Exodus 18

1 And when Jethro, the priest of Midian, the ally, either (the) father of the wife of Moses, had heard all things which God had done to Moses, and to Israel his people, for the Lord had led Israel out of the land of Egypt, (And when Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses? father-in-law, had heard of all the things which God had done for Moses, and for his people Israel, yea, that the Lord had led Israel out of the land of Egypt,)
2 Jethro took Zipporah, Moses? wife, whom Moses had sent again (whom Moses had sent back to him),
3 and his two sons, of which one was called Gershom, for the father at his birth (had) said, I was a comeling in an alien land (I was a newcomer in a foreign land),
4 forsooth the tother was called Eliezer, for Moses at his birth (had) said, (For the) God of my father is mine helper, and he delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.
5 Therefore Jethro, ally of Moses, came, and the sons of Moses and his wife came to Moses, into desert, where Jethro set tents beside the hill of God; (And so Jethro, Moses? father-in-law, came with Moses? wife and their sons, into the wilderness, where Moses had pitched the tents beside God's mountain;)
6 and he sent to Moses, and said, I Jethro, thine ally, come to thee, and thy wife, and thy two sons with her. (and he sent word to Moses, and said, I Jethro, thy father-in-law, have come to thee, with thy wife, and thy two sons with her.)
7 And Moses went out into the coming of his ally, and worshipped, and kissed him, and they greeted themselves together with peaceable words. And when Jethro had entered into the tabernacle, (And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and bowed before him, and kissed him, and they greeted each other with friendly words. And when Jethro had gone into the tent,)
8 Moses told to him all (the) things which God had done to Pharaoh, and to the Egyptians, for Israel, and he told to him all the travail that befell to them in the way, of which the Lord had delivered them (and he told him of all the tribulation that had befallen them on the way, and how the Lord had saved them).
9 And Jethro was glad on all the goods which the Lord had done to Israel, for he [had] delivered Israel from the hand of [the] Egyptians. (And Jethro was glad for all the good things that the Lord had done for Israel, for he had saved Israel from the power of the Egyptians.)
10 And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, that delivered you from the hand(s) of the Egyptians, and from the hand of Pharaoh, the which Lord delivered his people from (being under) the hand, (or the power,) of Egypt;
11 now I know that the Lord is great above all gods, for they did proudly against them. (now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods, for what he hath done to those who did so proudly against thee.)
12 Therefore Jethro, ally of Moses (And so Jethro, Moses? father-in-law), offered burnt sacrifices and offerings to God; and Aaron, and all the elder men of Israel, came to eat bread with Jethro before God.
13 Forsooth in the tother day, Moses sat that he should deem the people, which stood nigh to Moses, from the morrowtide till to the eventide. (And the next day, Moses sat down to judge the people, who stood about him, from the morning until the evening.)
14 And when his ally had seen this, that is, all things which he did in the people, he said, What is this that thou doest in the people? why sittest thou alone, and all the people abideth thee from the morrowtide till to eventide? (And when his father-in-law had seen this, that is, all the things which he did for the people, Jethro said, What is this that thou doest for the people? why sittest thou alone, and all the people waiteth for thee from the morning until the evening?)
15 To whom Moses answered, The people cometh to me, and asketh the sentence of God;
16 and when any strife befalleth to them, they come to me, that I deem betwixt them (so that I can judge between them), and show (them) the commandments of God, and his laws.
17 And Jethro said, Thou doest a thing that is not good,
18 thou art wasted with a fond travail, both thou, and this people that is with thee; the work is above thy strengths, thou alone mayest not suffer it (thou cannot do it all alone).
19 But hear thou my words, and my counsels, and the Lord shall be with thee; be thou to the people in these things that pertain to God, that thou tell (them) the things that be said to the people; (But hear thou my words, and my counsel, and the Lord shall be with thee; it is right to represent the people before God, and to bring their causes to him;)
20 and show to the people the ceremonies, and [the] custom(s) of worshipping, and the way by which they ought to go, and the work which they ought to do.
21 Forsooth purvey thou of all the people wise men, and dreading God, in which is truth, and which hate avarice; and ordain thou of them tribunes, and centurions, and quinquagenaries, and deans [and ordain of them rulers upon thousands, and rulers upon hundreds, and rulers upon fifty, and rulers upon ten], (But find thou out of the people some men who be wise, and who fear God, in whom is truth, and who hate greed; and make thou them leaders of a thousand, and of a hundred, and of fifty, and of ten,)
22 which shall deem the people in all time; soothly whatever thing is greater, tell they to thee, and deem they only [the] less(er) things, and be it easier to thee, when the burden is parted into other men. (and they shall judge their people at all times; but whatever case is hard, or too difficult, let them tell that to thee, and judge they only the simple cases, and so it shall be easier for thee, when the burden is shared with these other men.)
23 If thou shalt do this, thou shalt fulfill the commandment of God, and thou shalt be able to bear his commandments; and all this people shall turn again with peace to their places (and all these people shall return to their places in peace).
24 And when these things were heard, Moses did all things which Jethro counselled.
25 And when noble men of all Israel were chosen, Moses ordained them princes of the people (And when some noble men were chosen out of all Israel, Moses ordained them the people's leaders), tribunes, and centurions, and quinquagenaries, and deans [rulers upon thousands, and rulers upon hundreds, and rulers upon fifties, and rulers upon ten],
26 which deemed the people in all time; forsooth, whatever thing was harder, they told to Moses, and they deemed [the] easier things only. (who judged the people at all times; but whatever case was hard, or too difficult, they told it to Moses, and they judged only the easy, or the simple, cases.)
27 And Moses let go his ally, which turned again, and went into his land. (And then Moses let his father-in-law go, 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.

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

Copyright © 2001 by Terence P. Noble. For personal use only.