Notes for November 16, 1991, added to September 5 - , 1992
September 12, 1996

Exodus 18

Instead of placing Keil's opening remarks about chapter 18 under Gleanings from others at the end, it is important enough to place here at the start.

The Amalekites had met Israel with hostility, as the prototype of the heathen who would strive against the people and kingdom of God. But Jethro, the Midianitish priest, appeared immediately after in the camp of Israel, not only as Moses' father-in-law, to bring back his wife and children, but also with a joyful acknowledgment of all that Jehovah had done to the Israelites in delivering them from Egypt, to offer burnt-offerings to the God of Israel, and to celebrate a sacrificial meal with Moses, Aaron, and all the elders of Israel; so that in the person of Jethro the first-fruits of the heathen, who would hereafter seek the living God, entered into religious fellowship with the people of God. As both the Amalekites and Midianites were descended from Abraham, and stood in blood-relationship to Israel, the different attitudes which they assumed towards the Israelites foreshadowed and typified the twofold attitude which the heathen world would assume toward the kingdom of God. pg. 83.

And so says Edersheim:

If the attack of Amalek represented the hostility of the world to the kingdom of God, the visit of Jethro, which followed Israel's victory, equally symbolised the opposite tendency... Thus Jethro may be regarded as a kind of firstfruits unto God from among the Gentiles, and his homage as an anticipating fulfilment of the promise; (Isa 2:3) pg. 104.

Vs. 1-6. The first division

Moses' father in law comes to him. Evidently Jethro was a worshiper of the true God of Heaven, because he offered burnt offerings and sacrifices, v. 12.

V. 1, the reason Jethro comes is because he heard of the goodness of the Lord for Moses and for Israel.

V. 2, Moses' wife must have been something. Maybe he sent her back so he could devote everything he had to doing what he was called to do, or maybe he sent her back because of the "pain" she was to him. She fought him every step of the way.

Vs. 3, 4, we are given the names and meanings of the sons again. We just do not know anything about these boys. I wonder if they picked up their mother's attitude toward Moses and the Lord. The Lord seems to emphasize the meanings of the names because He mentions the meanings again. He doesn't even do that for His own name; He only gave the meaning of Jehovah-nissi one time. God is emphatic that the name of Eliezer means that Moses realized that the Lord helped him escape Pharaoh. It did not mean that God was his help in returning to Egypt.

Vs. 7-12. The next division, Jethro meets with Moses and rejoices with him.

V. 7, the great man Moses respects and honours his father in law. How much more should we give honour where honour is due. I would wonder here how old Moses' wife is. She must be some younger because her dad is still alive and able to travel, but Moses' parents are dead. Moses is 80.

V. 8, for Israel's sake.. Not for Moses' sake. Notice that Moses is indeed a meek man because he readily admits that the Lord did these wonderful things for His promise to Abraham's sake. Moses told him the good and the bad, and how the Lord saw them through everything.

V. 9, Jethro rejoiced over the good the Lord had done for Israel. Can we rejoice over the good that the Lord does for others, or do we feel "left out."

V. 10, Jethro blessed the Lord for His deliverance of Israel from Egypt and Pharaoh.

V. 11, Now I know.. Did he not know this already?

I think that this is a polite way of "bragging on the Lord." There is an interesting statement here: for in the thing wherein they [Egypt and Pharaoh] dealt proudly he was above them.

In other words, no matter how high and lifted up anyone might be, the Lord is higher. Not even Lucifer (the king of Babylon) said that he would exalt above the throne of God; rather, he said that he would be like the most High, Isa 14:12. It is modern man who feels that he can dethrone God, that he can be higher than God Himself. But the Lord in heaven laughs at such foolish efforts.

V. 12. This verse does not say that Jethro made the offering and sacrifice or ate with Moses. It does say that he did these things with Aaron and the elders.

1) offerings and sacrifices were already common place before the giving of the law.

2) eating together is a mark of unity. They ate together before God, so it is evident that Jethro was a believer in the true God.

Vs. 13-26. The next division: Jethro's advise to Moses.

Jethro sees Moses judging the people from morning until evening. When he saw this, he questioned Moses, and Moses told him that he was explaining the law of God to judge between each as needed.

Notice that the laws and statutes of God were already known to Moses and maybe to the people. The people are being held accountable to them. Furthermore, all judgment and counsel is to be done in the place of God (through God's law-word).

V. 16, I judge... Moses in doing exactly what he got in trouble for the first time he tried to do this 40 years ago.

V. 17...
Jethro said that what Moses was doing was not good.

1. Jethro was an outsider. Was able to see something hidden from Moses and the people. This was an obvious solution, but it was not obvious to those involved.

2. Jethro was a godly man, v. 12.

3. Jethro pointed out Moses' error, but he had an answer. Many are ready to point out Moses' error, but they either are not godly themselves or they have no answer to the problems they are pointing out.

4. What was being suggested here was Moses sharing his present total power, and he saw it as no threat to himself. His confidence was in the Lord.

5. Jethro conditioned Moses following his instruction upon the will of the Lord, v. 23. He was saying, "Here is a suggestion, but check it out with the Lord."

6. Moses did, and he followed the suggestion. Moses, the greatest man to live (John the Baptist!), did not have all the answers. Moses, who gave all the law of God, was able to accept instruction. V. 24, presents Moses as humbly following the suggestion. How much more needful is it that we do the same.

7. I have no doubt that God sent Jethro to him. The best advice at times, can come from the most unexpected sources. We need to listen and clear all with the Lord.

V. 20, points out these responsibilities:

1) Moses' responsibility was to TEACH them the laws of God, and SHOW them the way to live.

2) the leader's whom Moses taught were responsible: they must WALK in the way shown by Moses; they must DO the work as instructed by Moses.

(Moses would represent God, v. 19, and his words are the law of God for all time. Of course, not every word which proceeded out of his mouth was inspired; he was only a man, but he spoke for God.)

Thus, we see two things: the teacher's responsibility is to teach and live what he teaches; the learner's responsibility is to learn the doctrine of the teacher and his teacher's life. Are we as teachers willing to have others follow our life? They will follow our lives far more often than they will follow our doctrine. The same goes for all under our authority, our wives and our children.

3) we like to define leadership as having having others do the work for us. Notice here that these soon-to-be-chosen judges had work which they had to do. V. 20, Work! A bad word which those in authority do not like to hear, but here it is.

4) v. 20, refers to judgment according to the ordinances and law, yet it is still some time before the commandments are given to Moses. When were these ordinances and laws given? So then God's people were not without the law before the Commandments, no more than we are after Christ. As we have seen up to here, God moved by GRACE, faithful to His promises that were also made by GRACE to Abraham.

V. 21, but more important than the responsibilities of these men, is their qualifications.

able men.. These leaders had to be;
1) Men.
2) Willing to be taught the word of God.
3) Willing to work.
4) Fear God (depart from evil when brought to their attention, Deut. 10:12, 13; Pro. 8:13; 16:6).
5) men of truth, known for their honesty (above reproach).
6) Haters of covetousness.
7) Able to teach; to judge the people by applying the law of God to the people's needs, difficulties and situations.
8) able men of moral strength, 1 Kgs 1:52.

If they were not qualified in their personal lives, they were not qualified for public life. These godly qualifications had to evident in the individual before they could be exalted into a place of leadership. Only a man with a clear conscience can judge righteous judgment with boldness, Proverbs 28:1.

Observe that these qualifications are simple enough that all can understand them. They contain nothing about great mental ability, other than the ability to learn and apply what they learned from God's word to their own lives and the situations of others.

(I am reminded of ... He is looking forward to the day that he can be in a leadership position. The problem is that he is neither willing to be instructed, nor willing to work. He and anyplace he goes, is headed for trouble. But, this problem is not unique with him. It is extremely common, and the places that hire this kind of people are primarily at fault. If they would not hire anyone who did not meet these qualifications, the foolishness would stop.)

(As we would read of these 40 years and the chiding the people did with Moses, it would be easy to get the idea that; 1. Moses had set himself above human instruction. 2. God had set him above human instruction. This chapter shows us that this is not true. He was a man like every other man. He needed human instruction, and was willing to take it.)

These qualifications are repeated by Paul to Timothy and Titus (also Acts 6). There will be exceptions in the ministry, men who keep these sins well hidden. Christ had one among the 12.

Vs. 21, 22, gives the breakdown of authority; these were families. Notice that Christ had the multitude of 5,000 sit down by ranks of hundreds, and by fifties, Mk 6:40. Christ never did one thing apart from the law. Even He followed Jethro's advise.

Jethro's suggested breakdown of ranks was an "analogy of the military organization of the people on their march, Num. 31:14." Keil.

V. 23, If.. and God command.. Jethro offered the advise, but did not force it upon Moses. Furthermore, he insisted that Moses check it out with the Lord. He presents Moses with a two-fold advantage: first, it would make it much easier on Moses; second, it would make it much easier on the people.

Vv. 24-26, Moses not only accepts the advise, but he acts on the advise, Deut 1:12-18. I have met many people who will listen to advise like they are really interested, but when it comes time to act on that advise, they ignore it.

The legal system of the US was patterned after what Jethro gave here. The rulers over 10 would have been the Justice of the Peace. The final authority is the Supreme Court. Obviously, they are all extremely corrupted today because every one is controlled by covetousness.

V. 27, Jethro goes home. I wonder if he took Moses' wife and kids with him.


1) For Moses, this was more than just listening to advise; this was sharing part of his sovereign authority over the nation. Moses was still the final authority, but now others shared his authority.

2) Only a fool will try to do everything himself. We must be continually watchful for others to help us.


Joseph Parker points out that the leader of God's people must always be on the lookout for others who can help. "The strong man ought not to be at liberty to do so much work with his own hands as to render the labour of others unnecessary."

"He [Moses] seemed to be acting on the conviction that he only could manage, arrange, and otherwise successfully administer all the affairs of the people. It never occurred to him that he was allowing the talents of others to lie idle. Talent requires to be evoked... Let us keep our eyes open for men of capacity and good-will, and the more we watch the more shall our vigilance be rewarded. We should try men by imposing responsibilities upon them." JP

Notice then that leaders, to be successful leaders, must teach and train others to be leaders.

On last point: "Understand that silence may be better than speech, that prayer is the best preparation for service; and that the duties of magistracy may well be displaced by the higher duties of spiritual devotion." JP