Exodus 18

The Word Made Fresh

1Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, who was the priest of Midian, heard about the things God had done for Moses and the Israelites and how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt. 2Moses had sent Zipporah and their two sons to Jethro. 3Their names were Gershom (for Moses said, “I am a stranger in a strange land.”), 4and Eliezer (for Moses said, “My father’s God saved me from Pharaoh.”)

5Jethro came to Moses where they were camped at the mountain of God and brought Moses’ wife and children with him. 6He had sent word to Moses that he was coming with them 7and Moses went out to meet them. He bowed to his father-in-law and welcomed him. They each asked how the other had been and went into Moses’ tent to talk. 8Moses told his father-in-law about all the things the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and about all the problems they faced along the way and how the LORD had brought them out. 9Jethro was glad to hear about what the LORD had done to rescue them from the Egyptians.

10Jethro said, “Thanks be to God for rescuing all of you. 11I am convinced now that the LORD is greater than all other gods because of this.”

12Then Jethro brought a burnt offering and other offerings to God, and Aaron came with the elders of Israel and broke bread with Moses’ father-in-law in God’s presence.

13The next day, morning to evening, Moses served as a judge for the people, who gathered around him. 14When his father-in-law saw this he said, “Why are you doing this? They gather around you all day long and you try to do everything by yourself?”

15Moses answered, “They come to me to ask God what to do for them. 16If they have an argument they come to me and I decide between them and teach them God’s rules and regulations.”

17His father-in-law said, “This is not good. 18You’ll exhaust yourself and them too. This is too much for you to do by yourself. 19Now listen to me; this is my advice, and may God be with you. You should represent the people before God and bring their cases to God. 20And you should teach them the rules and regulations so they will know what to do and how to live. 21But you should appoint able men who fear God and can be trusted, and who hate dishonesty. Put these men over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22Let them judge the people. They can bring the most important cases to you, but the vast majority of the cases they can decide themselves. That will make it easier for you if they will help share the burden. 23If you do it this way, and surely God approves, you will survive, and all these people will journey in peace.”

24Moses took Jethro’s advice and 25picked capable men from among the Israelites and appointed them as judges over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26They heard all the complaints, and difficult cases they brought to Moses, but in most cases, they passed judgment themselves.

27Then Moses bid his father-in-law farewell, and Jethro returned to his own country.


1-9:  You may remember that before he became the savior of the Hebrews Moses fled to the wilderness where he married a woman named Zipporah and worked for her father Reuel (aka Jethro — see Exodus 2:15-22). They had a son named Gershom. Now we learn that they have two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, and we also learn that when Moses went down to Egypt, he sent his family back to Jethro to stay while he was sparring with Pharaoh — a wise move, no doubt. Jethro, having now heard about the success Moses has had, brings his wife and sons out to him in the wilderness. They meet and greet and go into the tent to catch up. Zipporah, Gershom, and Eliezer are never mentioned again in the Bible.

10-12: Jethro praises the LORD above all gods. He has brought an animal for sacrifice, and they invite Aaron and the elders to enjoy the meal with them.

13-23: The next day Jethro watches Moses listen to disputes the people bring to him, and pass judgment on every one regardless of how big or small. Jethro gives Moses a lesson in delegating.

24-27: Moses listens to his father-in-law and appoints elders to be judges and instructs them in the basics and tells them to pass only the hardest cases on to him to decide. Jethro leaves to go back home, humming a satisfied little tune, I imagine.


Oftentimes God uses persons outside the covenant to further the cause of God’s people. That is the case here with Jethro, who is not an Israelite, and there will be others, such as the Persian king Cyrus who frees the Israelites from their bondage in Babylon, and also some “wise men” from the east.