The Rechabites (Jer 35:2-35:2)

“Go to the house

Of the Rechabites!

Speak with them!

Bring them

To the house of Yahweh,

Into one of the chambers!

Then offer them wine

To drink!’”

This short chapter is all about the Rechabites. They get their name from Rechab, who was mentioned in 1 Chronicles, chapter 2, listed under the descendants of Hur. They seem to be descendants of Hammath, a northern city, or Hemath, a Kenite, who was also called Hobab. The Rechabites were not descendants of Jacob, but Kenites, a people originally settled in that part of Arabia called the land of Midian. They may have been the descendants of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, who was a Kenite. Thus these Rechabites were not true Israelites, but were friendly to the Israelites. They were generally nomads in the desert, living in tents. The most prominent Rechabite may have been Jehonadab or Jonadab, the son of Rechab, in 2 Kings, chapter 10, where he joined with King Jehu of Israel (841-814 BCE) in helping wipe out the family of King Ahab of Israel (874-853 BCE). Yahweh told Jeremiah to go to their house, talk to them, and bring them back to the Temple in Jerusalem. There he was to find a chamber in the Temple and offer these Rechabites some wine. This seems like a simple task.

The institution of the judges (Ex 18:13-18:27)

“The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening.  When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people?  Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?’ Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God.  When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statues and instructions of God.’   Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good.  You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you.  For the task is too heavy for you, you cannot do it alone.  Now listen to me.  I will give you counsel, and God be with you!  You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God.  Teach them the statues and instructions.  Make known to them the way they are to go and the things that they are to do.  You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain, set them as officers over thousands, hundred, fifties, and tens.  Let them sit as judges for the people at all times.  Let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves.  So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.  If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.’”

The next day Moses sat as judge for the people from morning until evening.  Then Jethro said to Moses, why are you doing this for all the people.  Moses replied that the people come to me to inquire of God or when they have a dispute.    Jethro said that Moses was going to wear himself out with this heavy load.  Both of these guys were old, if Moses was 80 then his father-in-law was up in the 100s.  Jethro told him to teach others the statues and instructions, instead of having everyone come to him.  Find some able men who fear God and are trustworthy.  Make them officers over thousands, hundred, fifties, and tens.  Let them judge the minor cases so that you only decide the important cases.

“So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.  Moses chose able men from all Israel.  He appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They judged the people at all times.  Hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves.  Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off to his own country.”

Moses listened to his father-in-law. Then his father-in-law went back to his own country in Midian.  There is no indication what happened to Moses’ wife and children.  Thus this institution of the judges made life simpler for Moses.

The meeting of Jethro and Moses (Ex 18:1-18:12)

“Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, how Yahweh had brought Israel out of Egypt.  After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back, along with her two sons.   The name of one was Gershom.  For he said, ‘I have been an alien in a foreign land.’   The name of the other is Eliezer.  For he said, ‘The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.’   Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came into the wilderness where Moses was encamped at the mountain of God, bringing Moses’ sons and his wife to him.  He sent word to Moses, ‘I, your father-in-law Jethro am coming to you, with your wife and her two sons.’  Moses went out to meet his father-in-law.  He bowed down, and kissed him.  Each asked after the other’s welfare, and they went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that Yahweh had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had beset them on the way, and how Yahweh had delivered them.”

Here the family of Moses at Midian makes an appearance.  Jethro, Moses’ father in law, the priest of Midian, met Moses at the mountain of God that according to chapter 4 was Horeb in Midian.  Jethro brought Moses’ wife and two sons with him.  However, in chapter 4, they went with Moses to Egypt, but here it says that Moses had sent away his wife and two sons, apparently because things were tricky in Egypt.  There was no mention of a second son in chapter 2, just Gershom and an explanation of this name.  In chapter 4, it says Moses took his sons, but never mentioned the name of Eliezer or the explanation of his name like here.  Eliezer’s name implies a problem with Pharaoh.  Moses went out to meet his father-in-law. Interesting enough, there is more emphasis on their reunion rather than with his wife and children.  This is probably from the Elohist tradition.

“Jethro rejoiced for all the good that Yahweh had done to Israel, in delivering them from the Egyptians.  Jethro said, ‘Blessed be Yahweh, who has delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh.  Now I know that Yahweh is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them.  Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God.  Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.”

Jethro rejoiced for all the good that Yahweh had done. He is now sure that Yahweh is greater than all gods, because of what he did to the Egyptians.  He brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God.  Then Aaron and the elders of Israel broke bread with Moses’ father-in-law.  Obviously, the priest of Midian is now clear that Yahweh is the god of gods.

Return of Moses to Egypt and his departure from Midian (Ex 4:18-4:23)

Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, ‘Please let me go back to my kindred in Egypt and see whether they are still living.’ Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’  Yahweh said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go back to Egypt.  All those who were seeking your life are dead.’  So Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey and went back to the land of Egypt.  Moses carried the staff of God in his hand.”

Moses went to his father-in-law Jethro, and told him he was going back to Egypt.  Jethro told Moses to go in peace.  Notice that he is called Jethro.  Yahweh had told Moses to go back to Egypt because he was no longer a wanted man.  It is not clear how many years that Moses was in Midian.  Anyway he took his Midian wife and children and left for Egypt with the staff of God in his hand.

“Yahweh said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders or miracles that I have put in your power.   But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.  Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says Yahweh, Israel is my first-born son.  I said to you, ‘Let my son go that he may worship me.’   But you refused to let him go.  Now, I will kill your first-born son.’”

Yahweh told Moses to go to Pharaoh and do his tricks to show his power.  However, he warned Moses that he was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will not let the people go.  Israel was Yahweh’s first-born son so Yahweh was going to kill Pharaoh’s first-born son.  This is pretty tough language.  It seems that Yahweh knows the outcome but wants Moses to still try to change Pharaoh’s mind.