Exodus 18

1 Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.
2 After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back,
3 along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, "I have been an alien in a foreign land"),
4 and the name of the other, Eliezer (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 into the wilderness where Moses was encamped at the mountain of God, bringing Moses' sons and wife to him.
6 He sent word to Moses, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you, with your wife and her two sons."
7 Moses went out to meet his father-in-law; he bowed down and kissed him; each asked after the other's welfare, and they went into the tent.
8 Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardship that had beset them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them.
9 Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the Egyptians.
10 Jethro said, "Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh.
11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them."
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 in the presence of God.
13 The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until 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, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?"
15 Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God.
16 When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God."
17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good.
18 You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.
19 Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God;
20 teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do.
21 You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.
22 Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.
23 If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace."
24 So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
25 Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.
26 And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves.
27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off 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.

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Heb [ger]
  • [b]. Heb [Eli,] my God; [ezer,] help
  • [c]. The clause [because . . . Egyptians] has been transposed from verse 10

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