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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Exodus 18

Verses 1-12

Jethro Visits Moses

Jethro heard what God had done for Moses and his people. This was the reason he went to Moses with his daughter, the wife of Moses, and their two sons. The meeting at the mountain of God was very warm. They ask each other how things are going. That is often the first question we ask, yet we may not even wait for an answer, or quickly answer that things are going ‘well’. When the question is answered with a longer, more substantial reply, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by it. It is important to show a genuine interest in each other and to take time to do so. This requires trust that behind the question of how things are going there is real interest and not just formality.

After exchanging their mutual personal circumstances, they go ‘into the house’. There Moses testifies of all the dealings of the LORD for the benefit of his people. Jethro rejoices at this and praises the LORD. He acknowledges that the God of Israel is exalted above all gods. He offers a sacrifice and eats with the Israelites before God. It is wonderful to see that the subject of the conversation is the LORD’s goodness to Israel and that its effect is that He is honored. These are really uplifting conversations.

That is how our conversations should be, with (also) that effect. Surely, we can also tell about the goodness of the Lord that we have experienced in our redemption and all His care for us afterwards, can’t we? This fellowship experienced will lead to expressions of joy and gratitude in which others also participate, and above all, God is honored. He is present and rejoicing.

With this meeting the first part of this book ends. Many expositors see in this scene a prophetic reference to the joy of Christ (Moses) which He shares with the nations (Jethro) and the people of Israel (Aaron with all the elders of Israel) at the beginning of the kingdom of peace.

The prophetic application we also see in the absence of the wife of Moses during the liberation of Israel. In the same way, the church will not be on earth in the time of the great tribulation that will come upon Israel. And just as the church will share in the joy of the liberation of Israel, so Zipporah now appears again on stage.

Both sons are mentioned and also the meaning of their names. Gershom means ‘sojourner ‘. He reminds us by his name that Christ, like Moses, was a Sojourner on earth, just as the church is now. But in this difficult position Moses has been sure of the help of God, which is indicated in the name Eliëzer – that is, ‘God is my help’.

Besides the prophetic application there is also a practical application to make. If the Lord Jesus has shown His salvation in our lives, it will be noticed by others. How wonderful it is then when we can tell those others about this, so that they too would become worshippers of Him.

Verses 13-27

Jethro Suggests Delegation of Tasks

While Moses has his family visiting him, he continues his work. The people who need him stand before him. He is accessible to everyone. He is the servant of them all. But it is a long queue. On the second day of his visit Jethro sees Moses at work. The scope of the work leads Jethro to give Moses a suggestion to lighten his heavy load. He proposes that Moses should delegate tasks, while Moses himself is available for the difficult things and also represents the people before God.

This proposal is accepted by Moses. He appoints men of ability as heads over the people. These men are always available when there is a problem that needs to be addressed. He himself continues to handle the difficult cases.

The prophetic application is that the Lord Jesus in the reign of the kingdom of peace, involves others in His reign. According to their degree of faithfulness, the believers are given authority over a number of cities (Luke 19:16-Psalms :).

The question has been asked whether Moses had to accept Jethro’s proposal. According to Jethro, the task is too heavy for Moses. According to his judgment, Moses, if he continues like this, will become exhausted. Has God Himself not been able to make this clear to Moses? Jethro is not of the people. Nor does he go with the people (Exodus 18:27).

Although Jethro says in Exodus 18:23 that Moses should only respond to his proposal if “God [so] commands you,” the following verse speaks only of Moses doing according to what his father-in-law has recommended. We do not read about a commandment from God to act like this.

But it is also possible that God has used Jethro to introduce an order in the government of Israel. In connection with the prophetic application that has been made above, this is also a possibility. Jethro also says what kind of men should assist Moses. They must
1. be able, men with sound and determined judgment.
2. be God-fearing, men who act out of respect for God, to whom they are ultimately accountable in their jurisdiction.
3. be reliable, men who speak the truth.
4. hate dishonest gain, men who are not bribable, who do not accept handouts.

The description of these qualities shows that Jethro has insight into who can assist Moses. He recommends that Moses discuss it with God and only do it if God commands him to do so. We can assume that Moses did the same. The fact that no mention is made of a commandment from God does not necessarily mean that God has not given His permission. Moses is a man who lives in communion with God.

We can apply the qualities required by Jethro to the ministry of the shepherds in the church (cf. 1 Peter 5:2-Leviticus :). In a broader application we see that God Himself has given different tasks or gifts in the church. He “has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (1 Corinthians 12:18). He did so in a way that “the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:25). It is important to point this out to each other, so that everything is not done by just a few.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 18". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/exodus-18.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.