18:13 On the next day 1 Moses sat to judge 2 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 3 that you are doing for the people? 4 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 5 of God. 18:16 When they have a dispute, 6 it comes to me and I decide 7 between a man and his neighbor, and I make known the decrees of God and his laws.” 8
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 Heb “what is this thing.”
4 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.
5 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.
6 tn Or “thing,” “matter,” “issue.”
7 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).
8 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).