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).

Hebrew Word Pictures

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

finished work, sign of the covenant, bound to the head, highest authority

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

the highest authority sees the binding of the first shepherd

Is the father-in-law of Moshe Reuel or Yitro?  Because Reuel is also called as Yitro in Exodus, confusion arises as to whether one man has two names or there are two different men.  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.

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.  In Judges 4:11, Hobab is mentioned as Moshe’s brother-in-law and as Reuel’s son in Numbers 10:29.  Hobab could be Zipporah’s uncle with Reuel being her grandfather and Yitro being he father.

The ending -el  in the name Reu-el is Hebrew for ‘God’ suggesting he has a relationship with El and 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, while Yitro is called a priest. 

Yitro is a Midianite.  The Midianites consisted of the five tribes descended from Abraham and Keturah, his wife after Sarah died.  The Midianites inhabited the desert borders in Transjordan 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 known of Elohim. The patriarchs worshipped Elohim using different titles like El Shaddai (Almighty God), El Elyon (Most High God) and El Roi (God Who Sees).  Until the burning bush, the essence name of Elohim was unknown to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It was unknown to Moshe and the Israelites until Yahweh-El who showed His power and sovereignty in Egypt.  Also, with the proximity of Yitro’s family to the mountain where Moshe met Yahweh, it is possible that through a priesthood of which Yitro was a member,  the Midianites worshipped Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh without knowing His personal name. 

Yitro hears of the great deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and takes his daughter and grandchildren to his son-in-law.   Zipporah and her sons, Gershom and Eliezer, returned to her father after the events with the circumcision.  They were not with Moshe while he was in Egypt.  They did not experience the Passover nor the exodus followed by the crossing of the Red Sea.

The Power of the Testimony

Moshe takes his father-in-law into his tent and tells him about everything that  happened since he last saw him.  This is a vision of a man, a humble man, giving his testimony of deliverance to another.  Though Moshe had observed the miraculous deliverance of of Israel 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, the Egyptians and the Israelites.  For the first time, Moshe is sitting, relaxing with a priest, a trusted family member,  sharing his perspective about the Yahweh’s deliverance rather than being the vessel.

Yitro sits in his son-in-law’s tent, his personal space away from the millions of Israelites, and listens to all Moshe 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 and then 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, who had obviously been Yahweh’s instrument, were so compelling that Yitro rejoiced over all the good that Yahweh had done for Isra’el and acknowledged Him 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).

Our  testimony of deliverance from sin and death to life through the blood of the Lamb is no less miraculous than Moshe’s testimony.  Our testimony of Yeshua has the power to bring others into the Kingdom.  It also has the power to overcome the enemy when faced with death.  It will separate us from the darkness as we are called to be light.  It will sanctify us and be the spirit of prophecy within us. 

In Revelation 1:2, an angel comes to John and testifies to everything he saw “that is the Word of God and the testimony of Messiah Yeshua.”  In Revelation 19:10, 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 (salvation).”  Those who do hold to a testimony of Yeshua and obey the commandments of Elohim will be persecuted, beheaded during the Tribulation, but they are known as the sanctified ones who hold to their  faith in Yeshua and keep God’s commandments” (Revelation 12:17, 14:12).

Yitro also makes a blessing or barakah to Yahweh: “Blessed be Yahweh 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 Yahweh 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 and 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 of El 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 (peace) or fellowship offering and obviously occurred before Torah was given at Mt. Sinai.  The fellowship offering was a freewill offering of thanksgiving for fulfillment of a vow (Acts 18:18).   Leviticus 3:1-17 outlines the regulations for fellowship offerings in order to be acceptable to Elohim.  Yahweh receives the first and best part, the priests (Aaron, Yitro, Moshe) receive a share as food, and the people (the leaders) ate the rest.  

The Conception of the Sanhedrin

“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 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 weary of the task.  Moshe is 80 years old and still has to lead this nation into the Promised Land.

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.   “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).  Yitro knows that Moshe will only do what God desires and puts the final decision between himself and God.  Moshe sees the wisdom in what Yitro suggests does everything he said.  Once the judicial system was established, Yitro leaves and returns to his own country. 

The judgment ‘seat of Moshe’ began in the wilderness with Yitro 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 Yeshua reminds the people to do what comes from the one who sits in the judgement seat,  but not to act like them because their words and actions do not match.

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 Mt. Sinai and Moshe goes up to Yahweh. He tells Moshe to remind the people of what He did to the Egyptians.  He continues with words that are deeply profound for their present lives and prophetic for their future protection.

“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.

Throughout the Scriptures, 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).  This refers to the development of an eagle 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 the part, “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 God’s unconditional love, but unfortunately, the ‘unconditional’ has a condition: “If you will obey my commands’” (John 15:10).  It is  awesome to be a friend to Yeshua like Abraham was to El Shaddai, but it 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 that we pay attention to God’s commandments (Isaiah 48:18).    It’s so easy to embrace the promises of God without His conditions.

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 ‘own treasure from among all the nations,’ the Israelites have to pay careful attention to His words and keep His covenant.  Up until this moment in 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 as the earth is dust.  Yahweh’s destiny for Isra’el is to make them a Kingdom of priests and a nation set apart for Him. 

“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).

“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 back to Yahweh and specific instructions are given 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 Exodus 19:9).

The people consecrate or sanctify themselves by washing their clothing, their outer garments.  The Hebrew word for ‘consecrate’ in this passage is kadosh and means ‘holy.  Cleanliness is obviously an attribute that Yahweh wants us to have 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 that they were not allowed to cross until a specific moment in time.   Anyone or any animal that crossed that 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 only 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 wages of sin, of disobeying Yahweh’s commands – always was and always will be – death.

“I came to be, in the Spirit, on the Day of the Lord; and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet …” (Revelation 1:10).

On the morning of the third day, there was thunder, lightning an a thick cloud on the mountain.  The shofar sounded so loudly that the people trembled.  Moshe brought the mixed multitude out of the camp to the base of the mountain.  The whole mountain was covered with smoke like from a furnace and Yahweh descended onto it in fire.  The mountain violently shook 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 priests, who were allowed to draw closer were to keep themselves set apart otherwise Yahweh may break out against them.  Moshe takes only 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 Bible teachers quote the Scripture that we can now go ‘boldly before the throne of grace’ with an emphasis on BOLDLY.  In Hebrew the word is bitachon and means ‘trust in God’.  In Greek, the word is parrēsias and means ‘openness, especially in speech’.  Though ‘boldly’ is translated from the Greek as ‘confidently’, it  is more often suggested that one can now approach the throne of God without protocol in whatever way they choose.  There is no sanctifying dress, action, or proper attitude taught, only a sense of impatience and brashness.  This is not how anyone would approach the king of an earthly nation, why would anyone approach the King of Kings ‘boldly.’  Of course, all who are born again may now enter His presence, but it should be done with humility and reverence.

The people hear the thunder and the sound of the shofar.  They see the lightning and the smoking mountain.  They become so afraid they fear they would die.  The people remain at a distance while Moshe approaches the thick darkness.  Their faith has been tested and though they want to do everything Yahweh says, but they don’t want to hear His voice for themselves.  Because the Israelites are afraid of Yahweh’s presence, they ask that Moshe intercede. Through Moshe, they receive the rest of Yahweh’s commands, statutes and ordinances.

Having someone hear the voice of God for you 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 God’s Word.  This is the meaning of Nicolaitan found in Revelation 2:16,15). When there is a division between leaders and people, a misrepresentation of the one High Priest and the priesthood occurs and the people suffer.  False doctrines and heresies creep in and deceive the people.

It is miraculous and wonderful that Moshe remains faithful to Yahweh and writes everything He tells him in the book of the covenant so that the people have a testimony of Yahweh’s Word.  Then those same people, the Jewish people,  throughout their generations guarded the Torah and the prophets so we have our Scriptures today, Scriptures that match the Dead Sea Scrolls, with no translation errors or changes.  We are all called to be good Bereans and read the Word and study it for ourselves so we are not deceived by overseers and we can show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15).   

This event at Mount Sinai happens 50 days after the exodus which means it’s timing is Shavuot or Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).  It is at this ‘appointed time’ that Yahweh gives Isra’el the Torah.   The Torah becomes the foundation of the covenant Yahweh makes with Isra’el.  It is described as a marriage covenant or ketubah, the written vows from a husband to his wife. The Ten Commandments are the spoken words of Yahweh to Isra’el and written by His own finger on tablets of stone.

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 teachings and instructions of Elohim.   According to Yeshua, every commandment in the Torah, the Prophets or even the Gospels and Letters expound on the ways to love God, our neighbor and ourselves.  Second Timothy 3:16 states that “all Scripture is God-breathed.”  The Torah is part of those Scriptures.

“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 hand 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. 

א – Alef (an ox) means first, leader, strength

“I am Yahweh 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 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 worship.  He is a jealous God, or El Kanna, another title for Elohim.

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, Yahweh 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).

Earlier 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 religious system in the world creates images to honor and worship.  Some even require a sacrifice or personal meditation.  More often than not, these images and offerings of worship and sacrifice 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 translated ‘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 Yahweh your God in vain (lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely) for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

The name of Yaweh is not to be lifted up in vanity or excessive pride.  This is the reason that the true pronunciation of name of Elohim has been lost.  The Jewish people 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 Yahweh 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, Yahweh made the heavens and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested.  This is why Yahweh blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for Himself” (Exodus 20:8-11).

The Sabbath is the pathway to enter Elohim’s rest.   The seventh-day Sabbath is holy because Yahweh separated it for Himself from all other days.  Some believe that any day is the Sabbath, however, the word shabbat comes from the Hebrew word for seven, sheva.  Thus, the Sabbath day is the seventh day, not the first, third, or the day of anyone’s choosing. 

Hebrew Word Pictures

Sabbath – Shabbat – שבת – shin, bet, tav

the glory of the LORD in the house is the sign of the covenant

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 Elohim is giving to His people.  What does it mean to ‘honor’ one’s parents?  Simply, 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 is about taking human life. 

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

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

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

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

“Do not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

Fences keep people 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 Elohim’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 Yahweh, 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 come to understand 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.  Holy means ‘set apart for God’ and 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 profaned or made common, 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). 

Hebrew Word Pictures

Holy (Set Apart) – kadosh – קדש – kof, dalet, shin

what is the final pathway to the glory of God

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

to keep, protect from the shepherd

“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 there will be blessing on His when it is spoken.

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

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

B’rit Hadashah (New Testament Readings)

Matthew 5:21-30

Matthew 15:1-9

Matthew 19:16-19

Mark 7:8-13

Mark 10:17-19

Luke 18:18-20

Romans 2:17-24

Romans 7:7-12

Romans 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

Using Acts 2:1-3, compare the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai with the events in Jerusalem when Yahweh poured out His Ruach haKodesh, Holy Spirit.

©2014 Tentstake Ministries

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