Due to the earth-shaking (pun intended) ramifications of the events, it would seem logical that the name of this portion of Torah should be “commandments,” “Mount Sinai”, “betrothal” or “ketubah.” That it is named for Moses’ father-in-law, the “priest of Median” to whom we were introduced in Shemot a few weeks ago, leaves us scratching our heads.
When we last saw Jethro, Moses requested and received permission from his father-in-law to return to Egypt (4:18) after his encounter with God at the burning bush. Now, more than a year later, Jethro arrives at Mount Sinai with Zipporah and her two sons.
Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” (Ex 18:1-6)
Zipporah’s being “sent away” (18:2) foreshadows both Judah’s and Ephraim’s exiles. Her two sons, “Gershom” (sojourner, stranger) and “Eliezer” (God who helps), remind us that both Israel and Judah were scattered worldwide and, today, for the most part, sojourns among the gentiles, though never out of God’s sight and mercy. As a bit of a review, the Scriptures demonstrate that the king of Assyria sent Ten Tribes into exile (2 Kings 17:23 ff) where they disappeared into the nations, leaving the House of Judah as the only evidence of the seed of Abraham in the earth. When Yeshua came, His mission was to the scattered.
The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel
Yeshua said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mat.15:24)
The disciples, ultimately scattered among the nations themselves, thanks to the persecution of Rome, were destine to become the first to reap the harvest.
Hundreds of years earlier, separated in exile from the House of Judah [a.k.a. the Jewish people], the House of Israel was declared by Yahweh to be “lo ami” or “not My people” through the prophet Hosea. They assimilated into the nations and died. And, yet, almost in the same breath, the prophet declared they would become “as the sand of the sea” and be called “sons of the living God.”
“Yet the number of the children of Israel
Shall be as the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered.
And it shall come to pass
In the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,
There it shall be said to them,
‘You are sons of the living God.’ Hosea 1:10 NKJV
My dear children! Look at the graph below! Do you see that the Jewish people represent less than 1/4 of 1% of the world’s population! Can they then possibly be the “sand of the sea” promised to Jacob? (Gen 32:12)
The House of Israel was RESURRECTED
The House of Israel was resurrected when non-Jews were by faith grafted in to the family of God. The New Covenant, ratified in Yeshua’s blood, is not made with gentiles. It is made with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. (Jer 31:31-34, Heb 8:8-12)
This complex subject cannot be addressed in a few sentences. The serious student will take time to carefully examine this issue. A huge paradigm shift is taking place all over the earth as God’s people are beginning to recognize that the family of God is currently divided into TWO HOUSES; but God will restore.
Here are a few references to provoke the reader to get started:
It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. (Prov. 25:2).
And he [Messiah] will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel… (Isaiah 8:14)
For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly treacherous to me, declares the LORD. (Jer 5:11)
“Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ (Eze 37:16)
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… (Jer 31:31)
For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…” (Heb 8:8)
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
Again, these are a FEW verses to get you started on your own research into this very important matter. In fact, the re-gathering of the TWO HOUSES of ISRAEL is the most prophesied event in all of Scripture!
Back to our Torah portion,
Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them.
And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. (Ex.18:7-12)
Friend of God, Friend of Israel
The Jewish Encyclopedia Online records that the Jewish sages ascribe a total of seven names to Moses’ father-in-law: Reuel, “God is his friend” or “friend of God” (Ex 2:18), Yether, “remnant” and “resting” (Ex 4:18a), Yitro (Jethro), “His excellency” or “His abundance” (Ex 4:18a), Hobab, “cherished” (Num 10:29), Heber, “comrade” and/or “community” (Judges 4:11), Keini, “member of the tribe of the Kenites” (Judges 4:11), and Putiel “afflicted of God” or “disparaged of God.” (Ex 6:25)
Do you see a picture of Yeshua and His body of believers? It is also interesting that Reuel/Jethro has seven daughters (Ex 2:16) who were harassed by shepherds when they tried to water their father’s flock. A picture of the seven churches in Revelation?
Note that the elders of Israel welcomed Jethro and sat down to eat with him, indicating they accepted him as one of their own. In parsha Shemot, we speculated:
Moses was content to dwell with [Reuel/Jethro] the “friend of God.” As in the story of Joseph, again we are presented with Israel’s deliverer taking a wife outside of the nation of Israel and giving birth to foreigners. Joseph’s wife, Asenath, was the daughter of the priest of the sun god, Ra, which pictures the utter pagans in the earth today. Zipporah is the daughter of the priest of Midian (which means “strife, “brawling,” and “confusion”). Could this picture the Body of Messiah today that is so disjointed, confused, and arguing with each other?
Where is Zipporah?
What is strangely missing in this week’s narrative is Moses’ interaction with Zipporah and his sons.
An article by Tamar Kadari, a contributor to Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, offers insight by discussing the midrashim (opinions of the sages), who generally viewed Zipporah as beautiful, practical, and flexible. They saw Moses as cherishing her, and, therefore, they reason that after meeting Aaron and hearing of the tribulation in Egypt, Moses sent her away to safety. Later, after the deliverance, Zipporah came to Mount Sinai and received the Torah along with the rest of Israel. Thus, in Zipporah, according to the sages, we clearly see a gentile grafted into Israel.
Dear children, please take note that Moses’ cherished Bride was protected from the tribulation in Egypt, sent to a safe place in the wilderness to wait until the fury passed. Keep in mind that one of the seven names of Zipporah’s father is “remnant.” It reminds me of a passage from Isaiah:
Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. (Isaiah 26:20-21)
“Blessed be the LORD!”
When and how did Jethro become intimate with God? After all, his forefather Midian was the son of Abraham and Keturah. (Gen 25:1-4) Though surely taught the ways of the God of Abraham, by the time of Moses the Midianites had entered into pagan practices. (see Num 25) Yet, we see Moses did not hesitate to take Reuel’s daughter as his bride. Some suggest that “the priest of Midian” was the leader of a pagan congregation and that maybe it was Moses’ influence that brought the family to belief in Yahweh. However, there may have continued a mixture of the holy and the profane. We recall that Moses was nearly killed by God on the way to Egypt because his son had not been circumcised.
In any event, Jethro, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia Online, is applauded by the rabbis as “he who abandoned idolatry.” Jethro apparently understood the significane of the olah offering that he brought before the LORD, as a symbol of his complete surrender. (Exodus 18:12) Lastly, Jethro earned the distinction of being the first in Scripture of whom it is record that he pronounced a blessing on the name of the LORD! (Ex 18:10)
It is certainly very evident that Jethro had been greatly blessed with WISDOM from the very throne of Heaven:
The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till 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, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And 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 them know the statutes of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. (Exodus 18:13-18)
Jethro was concerned for Moses’ well-being as well as that of the people. No human could long stand up under the stress of sitting before the people night and day. Neither would the people be content having to wait long periods to present their cases. He pleaded with Moses to put into place a system of upper and lower courts, promising that God would bless it.
Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times.
Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. (Ex 18:19-26)
Jethro’s advice testifies to vast wisdom and common sense, as well as his faith in Yahweh. Jethro protected his son-in-law so that Moses could spend time with God, broadly oversee the camp operations, and continue to lead the congregation toward the Promised Land. That Moses moved quickly to implement Jethro’s suggestions is a barometer of Moses’ high level of respect for him. We should note that the court system of most western nations is modeled after Jethro’s suggestions. No wonder this Torah portion is named for him!
As an aside, the sages believe that the day Jethro saw Moses judging the people was Yom Kippur.
Here Comes the Bride!
Our Jewish friends well understand that a wedding took place on Mount Sinai; but, even though they see themselves as the Bride of Christ, our Christian friends have missed this event. I hope you will take time to watch a short but very informative video by orthodox rabbi David Foreman of Aleph Beta Academy to better understand this important concept.
On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession [literally: precious jewels] among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Ex 19:1-7)
God made Moses the “friend of the Bridegroom,” granting to him the privilege of issuing a proposal of marriage to the children of Israel, including the mixed multitude that accompanied them, of which Jethro, Zipporah, and her offspring were now a part.
So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him.
All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. (Ex. 19:7-8)
And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. (Ex 19:9-11)
We have previously discussed that the “third day” represents not only Yeshua’s resurrection; but, the day when Hosea sees that we will be raised up:
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:2)
Not only was Yeshua RESURRECTED; but, when the disciples began to move among the gentiles, so also was the House of Israel!
Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. (Ex 19:17-19)
The Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17)
And God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Ex. 20:8-11).
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The People Were Afraid
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Ex. 20:18-21)
We will discuss the idea of “drawing near” in the next few weeks. In this week’s haftarah portion (Isaiah 6:1-13), the prophet sees a vision of God sitting on a throne surrounded by angelic beings. As at Mount Sinai, the “house” was shaken, the foundations trembled, and smoke billowed forth from a holy God.
God asks for a volunteer to go to the House of Israel and immediately Isaiah raises his hand, only to be told,
“Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)
This depressing prophecy is echoed several times in the New Testament, indicating that in the days of the apostles ears were still stopped up and eyes blinded. And so it is in our day. Few are willing to listen. But, we, whose ears and eyes have been touched by the Most High God, who embrace not only the Savior of Israel, but His Holy Torah of Life and Blessing, are truly the most blessed people who have ever lived on the planet.
John, the disciple whom Yeshua loved (here is another picture of the intimacy demonstrated by Abraham and Jethro), writes:
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him… (1 John 2:3-4)
… and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him… Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1John 3:22, 24)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:2-3)
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 1:6)
In closing, please note a companion article which contains an a exhaustive list of every use of the word “commandments” in Scripture. It is quite eye opening and I hope you will peruse it this week.
Until next week! Shalom!