Exodus 18:22
And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for yourself, and they shall bear the burden with you.
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(22) At all seasons.—Not on occasional court days, as had been the custom of Moses, but day by day continually.

Every great matter they shall bring unto thee.—It must have been left to the judges themselves to decide what were “great” and what were “small matters.” Under ordinary circumstances, courts would be inclined to extend their jurisdiction, and take enlarged views of their competency; but the difficulties of desert life were such as to counteract this inclination, and induce men to contract, rather than widen, their responsibilities. When the wilderness life was ended, the judicial system of Jethro came to an end also, and a system at once simpler and more elastic was adopted.

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.Able men - The qualifications are remarkably complete, ability, piety, truthfulness, and unselfishness. From Deuteronomy 1:13, it appears that Moses left the selection of the persons to the people, an example followed by the Apostles; see Acts 6:3.

Rulers of thousands ... - The numbers appear to be conventional, corresponding nearly, but not exactly, to the military, or civil divisions of the people: the largest division (1,000) is used as an equivalent of a gens under one head, Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:14.

The word "rulers," sometimes rendered "princes," is general, including all ranks of officials placed in command. The same word is used regularly on Egyptian monuments of the time of Moses.

17. Moses' father-in-law said unto him, The thing … is not good—not good either for Moses himself, for the maintenance of justice, or for the satisfaction and interests of the people. Jethro gave a prudent counsel as to the division of labor [Ex 18:21, 22], and universal experience in the Church and State has attested the soundness and advantages of the principle. No text from Poole on this verse. And let them judge the people at all times,.... In their several districts, whenever a matter of difference between man and man arises, and the case is brought before them, let them judge impartially between them, and determine what is right and wrong, and execute judgment and justice truly; which would take off a great deal of business from the hands of Moses:

and it shall be that every great matter they shall bring to thee; any affair of great importance, and difficult of determination, and about which the judges may have some doubt in their minds, and they are not clear as to the decision of it; this, they the judges, not the people, were to bring to Moses:

but every small matter; which is of no great importance, or is easy of decision, where the right and the wrong clearly appear, and there is no difficulty in the determination of it:

so shall it be easier for thyself; to go through the business that would be necessarily devolved upon him, as the chief ruler and governor, supreme judge, lawgiver, leader, and commander:

and they shall bear the burden with thee; of ruling and judging the people; they taking a share of it, it would sit the lighter and easier upon him; and the whole seems to be wise and prudent counsel.

And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.
22. at all seasons] i.e. in all ordinary cases.

so &c.] Heb. and make it light off thyself, i.e. relieve thyself.Verse 22. - Let them judge the people at all seasons. Instead of occasional court-days, on which Moses sat from morning to evening hearing causes, judgments were to be given continually by the rulers of tens, fifties, etc., the accumulation of untried causes being thus avoided, and punishment following promptly on the committal of an offence. The elaborately minute organisation was only suited for the period of the wanderings, and was of a semi-military character, such as might have suited an army on the march When the Israelites became settled dwellers in Palestine, such a multiplicity of judges was unnecessary, and was discontinued. So shall it be easier. Literally, "So make it easier." Compare ver. 18. The 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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