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Exodus 18:21-22

Context
18:21 But you choose 1  from the people capable men, 2  God-fearing, 3  men of truth, 4  those who hate bribes, 5  and put them over the people 6  as rulers 7  of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 18:22 They will judge 8  the people under normal circumstances, 9  and every difficult case 10  they will bring to you, but every small case 11  they themselves will judge, so that 12  you may make it easier for yourself, 13  and they will bear the burden 14  with you.

1 tn The construction uses the independent pronoun for emphasis, and then the imperfect tense “see” (חָזָה, khazah) – “and you will see from all….” Both in Hebrew and Ugaritic expressions of “seeing” are used in the sense of choosing (Gen 41:33). See U. Cassuto, Exodus, 220.

2 tn The expression is אַנְשֵׁי־חַיִל (’anshe khayil, “capable men”). The attributive genitive is the word used in expressions like “mighty man of valor.” The word describes these men as respected, influential, powerful people, those looked up to by the community as leaders, and those who will have the needs of the community in mind.

3 tn The description “fearers of God” uses an objective genitive. It describes them as devout, worshipful, obedient servants of God.

4 tn The expression “men of truth” (אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת, ’ansheemet) indicates that these men must be seekers of truth, who know that the task of a judge is to give true judgment (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 220). The word “truth” includes the ideas of faithfulness or reliability, as well as factuality itself. It could be understood to mean “truthful men,” men whose word is reliable and true.

5 tn Heb “haters of bribes.” Here is another objective genitive, one that refers to unjust gain. To hate unjust gain is to reject and refuse it. Their decisions will not be swayed by greed.

6 tn Heb “over them”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 sn It is not clear how this structure would work in a judicial setting. The language of “captains of thousands,” etc., is used more for military ranks. There must have been more detailed instruction involved here, for each Israelite would have come under four leaders with this arrangement, and perhaps difficult cases would be sent to the next level. But since the task of these men would also involve instruction and guidance, the breakdown would be very useful. Deut 1:9, 13 suggest that the choice of these people was not simply Moses’ alone.

8 tn The form is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive, making it equivalent to the imperfect of instruction in the preceding verse.

9 tn Heb “in every time,” meaning “in all normal cases” or “under normal circumstances.” The same phrase occurs in v. 26.

10 tn Heb “great thing.”

11 tn Heb “thing.”

12 tn The vav here shows the result or the purpose of the instructions given.

13 tn The expression וְהָקֵל מֵעָלֶיךָ (vÿhaqel mealeykha) means literally “and make it light off yourself.” The word plays against the word for “heavy” used earlier – since it was a heavy or burdensome task, Moses must lighten the load.

14 tn Here “the burden” has been supplied.



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