Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Exodus 18:1-27. Visit of Jethro.
Jethro came unto Moses, etc. — It is thought by many eminent commentators that this episode is inserted out of its chronological order, for it is described as occurring when the Israelites were “encamped at the mount of God.” And yet they did not reach it till the third month after their departure from Egypt (Exodus 19:1, Exodus 19:2; compare Deuteronomy 1:6, Deuteronomy 1:9-15).
and thy wife, and her two sons — See Exodus 4:20.
Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, etc. — Their salutations would be marked by all the warm and social greetings of Oriental friends (see on Exodus 4:27) - the one going out to “meet” the other, the “obeisance,” the “kiss” on each side of the head, the silent entrance into the tent for consultation; and their conversation ran in the strain that might have been expected of two pious men, rehearsing and listening to a narrative of the wonderful works and providence of God.
Jethro took a burnt offering — This friendly interview was terminated by a solemn religious service - the burnt offerings were consumed on the altar, and the sacrifices were peace offerings, used in a feast of joy and gratitude at which Jethro, as priest of the true God, seems to have presided, and to which the chiefs of Israel were invited. This incident is in beautiful keeping with the character of the parties, and is well worthy of the imitation of Christian friends when they meet in the present day.
on the morrow Moses sat to judge the people, etc. — We are here presented with a specimen of his daily morning occupations; and among the multifarious duties his divine legation imposed, it must be considered only a small portion of his official employments. He appears in this attitude as a type of Christ in His legislative and judicial characters.
the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening, etc. — Governors in the East seat themselves at the most public gate of their palace or the city, and there, amid a crowd of applicants, hear causes, receive petitions, redress grievances, and adjust the claims of contending parties.
is not good — not good either for Moses himself, for the maintenance of justice, or for the satisfaction and interests of the people. Jethro gave a prudent counsel as to the division of labor [Exodus 18:21, Exodus 18:22 ], and universal experience in the Church and State has attested the soundness and advantages of the principle.
If thou shalt do this thing, etc. — Jethro‘s counsel was given merely in the form of a suggestion; it was not to be adopted without the express sanction and approval of a better and higher Counsellor; and although we are not informed of it, there can be no doubt that Moses, before appointing subordinate magistrates, would ask the mind of God, as it is the duty and privilege of every Christian in like manner to supplicate the divine direction in all his ways.
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