Life of Moses: Principles of Leadership

Peter Barnes: Exodus 18

(31 March 2019)


Apparently, in the midst of the clash with Pharaoh, Moses had sent his wife Zipporah and their two sons (Gershom and Eliezer) back to her father Jethro for safety. That has now changed – 18:1-7.

1. Moses’ humble testimony to the Lord.

– 18:8-11. Jethro is not easy to categorise: he is both a priest and a shepherd. Is he a pagan priest, or is he someone like Melchizedek (Gen.14) or Job? Roger Ellsworth reads this as Jethro’s conversion, but it may only be a stage in his assurance as in 1 Kings 17:24.

– 18:12; sacrifice and eat bread.

2. It is good to share the load.

– elders in Ex.3:16; 18:12.

– the ‘share the load’ principle is one that runs through both Testaments – 18:13-18. Calvin: ‘no single mortal can be sufficient to do everything’. See Numbers 11:10-17 for the appointment of 70 elders.

– 1 Cor.12:14. The elders administered justice (Deut.19:11-12), counselled in marriages (Deut.22:13-19), helped in the offering of sacrifices (Lev.4:13-21; Deut.21:3-9), taught the law of God (Deut.27:1; 31:9-13), and administered discipline (John 9:22, 34).

– suitable men were set apart as elders – 18:19-23. Biblical polity does not guarantee biblical wisdom e.g. Judges 21:16; 1 Samuel 8:4-7. But responsibilities are shared out – hence Acts 6:1-4; Prov.11:14; Acts 14:23. For qualifications, see Exodus 18:21.

3. Leaders should be elders under the Word of God.

– 18:19-20, 23-26. The authority of elders is judicial, not legislative (18:20). God recognises that we are all frail people who need to work together for His kingdom. Somehow we end out better than the sum of the parts