GOD’S WORK OF REDEMPTION ENHANCES HIS REPUTATION AND EARNS PRAISE AND COMMITMENT
The material in the first half of chapter 18 is the necessary background information for the more important discussion in the second half of the chapter regarding easing the burden of judging the Israelites by delegating responsibilities to key elders. We have already seen that God’s intent was to make His name known to the surrounding nations (9:14, 16) and to magnify His glory by the way in which He delivered His people and provided for them in the wilderness. Here we see a priest of Midian coming to appreciate the greatness of the God of Israel.
Wiersbe: After reading about the trials, complaints, and battles of the Israelites, it’s a relief to move into a chapter that describes the camp of Israel as a quiet place of family fellowship and daily business. Life isn’t always hunger and thirst and warfare, although those are often the things we usually remember.
Timothy Greene: What a stark and vivid contrast we have between the Amalekites in chapter seventeen, and Jethro, the priest of Midian in chapter eighteen! And what a contrast we also have between the history of the Amalekites throughout the Old Testament, and the history of the Kenites! And yet both of these chapters, and both of these histories, ultimately tell the same story of God’s zeal to bring His salvation to all the peoples of the earth. In chapter seventeen, we saw the “negative” side of that zeal in the decree that the Amalekites should be utterly annihilated and destroyed. But here in chapter eighteen, we see the very first beginnings of God’s salvation blessings reaching out to include even the Gentiles. In the story of Jethro we see anticipated the stories of other Gentiles, such as King Hiram, the queen of Sheba (cf. Mat. 12:42), Rahab (cf. Mat. 1:5; Heb. 11:31; Js. 2:25), Namaan (cf. Lk. 4:27), and the widow from Zarephath (cf. Lk. 8 4:25-26). In the story of Jethro, we see anticipated the permanent line of a family in Israel that will always shine as an example to all the rest of true faith and obedience.
Nathan Carter: Exodus is the story of the one, true God distinguishing himself by supernaturally intervening to redeem a people for himself. . . it gives us the paradigm of how God acts in history to save his people, a prefiguring of the ultimate redemption that was accomplished in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. . .
Here is a Midianite (and it was the Midianites who sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt (Gen. 37:36), who deceived Israel later at Peor (Nu 25:17), who Gideon was called to fight against in Jdg. 6-7)… here is a Midianite who is engrafted into the covenant people of God. Yes, the promise first given to Abraham that through him and his offspring all peoples of the earth would be blessed is coming true. This God is for all people. And the great salvation that he has accomplished in Christ is meant to be proclaimed to all nations.
I. (:1-6) GOD’S WORK OF REDEMPTION ENHANCES HIS REPUTATION (TESTIFIES TO THE WATCHING WORLD)
A. (:1a) Testimony Impacts Jethro
“Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law,”
David Guzik: Jethro was the priest of Midian—likely a descendant of one of Abraham’s other children through Keturah named Midian (Genesis 25:1–2). Because of this connection with Abraham, we have good reason to believe he was a true priest, and worshipped the true God.
Timothy Greene: The last we heard of Jethro was in chapter four when Moses went to his father-in-law after the burning bush and asked for his blessing on a return visit to his brothers and relatives in Egypt. (cf. Exod. 4:18-20) Now, of course, a whole lot has happened since then! And even Jethro, the priest of Midian, has heard from far off of all that God has done in bringing Israel out of Egypt.
B. (:1b) Testimony Focuses on God’s Work of Redemption
“heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.”
C. (:2-6) Testimony Prompts a Family Reunion for Moses and His Wife and Sons
1. (:2-4) Reunion Participants
a. (:2) Jethro and Zipporah
“And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away,”
John MacArthur: The intelligence-gathering ability of ancient peoples should not be underestimated. Quickly and thoroughly the news of significant events in other lands passed from one place to another, very often via the merchant caravans which traversed the Fertile Crescent, or through ambassadors and other official contacts between nations. In Jethro’s case, whatever knowledge he had gleaned of Israel’s progress had been supplemented with information from Zipporah and her sons after Moses sent them ahead to her home.
b. (:3-4) Two Sons
“and her two sons,”
1) (:3) Gershom – Disappointment – Alien in a foreign land
“of whom one was named Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.’”
John Davis: The name Gershom means “banishment” coming from the root garas (“to drive” or “to thrust away”). This name probably reflects something of the disappointment that Moses experienced in his separation from his people in the land of Egypt.
2) (:4) Eliezer – Gratitude – Helped by God
“And the other was named Eliezer, for he said, ‘The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.’”
John Davis: This name indicates something of the gratitude which Moses had for divine protection enjoyed during his flight from Egypt.
Timothy Greene: We also learn, now, about the naming of Moses’ second son. He named him Eliezer (“for he said, ‘The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh’”). Just as Moses’ first deliverance from Pharaoh was followed by a first meeting with Jethro, the Midianite, so now a second and greater deliverance from Egypt is about to be followed by another meeting—a reunion—with Jethro, the Midianite.
2. (:5) Reunion Logistics
“Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God.”
Wiersbe: 2 possible scenarios:
1) It’s possible that Moses sent his family back to Midian before the Lord declared war on Egypt. Then, after the Exodus, Moses sent a messenger to Jethro asking him to bring Zipporah and the two boys and meet him at Sinai.
2) If the family was with him in Egypt, then sometime after the Exodus, Moses may have sent Zipporah and their two sons back to Midian to give the good news to her family . . . Having heard the good news, Jethro then sent a message to Moses saying that he was coming to the camp with Zipporah and her sons.
3. (:6) Reunion Introduction
“And he sent word to Moses, ‘I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.’”
II. (:7-12) GOD’S WORK OF REDEMPTION EARNS PRAISE AND COMMITMENT FROM JETHRO AND MOSES
A. (:7) Renewing Family Relationships and Reviewing Personal Testimonies
1. Respect and Affection
“Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law,
and he bowed down and kissed him;”
John Davis: He respected this man for his wisdom as well as his age.
Bruce Hurt: Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him – Notice that Moses does not wait for Jethro to come to him, but he goes out to meet Jethro and in so doing, demonstrated his respect for his father-in-law, respect which underscored by his willingness to bow and kiss him. It is also notable that Jethro is mentioned before Zipporah and the sons. Moses now a man of considerable esteem (“a prophet of the Lord, a great prophet, and king in Jeshurun” – Matthew Henry) was still a humble man and expressed his respect and reverence for a man presumably older than himself. Moses’ greeting would support the thought that Jethro, a priest in Midian, was a godly man and not a pagan priest. We see Abraham bowing down to the three men (one very likely a Christophany) who came to meet him in Genesis 18:2. In Ge 19:1 Lot bowed down to the angels.
2. Concern for Each Other’s Welfare
“and they asked each other of their welfare,
and went into the tent.”
B. (:8) Reviewing Personal Testimonies of God’s Faithfulness
“And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done
to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake,
all the hardship that had befallen them on the journey,
and how the LORD had delivered them.”
Timothy Greene: It’s pretty obvious what Moses is doing, isn’t it? It’s possible we could say that this is the first case of “evangelizing” anywhere in the Bible – right here in the Old Testament, in the book of Exodus. From the overflow of his own heart, Moses relates to his father-in-law not the things that he has done, but “all that Yahweh had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how Yahweh had delivered them.”
Moses is giving testimony to the goodness, and the glory, and the power and supremacy of Yahweh, the God of Israel. And to whom is Moses witnessing and proclaiming all these things? – To a Midianite and a foreigner, and even more specifically to a Midianite priest! The picture is really quite startling and amazing, and yet now it’s about to get even more so. How will a foreign Midianite priest respond to the news about the God of Israel?
C. (:9-11) Rejoicing in the Supremacy of the Lord
1. (:9) Rejoicing in the Goodness of the Lord
“And Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians.”
Steven Cole: on goodness of Jehovah – It is essential that you derive your understanding of God from the Bible. And at the root of who God is, you must affirm that He is good. This means that He “deals well and bountifully with His creatures” (Stephen Charnock). A W Tozer put it, “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.” The Bible attests to God’s goodness in His creation (Ge 1:31); in His salvation and deliverance of His people (Ex 18:9; Nu 10:29, 32); in His provision for His people (Neh 9:25); and, in His Word, which instructs us in how to live so as to be blessed (Ps 25:8; Dt. 30:15-16), even in affliction (Ge 50:20).
Nathan Carter: Back to the larger main point: evangelism is not about the person and his or her experience in life, but about God and what he has accomplished in history. Isn’t it interesting that Jethro gets converted (and that’s what happens as we’ll see in a moment) not by hearing of Moses’ burning bush experience but Jethro was converted when he heard about “all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians” (v. 9). . .
It was Francis Schaeffer, I think, who used to say we must present the gospel not first as something that is helpful, but as something that is true. As such it doesn’t depend on my feelings or virtue, but on objective facts. I love the Apostle Paul’s tack when clearly trying to persuade King Agrippa to be a Christian – “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:25-26). When Christians are witnessing they are not testifying to something that was done in a corner of their heart when they asked Jesus to come in; they’re bearing witness to public facts about a crucified and risen Lord seen back from the dead by over 500 people at one time. That’s something that has to be dealt with. In testifying to that I’m not drawing attention to myself, I’m not claiming that I have something that you don’t; I’m simply reporting the news that God has acted in history to accomplish salvation.
2. (:10) Rejoicing in the Deliverance Accomplished by the Lord
“So Jethro said, ‘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
3. (:11) Rejoicing in the Greatness of the Lord
“Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods;
indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.”
Walter Kaiser Jr.: This confession formula – “Now I know” – is used by two other Gentile believers: the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:24), and Naaman, commander of the Syrian army (2 Kings 5:15). It is a clear statement to Yahweh’s incomparable greatness above all the gods of Egypt (not necessarily Jethro’s past or present penchant for polytheism).
D. (:12) Remembering God’s Work in Sacrifices and Fellowship Meal
1. Participating in Sacrifices
“Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God,”
Youngblood: Jethro then “brought” sacrifices to God, a verb that always means to “provide” an animal for sacrifice (25:2; Lev. 12:8, for example), never to “officiate at” a sacrifice.
2. Participating in Fellowship Meal
“and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel
to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.”
Thomas Constable: The meal that Moses, Aaron, and the Israelite elders ate with Jethro was the sacrificial meal just mentioned. Eating together in the ancient Near East was a solemn occasion because it constituted the establishment of an alliance between the parties involved. That is undoubtedly what it involved here. The fact that Aaron and all the elders of Israel were also present demonstrated its importance.
Alec Motyer: In verses 1-12 Jethro hears the truth about the Lord, the God of Israel, delights in what he hears, praises the Lord personally for his saving acts, affirms the truth of the one and only God, revealed in and confirmed by what he has done, and brings his own offerings. We would say that Jethro came to faith, that he was converted – and the response of the Israelite leadership shows that Jethro was officially affirmed in the faith he had professed.