3. SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, February 17, 2006 | 
Jethro (Jethro): Exodus 18:1 – 20:23; Isaiah 6,1-7,6 & Chapter 9, 5-6

Commentary:

Our weekly portion, Jethro, is one of the shortest, but one of the most important because it recounts the receiving of the law, the Ten Commandments, on Mount Sinai.

It begins with a family reunion of Moses with his wife, Zipporah, and their two sons, with his father-in-law Jethro, the Priest of Midian.

After hearing of the great deeds that God performed for His people, Jethro proclaimed: “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods” (18:11). After 40 years with Moses living in his household, Jethro hadn’t come to this conclusion – he needed to see before he believed.

As a good father-in-law caring for his son-in-law, Jethro advised Moses to take 70 men to help him lead. He knew it was too much for an 80-year-old to decide every minor detail. Here we see the importance of elders in spiritual leadership for the first time. They should be “able men, who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain” (18:21), exactly what Paul also ordered in his letters.

Two and a half months after the Exodus from Egypt (mid Nissan), the children of Israel camped in front of the “Mountain of God.” It was the third month (Sivan), 50 days after Passover, at Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost), when they arrived. This shows us that after salvation comes a time of “working out one’s salvation” (as with receiving the law), so that we live like ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

Ahead of this great encounter at Mount Sinai, the children of Israel were instructed to cleanse themselves outwardly and inwardly for three days. Then came fire and smoke and the “whole mountain quaked violently.”

In chapter 20, the Ten Commandments are listed on the stone tablets. The first five are commandments about man’s behavior towards God, and the next five are about man’s behavior toward man, Creator and the Creation.

Yeshua summarized all 10 in two when asked which was the greatest: “’YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40; also Mark 12:29-31).

This shows that the commandments are all about love: loving God and loving man. That should be written on the tablets of our hearts as the prophet Jeremiah writes (31:31).

We find a repetition of the Ten Commandments later in Deuteronomy 5.

Interesting, this important parasha, with fundamentals of the Jewish faith, was named after a non-Jew - Jethro!

A legend of the Midrash says that God initially offered all the nations His holy law, the Torah. But the Nations answered: “Let us (first) hear and than we will do!” (nishma ve-na’asse). And the people of Israel answered the other way around: “We will do and then hear!” (na’asse ve-nishma, based on the verse in Exodus 24:7: “And they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient’” – na’asse ve-nishma).

To conclude, I quote the last verses of the portion of the prophets, in Isaiah 9: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor (pele yo’etz), Mighty God (el gibor), Eternal Father (avi ad), Prince of Peace (sar shalom). There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore the zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”
- Michael Schneider -

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