The Second Book of Moses, Called Exodus

Chapter 18

Jethro brings his wife and two sons to Moses, 1-6. Moses entertains him and relates the goodness of the Lord, 7, 8. Jethro rejoices, blesses God, and offers sacrifice, 9-12. He gives good counsel, which is accepted, 13-26. Jethro departs, 27.

1 When Jethro the priest of Midian, Moses's father-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, 2 Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses's wife, after he had sent her back, 3 And her two sons, of which the name of one was Gershom (for he said, "I have been a foreigner in a strange land"), 4 And the name of the other was Eliezer ("For the God of my father," he said, "was my help and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh").

5 And Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses into the wilderness where he encamped at the mountain of God. 6 And he said to Moses, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, your wife, and her two sons with her have come to you." 7 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. 8 And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way and how the LORD delivered them. 9 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. 10 And Jethro said, "Blessed be the LORD who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, for in the thing in which they dealt proudly, he was above them." 12 And Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses's father-in-law before God.

13 And it came to pass on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood by Moses from the morning to the evening. 14 And when Moses's father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said, "What is this thing that you do to the people? Why do you sit yourself alone, and all the people stand by you from morning to evening?" 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a matter, they come to me, and I judge between one and another and make them know the statutes of God and his laws."

17 And Moses's father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you do is not good. 18 You will surely wear away, both you and this people who is with you, for this thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to perform it yourself alone. 19 Listen now to my voice, I will give you counsel, and God shall be with you. You represent the people toward God so that you may bring the causes to God, 20 And you shall teach them ordinances and laws and show them the way in which they must walk and the work that they must do. 21 Moreover, you shall provide out of all the people able men, those who fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place those over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all seasons. And it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge. So it shall be easier for yourself and they shall bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God commands you so, then you shall be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace."

24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all seasons. The hard causes they brought to Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. 27 And Moses let his father-in-law depart. And he went his way into his own land.


Matthew Henry Commentary - Exodus, Chapter 18


[v.10] - "Blessed be the LORD" - This may also be read as, "Praise the LORD."

[v.13] - Moses sitting as judge to the people is a type and shadow of Christ. See John 5:22-23.

[v.14-16] - In these verses, Moses is demonstrating another type of Christ. Moses was the mediator and the one to whom the people came to inquire of God. Now, Christ is our Mediator and no one can approach the Father, but by Christ. Reference, John 1:18, 14:6; 1st Timothy 2:5.

[v.17-23] - Jethro sees an issue with Moses being the only judge for all of Israel. Judging all of Israel will certainly cause Moses to wear away because the responsibility is too great for one man. Jethro offers Moses a solution to address the issue. Moses is to be over a sort of council made up of chosen God-fearing men and those men are to be judges for smaller groups of people. Smaller matters are to go to the judges and greater matters are to go to Moses. From John Calvin's Commentary: "Let all those, then, who are called on to be rulers of mankind know, that however diligently they may exercise their office, something still may be wanting, if the best plan that they adopt be brought to examination. Therefore let all, whether kings or magistrates, or pastors of the Church, know, that while they strain every nerve to fulfill their duties, something will always remain which may admit of correction and improvement. Here, too, it is worth while to remark, that no single mortal can be sufficient to do everything, however many and various may be the endowments wherein he excels. For who shall equal Moses, whom we have still seen to be unequal to the burden, when he undertook the whole care of governing the people? Let, then, God's servants learn to measure carefully their powers, lest they should wear out, by ambitiously embracing too many occupations. For this propensity to engage in too many things is a very common malady, and numbers are so carried away by it as not to be easily restrained. In order, therefore, that every one should confine himself within his own bounds, let us learn that in the human race God has so arranged our condition, that individuals are only endued with a certain measure of gifts, on which the distribution of offices depends. For as one ray of the sun does not illuminate the world, but all combine their operations as it were in one; likewise God, that He may retain men by a sacred and indissoluble bond in mutual society and good-will, unites one to another by variously dispensing His gifts, and not raising up any out of measure by his entire perfection. Therefore Augustine truly says that, God humbled His servant by this act; just as Paul reports, that buffetings were inflicted on him by the messenger of Satan, lest the grandeur of his revelations should exalt him too highly (2nd Corinthians 12:7)."

[v.21-22] - Note the similarities with how the twelve apostles handled a certain matter (Acts 6:2-4). Reference, 2nd Samuel 23:3.

[v.21] - Note the similarities in qualities for choosing elders and deacons. See 1st Timothy, ch. 3; Titus 1:5-9.

[v.24-26] - This hierarchy that Moses establishes may also be paralleled to how the Church should be structured. Reference, Acts 14:23.

[v.24] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "Those are not so wise as they would be thought to be who think themselves too wise to be counseled; for a wise man (one who is truly so) will hear, and will increase learning, and not slight good counsel, though given by an inferior."