Taught by Father-in-Law

Have you been told that when Scripture repeats something, that means it’s important? If so, and if you subscribe to that view, then you should know that Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law. I’m not sure exactly why you should know that, but it is repeated in Exodus 18 more than Jethro’s name. His relationship to Moses as his father-in-law was more important than Moses’ wife, the names of his kids, or the name of Jethro.

Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God. He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.

Exodus 18:5-7 NASB

Moses’ wife and two sons have been with his father-in-law while Moses was in Egypt involved in the Exodus. The wording allows the interpretation that Moses was divorced from Zipporah at this time. And yet, this relationship through marriage to Jethro seems to be the main characteristic of Jethro’s relationship to Moses. There are two places that Jethro is named without referring to him as Moses’ father-in-law, but there are seven places where Jethro is referred to as Moses’ father-in-law without being otherwise named. It may be a literary device, or it could be that the Hebrew for father-in-law (hatan, Strong’s H2859) is easier on the tongue than Jethro (yithrow, Strong’s H3503), but that seems unlikely.

But the relationship of Jethro to Moses, isn’t the point of this story. The visit of Jethro to Moses highlights the administration of the law which is about to be revealed in chapters 19 through 23:19. This law describes how the people are to live with each other as God’s people. This chapter describes how the method of judging the people came to be. It was Jethro’s idea. But why would Moses listen to Jethro? Who is Jethro to Moses? Oh! Jethro is Moses’ father-in-law! But still, aren’t Moses and Zipporah divorced? Yes, and still Moses is willing to be taught by Jethro, to learn from his wisdom.

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you!

Exodus 18:17-19a NASB

The point of the chapter is supported, highlighted, and suggests a gentle lesson in humility. We learn something of Moses, and something of how Yahweh worked with him, and possibly us.

The relationship between Zipporah and Moses isn’t the point. The names of Moses’ sons isn’t the point. The point is that Yahweh teaches Moses through someone, possibly a new convert (see Ex. 18:10-12). Moses is willing to be taught, willing to learn. He could assume he knew better than this new upstart priest. He could have been bitter toward the protector of Moses bitter ex-wife, the one keeping his sons from him. But he wasn’t. He learned instead.

So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

Exodus 18:24 NASB

Are we willing to learn from people who may be painful for us to be around? Who has hurt you? Moses’ family was a mess, and he welcomes his father-in-law. His wife came with his two sons, one of whom we didn’t even know about (was she pregnant when she left Egypt?), so how much time has Moses had with him? We know so little about the emotions around this meeting other than the obvious respect and love Moses has for Jethro. Your situation may be different. Your family may be even more messed up than Moses’. But still, do you truly have an excuse to hold onto your resentment, and refuse to listen to the person through whom God is speaking to you?

Ask yourself, “What lesson am I missing from my Master, Jesus, because I won’t listen to someone through He speaks?” That’s a long question, so, don’t feel like you need to recite it word-for-word, just get the gist of it. What lesson, and blessing, are you missing because of your resentment? Where has your pride kept you from the work and blessing the Holy Spirit wants you to live out? It’s not just about you. Remember, that our Master wants to use you in the lives of those around you to bring His light, joy, and peace into their lives. So, who are you harming because of your stubbornness?

It’s time to put the pride, resentment, and stubbornness aside, take your seat at the little desk in the classroom of our King, and let His instructor finish the lesson. Study hard. It will be worth it.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation


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