6.1. Moses Leaves His Father-in-Law Jethro (4:18)

 (18) Moses went back to his father-in-law Jether and said to him, “Let me go back to my kinsmen in Egypt and see how they are faring.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”

(18) Moses went back to his father-in-law Jether and said to him: Moses asks Jethro’s permission to leave for Egypt, because his new mission requires that he revise all his previous plans, which were the reason that Moses had come to live with Jethro in the first place.

And see how they are faring: Literally, “And I will see whether they are still alive.” Moses does not doubt that the Jews in Egypt are still physically alive, but he doubts whether they are still spiritually alive. Does there remain in them anything of actual value? Moses has now agreed that the Jews must be brought out of Egypt, and that the future should be built only from these people, rather than trying to create an entirely new nation. But Moses is not yet ready to admit that there is anything spiritually important in these Jews that must be maintained and further developed.

And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace”: Jethro consents to Moses’ change of plan for the sake of fulfilling his new mission, although it was a major departure from Jethro’s own original plans. As noted earlier (see 4.4), the expression “Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro” referred also to the “shepherding” of Jethro’s disciples. Jethro regarded Moses as the heir to his life’s work. By virtue of this concession, Jethro will later merit being a participant in the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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