Exodus 18: 1-27

Some people can take on the burdens of everyone around them.  As Jethro says to Moses, “What you are doing is not good.”  Of course, we should be available for the people that God has specifically put into our lives for us to invest in but we should not become the savior of our school, our church, or our more needy friends.  God has provided an extended family of believers;  He has provided a written code by which to live.  God is not deficient like he needs you.  God is compassionate and he loves you.

A second point is that the God of the Old Testament is not simply the God of Israel.  This passage shows that Jethro of Midian observes all that God has done and acknowledges that Moses’ God is mighty.  Israel was to follow God and the nations were to follow the example of Israel.  Although Midian becomes an arch enemy (cf. Gideon in Judges), here we see a Midianite who honors God.

Exodus 18:1-27

 1Now (A)Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.

 2Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife (B)Zipporah, after he had sent her away,

 3and her (C)two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have been (D)a sojourner in a foreign land.”

 4The other was named (E)Eliezer, for he said, “(F)The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.”

 5Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at (G)the mount of God.

 6He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”

 7Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and (H)he bowed down and (I)kissed him; and they (J)asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.

 8Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians (K)for Israel’s sake, all the (L)hardship that had befallen them on the journey, and how (M)the LORD had delivered them.

 9Jethro rejoiced over all (N)the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians.

 10So Jethro said, “(O)Blessed be the LORD who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.

 11“Now I know that (P)the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, (Q)it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.”

 12(R)Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

 13It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening.

 14Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?”

 15Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me (S)to inquire of God.

 16“When they have a (T)dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

Jethro Counsels Moses

 17Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good.

 18(U)You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; (V)you cannot do it alone.

 19“Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you (W)bring the disputes to God,

 20(X)then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them (Y)the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.

 21“Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people (Z)able men (AA)who fear God, men of truth, those who (AB)hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.

 22“Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be (AC)that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge So it will be easier for you, and (AD)they will bear the burden with you.

 23“If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”

 24So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

 25Moses chose (AE)able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.

 26They judged the people at all times; (AF)the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge.

 27Then Moses (AG)bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land.


  1. Who came to see Moses (4 people)?
  2. What had they heard?
  3. What was their reaction to the LORD?
  4. How are they a model for nations hearing about God’s work?
  5. How have you responded to stories of God’s work in the Bible and from other believers?

Going Deeper


  • What was Jethro’s occupation?
  • Who was sent to Jethro?
  • Than whom does Jethro think that the LORD is greater?
  • How long do people stand around Moses?
  • What does Moses do with his father-in-law’s advice?


  • What did a priest of Midian do?
  • How did Jethro’s view of the gods as a whole shift?
  • How is Jethro a model for others?
  • What is the significance of the sacrifice offered? 
  • Why did people in the ancient world tend to gravitate to a single leader?


  • How should people react to seeing God at work?
  • Do you hear about God at work all over the Earth?  What about South Korea, China, and Africa?
  • How do modern people tend to become over-reliant on individuals in the church, the family, and at work?
  • How can more people in church be actively involved in ministry?
  • How would people at church feel more ownership and be committed to a church like they are to their job?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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