Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

Exodus 18


A.M. 2513. B.C. 1491.

This chapter is concerning Moses himself, and the affairs of his own family.

(1,) Jethro his father-in-law brings him his wife and children, Exodus 18:1-6 .

(2,) Moses entertains his father-in-law with great respect, Exodus 18:7 , with good discourse, Exodus 18:8-11 , with a sacrifice and a feast, Exodus 18:12 .

(3,) Jethro advised him about the management of his business as a judge in Israel, to take other judges in to his assistance, Exodus 18:13-23 , and Moses, after some time, takes his counsel, Exodus 18:24-26 . They part, Exodus 18:27 .

Verse 1

Exodus 18:1. Jethro, to congratulate the happiness of Israel, and particularly the honour of Moses his son-in-law, comes to rejoice with them, as one that had a true respect both for them and for their God: and also to bring Moses’s wife and children to him. It seems he had sent them back, probably from the inn where his wife’s unwillingness to have her son circumcised had like to have cost him his life, Exodus 4:25.

Verse 3

Exodus 18:3. The name of one was Gershom A stranger, designing thereby not only a memorial of his own condition, but a memorandum to his son of his, for we are all strangers upon earth.

Verse 4

Exodus 18:4. The name of the other was Eliezer My God a help: it looks back to his deliverance from Pharaoh, when he made his escape after the slaying of the Egyptian; but if this were the son that was circumcised in the inn, it would be better to translate it, The Lord is my help, and will deliver me from the sword of Pharaoh, which he had reason to expect would be drawn against him, when he was going to fetch Israel out of bondage.

Verse 11

Exodus 18:11. Now know I that JEHOVAH is greater than all gods That the God of Israel is greater than all pretenders All deities, that usurp divine honours: he silences and subdues them all, and is himself the only living and true God. He is also higher than all princes and potentates, who also are called gods, and has both an incontestible authority over them, and an irresistible power to control them; he manageth them all as he pleaseth, and gets honour upon them, how great soever they are. Now know I He knew it before, but now he knew it better; his faith grew up to a full assurance, upon this fresh evidence; for wherein they dealt proudly The magicians or idols of Egypt, or Pharaoh and his grandees, opposing God, and setting themselves up in competition with him; he was above them The magicians were baffled, Pharaoh humbled, his powers broken, and Israel rescued out of their hands.

Verse 12

Exodus 18:12. And Jethro took a burnt-offering for God And probably offered it himself, for he was a priest in Midian, and a worshipper of the true God, and the priesthood was not yet settled in Israel. And they did eat bread before God Soberly, thankfully, in the fear of God: and their talk was such as became saints. Thus we must eat and drink to the glory of God, as those that believe God’s eye is upon us.

Verse 13

Exodus 18:13. Moses sat to judge the people To answer inquiries; to acquaint them with the will of God in doubtful cases, and to explain the laws of God that were already given.

Verse 15

Exodus 18:15. The people came to inquire of God And happy was it for them that they had such an oracle to consult. Moses was faithful both to him that appointed him, and to them that consulted him, and made them know the statutes of God, and his laws His business was not to make laws, but to make known God’s laws: his place was but that of a servant.

Verses 16-17

Exodus 18:16-17. I judge between one another And if the people were as quarrelsome one with another as they were with God, he had many causes brought before him, and the more because their trials put them to no expense. Not good Not convenient either for thee or them.

Verses 19-23

Exodus 18:19-23. Be thou for them to God-ward That was an honour in which it was not fit any other should share with him. Also whatever concerned the whole congregation must pass through his hand, Exodus 18:20. But he appointed judges in the several tribes and families, which should try causes between man and man, and determine them, which would be done with less noise and more despatch than in the general assembly. Those whose gifts and stations are most eminent may yet be greatly furthered in their work by the assistance of those that are every way their inferiors. This is Jethro’s advice; but he adds two qualifications to his counsel. First, That great care should be taken in the choice of the persons who should be admitted into this trust; it was requisite that they should be men of the best character. 1st, For judgment and resolution, able men Men of good sense, that understood business; and bold men, that would not be daunted by frowns or clamours. 2d, For piety, such as fear God Who believe there is a God above them, that his eye is upon them, and that they are accountable to him, and who therefore stand in awe of his judgment. Conscientious men, that will not do a wrong thing, though they could do it never so secretly and securely. 3d, For honesty, men of truth Whose word one may take, and whose fidelity one may rely upon. 4th, For a generous contempt of worldly wealth; hating covetousness Not only not seeking bribes, or aiming to enrich themselves, but abhorring the thought of it. Secondly, That he should attend to God’s direction in the case, verse

23. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so Jethro knew that Moses had a better counsellor than he was, and to his counsel he refers him.

Verse 24

Exodus 18:24. So Moses hearkened unto the voice of his father-in-law When he came to consider the thing, he saw the reasonableness of it, and resolved to put it in practice, which he did soon after, when he had received directions from God. Those are not so wise as they would be thought to be, who think themselves too wise to be counselled; for “a wise man will hear and will increase learning,” and not slight good counsel, though given by an inferior.

Verse 27

Exodus 18:27. He went into his own land It is supposed the Kenites, mentioned 1 Samuel 15:6, were the posterity of Jethro, (compare Judges 1:16,) and they were taken under special protection, for the kindness their ancestor showed to Israel.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 18". Benson's Commentary. 1857.