Gleanings In Exodus
26. Moses’ Wife
The chapter before us contains two distinct sections: the first, covering verses 1 to 12, presents to us a beautiful typical picture; the second, verses 13 to 27 contains important moral lessons. Exodus 18 is a parenthesis, interrupting the chronological order of the book. In Exodus 17 Israel is seen at Rephidim; in chapter 19 they are viewed at Sinai. The incident recorded in Exodus 18 occurred just as Israel were about to leave Sinai and enter the wilderness of Paran. It was in the third month after leaving Egypt that Israel reached the Mount of the Law; it was eleven months later that Jethro came to Moses bringing his wife and children. The proof for this is conclusive.
In Numbers 10:11, 12 we read "And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony. And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai, and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran." Following this we are told "And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel, the Midianite, Moses father-in-law, We are Journeying unto the place of which the Lord said I will give it you; come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel. And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to my own land, and to my kindred" (vv. 29, 30)—compare with this the last verse of Exodus 18. Now it was after the departure of Jethro (18:24, 25) that Moses carried out the suggestion of his father-in-law to select men to assist him in the work of governing Israel—see Numbers 11:11-17. Further confirmation of this is supplied in Deuteronomy 1. Note "in Horeb" (v. 6) and then Moses’ words to Israel, "I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone. . .Take you wise men and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you" (vv. 9, 13). Finally; if Exodus 18 be read attentively there will also be found evidences therein that God had already given Israel the law when Jethro came to Moses. Per instance, note the mention of "The Mount of God" in 5:5; Moses’ statement that the people now came unto him "to inquire of God" (v. 15); his declaration that he "made them know the statutes of God and His laws" (v. 16).
"When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, hoard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt; then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back, and her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom, for he said I have been an alien in a strange land: and the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh; And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the Mount of God; and he said unto Moses, I thy father-in-law Jethro, am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her" (vv. 1-6). The dispensational scene which is here foreshadowed is very beautiful, and the place which this one has in the series of typical pictures, in which the book of Exodus abounds, evidences once more the hand of God, not only in their production, but also in arranging their order. In Exodus 16 the manna speaks of the incarnate Son, come down from heaven to earth. In the first part of Exodus 17, the smiting of the rock views the Lord Jesus stricken of God. In the issuing forth of the water, we get a lovely emblem of the Holy Spirit ministering to the people of God. In the second half of Exodus 17, where we find Amalek attacking Israel, and the defeat of the former through the supplications of Moses—upheld by Aaron and Hur—we have adumbrated the believer’s conflict with the flesh, and him sustained in that conflict by the Joint intercession of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This goes on to the close of the Church age. Here in Exodus 18 we are carried forward to the next dispensation and are furnished with a blessed foreshadowment of millennial conditions.
Zipporah restored to Moses is a perfect type of Israel brought back to the Lord. Some see in Zipporah a type of the Church, but nowhere in the Old Testament is the Church (as such—a corporate whole) ever seen—Colossians 1:26, 27, etc., makes this very plain. Moreover, the details of our type here should forbid such an interpretation.
In the first place, Zipporah had been separated from her husband. Now if Zipporah figures the Church, mind the Church is the prospective wife of Christ, the type fails us here completely. Those who believe that the Church is the Bride of the Lamb acknowledge that the "marriage" is yet future, occurring after the Rapture. If this be so, when, following the Rapture, will the Church ever be separated from Christ? When, indeed! But the type does not fail. It is perfectly accurate. Zipporah is the figure of Israel, the wife of Jehovah (see Isaiah 54:6; Jeremiah 31:32, etc.), now alienated from Him. (Hos. 2:2, etc.), Yet to be restored to His favor (Isa. 54:4-8, etc.).
In the second place, mark carefully the cause and occasion of Zipporah’s separation from her husband. This is found recorded near the close of Exodus 4. When Moses started for Egypt to bring God’s people out of the house of bondage his wife accompanied him. The Lord met him and sought to kill him. The reason for this was his failure in not having circumcised his son. The sequel suggests that the cause of this failure lay in his wife. At once Zipporah herself performed the operation on her son, and then, in hot anger, reproached Moses in the words: "A bloody husband thou art" (4:25), which is repeated in the very next verse. How plain, how accurate the type! The disobedience of Zipporah in the matter of circumcising her son points unmistakably to the failure of Israel under the Law. The separation of Zipporah from Moses, because he was a "bloody husband," or literally, "a husband of bloods," tells of Israel’s alienation from God through the offense of the Cross. "We preach Christ crucified; unto the Jews a stumbling-block’ (1 Cor. 1:23). It was blood-shedding which was the "stumbling-block" to Zipporah!
In the third place, note the fruit of her marriage. She bore Moses "two sons" (18:3). Those who regard Zipporah as a type of the Church ignore this detail, and conveniently so, for they can make nothing of it. But that is no way to treat the Word of God. Whenever we come across anything in it which fails to fit in with any of our views either of doctrine, prophecy or the types, that should show us that something is wrong with our views, that they need to be revised or enlarged. This line in our present picture is also found in several of its companions. Joseph’s wife also bore him two sons. So did Isaac’s. What then was typified thereby? The wife contemplated Israel when first espoused to Jehovah—at Sinai. The fruit of the marriage points to a later period in their history. What that period is we are not left in doubt. The outstanding point in Israel’s later history was in the days of Rehoboam, when the kingdom was rent asunder and divided into two—the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. Thus the "wife" was succeeded by her "two sons."
In the fourth place, the names of Zipporah’s sons are profoundly significant. The firstborn was "Gershom," which "a stranger there." The reason for Moses giving him this name was, "I have been a stranger in a strange land" (2:22). Appropriately does this speak of Israel in their dispersion, away from their land. The second son was named "Eliezer," which means, "God is my helper." Though scattered throughout the world, Israel has been marvelously helped of God—He has preserved them all through the centuries, preventing them from being either annihilated or assimilated by the Gentiles. Many of the Jews fail to recognize how God is helping them, and it is most significant that the name of this second son of Zipporah is not given until Exodus 18. where we have the Millennium in view. Gershom is referred to in Exodus 2, not so Eliezer; not until Israel has been restored to God will they recognize how marvelously He has helped them!
Fifth, notice the time when Zipporah and her sons were restored to Moses. It was "When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel His people that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt; Then Jethro... took Zipporah . . .and her two sons . . . and came unto Moses." It was not while Moses was presenting Jehovah’s demands before Pharaoh, nor in the morning following the Passover-night; but it was when Moses had become Israel’s leader and law-giver! In like manner, Israel will not be restored to God until their rejected Messiah is manifested on earth as their King and Lord.
Sixth, in striking accord with what we have just noted is the place where Moses was when the reconciliation took place: "he encamped at the Meant of God, (v. 5). Here, as always, the "mount" speaks of the kingdom, of governmental authority (Ps. 2:6; Isaiah 2:3 etc. ) It was from the summit of this same Mount that Jehovah gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. It was while seated upon a Mount that the Lord Jesus gave the laws of His Kingdom (Mathew 5.). It was on the Mount that He was transfigured, which was a miniature of HIS Kingdom-glory. It is to the Mount that He shall return (Zech. 14:4). The "Mount of God" (v. 5) speaks, then, of the governmental glory of God. And it is when the governmental glory of God shall be displayed in the person of His Son on earth that Israel shall be restored to Him!
Seventh, let us now observe that Zipporah and her sons were brought to Moses by a Gentile, for Jethro was a Midianite. There are many types of Israel as Jehovah’s wife—espoused, divorced and restored—but each one has its own distinctive features. Here we have that which, so far as the writer is aware, is not found elsewhere in the types, though it is the direct subject of prophecy. In Isaiah 18 there is a remarkable prediction. A Divine call goes forth to some land "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia," a maritime power. most probably Great Britain. This land is bidden to send forth her ships as swift messengers to "A nation scattered and peeled. To a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down." Clearly this oppressed people is Israel. In a coming day the maritime Gentile power shall carry the dispersed Hebrews back to the land of their fathers: "In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled... to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion" (Isa. 18:7). Note the words we have; placed in black and compare the language of Exodus 18.
That which followed the reconciliation of Zipporah to her husband is equally interesting and meaningful. First, we are told that "Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them" (v. 8). Jethro, the Midianite, represents the Gentiles in the Millennium, who will then learn fully, how wondrously the Lord had preserved Israel not only through the vicissitudes of the centuries, but also through the birth-pangs of the Tribulation.
Next we are told that, "Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, whom He had delivered out of the band of the Egyptians" (v. 9). In the millennium the jealousy and hatred of the Gentiles against the Jews will be removed. The confession of Jethro on this occasion is most noteworthy: "Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly He was above them" (v. 11). Such will be the confession of the Gentiles when they learn of what the Lord has done for His ancient people.
Finally, in verse 12 we are told, "And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law took a burnt offering and sacrifices far God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God." Very blessed is this. Here is a plain foreshadowing of what we read of in Isaiah 2:2, 3 and other Scriptures: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob."
The second half of Exodus 18, though being mainly of a practical rather than a typical nature (so far as the writer is able to discern), adds one beautiful line to this picture of the millennium "And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens," (v. 25). Does not this plainly foreshadow what is promised to us in Revelation 3:21, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in My throne."
The passage is too lengthy for us to quote in full, but let each reader turn to and read carefully Exodus 18:13-27. These verses record the failure of Moses and are written for our admonition. Several most important lesson are here plainly inculcated.
Moses had been appointed by the Lord as the leader and head of His people. As Jethro witnessed the exacting duties of his son-in-law, advising the people from morn to eve, he felt that Moses was undertaking too much. Jethro feared for his health, and suggested that his son-in-taw appoint some assistants. In listening to Jethro, Moses did wrong. From a natural standpoint Jethro’s counsel was kindly and well-meant. It was the amiability of the flesh, It presented a subtle temptation, no doubt. But the man of God is not to be guided by natural principles; only that which is spiritual should have any weight with him, Nor should he heed any human counsel when he is engaged in the service of the Lord; he is to take his orders only from the One who appointed him.
One thing that this passage does is to warn God’s servant’s against following the advise of their relatives according to the flesh. Jethro’s eye was not upon God, but upon Moses. It was not the eternal glory of Jehovah which was before him, but the temporal welfare of his son-in-law—"Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou and this people that is with thee; for this thing is too heavy far thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone" (v. 18). A parallel case is found in connection with our Savior. In Mark 3:20 we read, "And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could net so much as eat bread." The Lord Jesus knew what it was to "spend and be spent." But those related to Him by fleshly ties did not appreciate this; for we are told in the very next verse that, "When His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him; for they said, He is beside Himself." Very solemn is this and very necessary for the servant of God to heed. The flesh (in us) must be mortified in connection with our service just as much as in our daily walk.
When the Lord Jesus announced to His disciples for the first time that "He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes to be killed," we are told "then Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, Pity Thyself, Lord: this shall not be unto thee" (Matthew 16:21, 22). Here again we behold the amiability of the flesh. It was what men would call ‘the milk of human kindness.’ But it ignored the will and glory of God. The answer of our Lord on this occasion is very solemn: "He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offense unto Me: for thou perceivest not the things that be of God, but Chose that be of men." That was the severest thing that Christ ever said to one of His own. What a solemn warning against being influenced by the natural affections of our friends!
Subtle as was the temptation presented to Moses. if he had remembered the Source of his strength, as well as his office, he would not have yielded to it. "Hearken now unto my counsel" said Jethro (v. 19). But that was the very thing which Moses had no business to do. "So shall it be easier for thyself" (v. 22) pleaded the tempter. But was not God’s grace sufficient! It is sad to see the effect which this specious suggestion had upon Moses. In Numbers 11 we find that Moses complained to the Lord—"I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me" (v. 14). Does some servant of God reading these lines feel much the same today? Then let him remember that he is not called upon to bear any people alone. Has not God said, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God, I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness" (Isa. 41:10)! And if the burden is "too heavy" for thee, remember that it is written, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee" (Ps. 55:22).
"It is here the servant of Christ constantly fails; and the failure is all the more dangerous because it wears the appearance of humility. It seems like distrust of one’s self, and deep lowliness of spirit, to shrink from heavy responsibility; but all we need to inquire is, Has God imposed that responsibility? If so, He will assuredly be with me in sustaining it; and having Him with me, I can sustain anything. With Him, the weight of a mountain is nothing; without Him, the weight of a feather is overwhelming. It is a totally different thing if a man, in the vanity of his mind, thrust himself forward and take a burden upon his shoulder which God never intended him to bear, and therefore never fitted him to bear it; we may then surely expect to see him crushed beneath the weight, but if God lays it upon him, He will qualify and strengthen him to carry it.
"It is never the fruit of humility to depart from a ‘Divinely-appointed’ post. On the contrary, the deepest humility will express itself by remaining there in simple dependence upon God. It is a sure evidence of being occupied about self when we shrink from service on the ground of inability. God does not call us unto service on the ground of our ability, but of His own: hence, unless, I am filled with thoughts about myself, or with positive distrust of Him. I need not relinquish any position of service or testimony because of the heavy responsibilities attaching thereto. All power belongs to God, and it is quite the snide whether that power acts through one agent or through seventy—the power is still the same: but if one agent refuse the dignity, it is only so much the worse for him. God will not force people to abide in a place of honor if they cannot trust Him to sustain them there" (C.H.M.)
Strikingly was this seen in the sequel. Moses complained to God of the burden, and the Lord rendered it; but in the removal went the high honor of being called to carry it alone. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there; and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone" (Num. 11:16, 17). Nothing was really gained. No fresh power was introduce; it was sin-ply a distribution of the "spirit" which had rested on one now being placed on seventy! Man cannot improve upon God’s appointments. If he persists in acting according to the dictates of ‘common sense’ nothing will be gained, and much will be lost.
A word should be said upon the closing verse of our chapter: "And Moses let his father-in-law depart; and he went his way into his own land" (v. 27). This receives amplification in Numbers 10: "And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite. Moses’ father-in-law, We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you; come thou with us and we will do thee good: for the Lord had spoken good concerning Israel. And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred" (vv. 29-30). How this revealed the heart of Jethro (here called Hobab). The ties of nature counted more with him than the blessings of Jehovah. He preferred his "own land" to the wilderness, and his own "kindred" to the people of God, He walked by sight, not faith; he had no respect unto "the recompense of the reward" of the future, but preferred the things of time and earth. How ill-fitted was such a one to counsel the servant of God!
In concluding this article we would point out how that Jethro’s departure from Moses in no wise mars the typical picture presented in the earlier part of this chapter; rather does it give completeness to it. Jethro returned to his own land and kindred because he had no heart for the Lord and his people. A similar tragedy will be witnessed at the end of the Millennium. In Psalm 18 we read, "Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and Thou hast made me the head of the heathen (Gentiles); a people whom I have not known shall serve Me. As soon as they hear of Me they shall obey Me; the strangers shall yield feigned obedience unto Me. The strangers (Gentiles) shall fade away" (vv. 43-45). This will find its fulfillment in the Millennium. Many Gentiles will turn to the Lord, but their hearts are not won by Him. At the end, when Satan is released, they will quickly flock to his banner (see Revelation 20:7-9).
May the Lord grant us steadfastness of heart, and keep us from being drawn away by the things of time and sense.