Exodus 18:13
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.
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(13) On the morrow.—The day following Jethro’s arrival.

Moses sat to judge the people.—The office of prince, or ruler, was in early times regarded as including within it that of judge. Rulers in these ages were sometimes even called “judges,” as were those of Israel from Joshua to Samuel, and those of Carthage at a later date (suffetes). Ability to judge was thought to mark out a person as qualified for the kingly office (Herod. i. 97). Moses, it would seem, had, from the time that he became chief of his nation, undertaken the hearing of all complaints and the decision of all causes. He held court days from time to time, when the host was stationary, and judged all the cases that were brought before him. No causes were decided by any one else. Either it had not occurred to him that the duty might be discharged by deputy, or he had seen reasons against the adoption of such an arrangement. Perhaps he had thought his countrymen unfit as yet for the difficult task. At any rate, he had acted as sole judge, and had, no doubt, to discharge the duty pretty frequently. Knowing that there was much business on hand, he did not allow the visit of his near connection to interfere with his usual habits, but held his court just as if Jethro had not been there.

The people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.—So great was the number of causes, or so difficult were they of decision, that Moses was occupied the whole day in deciding them. Following the usual Oriental practice, he began early in the morning, and found himself compelled to continue until nightfall. It is not clear whether his “sessions” were always of this length, or whether on this occasion the ordinary time was exceeded. Some have suggested that the division of the Amalekite spoil would naturally have led to disputes, and so to complaints.

Exodus 18:13. Moses sat to judge the people — To answer inquiries; to acquaint them with the will of God in doubtful cases, and to explain the laws of God that were already given.

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.From the morning unto the evening - It may be assumed as at least probable that numerous cases of difficulty arose out of the division of the spoil of the Amalekites Exodus 17:13, and causes would have accumulated during the journey from Elim. 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.

Moses sat as a civil magistrate, by hearing and determining causes and controversies arising among the people.

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.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.
13. to judge the people] Moses discharged the duties which the sheikh, or head of a tribe, still does among the Bedawin.

13–23. Jethro’s advice to Moses, to appoint officers to assist him in the administration of justice.

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. Exodus 18:13The next day Jethro saw how Moses was occupied from morning till evening in judging the people, who brought all their disputes to him, that he might settle them according to the statutes of God. על עמד: as in Genesis 18:8. The people came to Moses "to seek or inquire of God" (Genesis 18:15), i.e., to ask for a decision from God: in most cases, this means to inquire through an oracle; here it signifies to desire a divine decision as to questions in dispute. By judging or deciding the cases brought before him, Moses made known to the people the ordinances and laws of God. For every decision was based upon some law, which, like all true justice here on earth, emanated first of all from God. This is the meaning of Genesis 18:16, and not, as Knobel supposes, that Moses made use of the questions in dispute, at the time they were decided, as good opportunities for giving laws to the people. Jethro condemned this plan (Genesis 18:18.) as exhausting, wearing out (נבל lit., to fade away, Psalm 37:2), both for Moses and the people: for the latter, inasmuch as they not only got wearied out through long waiting, but, judging from Genesis 18:23, very often began to take the law into their own hands on account of the delay in the judicial decision, and so undermined the well-being of the community at large; and for Moses, inasmuch as the work was necessarily too great for him, and he could not continue for any length of time to sustain such a burden alone (Genesis 18:18). The obsolete form of the inf. const. עשׂהוּ for עשׂתו is only used here, but is not without analogies in the Pentateuch. Jethro advised him (Genesis 18:19.) to appoint judged from the people for all the smaller matters in dispute, so that in future only the more difficult cases, which really needed a superior or divine decision, would be brought to him that he might lay them before God. "I will give thee counsel, and God be with thee (i.e., help thee to carry out this advice): Be thou to the people האלהים מוּל, towards God," i.e., lay their affairs before God, take the place of God in matters of judgment, or, as Luther expresses it, "take charge of the people before God." To this end, in the first place, he was to instruct the people in the commandments of God, and their own walk and conduct (הזהיר with a double accusative, to enlighten, instruct; שדרך the walk, the whole behaviour; מעשׂה particular actions); secondly, he was to select able men (חיל אנשׁי men of moral strength, 1 Kings 1:52) as judges, men who were God-fearing, sincere, and unselfish (gain-hating), and appoint them to administer justice to the people, by deciding the simpler matters themselves, and only referring the more difficult questions to him, and so to lighten his own duties by sharing the burden with these judges. מעליך הקל (Genesis 18:22) "make light of (that which lies) upon thee." If he would do this, and God would command him, he would be able to stand, and the people would come to their place, i.e., to Canaan, in good condition (בּשׁלום). The apodosis cannot begin with וצוּך, "then God will establish thee," for צוּה never has this meaning; but the idea is this, "if God should preside over the execution of the plan proposed."
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