Exodus Chapter 18

Jethro’s Visit

    • Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about how God had used Moses to rescue the Israelites from Egypt.

      • Remember Jethro is also called by the name Reuel. It is not unusual in the Bible for men to be known by more than one name.

      • Guzik writes, “Jethro was the priest of Midian – likely a descendant of one of Abraham’s other children through Keturah named Midian (Genesis 25:1-2). Because of this connection with Abraham, we have good reason to believe he was a true priest, and worshiped the true God.”

    • Zipporah and her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer (Moses’ wife and two sons), had been with Jethro since Moses had sent them back to live with him.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Moses had apparently sent his wife and children back from Egypt at some point to stay with his father-in-law. In the intense confrontation with Pharaoh, Moses might have been afraid for their lives.”

    • Jethro, Zipporah, Gershom, and Eliezer set out to meet Moses in the wilderness and they caught up with him while Moses and the Israelites were camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent a message ahead to Moses, so he knew they were coming.

      • Time out!! Some scholars say this verse detailing Moses being reunited with Jethro, his wife, and his sons is most likely out of its chronological order. It isn’t of much importance one way or the other, but I wanted to make you aware in case you ever hear it mentioned as a biblical inconsistency. Adam Clarke deals with this subject extensively in his commentary on Exodus chapter 18. I’ll give you the top three reasons Clarke believes these verses aren’t chronological (there are more, but these are the primary reasons):

              1. This verse says that they met Moses while he was camped near the mountain of God (Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai). Yet, Exodus 19:1-2 states that Moses and the Isrealites did not come to Mount Horeb until 3 months after they had left Egypt. The things that are described in this account, however, occurred during the second month since the Israelites left Egypt, according to Exodus 16:1.

              2. In Deuteronomy 1:6,9,10, 12-15, Moses says that it was when they were about to leave Horeb (on the 20th day of the 2nd month of the 2nd year from levaing Egypt) that he set up the judges and captains over the people because they were too numerous and he couldn’t bear the burden. This is the very advice that Jethro gives to Moses in this conversation.

              3. In this discussion between Moses and Jethro, Moses talks about the laws and statutes of the Lord as if they had already been given (Exodus 18:16), which we know did not occur until several months after the events discussed in the previous chapters.

    • When they arrived, Moses went out to meet Jethro. He welcomed him and brought him into his tent where he recounted everything the Lord had done to the Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel.

    • After hearing this Jethro said, “Praise the Lord for rescuing the Israelites from the Egyptians! Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods.”

    • Then Jethro prepared a burnt offering and sacrifices to God, and Aaron and all the elders of Israel came and ate a meal together with him in the presence of God.

    • The next day, Jethro saw Moses sit down to hear all the people’s disputes among one another from morning until night and he asked Moses, “What is this accomplishing? Why are you trying to handle all of this yourself when it takes up all of your time?”

      • “It wasn’t that Moses was unfit to hear their disputes; it wasn’t that he didn’t care about their disputes; it wasn’t that the job was beneath him, and it wasn’t that the people didn’t want Moses to hear their disputes. The problem was simply that the job was too big for Moses to do. His energies were spent unwisely, and justice was delayed for many in Israel.” (Guzik)

    • Moses answered, “The people come to me to get a ruling from God on how to settle their disputes. I teach them God’s statutes and laws.”

    • Jethro said, “This is not good for anyone. You’re going to wear yourself out and these people too because this is too large of a job for one man. Let me give you some advice. You continue to be the people’s representative to God bringing their disputes to Him and teaching the people God’s instructions and decrees, but select a group of able, honest, God-fearing men and place them as the heads over groups of 1,000, 100, 50, and 10. They can take care of the smaller matters and bring only the difficult cases to you. This way you’ll be able to satisfy everyone without wearing yourself out.”

    • Moses listened to Jethro and followed his advice. Then Moses said good-bye to Jethro and he went back home to Midian.

      • “God taught Moses by someone from the outside, and Moses listened. Moses wisely followed Jethro’s counsel, and surely this extended his ministry and made him more effective.” (Guzik)

      • “It is better to set a hundred men to work than to do the work of a hundred men.” (D.L. Moody)