers 9:6, 8; Numbers 27:5; Deuteronomy 17:8-13
  • 20. Exodus 24:14
  • 21. Numbers 11:14, 17; Deuteronomy 1:12
  • 22. Deuteronomy 1:9
  • 23. Numbers 27:5
  • 24. Deuteronomy 1:18; Deuteronomy 4:1, 5; Deuteronomy 5:1
  • 25. Psalms 143:8
  • 26. Exodus 18:25; Deuteronomy 1:13, 15; 2 Chronicles 19:5-10; Psalms 15:1-5; Acts 6:3
  • 27. Genesis 42:18; 2 Samuel 23:3
  • 28. Deuteronomy 16:19
  • 29. Deuteronomy 1:17, 18
  • 30. Numbers 11:17
  • 31. Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy 1:15
  • 32. Exodus 18:22
  • 33. Numbers 10:29, 30

Footnotes 33

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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