Exodus 18


                                                JETHRO’S VISIT TO MOSES


It has been noticed, in the comment on ch. 4., that shortly after the circumcision of

Eliezer, Moses’ second son, he sent back his wife, Zipporah, to her own kinsfolk, the

Midianites, together with her two sons, Eliezer and Gershom. Reuel, [Reuel – friend

of God – implies monotheism – “thou shalt have no other gods before me”] –

Zipporah’s father, was then dead (Exodus and had been succeeded in his priesthood

and headship of the tribe by Jethro, probably his son, and therefore the brother-in-law,

and not the father-in-law, of Moses. (The Hebrew word used, as already observed,

has both meanings.)  Jethro gave protection to his sister and her children until he heard

of the passage of the Red Sea, when he set forth to meet and congratulate his kinsman,

and to convey back to him his wife and his sons. The meeting took place “at the mount

of God” (v. 5), or in the near vicinity of Sinai, probably in some part of the plain

Er-Rahah, which extends for five miles, or more, to the north-west of the Sinaitic



vs. 1-12 – “When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father in law” - Rather,

“Jethro, priest of Midian, Moses’ brother-in-law” -  heard of all that God had

done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel

out of Egypt;  Then Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife,

after he had sent her back, And her two sons” - Zipporah had borne Moses at least

two sons before his return to Egypt from Midian, as appears from 4:20. -“of which the

name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land: 

And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was

mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh” - Eliezer had not been

previously mentioned by name; but he was probably the son circumcised by Zipporah,

as related in ch. 4:25. We learn from I Chronicles 23. 15-17, that he grew to manhood,

and had an only son, Rehabiah, whose descendants were in the time of Solomon very

numerous.  Eliezer means literally, “My God (is my) help.” It would seem that

Zipporah, when she circumcised her infant son, omitted to name him; but Moses,

before dismissing her, supplied the omission, calling him Eliezer, because God had

been his help against the Pharaoh who had sought his life (ch.2:15), and of whose

death he had recently had intelligence (ch 4:19). Thus the names of the two sons

expressed respectively, the despondency natural to an exile, and the exultant gratitude

of one who had just learned that by God’s goodness, the term of his banishment was over.

And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses

into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:  And he said unto

Moses, I  thy father in law Jethro (brother-in-law) am come unto thee, and thy wife,

and her two sons with her.  And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and

did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and

they came into the tent.  And Moses told his father in law all that the LORD had

done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake” - Jethro had heard in

Midian the general outline of what had happened (v. 1). Moses now gave him a full and

complete narrative (misphar) of the transactions. Compare Genesis 24:66; Joshua 2:23;

where the same verb is used – “and all the travail that had come upon them by the

way” - Literally, “the weariness.” Compare Malachi 1:13, where the same word is used –

and how the LORD delivered them” - The Septuagint adds “from the hand of

Pharaoh and from the hand of the Egyptians.”  And Jethro rejoiced for all the

goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of

the hand of the Egyptians.   And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath

delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh,

who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.”  Moses

had attributed his own deliverance, and that of Israel, entirely to Jehovah; (v. 8), Jethro,

accepting the facts to be as stated, blessed the Lord.  “Now I know that the LORD

is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above

them.” - The superiority of Jehovah to other gods was shown forth even in the very matter

of the proud dealing of the Egyptians, which was brought to shame and triumphed over by

the might of Jehovah. The allusion is especially to the passage of the Red Sea.  “And Jethro,

Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron

came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before

God.”  Moses, Aaron, and the elders, partook of the sacrificial meal, regarding the

whole rite as one legitimately performed by a duly qualified person, and so as one

in which they could properly participate. Jethro, like Melchisedek (Genesis 14:18),was

recognized as a priest of the true God, though it would seem that the Midianites

generally .were, a generation later, idolaters (Numbers 25:18; 31:16).  [What a

difference a day makes!  24 little hours! but they develop into years – I am 66

years old and just a generation ago, America was God-fearing and not neutered

by the ACLU – .00013 % of the rest of the American population of 99.987% -

we live with a corrupt judiciary – these statistics show that we are not a

democracy where the majority rules – GOD WILL AND IS JUDGING THIS

SITUATION – there will be a lot of embarrassment in the Judgment Day of

ACLU card holders and the general populace of the USA which has allowed

this to happen – remember – that judges are representative of God, The Judge

of all the earth!  He will do right!  (Genesis 18:25) THEY WILL BE HELD

ACCOUNTABLE. – CY – 2010].





The family is God’s ordinance, and among the most sacred and blessed of His ordinances.

All fatherhood is based upon His (Ephesians 3:15); and human family ties reproduce those

of the celestial region. Upon earth partings must and will occur, the family bond being

thereby not broken, but strained and impaired. Sometimes necessity breaks up the

household. Wife and children may not go whither the husband and father

is ordered to proceed, as in the naval and military services. Sometimes prudential

considerations assert themselves, and the children must quit the domestic hearth to

get their own living, or even the wife and husband must seek separate employments with

the same object. Occasionally, the husband, having to go on a difficult or dangerous

mission, where wife and children would be encumbrances, has to part from them

temporarily, and to provide for their support and sustenance during his absence. This

last was the case of Moses. In returning to Egypt, and coming forward as the champion

of his nation, he confronted great dangers. The presence of wife and children would

have hampered him, and, therefore, he resolved to return alone.  Zipporah and his infant

sons were left with her nearest male relative. But now the time had come for reunion.

We may note as blissful elements in the reunion:



      THE PARTING. The bitterness of parting is especially in the uncertainty

      whether we shall ever see again in this life the individuals from whom we part.   

      Death comes suddenly, and without warning; infants are especially subject to

      his attack; and when Moses, having recently parted from Jethro (ch. 4:8), sent  

      back his wife and two young sons to be under his charge, he must have felt that

      it was exceedingly doubtful whether there would ever again be a meeting of the

      five near relations. But God brought it to pass. Jethro, with a promptitude which            

      indicates a warm heart, no sooner heard of his kinsman’s safe arrival in the

      region of the “wilderness,” than he put himself to the trouble of a long journey,            

      partly to congratulate him, but mainly to restore to him the wife and children,     

      whom he had received as a sacred trust. He could not be content unless he

      himself delivered them safe into the hands of Moses, and thus “gave a good

            account of his stewardship.” And he was fortunate in being able to deliver

            them all safe and sound, and apparently in good health. No insidious

            disease had nipped the life of either child in the bud; no unlucky accident

            had removed either from the land of the living. Moses was able to greet, at

            one and the same moment, his wife, his two sons, and his brother-in-law.

            Doubtless, he felt that God had been specially good and gracious to him in

            restoring to him all his treasures.




            Jethro sent a message to announce his arrival, which was a courteous act,

            not strictly necessary. He relieved at once any anxiety which Moses might

            naturally feel, by letting him know that he had brought with him his wife

            and both his sons. That they had been able to make the long journey

            implied that they were well. Moses, on his part, responded by going out to

            meet his brother-in-law, thus requiting courtesy with courtesy; when he

            met him, he “did obeisance,” not standing upon his own present dignity;

            having done obeisance, he rose and “kissed him,” thus showing tender

            affection. Greetings by word of mouth followed, and then friendly

            conversation. The great leader had much to relate, and gave a full account,

            both of his perils and hair-breadth escapes, and of his divinely-wrought

            deliverances. Hereat Jethro “rejoiced.” No word of reproach or blame

            seems to have been uttered on either side. No discord marred the perfect

            harmony. Over the still tenderer meeting of the husband and father with his

            wife and children, the sacred historian, with a wise reticence, draws the

            veil. There are scenes which are at once too private and too sacred for

            description; and this was one of them.




      OF GOD. The sense that God has been good to us should lead in all cases

            to an act of acknowledgment. Jethro was not content with mere words of

            joy and gratitude — not even with a solemn ascription of praise and

            blessing to Jehovah (v.10). He must shew his feelings by an act; so, in

            accordance with the ritual of the time, he “took a burnt-offering and

            sacrifices.” Christians should similarly signalize their own reunions, and

            other important events in their lives, by joining together in the highest act

            of Christian worship-the Holy Communion. Joint participation in the

            bread of life” and “cup of the Lord” brings home to us the sense of family

            oneness, as nothing else has the power to do. Prayers uttered side by side

            bind men’s hearts together in indissoluble union; participation in the same

            precious gifts gives the sense of unity in Him who is the source of unity to

            all who are His. (Once upon a time, I entered in my commentary these words:   

            Hopkinsville High School – 7:15 am – prayer circle around the flag pole –

            T’Ebony Torain, Lenoir Sprague, such tender prayers – CY – 2010) –

            Compare Hebrews 12:22-24)  - Aaron and the elders do well to join; their       

            presence does not mar the family concord; it does but enlarge the family circle,

            and add new links to the chain that binds Heaven to earth. Some day the whole

            Church will be one family, of which all the members will worship God

            perpetually in the Father’s house. The nearest approach to happiness on

            earth is that anticipation of the final bliss which Holy Communion furnishes.





The office of ruler in ancient times, whether exercised by a king, a prince, or a mere chieftain,

was always understood to include within it the office of judge. In the Greek ideal of the origin

of kingly government (Herod. 1:96), the able discharge of judicial functions marks the

individual out for sovereignty. The successors of Moses, like the chief rulers of Carthage,

bore the title of “Judges” (shophetim, suffetes). Moses, it appears, had from the time

when he was accepted as leader by the people (ch. 4:29-31), regarded himself as bound

to hear and decide all the causes and complaints which arose among the entire Israelite

people. He had not delegated his authority to any one. This can scarcely have been

because the idea had not occurred to him, for the Egyptian kings ordinarily decided

causes by judges nominated ad hoc. Perhaps he had distrusted the ability of his countrymen

so recently slaves — to discharge such delicate functions.  At any rate, he had reserved

the duty wholly to himself (v. 18). This course appeared to Jethro unwise. No man could,

he thought, in the case of so great a nation, singly discharge such an office with satisfaction

to himself and others. Moses would “wear himself away” with the fatigue; and he would

exhaust the patience of the people through inability to keep pace with the number of cases

that necessarily arose.  Jethro therefore recommended the appointment of subordinate judges,

and the reservation by Moses of nothing but the right to decide such cases as these judges

should, on account of their difficulty, refer to him (v. 22).   On reflection, Moses

accepted this course as the best open to him under the circumstances, and established

a multiplicity of judges, under a system which will be discussed in the comment on v.25.


vs. 13-26 – “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the

people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.  And

when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this

thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the

people stand by thee from morning unto even?  And Moses said unto his father in

law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God:  When they have a

matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make

them know the statutes of God, and His laws.”  This cannot mean less than to seek

a decision from some one regarded as entitled to speak for God; thus making them to

know the statutes of God and His eternal written laws and it is certainly assigned by

Moses as the reason why he judged all the causes himself, and did not devolve the duty

upon others. They could not be supposed to know the mind of God as  he knew it. 

Jethro, however, points out, that it is one thing to lay down principles, and another to

apply them. Moses might reserve the legislative function — the inculcation  of

principles — to himself, and so still, “be for the people to Godward” (v. 19); but he

 might find “able men” among the congregation, quite capable of applying the

principles, and delegate to them the judicial function (vs. 21-22) – “And Moses’

father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.  Thou wilt

surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is

too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.  Hearken now

unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for

the people to God-ward” – continue, as at the present, to be the intermediary

between God and the people -  “that thou mayest bring the causes unto God” –

In difficult cases, Moses actually laid the cause before God, and obtained directions

from God as to the manner in which he was to decide it. See Numbers 27:5-11.

And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way

wherein they must walk” – the general line of conduct which all are bound to pursue  -

and the work that they must do.” – the special task which each has to perform

individually  -  “Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men such as

fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness;” - Literally, “men of might”i.e.,

of capacity or ability — men competent for the office of judge; who are further defined to

be, such as possess the three qualities of piety, veracity, and strict honesty, or incorruptness.  

Jethro’s conception of the true judicial character leaves little to be desired. If among every

ten Israelites there was one such person, the moral condition of the nation cannot have

been so much depressed by the Egyptian servitude as is sometimes represented – “and

place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers

of fifties, and rulers of tens” -  A decimal organization naturally presents itself to

men’s minds as the simplest in a simple state of society, and was probably already in use

among the Arab tribes with whom Jethro was familiar. The graduated series — rulers of tens,

of fifties, of hundreds, and of thousands, implies a power of three-fold appeal, from the “ruler

 of ten” to the “ruler of fifty” — from him to the “ruler of a hundred” — and from him

to the “ruler of a thousand.”  Whether there was an appeal from the last-named to Moses,

is doubtful. Probably there was not; Moses deciding those cases only which the “rulers

of thousands” reserved for him as being specially difficult or important.  And let

them judge the people at all seasons” - Instead of occasional court-days, on which

Moses sat from morning to evening hearing causes, judgments were to be given

continually by the rulers of tens, fifties, etc., the accumulation of untried causes being

thus avoided, and punishment following promptly on the committal of an offence.

(Ecclesiastes 8:11) – The elaborately minute organization was only suited for the

period of the wanderings, and was of a semi-military character, such as might have

suited an army on the march When the Israelites became settled dwellers in

Palestine, such a multiplicity of judges was unnecessary, and was discontinued

 and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every

small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall

bear the burden with thee.  If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee

so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their

place in peace.”  - cheerfully, contented -  So Moses hearkened to the voice of

his father in law, and did all that he had said.  And Moses chose able men out of

all Israel” - It appears from Deuteronomy 1:13, that instead of selecting the men

himself, which would have been an invidious task, Moses directed their nomination

by the people, and only reserved to himself the investing them with their authority -

and made them heads over the people” – the rulers were not merely judges, but

heads of their respective companies, with authority over them on the march, and

command in the battle-field (Numbers 31:14). Thus the organization was at once civil

and military – “rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers

of tens.”





Few positions in life are more important than that of the judge. Not only are the lives

and liberties of individual citizens at his disposal, but the very existence of the State

depends on him, since unless justice is in the main administered states fly to pieces. It

has been said that the whole elaborate machinery of the British Constitution has been

designed and arranged with the ultimate object of putting twelve honest men together

into a jury box.  (The United States of America has followed suit – CY – 2010)  Where

the functions to be discharged are so important, it is of the utmost moment that qualifications

should be laid down in theory, and strictly adhered to in practice. (The Spiritual Qualification

is that they are to be like God, the Judge of all the earth who only doth RIGHT!

[Genesis 18:25] – CY – 2010) -   Jethro saw that judges ought to be:


  • MEN OF ABILITY. Ordinary, common-place powers are not enough..

            “Non ex quovis ligno Mercurius fit.” Something above the average is

            necessary. Jethro thought one man in ten among the Israelites might

            possess sufficient intelligence and discrimination to judge the lowest class

            of causes, those of the least account. This was a somewhat sanguine

            estimate. In modern communities, which boast of their general

            enlightenment, considerably less than one-tenth of the citizens have their

            names inscribed upon the jury lists. The standard of intelligence however

            varies in different ages and countries, so that no hard-and-fast line can be

            laid down on the subject. All that can be insisted upon is this — the judge

            should be a person recognized to possess ability for his office, i.e., sagacity

            and practical discernment. If he has not these gifts, it is no use his

            possessing others, as learning, scholarship, artistic or scientific attainments.

            He will not be respected; no confidence will be felt in him; his decisions

            will carry no weight, and will injure rather than benefit the community.


  • MEN OF PIETY. “Provide out of all the people such as fear God,” said

            Jethro. It is greatly to be feared that this qualification is in modern times

            but slightly regarded. (Consider the lowly judges that have instituted the

            anti-christian policies of the American Civil Liberties Union – both their

            works will grow like the proverbial “initials on the tree” and posterity

            will view their foul contribution – and if not in this world – certainly

            God will take care of it in the Judgment – “I appeal to God” – CY –        

            2010)  How seldom do we hear it asked of any newly appointed

            judge — Is he a religious man? (this was written in the 18th century –

            CY – 2010)  And yet unless God is feared, there can be no security that

            justice will be done even by the judge of the greatest possible intelligence.

            (It is vain to expect mercy from someone who will not do justice – so says

            one of America’s early pamphleteers)  If a man be not God-fearing, he may

            allow prejudice, passion, even caprice to sway his judgments, he may

            gradually become like the “unjust judge,” who “feared not God neither       

            regarded man.”  (Luke 18:2)  Or, again, he may have to pronounce judgment

            in matters concerning religion, for such will often come before courts, and

            then what weight can he expect his decisions to have? (Thus today, the

            Ten Commandments, once housed in the Pulaski County, Kentucky

            Courthouse, are now relegated to a two-room school house at Pisgah

            elementary school – Pulaski County, KY – by one such judge as mentioned

            above – see photos below. – I attended this school in 1950-52 – I guess the

            local official got the last laugh as the Ten Commandments are in Pisgah

            School House – only problem is that it has been restored and children go

            to school there -  CY – 2010)  - It is a wise and venerable custom which makes

            it incumbent on our “judges of assize” to preface the opening of their

            commission in each assize town by attendance at Divine service and hearing of  

            God’s word preached by a minister of the Gospel. It would be still better if those          

            who nominate judges would follow Jethro’s counsel, (Can you envision certain

            Presidents of the USA doing this?  Look where it is leading us – Sodom and

            Gommorah – I recommend rejected Supreme Court Nominee, Robert Bork’s

            bookSLOUCHING TOWARDS GOMORRAH – and to think that we still

            have people in Washington in leadership positions that were major players

            in this travesty – CY – 2010) and take care in each instance to select for the




                                                 Pisgah School and Church


                        Pisgah SchoolPulaski County, Kentucky






(Places like this were contributors to the greatness of the USA – at church tonight a

man in a discussion about America’s gravitation towards socialism, said America’s

zenith was the 1950’s – I appeal to God to explain in great detail “America’s Decline

associated with America’s turning her back on Him and the roles of each of us in it!

CY – 2010)


(corrupt and liberal judges – con’t) - He will not be respected; no confidence will be

felt in him; his decisions will carry no weight, and will injure rather than benefit

the community.


  • MEN OF TRUTH. There can be no real piety without truthfulness, so

            that this qualification is, in fact, included in the last. But there is a

            semblance of piety which is not over-scrupulous with regard to truth, or

            pious frauds” would not have passed into a byword. Truth, the love of

            it, the honest desire to search it out, and make it manifest, is so essential a

            quality in a judge, that it deserves separate mention, and can never be

            dispensed with, whatever other qualifications a man may have. Let there be

            any suspicion of a man’s truthfulness, and then, whatever reputation for

            piety may attach to him, he is not fitted to be a judge, and ought not to be

            selected for the judge’s office.


  • MEN OF PROBITY who would scorn to take a bribe. The “corrupt

            judge is the opprobrium of debased nations, the disgrace of his calling, the

            destroyer of the state to which he belongs. In many ancient kingdoms

            corruption, when detected in a judge, was punished by instant execution.

            Where it has been regarded as venial and punished inadequately, as at

            Rome, society has rapidly deteriorated and a revolution has shortly

            supervened. We may congratulate ourselves that judges in our own country

            are not only incorrupt, but beyond suspicion, so far above taking a bribe

            that no one would dare to offer them one. (This speaking of England in

            the 1800’s – CY – 2010) - In the East, on the contrary, according to the

            universal testimony of travelers, it is scarcely possible to find the office of

            judge exercised by any one who is not notoriously open to corrupt influence,

            who does not expect, and is not anxious to receive, bribes. Among the Jews,    

            judicial corruption is first noticed among the sons of Samuel, who “turned

            aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment’’ (I Samuel 8:3).

            In the decline of the nation, the evil grew and increased, and is frequently          

            denounced by the prophets (Isaiah 1:23: Jeremiah 5:28; Ezekiel 22:27;

                        Micah 3:11; 7:3, etc.).



                                    THE DEPARTURE OF JETHRO


The time of Jethro’s departure, and indeed of his entire visit, has been matter of

controversy.  Kurtz is of opinion that Jethro waited till the news of Israel’s victory

over Amalek reached him, before setting out from his own country. Hence he

concludes, that “a whole month or more may easily have intervened between the

victory over Amalek and the arrival of Jethro,” whose arrival in that case “would

not even fall into the very earliest period of the sojourn at Sinai, but after the promulgation

of the first Sinaitic law.” Those who identify Hobab with Jethro find in Numbers 10:29-32

a proof that at any rate Jethro prolonged his visit until after the law was given, and

did not “depart to his own land” before the removal of the people from the wilderness

of Sinai to that of Paran, “in the 20th day of the second month of the second

year (ib, v. 11). The position, however, of ch. 18., together with its contents — both

what it says and what it omits — are conclusive against this view. Jethro started on

his journey when he heard “that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt(v. 1),

not when he heard that Israel had been victorious over Amalek. His conversation with

Moses (vs. 7-11) ranged over the entire series of deliverances from the night of the

departure out of Egypt to the Amalekite defeat, but contained no allusion to the

giving of the law. The occupation of Moses on the day after his arrival (v. 13) is

suitable to the quiet period which followed the Amalekite defeat, but not to the

exciting time of the Sinaitic manifestations. It may be added that the practice of inculcating

general principles on occasion of his particular judgments, of which  Moses speaks (v. 16),

is suitable to the period anterior to the promulgation of the law, but not to that following it. 

The argument from Numbers 10:29-32 fails altogether, so soon as it is seen that Jethro and

Hobab are distinct persons, probably brothers, sons of Reuel (or Raguel), and

brothers- in-law of Moses.




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