Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
exo 18:1Jethro to congratulate the happiness of Israel, and particularly the honour of Moses his son - in - law; comes to rejoice with them, as one that had a true respect both for them and for their God. And also to bring Moses's wife and children to him. It seems he had sent them back, probably from the inn where his wife's lothness to have her son circumcised had like to have cost him his life, Exo 4:25.
exo 18:3The name of one was Gershom - A stranger, designing thereby not only a memorial of his own condition, but a memorandum to this son of his, for we are all strangers upon earth.
exo 18:4The name of the other was Eliezer - My God a help: it looks back to his deliverance from Pharaoh, when he made his escape after the slaying of the Egyptian; but if this were the son that was circumcised in the inn, I would rather translate it, The Lord is mine help, and will deliver me from the sword of Pharaoh, which he had reason to expect would be drawn against him, when he was going to fetch Israel out of bondage.
exo 18:11Now know I that JEHOVAH is greater than all gods - That the God of Israel is greater than all pretenders; all deities, that usurp divine honours: he silenceth them, subdues them all, and is himself the only living and true God. He is also higher than all princes and potentates, who also are called gods, and has both an incontestable authority over them, and an irresistible power to control them; he manages them all as he pleaseth, and gets honour upon them how great soever they are. Now know I: he knew it before, but now he knew it better; his faith grew up to a full assurance, upon this fresh evidence; for wherein they dealt proudly - The magicians or idols of Egypt, or Pharaoh and his grandees, opposing God, and setting up in competition with him, he was above them. The magicians were baffled, Pharaoh humbled, his powers broken, and Israel rescued out of their hands.
exo 18:12And Jethro took a burnt offering for God - And probably offered it himself, for he was a priest in Midian, and a worshipper of the true God, and the priesthood was not yet settled in Israel. And they did eat bread before God - Soberly, thankfully, in the fear of God; and their talk such as became saints. Thus we must eat and drink to the glory of God; as those that believe God's eye is upon us.
exo 18:13Moses sat to judge the people - To answer enquiries; to acquaint them with the will of God in doubtful cases, and to explain the laws of God that were already given.
exo 18:15The people came to enquire of God - And happy was it for them that they had such an oracle to consult. Moses was faithful both to him that appointed him, and to them that consulted him, and made them know the statutes of God, and his laws - His business was not to make laws, but to make known God's laws: his place was but that of a servant.
exo 18:16I judge between one and another - And if the people were as quarrelsome one with another as they were with God, he had many causes brought before him, and the more because their trials put them to no expence.
exo 18:17Not good - Not convenient either for thee or them.
exo 18:19Be thou for them to God - ward - That was an honour which it was not fit any other should share with him in. Also whatever concerned the whole congregation must pass through his hand, Exo 18:20. But, he appointed judges in the several tribes and families, which should try causes between man and man, and determine them, which would be done with less noise, and more dispatch than in the general assembly. Those whose gifts and stations are most eminent may yet be greatly furthered in their work by the assistance of those that are every way their inferiors. This is Jethro's advice; but he adds two qualifications to his counsel. That great care should be taken in the choice of the persons who should be admitted into this trust; it was requisite that they should be men of the best character. For judgment and resolution, able men: men of good sense, that understood business; and bold men, that would not be daunted by frowns or clamours. Clear heads and stout hearts make good judges. For piety, such as fear God, who believe there is a God above them, whose eye is upon them, to whom they are accountable, and whose judgment they stand in awe of. Conscientious men, that dare not do an ill thing, though they could do it never so secretly and securely. For honesty, men of truth, whose word one may take, and whose fidelity one may rely upon. For a generous contempt of worldly wealth, hating covetousness, not only not seeking bribes, or aiming to enrich themselves, but abhorring the thought of it. That he should attend God's direction in the case, Exo 18:23. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so - Jethro knew that Moses had a better counsellor than he was, and to his counsel he refers him.
exo 18:24So Moses hearkened unto the voice of his father - in - law. When he came to consider the thing, he saw the reasonableness of it, and resolved to put it in practice, which he did soon after, when he had received directions from God. Those are not so wise as they would be thought to be, who think themselves too wise to be counselled; for a wise man will hear, and will increase learning, and not slight good counsel, though given by an inferior.
exo 18:27He went into his own land - It is supposed the Kenites mentioned Sa1 15:6, were the posterity of Jethro, (compare Jdg 1:16,) and they are taken under special protection, for the kindness their ancestor shewed to Israel.