Exodus 18:5
And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:
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(5) Where he encamped at the mount of God.—It is quite possible that “the mount of God” may be here used, in a broad sense, of the entire Sinaitic mountain-region, as “wilderness” is just before used in the broad sense of the infertile region between Egypt and Palestine. Or the movement described in Exodus 19:1-2 may have taken place before Jethro’s arrival, though not related until after it. We must bear in mind that Exodus was probably composed in detached portions, and arranged afterwards. The present chapter has every appearance of being one such detached portion.

18:1-6 Jethro came to rejoice with Moses in the happiness of Israel, and to bring his wife and children to him. Moses must have his family with him, that while he ruled the church of God, he might set a good example in family government, 1Ti 3:5.The wilderness - i. e., according to the view which seems on the whole most probable, the plain near the northern summit of Horeb, the mountain of God. The valley which opens upon Er Rahah on the left of Horeh is called "Wady Shueib" by the Arabs, i. e. the vale of Hobab. CHAPTER 18

Ex 18:1-27. Visit of Jethro.

1-5. Jethro … came … unto Moses, &c.—It is thought by many eminent commentators that this episode is inserted out of its chronological order, for it is described as occurring when the Israelites were "encamped at the mount of God." And yet they did not reach it till the third month after their departure from Egypt (Ex 19:1, 2; compare De 1:6, 9-15).

Jethro came, not at this time, but after the delivery of the law at Mount Sinai; as it may appear,

1. Because he finds them encamped, as it here follows, at the mount of God, i.e. Sinai, whither they came not till Exodus 19:2.

2. Because the laws of sacrifices were given before his coming, as appears from Exodus 18:12.

3. Because the execution of this counsel here given about the choice of magistrates, Exodus 18:19, is related after the Israelites’ departure from Sinai, Deu 1:7, &c. And therefore here is a transposal in this history, which is also frequent in other places of Holy Scripture. And Jethro, Moses's father in law,.... This is the third time he is so called in the chapter already, and many more times besides after in it; the reason of which seems to be, either to distinguish him from another of the same name, or to do him honour, that he should be in such a relation to so great and distinguished a man as Moses now was:

came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness; not with his own sons and wife, but with the sons and wife of Moses; Zipporah and her sons, as before related; with those he came into the wilderness of Arabia, where Moses now was, and which was not at a great distance from Midian, since about the same spot Moses, when he dwelt there, had, and fed the flock of his father-in-law, Exodus 3:1, that part of the land of Midian where Jethro lived lay somewhere eastward of Mount Sinai, and was probably situated where Sharme now stands; which, according to Dr. Pocock (i), is about a day and a half's journey from Mount Sinai, from whence the monks of Mount Sinai are chiefly supplied with fish (k): it follows: where he encamped at the mount of God: at Horeb, where the Lord had appeared to Moses; and so the Targum of Jonathan adds,"where the glory of the Lord was revealed to Moses at the beginning;''and where, afterwards, the Lord, appeared again, and gave the law, and therefore is called the Mount of God; the one as well as the other being past when Moses wrote this book, and called the mountain by this name: it is matter of question at what time Jethro came hither, whether before or after the giving of the law: it seems, by the order in which this story is here placed, as if it was immediately after the battle with Amalek; and Saadiah Gaon is of opinion it was before the giving of the law; and one would think it most reasonable and natural that Jethro would take the first opportunity of visiting Moses, and that Moses would not long defer sending for his wife and children: but Aben Ezra thinks he did not come till the second year after the tabernacle was set up, since, in the context, mention is made of burnt offerings and sacrifices, and no account is given of a new altar built by Moses; and besides, he says, "I do make them know the statutes of God and his laws", Exodus 18:16, and it is certain from hence, that the children of Israel were removed from Rephidim, and were now encamped at the mount of God, at Horeb; but whether they had got to the other side of the mount of Sinai as yet is not so clear; though it looks as if what Moses did, by the advice of Jethro, was after the law was given on Sinai, see Deuteronomy 1:6 so that, upon the whole, it seems as if this account, according to the order of time, should be placed after Numbers 10:28, or, as Dr. Lightfoot (l) thinks, between the tenth and eleventh verses of that chapter, and is put here to show that though Midian was near Amalek, as he observes, yet Jethro was exempt from the curse and destruction threatened to that, see 1 Samuel 15:6.

(i) Travels, p. 137. (k) See the Bishop of Clogher's Chronology of the Hebrew Bible, p. 214. (l) Works, vol. 1. p. 710, 711.

And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the {b} mount of God:

(b) Horeb is called the mount of God, because God did many miracles there. So Peter calls the mount where Christ was transfigured, the holy mount: for by Christ's presence it was holy for a time, 2Pe 1:18.

5. into the wilderness, &c.] The ‘mount of God’ (Exodus 3:1) is Horeb, the ‘wilderness’ consequently can be only the ‘wilderness of Sinai,’ ‘in font of the mount,’ which, however, the Israelites do not reach till Exodus 19:1-2, and which (if Rephidim be in W. Feiran, and Jebel Mûsâ be Sinai) was at least 24 miles beyond Rephidim (see on Exodus 19:1 b, 2). The passage affords a strong argument for the supposition (see above) that Exodus 18 stood originally at a later point in the narrative.Verse 5.- The wilderness. This term, which has the article, seems to be here used in that wide sense with which we are familiar from Exodus 3:18; To praise God for His help, Moses built an altar, which he called "Jehovah my banner," and said, when he did so, "The hand on the throne (or banner) of Jah! War to the Lord from generation to generation!" There is nothing said about sacrifices being offered upon this altar. It has been conjectured, therefore, that as a place of worship and thank-offering, the altar with its expressive name was merely to serve as a memorial to posterity of the gracious help of the Lord, and that the words which were spoken by Moses were to serve as a watchword for Israel, keeping this act of God in lively remembrance among the people in all succeeding generations. כּי (Exodus 17:16) merely introduces the words as in Genesis 4:23, etc. The expression יהּ על־כּס יד is obscure, chiefly on account of the ἁπ λεγ. כּס. In the ancient versions (with the exception of the Septuagint, in which יה כץ is treated as one word, and rendered κρυφαία) כּס is taken to be equivalent to כּסּה (1 Kings 10:19; Job 26:9) for כּסּא, and the clause is rendered "the hand upon the throne of the Lord." But whilst some understand the laying of the hand (sc., of God) upon the throne to be expressive of the attitude of swearing, others regard the hand as symbolical of power. There are others again, like Clericus, who suppose the hand to denote the hand laid by the Amalekites upon the throne of the Lord, i.e., on Israel. But if כּס signifies throng or adytum arcanum, the words can hardly be understood in any other sense than "the hand lifted up to the throne of Jehovah in heaven, war to the Lord," etc.; and thus understood, they can only contain an admonition to Israel to follow the example of Moses, and wage war against Amalek with the hands lifted up to the throne of Jehovah. Modern expositors, however, for the most part regard כּס as a corruption of נס, "the hand on the banner of the Lord." But even admitting this, though many objections may be offered to its correctness, we must not understand by "the banner of Jehovah" the staff of Moses, but only the altar with the name Jehovah-nissi, as the symbol or memorial of the victorious help afforded by God in the battle with the Amalekites.
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