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Exodus 18:12-15

Context
18:12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought 1  a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, 2  and Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat food 3  with the father-in-law of Moses before God.

18:13 On the next day 4  Moses sat to judge 5  the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning until evening. 18:14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this 6  that you are doing for the people? 7  Why are you sitting by yourself, and all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”

18:15 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire 8  of God.

1 tn The verb is “and he took” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). It must have the sense of getting the animals for the sacrifice. The Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate have “offered.” But Cody argues because of the precise wording in the text Jethro did not offer the sacrifices but received them (A. Cody, “Exodus 18,12: Jethro Accepts a Covenant with the Israelites,” Bib 49 [1968]: 159-61).

2 sn Jethro brought offerings as if he were the one who had been delivered. The “burnt offering” is singular, to honor God first. The other sacrifices were intended for the invited guests to eat (a forerunner of the peace offering). See B. Jacob, Exodus, 498.

3 tn The word לֶחֶם (lekhem) here means the sacrifice and all the foods that were offered with it. The eating before God was part of covenantal ritual, for it signified that they were in communion with the Deity, and with one another.

4 tn Heb “and it was/happened on the morrow.”

5 sn This is a simple summary of the function of Moses on this particular day. He did not necessarily do this every day, but it was time now to do it. The people would come to solve their difficulties or to hear instruction from Moses on decisions to be made. The tradition of “sitting in Moses’ seat” is drawn from this passage.

6 tn Heb “what is this thing.”

7 sn This question, “what are you doing for the people,” is qualified by the next question. Sitting alone all day and the people standing around all day showed that Moses was exhibiting too much care for the people – he could not do this.

8 tn The form is לִדְרֹשׁ (lidrosh), the Qal infinitive construct giving the purpose. To inquire of God would be to seek God’s will on a matter, to obtain a legal decision on a matter, or to settle a dispute. As a judge Moses is speaking for God, but as the servant of Yahweh Moses’ words will be God’s words. The psalms would later describe judges as “gods” because they made the right decisions based on God’s Law.



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