Exodus 18 – Life Lessons in Leadership and Possibly Monolatry

Exodus 18 Bible with Simple Truth Organic 71 percent Cacao Baobab Dark Chocolate

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Today’s PassageExodus 18

The low-hanging fruit in this chapter is a lesson about delegation. Moses is running himself ragged adjudicating on behalf of every single Israelite with an issue, so his father-in-law Jethro advises him: get other folks to handle the little cases. There’s also a bit of “if you teach a man to fish,” as Jethro also has Moses start teaching God’s statutes and laws to the people in order to curb the case-overload problem. So: delegation is good, instilling independence is good, but far be it from us to take the low-hanging fruit, right? Let’s hit up some weird spots.

To begin with, this is the part of the story where you meet up with someone from earlier in the story and it’s great to see them, and then you tell them all the stuff that happened since you saw them last. That’s how it goes down with Moses and Jethro, who has not seen his son-in-law since said son-in-law went back to Egypt to liberate the Israelites. You can probably think of a similar point in the plot from your favorite book or movie, where seeing a familiar face and filling them in on one’s adventures lets one reflect on how far one has come.

As for me, of course I think of video games. You know in Chrono Trigger, on Death Peak, where you use the clone doll and the titular “Chrono Trigger” to change history and avert Crono’s death? And then Lucca gives her confused friend a big ol’ hug and starts crying into his shoulder and blurting out all the stuff they had to go through to get him back? That’s the moment I think of, but I believe I’ve digressed. Let’s get back to the weird stuff.

Not only is Moses reunited with his father-in-law, but also his wife and kids. The last time we saw Zipporah in the narrative was en route to Egypt, where she had to hastily circumcise Moses’ son. Did Moses leave his entire family behind in Midian while he went to Egypt? The younger son’s name suggests an answer; it’s Eliezer, which means “My God is a helper.” Moses himself explains: “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh” (4). In order for his name to make any sense, Eliezer must have been born, at the very earliest, during the later plagues. It seems to me that Zipporah and her two sons were likely present for all the events of Egypt, not returning to Midian until later, in advance of Moses.

Then we get real weird. When he hears about the various miracles God employed to liberate the Israelites, Jethro is thrilled. He declares: “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people” (11). Now, obviously God is greater than all the gods, right? He’s also greater than Luke Skywalker, Superman, Beowulf, and all the other great figures of human imagination, by virtue of being actually real and not just some guy whose greatness we made up. But Jethro seems to think the proof of God’s superiority is in how they dealt with the people. Throughout God’s campaign to liberate his people from Egyptian rule, not a single god of Egypt lifted a finger to oppose him nor even appeared as a character. But is Jethro treating the Egyptian deities as actual entities?

I tried looking at the verse in the original Hebrew, with the help of an interlinear translation, because I technically don’t even know the entire Hebrew alphabet. But all I found was enough weirdness to reinforce that I don’t know what’s going on here. I can see some vague glimmer of how Jethro might be saying that God rose above the pride of the Egyptians as seen in their gods, or something like that. But at the end of the day, I have to conclude: there is some weird stuff in this chapter.

But learn to delegate, that much is clear. Delegating is important.

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