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Exodus 18:21-23 New English Translation (NET Bible)

21 But you choose[a] from the people capable men,[b] God-fearing men,[c] men of truth,[d] those who hate bribes,[e] and put them over the people[f] as rulers[g] of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 They will judge[h] the people under normal circumstances,[i] and every difficult case[j] they will bring to you, but every small case[k] they themselves will judge, so that[l] you may make it easier for yourself,[m] and they will bear the burden[n] with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you,[o] then you will be able[p] to endure,[q] and all these people[r] will be able to go[s] home[t] satisfied.”[u]


  1. Exodus 18:21 tn The construction uses the independent pronoun for emphasis, and then the imperfect tense “see” (חָזָה, khazah)—“and you will see from all….” Both in Hebrew and Ugaritic expressions of “seeing” are used in the sense of choosing (Gen 41:33). See U. Cassuto, Exodus, 220.
  2. Exodus 18:21 tn The expression is אַנְשֵׁי־חַיִל (ʾanshe khayil, “capable men”). The attributive genitive is the word used in expressions like “mighty man of valor.” The word describes these men as respected, influential, powerful people, those looked up to by the community as leaders, and those who will have the needs of the community in mind.
  3. Exodus 18:21 tn The description “fearers of God” uses an objective genitive. It describes them as devout, worshipful, obedient servants of God.
  4. Exodus 18:21 tn The expression “men of truth” (אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת, ʾanshe ʾemet) indicates that these men must be seekers of truth, who know that the task of a judge is to give true judgment (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 220). The word “truth” includes the ideas of faithfulness or reliability, as well as factuality itself. It could be understood to mean “truthful men,” men whose word is reliable and true.
  5. Exodus 18:21 tn Heb “haters of bribes.” Here is another objective genitive, one that refers to unjust gain. To hate unjust gain is to reject and refuse it. Their decisions will not be swayed by greed.
  6. Exodus 18:21 tn Heb “over them”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  7. Exodus 18:21 sn It is not clear how this structure would work in a judicial setting. The language of “captains of thousands,” etc., is used more for military ranks. There must have been more detailed instruction involved here, for each Israelite would have come under four leaders with this arrangement, and perhaps difficult cases would be sent to the next level. But since the task of these men would also involve instruction and guidance, the breakdown would be very useful. Deut 1:9, 13 suggest that the choice of these people was not simply Moses’ alone.
  8. Exodus 18:22 tn The form is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive, making it equivalent to the imperfect of instruction in the preceding verse.
  9. Exodus 18:22 tn Heb “in every time,” meaning “in all normal cases” or “under normal circumstances.” The same phrase occurs in v. 26.
  10. Exodus 18:22 tn Heb “great thing.”
  11. Exodus 18:22 tn Heb “thing.”
  12. Exodus 18:22 tn The vav here shows the result or the purpose of the instructions given.
  13. Exodus 18:22 tn The expression וְהָקֵל מֵעָלֶיךָ (vehaqel meʿalekha) means literally “and make it light off yourself.” The word plays against the word for “heavy” used earlier—since it was a heavy or burdensome task, Moses must lighten the load.
  14. Exodus 18:22 tn Here “the burden” has been supplied.
  15. Exodus 18:23 tn The form is a Piel perfect with vav (ו) consecutive; it carries the same nuance as the preceding imperfect in the conditional clause.
  16. Exodus 18:23 tn The perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive now appears in the apodosis of the conditional sentence—“if you do this…then you will be able.”
  17. Exodus 18:23 tn Heb “to stand.” B. Jacob (Exodus, 501) suggests that there might be a humorous side to this: “you could even do this standing up.”
  18. Exodus 18:23 tn Literally “this people.”
  19. Exodus 18:23 tn The verb is the simple imperfect, “will go,” but given the sense of the passage a potential nuance seems in order.
  20. Exodus 18:23 tn Heb “his place.”
  21. Exodus 18:23 tn Heb “in peace.”sn See further T. D. Weinshall, “The Organizational Structure Proposed by Jethro to Moses (Ex. 18:17),” Public Administration in Israel and Abroad 12 (1972): 9-13; and H. Reviv, “The Traditions Concerning the Inception of the Legal System in Israel: Significance and Dating,” ZAW 94 (1982): 566-75.
New English Translation (NET)

NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.


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