Exodus 18 - Outline of Exodus (MENU page)
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;
18:2 Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back,
{Perhaps Zipporah had returned to Jethro after the incident of Ex 4:20-26.}
18:3 And her two sons; of which the name of the one [was] Gershom {ie., 'a stranger' or 'an exile'};
for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:
{Ex 2:22}
18:4 And the name of the other [was] Eliezer
{meaning: 'my God is my help'};
for the God of my father, [said he, was] mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:
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:
{cp. Ex 3:1,11-12}
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.
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.
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.
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.
{cp. Isa 63:7-14}
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.
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.
{cp. Ex 12:12; 15:11-16}
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.
Now, I know that the LORD is greater than all gods... -
These words, spoken by "the priest of Midian," raise questions about Jethro.-
  • Did he truly know and serve the LORD, prior to this time?
    Was this sacrifice (v.12) the mark of his conversion to faith in Jehovah alone?
  • Did he doubt that the LORD had called Moses to deliver Israel, prior to this time?
    Was the return, of Moses' wife and sons, Jethro's statement of confidence in his son-in-law?
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.
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?
18:15 And Moses said unto his father in law,
Because the people come unto me to enquire of God:
{cp. Deu 17:8-13; eg. Num 27:5}
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.
18:17 And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest [is] not good.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
if... God command thee so... (v.23) -
Jethro's counsel...
  • expressed concern for the health of Moses, and for the well-being of the people (v.18).
  • consisted of a human organizational method (v.19-22), a method that works well in business and government.
  • was according to worldly wisdom.
    God had not instructed Moses to use this method. In effect, Jethro was saying that God's system of dealing directly with every man's need, through His servant Moses, was foolish. The primary meaning for the word translated 'wear away' (HB=nabel, v.18) is 'senseless', or 'foolish'. cp. 1Cor 3:18,19
18:24 So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.
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.
18:26 And they judged the people at all seasons:
the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.
18:27 And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land.
Moses accepted the counsel of his father-in-law.
  • Jethro's plan was wise.
    - - Moses, who was indeed about to 'wear away' from the pressures upon him (v.18), recognised his wisdom, and immediately implimented his plan.
    - - The plan seemed so good to Moses, that he apparently did not ask for the LORD's counsel. At least, there is no record that he prayed about this plan. Even Jethro counseled Moses only to impliment the plan "if... God command thee so..."
  • Jethro's plan proved unsatisfactory.
    - - Did this plan relieve the pressure on Moses? Apparently not, because his prayer (about a year later), in Numbers 11:14,15, indicates that he was still carrying an overwhelming load. He discovered that a 'method' adapted from the world could neither satisfy the need of God's servant, nor accomplish God's work.
  • The LORD's plan is dependent upon His provision:
    In answer to Moses' prayer, the LORD revealed His plan that the load be shared by --
    - - "seventy elders of Israel" (as opposed to "rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens" in Jethro's plan). Num 11:16;
    - - elders upon whom the LORD Himself specifically would place the same Spirit that equipped Moses for the task (Num 11:17). According to Jethro's plan, Moses had selected "able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" (Ex 18:21). But those men, who had seemed so well equipped, could not fulfill the ministry which was committed to them, because only God can accomplish God's work. God's purposes are fulfilled "not by might, nor by power, by by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts." (Zech 4:6)
     
    Likewise, it is the Holy Spirit, who must enable the work of the Church (as described in Ephesians 4). He equips and assigns the Lord's servants according to His purposes for them, that the Body of Christ may mature according to the Lord's design. The issue (in Ephesians ch. 4) is not so much the dividing of the burden among many (although there are many members with differing assignments in the Body), as it is the effectual working of God's Spirit "according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Eph 4:14-16).
     
    In Jesus' words, "I am the vine, ye are the branches... without Me, ye can do nothing." The many and diverse branches (no matter how well placed or how strong they may appear to men) cannot bear fruit, apart from the flow of life from Him (John 15:1-8).
     
    The work of the ministry is God's work. It can be carried only by men whom He chooses and empowers directly by His Spirit. See also Zech 4:6; Joh 14:17; 16:7-13; Acts 1:8; 6:3; 20:28

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