"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

The Wisdom of Jethro the Noahide

May 8, 2011

in Judaism vs. Christianity,Noahide - The Ancient Path,Rachav

by Rachav

Jethro was known by several names, his name is pronounced in Hebrew as Yisro, he was also known as Reuel, Jether. In Ex. 2:18 Yethro is called Reuel, and in Ex. 4:18 he was called both Jether and Jethro. Reuel – Ex. 2:18. Jethro was the Kohen of Midian, this was at the time when the firstborn males of a family were the Kohanim, (priests).    The firstborn of the Children of Israel were called Cohanim, (priests) until the sin with the ‘golden calf’.   After this time the sons of Levi were chosen as the Cohanim and the Levites were chosen to be their assistants, as their reward for not becoming involved with this sin. Ex. 32:26-29. Num. 3:9-11-51.

Before the choosing of the Levitical Priesthood, there are references to the Priests. Exodus 19:22, these were the firstborn.   When the Levitical Priesthood was set up, the children of Israel had to redeem the firstborn, as they were no longer able to serve in their capacity as Priests. So Jethro was referred to in the TeNaCh as a Priest, as was Melchizidek king of Salem.

Jethro offered hospitality to Moses after he had fled from Egypt, and Moses lived with Yethro and his family for 40 years and served as one of his shepherds, he married Jethro’s daughter Zipporah.  Ex. 18:1-4.

When Moses travelled to Egypt to deliver the children of Israel out of Pharoah’s hand, after the circumcision of Moses son, he sent his wife back to her father.    When the children of Israel were finally freed, and on their way to Sinai, Jethro went up to take Zipporah back to Moses and he was greeted with much honour by Moses, and they had a feast.

Jethro saw that Moses was struggling to resolve all the problems that were being brought to him on a daily basis by the children of Israel for him to judge, so Jethro offered Moses some excellent advice.

Jethro rejoiced when he heard Moses telling him about all the wonders that G-d had done for Israel in delivering them from the Egyptians.  Ex. 18:5-11.

The word used for “rejoiced”, is of Aramaic origin.  It is used here to allude to the word prickles, for his happiness was so great that he felt physically thrilled, like someone who may weep or become faint when he is overwhelmed with unexpected joy (Or HaChaim)  According to Rashi, however, the allusion suggests that, despite his happiness for the Jews, he felt “prickles of unease” over whe had happened to the Egyptians.   Stones Chumash. p 396.    (I personally feel that the explanation of (Or HaChaim) is more satisfying. )

Jethro took an elevation offering and feast-offerings for G-d; and Aaron and all the elders if Israel came to eat bread with the father-in-law of Moses before G-d.   Ex. 18:12.

However, when Jethro saw how Moses was sitting all day long from morning till evening to judge the people’s civil grievances with each other. Jethro told Moses that he was doing it all wrong, and that he would wear himself out.   Then he gave Moses the benefit of his own wisdom.   His advice was that Moses should discern men of accomplishment from among all the leaders of Israel and appoint them as heads of the people, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens.   How was Moses to choose these men?   Jethro’s words were “and you shall discern. [Since Jethro did not say choose] he wanted Moses to select the leaders by means of his Divine Insight.  (Rashi)

Jethro’s wise advice, was that Moses should caution these leaders regarding the decrees and teachings, so that they could make wise judgements, those things which were too hard for them to decide, the major matters were then referred to Moses.

Ok did anyone notice that I just wrote that Moses taught the ‘decrees and teachings’?   But this was before they had arrived at Mt. Sinai!   So when did Moses learn these things, and to what decrees and teachings can it be referring?

Jethro listed four separate requirements for the leaders and judges Moses should select to dispense justice.   These four are part of the Jewish and Noahide Laws, as described in Hilchot Melachim (Laws of Kings – Rambam)   See Ex. 18:21.

Ex. 18:21  Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

22  And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge themselves; so shall they make it easier for thee and bear the burden with thee.

The list of required qualities for leadership necessary to dispense Justice are:-

1. Able (accomplished) men, who had good judgement, knowledge of the law, and the ability to  recognise truth.

2. G-d fearing men, who would not be swayed by flattery, bribery or threats.

3. Men of truth.

4. People who despise money,  so that they would not be subject to bribery.

Jethro’s wise advice had a profound effect on the children of Israel, because his advice to Moses meant that the people of Israel were confident that they were being ruled justly, and their judges were ready to serve them whenever needed. the people would not have to stand in long queues waiting for hours and Moses was freed of the exhausting burden that was consuming his time and sapping his strength.     The blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei that asks for the restoration of justice includes the related plea and remove from us sorrow and groan, for with justice comes contentment.  See Stones Chumash.  pages 399-340.

It is recommended to read after this – The Torah before Sinai by Rachav.


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