Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Jethro. See chap. ii. 18. — Priest. Hebrew Cohen means also a prince. Both offices were performed by the heads of families, in the law of nature. (Worthington) — It is supposed that this interview took place later, and should be placed [after] Numbers x. 10. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Back, with her consent, when he was going to the court of Pharao. (Menochius) — Since he had the vision of God, St. Epiphanius says, he lived in continence with her. (Hœr. 78.)
Ver. 5. Mountain. Horeb, (chap. iii. 1,) or Sinai. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Word. Hebrew, “And he said unto Moses, I, &c. (7) And Moses went out to meet,” &c., which seems very strange, after he had been just talking with him. The authors of the Septuagint and Syriac read behold, instead of I. “It was told Moses. Behold thy,” &c. Kennicott observes, that five Samaritan copies retain ene, “behold,” instead of ani, “I,” and thus obviate the nonsense which disturbs the reader of the present Hebrew.
Ver. 7. Worshipped, bending to the ground, according to the custom of the country. (Haydock) — Tent of the Lord, if it were then erected, and afterwards into that of Moses. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. Rejoiced. Septuagint, “was in an ecstacy,” of admiration, mixed with joy. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. I know. I am now more convinced of this truth. Jethro instructed his family in these principles. The Rechabites were his descendants. (1 Paralipomenon ii. 55; Jeremias xxxv.) (Menochius) — Proudly. Hebrew, “because in the thing in which they did proudly, he was against, or above them.” Something must be supplied. God turned the wisdom and arms of the Egyptians to their own confusion. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Sacrifices. Peace-offerings, of which he might partake with the ancients. (Haydock) — Jethro being a stranger, and a servant of the true God, might perform this duty in person, even though we allow that the priesthood was restrained to the family of Aaron before this time with regard to the Hebrews. (Calmet) — Before God. St. Augustine, who supposes that the tabernacle was not yet erected, explains this in honour of God: but others, who believe this happened at the close of the year, say that the feast was made before the tabernacle, the house of God. (Menochius)
Ver. 17. Good, or convenient, either for yourself, or for the people. (Haydock)
Ver. 18. Foolish. Septuagint, “intolerable.” — Labour. Hebrew, “thou wilt surely sink, or be wasted away.”
Ver. 20. To do. Be a mediator between God and the people: explain their wants, and bring back his decision: but let inferior officers see them executed. (Haydock)
Ver. 21. Avarice. That they may not be bribed against their better knowledge. The wise, rich, and disinterested, must be appointed magistrates; such as may not be under any undue influence. Aristotle blames the Lacedemonians for entrusting such offices to people who had nothing. See Isaias iii. 7.
Ver. 23. Thou shalt. Hebrew, “and God shall order thee.” Jethro does not wish his advice should be followed, till God had been consulted. (Calmet) — By his plan, he thought Moses would have time to confer more with God, and promote his own welfare, and the convenient dispatch of business. (Menochius)
Ver. 25. Tens. The Samaritan copy here inserts, from Deuteronomy i. 9 to 19, where this is related at greater length. The Septuagint also add to the other officers, the Grammatoeisagogeis, or Shoterim, mentioned in the same place, as lectors or scribes, whose business it perhaps was to present written requests.
Ver. 26. To him. Whether they regarded religious or civil matters. No appeal was made from an inferior or any other tribunal, but that of the supreme magistrate. (Calmet)
Ver. 27. Depart, upon his consenting to leave his son Hobab, for a guide, (Bonfrere on Numbers x. 29,) or perhaps he departed for a time, and returned again. (Calmet) — Moses shews by his example, that superiors ought not to disdain receiving prudent admonitions from any one. (St. Chrysostom) (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Jethro bringeth to Moses his wife and children. His counsel.
1 And when *Jethro the priest of Madian, the kinsman of Moses, had heard all the things that God had done to Moses, and to Israel his people, and that the Lord had brought forth Israel out of Egypt:
2 He took Sephora, the wife of Moses, whom he had sent back:
3 And her two sons, of whom one was called Gersam: his father saying, *I have been a stranger in a foreign country.
4 And the other Eliezer: For the God of my father, said he, is my helper, and hath delivered me from the sword of Pharao.
5 And Jethro, the kinsman of Moses, came with his sons, and his wife to Moses into the desert, where he was camped by the mountain of God.
6 And he sent word to Moses, saying: I Jethro, thy kinsman, come to thee, and thy wife, and thy two sons with her.
7 And he went out to meet his kinsman, and worshipped and kissed him: and they saluted one another with words of peace. And when he was come into the tent,
8 Moses told his kinsman all that the Lord had done to Pharao, and the Egyptians in favour of Israel: and all the labour which had befallen them in the journey, and that the Lord had delivered them.
9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the good things that the Lord had done to Israel, because he had delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians.
10 And he said: Blessed is the Lord, who hath delivered his people out of the hand of Egypt.
11 Now I know, that the Lord is great above all gods; *because they dealt proudly against them.
12 So Jethro, the kinsman of Moses, offered holocausts and sacrifices to God: and Aaron and all the ancients of Israel came, to eat bread with him before God.
13 And the next day Moses sat to judge the people, who stood by Moses from morning until night.
14 And when his kinsman had seen all things that he did among the people, he said: What is it that thou dost among the people? Why sittest thou alone, and all the people wait from morning till night?
15 And Moses answered him: The people come to me to seek the judgment of God.
16 And when any controversy falleth out among them, they come to me to judge between them, and to shew the precepts of God, and his laws.
17 But he said: The thing thou dost is not good.
18 Thou art spent with foolish labour, both thou, and this people that is with thee; the business is above thy strength,* thou alone canst not bear it.
19 But hear my words and counsels, and God shall be with thee. Be thou to the people in those things that pertain to God, to bring their words to him:
20 And to shew the people the ceremonies, and the manner of worshipping, and the way wherein they ought to walk, and the work that they ought to do.
21 And provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, in whom there is truth, and that hate avarice, and appoint of them rulers of thousands, and of hundreds, and of fifties, and of tens,
22 Who may judge the people at all times: and when any great matter soever shall fall out, let them refer it to thee, and let them judge the lesser matters only: that so it may be lighter for thee, the burden being shared out unto others.
23 If thou dost this, thou shalt fulfil the commandment of God, and shalt be able to bear his precepts: and all this people shall return to their places with peace.
24 And when Moses heard this, he did all things that he had suggested unto him.
25 And choosing able men out of all Israel, he appointed them rulers of the people, rulers over thousands, and over hundreds, and over fifties, and over tens.
26 And they judged the people at all times: and whatsoever was of greater difficulty they referred to him, and they judged the easier cases only.
27 And he let his kinsman depart: and he returned and went into his own country.*
1: Year of the World 2514, Year before Christ 1490.
3: Exodus ii. 22.
11: Exodus i. 14. and v. 7. and x. 10. and xiv. 8.
18: Deuteronomy i. 12.
27: Numbers xx. 29.