Jethro, the Priest of Midian
The timing of this account in the chronology of the Bible is exceedingly important to understand. Though it is recorded just after the war with Amalek and just before the giving of the law, it does not belong here chronologically. We will spend quite a bit of time detailing where it belongs.
You don’t need to worry about the notes or getting overloaded with information though. As always, the sermons are uploaded on the internet and follow in written form exactly as they are in how I speak them, except without all of my slurs and st st st stutters.
Jethro, the priest of Midian is the highlight of today’s passage. He, a Gentile, came to know the true God simply by hearing about Him. A little faith goes a long way with God, so pay attention to His word and exercise faith in what it says to you.
Text Verse: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people;
For He will avenge the blood of His servants,
And render vengeance to His adversaries;
He will provide atonement for His land and His people.” Deuteronomy 32:43
Moses wrote that the Gentiles are actually a part of the Lord’s plan even though it was he who received the law for the people of Israel. He understood that they are included in the Lord’s provision probably as much because of the account of Jethro today as for any other reason.
Paul picked up on Moses’ words concerning the Gentiles and cited those words in the New Testament. It’s a big book, it’s filled with many details and some of them are hard to understand, but in the end the message is simple. God has a plan and it centers on the giving of His Son to redeem fallen man.
If we can just remember that, all of the more difficult concepts will fall into their proper place. Don’t get overloaded by His superior word, instead rejoice in it. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Jethro, the Priest of Midian (verses 1-6)
The beginning of chapter 18 will immediately bring in a question of timing. When does this occur? In Chapter 17 we read this –
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.'” Exodus 17:5, 6
However, Chapter 19 begins with this –
“In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.”
Mount Horeb of Chapter 17 and Mount Sinai of Chapter 19 are the same place. Therefore, as occurs from time to time, this account in Chapter 18 is an insert which is given to teach us a lesson, regardless of the timing of its actual occurrence. Right now, we just know it occurs after the arrival at the mountain of God.
A little later, I’ll show you that it is even after the giving of the law and the building of the tabernacle. Therefore, this account is given here even though it won’t occur for almost another year in Israel’s history. To ensure that we know this is correct before going on, all we need to do is look at the listing of recorded stops for the wilderness journeys which is found in Numbers 33 –
“They moved from Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.
15 They departed from Rephidim and camped in the Wilderness of Sinai. 16 They moved from the Wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah.” Numbers 33:14-16
From Rephidim, they went to the Wilderness of Sinai. From that point, they will not move again for an extended period of time. The next move is to Kibroth Hattaavah in Numbers 11. But Rephidim is mentioned in both accounts in Chapter 17 – the water from the rock and the war with Amalek. And yet it is a different place than where they are now.
If you remember, the elders alone first went to Horeb with Moses. Only later would the congregation have come there. Therefore, even the war with Amalek was not actually in chronological order. Understanding this, we can see that these accounts are being placed side by side for a reason.
The question then should be, “Why has it been placed here at this particular location in the Bible?” In order to understand, the bracketing accounts have to be identified. The preceding account was the war with Amalek. The one to follow is preparation for the giving of the Law.
Jethro is noted as “the priest of Midian.” Both Midian and Amalek descend from Abraham. However, though he is a priest of Midian, he is also called a descendant of the Kenites who are first recorded as living in Canaan in Genesis 15:19. These two accounts, being placed in this order then, must be at least in part concerning the different attitudes that are displayed towards Israel.
In picture, it would be the “two-fold attitude which the heathen world would assume towards the kingdom of God” (Keil) There are several analogous accounts to this in the Bible. There is the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech in Genesis. In the reigns of David and Solomon, there was a friendly partnership between them and Hiram, king of Tyre.
Solomon maintained a cordial relationship with the queen of Sheba as well. These records are given to show us that there is nothing wrong with associating with the world which is friendly towards God’s people, but that those who are belligerent against them are actually at war with them and are ultimately to be warred against until they are destroyed.
In today’s world, such foes are increasingly easy to identify. In the end, and particularly towards the nation of Israel in the end times, they will be known as the sheep and goat nations which Jesus speaks of in Matthew 25.
1 And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law,
The name Jethro has to be explained. First, in Exodus 2, Moses was taken in by a man named Reuel. He was the father of Zipporah, who would become Moses’ wife. He was also the priest of Midian. This is all explained in Exodus 2 –
“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
18 When they came to Reuel their father, he said, ‘How is it that you have come so soon today?'” Exodus 2:16-18
In Exodus 3, the name of the priest of Midian is changed to Jethro. Whether it was the same person or not is debatable because this was forty years later. Here is his introduction –
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian.” Exodus 3:1
Although he is described as Moses’ father-in-law in this translation, the word used is khathan. It is a word which has a wide signification. It implies “the giving away in marriage,” and so it can mean a father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, etc. And in the noun form, it is even used to describe a husband. It deals with contracting affinity by marriage.
If Jethro is different than Reuel, for example his son, then it means he would have replaced the position of his father as the sheikh of the tribe and therefore he would actually be Moses’ brother-in-law, but still the khathan.
He is the same person who Moses left in Exodus 3 to go attend to his people Israel. That was no more than a year or two earlier and now he is returning to the area he left. Having identified him, the meaning of his name is needed.
Jethro comes from the word yatar which means “to remain over,” or “to be at rest.” The HAW says, “It refers to one portion of a quantity which has been divided. Generally it is the smaller part and sometimes it is the part of least quality.”
Therefore, Abarim translates the name Jethro as “remnant.” During our early Exodus sermons, Reuel was there to picture the time of the church age. Jethro in Chapter 2 was introduced at the ending of the church age as God was ready to restore Israel to its inherited place in redemptive history. His name is tied to that.
The name Midian means “Place of Judgment.” Israel has been brought through the plagues on Egypt and has witnessed Pharaoh’s destruction. That pictured the tribulation period, culminating in the destruction of the antichrist. After the tribulation, comes the millennial reign of Christ when He will rule among His people. In picture, this encounter with Jethro is given as a tie-in for that.
1 (con’t) heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.
I should note now that the term “God” will be used 5 times in the next 12 verses, “gods” will be used once, and the term “Lord,” meaning Yehovah will be used 6 times. However, twice there is an article before “God” which will be highlighted. Paying attention to such things will help us see more clearly what is going on.
At this time, He is merely called, elohim, or “God” in a general sense. Jethro has heard that elohim had done great things for Moses and for Israel. Then to show that Yehovah is elohim, it says that He had brought Israel out of Egypt.
Jethro had certainly heard of the miracles, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and of the manna and quail. He may have been told of the pillar of cloud and fire and the water from the rock. He would have been told about the war with Amalek and the receiving of the law. Hearing these things was enough to excite him to action and to go out to see Moses.
2 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back,
Moses’ having sent Zipporah back to Jethro was never recorded before. The account picks up here and it simply assumes that we will understand that she was, in fact, sent back at some point while Moses continued on to Egypt alone.
The word for “sent her back,” shillukhim, is a plural word and is used for the first time in Scripture. It will only be used three times in total. It implies a dismissal, or a sending away. This would have occurred sometime after the account in Exodus 4 where she circumcised her son on their journey towards Egypt.
In our earlier Exodus sermons, we saw that Zipporah pictures the church. She is reintroduced to show that in the millennium there will be Jews and Gentiles alike, exactly as the Bible will later confirm.
3 with her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land”)
It may seem curious, but until this point, only one son has been named. The plural word “sons” is mentioned in Exodus 4, but only the name of Gershom was given. He is now reintroduced into the Bible. The explanation for his name here is given verbatim from that of Exodus 2:22 “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
The first half of his name, ger, means “stranger.” The second half shom, comes from either sham, “there,” or shem, “name.” And so his name means “Stranger There” or “Stranger is His Name.” However, Abrarim notes that the verse –
“… merely says that the boy was named such-and-such because his father was a so-and-so. There is no law that demands that the such-and-such should be etymologically akin the so-and-so. For all we know Moses might have been expressing his gladness for having finally settled, or grief for having been expelled from his familiar homeland. A verb that may have been on Moses’ mind is גרש (garash), meaning to drive or cast out.”
Thus his name may also mean “Exile.” He then pictures the church during the exile of Israel. He is the called-out Gentile church.
4 and the name of the other was Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”);
Eliezer is now introduced by name into the Bible. His name is explained by the words of Moses in this verse, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” His name means something like God of Help or My God is Help.
It is supposed that this is the son whom Zipporah circumcised in Exodus 4. It should be noted that the reason for the giving of his name is that he “delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” This is certainly referring to when Moses escaped from Pharaoh after he had killed the Egyptian in Exodus 2.
After that, Moses heard of the death of the Pharaoh who sought him. It was around this time that Eliezer was circumcised and he was probably named at that time because of it.
However, the giving of his name now for the first time in the Bible may be because Moses has actually twice been delivered from the sword of Pharaoh – once at the death of the Pharaoh who first sought to kill him, and then again at the death of the second Pharaoh at the Red Sea. God had been Moses’ help through both accounts.
This son, Eliezer, pictures those Gentiles who missed the rapture and endured through the tribulation period, calling on Christ. This was explained in the Exodus 4 sermon which detailed his circumcision by Zipporah. In 1 Chronicles 23:16, 17, this will be recorded about Eliezer –
“Of the sons of Gershon, Shebuel was the first. 17 Of the descendants of Eliezer, Rehabiah was the first. And Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very many.” 1 Chronicles 23:16, 17
5 and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness,
Again, I just want to note that this probably is Moses’ brother-in-law, so please remember that as we go along. Also, the sons are now mentioned first in this verse and the wife second – exactly the opposite of verse 2.
Another point is that Jethro is called by name here. In all, he will be called by name 7 times in the first 12 verses of this chapter and in 5 of them he will be called Moses’ khatan, or in-law in conjunction with the name. However, in the last 15 verses, he won’t be mentioned by name even once and yet he will be called his khatan five times. In total, he will be called his khatan thirteen times. Why does this matter?
Attention is being given to his name in the first half of the chapter, but attention to his relationship to Moses is given throughout the chapter. Thus, the chapter is logically divided based on the interaction with him. It is a most interesting thing to consider based on the details of the narrative between the two sections.
5 (con’t) where he was encamped at the mountain of God.
This section of verse 5 shows with all certainty that Moses and all of Israel is already at the base of Horeb, also known as Sinai, even though their recorded arrival there doesn’t come until chapter 19. It shows that God has intentionally placed this chapter here, with its details, for the reasons previously explained.
Further, not only is it after their arrival at Sinai, but it is a year later, even after the erection of the tabernacle at the time of the sending of the spies into Canaan to scope out the territory. This can be determined from Deuteronomy 1 –
5 On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying, 6 “The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. 7 Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. 8 See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’
9 “And I spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I alone am not able to bear you. 10 The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude. 11 May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you as He has promised you! 12 How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints? 13 Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ 14 And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes. Deuteronomy 1:5-15
That record in Deuteronomy encompasses the substance of what will be seen in verses 13-21 which is based on the advice of Jethro to Moses. Along with this, there are several other reasons to know that this occurs at the end of their time in Sinai:
1) Numbers 10 shows that the cloud was taken up in order for the Israelites to leave Sinai and head towards Canaan. At that time, Moses addressed Jethro, but his name is given as Hobab, and asked him to continue to travel with them as they journey, even to the land of promise itself.
As this is probable, the story we are looking at today actually belongs chronologically between Numbers 10:10 and 10:11.
2) Also, shortly after Israel departs from Sinai in Numbers 12, a dispute will take place between Miriam, Aaron, and Moses concerning Moses’ wife. This would have probably occurred shortly after she came back to be with Moses, which is now.
3) Later is this chapter, in verse 16, it will say –
“When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” Exodus 18:16
How could he explain the statutes and laws until after they have been given? That won’t occur until the law is received.
4) Finally, in verse 12, Jethro is said to offer burnt offerings and sacrifices which are in accord with those commanded in the law. Those details won’t be realized completely until the book of Leviticus is complete.
Because of these things, and maybe others, we can be certain that this account comes not in a chronological fashion, but in order to show something else, and that a separation is being made between Amalek and the Kenite people of whom Jethro is a part. This distinction will be seen particularly in 1 Samuel 15. If you remember in Exodus 17 it said –
“Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” Exodus 17:16
However, in 1 Samuel 15, we read this –
“Then Saul said to the Kenites, ‘Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.’ So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. 7 And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt.” 1 Samuel 15:6, 7
And not only was this remembered by Israel at the time of Saul, but this same line was given an even greater promise directly from the Lord. To understand it, we have to see the genealogical record of 1 Chronicles 2. There it says –
“And the families of the scribes who dwelt at Jabez were the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and the Suchathites. These were the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Rechab.” 1 Chronicles 2:55
This same house of Rechab, the descendants of the Kenites, continued to live in tents hundreds of years later, at the time of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 35, an amazing promise is made to this line of people who had always lived among Israel and in the favor of the Lord God of Israel –
“And Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts and done according to all that he commanded you, 19 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever.”‘” Jeremiah 35:18, 19
These are just a couple of the amazing stories of the Kenites and the house of Rechab that are found in the Bible. Other important times they are mentioned are Judges 1:16; Judges 4 & 5; and 2 Kings 10:15. Their great history as a group tied to Israel really stems from this account of Jethro and his care for Moses and the Israelites in Exodus 18.
Though they started as a group of people set to be removed from the land when Israel was to move in, they instead became a permanent fixture there.
One more point about the verse we’re looking at is that there is an article in front of God. It is not the mountain of God, but “the mountain of ‘the’ God. Attention is again being drawn to this fact. It was first called this in Exodus 3:1. It was also called it in Exodus 4:27 when Aaron came to meet him there. Now it is again being called “the mountain of ‘the’ God.”
6 Now he had said to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”
It’s apparent from the next verse that Jethro sent word to Moses by a messenger that he was coming. Again, he identifies himself by name and this time the wife is placed first and then the sons are mentioned, reversing the order of the previous verse.
A stranger in a foreign land I have been
But while there the Lord sustained me
And in that foreign land, a great thing was seen
A bush that burned but was not consumed, how could it be?
I realized that He was the God of Help to me
He had guided my life every step of the way|
And marvelous things He intended for me to see
For me would dawn a marvelous new day
Now I have returned to that foreign land
And yet it seems more of a home to me
Egypt was never truly my home, something better was planned
Here at home with the Lord, such marvelous things I see
II. The Rejoicing of Jethro (verse 7-9)
7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him.
Upon receiving word that Jethro was coming, Moses went out instead of waiting for his arrival. This shows a respect towards Jethro which would seem most uncommon. Moses is now the leader of several million people and yet he defers to Jethro by going out to meet him instead of summoning him to where he is.
In Genesis 18, Abraham saw the Lord coming with two others and ran out to meet them instead of waiting on them to arrive at his tent. And in the same fashion, Abraham bowed himself to the ground before the Lord just as Moses does now.
It shows a mark of true humility because Moses could have waited for Jethro to come bow before him. And then after the formalities came, the true meeting of the two occurred when Moses kissed Jethro. This is one of only two recorded kisses in the life of Moses.
Although he lived 120 years, Aaron is noted as having kissed him in Exodus 4:27. Now, he is recorded as kissing Jethro. One kiss is from a Hebrew, one is to a Gentile, and both are to priests – the High Priest of Israel and the Priest of Midian, the Place of Judgment.
7 (con’) And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent.
These last words of the verse leave a bit of a debate open. It specifically mentions that they went into “the tent.” As this is after the erection of the tabernacle, and because there is no obvious break in the conversation between this verse and verse 12, it implies that Moses took him into the tabernacle, not his own tent. As this is so, Moses is now showing him the very dwelling place of the Lord who is “the” God that he has been a priest to.
8 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 come upon them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them.
Here we see the concept of “recounting the works of the Lord.” It says that Moses “told” his father in law all that happened, but the word used is saphar which means to tell in the sense of recounting. He probably went through a long, methodical, and excited recounting of everything that happened from his first appearance before Pharaoh all the way up until he watched him sinking below the waters of the Red Sea.
After that, there would have been the stories concerning the bitter waters made sweet, the lack of food and the giving of Manna and quail, the lack of water and the splitting of the rock, and then the war with Amalek.
Moses would have told him about the giving of the law and then the construction of the tabernacle and its dedication. Jethro would certainly have been amazed at all that happened and how the Lord continually delivered his people.
A rather uncommon word is used here which is translated as “sake” – “for Israel’s sake.” It is odoth which carries the idea of “because.” It is always used in a plural form and it is always preceded by the Hebrew word we translate as “for.”
It comes from the word ud which means a firebrand. The idea is that as a firebrand is turned in the coals in order to keep a fire burning, the Lord accomplished His turnings for Israel. It’s an interesting mental picture which is given as Moses speaks to Jethro.
And one more word is used here which is significant. It is telaah, translated as “hardship.” It’s the first of four times it will be seen in the Bible and it gives the sense of weariness and distress. The things that had happened on the way had literally wearied the people as the trials kept coming. What a picture of Israel throughout the ages!
9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.
In response to the deliverance of the people from their difficulties, Jethro is said to have rejoiced. It is the word khadah and this is its first of only three uses in the Bible. It is the type of rejoicing one would expect at the birth of a child. Psalm 21 gives a wonderful translation of the type of joy that Jethro experienced –
“For You meet him with the blessings of goodness;
You set a crown of pure gold upon his head.
4 He asked life from You, and You gave it to him—
Length of days forever and ever.
5 His glory is great in Your salvation;
Honor and majesty You have placed upon him.
6 For You have made him most blessed forever;
You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the Lord,
And through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved.”
I will recount the works of the Lord
Of His great deeds I will continuously speak
Listen to me as I relay the word
He was my strength when I was weak
He rescued me from a horrible pit
And with kindness and love He delivered me
And even more, with Him on His throne I now sit
Forevermore His glorious face I shall see
I will recount the works of the Lord
Great is He and greatly to be praised
|Listen my children as I relay to you the word
And then to Him let our voices in joy be raised
III. Blessed be the Lord (verses 10-12)
10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
This verse seems most perplexing. Jethro, speaking to Moses says “who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians.” “You” is plural, so he is either speaking to several people who aren’t yet mentioned, or he is speaking of the collective group of Israel.
The KJV incorrectly translates this as singular instead of plural. The reason why it is perplexing is because he nearly repeats himself – “out of the hand of the Egyptians” and then “from under the hand of the Egyptians.” If he is speaking to a smaller group of elders about a larger group, this would make sense.
But it could be that through the use of “from out” and then “from under” he is referring to all Israel in both instances and showing the superlative nature of the deliverance. Not only were they separated from the hand of the Egyptians and Pharaoh, but they were also removed from the control of that hand. In what this pictures, this is certainly correct.
Because of the deliverance, Jethro blesses the Lord who could do such mighty things for these people. It is exactly what was promised to Moses by the Lord at the burning bush at this same mountain where they were now meeting –
“So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.” Exodus 3:8
The Lord had made this promise and the first half of that promise was now complete.
11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods;
Jethro, without having to see with His eyes, but only by hearing, has come to a right knowledge of the Lord. Romans 10:17 says –
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Moses recounted the works of the Lord and by faith alone Jethro has received his conversion of mind, knowing a truth that will be spoken again prior to the construction of the temple in Jerusalem when Solomon writes to Hiram, king of Tyre these words from 2 Chronicles –
“And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. 6 But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I then, that I should build Him a temple, except to burn sacrifice before Him?” 2 Chronicles 2:5
This same God came and revealed Himself to Israel 2000 years ago in human flesh. He entered the world as a helpless little baby. It is a seeming paradox that the greatest of all gods could so humble Himself, but such is the marvel of Jesus Christ.
And even more humbling than His birth was the death He endured for us. The author of Hebrews calls the cross a “shame” which Christ simply scorned. In His life, He not only showed Himself greater than all gods, but He proved Himself completely unique from all other gods.
11 (con’t) for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.”
The word for “proudly” here is zud. It’s used just 10 times and the last time it was used when speaking of the stew that Jacob cooked for Esau. The idea is that when one cooks stew, it will boil. The word comes from the sound – zud zud zud. From that comes the metaphor of acting proudly. Just as something boils, so does the pride of a man.
This whole phrase is shorter in the Hebrew and so in order for it to make sense, translators have to contemplate what it is actually trying to say. Newer translations make Israel the object of the false god’s arrogance and then translate the last word as “the people.” For example, the NIV says –
“Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” (NIV)
However, the older translations make their own pride the object and then translate the last word as “above” to indicate that the Lord is above what they prided in. This is probably the correct sense. Pharaoh and his magicians, relying on their false gods, thought they could outmatch Moses and they failed.
The gods which Pharaoh prided in were shown false one at a time. Pharaoh and his armies thought they would defeat Israel at the Red Sea, and instead they were defeated. And ultimately, each of these things simply looks forward to the larger works of the devil which have been defeated by Christ.
The devil behaved proudly in that he brought death to man, but through the death of a Man, death was defeated. It is certain that the words of Jethro are speaking of the greatness of the Lord over the false gods rather than the greatness of the Lord over the mere arrogance of the people.
12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God.
The burnt offering is the first type of offering described in Leviticus. In fact, the book of Leviticus starts with the burnt offering and it encompasses the entire chapter. It is a good indication in itself that the visit of Jethro occurs, as I said earlier, a year after the arrival of Israel at Mount Sinai.
The law had been received, the altar for burnt offering had been constructed, and the rituals for the offerings had been detailed. Jethro, wanting to participate in offering to God followed the procedures outlined for him to do so.
Though not of Israel, his priesthood was acknowledged as legitimate, just as Melchizedek’s priesthood was also considered. Though he was outside of the covenant people, he was accepted by them and by the Lord who sanctified them. And this is without a doubt because of the final words of the passage today…
*12 (fin) And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.
Aaron is mentioned for the first time in the passage today, but his being noted now is not without significance. Because of the true timing of this account, he was the already commissioned as high priest. As he is the high priest and in attendance at the sacrificial meal, no other conclusion can be made than that Jethro’s sacrifice was acceptable and his performance of the sacrifice was also.
And as a mark of favor among all of Israel, their representatives, meaning “all the elders” were brought in to dine with him as well. The term “eat bread” doesn’t mean to just eat bread. It is inclusive of the entire meal but it probably would have included bread too, thus Jethro would have been a participant in the eating of Manna – the bread from heaven.
The burnt offering would have been completely burnt up as the Lord’s portion, but the other sacrifices would have been consumed according to the law which had been given.
To finish up with the final words of the verse, it says that this meal was before God. It doesn’t say, “before the Lord” as one might expect, especially because in just the previous verse Jethro said, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods.” Why would it only say “God” and not “the Lord?”
There is a reason which is revealed right in the verse, but which is left out of our translations. There is an article in front of God. Aaron and all the elders came to eat with Jethro before “the” God, not “a” god. The entire purpose of this account is realized in this one.definite.article.
It is what defines the contrast between Amalek of the last passage and Jethro in this one. It is the difference between being at peace with God through faith and at enmity with God through pride – either in self, or in a false god, or in both. Amalek chose one path, Jethro chose another.
In picture, what has occurred here is showing us the calling of all people, Jew and Gentile. The Hebrews are already God’s people as has been seen since Moses presented himself before them in Exodus 4 – all the way through until now.
But there is another group of people who belong to God as well – the Gentiles. Jethro pictures the spiritual leader of these people; Zipporah the overall church; Gershom the church before the rapture; and Eliezer, the Gentile tribulations saints. They come to the mountain of God.
Moses had “dismissed” Zipporah when he went back to Egypt. The unusual word shillukhim was used at that time. It is a picture that the Lord’s focus was back on Israel, just as Revelation describes. Despite His focus being on Israel, he had not left the Gentiles completely, but cared for them in the process.
After the tribulation period, the Gentiles return to join Israel; all are accepted by God at His holy mountain. Moses, picturing Jesus, receives the Gentiles, pictured by Jethro, in the grandest way.
After that, Moses recounted the works of the Lord for Israel to Jethro, and Jethro uses two terms to describe what had occurred, “out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh” and “from under the hand of the Egyptians.”
It is a picture of both their calling out as a people from the devil and the world – something which occurred in the Exodus, and it is also their calling from under the power of the world; something which only will occur after the tribulation.
In the recounting of the works of the Lord, Jethro realized through hearing the word that the Lord is the true God and so he offered his sacrifices to Him. What this pictures is exactingly described by Paul in Ephesians 5 –
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1, 2
The last thing noted in these verses is that “Aaron and the elders of Israel” came to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. It is a picture of what occurs at the end of redemptive history when all will eat in the presence of the Lord, both Jew and Gentile, who have been saved by faith and faith alone.
Aaron, the high priest is specifically mentioned to show a picture of Christ, our true High Priest who has accepted our offerings. The reason this was placed out of chronological order is to show that it is by faith, and not by the law, that all people are saved. This account precedes the law in the Bible, even though it actually comes after the giving of the law in reality.
The entire account can summed up in the single thought that not only Jews, but Gentiles as well, can have peace with God through faith and only through faith. While collective Israel will fall out of favor with God in their later history, individual Jews as well as individual Gentiles are shown to remain in His favor.
It is not about a mark on the body or a physical line of descent. Rather it is about faithfully approaching the One true God and acknowledging Him as such. If you have not yet called on this marvelous God who has shown us, in advance, how to be right with Him, please let me tell you how you can, even right now…
Closing Verse: “There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.” Romans 15:12
Next Week: Exodus 18:13-27 He is not a man of great demanding. He is (A Man of Wisdom and Understanding) (51st Exodus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law
Heard of all that God had done
For Moses and for Israel His people|
That the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt, as a favored son
Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law|
Took Zipporah, Moses’ wife
After he had sent her back
During that most important time of his life
With her two sons
Of whom the name of one was Gershom
For he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land
I was foreigner in a land not my home
And the name of the other was Eliezer
For he said, “The God of my father was my help, its true
And delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh
Wonderful things for me He did do
And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law
Came with his sons and his wife, to him they did trod
To Moses in the wilderness
Where he was encamped at the mountain of God
Now he had said to Moses
“I, your father-in-law Jethro
Am coming to you with your wife
And her two sons with her, just so you know
So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law
Bowed down, and kissed him as well
And they asked each other about their well-being
And they went into the tent for a spell
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 come upon them on the way
And how the Lord had delivered them, the rescue He did make
Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good
Which the Lord had done for Israel
Whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians
With mighty deeds that did excel
And Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord
Who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, it is true
And out of the hand of Pharaoh, according to His word
And who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians too
Now I know than all the gods that the Lord is greater
For in the very thing in which they behaved proudly
He was above them – He Israel’s vindicator
Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law
Took a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God also
And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread
With Moses’ father-in-law before God, “the” God as we know
The Lord has a plan which includes Gentiles too
When their heart is turned toward him rightly
Stand fast on what He alone can do for you
Hold on to Him and to His work ever so tightly
Don’t trust in yourself; don’t try to earn His favor
Instead, by faith reach out and Him receive
And in His gift of eternal life you can savor
Because in His work alone you did believe
Faith… this is what God would ask from you
Believe the gospel, that God has done it all
And the Lord who is ever faithful and true
Upon His glorious name, please do call
And for eternal years we will together sing His praise
And we shall walk in His glorious presence for eternal days
Hallelujah and Amen…