In the beginning of Exodus 18, Jethro brought Zipporah and her sons to meet Moses after the defeat of the Amalekites. Originally, Zipporah and the boys had been on their way to Egypt with Moses. If you recall, one of their sons had been circumcised as they journeyed but at some point Jethro had taken them back. Exodus 18:2 indicates Moses “had sent her back.” This doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal in English. Most people tend to think he sent her back because of a safety issue or because she and the boys would be in Moses’ way while he was in Egypt but the Hebrew word for the phrase “he had sent her back” raises a possibility we may not have considered before. The Hebrew word is shilluach. It means the dismissal of a wife as in divorce. Whether it was a divorce or not, we know that at some point Zipporah and her sons returned to her father in Midian. The book of Jasher suggests they were sent home when Aaron met them on the way to Egypt (Jasher 79:15-18); however, they were not reunited until after the defeat of the Amalekites.
If we consider the possibility that Moses “sent away” his wife, we should examine its pattern for the future of Israel. Even though God hates divorce, He divorced the Northern Kingdom of Israel and had them carried off by the Assyrians because of their idolatry, witchcraft, and soothsaying (2 Kings 17:16-18; Isaiah 50:1; Jer. 3:8). That doesn’t mean God didn’t love His people. He loved them but couldn’t tolerate their sin. They failed to demonstrate their love for Him by obeying His commandments. Once they were sent away, they were no longer His people but God still had a plan for them.
As we probe the relationship of Zipporah and Moses, let’s not overlook their children. God’s people are/will be like Moses’ children. Moses’ first son was named Gershom because Moses was a stranger in a foreign land. God’s people are currently strangers in foreign lands both physically and spiritually. Many are scattered throughout the world but they are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family (Eph. 2:19). Moses’ second son was named Eliezer because God was Moses’ help and delivered him from the sword of Pharaoh after he had killed an Egyptian. When Jesus returns to earth, He will help His people and deliver them from their enemies who desire to rid them from the earth.
Just as Moses’ father-in-law brought Zipporah and her sons back to Moses, the Lord will bring the houses of Ephraim and Judah back from the four corners of the earth to Israel and they will be His people (Isaiah 11:12; Hosea 1:10). As the names of Gershom and Eliezer have significance, the meanings of Ephraim (fruitful) and Judah (praise) seem to foreshadow Revelation 7:9-10 which says there will be a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue who will cry out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
As Exodus 18 continues, Moses bowed down to Jethro and kissed him. For us, this appears to be an extravagant greeting. As I wondered about this, I considered the meaning of the name Jethro or Yitro. It means “his excellence.” This is a title fit for a king. With this in mind, it makes sense to give him such a greeting. Imagine what it will be like after Jesus returns. At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and confess that Jesus is Lord. They will do this because He is King of kings, is most excellent, and is worthy to receive such an honor.
After greeting each other, Jethro and Moses entered the tent, shared what had been going on with each other, and visited together. Moses was able to share with Jethro all the details of what had happened in Egypt, their exodus from there, and their travels to date. Jethro, who had been a pagan priest up until that time finally realized that the Lord is greater than all the gods and made a burnt offering and other sacrifices to the Lord. Aaron and the elders of Israel joined Moses and ate bread with Jethro before God.
In the future, Jesus will probably sit down with His two witnesses and the elders who usually sit on the 24 thrones and recount the details of the seals, trumpets, plagues, and the Battle of Armageddon. They may discuss the resurrection of the saints and how Jesus healed the water that was made bitter by the third trumpet. The wedding supper of the Lamb will take place. All of this will certainly be a wonderful time.
The day after Moses, Aaron, and the elders ate with Jethro, Moses began to judge the people from morning until evening and help them know the statutes and laws of God. Jethro saw how this would quickly wear Moses out considering the size of the multitude so he made a suggestion to ease this burden by spreading it among rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens and allowing them to judge the small things while bringing only the hard cases before Moses.
This will be similar to what will happen in the future. According to Ezekiel 44, the Levitical priests who are the sons of Zadok will:
- Minister before the Lord.
- Offer sacrifices.
- Teach God’s people the difference between the clean and unclean, and the holy and unholy.
- Judge controversies according to God’s judgments.
- Keep God’s laws, statutes in all His appointed meetings, and keep His Sabbaths holy.
This chapter does not specifically say but I assume that just as the priest used to consult the Urim and Thummim which were kept in the breastplate of judgment in the past, the priests will go to Jesus for difficult righteous judgments. After all, He’s our High Priest, Prophet, and King.