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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 18

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-27

Chapter 18

Now when Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law ( Exodus 18:1 ),

But the same Hebrew word could be translated "brother-in-law", for we remember earlier, he was called "Reuel"; the father-in-law of Moses was called Reuel. So it could be that this is Jethro another name for "Reuel", or it could be that Jethro is actually Moses' wife's brother. But he was a priest of Midian. As I say the word "father-in-law" could also be translated "brother-in-law" from the Hebrew.

he heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt; Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back ( Exodus 18:1-2 ).

Now you remember when Moses was coming out with his wife Zipporah when God first called Moses to go deliver the children of Israel and Moses was heading down towards Egypt, and the Lord met Moses and almost killed him? So Zipporah knew what was going on. She quickly circumcised their boy, and she actually accused Moses of being a bloody man, and so forth.

Evidently at that point they-it wasn't a pleasant scene. I mean it was quite a tiff between them. Evidently Moses just sent her back to her dad. "You go back to your dad, I'm heading on down to do my work in Egypt." So Zipporah his wife didn't accompany him, nor his two sons Gershom and Eliezer. But now as he is come back into the area of Midian, Jethro comes out and brings his wife and his two sons. "Zipporah Moses' wife,"

And the two sons; of which the name of one was Gershom; and the other was Eliezer; Gershom meaning a stranger, and Eliezer is the God is my help. And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where they encamped at the mount of God: And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. Moses went out to meet his father in law, and he bowed to him, and kissed him; and they asked each other how everything was going; and they came into the tent. And Moses told his father in law all that the LORD had done unto 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. And Jethro rejoiced for all of the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of the Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them ( Exodus 18:3-11 ).

That is, where the Egyptians were so proud, God was greater than they were and their gods.

And Jethro, [God is greater. Remember God said He was bringing the attacks against the gods of Egypt. So Jehovah is greater than all the gods, that is the gods of Egypt, "And Jethro",] Moses' father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father in law before God. 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 till the evening ( Exodus 18:12-13 ).

Now Jethro built an altar and he offered a sacrifice, a burnt offering to God. Now he was a priest, but he wasn't of the children of Israel. So other people knew God and worshiped God, who were not the children of Israel in those days, Jethro being one of them. He was a priest of God.

Now the next day the people came into Moses with their problems, and from morning till evening they brought their cases to Moses for him to determine and for him to decide. "This guy borrowed my shovel and he didn't bring it back." or "He broke the handle." So Moses would say, "Okay you get him a new handle, or fix the handle." All day long Moses was interfacing for these people. Giving judgment to them and so forth.

And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this that you do to the people? why do you sit alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning till evening? And Moses said unto his father in law, [Imagine there were six hundred thousand adult males, and so they were a big crowd, "Moses said to his father in law",] Because the people come to me to inquire of God: And when they have a matter, they come to me; and I judge between one another, and do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses' father in law said unto him, That's not good. You're gonna wear yourself out Moses, both you and the people that are with you: for this thing is too heavy for you; you're not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God will be with you: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that you may bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shall show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place over them such, to be the rulers over the thousands, over the hundreds, and over the tens ( Exodus 18:14-21 ):

So he's saying, "Hey Moses, hey you're gonna kill yourself, man, trying to keep up that heavy schedule. You can't do it. So it isn't right that you just wear yourself out in doing it. So you need to get other men to help you with this thing. Now you teach the people the ordinances and statutes of God. But pick out men over the thousands, and over the hundreds, and over the tens, and let them bring their cases to these men. Let them do the judgments. You teach them what the judgments and statutes of God are, and let them handle these matters. Then in the areas where they can't handle them-" Moses more or less became the Supreme Court so that every case wasn't brought to Moses, but just those that could not be handled by those men under him.

Quite often when you have a person of Moses' caliber and strong leadership, that he becomes overburdened with things that actually don't always pertain to just the leadership. It's possible for you to find yourself so engaged in little non-essential things that you really don't have time to do the essentials.

Now life has to be made up of priorities. We must determine what is most important and then we've got to do the most important things. It's easy to find yourself majoring in the minors, and spending so much time in minor issues of, of no count, that you really don't have the energy and the strength for the major things.

I believe that Satan likes to wear people out on piddling little things. Sometimes I get involved in a project, and I enjoy doing mechanical things. I enjoy working on mechanical things. But I have found that there is-I think they call it Murphy's law: "If anything can go wrong it will". Sometimes you're just tightening a bolt, and you think, "Well I'll give it just a little bit more, you know I want to make it good and snug", and you snap the thing. You know, you can waste all kinds of time trying to get a stud out that you've snapped off in a block. You find yourself working for an hour and a half just because you wanted to give it an extra little tug and cinch it down. I think of all that wasted time just for the sake of cinch down. Oh, help.

You find yourself sometimes involved in things. Thus you've got to lay out your time and your priorities, and what is really and truly important, and lay out your priorities so that you're not spending all of your time in issues where someone else could just as easily handle them.

Now this came up in the early church. They began to lay upon the apostles all of the decision-making processes. The church had a welfare program, and they were distributing to the widows in the church. Those widows that had a Grecian cultural background felt that the widows who had a Jewish cultural background were getting a better deal. They were getting favoritism when they were doling out the church's welfare program.

So they came to the apostles and said, "That's not fair. The Grecians aren't getting the same deal as the Hebrews." They wanted the apostles to, to move in, and to do something. They said, "Hey, let's appoint men who are full of the Holy Ghost who could report" and wisdom and so forth, "that they might take care of the waiting on of tables, because it isn't right for us to leave the Word of God and prayer, to wait on tables."

But I think of how many ministers have been forced to leave the Word of God and prayer, in order to wait on tables. Demands are being made upon the ministers that really a minister shouldn't have to fulfill. As a young minister in a small church, you'd be amazed at the things the people ask you to do. "Can you come over and pick me up, and take me to the store?" You become a taxi cab. You find yourself a handyman, and you find yourself doing all kinds of things that really don't pertain to the true ministry of the Word of God and prayer. In fact, I oftentimes found myself so involved in doing these other things that I didn't have time for the Word of God and prayer, and thus the people suffered.

Now with a church this large you could imagine the demands that are made upon our time. How many times people will call and say, well they'll only speak to Chuck. They don't want to speak to anybody else. They've been watching him on TV you know, "and if he'll come and talk to them, I know they'll get saved." "Well here's a guy that's dying and he needs to have the Lord", and you get hundreds of these calls. If we tried to go around and to minister to everyone who called for us, we would never have time for the Word of God and prayer. We don't have enough time for it now. So you've got to establish priorities. You've got to do just what is truly the most important thing that God has called you to do.

Now God has called men to various ministries within the body, and God has anointed some men for the ministries of counseling, and has anointed others for the ministry of health, and has anointed others for the ministry of government. And it's a blessed church that has the various ministries functioning within the church, so that all of the demands aren't placed upon one person to do everything.

Moses' father-in-law said, "Hey man you're gonna kill yourself. Not even taking time out to rest. All day long these people are standing here. You don't have time to really wait upon God." So he offered a solution to Moses.

Now the interesting thing to me is the qualifications that they required of the men. First of all,

Men that fear God, men of truth, and men who hate covetousness ( Exodus 18:21 );

Hey if you can get men like that, you can allow them to do almost anything, men who first of all have a real fear of God or a reverence of God. You know there are some people, I'm sure, from their actions, they don't even reverence God. They don't even consider God at all. I think that some of these evangelists and all, this Reverend Ike, there has to be no fear of God in that man, no fear of the judgment. The big hype that he puts on you have to realize that the guy has no fear of God or else he could never do the things he is doing.

This isn't just true of him, but it's true of many, many men who are involved in ministries. If you really look at their lives, it's just one big hype, and you have to realize, "Hey these people, what they lack is a real fear of God." To realize that some day they're gonna have to stand before God and give an account for these things. Boy, I'll tell you that, that is something that really weighs upon me. The Bible says, "Be not many masters, knowing you're gonna receive the greater condemnation" ( James 3:1 ).

So being a teacher of the Word of God puts you in a very precarious position, because someday you're gonna have to answer to God for your teaching. That's why I do my best to just stick to the Word of God and when the Word of God speaks on an issue, I'll speak on it. When the Word of God is silent, I try to be silent. I don't want to say more than what the Word of God actually says. Because the teachers are gonna be in greater condemnation. But there are some who have no fear of God, because they're saying all kinds of wild, weird things that are even contrary to the Word of God. And so you just know they really don't fear God. They don't have the fear of judgment in their hearts.

Secondly, "they were men of truth" and thirdly, "hating covetousness". Men, who really had no ambitions for themselves, hating covetousness, these were the men who were chosen.

And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter that they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge: so it is easier for you, and they shall bear the burden with you. And if you shall do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all of these people shall also go to their place in peace. [So, "God commands you to do it."] So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did as he said. And Moses chose able men out of all of Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers over the thousands, rulers over the hundreds, fifties, and over the tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought to Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land ( Exodus 18:22-27 ).

So evidently Moses' wife and children stayed with him at this point, and his father returned home, father-in-law. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 18". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/exodus-18.html. 2014.
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