Exodus 18:19
Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:
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(19) God shall be with thee.—Rather, may Go be with thee. May He give thee wisdom to direct the course aright.

Be thou for the people to God-ward.—Be the person, i.e., to bring before God whatever needs to be brought before Him. Continue both to act as representative of the people towards God, and as representative of God towards the people. Take all difficult causes to Him, and pronounce to the people His decision upon them. Be also the expounder to the people of God’s laws and ordinances; be their moral instructor, and the guide of their individual actions (Exodus 18:20). All this is quite compatible with the change which I am about to recommend to thee.

Exodus 18:19-23. Be thou for them to God-ward — That was an honour in which it was not fit any other should share with him. Also whatever concerned the whole congregation must pass through his hand, Exodus 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 despatch 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. First, 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. 1st, 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. 2d, For piety, such as fear God — Who believe there is a God above them, that his eye is upon them, and that they are accountable to him, and who therefore stand in awe of his judgment. Conscientious men, that will not do a wrong thing, though they could do it never so secretly and securely. 3d, For honesty, men of truth — Whose word one may take, and whose fidelity one may rely upon. 4th, 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. Secondly, That he should attend to God’s direction in the case, verse

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.

18:13-27 Here is the great zeal and the toil of Moses as a magistrate. Having been employed to redeem Israel out of the house of bondage, he is a further type of Christ, that he is employed as a lawgiver and a judge among them. If the people were as quarrelsome one with another as they were with God, no doubt Moses had many causes brought before him. This business Moses was called to; it appears that he did it with great care and kindness. The meanest Israelite was welcome to bring his cause before him. Moses kept to his business from morning to night. Jethro thought it was too much for him to undertake alone; also it would make the administration of justice tiresome to the people. There may be over-doing even in well-doing. Wisdom is profitable to direct, that we may neither content ourselves with less than our duty, nor task ourselves beyond our strength. Jethro advised Moses to a better plan. Great men should not only study to be useful themselves, but contrive to make others useful. Care must be taken in the choice of the persons admitted into such a trust. They should be men of good sense, that understood business, and that would not be daunted by frowns or clamours, but abhorred the thought of a bribe. Men of piety and religion; such as fear God, who dare not to do a base thing, though they could do it secretly and securely. The fear of God will best fortify a man against temptations to injustice. Moses did not despise this advice. Those are not wise, who think themselves too wise to be counselled.Counsel - Jethro draws the distinction between the functions of the legislator and the judge.

To God-ward - Literally, "before God," standing between them and God, both as His minister or representative and also as the representative of the people, their agent, so to speak, or deputy before God.

17. Moses' father-in-law said unto him, The thing … is not good—not good either for Moses himself, for the maintenance of justice, or for the satisfaction and interests of the people. Jethro gave a prudent counsel as to the division of labor [Ex 18:21, 22], and universal experience in the Church and State has attested the soundness and advantages of the principle. God shall be with thee, i.e. I doubt not God will assist and bless thee, as well in the course which I propose to thee, as in that which thou now dost use, because God is a God of order, and loves order; and he is a God of mercy, and would not have thee destroy thyself in his work. Or it may be taken for a prayer, and God be with thee, i.e. bless and assist thee therein.

To Godward, Heb. before God, i.e. in hard and weighty causes, which the inferior judges cannot determine, as it is explained Exodus 18:22; where they need and seek direction from God, there thou shalt be as a mediator between God and them, to bring their matters to God, as it here follows, and to receive directions and commands from him. See Numbers 15:33,34 27:5,6.

Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel,.... Jethro being the elder man, and of some character and figure, being either a priest or prince of Midian, or both, might, without incurring a censure, take upon him to give advice to Moses, a younger man, and his son-in-law, though he was superior to him in office and in parts; and especially since his advice proceeded from a sincere and cordial regard for his health and welfare:

and God shall be with thee: and succeed the advice he gave, which he persuaded himself would be agreeable to the will of God, and attending to it he would prosper, and find that the method taken would be blessed of God, and issue in his own good and the good of the people; or it may be taken prayerwise, as by some, "may God be with thee" (s); to direct thee to what thou shouldest do, either to take the advice, or reject it; and be it as it will, he wished him well, and that he might have his health, and that as his day was, his strength might be:

be thou for the people to God-ward; or on the part of God, as Aben Ezra interprets it; that part of his work he advised him to retain by all means, which lay more immediately between God and the people; to be a mediator between them; to transact affairs for them with God; to inquire his mind and will in matters difficult and doubtful; to be, as Jarchi expresses it, a messenger and interpreter between them, and an inquirer of judgments of him, or what statutes and judgments he would have observed by them: that thou mayest bring the causes unto God; concerning which, as yet, he had given no directions as a rule to go by.

(s) see Poole in loc.

Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to {h} God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:

(h) You judge in difficult cases, which cannot be decided without consulting with God.

19, 20. be thou (emph.) to the people in front of God] i.e. be thou (as hitherto) God’s representative to the people, and bring thou (again emph.) the causes,—i.e., from the context (cf. vv. 22, 26), the more important or difficult cases,—unto God for decision; and warn them of the statutes and the directions, and make them to know the way wherein they should walk, and the work that they should do. All this relates to what Moses has done already: he is, as he has already done, to bring important cases to God, and to advise the people of the general laws which follow from their determination (as, for instance, from a particular case of damage, there might result a decision which would give such a law as Exodus 21:33-34), and so make known to them how they are to act when such cases arise. Jethro’s fresh suggestions for the future follow in vv. 21–23.

and God be with thee] or, more probably (G.-K. § 109 f), that God may be with thee to assist thee—as He hardly will be, if thou undertakest what is altogether beyond thy powers.

Verse 19. - I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee. Rather - "And may God be with thee!" May God incline thine heart to accept my counsel and act upon it. Be thou for the people to God-ward, etc. "Continue," i.e., as at present, to be the intermediary between God and the people - still be the whole and sole source of legislative power (ver. 20), and still be the fount and origin of judicial authority; but commit the actual decision of the lighter causes to others chosen by thyself for the office (vers. 21, 22). The separation of the legislative and judicial functions was well known in Egypt, where the kings alone made new laws (Herod. 2:109, 136, 177, etc.), but causes were ordinarily determined by a body of judges. Bring the causes unto God. In difficult cases, Moses actually laid the cause before God, and obtained directions from God as to the manner in which he was to decide it. See Numbers 27:5-11. Exodus 18:19The next day Jethro saw how Moses was occupied from morning till evening in judging the people, who brought all their disputes to him, that he might settle them according to the statutes of God. על עמד: as in Genesis 18:8. The people came to Moses "to seek or inquire of God" (Genesis 18:15), i.e., to ask for a decision from God: in most cases, this means to inquire through an oracle; here it signifies to desire a divine decision as to questions in dispute. By judging or deciding the cases brought before him, Moses made known to the people the ordinances and laws of God. For every decision was based upon some law, which, like all true justice here on earth, emanated first of all from God. This is the meaning of Genesis 18:16, and not, as Knobel supposes, that Moses made use of the questions in dispute, at the time they were decided, as good opportunities for giving laws to the people. Jethro condemned this plan (Genesis 18:18.) as exhausting, wearing out (נבל lit., to fade away, Psalm 37:2), both for Moses and the people: for the latter, inasmuch as they not only got wearied out through long waiting, but, judging from Genesis 18:23, very often began to take the law into their own hands on account of the delay in the judicial decision, and so undermined the well-being of the community at large; and for Moses, inasmuch as the work was necessarily too great for him, and he could not continue for any length of time to sustain such a burden alone (Genesis 18:18). The obsolete form of the inf. const. עשׂהוּ for עשׂתו is only used here, but is not without analogies in the Pentateuch. Jethro advised him (Genesis 18:19.) to appoint judged from the people for all the smaller matters in dispute, so that in future only the more difficult cases, which really needed a superior or divine decision, would be brought to him that he might lay them before God. "I will give thee counsel, and God be with thee (i.e., help thee to carry out this advice): Be thou to the people האלהים מוּל, towards God," i.e., lay their affairs before God, take the place of God in matters of judgment, or, as Luther expresses it, "take charge of the people before God." To this end, in the first place, he was to instruct the people in the commandments of God, and their own walk and conduct (הזהיר with a double accusative, to enlighten, instruct; שדרך the walk, the whole behaviour; מעשׂה particular actions); secondly, he was to select able men (חיל אנשׁי men of moral strength, 1 Kings 1:52) as judges, men who were God-fearing, sincere, and unselfish (gain-hating), and appoint them to administer justice to the people, by deciding the simpler matters themselves, and only referring the more difficult questions to him, and so to lighten his own duties by sharing the burden with these judges. מעליך הקל (Genesis 18:22) "make light of (that which lies) upon thee." If he would do this, and God would command him, he would be able to stand, and the people would come to their place, i.e., to Canaan, in good condition (בּשׁלום). The apodosis cannot begin with וצוּך, "then God will establish thee," for צוּה never has this meaning; but the idea is this, "if God should preside over the execution of the plan proposed."
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