|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:13-27 Here is the great zeal and the toil of Moses as a magistrate. Having been employed to redeem Israel out of the house of bondage, he is a further type of Christ, that he is employed as a lawgiver and a judge among them. If the people were as quarrelsome one with another as they were with God, no doubt Moses had many causes brought before him. This business Moses was called to; it appears that he did it with great care and kindness. The meanest Israelite was welcome to bring his cause before him. Moses kept to his business from morning to night. Jethro thought it was too much for him to undertake alone; also it would make the administration of justice tiresome to the people. There may be over-doing even in well-doing. Wisdom is profitable to direct, that we may neither content ourselves with less than our duty, nor task ourselves beyond our strength. Jethro advised Moses to a better plan. Great men should not only study to be useful themselves, but contrive to make others useful. Care must be taken in the choice of the persons admitted into such a trust. They should be men of good sense, that understood business, and that would not be daunted by frowns or clamours, but abhorred the thought of a bribe. Men of piety and religion; such as fear God, who dare not to do a base thing, though they could do it secretly and securely. The fear of God will best fortify a man against temptations to injustice. Moses did not despise this advice. Those are not wise, who think themselves too wise to be counselled.
Verses 13-26. - JETHRO'S ADVICE TO MOSES, AND ITS ADOPTION. The office of ruler in ancient times, whether exercised by a king, a prince, or a mere chieftain, was always understood to include within it the office of judge. In the Greek ideal of the origin of kingly government (Herod. 1:96), the able discharge of judicial functions marks the individual out for sovereignty. The successors of Moses, like the chief rulers of Carthage, bore the title of "Judges" (shophetim, suffetes). Moses, it appears, had from the time when he was accepted as leader by the people (Exodus 4:29-31), regarded himself as bound to hear and decide all the causes and complaints which arose among the entire Israelite people. He had net delegated his authority to any one. This can scarcely have been because the idea had not occurred to him, for the Egyptian kings ordinarily decided causes by judges nominated ad hoc. Perhaps he had distrusted the ability of his countrymen - so recently slaves - to discharge such delicate functions. At any rate, he had reserved the duty wholly to himself (ver. 18). This course appeared to Jethro unwise. No man could, he thought, in the case of so great a nation, singly discharge such an office with satisfaction to himself and others. Moses would "wear himself away" with the fatigue; and he would exhaust the patience of the people through inability to keep pace with the number of cases that necessarily arose. Jethro therefore recommended the appointment of subordinate judges, and the reservation by Moses of nothing but the right to decide such cases as these judges should, on account of their difficulty, refer to him (ver. 22) On reflection, Moses accepted this course as the best open to him under the circumstances, and established a multiplicity of judges, under a system which will be discussed in the comment on verse 25. Verse 13. - On the morrow. The day after Jethro's arrival. Moses sat to judge the people. Moses, i.e., took his seat in an accustomed place, probably at the door of his tent, and. was understood to be ready to hear and decide causes. The people stood by Moses. A crowd of complainants soon collected, and kept Moses employed incessantly from the morning, when he had taken his seat, until the evening, i.e., until nightfall. It is conjectured that many complaints may have arisen out of the division of the spoil of the Amalekites.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it came to pass on the morrow,.... The above Targum paraphrases it,"on the day after the day of atonement:''and so Jarchi observes the same, out of a book of theirs called Siphri; but rather this was either the day after the entertainment of Jethro with Aaron and the elders in the tent of Moses, or the day after Jethro's coming, as Aben Ezra:
that Moses sat to judge the people; though his father-in-law was come to visit him, yet he did not neglect the care of his people, and the business that lay upon his hands for their good, civil and religious; but, the very day following his coming, closely applied himself to hear and judge causes; and such a vast body of people must find him work enough; and especially if we consider their quarrelsome disposition, for if they were so to one another, as they were to Moses and Aaron, they must be very litigious; however Moses bore with them, and attended to their causes, to do justice and judgment among them, being now made a prince and a judge over them by divine authority, and whom they acknowledged as such:
and the people stood by Moses, from the morning unto the evening; not that a single cause was so long a trying, but there being so many of them in one day, that they lasted from the morning tonight; so that when one cause was dispatched and the parties dismissed, another succeeded, and so continued all the day long: Moses he sat as judge, with great majesty, gravity, and sedateness, hearkening with all attention to what was said on both sides, and the people they "stood", both plaintiff and defendant, as became them.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
13-26. on the morrow … Moses sat to judge the people, &c.—We are here presented with a specimen of his daily morning occupations; and among the multifarious duties his divine legation imposed, it must be considered only a small portion of his official employments. He appears in this attitude as a type of Christ in His legislative and judicial characters.
the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening, &c.—Governors in the East seat themselves at the most public gate of their palace or the city, and there, amid a crowd of applicants, hear causes, receive petitions, redress grievances, and adjust the claims of contending parties.
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