Moses’ father-in-law visits
Family reunion1 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law and a priest in Midian, heard what God did for Moses and the people of Israel. He heard that the LORD managed to get them out of Egypt. 2 Moses had sent his wife Zipporah back to her father, and Jethro took care of her. 3 Moses had sent her back with their two sons. Gershom was one son. He got his name from something Moses said: “I’m a foreigner in this country.” 4 Eliezer was their other son. He also got his name from something Moses said: “My father’s God helped me and saved me when Pharaoh tried to kill me.” 5 Jethro brought Moses’ wife and sons to where the people of Israel were camped at the foot of God’s Mountain. 6 Jethro sent a message to Moses before the visit: “This is from your father-in-law, Jethro. I’m coming to see you. And I’m bringing your wife and two sons.” 7 Moses greeted his father-in-law with a bow and a kiss. They talked briefly about how they had been doing, and then they went into the tent. 8 Moses caught Jethro up on everything that had happened. Moses told how the LORD helped Israel, and what the LORD did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Moses also talked about their troubles along the way, and about how the LORD came to the rescue every time. 9 Jethro was delighted to hear how good the LORD had been to Israel, and that he saved them from the Egyptians. 10 Jethro said, “What a wonderful LORD. He rescued you from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. 11 After hearing all of this, I know the LORD is the greatest god. He proved it by how he protected his people from enemies who tried to hurt them. 12 Jethro honored God by offering him animal sacrifices burned on an altar. Aaron brought tribal leaders of Israel to meet Jethro. They all ate a meal together, as part of the worship experience.
Moses judges cases all day13 The next day—from morning to night—Moses worked as a judge. He settled disputes among the people. 14 Moses’ father-in-law watched. Later, he told Moses, “What in the world are you doing? Why would you spend your entire day listening to all these complaints?” 15 Moses said, “Well, the people want me to tell them what God says. 16 They get into a disagreement with someone, and I tell them what God’s law has to say about it.”
Advice from the father-in-law17 Moses’ father-in-law said, “This isn’t good. 18 You’re going to wear yourself out. And you’ll do the same to these people waiting all day to meet with you. It’s too much for one person. You can’t do this by yourself. 19 Okay, I want you to listen to me. I’m going to give you some advice, and God will help you know what to do with it. You should serve as the people’s ambassador to God. Take their complaints and questions to him. 20 Then tell the people what God expects of them—how they should live and what laws they should obey. 21 But you also need to delegate. Pick some men to help you. Find capable men who respect God and the truth, and who hate to see people making a living off cheating others. Give these men responsibility for groups of a thousand people. Beneath them you’ll need leaders of groups of one hundred people, fifty people, and then ten. 22 Give those leaders authority to judge the people they’re responsible for. Tell them to bring the hard cases to you. Let them shoulder part of the work. It’ll make life easier on you. 23 If God is okay with you doing this, you’ll have more energy for the day. And the people can live in peace with each other.
Moses takes the advice24 Moses took his father-in-law’s advice. 25 Moses picked capable men of Israel. He put them in charge of groups of a thousand, followed by other leaders in charge of groups of one hundred, fifty, and ten. 26 These men judged the routine cases, but referred the hard cases to Moses. 27 Moses told his father-in-law goodbye, and Jethro went home.
Midian was a nation along the northeast bank of the Red Sea, in what is now northwestern Saudi Arabia.
It’s unclear if this was for their safety or his sanity, since some scholars say this might have been a divorce. Zipporah had gotten angry at him at the beginning of the trip (Exodus 4:28). And there’s a clue that Moses married another woman, a “Cushite” (Numbers 12:1)—unless that referred to Zipporah, perhaps as both a Midianite and a Cushite. But that seems to presume that Cush in Egypt was part of Midian at the time. A counterpoint to the divorce theory is that Jethro did take Zipporah and the boys to meet Moses on the road to the Promised Land.
The name can mean “foreigner,” “visitor,” or “temporary resident.”
The name means “God helps.”
Another name for Mount Sinai. “God’s Mountain” (Exodus 3:1), is where God would give Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-13).
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