Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro (who has graduated to being a character worthy of a consistent name, for now), hears that Moses is in the area and stops by for a visit. He also brings Moses’ wife and sons, who were apparently sent out of Egypt ahead of the exodus at some point.

Jethro and Zipporah return by William Artaud

Jethro and Zipporah return by William Artaud

Now, Moses and the Hebrews are taking 40 years for a journey that should only take them a matter of days. If they’re lost, why doesn’t Jethro give them a hand? And if they aren’t lost, what kind of pace are they setting that would take so long?

A spot of worship

Moses catches Jethro up on the whole “escape from Egypt” thing, and all the miracles and plagues that entailed. Jethro is suitable impressed and declares that God “is greater than all gods” (Exod. 18:11) – an assessment that is problematic for monotheists, but a perfectly reasonable thing for a henotheist to say.

All present agree that God is awesome and decide to make a sacrifice.

Moses delegates

During his visit, Jethro sees that Moses is spending all his time acting as judge to arbiter every little dispute among the Hebrews (no wonder it’s taking them so long to cross the wilderness!). Jethro sees this and suggests that it’s inefficient to have Moses judge all cases. Rather, he suggests that Moses delegate.

Following Jethro’s advice, Moses appoints judges. “Ever great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves” (Exod. 18:22).

And then Jethro goes home. Hopefully, Moses didn’t forget to ask for directions.