Exodus 18:7
And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent.
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(7) Moses went out . . . And did obeisance.—Oriental etiquette required the going forth to meet an honoured guest (Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1, &c). The obeisance was wholly voluntary, and marks the humility of Moses, who, now that he was the prince of his nation, might well have required Jethro to bow down to him.

And kissed him.—Kissing is a common form of salutation in the East, even between persons who are in no way related. Herodotus says of the Persians: “When they meet each other in the streets, you may know if the persons meeting are of equal rank by the following token: if they are, instead of speaking they kiss each other on the lips. In the case where one is a little inferior to the other, the kiss is given on the cheek” (Book i. 134). (Comp. 2Samuel 15:5; 2Samuel 19:39; 2Samuel 20:9; Matthew 26:48-49; Acts 20:37, &c.; and for the continuance of the custom to the present day, see the collection of instances given in the article Kiss, in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii., p. 46.)

They asked each other of their welfare.—Heb., wished peace to each other—exchanged, that is, the customary salutation, “Peace be with you.”

18:7-12 Conversation concerning God's wondrous works is good, and edifies. Jethro not only rejoiced in the honour done to his son-in-law, but in all the goodness done to Israel. Standers-by were more affected with the favours God had showed to Israel, than many were who received them. Jethro gave the glory to Israel's God. Whatever we have the joy of, God must have the praise. They joined in a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Mutual friendship is sanctified by joint worship. It is very good for relations and friends to join in the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and praise, as those that meet in Christ. This was a temperate feast; they did eat bread, manna. Jethro must see and taste that bread from heaven, and though a gentile, is welcome: the gentiles are welcomed to Christ the Bread of life.Asked each other of their welfare - Addressed each other with the customary salutation, "Peace be unto you." 7. Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, &c.—Their salutations would be marked by all the warm and social greetings of Oriental friends (see on [20]Ex 4:27)—the one going out to "meet" the other, the "obeisance," the "kiss" on each side of the head, the silent entrance into the tent for consultation; and their conversation ran in the strain that might have been expected of two pious men, rehearsing and listening to a narrative of the wonderful works and providence of God. Of their welfare, Heb. of their peace, i.e. prosperity and all happiness, which also they wished one to the other, as this phrase implies. See 1 Samuel 10:4 Psalm 122:6. And Moses went out to meet his father in law,.... Out of the camp, at least out of his tent: the Targum of Jonathan says, from under the cloud of glory; how far he went is not certain, nor material to know: this was an instance of his great humility and modesty, and was doing Jethro a great deal of honour; that one who was in such great dignity, at the head of such a vast body of people, and superior to him both in natural and spiritual abilities, yet condescended to go forth in person to meet him, when he might have sent a guard of his men to escort him to his camp, which would have been honour sufficient; and it is not said he went out to meet his wife and children; for Aben Ezra says it was not usual for honourable men so to do:

and did obeisance: to Jethro, bowed unto him and worshipped him in a civil way, after the manner of the eastern nations, who used to make very low bows to whom they paid civil respect:

and kissed him; not to make him a proselyte, as the above Targum, nor in token of subjection, but of affection and friendship; it being usual for relations and friends to kiss each other at meeting or parting:

and they asked each other of their welfare; or "peace" (n); of their prosperity and happiness, temporal and spiritual, of their peace, inward and outward, and of the bodily health of them and their families:

and they came into the tent; the Targum of Jonathan says,"into the tabernacle of the house of doctrine,''or school room; which is not likely, since Jethro was a man well instructed in divine things, and needed not to be put to school; and if he did, it can hardly be thought that as soon as Moses met him he should set about the instruction of him; but into his tent where he dwelt; that, as Aben Ezra says, which was the known tent of Moses, though it is not expressly said his tent.

(n) "ad pacem", Montanus; "de pace", Munster, Fagius, Drusius, Piscator; so Ainsworth.

And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent.
7. Moses receives his father-in-law with the usual Oriental etiquette.

did obeisance] lit. bowed himself down, in Eastern fashion: cf. Genesis 23:7; Genesis 23:12; Genesis 33:3; Genesis 33:6-7; Genesis 42:6, &c.Verse 7. - Moses went out to meet his father-in-law. Oriental ideas of politeness require such a movement in case of an honoured or even of a welcome visitor (see Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1; Genesis 32:6; Genesis 33:1; Luke 15:20; etc.). It was evidently the intention of Moses to receive Jethro with all possible marks of honour and respect. He not only went out to meet him, but did obeisance to him, as to a superior. They asked each other of their welfare. Rather "exchanged salutations;" addressed each other mutually with the customary phrase "Peace he unto you." Came into the tent - i.e., went together into the tent of Moses, which had been already glanced at in the word "encamped" (verse 5). The Amalekites had met Israel with hostility, as the prototype of the heathen who would strive against the people and kingdom of God. But Jethro, the Midianitish priest, appeared immediately after in the camp of Israel, not only as Moses' father-in-law, to bring back his wife and children, but also with a joyful acknowledgement of all that Jehovah had done to the Israelites in delivering them from Egypt, to offer burnt-offerings to the God of Israel, and to celebrate a sacrificial meal with Moses, Aaron, and all the elders of Israel; so that in the person of Jethro the first-fruits of the heathen, who would hereafter seek the living God, entered into religious fellowship with the people of God. As both the Amalekites and Midianites were descended from Abraham, and stood in blood-relationship to Israel, the different attitudes which they assumed towards the Israelites foreshadowed and typified the twofold attitude which the heathen world would assume towards the kingdom of God. (On Jethro, see Exodus 2:18; on Moses' wife and sons, see Exodus 2:21-22; and on the expression in Exodus 18:2, "after he had sent her back," Exodus 4:26.) - Jethro came to Moses "into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God." The mount of God is Horeb (Exodus 3:1); and the place of encampment is Rephidim, at Horeb, i.e., at the spot where the Sheikh valley opens into the plain of er Rahah (Exodus 17:1). This part is designated as a wilderness; and according to Robinson (1, pp. 130, 131) the district round this valley and plain is "naked desert," and "wild and desolate." The occasion for Jethro the priest to bring back to his son-in-law his wife and children was furnished by the intelligence which had reached him, that Jehovah had brought Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 18:1), and, as we may obviously supply, had led them to Horeb. When Moses sent his wife and sons back to Jethro, he probably stipulated that they were to return to him on the arrival of the Israelites at Horeb. For when God first called Moses at Horeb, He foretold to him that Israel would be brought to this mountain on its deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 3:12).

(Note: Kurtz (Hist. of O. C. iii. 46, 53) supposes that it was chiefly the report of the glorious result of the battle with Amalek which led Jethro to resolve to bring Moses' family back to him. There is no statement, however, to this effect in the biblical text, but rather the opposite, namely, that what Jethro had heard of all that God had done to Moses and Israel consisted of the fact that Jehovah had brought Israel out of Egypt. Again, there are not sufficient grounds for placing the arrival of Jethro at the camp of Israel, in the desert of Sinai and after the giving of the law, as Ranke has done. For the fact that the mount of God is mentioned as the place of encampment at the time, is an argument in favour of Rephidim, rather than against it, as we have already shown. And we can see no force in the assertion that the circumstances, in which we find the people, point rather to the longer stay at Sinai, than to the passing halt at Rephidim. For how do we know that the stay at Rephidim was such a passing one, that it would not afford time enough for Jethro's visit? It is true that, according to the ordinary assumption, only half a month intervened between the arrival of the Israelites in the desert of Sin and their arrival in the desert of Sinai; but within this space of time everything might have taken place that is said to have occurred on the march from the former to the latter place of encampment. It is not stated in the biblical text that seven days were absorbed in the desert of Sin alone, but only that the Israelites spent a Sabbath there, and had received manna a few days before, so that three or four days (say from Thursday to Saturday inclusive) would amply suffice for all that took place. If the Israelites, therefore, encamped there in the evening of the 15th, they might have moved farther on the morning of the 19th or 20th, and after a two days' journey by Dofkah and Alush have reached Rephidim on the 21st or 22nd. They could then have fought the battle with the Amalekites the following day, so that Jethro might have come to the camp on the 24th or 25th, and held the sacrificial meal with the Israelites the next day. In that case there would still be four or five days left for him to see Moses sitting in judgment a whole day long (Exodus 18:13), and for the introduction of the judicial arrangements proposed by Jethro; - amply sufficient time, inasmuch as one whole day would suffice for the sight of the judicial sitting, which is said to have taken place the day after the sacrificial meal (Exodus 18:13). And the election of judges on the part of the people, for which Moses gave directions in accordance with Jethro's advice, might easily have been carried out in two days. For, on the one hand, it is most probable that after Jethro had watched this severe and exhausting occupation of Moses for a whole day, he spoke to Moses on the subject the very same evening, and laid his plan before him; and on the other hand, the execution of this plan did not require a very long time, as the people were not scattered over a whole country, but were collected together in one camp. Moreover, Moses carried on all his negotiations with the people through the elders as their representatives; and the judges were not elected in modern fashion by universal suffrage, but were nominated by the people, i.e., by the natural representatives of the nation, from the body of elders, according to their tribes, and then appointed by Moses himself. - Again, it is by no means certain that Israel arrived at the desert of Sinai on the first day of the third month, and that only half a month (15 or 16 days) elapsed between their arrival in the desert of sin and their encamping at Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:1). And lastly, though Kurtz still affirms that Jethro lived on the other side of the Elanitic Gulf, and did not set out till he heard of the defeat of the Amalekites, in which case a whole month might easily intervene between the victory of Israel and the arrival of Jethro, the two premises upon which this conclusion is based, are assumptions without foundation, as we have already shown at Exodus 3:1 in relation to the former, and have just shown in relation to the latter.)

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