on Exodus 18 :5
Jethro - came with his sons - There are several reasons to induce us to believe that the fact related here is out of its due chronological order, and that Jethro did not come to Moses till the beginning of the second year of the exodus, (see Numbers 10:11), some time after the tabernacle had been erected, and the Hebrew commonwealth established, both in things civil and ecclesiastical. This opinion is founded on the following reasons: -
1. On this verse, where it is said that Jethro came to Moses while he was encamped at the mount of God. Now it appears, from Exodus 19:1, Exodus 19:2, that they were not yet come to Horeb, the mount of God, and that they did not arrive there till the third month after their departure from Egypt; and the transactions with which this account is connected certainly took place in the second month; see Exodus 16:1.
2. Moses, in Deuteronomy 1:6, Deuteronomy 1:9, Deuteronomy 1:10, Deuteronomy 1:12-15, relates that when they were about to depart from Horeb, which was on the 20th day of the second month of the second year from their leaving Egypt, that he then complained that he was not able to bear the burden alone of the government of a people so numerous; and that it was at that time that he established judges and captains over thousands and hundreds and fifties and tens, which appears to be the very transaction recorded in this place; the measure itself being recommended by Jethro, and done in consequence of his advice.
3. From Numbers 10:11, Numbers 10:29, etc., we find that when the cloud was taken up, and the Israelites were about to depart from Horeb, that Moses addressed Hobab, who is supposed to have been the same as Jethro, and who then was about to return to Midian, his own country, entreating him to stay with them as a guide while they traveled through the wilderness. It therefore seems necessary that the transaction recorded in this chapter should be inserted Numbers 10 between the 10th and 11th verses. Numbers 10:10-11.
4. It has been remarked, that shortly after they had departed from Sinai the dispute took place between Miriam, Aaron, and Moses, concerning the Ethiopian woman Zipporah whom he had married, (see Numbers 12:1, etc.); and this is supposed to have taken place shortly after she had been brought back by Jethro.
5. In the discourse between Moses and Jethro, mentioned in this chapter, we find that Moses speaks of the statutes and laws of the Lord as things already revealed and acknowledged, which necessarily implies that these laws had already been given, (Exodus 18:16), which we know did not take place till several months after the transactions mentioned in the preceding chapters.
6. Jethro offers burnt-offerings and sacrifices to God apparently in that way in which they were commanded in the law. Now the law respecting burnt-offerings was not given till after the transactions mentioned here, unless we refer this chapter to a time posterior to that in which it appears in this place. See Clarke's note on Exodus 18:12.
From all these reasons, but particularly from the two first and the two last, it seems most likely that this chapter stands out of its due chronological order, and therefore I have adjusted the chronology in the margin to the time in which, from the reasons above alleged, I suppose these transactions to have taken place; but the matter is not of much importance, and the reader is at liberty to follow the common opinion. As Moses had in the preceding chapter related the war with Amalek and the curse under which they were laid, he may be supposed to have introduced here the account concerning Jethro the Midianite, to show that he was free from that curse, although the Midianites and the Kenites, the family of Jethro, were as one people, dwelling with the Amalekites. See Judges 1:16; 1 Chronicles 2:55; 1 Samuel 15:6. For although the Kenites were some of those people whose lands God had promised to the descendants of Abraham, (see Genesis 15:18, Genesis 15:19), yet, in consideration of Jethro, the relative of Moses, all of them who submitted to the Hebrews were suffered to live in their own country; the rest are supposed to have taken refuge among the Edomites and Amalekites. See Calmet, Locke, etc.
on Exodus 18 :5
The wilderness - i. e., according to the view which seems on the whole most probable, the plain near the northern summit of Horeb, the mountain of God. The valley which opens upon Er Rahah on the left of Horeh is called "Wady Shueib" by the Arabs, i. e. the vale of Hobab.
on Exodus 18 :5