GBs in The Bible: Jethro and Moses

Another example in this series of posts about GBs in The Bible is the relationship between Jethro and his son-in-law, Moses.

As with the prior posts about Paul with his protege, Timothy and Ruth with her mother-in-law, Naomi, the story of Jethro and Moses shows there is wisdom to be gained when you surround yourself with people who “have been down the road” already. The life experiences of others offer huge dividends once you trust their advice and are willing to receive constructive feedback that may be needed at the moment.

Biblical Background

According to the book of Exodus, the legendary prophet, Moses was secretly hidden in a basket of reeds by his mother when Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed to reduce the population of the Israelites. Pharaoh’s daughter finds baby Moses in the basket on the Nile River and adopts him into the Egyptian royal family.

Later in his life, Moses kills an Egyptian slave-master who was beating one of Moses’ Hebrew people. Moses flees across to Midian (in northwestern Saudi Arabia) where he meets a priest named Jethro, who becomes his father-in-law when Moses marries the priest’s daughter, Zipporah.

Charlton Heston as Moses (left) and Eduard Franz as Jethro. From The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille. © 1956 Paramount Pictures.
Charlton Heston as Moses (left) and
Eduard Franz as Jethro.
The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille.
©1956 Paramount Pictures

Moses had worked for Jethro as a shepherd for more than 40 years before he heard a voice from God calling him to rescue the Hebrew people in his burning bush experience (Exodus 3). The first sign of respect was that Moses consults with his father-in-law (there is not much written about Moses’ father Amram which suggests no ongoing relationship). Jethro supported Moses’ return to Egypt, even though he was leaving Zipporah and the children behind to head back to Egypt.

After enduring the several plagues, Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Pharaoh and the mighty Egyptian army were humiliated and the news of the exodus quickly spread. Jethro hears the rumors and sends word to Moses that he is coming to him with Zipporah and the two sons. Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down and kissed him which showed the loving and respectful relationship (Exodus 18: 7-9)

At the time, Moses had been working from early morning until late at night to resolve all the conflicts that arose (Exodus 18:13–16) and had unintentionally become a workaholic.

His father-in-law saw the workload was not sustainable and Moses was headed for trouble. Jethro wisely pulled Moses aside and gave him some invaluable counsel.

“What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.”

–Exodus 18:17-18 (ESV)

Jethro’s advice was about Moses’ personal care and the well-being of Israel. Moses listened to his father-in-law, took the advice to heart, and did all that he said, choosing able men to help him, before letting Jethro depart to his own country. (Exodus 18:24-27)

The GB Lessons

The tough conversation Jethro had with Moses demonstrates several important God Buddy lessons:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
    but an enemy multiplies kisses –Proverbs 27:6
  • Trust the advice of an older man. Jethro had enough wisdom and life experiences to know his son-in-law’s behaviors were not heading in a good direction. We can learn to trust the advice when it comes from a place of genuine love.
  • Accept criticism openly.  Moses set a good example of humility and received constructive criticism. We must put aside our pride and tendency to be in control in order to receive wise counsel. Don’t be defensive or argumentative when taking the feedback, especially when it is true.
  • Work together to improve. Jethro helped Moses develop a plan of action that helped save Moses from burnout. He also cared for and protected Moses’ family while he was away. We should always be open to help with improving our skills and addressing our weaknesses. We must also be accountable to someone to ensure the change sticks.

Do you have a trustworthy friend, or a mentor, who provides you with wise counsel?

When they have spoken words that called out a difficult truth for you, how did you react?


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