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Advice From Moses’ Father-in-Law

18 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was a priest in Midian. He heard about the many ways that God helped Moses and the Israelites. He heard about the Lord leading the Israelites out of Egypt. So Jethro went to Moses while Moses was camped near the mountain of God.[a] Jethro brought Moses’ wife, Zipporah, with him. (Zipporah was not with Moses, because Moses had sent her home.) Jethro also brought Moses’ two sons with him. The first son was named Gershom,[b] because when he was born, Moses said, “I am a stranger in a foreign country.” The other son was named Eliezer,[c] because when he was born, Moses said, “The God of my father helped me and saved me from the king of Egypt.” So Jethro went to Moses while Moses was camped in the desert near the mountain of God. Moses’ wife and his two sons were with Jethro.

Jethro sent a message to Moses that said, “This is your father-in-law Jethro. I am bringing your wife and her two sons to you.”

So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law. Moses bowed down before him and kissed him. The two men asked about each other’s health. Then they went into Moses’ tent to talk more. Moses told Jethro everything the Lord had done for the Israelites. He told what the Lord did to Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. He told about all the problems they had along the way. And he told his father-in-law how the Lord saved the Israelites every time there was trouble.

Jethro was happy when he heard all the good things the Lord had done for Israel. He was glad that the Lord had freed the Israelites from the Egyptians. 10 He said, “Praise the Lord! He freed you from the power of Egypt. He saved you from Pharaoh. 11 Now I know the Lord is greater than all the gods. They thought they were in control, but look what God did!”

12 Jethro got some sacrifices and offerings to honor God. Then Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat with Moses’ father-in-law Jethro. They all ate together there with God.

13 The next day, Moses had the special job of judging the people. There were so many people that they had to stand before him all day.

14 Jethro saw Moses judging the people. He asked, “Why are you doing this? Why are you the only judge? And why do people come to you all day?”

15 Then Moses said to his father-in-law, “The people come to me and ask me to ask for God’s decision for their problem. 16 If people have an argument, they come to me, and I decide which person is right. In this way I teach the people God’s laws and teachings.”

17 But Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “This isn’t the right way to do this. 18 It is too much work for you to do alone. You cannot do this job by yourself. It wears you out. And it makes the people tired too. 19 Now, listen to me. Let me give you some advice. And I pray God will be with you. You should continue listening to the problems of the people. And you should continue to speak to God about these things. 20 You should explain God’s laws and teachings to the people. Warn them not to break the laws. Tell them the right way to live and what they should do. 21 But you should also choose some of the people to be judges and leaders.

“Choose good men you can trust—men who respect God. Choose men who will not change their decisions for money. Make these men rulers over the people. There should be rulers over 1000 people, 100 people, 50 people, and even over ten people. 22 Let these rulers judge the people. If there is a very important case, then they can come to you and let you decide what to do. But they can decide the other cases themselves. In this way these men will share your work with you, and it will be easier for you to lead the people. 23 If you do this as God directs you, then you will be able to do your job without tiring yourself out. And the people can still have all their problems solved before they return home.”

24 So Moses did what Jethro told him. 25 Moses chose good men from among the Israelites. He made them leaders over the people. There were rulers over 1000 people, 100 people, 50 people, and ten people. 26 These rulers were judges for the people. The people could always bring their arguments to these rulers, and Moses had to decide only the most important cases.

27 After a short time Moses said goodbye to his father-in-law Jethro, and Jethro went back to his own home.


  1. Exodus 18:2 mountain of God That is, Mount Horeb (Sinai).
  2. Exodus 18:3 Gershom This name is like the Hebrew words meaning “a stranger there.”
  3. Exodus 18:4 Eliezer This name means “My God helps.”

Jethro Visits Moses

18 Now Jethro,(A) the priest of Midian(B) and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.(C)

After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah,(D) his father-in-law Jethro received her and her two sons.(E) One son was named Gershom,[a] for Moses said, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land”;(F) and the other was named Eliezer,[b](G) for he said, “My father’s God was my helper;(H) he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.”

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain(I) of God. Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.”

So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down(J) and kissed(K) him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships(L) they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved(M) them.

Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things(N) the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 He said, “Praise be to the Lord,(O) who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods,(P) for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”(Q) 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law,(R) brought a burnt offering(S) and other sacrifices(T) to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal(U) with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence(V) of God.

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.(W) 16 Whenever they have a dispute,(X) it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”(Y)

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.(Z) 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.(AA) You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes(AB) to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions,(AC) and show them the way they are to live(AD) and how they are to behave.(AE) 21 But select capable men(AF) from all the people—men who fear(AG) God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain(AH)—and appoint them as officials(AI) over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case(AJ) to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share(AK) it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders(AL) of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.(AM) 26 They served as judges(AN) for the people at all times. The difficult cases(AO) they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.(AP)

27 Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.(AQ)


  1. Exodus 18:3 Gershom sounds like the Hebrew for a foreigner there.
  2. Exodus 18:4 Eliezer means my God is helper.