Exodus 18

1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, how that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, received Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her away, 3 and her two sons. The name of one son was Gershom, for Moses said, “I have lived as a foreigner in a foreign land”. 4 The name of the other was Eliezer, for he said, “My father’s God was my help and delivered me from Pharaoh’s sword.” 5 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the Mountain of God. 6 He said to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, have come to you with your wife, and her two sons with her.”7 Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and bowed and kissed him. They asked each other of their welfare, and they came into the tent. 8 Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardships that had come on them on the way, and how the LORD delivered them. 9 Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh; who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods because of the thing in which they dealt arrogantly against them.” 12 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God. Aaron came with all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. 13 On the next day, Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from the morning to the evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said, “What is this thing that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning to evening?” 15 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a matter, they come to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 You will surely wear away, both you, and this people that is with you; for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to perform it yourself alone. 19 Listen now to my voice. I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You represent the people before God, and bring the causes to God. 20 You shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and shall show them the way in which they must walk, and the work that they must do. 21 Moreover you shall provide out of all the people able men which fear God: men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 Let them judge the people at all times. It shall be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge themselves. So shall it be easier for you, and they shall share the load with you. 23 If you will do this thing, and God commands you so, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.” 24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said. 25 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. 26 They judged the people at all times. They brought the hard causes to Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. 27 Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way into his own land.

(Previous Chapter)    •    (Next Chapter)

Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–6

Jethro came to rejoice with Moses in the happiness of Israel, and to bring his wife and children to him. Moses must have his family with him, that while he ruled the church of God, he might set a good example in family government, 1Ti 3:5.

Verses 7–12

Conversation concerning God’s wondrous works is good, and edifies. Jethro not only rejoiced in the honour done to his son-in-law, but in all the goodness done to Israel. Standers-by were more affected with the favours God had showed to Israel, than many were who received them. Jethro gave the glory to Israel’s God. Whatever we have the joy of, God must have the praise. They joined in a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Mutual friendship is sanctified by joint worship. It is very good for relations and friends to join in the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and praise, as those that meet in Christ. This was a temperate feast; they did eat bread, manna. Jethro must see and taste that bread from heaven, and though a gentile, is welcome: the gentiles are welcomed to Christ the Bread of life.

Verses 13–27

Here is the great zeal and the toil of Moses as a magistrate. Having been employed to redeem Israel out of the house of bondage, he is a further type of Christ, that he is employed as a lawgiver and a judge among them. If the people were as quarrelsome one with another as they were with God, no doubt Moses had many causes brought before him. This business Moses was called to; it appears that he did it with great care and kindness. The meanest Israelite was welcome to bring his cause before him. Moses kept to his business from morning to night. Jethro thought it was too much for him to undertake alone; also it would make the administration of justice tiresome to the people. There may be over-doing even in well-doing. Wisdom is profitable to direct, that we may neither content ourselves with less than our duty, nor task ourselves beyond our strength. Jethro advised Moses to a better plan. Great men should not only study to be useful themselves, but contrive to make others useful. Care must be taken in the choice of the persons admitted into such a trust. They should be men of good sense, that understood business, and that would not be daunted by frowns or clamours, but abhorred the thought of a bribe. Men of piety and religion; such as fear God, who dare not to do a base thing, though they could do it secretly and securely. The fear of God will best fortify a man against temptations to injustice. Moses did not despise this advice. Those are not wise, who think themselves too wise to be counselled.

Back to Top