Exodus 4:18
Then Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, "Please let me return to my brothers in Egypt and see if they are still alive." "Go in peace," Jethro replied.
A True Recognition of Filial DutyJ. S. Exell, M. A.Exodus 4:18
Domestic Sympathy in DutyG. F. Pentecost, D. D.Exodus 4:18
The Compulsion of ServiceW. M. Taylor, D. D.Exodus 4:18
The ReturnJ. Orr Exodus 4:18-21
True Faith and its JoyJ. Urquhart Exodus 4:18-23
Facing EgyptH.T. Robjohns Exodus 4:18-31
Weeks, perhaps months, intervened between the revelation at the bush and Moses' actual departure from Midian. Time was given for allowing the first agitation of his spirit to subside, for enabling him to take the just measure of the task entrusted to him, for the final overcoming of his involuntary reluctance. An interval is presupposed in ver. 10 - "Neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant," and is implied again here. Events were not yet quite ready for his departure. The preparation of the man, and the preparation of events (ver. 19) were going on simultaneously. God would have his servant brought, not only to a clear apprehension of his message, but into a state of intelligent and entire sympathy with it, before actually starting him on his journey. The call would come at the proper time.

I. PERMISSION RECEIVED (ver. 18). The request to Jethro was couched in simple but courteous terms, and was as courteously responded to. Moses said nothing of the revelations he had received.

1. He had no call to say anything. His message was to the elders of Israel, not to Jethro.

2. It would have been a breach of confidence to have divulged what passed between him and God without permission.

3. It was not advisable to say anything. He would have required to have entered into explanations, and might have encountered unbelief and opposition. If Jethro perceived, as possibly he did, that there was something underlying Moses' request which he did not care to state, he had the good sense to refrain from prying too curiously into what did not concern him. The parting was courteous and friendly, creditable alike to both. Observe:

1. There are times when it is prudent to keep one's own counsel.

2. It is the mark of a wise man that he can keep his own counsel.

3. It is well to be reserved about private religious experience (Galatians 1:16, 17).

4. It is one's duty on all occasions to study friendliness and courtesy.

5. It is nearly as high a mark of character not to be too curious in prying into the secrets of others, as it is to be cautious in keeping silence about those entrusted to us.

II. THE WAY CLEARED (ver. 19). As suggested above, Moses had probably been instructed to wait a Divine intimation as to the time of his actual departure. In a work so important every step must be taken under direct Divine guidance. Cf. the movements of Mary and Joseph with the child Jesus (Matthew 2.). And the warning was not given till God was able to announce that all the men were dead who had formerly sought his life. This would be a comfort to Moses, and would remove at least one set of fears as to his personal safety. There may have been another reason for delaying to this point. Time had again brought matters to the condition of a tabula rasa. The conflict now to be begun was not to be demeaned by being mixed up with the spites and enmities of a buried past. Observe:

1. How God times events with a view to every class of conditions.

2. How God consults for the safety of his servants.

3. How God's purposes move with steady step to their accomplishment, while mortals, who thought to hinder them, drop into their graves, and are forgotten.


1. Moses took with him his wife and two sons. The desire to have them with him was natural, but he afterwards saw reason for sending them back. The work he was engaged in was of a kind not compatible with family entanglements. There are times when a man's hands need to be absolutely free; when it is his duty not to enter into relationships which would encumber him; or, if these already exist, to make the temporary sacrifice of comfort and affection which the exigencies of his work demand (Matthew 8:21, 22; 2 Timothy 2:4).

2. He took with him the rod of God. This was indispensable. By it he was to work signs (ver. 17). The rod of the Christian worker is his Bible. Armed with that, he can speak with Divine authority, work miracles in the souls of men and confound the mightiest of his enemies. - J.O.

Let me go, I pray thee.

1. Moses was animated by honesty.

2. Moses was related by marriage.

3. Moses was obliged by kindness.

II. IT IS COMPATIBLE WITH SILENCE IN REFERENCE TO THE INNER EXPERIENCES OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE AND WORK. Moses only asked the consent of his father-in-law to visit his brethren in Egypt; he did not name the primary object of his journey. This was quite consistent, under the circumstances, with a true recognition of filial duty.

1. Silence is not necessarily cunning.

2. Silence may be discreet.

3. Silence may be self-protective.Many toils of Christian workers have been brought to nought by the lack of precautionary measures on the part of those who have been entrusted with them.


1. Sometimes the request should be granted.

2. Always goodwill should be expressed. "Go in peace."

3. Supremely should self be forgotten.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

This case of Moses reminds us that our best lifework is that on which we enter under a feeling that it is absolutely essential that we should do it. Moses tried in every way to put away from him the office to which God called him. But still it came back upon him. He felt that he must go; and when that irrepressible must shaped itself in his soul, he went, and carried all before him. It is the irrepressible in a man that makes him great. So long as the work he undertakes is performed because he must do something, there is nothing remarkable either about him or about it; but when he enters upon it because it is something that he must do, then prepare yourself for something noble. Is it not just in this that the quality which we call genius peculiarly resides? If a man thinks that he would like to write in verse, or to paint something, or to make a speech, or what not, his work will never be heard of. But if there is in him a song which insists on singing itself out, or a painting which will not let him rest until he has put it on the canvas, or a truth, the utterance of which he cannot hold back, then he is sure to be at length a poet, an artist, or an orator. That was a wise old minister who, on being consulted by a youth who desired to become a preacher of the gospel, said to him, "Young man, don't become a minister if you can help it." It is the man who cannot help being a preacher who will be most effective always in the pulpit. The work which we can help doing is not for us. If Moses could have successfully excused himself, he would have been no fit man for the great crusade on which he entered. But it was because, in spite of all his reluctance, there was within him the overmastering sense that God had called him to be Israel's deliverer that he was at length so successful. Ah! have we not here the cause of so many failures in moral and religious enterprises? The men who have inaugurated them have done so for personal eclat or pecuniary profit, and not because of this inner compulsion.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Moses tells Jethro of his commission from Jehovah, and asks permission to carry out the Lord's will. This request is at once granted. It is most encouraging to be thus cordially seconded by those of our own house in our purpose to serve the Lord, whether in public or private ministry. We also, whether we are called into the public or private service of God, ought to communicate with those of our own household. My advice is always to a young convert, to go at once to those at home, to whom they naturally owe confidence, and tell them what the Lord has done for them, and that He has called them to service. If it is son or daughter, go to mother or father; if it is wife or husband, then to husband or wife. Seek not to keep your conversion, or your consecration to God, a secret from those of your own household. It sometimes happens that one must stand alone in one's house. This is often very hard to do. Once Paul was compelled to stand alone. "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me:... notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." This we can always count on; and no one is alone with whom the Lord stands. I once knew a husband and wife, each of whom, afraid of the other, had sought the Lord in one of our meetings, apart from the other, each being afraid that the other would ridicule. They had both of them been open and scoffing unbelievers. Now both had found the Lord; but each was afraid to confess it to the other, and yet each of them noticed a change in the other. At last the wife summoned courage to tell her husband that she had been so burdened with a sense of her sin, that, having no rest, she had sought the Lord and found Him. To her unspeakable joy the husband caught her in his arms, and confessed the same for himself to her. Let us always first go home and tell our friends how great things the Lord hath done for us, and saved our souls; and then shall we have a free course to serve the Lord. Otherwise our hands will be tied; and we shall be hindered in every way from faithful service. I think there will always be some one at home who will be glad that we have met with the Lord; either for the first time, or in a way that means an entire consecration to Him and His service. And as Jethro said to Moses, so will they say to us: "Go in peace."

(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

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