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Organizing the administration (18:1-27)
As the Israelites approached Sinai, Moses’ wife and children joined him. (He had apparently sent them back to Midian for safety during the time of his conflict with Pharaoh.) With them came Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, now a believer in the God of Israel (18:1-12).
Moses had a heavy responsibility in leading the people and dealing with their troubles, and Jethro soon saw that it was wearing him out. Up till then, the people brought all their disputes to Moses, and they accepted his decisions as the laws of God. Jethro suggested that the time had come for a more organized system of administration, with responsible men appointed to assist Moses. These could look after the simple everyday cases, leaving only the more difficult cases for Moses. This would relieve the pressure on Moses and at the same time benefit the people, for they too were becoming worn out because of the long delays in waiting for cases to be heard (13-23). Moses saw the worth of Jethro’s advice and put it into practice. Meanwhile Jethro returned home (24-27).
Now that others were to assist Moses in judging the people, a set of laws became necessary. The judges needed some recognized standard if they were to give fair judgments. God therefore gave ten commandments (Chapter 20) as the basic principles that were to underlie the whole law. These were probably the principles that Moses had used as his unwritten standard all the time. The miscellaneous laws that follow (Chapters 21-23, known as the Book of the Covenant) were based on these principles. They were probably taken from cases that Moses had already judged and were now confirmed as being acceptable laws for the future.
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Exodus 18". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent