Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He heard especially about how the Lord had rescued them from Egypt. Earlier, Moses had sent his wife, Zipporah, and his two sons back to Jethro, who had taken them in. (Moses’ first son was named Gershom, for Moses had said when the boy was born, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.” His second son was named Eliezer, for Moses had said, “The God of my ancestors was my helper; he rescued me from the sword of Pharaoh.”) Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, now came to visit Moses in the wilderness. He brought Moses’ wife and two sons with him, and they arrived while Moses and the people were camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent a message to Moses, saying, “I, Jethro, your father-in-law, am coming to see you with your wife and your two sons.” So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law. He bowed low and kissed him. They asked about each other’s welfare and then went into Moses’ tent. Moses told his father-in-law everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and Egypt on behalf of Israel. He also told about all the hardships they had experienced along the way and how the Lord had rescued his people from all their troubles. Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel as he rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians. “Praise the Lord,” Jethro said, “for he has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Yes, he has rescued Israel from the powerful hand of Egypt! I know now that the Lord is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.” Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God. Aaron and all the elders of Israel came out and joined him in a sacrificial meal in God’s presence. The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.” “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves. Soon after this, Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, who returned to his own land.
Dear God, Jethro lived an interesting life. I’ve always wondered of which god he was a priest: “I know now that the Lord is greater than all other gods…”
In this story, we learn that he allowed his daughter and grandchildren to stay with him while Moses dealt with Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and the Israelites. We also know that he brought them back to Moses and that he apparently really respected Moses. Finally, he played the role of short-term advisor. Moses was so wrapped up in the trees that he couldn’t see the forest. I have a similar problem at my current job and the board of directors is trying to help me and play a similar role to what Jethro played for Moses here.
But I like this image of Jethro as father figure to Moses. I like the ole he is playing in his daughter’s life by 1.) helping her and her boys directly and 2,) helping her husband to keep his sanity which, in turn, will be of benefit to her as well. Basically, Jethro just seems like a good man who is offering himself to be used in whatever role you have for him.
On some levels, being a son-in-law to your father-in-law can be easier than being a daughter-in-law to a mother-in-law. The dynamics are different. But one of the hard things for either men or women is to humble themselves to take advice from their elder. Pride can get in the way. On the other hand, it can sometimes be difficult for the elder to know when to remain silent and let the young generation figure things out for themselves. The best lessons are learned through the experience of failure. Finally, there usually comes a day in the life cycle when the younger generation has to take over and start caring for the elder generation. That is an especially difficult transition because complete paradigms have to shift. My wife and I are moving into that phase now as the younger generation, but I am also trying to steel myself and prepare my ego and heart for the day 25 or so years from now when I will need to make decisions that will make life easier for my children when I am the aging elder and they are the younger.
Father, that last paragraph was a lot of words to just say that humility is important and a willingness to serve and step out in courage is important. I am sure that Jethro was at least somewhat nervous about giving Moses his advice. But he gave it well, and Moses was able to receive it. Help me to be both a good receiver and deliverer of your counsel so that I might be who you need me to be n the lives you have place around me.
In Jesus’s name I pray,