With Questions and Proposed Answers
Background and printed text: Exodus 18
Exodus 18:1 And His-Excess [Jethro], priest of Contention, Draw’s [Moshe’s] father-in-law heard all that Elohim did to Draw [Moshe] and to Israel his people: that Yehovah exited Israel from Egypt. 2And His-Excess [Jethro], Draw’s [Moshe’s] father-in-law took Zipporah [Ladybird], Draw’s [Moshe’s] woman (after her being sent [more than once]) 3and two of her sons, the name of which the first is Sojourner-There [Ger-Shom], for he said, “I was a sojourner in a foreign land!” 4And the name of the one is My-Mighty-One-Helped [Eli-Ezer], “Because-of the Gods of my father when helping me; and He rescued me from the sword of Pharaoh!”
5And His-Excess [Jethro], Draw’s [Moshe’s] father-in-law, came, and his sons and his woman, unto Draw [Moshe], unto the desert that he camped there, Mount of the Gods. 6And He said unto Draw [Moshe], “I, thy father-in-law His-Excess [Jethro], come unto thee! And thy woman and two of her sons are with her!” 7And Draw [Moshe] exited to meet his father-in-law. And he prostrated. And he kissed to him. And they asked a man to his neighbour for peace. And they came the tentward.
8And Draw [Moshe] scrolled to his father-in-law all that Yehovah did to Pharaoh and to Egypt concerning the firebrand of Israel, all the weariness that they found in the way. And Yehovah rescued them! 9And His-Excess [Jethro] focused upon all the good that Yehovah did to Israel—that He rescued him from the hand of Egypt. 10And His-Excess [Jethro] said, “Blessed is Yehovah Who rescued you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of Pharaoh, Who rescued the people from under the hand of Egypt! 11Now I knew that Yehovah is bigger than all the gods, for what they presumed upon them is in the speech!”
12And His-Excess [Jethro] father-in-law of Draw [Moshe] took an ascension and sacrifices to Elohim. And Oy!-Conception! [Aharon] came, and all elders of Israel, to eat bread with the father-in-law of Draw [Moshe] to the faces of the Elohim.
13And he was from the next day. And Draw [Moshe] sat to judge the people. And the people stood upon Draw [Moshe] from the morning unto the evening. 14And the father-in-law of Draw [Moshe] saw all that he, he did to the people. And he said, “What is this speech that thou art doing to the people? Make-known—art thou sitting thy lonesome, and all the people is positioned upon thee from morning unto evening?” 15And Draw [Moshe] said to his father-in-law, “For the people come unto me to research Elohim. 16For a speech will be to them; he came unto me. And I will judge between a man and between his neighbour. And I will make-known statutes of the Elohim and His teachings!”
17And the father-in-law of Draw [Moshe] said unto him, “The speech is not good that thou art doing. 18Foolishness! Thou wilt-become-a-fool—also thou, also this people that is thy people! For the speech is heavier than thee! Thou will not be able to do him thy lonesome!”
19 “Now, hearken via my voice. I will counsel thee. And Elohim was with thee. Be thou to the people a front to the Elohim. And thou, thou shalt bring the speeches unto the Elohim. 20And thou shalt enlighten them with the statutes and with the teachings. And thou shalt make-known to them the way they shall walk via her and the doing that they shall do.”
21 “And thou, thou shalt choose men of an army from all the people, fearers of Elohim, men of Truth, haters of cuts. And thou shalt put princes of thousands, princes of hundreds, princes of fifties and princes of tens over them. 22And they shall judge the people in every time. And he shall be, they shall bring unto thee every big speech. And they, they shall judge every little speech. And he shall-lighten/speed-up from upon thee. And they shall carry thee.”
23 “If thou wilt do this speech, and Elohim will command thee, and thou wilt be able to stand. And also all this people will come upon his place via peace.”
24And Draw [Moshe] hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law. And he did all that he said. 25And Draw [Moshe] chose men of an army from all Israel. And he gave them heads upon the people: princes of thousands, princes of hundreds, princes of fifties and princes of tens. 26And they judged the people at every time. They brought the hard speech unto Draw [Moshe]. And they, they judged every little speech.
27And Draw [Moshe] sent his father-in-law. And he walked to him unto his land.
I. Moshe’s Family Travels (verses 1-4)
Jethro, priest of Midian, who was Moshe’s father-in-law, heard all that Elohim did to Moshe and to Israel, Moshe’s people. Yehovah exited Israel from Egypt!
Jethro, Moshe’s father-in-law, took his daughter Zipporah who was Moshe’s woman after she had been sent more than once. Accompanying her was two of her sons. The name of the first is Ger-Shom. Moshe had named him this because Moshe had said, “I was a sojourner in a foreign land!” The name of the other one is Eli-Ezer. Again, Moshe had said, “Because-of the Gods of my father when helping me; and He rescued me from the sword of Pharaoh!”
1. How did Jethro hear about all that Elohim did to Moshe and Israel? Word of the Israeli slaves leaving Egypt spread quickly. Word of the destruction of the entire Egyptian army spread even more quickly! Egypt was a very great power in the area; it was reduced to powerlessness! Many stories of what had occurred spread throughout the region. Jethro heard about these things, and he heard about the Israelis remaining alive and doing fine in a desert in which very few humans could have thrived.
2. Jethro was a priest of what religion? He was a priest of a pagan, idolatrous religion held by the Midianites. I didn’t find which god or gods they followed. He wasn’t a priest of Yehovah the Gods of Israel.
3. What does excess mean (in the name Jethro, meaning his excess)? Excess means extra—what is beyond what is necessary. It can indicate a special gift (like a child) that is beyond what was expected, or it can indicate something else that is above and beyond need.
4. Why would a girl child be named Ladybird? I can only guess. Perhaps after she was born, she made sounds that were like the sounds a little bird makes.
5. Moshe’s woman wasn’t with Moshe, so Moshe’s father-in-law brought her to him. Why wasn’t she with Moshe? She originally left with Moshe to go to Egypt, but she didn’t stay with him while he confronted the pharaoh. The text doesn’t say why she didn’t stay. She had become very upset regarding the circumcision that she had to perform when her husband hadn’t done as he was commanded. I don’t get the impression that she was very interested in Yehovah the God of Moshe, but that is only an impression. I wonder if she returned to her father because she felt that the mission that Moshe was sent to do was crazy; no one tells the most powerful country in the region to send out all of its slaves from one race. Yet, because the text is silent on this, I could easily be totally wrong.
The way the Hebrew words it, she was sent more than once. She had young children to whom she had to attend, and Moshe was in constant danger from both the Israelis and the Egyptians. Both groups wanted to kill him! Jethro now saw that Moshe wasn’t in so much danger, and his wife and sons should be with him.
6. Moshe named one child, Sojourner There, because he said, “I was a sojourner in a foreign land.” In what land was he a sojourner, and what is a sojourner? A sojourner is a person who is traveling, and who therefore isn’t at home. The travel that the person is doing is over a long distance so that it will take days, months or years to arrive. Moshe was a sojourner in the land of Midian, and he was also a sojourner in Egypt. His final destination will be Israel. Yet, Moshe was prophesying—not about himself, but about another. Israel will be able to declare in the future, “I was a sojourner in a foreign land.”
7. Moshe also said, “Because-of the Gods of my father when helping me; and He rescued me from the sword of Pharaoh,” when he named the other son My Mighty One Helped. Did Moshe name the youth for his own experience? He did, but what he said was prophetic. Moshe was referring to the previous pharaoh and not to the one who died in the Ending Sea. That previous pharaoh searched for Moshe to kill him, but he never found him. Yet as I mentioned, this statement is prophetic since a future pharaoh will attempt to slaughter that portion of Israel that will be in Egypt. Yehovah will rescue Israel as He rescued Moshe.
II. Moshe’s Family Arrives (verses 5-7)
Moshe’s father-in-law Jethro came with Moshe’s sons and his woman (his wife). They came unto Moshe who was located in the desert where Moshe camped; it was called Mount of the Gods. Yet, before Jethro arrived, he announced, “I, thy father-in-law Jethro, come unto thee! And thy woman and two of her sons are with her!” Upon hearing this, Moshe exited to meet his father-in-law. Moshe prostrated. And he kissed him. They asked each other about their peace, and they came toward the tent.
1. Why would a location be called Mount of the Gods? It is the mountain where Yehovah, the Gods of Israel will communicate with Moshe and the Israelis.
2. How dry is this desert? It has only very occasional grass during the summer when it is very dry. Only animals used to the dry climate can graze there and find enough to eat. There may have been a little more grass in Moshe’s day, since entire herds could be fed, but it often required moving the herds, since it was and is a true desert. Water just wasn’t available there without digging a well with much effort.
3. Why did Jethro say, “I, thy father-in-law His-Excess [Jethro], come unto thee,” as if Moshe would not recognize him? So much had happened and had changed in Moshe’s life. When he left his father-in-law, he was a shepherd of a flock of sheep. Moshe was now a shepherd of an entire race in the millions. It was as if Moshe had to be reminded because of the thoughts and all the changes that had taken place from that time. Also, the way it is worded, in the next verse, Moshe goes to meet him. This gives me the impression that a slave was sent on ahead to tell Moshe that Jethro was just now arriving, and that Moshe and Jethro hadn’t yet seen each other.
4. Jethro said, “Thy woman and two of her sons are with her.” Were there other sons? The text doesn’t indicate that Moshe had more children by her. Hebrew words things this way, and it gives English readers the impression that there were more, but this isn’t usually the case.
5. Moshe exited to meet his father-in-law. The text never says that he exited to meet his woman (his wife). Why? Moshe greatly desired to see his father-in-law. The text doesn’t give Moshe’s feelings or actions toward his wife and children. It is as if Moshe had become disconnected from them. He loved his father-in-law; no text indicates what the status of his relationship was with his wife and sons.
6. Why did Moshe prostrate, and what does this mean? To prostrate means to lie flat, face-down before another. This is always the true meaning of worship! (No one is worshipping who isn’t at the same time lying flat before another.) It shows humility before another and the willingness to serve another. It can show other things, like surrender, etc. Moshe first prostrated before his father-in-law, whom he was very willing to serve, and then he kissed him.
7. What does “they asked a man to his neighbour for peace” mean? It means that they inquired to find out how each other was doing in all areas of life in order to see whether each had peace in all areas. Having peace means that there are no large current problems that are frustrating, depressing, causing fear, etc., but rather that things are going well in life.
8. Where did they go if they came “the tentward”? They came to Moshe’s tent.
III. Yehovah is the Greatest! (verses 8-11)
Moshe scrolled to his father-in-law everything that Yehovah did to Pharaoh and to Egypt concerning “the firebrand of Israel”—all the weariness that they found while they traveled. Yehovah rescued them! Jethro focused on all the good that Yehovah did to Israel, and that Yehovah rescued Israel from the hand of Egypt!
Jethro said, “Blessed is Yehovah Who rescued you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of Pharaoh, Who rescued the people from under the hand of Egypt! Now I knew that Yehovah is bigger than all the gods, for in the speech is what they presumed upon them!”
1. What did Moshe do when he “scrolled to his father-in-law all that Yehovah did to Pharaoh and to Egypt”? He told what happened in order. (To scroll is to show and give details in order from the beginning to the end or to the current time.)
2. What is the firebrand of Israel? What does that mean? A firebrand is either a piece of wood, a piece of coal, or a fire torch that was on fire, but now the flame isn’t there, though the red cinders are. It is very close to going out if it isn’t tended. It can quickly become a flame again, and if given more fuel (like wood, coal, or dry plant life, for examples), the flames can start up again.
When it is used for a group (like Israel), it describes that the group is on the edge of extinction, and could go either to extinction or it could continue and even thrive. When Israel was taken out of Egypt, it easily could have gone out of existence except for Yehovah’s faithfulness.
3. What was this weariness that they found in the way? The Israelis were traveling on foot, and they greatly feared the Egyptian army. I don’t think that the adult Israelis got much sleep. The Israelis didn’t know where they were going, and they didn’t know how long it would take to get there. They didn’t know what groups they would meet along the way, and how those groups viewed them. So many thoughts combined with walking, with not having food or water, and without trust in Moshe and Moshe’s God made them very weary.
4. From whom or from what did Yehovah rescue them? He rescued them from Pharaoh, from Egypt, from danger and extinction, and from the weariness that the Israelis suffered.
5. Why did Jethro focus upon all the good that Yehovah did to Israel (instead of the terrible circumstances in which Israel found itself)? One text explains this:
Romans 2:4 Dost thou despise the riches of His goodness and endurance and longsuffering [long before going into wrath], not knowing that the goodness of God leads thee to repentance?
Jethro’s focus was the opposite of the focus of nearly all Israelis who kept reminding each other of what they had lost by leaving Egypt. Jethro had been a pagan priest of a false god; yet, he knew how to look at Truth and on the works of Yehovah in the right way! He saw that Yehovah rescued Israel from the hand of Egypt, and Jethro believed. The Israelis would have reached the same conclusion as Jethro had they focused upon all the good that Yehovah did to Israel! One main good that Yehovah did was to rescue Israel from the hand of Egypt! That was an impossible act!
6. Why did Jethro say that Yehovah is blessed? What does blessed mean? Blessed means benefited with gifts that are accompanied by responsibilities to benefit others! A gift and a blessing are not the same. If a woman or a young girl is given a necklace, that is a gift; it won’t benefit others. If anyone is given equipment and instruction to make fresh bread, that is a blessing; others will be benefited. Blessings in the Bible are always responsibilities as well as advantages.
Yehovah is blessed because He acquired an entire race (the Israelis) who will later be a benefit to the whole world!
7. What does “from under the hand of” mean in, “Who rescued the people from under the hand of Egypt”? Under the hand of anyone or anything means being subservient, and being under the control of another. Since the hand pictures power (as it does in the eyes of a very young child who sees the hand of an adult with all power), being under another’s hand is being subject to do what the other says to do.
8. Jethro said, “Now I knew that Yehovah is bigger than all the gods.” What does this mean, and what does it imply about Jethro? We might say in English, “Now I know that Yehovah is bigger than all the gods.” The word know is in the past tense in Hebrew.
Jethro now knows that Yehovah is bigger—that is, more powerful in every way—than all the gods (that humans consider gods). Jethro now sees that Yehovah is superior to all gods, period.
This implies that Jethro is coming to faith in Yehovah. Now, if he still holds to the other gods even if they are inferior—that is, even if they are not as powerful, he is still an idolater. If he puts his faith in Yehovah and removes his faith from the other gods, he will no longer be an idolater (a follower of false gods).
9. What does “what they presumed upon them is in the speech” mean? They refers to the Egyptians, including Pharaoh. Them refers to the false gods. Thus, the Egyptians presumed things upon the false gods—things that were not true! No matter how much they might beg the lice god, for example, and no matter how many sacrifices they might offer to the lice god, the lice god won’t be able to stop Yehovah from making lice torment the Egyptians! The Egyptians presumed (that is, they assumed with arrogance) that the lice god would save them from the lice, but that false god couldn’t do it.
The speech to which Jethro referred was what Moshe scrolled to Jethro; Jethro could tell from what Moshe said exactly what the Egyptians had presumed on all their false gods. The speech also showed exactly what Yehovah accomplished by turning the creatures that the Egyptians worshipped into attack agents against the Egyptians! The Egyptians no longer could count on their false gods.
10. Did the Egyptians become believers in Yehovah after this? Why or why not? They didn’t! They feared Yehovah the Gods of the Israelis, but they didn’t turn to Yehovah as their Gods. Instead, they took on new gods! This is such normal behaviour! Most humans don’t want truth; they want their own ways and their own gods!
IV. Sacrifice and Food (verse 12)
Jethro, Moshe’s father-in-law, took an ascension and sacrifices to Elohim! Aharon came, and so did all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moshe’s father-in-law right in front of the Elohim!
1. What is an ascension? It is an animal sacrifice that pictures something ascending—that is, going upward into the heavens. That ‘something’ is actually a group of heroes and heroines who will give their lives so that others will live during the Tribulation.
2. Why did Jethro take an ascension to Elohim? Jethro now believed in Elohim; he prophetically did what he did as if he were one of the heroes of the Tribulation! He associated himself with the heroes and heroines of the Tribulation by taking an ascension to Elohim.
3. How could Jethro take an ascension to Elohim when Elohim wasn’t physically on earth in some location where it could be taken? He took the ascension (the sacrificial animal) to an altar built for Elohim; thus, he took the ascension to Elohim!
4. Did Jethro know what the ascension pictured? The text doesn’t indicate this. Yet, what Jethro did was prophetic and very important. Thus, Yehovah the Spirit must have been involved making sure that Jethro did things right.
5. How many sacrifices did Jethro take to Elohim? The text doesn’t tell the reader.
6. Why did Jethro take sacrifices to Elohim, and why did he take more than one? Again, the text doesn’t give the reason. Sacrifices were often accompanied with vows, but didn’t have to be. His bringing more than one sacrifice to Yehovah also isn’t explained, but Jethro desired to do this, showing his faith in Yehovah.
7. Where did Jethro get the sacrifices? Jethro had been a shepherd before, and I assume that he still shepherded sheep and goats. While these animals might slow a traveler down, they can also provide fresh milk and meat while traveling! I propose that Jethro had a flock with him as he went to meet Moshe.
8. Why did Aharon and all elders of Israel also come? The ascension and the sacrifices were eaten; they weren’t just put on altars and burned up. (That would have been a terrible waste.) Jethro was glad to both do the ascension and sacrifices, and to share his sacrifices with others who were also witnesses of the ascension and the sacrifices. All this was done to the faces of Yehovah.
9. Where were the faces of Yehovah? The faces of Yehovah were in the cloud that was either over them or in front of them (if they were traveling).
V. Jethro Watches Moshe Work (verses 13-16)
What happened next was on the next day. Moshe sat to judge the people of Israel. And this people stood right there beside Moshe from the morning unto the evening.
Moshe’s father-in-law saw all that Moshe—Moshe himself—did to the people. And Jethro said, “What is this speech that thou art doing to the people?” Jethro continued, “Make-known—thou art sitting thy lonesome [all alone], and all the people is positioned upon thee from morning unto evening?” This was so unreasonable!
Moshe responded to his father-in-law, “For the people come unto me to research Elohim. For a speech will be to them; he came unto me.” He continued, “And I will judge between a man and between his neighbour. And I will make-known statutes of the Elohim and His teachings!”
1. The text states that Moshe sat to judge the people. What does this mean, and what was occurring? Judging is giving and carrying out a correct decision based on all true facts. The Israelis brought situations to Moshe for him to solve. One Israeli, for example, might have a disagreement with another Israeli, and the two could not resolve the disagreement. They would bring the case to Moshe, describing what took place. Moshe would listen to the case, and he would then tell both of them what must be done to resolve the problem. Whatever Moshe said was then done. Moshe did this with the entire people of Israel (one case among the Israelis at a time), giving one decision at a time.
2. The next statement is, “And the people stood upon Moshe from the morning unto the evening.” What does this mean? To stand upon in Hebrew can mean to stand beside; it can also mean to come into someone’s space (either to protest, to be line for something from that person, or to demand something from that person). The Israelis looked to Moshe to determine justice for them. They saw him as being a good judge. Since there were so many who needed judging, the Israelis often had to wait for long periods of time before Moshe considered their cases; thus, they kept close to Moshe so that others wouldn’t take their places in line.
3. The text then states, “the father-in-law of Moshe saw all that he, he did to the people.” Why is the pronoun, he doubled, and what did he do to the people? The pronoun is doubled because Jethro was so surprised that Moshe himself did all this to the people of Israel without any help. He, Moshe, administered justice to the people alone! This should have been an impossible work load; yet, Moshe hadn’t sought any help.
4. Jethro said to Moshe, “What is this speech that thou art doing to the people?” What did Jethro mean by speech in this question? A speech in Hebrew can be spoken by words, but it is also spoken by actions. A person doesn’t have to speak with the mouth in order to speak; body language and actions are also forms of speech in Hebrew. Moshe’s actions spoke, and Jethro heard and saw Moshe’s speech! He then questioned Moshe, asking him what he was speaking to the Israelis by carrying this entire load!
5. Jethro then called Moshe to make known to him (to Jethro) what he was doing: “Art thou sitting thy lonesome, and all the people is positioned upon thee from morning unto evening?” What was Jethro communicating to Moshe? Jethro found it incredulous (unbelievable and just too much) that Moshe would be doing the work of a judge of the entire people all alone, and Israelis would be coming to him alone from morning unto evening!
6. What did Moshe mean by, “For the people come unto me to research Elohim”? The Israeli people (in the form of individuals and groups) come unto Moshe to research (to search out an answer regarding something specific) Elohim—that is, to search out an answer from Elohim to find out what Elohim’s justice will be in each particular case. Since Elohim means Gods, the Israelis come to find what the Gods of Moshe have determined for each case. Moshe gives them the answer.
7. Can anyone research Elohim today? Yes! That is one of the many reasons why the Bible was constructed the way it was. So many issues of justice are part of what the Bible describes! If a person comes across an issue of justice not covered in the Bible, the person can still research Elohim by asking Him for wisdom; if the person is willing to receive wisdom from Him, He will provide it; only, the person must be willing to patiently endure. Those who insist upon an immediate answer, and who will do what isn’t right or wise if the answer doesn’t immediately come, cannot expect anything from Elohim.
8. What did Moshe mean by, “For a speech will be to them”? Two or more Israelis have spoken with words and with their bodies (their works). They have disagreed. They then come to Moshe to judge and to tell them what is the right thing to do.
9. Think about Moshe’s past. What is he now doing that connects with his past? Moshe was originally being trained to be Pharaoh, and to lead an entire country. He is now doing exactly that!
10. What is a statute? It is a rule as if it were engraved in stone. Each statute given to Israel is a type: something that pictures something else far more important than itself. Yehovah teaches many things by His statutes that He gave to Israel. These statutes also solve arguments, fights and disagreements between Israelis.
VI. Moshe Will Become a Fool (verses 17-18)
Moshe’s father-in-law said to Moshe, “The speech is not good that thou art doing. Foolishness! Thou wilt-become-a-fool—also thou, also this people that is thy people! For the speech is heavier than thee! Thou will not be able to do him thy lonesome!”
1. What speech was Moshe doing that Jethro thought was not good? Moshe was communicating (by his works and words) that he, Moshe, was the only one among the Israelis who could judge the Israelis! What would happen once Moshe died? Jethro was right.
2. What does fool and foolishness mean in the Bible? The word fool means one who has contempt for Yehovah and Godly things, despising Wisdom or ignoring Her. There are four different Hebrew words Indicating four different types of fools:
- caseel—a spiritually, ethically or morally intentionally stupid person
- naval—a senseless, vile, thoughtless, cruel person
- sakhal—a sucker, unwise in making decisions, or feigning to be senseless
- eveel—a licentious [that is, a person who doesn’t care about morality or ethics, but does whatever feels good], quarrelsome [liking to get into quarrels and fights], violent, mocking hater of wisdom and a doer of evil.
Foolishness, therefore, shows one of the above four types of actions and choices.
3. Why was Jethro concerned that Moshe would become a fool by judging the Israelis all by himself? Doing the kind of judging that Moshe did all day long, and handling that judging without any help will eventually bring Moshe to such an anger level, that he will finally become thoughtless and senseless, giving wrong decisions because of the overload. The Israelis will do the same thing; they will see Moshe’s decisions as cruel and disgusting, and they will imitate Moshe, except that they will truly be cruel and thoughtless. Yehovah gave Moshe the assignment of taking the Israelis out of Egypt, and then giving them the Teaching of Yehovah. He was capable of judging, but he was also under continuous pressure from the Israelis who tended to fight among themselves and to go after idolatry.
4. What did Jethro mean by, “The speech is heavier than thee”? Moshe’s communications in words and actions (including body language) were Moshe’s speech. What he was communicating to the Israelis was even too heavy for him (Moshe) to carry. It was too much responsibility, and it caused too much dependence on Moshe. Jethro was looking ahead; Moshe was already over 80 years old!
5. What did Jethro mean by, “Thou will not be able to do him thy lonesome”? He meant that he couldn’t do this all alone—that is, Moshe couldn’t continue to do this all alone. It was too much for him.
6. Was Jethro right? Yes, he was right! While Moshe had the aid of the Yehovah the Spirit, still, Moshe wasn’t helping the Israelis by doing all their thinking for them. Moshe eventually would also become tired and angry, possibly following emotions instead of wisdom. What would happen if Moshe became sick? Would the Israelis have to wait for his recovery to solve their fights? Israelis would probably break out in riots!
VII. Moshe, the Front and the Teacher (verses 19-20 )
Jethro advised Moshe: “Now, hearken into my voice. I will counsel thee. And Elohim was with thee.” Jethro then explained his idea: “Be thou to the people a front to the Elohim. And thou, thou shalt bring the speeches unto the Elohim. And thou shalt enlighten them with the statutes and with the teachings. And thou shalt make-known to them the way they shall walk in her and the doing that they shall do.”
1. What does “heaken via my voice” mean? This means to both listen and do by means of what my voice says—exactly as it says.
2. What does counsel mean in the Bible? It means to both give advice and to lead in carrying out that advice. It never means just to give advice. If a person is willing to counsel another, that person is also willing to aid that other person in what is counseled. Thus, if a king chooses a counselor, it is because the king desires that person to also carry out what the person has counseled. (That person will also be responsible for the success or failure of that counsel.)
3. Jethro next said, “And Elohim was with thee.” Why did he use was instead of saying, “And Elohim will be with thee”? In Hebrew, when something is proposed that will have a result, the proposition is in the future, and the result is in the past. Consider the following English example, and the Hebrew example that follows:
English: “If you give me the ball, I will throw it.”
Hebrew: “Thou shalt give me the ball, and I threw it.”
The Hebrew wording has much more certainty in the results.
In the text, Jethro tells Moshe, “I will counsel thee.” Jethro then gives the result of Moshe’s following his counsel: “Elohim was with thee.”
4. What is Jethro telling Moshe to do when Jethro states, “Be thou to the people a front to the Elohim”? Jethro sees the people as a single group. Moshe will be the front of the group, and will therefore face Elohim for the group. This means that Moshe will speak to Elohim as the voice of the people, and will hear the speeches of Elohim, telling those speeches to the people.
5. What speeches will Moshe bring unto the Elohim? He will bring the speeches of the Israelis who are presenting matters that are too hard for even Moshe to solve.
6. How will Elohim respond to these speeches? Elohim will enlighten the Israelis (via Moshe) with Yehovah’s statutes and teachings, solving the issues of justice.
7. The Bible often refers to walking as it does in this statement: “And thou shalt make-known to them the way they shall walk…” What does walk mean when used this way? The walk in the Bible is the moral and ethical way that a person or group lives on a daily basis. Morality and ethics both have to do with right and wrong from the view of a god/God.
Each person can have his/her own occupation in life—the work that a person does to either earn a living or to be of benefit in society. The occupation normally doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s walk unless that occupation involves morality and/or ethics. Certain occupations always involve morality and ethics. For example, if a woman is a prostitute, her occupation is Biblically immoral, and her walk isn’t right before Yehovah. (Some serve false gods that include being righteous prostitutes as occupations.) Another occupation that involves morality and ethics is being a leader in society (for example, a politician or a king). Most occupations don’t directly deal with morality and ethics, however, though a person can always be moral or immoral, ethical or unethical in whatever occupation the person has.
A few folks walk righteously—they consistently do what is right (ethically and morally). Ethics has to do with right and wrong in business; morality as to do with right and wrong in social relationships (including relationships with the person’s god/God or gods).
A few folks walk in great evil; they like to do what is wrong, seeing that is fun and fulfilling.
Most folks have an inconsistent walk, doing some things with righteousness (what is right in the eyes of a god/God) and some things without righteousness, doing what is wrong and shameful. Those who have an inconsistent walk are unrighteous before Yehovah. Yehovah doesn’t weigh righteous behaviour against unrighteous behaviour to see which is greater; He sees unrighteous behaviour as cancelling righteous behaviour! Thus, most humans have a walk in life that is sinful (in violation of what Yehovah commanded).
8. Jethro stated, “And thou shalt make-known to them the way they shall walk via her.” Identify her: The noun form of counsel is feminine. I propose that Jethro is telling Moshe to make known to the Israelis the way that they shall walk by means of Jethro’s counsel for Moshe. (The word way is masculine; her, of course, is feminine.)
9. What is the doing that they shall do? The Israeli people as a unit must do what is according to Yehovah in all matters of justice and righteousness. Moshe must make these things known to the Israelis so that they, as a group, can and will be consistent.
VIII. Soldiers Qualified to Judge (verses 21-22)
Jethro continued, “And thou, thou shalt choose men of an army from all the people, fearers of Elohim, men of Truth, haters of cuts. And thou shalt put princes of thousands, princes of hundreds, princes of fifties and princes of tens over them. 22And they shall judge the people in every time. And he shall be, they shall bring unto thee every big speech. And they, they shall judge every little speech. And he shall-lighten/speed-up from upon thee. And they shall carry thee.”
1. Why did Jethro specify that Moshe should choose men of an army? Men who are army-trained have several advantages:
- They are taught self-control
- They are taught to wait, to be patient, and to only hurry when that is advantageous
- They are taught to take commands
- They are taught to give commands
- They are taught how to defend themselves and others
- They are taught to speak wisely, clearly and briefly
- They are taught respect
- They are trained in selflessness
2. What is a fearer of Elohim? This is a person who fits all of the following descriptions:
- This person believes that Elohim (the Gods of Israel) exists
- This person believes that Elohim will hold each person responsible for what he/she does, and therefore knows that there will be a judgment
- This person knows that Elohim will never judge ‘on a curve’—that is, averaging out what many folks do, but instead will judge each individual as if he/she is the only person being judged
- This person fears doing wrong before Yehovah
- This person knows that Yehovah will reward a person with good if the person does what is right in Yehovah’s view
- This person knows that Yehovah hears, sees and responds to all things
- This person knows that Yehovah has all power, and will use that power for or against humans made in His image
Therefore, this person will do what is right instead of what is convenient or wrong.
3. Why must the men chosen be fearers of Elohim? Those who either fear other gods or who don’t fear any god will lead the Israelis into sin and into death and destruction.
4. What is Truth? It is whatever is absolute (and therefore unchanging and unchangeable) before Yehovah. Anything that can change isn’t truth, though it may be true at a particular time.
The Bible explains Truth—what is certain and never changing according to Yehovah the Gods of Israel. Messiah Yeshua (the anointed Salvation of Yehovah) is the Truth. He never changes, and what He says and does is always right.
5. What are men of Truth? These are men who always (that is, consistently) do what is morally and ethically right in Yehovah’s view of right, and refuse to do what is wrong (no matter what it costs them).
6. Why didn’t Jethro also include women? While Jethro never ruled out women, Jethro knew that the Israelis didn’t tend to automatically view a woman as a leader. Yet, women in leadership was always potentially part of Israeli society.
The Israelis are like so many other societies: if women lead, the men remain in the background and don’t lead, as if they are lazy (which is too often true). The men are entertained by women in leadership, and that entertainment tends to laziness. If men lead, the women also tend to lead and don’t tend to be lazy.
7. What is a hater of cuts? Think of cuts in line—when someone tries to move ahead of others who have been patiently waiting in line. Such a person is looking to his own advantage, and not to the advantages of others. Also, think of cuts in terms of money: folks who are willing to force others to give them a cut on moneys that don’t belong to them. They are willing to use blackmail and accept bribes and pay-offs, and use other forms of corruption in order to get ahead of others.
Thus, a hater of cuts hates every form of corruption in which persons take advantage of weaker persons to get ahead.
8. Are the princes of tens princes over just ten persons? I suspect that they are princes over ten families; if I am right, each group leader is over numbers of families instead of individuals.
9. What does “they shall judge the people in every time” mean? Every time the people needs judging (that is, individuals and groups within the people), these princes will always do the judging (except in cases that are too hard for them to judge).
10. What is a big speech in, “they shall bring unto thee every big speech”? A big speech is one that has a lot of sayings, and is therefore very important (and probably very hard to figure). This big speech describes some argument or disagreement that must be judged to see who is right or what must be done. Jethro told Moshe to handle these difficult and complex decisions. Instead, the princes can judge every little speech (in this case also, every little argument).
11. Who is he in, “And he shall-lighten/speed-up from upon thee”? He is the speech that Jethro is communicating to Moshe, counseling him to do things this way. If Moshe follows the speech of Jethro, the speech will lighten Moshe’s load, and will also speed up things from upon Moshe—that is, will lighten his load more quickly.
12. Who are they in, “And they shall carry thee”? They refer to the princes over the groups of different sizes.
13. How will they carry Moshe? Since they will carry the load that Moshe has been carrying, it will be as if they are carrying Moshe himself, making him capable of leading the People of Israel will great ease (compared to what he has been doing up to now).
IX. Ability to Stand, and Peace (verse 23)
Jethro then explained why this would work: “If thou wilt do this speech, and Elohim will command thee, and thou wilt be able to stand. And also all this people will come upon his place via peace.”
1. What was Jethro saying when he declared, “If thou wilt do this speech, and Elohim will command thee”? In order for Moshe to judge the very hardest cases, Moshe will need Yehovah to command him so that Moshe will know what to do. If Moshe does what Jethro advises, and if Yehovah will command Moshe regarding the very hardest cases, Moshe will be able to stand and all the Israelis will come to the destination in a peaceful manner.
2. What did Jethro mean by, “thou wilt be able to stand”? What is the alternative? Standing in the Bible is the opposite of falling. One who falls goes down (whether in death or in the loss of rank and power). It is failure. Standing, on the other hand, is maintaining (and ever being victorious).
If Moshe stands, he will continue leading the Israelis, and his leadership will succeed until he has died or has been replaced without violence or failure on his part.
3. Identify his place in, “all this people will come upon his place via peace”: His place is the land of Canaan, which will become the Land of Israel. It will be the place that the people of Israel will inhabit after they have finished their journeys that began from Egypt.
4. Why will the people come upon his place via peace? What does that mean? It means that the journey to the land that the Israeli people will inhabit will be a peaceful journey. The reason why it will be peaceful is because there will be plenty of judges (princes) to consider the many matters of disputes; peaceful resolutions (strong solutions and good decisions that will solve the problems) will so often take place under these wise princes.
X. Moshe Obeys a Pagan Priest (verses 24-26)
Moshe hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, doing everything that he said. Moshe chose men who were part of Israel’s army from all Israel’s tribes. He gave them positions of being heads over the people of Israel. He made some princes of thousands, some princes of hundreds, some princes of fifties, and some princes of tens. They judged the people at every occasion. They only brought very difficult decisions to Moshe, judging every little ‘speech.’
1. Why did Moshe hearken to his father-in-law instead of first inquiring from Yehovah? Moshe didn’t need to inquire from Yehovah; Moshe heard the very wisdom of Yehovah being spoken by his father-in-law! Moshe knew he was right, and was glad to do what he said.
2. Should a person living by Biblical faith hearken to (that is, both listen to and do) a pagan priest of a false god? Yes, if the pagan priest speaks wisdom! Yehovah has given wisdom to humans regardless of their faiths. Only a few use the wisdom that Yehovah has given, but a wise man or woman will hearken to a pagan who speaks truth and gives wisdom that is beneficial.
3. What does “he gave them heads upon the people” mean? This means that Moshe gave these men of an army to the Israelis to be heads upon (over) the people of Israel. It was an assignment of responsibility.
4. How did Moshe know that these newly assigned princes were doing consistent and proper justice? They all had a proper standard of justice because of their good character. They all:
- Feared Elohim
- Were men of Truth
- Hated cuts
- Were men of an army—that is, showed excellent self-control.
Since they met these criteria (these standards by which they were tested), they also properly judged.
XI. Moshe Sends Jethro (verse 27)
It was time for Moshe’s father-in-law to leave, and Moshe sent him. He walked ‘to him’—that is, for himself—unto his land.
1. Why did Moshe send his father-in-law? Did he want to get rid of him? He didn’t want to get or be rid of him. When guests came to homes in many of the cultures of Moshe’s time, those guests were very important to their hosts. If guests were to just leave, this would be viewed as a rude break in relationships between the guests and the hosts. It would appear that the guests were fleeing—running away from the hosts—because of some offense that had taken place. Instead, the guests sought permission of the hosts to leave, and the hosts would then send the guests on their journey, sometimes giving them traveling provisions, and sometimes seeking the blessings of their (the hosts’) gods for the travelers. The relationships between guests and hosts were very valuable, since hosts sometimes risked their lives when receiving the guests—not risk from the guests, but risks from others who were evil and who might seek to take terrible advantage of the guests. Thus, hosts would send the guests who were sojourners (travelers) on their ways. This is what Moshe did with Jethro.
2. What does “he walked to him unto his land” mean? If the text had just said, “he walked unto his land,” it would have been very simple to understand; Jethro walked home. The way it is worded in Hebrew, I propose that in smoother English, it would be like this: “he walked for himself unto his land,” indicating that he went home without help and without accompaniment. Jethro wasn’t a young man; he was old, too! Moshe was over 80 years old, and he had met Jethro when he (Moshe) was 40 years old. The two men were probably close to the same age. Jethro had come with Moshe’s woman (wife) and his sons; now, he walked “to him” or “to himself,” back to his land of Midian.