Exodus 18

These small group studies of Exodus contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 18 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

I. Jethro brings Moses’ wife and sons back to him (1-6)

II. Jethro expresses faith in God and offers a sacrifice to Him (7-12)

III. Moses judges the people (13-16)

IV. Jethro counsels Moses to employ elders to share the load of settling disputes (17-23)

V. Moses follows Jethro’s advice and bids him farewell (24-27)

Main Points From Chapter:

1.Moses left his family with his father-in-law during part of his time in Egypt.

2.The news of God’s power shown in Egypt indeed did spread to other countries as evidenced by Jethro knowing something about it already.

3.Jethro had faith in the true God. He is one of the examples in the OT of a non-Jew who heard about the true God who believed. Since he was a priest of Midian it would be reasonable to assume that at least some sect of the Midianites worshiped the true God at this time, perhaps partially to Moses influence.

4.Moses used God’s Word as the basis for judging disputes.

5.The camp was run with order as God used Moses as His representative to set regulations for the people.

6.One person is not enough to lead a large group of people or do the work of God. Everyone needs some help and everyone can contribute something.

7.The system of elders dates all the way back to the OT here. Elders’ qualifications.

8.Jethro gave counsel to Moses out of his great experience.

9.Moses listened to Jethro’s counsel. He was teachable.

Principles of Counsel from this chapter in bold.

I. Jethro brings Moses’ wife and sons back to him (1-6)

Who were the Midianites? Where else are they mentioned in the Bible?

Why did Jethro come? How had he heard news of them (in a time when there was no tv, internet, radio, or newspaper)?

How is this evidence of God fulfilling His purpose to let the surrounding nations know of His power?

What did Jethro bring with him?

In Exodus 4 we learn that Moses took his family with him to Egypt. Why then did he not have his family here? Why would Moses send them away instead of keeping them nearby? Do you think Moses would have enjoyed the time in Egypt more if his wife and sons were with him? Then why send them away? What principle can we learn from this?

Genesis 25:1-4 Midian, son of Abraham.

Judges 7 Midianites fight against Israel.

Exodus 7:5 So that the Egyptians will know I am God.

1. History of Midianites.

2. God had declared His purpose to show He was the real God and the Egyptian gods were not. Jethro had heard of what had happened in Egypt. Even at that time, news traveled pretty fast, probably mostly through merchants and traders. Apparently Moses hadn’t had any contact with Jethro yet, but Jethro took the initiative to seek him out based on the news he had heard. This is clear evidence that God’s purpose was accomplished. People far and wide must have heard what had happened in Egypt. This gave many people the chance to believe who might not have known much about God before.

3. Jethro brought Moses’ family back to him. There is no record of how Moses’ family went back to Jethro. Very likely Moses sent them back for their safety. Egypt would not have been comfortable or easy at that time. Their lives were constantly threatened. Although Moses needed to be there to accomplish God’s plans, he wanted to protect his family during this time. We don’t know all the backgrounds or reasons for this decision so it is hard to evaluate, but there is a general principle here that as husbands we need to care for our wives and children’s welfare ahead of our own. Surely it would have been more comfortable for Moses to have their presence there with him to comfort and encourage him. But he put them first.

II. Jethro expresses faith in God and offers a sacrifice to Him (7-12)

Why did Moses bow to Jethro? What do you think this shows about their relationship? Do you think Moses should have bowed or should Jethro have bowed to him? So what principle does Moses bowing reinforce? (Respect your parents. Ephesians 6:2)

If Jethro had already heard what God had done (verse 1), why did Moses tell him again? What key things can we see that Moses shared with Jethro (things GOD had done. The LORD DELIVERED them.)

What was Jethro’s response to this? Do you think Jethro was a real believer? Why or why not? What does this show about who can be saved in the OT? Were the Midianites mostly believers in God? Why do you think Jethro believed in God? Do you think other Midianites might have as well? Why or why not?

What name does Jethro use for God in verse 10? Is that same word used for God in verse 12?

Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2 Honor your father and mother.

Proverbs 1:8-9, 23:22 Listen to your father.

Leviticus 19:32, Proverbs 16:31 General verses about respecting your elders.

1.We have to respect/ the person we receive counsel from. We have to be humble and respectful. It is best to ask someone we respect. Moses respected his father-in-law and this was the foundation for the counseling relationship they would have later. Although he was the leader of all Israel, the prophet from God, had seen God in the burning bush, talked with God face to face, relayed God’s messages to people, stood up to and defeated Egypt, he was not prideful. He didn’t ask Jethro to bow to him, but instead honored him by bowing to Jethro. This is right because the Bible says to respect your parents. Moses didn’t get a big head. He didn’t get too big for his britches. His front stage role and successes hadn’t puffed him up. He approached the relationship not as the greater and not as equals, but as a son.

2.Moses tells Jethro clearly in detail of what God had done for them. Jethro had heard some about it, but probably just bits and pieces. Also the source of his news wasn’t nearly as firsthand as Moses, but more like a rumor mill passed on from one to another or people who saw from a distance. Also the people who shared wouldn’t have shared from a background of belief in God. All of these reasons are why Moses needed to tell Jethro directly what had happened.

3.Notice that Moses gives God all the credit. He doesn’t take it for himself. He said it was what the Lord had done to Pharaoh and that the Lord had delivered them. If Moses wanted credit this would be any place to get it because Jethro wasn’t there or an eyewitness. Moses could have exaggerated his own heroics and played down God’s involvement. But he didn’t. All the credit belonged to God and Moses gave it to Him.

4.Jethro’s response indicates he is a believer in God. If he wasn’t a complete believer before, he was now. This is yet another example that God’s purpose was accomplished in Egypt. Now Jethro, a leader of his whole tribe believed in him as a result. This shows us that non-Jews could be saved and were saved. The requirements were the same, faith in God. If someone heard and believed they could be saved. While we don’t have 100% proof from this passage of Jethro’s salvation, all the indicators are that he is. This is another important aspect of getting counsel. We should get counsel from a believer. On moral issues, only counsel from a believer should be taken into account.

5.These verses show Jethro using God’s covenant name with Israel YHWH. Then it switches to Elohim, the general word for God in verse 12. MacArthur says this word is never used when making sacrifices to the LORD in the Penteteuch, so this must be evidence that God is meeting with Gentiles (Jethro) and Israelites at the same time. This is why He doesn’t use His covenant name in this example. That means that anybody can come to God anytime, and anywhere and God will respond, but He still maintains a unique and special relationship to the Jews..

III. Moses judges the people (13-16)

What does it mean Moses judged the people? Why was this necessary? What does this show about how the camp was run? What does this show about Israel at that time? How long did Moses do this everyday? How do you think you would feel if you did this work everyday all day long? Why did the people go to Moses if they wanted to inquire of God? What was the basis for Moses’ decisions on these disputes? Why is this important? What application can we get from this? In the modern world, there is the idea that religion should be kept out of politics/government. What do you think about this?

Proverbs 29:18 Without revelation the people perish.

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel. The people did as they pleased.

1. Moses was judging the people. He was settling their disputes (old style lawsuits.) If they had disagreements over property, trading transactions, accusations of misconduct or theft, or whatever the argument was about, Moses would listen to them. He would do this from morning until evening, in other words very long hours!

2. Counsel can be offered without request. Moses doesn’t ask for Jethro’s advice in this particular situation, but Jethro still gives it. Do you like people to give you counsel when you didn’t ask for it? I know that personally I often don’t. What is your reaction? Maybe we kind of tense up and think they are teaching me about this? I don’t need your help. I know the answer. Things are going fine. But it doesn’t matter if you ask for it or not, you should listen. God might have touched that person’s heart to talk to you just like he did with Jethro. From the other side, Jethro felt the freedom the to offer advice to Moses without hesitation. If you see a situation and feel God wants you to address it, do so.

3. Counsel from unbiased third-parties is especially helpful. Aaron and the other leaders of Israel had never approached Moses about this. Perhaps they were scared to offer advice to their leader. Perhaps they were so close to the situation they could not give objective counsel. Jethro noticed this problem HIS FIRST DAY there. As an outside eye, he could see things that Moses and the other leaders could not see. A lot of times we are in the middle of a situation and can not see clearly. This especially applies to things that are important to us (maybe a job we love, romantic relationships, or our future in school.) We might really want to do go a specific way so this strong emotion could cloud our own judgment and cause us to be biased. In these kind of situations, get advice from somebody a little bit distant from the situation.

4. Counsel from people who know us is also powerful. Jethro was an outside view, but he also knew Moses well. Because he know Moses he could give better counsel specifically suited to Moses. If possible, ask advice from people who know you, your talents, your habits, your weaknesses. This can give them good insights.

5. Jethro asked for more information before asking counsel. He didn’t rush to judgment. He didn’t assume it was always like this. He didn’t seek to share his opinion as soon as possible. He saw a problem, but he wanted to know more about it first before offering his opinion. Giving counsel without knowing the whole picture could create a lot of mess and will likely be wrong.

6. Moses answered honestly and without being defensive. Moses didn’t respond angrily towards Jethro for questioning him. He didn’t say, that is just how we do it. Why do you care?He gave a clear answer. If people you are counseling with ask you questions, be honest and forthright. This will give them more information that they need in giving you appropriate counsel. Don’t try to hide your own motives. Don’t try to make your plans sound more spiritual than they are. Be honest about your goals and motivations.

7. Moses was doing something right. He was answering their questions with God’s laws. He wasn’t sharing his own opinions, but was advising them based on God’s statutes. This is the key of exercising authority appropriately. He wasn’t being a dictator. He was being a messenger, merely taking God’s principles to them.

8. On a side note, this is a clear example of government that’s rules are all from God. Obviously a government with God as its head is the very best there is.

IV. Jethro counsels Moses to employ elders to share the load of settling disputes (17-23)

Was it right for Jethro to give Moses, God’s prophet and spokesman, advice? Did Moses ask for advice? What principle can we learn from this about giving advice? When might it be appropriate to give advice and when might it be better not to?

What do you think of Jethro’s advice? Was it good? Can you give examples of any Scriptures that support his advice? Why do you think Moses didn’t think of this himself? Why do you think others around Moses (like Aaron or Hur or Joshua or others) didn’t give Moses advice about this? What can we learn from this about getting advice? (Sometimes a third-party who is not biased or afraid to give his opinion is a better choice. For example if you ask your best friend about getting married, it is relatively likely they will support your choice so as not to disappoint you.)

What was to be the basis for the new judges/elders advice giving? What was to the basis for choosing elders/judges? Why is this important that these high standards be kept? What are the NT standards for choosing elders/deacons? How would you compare the two standards? What would be the outcome of this new way of running the camp? For Moses? For the people?

1. Jethro’s counsel was clear. He didn’t beat around the bush or sugar coat it. He came right out and said this was ?ot good.This didn’t leave any room for question marks or ambiguity. This was his conclusion.

2. Jethro supported his conclusion with facts. What were the facts? Moses would wear out. The people would get worn out from waiting so long to have justice. This would also breed more arguments from people while they were waiting. Was his advice biblical.

3. Jethro’s advice does fit with Scripture. At that time the Scripture on this point hadn’t come out, but in Jethro’s wisdom he perceived these things to be true. Scriptural principles such as two are better than one (Ecc 4:9), everyone getting involved and using their gifts (1 Cor 12), letting the spiritual leaders have more time to attend to spiritual things (Acts 6), and appointing elders to oversee the people (Titus 1-2, 1 Timothy 3) are all in play. Our advice to others and others advice to us should always be based on Scripture. If it is just an opinion it is just that, an opinion. Opinions could be helpful and we might learn from them, but they are non-binding and don’t carry God’s authority.

4. Jethro was advising Moses in God’s way. Verse 19. His goal was for God to be with Moses and bless Moses. He wanted to see God’s will done, not Moses’ will done. Whenever you give advice, give advice not for what the person wants or would like to hear, but what you know God wants to happen. Sometimes this kind of advice could disappoint people. It doesn’t matter. If somebody gives you counsel that you don’t like, but know it is what God likes, do it.

5. He advised Moses to keep teaching the people God’s law. This, as before, was still the basis. The methodology changed, but the principle and foundation didn’t.

6. Also discuss qualifications for elders, NT verses on this, and why it is important.

7. Jethro’s advice was for Moses’ AND the people’s good. This is key. Jethro didn’t give Moses this advice just to save his energy or make his life more comfortable. If the result was harmful for the people then it wouldn’t be good advice. Jethro took into account both sides. By following his advice the people could get quick and speedy resolutions to their problems. This would promote morale and justice and keep the people from waiting in long lines everyday, which would lead to more grumbling and complaining. A lot of times when giving counsel we have to consider more than just one side (giving counsel to a couple for example or business partners or what a believer should do in just about any situation because of how it will affect the unbelievers around you.) For example, maybe a Christian guy likes a girl who is mature believer. It seems great for him to marry this girl, BUT the guy is not a mature believer yet and has some issues he needs to work on. Then out of interest for the girl (although you are counseling the guy) you need to tell the guy to wait to grow first. This is just one example. There are many more.

V. Moses follows Jethro’s advice and bids him farewell (24-27)

How did Moses react to Jethro’s suggestion? What does this tell us about Moses? What does it mean he listened (just hear?) How do we know he listened?

Numbers 12:3 Moses was more humble than any man.

1. Listen to counsel. Here is the climax of the whole story. Moses listened to counsel. This doesn’t mean he sat there and listened and nodded and said “yes, yes, good” and then walk away without changing anything. HE FOLLOWED THE COUNSEL. He did what Jethro suggested. There is no point in asking counsel from others just to say you did it if you didn’t plan to truly consider the counsel. God touched Jethro’s heart to tell Moses for a reason. If somebody comes to you with counsel, be willing to listen and if it seems it is God’s will, follow the counsel even if it is difficult, even if it requires sacrifice, even if it is the opposite of what you wanted to do.

2. Jethro just appears for a little while in this story, but he has a major impact on the future course of Israel and Moses’ life. Counsel is important. Just 10 minutes of counsel or even one sentence could change the course of somebody’s entire life. Therefore don’t throw it out casually. Think about it. Pray about it. If it is biblical, give it.

Here are some helpful verses related to getting wise counsel:

Proverbs 19:20
Hear counsel, receive instruction, and accept correction, that you may be wise in the time to come.(AMP)

Proverbs 3:12
For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. (KJV)

Isaiah 30:1
What sorrow awaits my rebellious children, says the Lord. You make plans that are contrary to mine.You make alliances not directed by my Spirit,thus piling up your sins.(NLT)

Proverbs 12:15
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.(ESV)

Proverbs 15: 31-33
If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.(NLT)

Ecclesiastes 4:13
Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knows how to receive counsel (friendly reproof and warning)AMP

Proverbs 16:22
Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.(KJV)

Proverbs 11:14
There no wise guidance is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.(AMP)

1 Corinthians 4:14
I do not write this to shame you, but to warn and counsel you as my beloved children.(AMP)

Jeremiah 38:15
When Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? and if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.(NKJV)

Proverbs 6:20 -23
Good friend, follow your father? good advice; don? wander off from your mother? teachings.
Wrap yourself in them from head to foot; wear them like a scarf around your neck.
Wherever you walk, they?l guide you; whenever you rest, they?l guard you;
When you wake up, they?l tell you what? next.
For sound advice is a beacon, good teaching is a light, moral discipline is a life path.(The Message)

Proverbs 12:5
The thoughts of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.(NIV)

Proverbs 13:10
Pride only leads to arguments,
but those who take advice are wise.(NCV)

Proverbs 9:7-9
Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don? bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you. Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.(NLT)

Study Exodus 19

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