18:16 When they have a dispute, 3 it comes to me and I decide 4 between a man and his neighbor, and I make known the decrees of God and his laws.” 5
18:19 Now listen to me, 6 I will give you advice, and may God be with you: You be a representative for the people to God, 7 and you bring 8 their disputes 9 to God;
18:26 They judged the people under normal circumstances; the difficult cases they would bring 10 to Moses, but every small case they would judge themselves.
1 tn Heb “and it was/happened on the morrow.”
2 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.
3 tn Or “thing,” “matter,” “issue.”
4 tn The verb שָׁפַט (shafat) means “to judge”; more specifically, it means to make a decision as an arbiter or umpire. When people brought issues to him, Moses decided between them. In the section of laws in Exodus after the Ten Commandments come the decisions, the מִשְׁפָּטִים (mishppatim).
5 tn The “decrees” or “statutes” were definite rules, stereotyped and permanent; the “laws” were directives or pronouncements given when situations arose. S. R. Driver suggests this is another reason why this event might have taken place after Yahweh had given laws on the mountain (Exodus, 165).
6 tn Heb “hear my voice.”
7 tn The line reads “Be you to the people before God.” He is to be their representative before God. This is introducing the aspect of the work that only Moses could do, what he has been doing. He is to be before God for the people, to pray for them, to appeal on their behalf. Jethro is essentially saying, I understand that you cannot delegate this to anyone else, so continue doing it (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 219-20).
8 tn The form is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive; following the imperative it will be instruction as well. Since the imperative preceding this had the idea of “continue to be” as you are, this too has that force.
9 tn Heb “words”; KJV, ASV “the causes”; NRSV “cases”; NLT “questions.”
10 tn This verb and the verb in the next clause are imperfect tenses. In the past tense narrative of the verse they must be customary, describing continuous action in past time.