About Jesus      Steve Sweetman

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Jethro Visits Moses (ch. 18:1 - 27)


Verse 1 tells us that Moses' father-in-law had heard all that had happened to Israel.  We know from other passages that many surrounding nations heard how the God of Israel had delivered Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians.


Verse 2 begins with, "after Moses had sent away his wife…"  First of all the words "sent away" in the Old Testament, as it refers to wives mean divorce, or at least literally sending the wife away.  We have no direct or clear mention that Moses divorced his wife.  Back in Exodus 4:24 we note that Moses and his wife had a major difference with each other.  His wife did not want to circumcise their son, and Moses knew that he must be circumcised. God was ready to kill Moses for not obeying the command to circumcise his son. Moses' wife finally gave in, but threw the bloody foreskin of their son at Moses' feet in disgust.  It thus appears that Moses sent his wife away then. It thus appears from this verse that Moses sent her back to her father.


Verses 3 and 4 simply state the names of Moses two sons, something that we've already seen earlier in Exodus. 


In verses 5 through 8 we note that Moses and Jethro greet each other.  Moses invites Jethro into his tent to talk things over.  Moses relates the story of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, which Jethro already knows somewhat about. 


Note the word "rescue" in verse 8.  This reminds me of how the first generation church viewed the world.  Peter and the other apostles told people to save themselves, or rescue themselves from this evil and corrupt generation.  The early church viewed the world as being corrupt, something to be rescued from, just as Israel viewed Egypt, that is, something to be rescued from.  The problem with many Christians today is that they do not view the world as something to be rescued from .  They are too much in love with the world to be rescued from the world.       


In verse 11 we see that Jethro is polytheistic, as was the majority of people and cultures back then.  He told Moses that his God was greater than all other gods.   Some people believe that even Israel, at least prior to Exodus was polytheistic.  They see God's revelation of Himself as being progressive, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, didn't fully understand that their God was one God, and that He was the only God.  The point to whom God really is, is clarified beyond a doubt in the book of Exodus.


In verse 12 we see that Jethro brought a sacrifice to offer to the God of Israel, and that him, Aaron, and Moses, ate bread together.  This suggests to me that there was more to this event than a simple meal.  I could be wrong, but this looks like some kind of ceremonial meal to me.  It could possibly be because Jethro was coming to Moses with Moses' estranged wife and the reunion was celebrated with a ceremonial meal.  Or, it could possibly be over the nature of the things that Jethro wanted to talk to Moses about.


The main part of this chapter is seen in verses 13 to 23.  Jethro watches Moses act as judge over all the relational problems in Israel between people.  How this came to be, we can't be sure.  This is the first mention of a judge in Israel.  To date, we have seen elders, now we see Moses as a judge, and after this chapter we will see this evolve in a body of judges. 


Jethro tells Moses that what he is doing won't work out.  There is too much work for him to do.  Jethro tells Moses that he must train trusted men to be judges of disputes in Israel. 


We see in verse 24 that Moses listened to his father-in-law and trained capable men to be judges in Israel.  You might wonder why Moses accepted the advise of a non-Israeli, even though Jethro was Moses' father-in-law.  Some people think that Numbers 11:16 has something to do with this.  In that verse God tells Moses to take seventy of Israel 's elders.  There were obviously more than seventy elders in Israel at the time.  But it appears that God wanted these seventy to be special.  Some people suggest that these seventy elders were the judges that Moses chose here in Exodus 18.  I personally can't say this for sure, but those who believe that might be right in their thinking.


Another thing to note here is found in verse 24.  Jethro says that "if you do this and if God so commands…"  Basically, Jethro tells Moses that if your God so commands you to appoint judges then do so.  I think then that Moses sought out the Lord and God did command Moses to appoint judges, and that is why Moses did what Jethro said.  


This chapter is all about Israel becoming a nation, not just a family, or a community of people.  They have a fixed leader in Moses now.  They now have judges, elders, and priests.  Structure is now being formed within Israel. 


Verse 27 simply states that Moses sent his father-in-law on his way.  There is no mention of Moses wife and two sons leaving.  It appears they stayed.                      

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