And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said to him, Let me go, I pray you, and return to my brothers which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Moses . . . returned to Jethro.—Heb., to Jether. When Moses married Zipporah, he was probably adopted into the tribe, of which Reuel, and after him Jethro, was the head. The tribal tie was close, and would make the asking of permission for even a temporary absence the proper, if not even the necessary, course Apart from this, Moses would have had to “return,” in order to restore the flock, which he was tending, to its owner. (See Exodus 3:1.)
My brethren.—Not “my nation,” for Moses could not doubt that some survived; nor “my actual brothers,” for he had but one brother; but, “my relations,” or “my family,” my kith and kin. Let me go and see whether my relatives survive, or whether they have succumbed to the tyranny of the Pharaoh. It is certain that this was not Moses’ sole motive, not even his main motive for wishing to return to Egypt; but, as it was among his motives, he was within his right in putting it forward, and omitting to mention others.
Jethro said, Go in peace.—Jethro’s character is altogether one of which kindness and peacefulness are the main elements. If he be identified with Reuel, the pleasing picture drawn in Exodus 2:18-21 will furnish traits towards his portraiture. Even without this, the present passage and the notice in Exodus 18 sufficiently delineate him. He is a sort of second Melchizedek, both priest and king, a worshipper of the true God, and one in whose presence both Moses and Aaron are content to play a secondary part (Exodus 18:9; Exodus 18:12). But he never asserts himself; he is always kind, gentle, acquiescent, helpful. He might easily have made a difficulty at the present point of the narrative, have demurred to the weakening of the tribe by the withdrawal of an important member from it, have positively refused to allow of the departure of ‘Zipporah and her children. But his words are simply “Go in peace.” He consents, and does not mar the grace of his act by any show of reluctance. He lets Moses take his wife and children. He afterwards receives them back, and protects them (Exodus 18:2); and, finally, when his protection is no more needed, he restores them to their natural guardian, by a spontaneous act, as it would seem.Exodus 4:18. Moses returned to Jethro — Justice and decency required Moses to acquaint his father-in-law with his intention of going into Egypt; but he thought fit to conceal from him the errand upon which God sent him, lest he should endeavour to hinder or discourage him from so difficult and dangerous an enterprise. So that Moses, in this instance, has given us a rare example of piety and prudence, in that he took care to avoid all occasions and temptations to disobedience to the divine commands; as well as of singular modesty and humility, in that such glorious and familiar converse with God, and the high commission with which he had honoured him, neither made him forget the duty he owed to his father-in-law, nor break out into any vain-glorious ostentation of such a privilege.Exodus 3:1, and said unto him:
let me go, I pray thee, and return to my brethren which are in Egypt; the Israelites, who were so by nation and religion; as Jethro had been kind and beneficent to him, he did not choose to leave him without his knowledge and consent, and especially to take away his wife and children without it:
and see whether they be yet alive; it seems by this that Moses had heard nothing of them during the forty years he lived in Midian, which may be thought strange, since it was not very far from Egypt; and besides the Midianites traded in Egypt, as we learn from Genesis 37:28 but this must be ascribed to the providence of God, that so ordered it, that there should be no intercourse between him and his brethren, that so no step might be taken by them for their deliverance until the set time was come. Moses did not acquaint his father-in-law with the principal reason of his request, nor of his chief end in going into Egypt, which it might not be proper to acquaint him with, he being of another nation, though a good man; and lest he should use any arguments to dissuade Moses from going, who now having got clear of his diffidence and distrust, was determined upon it: though some ascribe this to his modesty in not telling Jethro of the glorious and wonderful appearance of God to him, and of the honour he had conferred on him to be the deliverer and governor of the people of Israel:And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. He first asks permission to leave his father-in-law (in whose service he was, Exodus 3:1), concealing his real purpose, and requesting only a temporary leave of absence.
my brethren] his own relations (the term ‘brethren’ including nephews, Genesis 13:8; Genesis 14:14; Genesis 24:27).
18–20. Moses prepares to return to Egypt.Verses 18-25. - If Moses had, as we have supposed, been accepted into the Midianitish nation, he would need permission to withdraw himself from the tribal head. This head was now Jether, or Jethro, Moses' connexion by marriage, perhaps his brother-in-law, perhaps a less near connexion. Nations and tribes were at this time anxious to keep up their numbers, and jealous of the desertion even of a single member. Jethro, however, made no opposition to the return of Moses to Egypt, even though he designed to be accompanied by his wife and sons (ver. 20). Scripture gives no indications of the motives which actuated him. Perhaps the Midianites were at this time straitened for want of room. Perhaps the peculiar circumstances of Moses were held to justify his application for leave. Verse 18. - My brethren probably means here "my relations" (compare Genesis 13:8; Genesis 29:12). Moses could scarcely doubt but that some of his countrymen were still living. It would not have been for the interest of the Egyptians to exterminate them. Go in peace means, "you have my leave - I do not oppose your going."
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