on Exodus 18 :21
Able men - Persons of wisdom, discernment, judgment, prudence, and fortitude; for who can be a ruler without these qualifications? Such as fear God - Who are truly religious, without which they will feel little concerned either for the bodies or souls of the people.
Men of truth - Honest and true in their own hearts and lives; speaking the truth, and judging according to the truth.
Hating covetousness - Doing all for God's sake, and love to man; laboring to promote the general good; never perverting judgment, or suppressing the testimonies of God, for the love of money or through a base, man-pleasing spirit, but expecting their reward from the mercy of God in the resurrection of the just.
Rulers of thousands, etc. - Millenaries, centurions, quinquagenaries, and decurions; each of these, in all probability, dependent on that officer immediately above himself. So the decurion, or ruler over ten, if he found a matter too hard for him, brought it to the quinquagenary, or ruler of fifty; if, in the course of the exercise of his functions, he found a cause too complicated for him to decide on, he brought it to the centurion, or ruler over a hundred. In like manner the centurion brought his difficult case to the millenary, or ruler over a thousand; the case that was too hard for him to judge, he brought to Moses; and the case that was too hard for Moses, he brought immediately to God. It is likely that each of these classes had a court composed of its own members, in which causes were heard and tried. Some of the rabbins have supposed that there were 600 rulers of thousands, 6000 rulers of hundreds, 12,000 rulers of fifties and 60,000 rulers of tens; making in the whole 78,600 officers. But Josephus says (Antiq., lib. iii., chap. 4) that Moses, by the advice of Jethro, appointed rulers over myriads, and then over thousands; these he divided into five hundreds, and again into hundreds, and into fifties; and appointed rulers over each of these, who divided them into thirties, and at last into twenties and tens; that each of these companies had a chief, who took his name from the number of persons who were under his direction and government. Allowing what Josephus states to be correct, some have supposed that there could not have been less than 129,860 officers in the Israelitish camp. But such computations are either fanciful or absurd. That the people were divided into thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, we know, for the text states it, but we cannot tell precisely how many of such divisions there were, nor, consequently, the number of officers.
on Exodus 18 :21
Able men - The qualifications are remarkably complete, ability, piety, truthfulness, and unselfishness. From Deuteronomy 1:13, it appears that Moses left the selection of the persons to the people, an example followed by the Apostles; see Acts 6:3.
Rulers of thousands ... - The numbers appear to be conventional, corresponding nearly, but not exactly, to the military, or civil divisions of the people: the largest division (1,000) is used as an equivalent of a gens under one head, Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:14.
The word "rulers," sometimes rendered "princes," is general, including all ranks of officials placed in command. The same word is used regularly on Egyptian monuments of the time of Moses.
on Exodus 18 :21