A Helpful Visit From Family


Verse 1-4, When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt; {2} Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back, {3} And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land: {4} And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:

I.    The visitors - latecomers with blessings.

A.     Jethro - Moses father in law.

1.       A priest of God at Midian.

2.       Came to hear more of the good things he had heard.  (Note: He heard good things about Israel and bad things about Egypt.)

B.     Zipporah - Moses' wife.

1.       Ex. 4:24-26 - A very rebellious woman.

2.       Num. 12:1 - Evidently continued to be rebellious.

3.       Moses sent her back.

a.       I Tim. 3:5 - A pastor must rule his own house well, and Moses needs his wife while he does God's work.

b.       Rebellious people are not needed if we are going to make any progress for God.

c.       Even if they are your own family, as close as a wife or husband - send them away so we can serve God acceptably.

d.       Matt. 19:29 - If we forsake our rebellious family, God will add to us 100 fold!!  TRUST THIS PROMISE!!

e.       He didn't divorce her, but separated from her until it was possible to dwell with her again, (I Peter 3:7).  See also I Cor. 7:5.

4.       This verse raises the question of what a leader is to do when the wife doesn't want to follow.

a.       We must separate what the Bible says about a religious leader and a political leader.

b.       Moses is not the God anointed religious leader, but a God anointed political leader.

c.       Because he is a political leader, his wife doesn't necessarily have to be in agreement with him at all times, although that is definitely the best.

d.       The political leader, Moses, under the guidance of God, will establish the Levitical priesthood as the religious leader of Israel.

e.       I think it is also fair to notice that some religious leaders of Israel were corrupt.

f.        That doesn't mean God's standards are wrong.

5.       We are living in a time when many preachers are forsaking the moral values God intends them to uphold.

a.       Many preachers today have divorced the wife of their youth, married another and continue to preach and pastor.

b.       I Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 declare that a pastor (bishop) must be the husband of one wife.  (This doesn't mean one at a time.)

c.       Even though there are many preachers and pastors who are divorced and still filling that office, they will not be crowned because they haven't striven lawfully, II Timothy 2:5.

d.       Many people disagree with this statement because they say they can see how God is blessing the ministry of that divorced individual.

e.       It must be remembered that God always blesses His Word, even if it is preached by a lost person!

6.       II Chron. 24:1-3 - Jehoiada was priest, led the rebellion against Athaliah, the only queen ever to reign in Jerusalem.

a.       Even a casual study of this priest will reveal that he was a very good man.

b.       God used this man to preserve the lineage of David in order that the prophecy concerning Jesus Christ occupying the throne of David would be fulfilled.

c.       Verse 3 reveals that this man had two wives.

d.       Please notice that he failed to keep the commandments of God concerning wedlock during a time when there was exceeding wickedness in all of Israel.

e.       Please compare this episode to today's time when preachers and pastors fail to keep the commandments of God concerning marriage when there is exceeding wickedness in the land.

f.        There may be more priests that had two wives, but this is the only one I presently know about.

C.     Gershom - the first born son - meaning of name given in verse 3.  I have been a stranger in a strange land, speaking of the land of Midian.

1.       Ex. 6:16 - It is very likely that this Gershon (note the difference in spelling) is the same word as the name Gershom.

2.       It is likely Moses thought of the name Gershom because of his uncle Levi, who named his son Gershon.

3.       I Chron. 23:15, 16 - Gershom's son, Shebuel, was the chief, or the ruler of that particular family.  This same grandson of Moses, Shebuel, was also the ruler of the treasures.

4.       I think I can truthfully say that this descendant of Moses played a small role in Israel.

D.     Eliezer - the second born son -

1.       Meaning of name given in verse 4.

2.       After Moses had been in Midian a while (2 years) and wasn't sought after by the Egyptians, he figured he was safe.

E.      The two children.

1.       Nothing extra ordinary is recorded concerning their lives.

2.       They are Levites.

3.       The Levites are established as the leaders in temple worship.


Verse 5-7, And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God: {6} And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. {7} And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent.

II.    Their greeting.

A.     The greeting noticed by the people.

1.       Greatness does not destroy good manners.

2.       Moses not only honors his father and mother, but his wife's father and mother.

B.     No mention of Moses meeting his family, though we know he did.

C.     Respect paid to father in law.

1.       Because of this family relationship.

2.       Because he is a priest of God.  Note: This is the 2nd mention of a priesthood before the Levitical priesthood.


Verse 8-12, And Moses told his father in law all that the LORD had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the LORD delivered them.  {9} And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. {10} And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. {11} Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them. {12} And Jethro, Moses' father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father in law before God.

III.    Recapitulation of God's blessings.

A.     This is what Jethro came for.

1.       It's always good to hear about God' works even if you've heard it before.

2.       Not like some who don't want to hear a message about salvation because they've heard it before.

B.     The result of hearing.

1.       Rejoiced at what God had done, not at what Israel or Moses had done.

2.       When we repeat the blessings of God, we ought to rejoice each time.

3.       Verse 11 - Now he knows.

a.       He knew it all along, but now it is confirmed again and in greater detail.

b.       Because God defeated the proud Egyptians, and all of their gods.

C.     The burnt offering and sacrifices.

1.       The offerings are because of the rejoicing; the rejoicing doesn't cause the offerings.

2.       A Gentile (Midianite) lead in this service.

a.       The Jews didn't show contempt for Gentiles as they will later.

b.       The Pharisees didn't understand the purposes of God.

3.       The meal.

a.       Eaten before God.

b.       Aaron and the Elders of Israel were there.

c.       Surely God is no respecter of persons.


Verse 13-27, And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. {14} And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? {15} And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God: {16} When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. {17} And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. {18} Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. {19} Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: {20} And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. {21} Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: {22} And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. {23} If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. {24} So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. {25} And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. {26} And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. {27} And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land.

IV.    A part of Moses' job was judging the people.  (Verse 13-26)

A.     A judge of the people (verse 15,16) - Moses didn't make the laws, he only revealed God's laws to the people.  He was a servant.

1.       Verse 15 - To find an answer from God.

2.       Verse 16 - To settle a quarrel between people.

3.       Note: Ex. 2:14 - Israel asks, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?"  They ask no questions about authority when God sets Moses over them.

4.       Verse 13 - Moses sat as one in authority.

5.       Verse 13 - The people stood, respecting that authority.

6.       Took no vacation when family came.

a.       We shouldn't take a vacation from church to visit our family or when they visit us.

b.       When we go on vacation, we ought to take God with us.  (Visit a church, of like faith and practice, if possible.)

7.       Moses was willing to continue helping the people even though they had thought of stoning him. (17:4)  May God help us to forgive like that.

B.     Verse 16 - What is the difference between a statute and a law?

1.       In our day, there is no perceptible difference between a statute and a law, except to lawyers, but to God there is a difference.

2.       A law is a body of strict legal requirements that must be obeyed or the consequences will be paid.

3.       A statute is the range of requirements God has established.

4.       The difference between a law and a statute is the law is strict, concerns one particular circumstance and must be conformed to or the consequences will be paid.

5.       A statute, on the other hand, involves the whole range of obedience, not of just keeping the legal requirements, but keeping the "spirit" of the law.

C.     Jethro's advice.

1.       An outsider who is able to see the truth of the matter.

2.       Verse 17 - He told him outright - it is not good.

a.       He was honest with a carefulness for Moses' feelings and God's will.  (verse 23).

b.       Moses was willing to listen to any advice to make his job easier and more efficient.

3.       Verse 18 - A concern for Moses' health and continued blessings on Israel.

a.       Note: Many pastors need to take this advice.

b.       Many churches can't grow any more because the pastor can't take on any more and can’t take anymore.

c.       If that pastor would only see the benefit of "delegating authority," more would get done by more people, and more people would be active in God's service.

4.       The advice is to teach others to teach Israel and Moses will oversee the entire matter.

5.       The qualifications of the teachers - able men.

a.       Note: This plan will fail if there are no able men.

b.       We need to remark that although Moses started this program (evidently at God's command), it never really took hold.

c.       One year and 10 months later (Num. 12), we find the vast majority of Israel still don't have the faith to believe the promises of God, much less make a Godly judgment in any matter.

d.       The book of Judges tells us that "every man did that which was right in his own house" (Judges 17:6, 21:25).

e.       Christ’s' churches today are failing because of the lack of "able men".

f.        May God help our men to realize that this is just exactly what we need in this church.

g.       Men that will teach the Word of God in our Sunday Schools, and in their everyday lives.

6.       What is needed then and now.

a.       Fear God - A respect for God and his laws.

b.       Men of truth - In everyday dealings and a lover of God's Word.

c.       Hating covetousness - The only sin which is completely internal.  Nobody knows but you - Rom. 7:7 - the only law that Paul couldn't overcome - the internal law.

7.       The chain of command established like the army.

a.       A ruler of 10 people.

b.       Five groups of 10 people (100 total) ruled over by one person.

c.       Two groups of 50 people (100 total) ruled over by one person.

d.       Ten groups of 100 people (1,000 total) ruled over by one person.

e.       So forth, until all the people have a judge readily available to them.

8.       This plan would force more people to learn the law of God and be responsible for somebody.  As time passed, and Israel grew in number, and people died, there would always be trainees and trainers.  As people prepared to be a judge over somebody else, their personal study would cause an ever increasing awareness of God's Word, and their responsibility of fulfilling it.

9.       Verse 23 - The reason for this good advice.

a.       Moses shall retain his health.

b.       The people shall live and die in the peace of God.

10.   The advice is not forced on Moses.

a.       Jethro knew Moses had a better counsellor than he was, thus he left everything to the Lord.

b.       Would to God more people today would realize their pastor is their leader and advice him and then leave their advice with their pastor and the Lord.

c.       And then not complain if their advice isn't taken, or is it is taken, and it doesn't work.

d.       One thing that ought to be remembered by pastor and church member alike: God is the final judge of all thoughts and actions.

e.       Church members need not be hurt if their pastor doesn't accept every bit of advice they give him.

f.        Pastors need not be hurt if church members give advice.

g.       What is important is that God's will be done, not whose idea it was!

D.     The advice established.

1.       See also Deut. 1:9-18.

2.       This is the time when Moses rehearses all the events of Israel before them.


V.    Verse 27 - Moses Father in law leaves.

A.     His name is Jethro, Raguel, and Reuel.

1.       Ex. 2:18 - Reuel, the priest of Midian had 7 daughters (verse 16).  According to the context this is Zipporah's dad - Moses father in law.

2.       Ex. 4:18 - Moses goes to Jethro, his father in law.  Ex. 18:1,2 - Zipporah is identified as Moses' wife and Jethro is Moses father in law.

3.       Raguel - Num. 10:29 - Raguel, the Midianite, Moses father in law is the dad of Hobab.  Hobab evidently stayed behind when Jethro went back home and his son Horeb stayed behind until Israel headed toward Canaan.

B.     The visit took about 15 days.

1.       It wasn't very far from the base of Mt. Sinai.

2.       Probably about 2, at the most 3 days.