Exodus 18:16
When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Exodus 18:16-17. I judge between one another — And if the people were as quarrelsome one with another as they were with God, he had many causes brought before him, and the more because their trials put them to no expense. Not good — Not convenient either for thee or them.

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.To enquire of God - The decisions of Moses were doubtless accepted by the people as oracles. The internal prompting of the Spirit was a sufficient guidance for him, and a sufficient authority for the people. 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.

i.e. Do interpret and apply them to their several cases and circumstances.

When they have a matter, they come unto me,.... This is the other thing he did for them, as the above writer observes; which being last mentioned, he speaks of first, as follows, meaning that when there was a matter in difference between two persons or more, and they could not agree upon it among themselves, then they brought it to him to be heard and decided:

and I judge between one and another; hear what they have to say on both sides, and then judge which is in the right and which is in the wrong, and determine what is to be done, according to the laws of God or according to the rules of justice and equity:

and I do make them know the statutes of God and his laws; this relates to the first thing, their coming to him to inquire of God, what is his mind and will, or what he would have them do; and in order to this, and in answer to their request, he instructed them in the laws of God, both civil and religious: this is made use of by some, to prove that Jethro's coming to Moses was after the law was given: but this does not necessarily follow, because Moses, by a divine impulse, might be directed immediately to make known to the people what was the will and mind of God, with respect to any particular case they inquired about; and rather this seems to furnish out an argument to the contrary, since, if the laws and statutes of God had yet been given on Mount Sinai, the people could not have been ignorant of them, and so needed not such daily information and instruction from Moses.

When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. a matter] i.e. a matter in dispute, cf. Exodus 22:9, Exodus 24:14. So vv. 22, 26 (‘cause’ in vv. 19, 26, is also the same Heb.: lit. word).

the statutes of God and his directions] ‘ “Statutes” (ḥuḳḳîm) were definite rules, stereotyped and permanent; “laws” (tôrôth) were “directions” or pronouncements delivered as special circumstances required them [see p. 161]. The present passage must belong to the period after Moses received the divine statutes on the mountain [cf. p. 162]’ (McNeile). Observe that the decisions of Moses on civil disputes are here called distinctly the ‘directions (tôrôth) of God’ (cf. on v. 15, and pp. 161, 162).

Verse 16. - I judge... and I do make them know the statutes of God. As the israelites were, up to this time, without any code of written laws, Moses took the opportunity furnished by such cases as came before him, to lay down principles of law, and enjoin them upon the people; thus making them to know the statutes of God and his eternal unwritten laws. Such a practice would not have been necessary after the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; and its existence at the time of Jethro's visit helps to fix that visit as occurring before the giving of the law. Exodus 18:16The 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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