Sunday, April 22, 2007

Exodus 18: Jethro Comes For a Visit

The eighteenth chapter of Exodus relates a visit Moses has from his father-in-law. Jethro, a priest of Midian, after hearing of Moses’ success goes to visit him. Jethro brings along Moses’ wife, Zipporah, and their two sons Gershom and Eliezer.

Moses is told Jethro has arrived and hurries to greet him. Strangely the text gives no mention of a reunion between Moses and his family. Many feel that the opening verses of this chapter serve as a literary foreshadowing of Christ’s future glory. Moses represents Christ. The Jews are represented by his sons while Jethro represents the Gentiles. Since Zipporah is a Gentile and is the bride of Moses she represents the coming church. In the Millenial Kingdom all will share in the blessings.

Jethro gives praise to the Lord when Aaron and other leaders come to visit him. He has either become a convert to the one true God or was already a believer.

Jethro watches Moses and sees he is overburdened with the many complaints the people bring to him. They were lined up in front of him from morning until evening. (Exodus 18:13)

Jethro tells Moses to find some capable honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as judges…. (Exodus 18: 21-22)

Jethro continues…If you follow this advice, and if God directs you to do so then you will endure the pressures, and these people will go home in peace. (Exodus 18: 23)

Later Jethro returns to his own land.

At first glance this seems like good advice. Go to any self-help bookshelf and you’ll find the same advice in any book regarding time management and organization. Delegate, delegate, and delegate.

While I don’t think this is bad advice for many of our jobs, many scholars contend it was bad advice for Moses.


Moses had been given a specific task by God. Those tasks when assigned are never given without the grace needed to complete them. God had been speaking to Moses directly without the involvement of another person. Moses should have carried on until God intervened.

Like most opinions you can usually find a few favoring each side of an issue, and this is no different. Some think Jethro’s advice was divinely given and because it was sensible it was the correct thing for Moses to follow it.

In Exodus 2 Jethro is referred to as Reuel. “in time Reuel gave Moses one of his daughters, Zipporah, to be wife.” Some scholars suggest that Reuel was his given name while Jethro was a title of honor such as “excellency”.

There is also a chronological problem with this Exodus 18 as verse 5 mentions Jethro coming to Mount Sinai, however, the Israelites did not arrive there until chapter 19:2. One account states that the text appears out of order so that there is no interruption within the account of the meeting with Jehovah and the giving of the law.


Becca said...

Interesting. My first thought is that Moses was following the divine order by heeding the wisdom of his elders. A foolish man forsakes wisdom.

Anonymous said...

I think God uses people from all walks of life to do His bidding. Moses was God's favorite prophet!

Anson said...

Hi, I also observed that Jethro's advice to Moses might not be God's advice afterall. See my post here:

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