|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.
Verse 15. - And Moses said... Because the people come unto me, to inquire of God. To inquire of God is certainly not a mere "juridical phrase," meaning to consult a judge (Kalisch), nor, on the other hand, is it necessarily "to consult God through an oracle." It cannot, however, mean less than to seek a decision from some one regarded as entitled to speak for God; and it is certainly assigned by Moses as the reason why he judged all the causes himself, and did not devolve the duty upon others. They could not be supposed to know the mind of God as he knew it. Jethro, however, points out, that it is one thing to lay down principles, and another to apply them. Moses might reserve the legislative function - the inculcation of principles - to himself, and so still, "be for the people to Godward" (ver. 19); but he might find "able men" among the congregation, quite capable of applying the principles, and delegate to them the judicial function (vers. 21, 22).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Moses said unto his father in law,.... In answer to his question; and there were two things, as Aben Ezra observes, he did to the people, and for which they came to him; the one is observed in this verse, and the other in the next:
because the people come unto me to inquire of God; of his mind and will in certain cases, and of his statutes and laws, as the following verse shows; what they should observe, and according to which they should conduct themselves: they came to inquire what God would have them to do; and, in doubtful cases, what was his will and pleasure, and to desire Moses to inform them; and if the things were of such a nature that he could not easily and readily do it, then to inquire of God for them, which in later times was done by Urim and Thummim.
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