Biblical Principle #131: Moses Established Judges for Israel

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Moses appointed judges to help oversee Israel’s concerns during the exodus.


Moses was burdened with the judging of concerns brought to him by Israelites. Seeing this, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, suggested that Moses appoint other reliable men to serve subsets of Israel as judges. Moses heeded this advice.

13 So it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” 15 Then Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to seek judgment from God. 16 When they have a dispute, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the ordinances of God and His laws.” 17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing you are doing is not good. 18 Both you and these people with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.

19 “Now listen to me; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people that you may bring their concerns to God. 20 Teach them God’s ordinances and laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the works they are to do. 21 Moreover, you shall select from all the people able men such as fear God, just men, hating covetousness; and set them over the people to be rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 22 Let them judge the people at all times. Then every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will relieve and help you. 23 If you do this thing, God will strengthen you; then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all he said. 25 Thus Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 26 They judged the people at all times; all the hard cases they brought to Moses, but the small ones they judged themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he returned to his own land.

Exodus 18:13-27 OSB

This is the first organized civil governmental responsibility among the new nation—which, as we previously observed with the sabbath, was begun prior to the Law being given.

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