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Exodus 18:19-21 New English Translation (NET Bible)

19 Now listen to me,[a] I will give you advice, and may God be with you. You be a representative for the people to God,[b] and you bring[c] their disputes[d] to God; 20 warn[e] them of the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they must walk[f] and the work they must do.[g] 21 But you choose[h] from the people capable men,[i] God-fearing men,[j] men of truth,[k] those who hate bribes,[l] and put them over the people[m] as rulers[n] of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.


  1. Exodus 18:19 tn Heb “hear my voice.”
  2. Exodus 18:19 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).
  3. Exodus 18:19 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.
  4. Exodus 18:19 tn Heb “words”; KJV, ASV “the causes”; NRSV “cases”; NLT “questions.”
  5. Exodus 18:20 tn The perfect tense with the vav (ו) continues the sequence of instruction for Moses. He alone was to be the mediator, to guide them in the religious and moral instruction.
  6. Exodus 18:20 tn The verb and its following prepositional phrase form a relative clause, modifying “the way.” The imperfect tense should be given the nuance of obligatory imperfect—it is the way they must walk.
  7. Exodus 18:20 tn This last part is parallel to the preceding: “work” is also a direct object of the verb “make known,” and the relative clause that qualifies it also uses an obligatory imperfect.
  8. Exodus 18:21 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.
  9. Exodus 18:21 tn The expression is אַנְשֵׁי־חַיִל (ʾanshe 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.
  10. Exodus 18:21 tn The description “fearers of God” uses an objective genitive. It describes them as devout, worshipful, obedient servants of God.
  11. Exodus 18:21 tn The expression “men of truth” (אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת, ʾanshe ʾemet) 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.
  12. Exodus 18:21 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.
  13. Exodus 18:21 tn Heb “over them”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  14. Exodus 18:21 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.
New English Translation (NET)

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