“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;”
meaning a remnant: excellence, is also called Reuel, see
meaning associate ye with God: tend ye God. Midian means
contention: strife. The difference between the meanings of his name and
that of the people whose priest he was, are so contrary and enigmatic as to
make it difficult to determine whether he was a believer, or simply a
heathen priest, though the former seems the more likely. His admiration of
what God had done for Israel indicates that he was a true believer in
“Then Jethro, Moses’
father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back,”
a sparrow, and since the sparrow is the biblical symbol of what is of
little value, see e.g., Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a
farthing?” her name seems to imply that when she was born her father may
have considered her of little worth. Perhaps he had wanted a son rather
than a daughter.
“... after he
(Moses) had sent her back.” There is no record of Moses’ having sent her
back, but most scholars believe that it was probably at the time when God
sent him (Moses) to Egypt to effect the deliverance of the Hebrews, his
sending her and her sons back to her father being for their safety.
“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:”
“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:”
a stranger there: a stranger desolate; and Eliezer God of help.
The meanings of these names indicate very clearly that in choosing them
Moses was seeking to perpetuate his expression of gratitude to God for His
sustaining grace and delivering power. Since however, Moses is a type of
Christ, it isn’t difficult to see in his thanksgiving a foreshadowing of
what was undoubtedly in the mind of Christ when He, having finished the work
the Father had given Him to do, rose in triumph on the resurrection morning,
as the mighty Victor over Satan, sin, death, and hell.
“And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his (Moses’) sons and his wife
unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:”
The “mount of
God” was Horeb, for the spiritual significance of which see comments on
“And he said unto Moses, I thy father-in-law Jethro am come unto thee, and
thy wife, and her two sons with her.”
“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
“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.”
In the present
context “travail” means hardship: weariness: distress, and it is
instructive to note that Moses was careful to glorify God by declaring how
He had brought Israel safely through every trial. We tend to dwell much on
the hardships of our pilgrim way, while forgetting to give God credit and
thanks for his sustaining grace and delivering power, those blessings being
the guarantee of our ultimate safe arrival in heaven.
“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.”
There would be
happier hearts amongst God’s people if we were also to relate more often the
instances of His gracious care, rather than to be dwelling on the
adversities of life, those trials being but the means by which He develops
our faith, and affords us opportunity to acquire a greater eternal reward as
we accept them all in the trusting spirit of knowing that “all things work
together for good to those who love God,” Romans 8:28.
As has been
noted already, the Egyptians represent the men of the world, so that God’s
deliverance of Israel from their power is the symbolic assurance that we too
have been delivered from the power of the men of the world, they being able
to do to us only what God permits, and that being for our present
instruction and eternal blessing.
“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.”
“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein
they dealt proudly he was above them.”
I know” may indicate that he had been an idolater, but that this display of
Jehovah’s power had resulted in his conversion.
“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.”
That feast of
thanksgiving is an OT type of the Lord’s Supper, the victory over Pharaoh
being but a foreshadowing of the Lord’s great victory over Satan at Calvary,
which obedient believers celebrate in the Lord’s Supper on the first day of
each week, the burnt offering being the primary biblical type of the
thanksgiving, praise, and worship presented by believers at that memorial
mention of the presence of Aaron, Israel’s High Priest, at that feast,
reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, is present at
every scriptural observance of the Lord’s Supper, He Himself declaring, “For
where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst
of them,” Matthew 18:20.
“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.”
Moses acted as
arbiter in connection with the people’s disputes, a work that employed him
from morning till evening.
“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?”
that this work was not only too much for one man, but that it also required
many of the litigants to waste a whole day waiting for their causes to be
heard, strongly disapproved of it.
“And Moses said unto his father-in-law, Because the people come unto me to
inquire of God:”
“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.”
Clearly it was
God Who had assigned Moses this work, and Who had enabled him to do it, but
it seems that the time had come when the faithful servant was to be given
others to help him because the task was becoming too much for one man. God
never imposes an unbearable burden on any of His servants, the Lord Himself
declaring, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly
in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and
my burden is light,” Matthew 11:29-30.
“And Moses’ father-in-law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not
of Jethro’s advice is attested by his qualifying condition recorded in verse
23 “... and God command thee so,” that command being implied in the fact
that there is no indication of Divine disapproval when Jethro’s suggestion
“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
There is no
question that with God’s enablement Moses could have continued alone, but
neither is there any question that Jethro’s words appear to have been
Divinely impelled, for there is no indication of God’s disapproval of his
suggestion, but rather His approbation.
“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
“... for the
people to God-ward” is also translated Be thou to the people as the
Oracle of God: you be the people’s advocate with God: you be the people’s
representative before God. Moses was to lay their cases or disputes
before God; and as the sequel discloses, He would endow the appointed
leaders with wisdom relative to the settlement of their problems.
“And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt show them the way
wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.”
ordinances and laws” is also rendered statutes and laws: rules and laws:
teachings and laws: statutes and decisions.
Neither in the
OT dispensation nor the New has God left His people to live according to the
vagaries of their own minds. He has declared specifically in His Word what
is right and what is wrong.
It is to be
noted also that there was a way wherein they were to walk, and a work in
which they were to be employed, the walk speaking of the passive, and the
work, of the active aspects of their lives. Those same principles apply
also to this present age. As we walk the narrow way, which we entered by
the straight (narrow) gate of faith, the work the Lord has assigned us is
recorded in Mark 16:15, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to
“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
factors in all these numbers are five and ten, five
being the biblical number of responsibility; and ten, the number of
Divine government, the lesson being that we are responsible to walk in
obedience before God.
of rulers, ranging all the way from jurisdiction over ten to thousands, is
the symbolic declaration of the truth that the measure of the gift of
oversight in the Church also varies. Some overseers (elders) are given
their gift in greater measure than are others. This however, doesn’t mean
that there are differing degrees of authority vested in elders. Each elder
is as much an overseer as is his fellow elders. There is no such thing as a
head elder in any church.
qualification of elders is the same in the churches as it was in Israel.
Such a man is to be God-fearing, truthful, not covetous of wealth or power,
and it is instructive to note that his attitude to covetousness is not to be
merely passive: he is to hate it. Lust for wealth or power automatically
disqualifies a man from being an elder. The love of money is declared in 1
Timothy 6:10 to be “the root of all evil.”
“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
“... judge” in
the present context means to administer justice; and “great matter”
means major dispute: important case: a matter that is too high for them:
extremely difficult case.
“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.”
was speaking as God’s amanuensis seems to be clearly implied in his
qualifying statement “and God command thee so.” In other words he desired
God to give Moses some clear proof that he, Jethro, was indeed God’s
spokesman in this instance. The present day counterpart of this is that
every man who undertakes to speak as God’s representative should be certain
that what he says is confirmed by Scripture.
endure” is also translated stand the strain: endure the weight: be able
to go on without weariness.
people shall also go to their place in peace” is also rendered will go
home satisfied: shall go into their dwellings contented: there will be peace
and harmony in the camp.
“So Moses hearkened unto the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he
“And Moses choose 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.
“And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought
unto 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.”
The meaning of
these four verses is so clear as to make comment unnecessary.