Commentary

MOSES’ ENCOUNTER WITH JETHRO 1- Jethro encountering with the prophet Moses 1 - 7 2- A talk about God 8 - 12 3- Jethro’s counsel 13 - 27 1- Jethro encountering with the prophet Moses “And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people” (Exod. 18.1). He probably heard from Zipporah, his daughter, who accompanied Moses all the way and crossed the Red Sea with him. However, when she came close to where her father dwelt, she went to preach to him the marvelous works of God and to bring the pagan priest to hear and see the work of God and to sacrifice a burnt offering to God (Exod. 18.12). If Jethro came with his heart to glorify God for His work of salvation, Moses, the great among the prophets who was granted such talents, also went out to meet his father-in- law with humility, “bowed down and kissed him” (Exod. 18.7). The prophecy did not teach him to be haughty over others but to have humility; therefore, he most probably gained him to recognize the works of God. 2- A talk about God The encounter of Moses’ father-in-law was from the Lord. It was all about glorifying His name; and it was characterized by spiritual joy. The Scripture says, “Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel...and Jethro said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you…now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods’…then Jethro…took a burnt offering and sacrificed to God” (Exod. 18.9-12). How wonderful are the encounters that take place in the circle of God and His amazing works of salvation! They fill the heart with joy, let the tongue utter praise and gain even the unbelievers to faith. It did not stop at that point but the Holy Bible tells, “Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-inlaw before God” (Exod. 18.12). As though, recognizing God as his Friend, Jethro, even in his eating and drinking, was feeling His presence. The scholar Origen comments that all what the Saints do, they do before God but the sinner escapes from His face. Adam, after his fall, He and his wife, “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 3.8). Cain, as he carried the curse of God, for killing his brother Abel, “went out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4.16). Thus, he who is not worthy of God’s face gets away from His presence1. It is not only as far as good deeds are concerned but even when the Saints do something wrong they do it “before the Lord” and that is why they repent quickly. The scholar Origen says that those who have abundant knowledge of God and are saturated with His divine teachings, even if they err, they do that in the presence of God and before Him. The prophet says, “I have done this evil in your sight” (Ps. 51.4). The privilege of him, who errs before God, is that he soon repents; while he, who escapes from His presence, can neither repent nor purify himself of his transgressions. This is the difference between him who sins before God and he who escapes with his sins from God2. 1 Origen. In Exode. Hom. 11:5. 2 Ibid. 122 3- Jethro’s counsel [1] Seeing that Moses was taking alone all the responsibility upon him, deciding on every minor and major matter from morning to evening, Jethro, his father-in-law, gave him the following advise, “‘You shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens; Let them judge people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you’. So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said” (Exod. 18.21-24). The fathers see in Moses’ attitude, a real heroism, as far as humility is concerned. St. John Chrysostom says, God [saying] of Moses, that, “The man Moses was very humble more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Num. 12.3). For nothing was ever more humble than he; who, being leader of so great a people, and having overwhelmed in the sea the king and the host of all the Egyptians, as if they had been flies; and having wrought so many wonders both in Egypt and by the Red Sea and in the wilderness, and received such high testimony, yet felt exactly as if he had been an ordinary person, and as a son-in-law was humbler than his fatherin- law, and took advice from him, and was not indignant, nor did he say, "What is this? After such and so great achievements, art thou come to us with thy counsel?" This is what most people feel; though a man brings the best advice, despising it, because of the lowliness of the person. But not so did he: rather through lowliness of mind he wrought all things well. Hence also he despised the courts of kings, (Heb. 11.24, 26) since he was lowly indeed: for the sound mind and the high spirit are the fruit of humility. For of how great nobleness and magnanimity, thinkest thou, was it a token, to despise the kingly palace and table? since kings among the Egyptians are honored as gods, and enjoy wealth and treasures inexhaustible. But nevertheless, letting go all these and throwing away the very scepters of Egypt, he hastened to join himself unto captives, and men worn down with toil, whose strength was spent in the clay and the making of bricks, men whom his own slaves abhorred, … unto these he ran and preferred them before their masters. From whence it is plain, that whoso is lowly, the same is high and great of soul1. St. John Chrysostom also says, “He left this story to the world engraven as it were on a pillar, for he knew that it would be useful to many. … For if Moses learnt from his father-in-law somewhat expedient which himself had not perceived, much more in the Church may this happen.”2 Every one of us should learn from the others. The scholar Origen sees in that incident, a symbol of how the Church should receive the knowledge and philosophies of the world. It should not antagonize them but make use of them, as he says that when he thinks of Moses, who is filled with God, with whom he used to talk face to face; when he sees how he responded to the counsel of Jethro, the pagan priest of Midian and his father-in-law, he gets impressed and astonished. The Book says, “Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said” (Exod. 18.24). He neither objected nor said, “God speaks with me and the words of Heaven give me counsel. How can I heed to a pagan man, a stranger to the people of God.” On the contrary, he heeded to him. He did not look at him, who was speaking to him, but listened to his words. So should we, if we find ourselves in such circumstances, we should not reject the wisdom of unbelievers, for 1 In 1 Cor. Hom. 1:4. 2 in 2 Cor. Hom. 18:3. 123 the sake of its source with the assumption that we, who received God’s Law, have the right to swell with haughtiness and to despise the counsel of the worldly wise. Moses, who has been exceedingly humble, more than all men (Num. 12.3), accepted the counsel of somebody less than him, giving an example of humility to the rulers of his people, and a portrait of the anticipated secret1. [2] If we refer to the Book of Numbers, we see Moses addressing the Lord saying, “Why have you afflicted your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them” (11.11-12)? Moses should have known that God is the true Shepherd, who takes care of his flock. Consequently, when God instructed him to gather to him seventy men of the elders of the people, He said to him, “I will come down and talk with you there; I will take of the spirit that is upon you, and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone” (Num. 11.7). It is as though God who give Moses, drew from him to give his helpers. We do not underestimate making use of the spiritual energies in the Church; yet, we should not do that with a spirit of reluctance, as though we are the only ones who should bear the burden of all the people in the church. We are actually bearing the blessing of sharing it with the Lord Christ, the High Priest, and the hidden Overseer of our souls, the Bearer of the weaknesses of all.

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