Bible Commentaries
Exodus 18

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-27



Apparently Moses took his wife Zipporah and Gershom, his son, to Egypt when he returned there at God's call (ch.4:24-26). Likely his second son Eliezer, was born in Egypt, for we are told in this chapter (v.2) that "he (Moses) had sent her (Zipporah) back," evidently to stay with her parents until God set Israel free. Now Jethro, her father, hears of all that has taken place (v.1, and he comes with Zipporah and her two sons to meet Moses (vs.2-5). The meaning of the name of Eliezer ("my God is a help") seems to indicate that he was born during the time of Moses' contention with Pharaoh, for Moses said then that God had been his help in delivering him from the sword of Pharaoh (v.4).

Moses shows all due respect for his father in law, who was a priest of Midian (v.7). There is no suggestion of his being an idolatrous priest, and it may well be that he was more like Melchisedec, "who was priest of the Most High God" (Genesis 14:18). For God is able to preserve some true reverence for Himself, even outside of Israel.

When Moses told Jethro all that God had done in the judging of Pharaoh and Egypt in order to deliver Israel, and all the affliction through which Israel had been preserved (v.8), Jethro's response was one of ungrudging thankfulness and rejoicing. He gives every honor for this to the Lord. As Meichisedec said to Abram, "Blessed be Abram" and "Blessed be the Most High God" (Genesis 14:19-20), so Jethro says to Moses, "Blessed be the Lord" (v.11). Jethro also at this time offered a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, in which Aaron also and the elders of Israel showed evident fellowship in eating before the Lord with Jethro. Though Aaron was the high priest of Israel, yet he did not begrudge the fact that Jethro acted as priest in this case, but expressed fellowship with him in doing so.



The following day Moses spent the entire time in judging cases that had arisen among the people. There is no doubt that this was a wearing occupation, and Jethro immediately discerned this, questioning why Moses was called upon to sit "from morning till evening" in doing such work. Moses told him that this was necessary because the people desired answers from God in regard to their problems.

Jethro had a simple solution which had not evidently occurred to Moses. He tells Moses that this continual labor would wear him out, and the people too. Why not concentrate on representing God by publicly teaching God's statutes, while at the same time delegating authority to "able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain," who could judge minor disputes among the people, and bring matters of major importance to Moses? (v.22).

Moses no doubt considered this logical and wise, and acted on Jethro's advice. However, let us carefully consider this whole matter. Jethro said, "I will give you counsel, and God will be with you" (v.19). would it not be better to say, "God will give you counsel, and I will be with you?" He was so sure of his own counsel that he did not advise Moses to ask counsel of God. Moreover, Moses himself ought to have had concern to first ask God's counsel. If God intended Moses to do all the work himself, He would certainly give him strength for it. Another principle is seen here also. By this division of authority the people would have a less direct contract with the supreme ruler. Do we today not need to take all of our trying matters directly to the Lord Jesus? To introduce intermediate authority is the very principle of legality, which allows people to be content to remain at a distance from the Lord. This provides a moral reason for the introduction of law, beginning with Chapter 19.

However, shining above any failure on Moses' part is the typical significance of this occurrence. For here is the typically heavenly priest (Christ) giving counsel as to the administration of the earthly kingdom. His joy, and that of Zipporah (picturing the Church) would suggest also Gentile recognition of Israel's deliverance from the tribulation of the last days. How striking a history this is to illustrate God's great sovereignty in using even man's failure in responsibility to bring greater glory to His name!

Jethro remained only long enough to see his advice followed with the appointment of able men as rulers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens (vs.26-27). This organization surely seems plausible and convenient; and no doubt Jethro left with the persuasion that he had done a valuable service to Moses. He had not before suffered along with Israel, and had no intention of remaining with them to share their future sufferings. How different is the priestly work of the Lord Jesus, who remains with His own in all their trials and afflictions!

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 18". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.