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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Exodus 18

Verses 1-6

EXODUS - CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Verses 1-6:

Shortly after the circumcision of his son (Ex 4:20-26), Moses likely sent Zipporah and their sons back to live with her father. In Ex 3:1, Zipporah’s father is called Reuel. In the present text he is called Jethro. (See comments on Ex 4:18).

Following Israel’s victory over Amalek, Jethor brought Zipporah and her two sons to meet Moses, at the "mount of God." This was likely in the plain Er-Rahah, near Sinai. There is no mention in Scripture that Moses had "dismissed" his wife and sons. It is assumed that the readers were aware of this fact.

Moses showed his faith in the names he gave his two sons. "Gershom" denots that Moses was a stranger in the land where his son was born (see Ex 2:22). "Eliezer" means "my God is my help." This was Moses’ acknowledgment that Jehovah had delivered him from Pharaoh.

Custom of the day implies that Jethro sent a messenger to inform Moses of his arrival.

Verses 7-12

Verses 7-12:

Moses’ meeting with Jethro conformed to Oriental protocol Moses not only "went out to, meet" Jethro, he "did obeisance" to him, acknowledging Jethro as his superior. This was Moses’ recognition of Jethro’s parental authority.

Moses took Jethro to his tent. There he recounted all the things God had done in delivering Israel. As a priest of God, Jethro rejoiced at the evident working of God in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. He pronounced a benediction of praise to Jehovah for His mighty power.

In his role as priest, Jethro offered a burnt offering and sacrifices to God. Aaron and Israel’s elders came to join in the festive meal.

Verses 13-16

Verses 13-16:

Moses considered himself obligated to hear and judge the complaints which arose among the people of Israel. He had delegated this to no one, but reserved this duty to himself alone. This required his time from morning to evening. At the time of this text, he may have been heavily involved in settling disputes arising over the distribution of the spoils from the Amalekite victory.

Verses 17-23

Verses 17-23:

Moses’ practice seemed unwise to Jethro. He chided Moses, that if he continued this, he would soon wear himself away, and all the people would be discouraged as well. He proposed a three-fold course:

1. Moses should continue to serve as mediator between God and Israel.

2. He would teach Israel the ordinances (specific statues) and laws (general commands) of God.

3. He would divide the people into groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and set up an organizational structure of judges over each group.

The lesser judges would hear and settle the minor matters. If they were unable to arrive at a solution, they would then appeal the case to Moses.

Although Jethro offered these provisions on the condition that God approve, there is no indication that his advice was from God. On the contrary, it appeared to be merely a practical solution of political expediency.

Verses 24-26

Verses 24-26:

Moses did as his father-in-law suggested. There is no hint that he sought the mind of God in this matter. While it may have appeared this was a practical solution to a knotty problem, this solution was based upon human wisdom, not upon Divine direction. Instead of its being a solution, it created more problems.

Jehovah had commissioned Moses to lead and judge the people.

The first two parts of Jethro’s’ plan recognized this, and caused no problem. The third part of the plan was the addition to God’s provision. Implementation of this provision brought a division of authority, and caused problems later (Mt 6:24). This could have contributed to the rebellion of Miriam and Aaron (Nu 12:1-13), and to that of Korah (Nu 16:1-35).

The judicial system of Israel grew from this arrangement, in later years, resulting in the formation of the Sanhedrin Court. It was this court that pronounced the death sentence upon Jesus, and was later responsible for the death of Stephen.

This is a reminder that men always get into trouble when they did add to the plan and provision of God.

Verse 27

Verse 27:

The text implies that Jethro started his journey to meet Moses, on hearing of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. He likely spent some time visiting with him, and then returned to his home, prior to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 18". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-18.html. 1985.