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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Exodus 18



Verse 1

Exodus 18:1 When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ 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;

Ver. 1. Heard of all.] And thereby was converted, say the Rabbis, being the first proselyte to the Jewish Church that we read of in the Scripture.

Verse 2

Exodus 18:2 Then Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back,

Ver. 2. After he had sent her back.] Because she was troublesome with her peevishness, and a hindrance to the good work in hand. [Exodus 4:25-26] Sulla felix fuisset ni uxorem duxisset; Adrianus ni imperitasset; Moses, both.

Verse 3

Exodus 18:3 And her two sons; of which the name of the one [was] Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:

Ver. 3. In a strange land.] {See Trapp on "Exodus 2:22"}

Verse 4

Exodus 18:4 And the name of the other [was] Eliezer; for the God of my father, [said he, was] mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:

Ver. 4. Eliezer.] Or, Lazarus. We should write God’s mercies upon the names of our children, or some other ways perpetuate the memory of them.

Verse 5

Exodus 18:5 And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:

Ver. 5. At the mount of God.] Horeb; whither they were removed from Rephidim, though the remove be not mentioned.

Verse 6

Exodus 18:6 And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.

Ver. 6. And he said.] That is, Sent him word. So God’s messages to us are to be received as his own immediate words; "He that heareth you, heareth me."

Verse 7

Exodus 18:7 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.

Ver. 7. And did obeisance.] Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor, would, in Westminster Hall, beg his father’s blessing on his knees.

Verse 8

Exodus 18:8 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.

Ver. 8. All that the Lord had done.] It is not enough to relate God’s mercies to us in the lump, and by wholesale; but we must instance the particulars both to God and men.

That had come upon them.] Heb., Had found them; yet not without a providence. [Job 5:6] God cuts us out our various conditions: it is his hand that finds us when we suffer aught.

Verse 9

Exodus 18:9 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.

Ver. 9. And Jethro rejoiced.] So must all Sion’s sons. [Isaiah 66:10]

Verse 10

Exodus 18:10 And Jethro said, Blessed [be] the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.

Ver. 10. And Jethro said, &c.] Cheerfulness makes thankfulness. [Luke 1:46 James 5:13]

Verse 11

Exodus 18:11 Now I know that the LORD [is] greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly [he was] above them.

Ver. 11. Now I know.] {See Trapp on "Exodus 18:1"} So the people knew that Jehovah was God. [1 Kings 18:37] See 2 Chronicles 33:13.

He was above them.] God sits in the heavens, [Psalms 2:4] where he sees that their day is coming; [Psalms 37:13] and meanwhile scorneth these scorners; [Proverbs 3:34] frights them, as he did those Syrians; [2 Kings 7:6] overawes them, as he did Laban; diverts them, as he did Saul, Sennacherib, &c., or otherwise defeats them, as he did Benhadad, disclosing their counsels, blasting their designs, &c.

Verse 12

Exodus 18:12 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.

Ver. 12. Before God,] i.e., As in his presence, with reverence and godly fear. "To feed without fear" is a foul fault. [ 1:12] See my "Commonplace of Abstinence."

Verse 13

Exodus 18:13 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.

Ver. 13. And the people stood by Moses.] Being haply, as the French are said to be, very litigious; and thereunto abusing Moses’s lenity: whereas had they been soundly whipped, - as among Mohammedans they are, that go to law for light matters, - there would have been but few and short suits amongst them. Sure it is, that if men’s hearts were not bigger than their suits, there would not be half so many.

Verse 14

Exodus 18:14 And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What [is] this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?

Ver. 14. What is this thing?] A man by good counsel may become an angel; nay, a god to another. Alexander, being requested by some ambassadors to show them his treasures, showed them his faithful counsellors.

Verse 15

Exodus 18:15 And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God:

Ver. 15. To inquire of God.] For a divine sentence is in the mouth of the Judge: therefore also the place of judicature is called the holy place. [Ecclesiastes 8:10] Let those that go to law inquire of God, and rest in his will.

Verse 16

Exodus 18:16 When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make [them] know the statutes of God, and his laws.

Ver. 16. When they have a matter.] In our ordinary suits there is, for the most part, more malice than matter. The late Judge Dier, if there came any such trifling controversies to be tried before him, would usually say, that either the parties are wilful, or their neighbours without charity; because their suits were not quietly compromised.

Verse 17

Exodus 18:17 And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest [is] not good.

Ver. 17. Is not good.] We commonly say, He that receives a courtesy, sells his liberty. But so did not Jethro.

Verse 18

Exodus 18:18 Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that [is] with thee: for this thing [is] too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.

Ver. 18. Thou wilt surely wear away.] Heb., Fading, thou wilt fade; as a leaf that wanteth moisture. Melancthon was wont to say, that none laboured so hard as travailing women, magistrates, and ministers. Politici et Ecelesiastici labores maximi sunt, saith Luther. Atterunt enim corpus, et tanquam ex imis medullis exhauriunt succum.

Verse 19

Exodus 18:19 Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:

Ver. 19. I will give thee counsel.] A Midianite counsels Moses: God hereby teacheth him humility.

Verse 20

Exodus 18:20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.

Ver. 20. And thou shalt teach them ordinances.] This alone will be work enough for thee, if done as it ought to be.

And shalt show them the way wherein they must walk.] The Chaldee Paraphrast hath it thus, And shalt show them the prayer which they shall pray in their synagogues.

Verse 21

Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place [such] over them, [to be] rulers of thousands, [and] rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

Ver. 2l. Out of all the people.] Magistrates must be drained from the dregs, sifted from the bran of the ordinary sort of people.

Able men.] Able and active; strong and stouthearted; wealthy also, and well grounded. See Jethro’s Justice of Peace, - a sermon by Mr Sam. Ward.

Verse 22

Exodus 18:22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, [that] every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear [the burden] with thee.

Ver. 22. So shall it be easier, &c.] How thankless is their labour that do wilfully overspend themselves in their ordinary vocations!

Verse 23

Exodus 18:23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee [so], then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.

Ver. 23. To their place.] To the Promised Land, or to their own homes, well apaid, and with good content.

Verse 24

Exodus 18:24 So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.

Ver. 24. So Moses hearkened.] Of a meek man it is said that a child shall lead him: [Isaiah 11:6] how much more so grave a counsellor as Jethro! Augustus, ταις παρρησιαις των φιλων υπερεχαιρε, was overjoyed with the plain dealings of his friends and counsellors; as of Mecaenas. (a)

Verse 25

Exodus 18:25 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.

Ver. 25. And Moses chose.] Not without the people’s consent. [Deuteronomy 1:13-14]

Verse 27

Exodus 18:27 And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land.

Ver. 27. Into his own land.] An honest man’s heart is the place where his calling is: such a one when he is abroad is like a fish in the air; whereinto if it leap for recreation or necessity, yet it soon returns to its own element.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Exodus 18:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

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Saturday, January 25th, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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