The Orthodox Pages



Part 7

14th November 2013
















































































































































Last week we saw the nine out of the ten plagues that God unleashed upon Pharaoh and Egypt. At the last meeting of Moses with Pharaoh the two men came to a deadlock and Pharaoh refused to let Israel go to worship God in the wilderness and warned Moses not to appear before him again or he would die. Moses replied: "Thou hast spoken: I will appear to thee no more." This is how chapter ten ends, but chapter eleven mentions the last warning of the tenth plague being announced to Pharaoh. Moses did not appear before Pharaoh again so Moses must have warned Pharaoh of the tenth plague before departing from his presence.
The tenth plague is the killing of all the firstborn of Egypt from the firstborn son of Pharaoh to the firstborn son of a maid and even unto the firstborn of all the cattle. Before the plague is executed, a lot of preparation is required of the Israelites, because immediately after, their exodus from Egypt will begin and they must all be ready and waiting for the signal to begin the great journey to the Promised Land. God tell Moses to secretly tell the people that everyman is to ask of his Egyptian neighbour things of silver and gold and cloth. For all the years the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians they never received wages so now it was time for the Egyptians to pay up what was due to the Israelites. It would seem that after the nine plagues the Egyptians respected and feared the God of the Israelites because the Egyptians looked favourably upon the Hebrews and gave them whatever they asked for. Moses himself was greatly respected and was very great in the sight of the Egyptians, and in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants.
Moses warns Pharaoh: "Thus saith the Lord, About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt. And every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Egypt that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is beside the mill; and unto the firstborn of all cattle. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as hath not been, and such as shall not be repeated any more. But among all the sons of Israel shall not a dog growl with his tongue, at man or beast: that ye may know by what means the Lord shall put a difference gloriously between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And Moses went out from Pharaoh in anger." As already said, all this was told to Pharaoh at the last meeting when he told Moses not to appear before him again or else he would die.
A new chapter now begins with the establishment of the Jewish Pascha. The Lord tells Moses that this month will be the beginning of months, in other words it will be the beginning of the year. Until now the Jewish New Year began with the Autumn Equinox. From the Exodus the Jews were to have two new years, a civil and a religious new year. The month of the religious New Year is called Nisan and falls between our months of March and April.
Moses now gives instructions to Israel on how they must prepare for the Lord's Passover. On the tenth of the month every head of the house is to take an unblemished male lamb or goat under a year old into his house and feed it until the fourteenth of the month. If the members of the house were few then neighbours were to be invited to make up the numbers. According to Jewish tradition the number of people needed to eat a whole lamb is between 10 and twenty so if there were only 5 or 6 people in the house they had to make up at least 10 people by joining up with the neighbours. On the evening of the Fourteenth the lamb was to be killed and from the blood they were to mark the two side doorposts and the upper doorpost of the houses where the lamb was to be eaten. The lamb was to be roasted with fire in other words barbequed and all of it had to be eaten from the head to the feet and even the insides. That is why at least 10 people were needed, five or six people would have had difficulty eating a whole lamb. It had to be roasted whole without breaking the bones.
This was because the Pascal Lamb of the Old Testament is a symbol and image of the true Pascal Lamb Jesus Christ, who as the Messiah will come to be sacrificed upon the Cross and as St. John tells us in the Gospel: "these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken." (John 19:36)
It was to be eaten on that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The unleavened bread was to remind them of the haste in which they had to leave Egypt. It was also symbolic of purity. As leavened bread would rise this was symbolic of being mixed with decay and evil and so unleavened bread was symbolic of purity and virtue. The bitter herbs were to remind them of their bitter slavery to the Egyptians. They had to eat the Passover meal quickly and be dressed with their loins girded, their sandals on their feet and their staves in their hands and ready to go because it’s was the Lord’s Passover. Nothing was to be left until the morning. Anything that could not be eaten and the bones were to be burnt with fire.
The event was to be remembered for all times as a feast unto the Lord and from the fourteenth of the month until the twenty first no one was to eat leavened bread and if anyone did eat leaven bread he would be cut off from the house of Israel.
At midnight the destroyer angel of the Lord passed over the land of Egypt and in every house that did not have the blood on the doorposts, the firstborn of that house died a sudden death, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh to the servants and captives and firstborn of the cattle. And Pharaoh and all the Egyptians rose up in the night and there was a great cry in all the land of Egypt because there was not a house wherein there was not one dead.
Pharaoh, who at the last meeting with Moses threatened him with death if he was to appear before him again now calls Moses and Aaron by night, and said unto them, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the sons of Israel: go, serve the Lord your God, even as ye say. Also take with ye your sheep and your oxen; bless me also, I pray you. Thus now without conditions Pharaoh gives leave and without delay for the Israelites to depart from Egypt. All the Egyptians were in a panic and hasted to see the back of them because having lost their firstborn they now feared for their own lives. Before leaving we are told that they asked of the Egyptian things of silver, gold and raiment which the Egyptians gave freely to see them go.
The Israelites are ready to begin the great Exodus and because they didn't have time to leave the dough they had prepared to rise and then bake it, they bundled it into cloth and carried it on their shoulders.
The Passover had two meanings, the first was that that night the Lord passed through the land of Egypt and smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt. As he went, he passed over all the houses that had the blood on the doorposts and the firstborn of the Israelites were saved. The second meaning, which we will see next, is the passing over of the Red sea which is a sign of the deliverance from evil, the travelling from death to a new life. The event is celebrated by the Jews even to this day according to the instructions by God that they were to celebrate it and never forget how he delivered Israel from bondage and led them to the land of milk and honey.
The word Passover in Greek is Pascha and in the New Testament it is celebrated with a new meaning. It means the passing over of Christ’s body from death to the Resurrection: The passing over of man from this life of bondage to the devil to the heavenly land of milk and honey; to Paradise. This for us is the New Passover, Pascha or Easter, the feast of all feasts where man is delivered from the evil that had him in bondage until Christ set us free through his death on the cross and his Resurrection. Notice that the Jews had to kill an unblemished lamb and put the blood on the doorposts. For us the unblemished lamb that is sacrificed is Christ himself and his blood is not painted externally on our doorposts but within us who are according to St. Paul the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our mouth is the door of this temple as is expressed in a prayer before Holy Communion: “I am not worthy, Lord and Master, that Thou shouldest come under the roof of my soul; But for that Thou desirest, O Lover of mankind, to dwell in me, I make bold to draw near. Thou biddest me to open the doors that Thou, my Creator, mayest enter in with mercy proper to Thee, and bring light to my darkened mind.”
The Israelites gathered at Rameses to begin their long journey to the Promised Land. The text says that there were 600 thousand men on foot besides the baggage. The baggage refers to the women and children under twelve and the elderly. This would bring the total number that left Egypt over 2 million. This number raises many questions. In our last talk we saw that from the time Jacob came to Egypt until the exodus there are only 215 years. The number of Israelites that came with Jacob totalled 75 souls so how in just over two hundred did they multiply to two million. It has been suggested that this was a copying mistake and could in the original text have been 6 thousand men which would make the total number about 25 thousand. This suggestion would be acceptable if the number 600 thousand was only mentioned once, but it is mentioned again in a much later chapter of Exodus (39) and in the Book of Numbers, which gives detailed figures of all the tribes, the number six hundred thousand is mentioned three times.
Another suggestion to justify the large number is that the Hebrew word for thousand can also be interpreted as chief so that the text would read 600 chiefs on foot besides the baggage. But if this is how it was to be interpreted the total number of Israelites would only be between 2 and 4 thousand. This suggestion clearly doesn't have a leg to stand on because in the Book of Numbers, Moses takes a poll of all the tribes of the males over twenty years old who were able to go to war and the figures of just one tribe is much larger. For example from the tribe of Reuben there are 46,500 men and from the tribe of Simeon 59,300.
It would therefore be preferable to keep to the text without trying to justify that it was a copying mistake or that it was a mistranslation no matter how difficult it is to believe that from 75 people the Israelites grew to a staggering two million plus. In fact it is not impossible for the Israelites to have reached two million or even over four million. When Jacob came to Egypt his family members were 75, without the wives, but with them would have also came hundreds of home born servants. We know from the time of Jacob's grandfather Abraham that these servants numbered 318 men without women and children. These would have more than doubled by Jacob's time and would have followed the family to Egypt. Then we have the intermarrying of the Israelites with the Egyptians and the fact that polygamy was a common practice at the time and the exceptional fertility of the Israelites as mentioned in the first chapter of Exodus: "And the sons of Israel increased and multiplied, and became many in number, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land multiplied with them." Without taking all these factors into consideration and just limiting the numbers of Abraham's servants and Jacob's immediate family to 600 people we can reach a much higher figure in the 215 years of Israel's sojourn in Egypt. The Septuagint speaks of five generations from the time Israel came to Egypt which would make each generation over forty years, but if we allow the average of 25 years for each generation giving us four generations every hundred years and deduct one generation to allow for the death of the elderly, we have in the 215 years between 6 and 7 generations which if we multiply that each person would have at least five children which would be less than average as it was common to have many more children, then we have a figure of over 9 million for six generations and almost 47million for seven generations. Thus over two million is not an exaggerated or unbelievable figure but a very realistic number.
After telling us of the six hundred thousand men on foot without the baggage which we have already said refers to the women, children and elderly, the next verse tells us that a great mixed company also went with them. The mixed company probably refers to prisoners of war in Egypt who saw the miracles of the Israelites and not withstanding Pharaoh's tyranny over them decided to leave with the Israelites. Also many Egyptians would have been influenced to follow the Israelites after seeing the wonders of God. Many of these would have been families of Egyptians who had intermarried with the Israelites. Again this becomes clear from the following verses. God gives Moses and Aaron new commandments for the Passover meal which all Israelites are to keep as a yearly vigil for all generations, but God stresses that the Paschal meal is only to be eaten by the Israelites. The strangers among them, the hired servants and any proselytes are forbidden to eat of the Passover unless they first receive circumcision and then they would be accounted equal to a homeborn Israelite.
God continues giving instructions to Moses and Aaron on how they must keep the six days of unleavened bread as a memorial and on the seventh day to have a feast unto the Lord. Along with this reminder God gives them instructions on how they must sanctify to him every firstborn of the sons of Israel and every firstborn of the beasts again as a memorial that the Lord brought them out of Egypt from the house of bondage. Every firstborn of man and beast had to be offered as a sacrifice unto the Lord. If the firstborn was of an ass which was considered as unclean, this was to be exchanged for a sheep or if this was not possible then the owner of the ass had to pay the equivalent of its value in silver to the temple. Again the firstborn of men had to be replaced by a money offering. This was 5 shekels of silver. A shekel was a weight measure equivalent to 11.5 grams so 5 shekels was 55.5 grams of silver.
From Egypt there are two ways to reach the Promised Land. The shortest and easiest is the direct route but they had to go through the lands of the Philistines. God deliberately leads them the long way round down towards the Red Sea and across to the Sinai Desert because if they were to encounter war with the Philistines they would have been tempted to return to Egypt as it was close by. Moses took with them the bones of Joseph because before he died he made the Israelites promise that when the Lord leads them out of Egypt they were to take his bones with them. So travelling from Rameses they came a short distance and encamped at a place called Otham beside the wilderness. God led the way during the day with a pillar of cloud and by night with a pillar of fire. The pillar of cloud went before them to lead the way, but sometimes stood behind them to protect and hide them. This was not some manmade pillar of smoke, it came all the way down from heaven to earth and apart from leading the way it gave them shade from the midday sun and remained with the Israelites for many years.
From Etham God tells Moses to lead the people to a place called Magdala which was beside the Red Sea. From here they couldn't go any further. To the east was the Red Sea, south was Mount Attakah which reached into the sea so there was no way the people could go over it, west was the desert and north were the Egyptian chariots.
In the meantime Pharaoh did not reckon on the speedy departure of the Israelites. When he gave them the permission to leave, he was in mourning for the death of his son, but deep down he had no real intention of letting them go. When Pharaoh was told that the Israelites had left and where they had encamped, he realized that they were trapped because the wilderness had shut them in. With a hardened heart he repented of sending away the Israelites because now they had no one to serve them. So Pharaoh gathers together his army of six hundred chariots, all the horses of the Egyptians, the captains and infantry and sets off in pursuit of the Israelites. The Egyptians very quickly caught up with the Israelites and encamped behind them. When the Israelites saw the Egyptians they were frightened and turned against Moses saying: "Because there were no graves in Egypt, did you bring us forth to slay us in the wilderness? What have you done to us? Didn't we tell you to leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians for it would have been better to serve them than to die in this wilderness." Moses calls to the people to have courage, to stand still and see how the Lord will deliver them from the Egyptians who they will see no more. The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.
So the Lord instructs Moses to take up his rod and stretch his hand over the sea to divide it so that the sons of Israel can go through the sea as on dry land. To hold back the Egyptians until two million people had time to cross the Red Sea, the angel of the Lord which went before the camp of Israel removed and went behind them, the pillar of cloud also removed from before them and stood behind them so that it stood between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of the Israelites. The cloud concealed the Israelites from the Egyptians by causing a thick impassable blackness. It would seem that the angel of the Lord also stopped the Egyptians from trying to pass through the blackness.
Moses then stretches forth the rod with his hand and the Lord, with a strong south wind divided the sea so that there was a wall of water on the right and a wall of water on the left leaving a passage of dry land for the Israelites to pass over the other side. The passage must have been fairly wide because even though the passing of the Red Sea took many hours from evening to the following dawn, the passing of two million people could not have happened in single file: there must have been room for many rows of people, the cargo and the great many herds of cattle and sheep. In fact there are some who believe that the sea divided into twelve different passages, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. This they base on Psalm 135 which says: "To Him which divided the Red Sea into parts; for His mercy endureth for ever." Divided into parts of course does not necessarily mean more than two parts and if the tribes passed over the Red Sea separately, Moses, who gives us so many details of even minor incidents, would not have overlooked such an important fact.
With the first light the Egyptians began their pursuit of the Israelites, but the going was slow because the Lord had bound the axles of the chariots together and caused them to go heavily. When they were all in the sea passage the Lord told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea and the walls of water collapsed covering and drowning the Egyptians.
Now how did Moses divide the Red Sea so that the Israelites passed over to the other side as though on dry land and how did he close again the divided sea after them so that the Egyptians drowned and Israel was delivered from the enemy? It says in the Bible that God told him to lift up his rod and stretch out his hand over the sea. The movement of his hand made a vertical line with the rod. To close the sea again, he held up the rod and made a horizontal line. Thus Israel was saved through the sign of the cross. Through the sign of the Cross the waters parted and the people crossed over from death to a new life in the Promised Land. The sign of the cross was even in the Old Testament a sign of victory and we see it prefigured many times in the story of the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land. The Cross therefore was given as a sign of salvation in preparation for the coming of Christ who through his death on the Cross would open the way to the true Promised Land, who would open for us the passage from this life of death to eternal life in Paradise?
In the New Testament Moses is seen as a type of Christ and the crossing of the Red Sea symbolic of the washing in Baptism. In fact St. Paul, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, sees The crossing of the Red Sea, the eating of the miraculous manna from heaven and the water from the rock, which we shall see as we progress further into the story; he sees all the events, as foreshadowing the true Baptism and the partaking of Christ's Body and Blood, the true manna from heaven.
So with Israel safely across and the enemy drowned in the Red Sea, Moses and the sons of Israel sing a song unto the Lord praising and glorifying his wondrous salvation. The song is known as "the song or ode of Moses" and many of the verses are still sung in our Orthodox Liturgical rites. As the men sung, Moses' sister Miriam, named in the text as Miriam the Prophetess, took a timbrel in her hand and led the women to dance. Miriam is called a prophetess because in the Book of Numbers (12.2) we read that she also along with Moses and Aaron received divine revelation. In the camp of the men Moses was the leader and among the women Miriam was chief.
After travelling for three days in the wilderness the people were thirsty for water. They came to a place of water called Marah, but the water was bitter and undrinkable. After seeing the ten plagues against Egypt and the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, Israel faces its first trial, its first test of faith in God which they miserably failed. They should have trusted God for all their needs, but the people murmured against Moses saying "what shall we drink". God showed Moses a log of wood and told him to throw it into the water. Miraculously the water became sweet and the people drank of it. Having failed the first test of faith, God tells the people that if they listen to his voice and his commandments and do what is pleasing unto him, they have nothing to fear: all they need do is ask for his help and he will give it.
Now the miracle was by God and not by some natural or magical power belonging to the wood, but the Church Fathers see in this another foreshadowing of the wood of the cross that sanctifies, blesses and sweetens the bitterness’s we encounter as we journey through our earthly life. The miracle of the bitter waters into sweet waters was temporary and only for the Israelites journey. After this the waters again became bitter. The waters of this place are so high in nitrate that even today they are considered the worst and most bitter waters in the Sinai Peninsula.
After this they came to a refreshing Oasis called Elim where there were twelve wells of water, and seventy palm trees: and they camped by the waters. This again is symbolically seen by the fathers as representing the 12 Apostles and the 70 Apostles. How long they stayed there we are not told, but their next stop between Elim and Sinai was on the fifteenth day of the second month after their exodus from Egypt. Here the people again began to murmur against Moses and Aaron saying: "It would have been better if we had been smitten by the Lord in the land of Egypt where at least we had meat and bread to the full, for you have brought us into this wilderness to kill us all with hunger." Their murmuring against Moses and Aaron was in fact murmuring against God and another show of their lack of faith in him. In answer to their needs, God sends them quails that covered the camp in the evening, which was for their evening meal and manna, the bread that rained down upon them from heaven, which was their morning meal. The miracle of the quails is very similar to the miracle of the draught of fish in the New Testament. During spring a great number of quails migrate from Africa towards Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula heading north and return again in the autumn. They literally flood the coast of the Red Sea. Tired from their long journey they fall and can be caught by hand. The miracle here is that the quails appeared after their normal migration period in late May or June and in quantity to feed more than two million people. Thus it was not a natural phenomenon, but a miraculous gathering of the quails just as the fish gathered into the nets of the Apostles.
The word manna in Hebrew literally means, “What is this?”, because when they saw it that is what they said, “What is this.” It looked similar to coriander seed, but white in colour; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. It miraculously appeared every morning and they were to collect just enough for each person to eat on the same day. If they were greedy and collected a lot it was not enough and if they collected less it fulfilled their need. It could not be preserved and if they tried to keep some for the next day, as many did, it filled with maggots and stank. Only on the Friday were they to collect double portions to keep the extra for the Sabbath day which was a holy day unto the Lord and they were not allowed to work. Only on this day did the manna remain fresh for two days. Some didn't observe the Sabbath and went out to collect the manna but find none. All the years that Israel was under the tyranny of the Egyptians it was impossible for them to keep the Sabbath, but now as free people there were two reasons to observe the day of rest: the first as the divine rest which we saw in Genesis in the creation of the world and second as a remembrance of their freedom from Egyptian slavery.
Moses told Aaron to fill a golden pot with the manna which was to be kept as a witness for future generations of how the Lord sustained them in the wilderness and provided them with manna for forty years. Later the golden vessel was to be placed in the Ark of the Covenant along with the Ten Commandments.
Now in the Gospel of St. John we read that the Jews wanted a sign from Christ to prove that he was from God. It says: “What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” So we see that Christ himself sees in the manna that he sent to the Israelites a foreshadowing of the true bread of life which is his very own flesh. The golden vessel with the manna is also a prefiguring of the Mother of God. As the golden vessel was filled with the manna of old, the Mother of God's womb was filled with Christ, the true manna from heaven. The golden vessel also prefigures the vessel we have on the Holy Altar called the "Artophorion" in which we preserve the Body and Blood of Christ in dried form so that we give holy Communion to anyone in need at whatever time of day.
The Israelites journey to the promise land was not an easy journey. It was full of trials and temptations which God sent upon them to test their faith and worthiness to be called his chosen people. They had the miracles of the plagues he sent to the Egyptians, the parting of the Red Sea, the two columns of cloud and fire which went before them and showed them the way, the bitter waters made sweet, the quail, the daily manna, but still they did not have complete trust in God to deliver them from every occasion. At there next stop at a place called Raphidin they were out of water a second time, but they did not remember all the good things God had bestowed upon them, but murmured against Moses that it would have been better if they had remained in Egypt in spite of all their suffering than die of thirst in the wilderness. Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. God answered him saying: Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. St Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, speaking on the things that the Israelites experienced says: “Brethren, I do not want you to be unaware, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; all ate the same spiritual food; And all drank the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” 1 Cor. 10: 1-6)
While they were encamped at Raphidin the race called the Amaleks came to war against them. Amalek was the third son of Esau the son of Isaac. The reason for the war was because the Israelites cattle and sheep were grazing in the fields held by the Amaleks. The battle would continue all day and stop in the evening until the next dawn. Moses tells Jesus of Nun, who in the KJB is named as Joshua, to select capable men to go out and fight against the Amaleks and he will stand on the top of the hill with his rod in his hand. This is the first mention of Jesus of Nun whose name was originally Avsis according to the Book of Numbers, but was later given the name Jesus meaning saviour, because of his victory over the Amaleks.
On the hill overlooking the battle ground, Moses held up his hands forming a cross with his body. As long as his hands were up the Israelites prevailed, when he tired and let down his hands the Amaleks prevailed. To keep winning, Aaron and Hur held up his hands until the battle was fought and they were victorious. As we have seen before, the sign of the cross was even in the Old Testament a sign of victory. Here we also have the first mention of Hur. Along with Aaron he was appointed to be a judge of the people when Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the Law. He was also the grandfather of Bezaleel who was the architect for the tabernacle of the testimony where the Ark of the Covenant was to be placed.
After the victory over the Amaleks a new chapter (18) begins which actually belongs to a later period. Inserted here is the visit of Moses' father in Law with his wife and children. The Israelites are still camped at Raphadin, but the visit from Moses family came when they were at Sinai as also the establishment of the Judges which happened after the law was given. It seems that Moses the author decided to bring forward the event so that it would not disrupt the story of the giving of the Law which is not just the Ten Commandments and needs many chapters to be completed.
Moses father in law Jethro, the priest of Midian had heard of all that God had done for Israel, how he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and took Zipporah, Moses' wife who had returned to her father and Moses's two sons and came to Moses in the wilderness. After the greeting Moses tells Jethro all that God had done unto Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel's sake and all the things that happened on their journey. Jethro was astonished at all the things he heard and after blessing the Lord, made whole burnt offerings and sacrifices to God. Part of the sacrifices were laid out for the evening meal where Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to dine with Jethro.
In the morning Moses sat to judge the people. As the spiritual and national leader it was his duty to hear all the problems and grievances of the people and give judgement on how to deal with the problems. He would sit from morning to night and the people would wait their turn to be heard, which with two million people, someone could wait all day and night for an audience. When Jethro saw what was happening he reproached Moses for causing so much inconvenience to the people. Moses justified himself saying that the people seek judgement from God, so they come to me and I give judgement upon each and teach the statutes of God and his law. Jethro continued to criticize Moses that he was doing it all wrong and that he will soon wear himself out. Jethro then counsels Moses on how to solve the problem. He tells him to concentrate only on the spiritual matters, praying for the people and helping them to walk in the ways of the Lord, but for all the other problems to select capable men who are humble, righteous and fear the Lord and to set them as captains over the people, captains of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and captains of tens. They shall judge the people at all times and only when the matter is too burdensome shall they bring the problem to him, but all the smaller matters they shall judge themselves. Moses listened to his father in law and did as he said and made captains to judge the people. Later through God's command Moses elects 72 of the elders to whom God grants the gift of prophecy. This is the establishment of the Judges of Israel who ruled the people before Israel had kings.
Next follows the giving of the law on Mount Sinai and the tabernacle of the testimony which we will see next week.