Parashah 17: Yitro (Jethro)

Parashah 17: Exodus 18:1-20:23

“Now Yitro the priest of Midian, Moshe’s father-in-law, heard about all that God had done for Moshe and for Isra’el his people, how Yahweh, had brought Isra’el out of Egypt” (Exodus 18:1).

When Moshe meets Zipporah, her father is called Reuel. When Zipporah is brought into the wilderness to meet Moshe and the Israelites, her father is called Yitro. This causes confusion as to whether one man has two names or there are references to two different men.

Family terminology designating male in-laws are not specific in Middle Eastern culture.   Terms for a woman’s male relatives are the same for her father, brother or even grandfather.  The ending -el in Reu-el is Hebrew for ‘God’ suggesting he has a relationship with El while Yitro is called a priest.   In a patriarchal society, the men were the spiritual leaders of the family and it appears both Reuel and Yitro have that position either with the title of el or the name Yitro. 

Yitro is a Midianite.  The Midianites consisted of the five tribes descended from Keturah, Abraham’s wife after Sarah died.  The Midianites inhabited the desert borders in Jordan from Moab down past Edom (modern-day Saudi Arabia) and were associated with the caravans that bought Joseph from his brothers. Though Yitro is a Midianite priest, there is no mention of the God he serves.

Being a descendant of Abraham, he would have hear of Elohim. The patriarchs worshipped Elohim with different titles like El Shaddai, El Elyon and El Roi.   Until the burning bush, the name of Elohim was unknown to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The  essence of ‘I AM’ was unknown to Moshe and the Israelites until Heshowed His power and sovereignty over Egypt.

With the proximity of Yitro’s family to the mountain where Moshe met Yahweh, it is probable that Yitro was a Midianite priest who worshipped Yawheh without knowing His personal name.   Yitro hears of the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and takes his daughter and grandsons to Moshe.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Jethro (His Excellence) or Yitro – יתרו – yod, tav, resh, vav

finished work sign bound to highest authority

Reuel (Friend of God) or Re’u’el – רעואל – resh, ayin, vav, alef, lamed

the highest authority understands the binding of the first shepherd

The Power of Testimony

Moshe takes his father-in-law into his tent and tells him everything that  happened since he last saw him.  This is the vision of a humble man giving his testimony of deliverance to another.  Though Moshe had observed the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, he has not yet told his personal experiences to anyone.  He has not yet verbalized his thoughts and feelings about what Yahweh did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  For the first time, Moshe is sitting and relaxing with a priest, a trusted family member,  sharing his testimony of Yahweh’s deliverance.

Yitro sits in Moshe’ tent and listens to everything he has to say about the stubbornness of Pharaoh’s heart, the plagues, the separation of Goshen from Egypt, the blood of the lamb, the death of the firstborn, walking on dry ground across the Red Sea, watching the Egyptian army drown,  the quarreling about water, the manna, the quail, the ‘rock’, the Shabbat,  and the battle with the Amalekites.   The words coming from his son-in-law, a mere man, who had obviously been Elohim’s vessel, were so compelling that Yitro rejoiced over all the good that Yahweh had done for Isra’el and acknowledged Him as God of all gods.

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).

Each of us has a testimony of deliverance from sin and death to life through the blood of the Lamb that is no less miraculous than Moshe’s testimony.  Our testimony of Yeshua has the power to make others acknowledge him as Elohim.  It has the power to overcome the enemy when faced with death.  It will separate us from the darkness, sanctify us and become the spirit of prophecy within us. 

An angel comes to John and testifies to everything he saw “that is the Word of God and the testimony of Messiah Yeshua” (Revelation 1:2)  When John falls at the feet of the messenger, he is told,

“Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Yeshua.  Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Yeshua” (Revelation 19:10). 

Those who do hold to a testimony of Yeshua and obey the commandments of Elohim will be persecuted and beheaded during the Tribulation, but they are known as the sanctified ones who hold steadfast  to their  faith in Yeshua and keep Yahweh’s commandments (Revelation 12:17, 14:12).

Yitro also says a blessing “Blessed be Adonai who has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, who has rescued the people from the harsh hand of the Egyptians.  Now I know that Adonai is greater than all other gods, because he rescued those who were treated so arrogantly” (Exodus 18:10).

Yitro brings burnt offerings and sacrifices to Yahweh.  Aaron came with all the leaders of Isra’el to share a meal before Elohim with Moshe’s father-in-law.  Yitro as a priest understands what Abel understood, what Noah did after the flood and what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew about worshipping the Creator of the Universe.

This offering is known as a shalom or fellowshipoffering and was given before Torah at Mt. Sinai.  A fellowship offering was a free-will offering of thanksgiving for fulfillment of a vow (Acts 18:18).

The Calling of Leaders

The following day Yitro watches Moshe sit from morning until evening settling disputes among the Israelites. He understands that Moshe must continue to guide the people of Isra’el, but he also knows that he will eventually become weary of the task.

Yitro suggests that Moshe find “honest and incorruptible God-fearing competent men,” to be leaders over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  They would settle the small disputes among themselves bringing only the difficult cases to Moshe.  Yitro knows that Moshe will only do what Yahweh desires and puts the final decision between himself and Elohim.  Moshe knows Yitro’s wisdom does everything he suggests.  Once the judicial system was established, Yitro returns to his own country. 

“If you do this–and God is directing you to do it–you will be able to endure; and all these people will arrive at their destination peacefully” (Exodus 18:23).

The judgment ‘seat of Moshe’ began in the wilderness with Yitro’s wise advice. Whoever sat on this judgment seat had the authority to decide conflicts between people.  By the time of Yeshua, this judgment seat had become so corrupt that he  reminds the people to do what comes from the one who sits in the judgment seat,  but not to act like them because their words and actions do not match.

“Then Yeshua addressed the crowds and his disciples: ‘The Torah teachers and the P’rushim (Pharisees),” he said, “sit in the seat of Moshe.  So whatever they tell you, take care to do it.  But don’t do what they do, because they talk but don’t act” (Matthew 23:1-3).

The Third Month

“In the third month after the people of Isra’el had left the land of Egypt, the same day they came into the Sinai desert” (Exodus 19:1).

The children of Isra’el left Egypt on day 15 of the first month.  They are now in their third month of travel ‘to the day’ making it 45-46 days since they began their journey.  They set up their camp in the Sinai desert in front of Mount Sinai and Moshe goes up to Yahweh. He tells Moshe to remind the people of what He did to the Egyptians and continues with prophetic words for the nation.

“I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of priests for me, a nation set apart” (Exodus 19:4-6).

While living in Alaska, I had the blessing of observing a male and female Bald eagle  sit in their large nest, fish along the river and soar across the never-ending sky.  A couple of times, the eagles would fly so low that it was possible to see their talons, their large bodies and huge wingspan.  When one flew right over my car, I nearly lost my breath at its magnificent beauty and size.

In Scripture, eagles are used to describe how Yahweh cares for His people.  Within these passages, one learns a lot about eagles.  A female eagle stirs up her nest, hovers over her young, spreads out her wings, takes her young and carries them as she flies (Deuteronomy 32:10-11).  Eagles soar in the wind currents with outstretched wings.  Their strength and youth are renewed (Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 103:6).  Eagles develop from birth through four different molting processes until they have reached adulthood.  Molting birds are generally weaker during those times so when their new plumage comes in, they have attained a new phase of maturity and regained their strength.

“If you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples” (Exodus 19:5).

“If … then …” Scriptures are often discussed from the ‘then’ part of the condition.   For example, it is easy to like “then you are really my disciples’” without wanting the  if you hold to my teachings” (John 8:31).  “You will remain in my love” is a beautiful promise of Elohim’s unconditional love, but it does have a condition, “If  you will obey my commands” (John 15:10).  To be a friend to Yeshua like Abraham was to El Shaddai also has a condition, If we do what He  commands” (John 15:14).   “Peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea,” is conditional to paying attention to Elohim’s commandments (Isaiah 48:18).

“Then you will be my treasured possession” is an extraordinary promise, but it has a condition.  In order for Isra’el to be Yahweh’s personal treasure from among all the nations, the Israelites have to pay careful attention to His words and keep His covenant.  Up until this time, there has been no covenant given to the nation of Isra’el.  There has been the covenant given to Noah and the covenant given to Abraham.  A third covenant is coming that will build upon the first two.  When it is revealed, the people of Elohim need to keep it in order to remain His treasured possession. 

“For all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).

 Yahweh is the Creator of the Universe, inclusive of the heavens and the earth.   Therefore, He can do with the earth as He pleases.  If He chooses a parcel land for Himself, it is His.  If He chooses to give that parcel of land to a certain group of people, He can.  If He chooses one person through whom He will reveal His glory, He can choose that person.   It is Yahweh who allows some nations to rise and others to fall. He creates some people for noble purposes and others for contemptible purposes.  The earth is not ours; it does not belong to us.  We have been given stewardship over it, but we will return to the dust of the earth. 

“But you are a chosen people,  the King’s priesthood a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Yahweh’s desire for Isra’el is to make them a kingdom of priests and a nation set apart for Him. 

“All the people answered as one, “Everything Yahweh has said, we will do!” (Exodus 19:8)  This is the response of a people who fear Elohim and want to obey His every command. 

Moshe reported the words of the people to Yahweh and He gives specific instruction for a personal meeting with the Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.

“See I am coming to you in a thick cloud, so that the people will be able to hear when I speak with you and also to trust in you forever” (Exodus 19:9).

The people consecrate or sanctify themselves by washing their clothes, their outer garments.  The Hebrew word for ‘consecrate’ in this passage is kadosh and means ‘holy.  Cleanliness is obviously a holy attribute that Yahweh wants along with a heart ready to worship.

The Israelites were given three days to prepare for this ‘appointed time.’   A line was drawn around the mountain they were not allowed to cross until a specified time.  Anyone or any animal that crossed the line before the ‘appointed time’  would die.    In the event that it happened, the person or animal was not to be touched by human hands, but to be shot with an arrow or stoned to death.   This seems like a harsh consequence for crossing a line, but it is a line established by Yahweh. He continues to test the people to see if they will obey His commands.  The wage of sin, of disobeying Yahweh’s commands, always was and always will be death.

On the morning of the third day, there was thunder, lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain.  A trumpet sound was so loud the people trembled.  Moshe led the people out of the camp to the base of the mountain which was covered with smoke like from a furnace. Yahweh descended onto the mountain in fire and the mountain shook violently and the blast of the shofar grew louder and louder. 

Moshe is told to come to the top of the mountain and receive the instructions for the people.   No one is to force their way to see Him or they will die.  Even the leaders who were allowed to draw closer were to keep themselves set apart otherwise Yahweh may break out against them.  Moshe takes Aaron with him to meet Yahweh.

The Hebrew word for ‘force’ is haras and means to ‘tear down or destroy.’ There is protocol in meeting with Yahweh.  Some quote the Scripture that we can now go ‘boldly before the throne of grace’ with an emphasis on boldly.  In Hebrew the word is bitach and means ‘trust in Elohim‘  In Greek, boldly is parrēsias and means ‘openness, especially in speech.’  Parresias is translated as ‘confidently’ and is taught that one can now approach Elohim’s throne without any type of protocol.  There is no action or proper attitude taught only a sense of hurried impatience and brashness.  This is not how anyone would approach the king of an earthly nation, why would anyone approach the King of Kings in this way?  All who are born again may now enter His presence, but it should be done with humility and reverence and ‘faith in Elohim.’

The people hear the thunder and the loud shofar blast.  They see the lightning and the smoking mountain.  They become so afraid they fear they will die.  They remain at a distance while Moshe approaches the thick darkness.  Their faith has been tested and they want to do everything Yahweh says, but they don’t want to hear His voice for themselves.  They are fearful of Yahweh’s presence and ask that Moshe intercede.

Having another person hear the voice of Elohim instead of listening yourself has great dangers.  Words can be twisted and opinions inserted.   During the Dark Ages when the Scriptures were inaccessible to the general population, those in leadership said and did whatever they wanted and claimed it was the Word of Elohim. This created a great division between leaders and people and a misrepresentation of the one High Priest and the priesthood.  False doctrines and heresies crept in and deceived the people.

It is miraculous how faithful Moshe remains to Yahweh writing everything He tells him in the ‘book of the covenant,’ so that the people have a testimony of Yahweh’s Words.  Those same people throughout their generations guarded the Torah and the prophets so we have our Scriptures today,  Scriptures that are identical to the Dead Sea Scrolls with no translation errors.

The event at Mount Sinai happened fifty (50) days after the exodus or the day of Shavuot, Feast of Weeks.  It is at this ‘appointed time’ that Yahweh gives Isra’el His instructions. Torah becomes the foundation of the covenant Yahweh makes with Isra’el and is described as a marriage covenant or ketubah, the written vows from a husband to his wife.

The Ten Commandments or the Ten Words are the spoken word of Yahweh and the Israelites hear his voice, Yeshua.  They are written by Yahweh’s finger on tablets of stone establishing his power and authority to give instructions. 

The Ten Words

Yeshua replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

The Ten Commandments could be thought of as the Table of Contents for the instructions of Yahweh.  According to Yeshua, every commandment in the Torah and the Prophets (even the Gospels and Letters) expound on the ways to love Elohim, our neighbor and ourselves.  “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Torah with all of its instructionsis part of ‘all Scripture.’

“Then God said all these words:” (Exodus 20:1) 

Yahweh did not speak in Greek or Latin nor did He write the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone with Roman numerals   He spoke in Hebrew and with His finger wrote right to left.   If they were numbered,  each would have been represented by one of the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet, a word picture depicting each command, thus Ten Words. 

א – Alef (An Ox) means first, leader, strength

“I am Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the abode of slavery.  You are to have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3)

Yahweh is to be the only Elohim the Israelites have. He is to be their strength because He brought them out of Egypt with His mighty hand.  He is their leader, their deliverer.  Yahweh desires to be the sole object of their worship.  He is a jealous God, or El Kanna.

ב –  Bet (Tent or House) means family, household

“You are to have no other gods before me. You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, or the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline.  You are not to bow down to them or serve them; for I, Adonai am a jealous God punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6).

In Genesis, Rachel steals her father’s household gods.  This type of other god worship was as common in the ancient world as it is today.  Every world religious system creates images to worship.  Some require a sacrifice or personal meditation.  More often than not, these images and offerings of sacrifice and worship are done in the home.

The word ‘jealous’ is better rendered ‘zealous’ meaning ‘vigilant in guarding a possession.’  Yahweh’s jealousy isn’t bitter or vindictive, it’s compassionate and protective as seen in His hovering over the Israelites after bringing them out of Egypt.  He is fully aware of the enemy who tries to steal away their devotion for idolatry.

Yahweh will not tolerate sin and punishes the sins of the parents through the third and fourth generations.   The word for ‘sin’ in this verse can be ‘iniquity.’  Iniquity is birthed in the heart and sin occurs when one transgresses the line established by Yahweh in His Torah (1 John 3:4)  Yet, in His justice, Yahweh displays grace to the thousandth generation of those who love Him and obey His commandments.

ג – Gimel (Camel) means pride or to lift up

“You are not to use the name of Adonai your God in vain (lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely) for Adonai will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

The name of Yahweh is not to be lifted up in vanity or excessive pride.  This is the reason that the true pronunciation of the Namehas been lost.  The priests to whom the name was given did not want it profaned among the nations. 

ד –Dalet (Door)  means pathway, to enter

“Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God.  You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God  On it, you are not to do any kind of work – not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates of your property.  For in six days, Adonai made the heavens and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested.  This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for Himself” (Exodus 20:8-11).

The Sabbath is the pathway to enter Yahweh’s rest.   The seventh-day Sabbath is holy because Yahweh separated it for Himself from all other days. According to the Hebrew Word Picture, Shabbat is a ‘sign’ that Hisholy day consumes the family home.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Sabbath (Cease) or Shabbat – שבתshin, bet, tav

sign consuming the family

The first four commandments teach how to love God above all other gods, how to worship him without idols and how to honor His name.  The final six commandments teach how to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

ה – Hey (Window) means to behold or reveal

“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which Yahweh your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

This is the first commandment with a promise–long life in the land which Yahweh is giving to His people.  To honor one’s parents, do not bring them dishonor among the people with whom you live. 

ו Vav (Nail or Peg)  means to bind, secure, or add

“Do not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

Though we are to be good stewards of the earth, the plants and animals, murder in this instance refers to taking human life.    

ז – Zayin(Weapon)  means to cut off or divide

“Do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14)

 Adultery divides the relationship between a husband and wife and cuts off the marriage covenant.

ה – Het (Fence) means to protect, separate, inner room

“Do not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

Fences keep people and their property safe within them; fences keep people out who want to steal.

ט – Tet (Snake)  means to twist

“Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

The ‘snake’ is responsible for the first lie by twisting the truth of Yahweh’s words.

י – Yod (Closed Hand) means a finished or completed work

“Do not covet your neighbor’s house, do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox, his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

Be content with your finished works and do not want whatever it is your neighbor has.

To worship ‘I AM’, the people are not to make gods of gold or silver; they need only an altar made of earth. On the altar they are to make burnt offerings and peace offerings with their sheep, goats and cattle. If they choose to make a stone altar, they are not to cut the stones as any tools they use will profane the altar.  They are not to make steps up to the altar so that they are indecently uncovered.  There is still no Tabernacle or instructions given regarding this type of worship, but they have instructions for making an offering to Yahweh.

The Israelites were allowed to make an earthen altar unto Yahweh, but it had to be done a certain way to be holy or kadosh meaning ‘set apart for God.’  It is interchangeable with sanctify which comes from the Greek word hagiazo.  If they made their altar with stones, they couldn’t use tools or the it would be made common or chol.  One of the responsibilities of the priesthood would be to teach the people the difference between the holy and common and enable them to distinguish between clean and unclean (Ezekiel 44:22). 

“In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:21).

There is blessing in the name of Yahweh especially when He causes it to be mentioned.  It is a move of the Spirit of Elohim to restore His name so He can bless those who speak it. 

Hebrew Word Pictures

Holy (Set Apart) or kadosh – קדשkoof, dalet, shin

what is the final pathway to the glory of God

Profane (Make Common) or chol – חל – chet, lamed

to keep, protect from the shepherd

Yeshua and the Torah

“The true Torah was in his mouth, and no dishonesty was found on his lips; he walked with me in peace and uprightness and turned many away from sin” (Malachi 2:6).

“Philip found Natan’el and told him, “We’ve found the one that Moshe wrote about in the Torah, also the Prophets — it’s Yeshua Ben-Yosef from Natzeret!” (John1:45)

“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete.  Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yod or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened.  So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:17-20)

“He [Yeshua] said to them, ‘So then, every Torah-teacher who has been made into a talmid [disciple] for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old’” (Matthew 13:52).

“In the acharit-hayamim the mountain of Adonai’s house will be established as the most important mountain. It will be regarded more highly than the other hills, and all the Goyim will stream there. Many peoples [nations] will go and say, ‘Come, let’s go up to the mountain of Adonai, to the house of the God of Ya’akov! He [Yeshua] will teach us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of Adonai [Yeshua] from Yerushalayim” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

Matthew 5:21-30; 15:1-9; 19:16-19

Mark 7:8-13; 10:17-19

Luke 18:18-20

Romans 2:17-24; 7:7-12; 13:8-10

Ephesians 6:1-3

2 Timothy 2:2

Titus 1:5-9

Hebrews 12:18-29

James 2:8-13

Midrash Yitro: Shavuot in Jerusalem

Discuss the difference between Torah given by Elohim at Mount Sinai and Torah given in Jerusalem when Hepoured out His Ruach HaKodesh on the Jewish people who had come from the nations (Acts 2:1-3).

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion or the complete Torah cycle, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

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