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Exodus 18:13-27, Jethro’s Advice

Tuesday, June 5

Interdependent Beings

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.


Moses was wearing himself out. Since the Israelites had been living in Egypt for 430 years and enslaved for much of that, they had never had to govern themselves. God set Moses as judge over their disputes, but the workload was too much.

Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, could see the toll it was taking on Moses. He gave his counsel, that Moses should delegate some of the workload to others. Moses established a hierarchy of judges, with the smaller cases being heard by his judges, and the larger cases being decided by Moses.

Many of us have been taught to become wholly independent, trying our best not to need others. But we were not created to be isolated creatures. We were created to live in community, and to need each other. When we learn to become interdependent, then we are working within the communal mechanism that God designed for us. This means we must learn to rely on others and become reliable for others.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Exodus 18:13-27

The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” 

Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.” 

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.” 

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off to his own country.