“When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard 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 (Moses) 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 (Moses’) sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God.”
Exodus 18: 1-5
King James Version
“Zipporah’s Father – It Never Hurts to Get Advice.”
“He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.”
Do I ask for advice?
How do I respond when someone gives me advice?
“Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word!”
Proverbs 15: 23
One thing about Transformation Garden is that we aren’t on a schedule. We’re taking our time going through the Bible, studying about the lives of women and how they impacted not only their own families, but all our lives down through history.
As we have considered the life of Moses, we discover that like Joseph, women had a profound effect on him. In fact, over and over again Moses’ life was preserved by women. He was protected by women. Encouraged by women. And loved by women.
In my study about all the women in Moses’ life though, none is so maligned by both female and male commentators than Zipporah. But as I studied and prayed, I have found hints in the Bible, which is our core source, that lead me to believe Zipporah was not only a fine person but came from a wonderful family who provided a haven of safety to Moses when he was running for cover as a murderous fugitive from Pharaoh’s justice.
Let’s not forget, Moses didn’t like what an Egyptian was doing to a Hebrew so he took the matter of justice into his own hands and killed the offending Egyptian. This was not God’s plan. In fact, if Moses had not killed the Egyptian out of anger, God’s scenario might have been very different. But we don’t know because, thankfully, our God takes even our most hideous mistakes, and if we let Him, brings a blessing out of the ashes of our mess. This is exactly what God did for Moses. In a desert haven called Midian, in the home of Jethro, Moses found a welcome abode along with a job and a wife and children.
Just imagine though if you were Zipporah. Your husband, whom you at first thought was an Egyptian, confides that he really is a Hebrew wanted for murder. Then one day, out of the blue, he informs you that God came to him in a burning bush and told him he was to return to Egypt and deliver over a million Hebrews from Pharaoh’s tyranny. Whoa! Wait a minute! I would ask my husband, Jim, if he had been drinking something strange. This sounds so goofy it isn’t even funny! Sometimes we read these stories so fast or skim over them or don’t even read them at all that we completely miss the point of the lesson God was trying to teach. What’s worse, we forget these were real people. Like you and me. Who faced some very difficult decisions during trying times. This is precisely one of those times.
If I had been Zipporah, I would not, as a mother, have been keen on the idea of taking my children and myself on a wild goose chase with my husband to a foreign land where he had his face plastered on every wanted poster in town. To Moses’ credit, we find in Exodus 4: 18 that, “Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said unto him, ‘Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace…’ And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt…” (Exodus 4: 18, 20 K.J.V.).
While I appreciate the fact Moses didn’t sneak out of town at night with Jethro’s daughter and grandchildren, if you notice, the Bible does not say he told Jethro exactly what his intent was upon arriving in Egypt.
So off the family went with Jethro’s blessing and BOOM! As we found out, God nearly killed Moses on the way because of his disobedience. The result – an unplanned circumcision.
After this episode, if I were Zipporah I might have said, “Look Moses, I appreciate the fact you want to obey your God. But who knows, we might get to Egypt and all be slaughtered or turned into slaves. Things are great with my dad. Why not let the kids and me go back to Midian and we’ll stay there until you send a message, “All’s clear!”
Let me tell you, this scenario has played out in families over and over again down through history. When my father-in-law fled Cuba in the late 1940’s, he came through legal channels to the United States. For several months he worked until he had a place to live, then when life appeared to be more settled, he sent for his wife and two young children. As Papa tells the story, it was very tough being apart but also necessary to protect the long-term welfare of his family.
I believe a similar situation is what happened between Moses and Zipporah. And remember, Zipporah was not a Hebrew and at a time when Moses had been called by God to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, she may have also felt, as did Moses, that his undivided attention was needed for this task.
In Exodus 18, we find that after the children of Israel were well out of reach of the Egyptian army, Jethro, having heard of God’s great deliverance, took his daughter and grandchildren to rejoin their father in the desert.
The reunion sounds joyous for we are told that, “And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. And Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel…And Jethro said, ‘Blessed be the Lord…Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods….” (Exodus 18: 7-12, K.J.V.). Right then and there, Jethro became a true believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
There’s more to the story. The next morning Moses sat to “judge” the people. From morning to evening people came with their problems for Moses to solve. Jethro asked Moses why he sat alone all day. And Moses told him “When the people have a matter, they come to me.” Jethro replied, “The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away; this thing is too heavy for thee” (Exodus 18: 14-18, K.J.V.). Then Jethro said, “I have some advice for you Moses. God shall be with thee. Be thou for the people to Godward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God.” (Exodus 18: 19 K.J.V.). In other words, Jethro advised Moses that as leader, his job was to keep his face toward God. He needed to be seeking God for the answers and for teaching and to shew the people what God’s will was. Jethro then advised Moses to set able men, “ such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Exodus 18: 21).
In Exodus 18: 24 we are told that “Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.”
This is a very important passage in our study because it relates directly to how good advice is given. First, Jethro didn’t begin his “advice giving” by saying to Moses, “What you’re doing is stupid.” He didn’t tell Moses, “You’re wrong.” Nor did he say, “You have really messed things up this time.” The reason I say this is that so often when we want to “help” someone, our first approach is so critical that their ears close-off because of the way we attack. Jethro didn’t do this. Instead he looked at Moses and showed empathy for his well-being. “Moses, you must be worn out. Why are you doing this to yourself? You need help, son!” Isn’t that some of the kindest advice you’ve ever heard?
Second, Jethro recognized Moses’ place before God. He reminded Moses that God had a special calling for him and in order to fulfill this calling, Moses needed to have the time to be taught of God so he could then pass on what God told him to the people. Jethro’s advice built Moses up, it didn’t tear him down.
And finally, Jethro didn’t just say, “Don’t do what you’re doing.” He offered a well-thought-out concrete, usable plan to Moses which he could implement. It’s so easy for people to give advice without offering one positive suggestion as to how things could be improved. This wasn’t Jethro’s way.
He kindly thought of his son-in-law’s welfare; he built Moses up; and then he offered a thoughtful plan to assist Moses in his leadership responsibilities. I believe the words of Erasmus apply to Jethro’s advice to Moses. “No gift is more precious than good advice.”
”The man (woman) who does not learn to wait upon the Lord and have (their) thoughts molded by Him will never possess that steady purpose and calm trust, which is essential to the exercise of wise influence upon others, in times of crisis and difficulty.”
D. E. Hoste
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes; guide me in the path of Your commandments, for my delight is in them.”
Psalms 119: 33, 35
King James Version
“Jesus my Teacher, guide me along Your way, and help me to piece together the jigsaw of life in Your kingdom. When I make decisions, lead me to the heart of the matter, and when I face conflict, do not let my own panic drown out the still, small voice of Your wisdom.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy Valcarcel has a 25-year career working with charitable organizations worldwide. Her experiences have taken her into ghettos, orphanages, domestic abuse shelters and food kitchens. The insight she gained, along with her own personal struggle to overcome challenging disabilities sustained in a life-threatening accident, are the catalyst for Transformation Garden - a website designed to encourage women in their walk with Jesus. Dorothy is the author of the soon to be released book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, published by Revell.