Exodus 18:15
And Moses said to his father in law, Because the people come to me to inquire of God:
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(15, 16) Moses assigns two reasons for his conduct.

Exodus 18:15. The people came to inquire of God — And happy was it for them that they had such an oracle to consult. Moses was faithful both to him that appointed him, and to them that consulted him, and made them know the statutes of God, and his laws — His business was not to make laws, but to make known God’s laws: his place was but that of a servant.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.To enquire of God - The decisions of Moses were doubtless accepted by the people as oracles. The internal prompting of the Spirit was a sufficient guidance for him, and a sufficient authority for the people. 13-26. on the morrow … Moses sat to judge the people, &c.—We are here presented with a specimen of his daily morning occupations; and among the multifarious duties his divine legation imposed, it must be considered only a small portion of his official employments. He appears in this attitude as a type of Christ in His legislative and judicial characters.

the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening, &c.—Governors in the East seat themselves at the most public gate of their palace or the city, and there, amid a crowd of applicants, hear causes, receive petitions, redress grievances, and adjust the claims of contending parties.

i.e. Of the mind and will of God, both as to his worship and service and as to their mutual duties to one another. 1 Samuel 9:9. And Moses said unto his father in law,.... In answer to his question; and there were two things, as Aben Ezra observes, he did to the people, and for which they came to him; the one is observed in this verse, and the other in the next:

because the people come unto me to inquire of God; of his mind and will in certain cases, and of his statutes and laws, as the following verse shows; what they should observe, and according to which they should conduct themselves: they came to inquire what God would have them to do; and, in doubtful cases, what was his will and pleasure, and to desire Moses to inform them; and if the things were of such a nature that he could not easily and readily do it, then to inquire of God for them, which in later times was done by Urim and Thummim.

And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of {g} God:

(g) That is, to know God's will, and to have justice executed.

15. to inquire of God] i.e. to obtain from Him a legal decision. In early times judgement was a sacred act; legal decisions were regarded as coming from God, the judge being his representative, or mouthpiece (cf. v. 16 end)1[160], accordingly ‘God’ is sometimes used, where we should say ‘judge’ (see on Exodus 21:6). Perhaps in very primitive times the decision was given by the sacred lot (cf. the use of the Urim and Thummim in 1 Samuel 14:41 LXX. [see Kennedy’s note in the Century Bible, or DB. iv. 839b]; and the ‘breastplate of judgement,’ ch. Exodus 28:15): but the same view of the nature of judgement prevailed, even after this method of obtaining it was given up, or only resorted to exceptionally. To inquire of (or seek) God (דרש) in later times, means often to seek Him generally, in prayer and worship; but it means also, particularly in the early language, to resort to Him for the sake of obtaining an oracle, either in answer to some particular question, or, as here, a legal decision (LXX, ἐκζητῆσαι κρίσιν παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ): see Genesis 25:22 the answer follows in v. 23), 1 Samuel 9:9, 1 Kings 22:8, 2 Kings 3:11; 2 Kings 8:8; 2 Kings 22:13; 2 Kings 22:18, Jeremiah 21:2 (so, of inquiring of the dead, or of heathen gods, 1 Samuel 28:7, 2 Kings 1:2, Deuteronomy 18:11, Isaiah 8:19 al.).

[160] So in Homer, θέμιστες are spoken of as received by kings from Zeus (Il. i. 239 οἵ τε θέμιστας Πρὸς Διὸς εἰρύαται); and cf. Sir Henry Maine, Ancient Law, ch. 1.Verse 15. - And Moses said... Because the people come unto me, to inquire of God. To inquire of God is certainly not a mere "juridical phrase," meaning to consult a judge (Kalisch), nor, on the other hand, is it necessarily "to consult God through an oracle." It cannot, however, mean less than to seek a decision from some one regarded as entitled to speak for God; and it is certainly assigned by Moses as the reason why he judged all the causes himself, and did not devolve the duty upon others. They could not be supposed to know the mind of God as he knew it. Jethro, however, points out, that it is one thing to lay down principles, and another to apply them. Moses might reserve the legislative function - the inculcation of principles - to himself, and so still, "be for the people to Godward" (ver. 19); but he might find "able men" among the congregation, quite capable of applying the principles, and delegate to them the judicial function (vers. 21, 22). When Jethro announced his arrival to Moses ("he said," sc., through a messenger), he received his father-in-law with the honour due to his rank; and when he had conducted him to his tent, he related to him all the leading events connected with the departure from Egypt, and all the troubles they had met with on the way, and how Jehovah had delivered them out of them all. Jethro rejoiced at this, and broke out in praise to Jehovah, declaring that Jehovah was greater than all gods, i.e., that He had shown Himself to be exalted above all gods, for God is great in the eyes of men only when He makes known His greatness through the display of His omnipotence. He then gave a practical expression to his praise by a burnt-offering and slain-offering, which he presented to God. The second כּי in Exodus 18:11 is only an emphatic repetition of the first, and אשׁר בּדּבר is not dependent upon ידעתּי, but upon גּדול nopu tub, or upon הגדּיל understood, which is to be supplied in thought after the second כּי: "That He has proved Himself great by the affair in which they (the Egyptians) dealt proudly against them (the Israelites)." Compare Nehemiah 9:10, from which it is evident, that to refer these words to the destruction of Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea as a punishment for their attempt to destroy the Israelites in the water (Exodus 1:22) is too contracted an interpretation; and that they rather relate to all the measures adopted by the Egyptians for the oppression and detention of the Israelites, and signify that Jehovah had shown Himself great above all gods by all the plagues inflicted upon Egypt down to the destruction of Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.
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