Messianic Education Trust
(Ex 18:1 - 20:23)

Shemot/Exodus 18:25   Moshe chose men of valour from all Israel

These words describe how Moshe followed the advice of Yitro his father-in-law. A few verses earlier Yitro had said, "But you must seek out from among all the people capable, G-d-fearing men - men of truth, who hate injustice" (Shemot 18:21, Living Torah). Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno suggests that Moshe sought to find men who possessed all the qualities mentioned by Yitro, but not being able to find anyone who had them all, he chose capable or able men because they would at least have the skill to understand cases and render correct judgements. Our Sages said, "Even if a scholar is vengeful and bears malice like a serpent, gird him on your loins; whereas even if an am ha'aretz (an ignoramus) is pious, do not dwell in his vicinity" (b. Shabbat 63a).

But is that true in either respect? The Hebrew word , translated here as 'valour', in the quote from verse 21 as 'capable', has a wide range of meanings. It is used to describe the Woman of Valour in Proverbs 31, to describe Bo'az (Ruth 2:1) and by Bo'az to describe Ruth (Ruth 3:11). It can mean 'competent' or 'resourceful' (Hirsch), 'leadership qualities' or 'efficient' (Ramban), 'strong' (Ibn Janach), 'strong-hearted' or 'confident' (Ralbag), 'wealthy' (Rashi), or simply 'status' (Rashbam). This is a collection of qualities that describe someone who not only has scholarship skills but is wealthy enough to be above a bribe or financial influence, who is a natural and resourceful leader, who has the strength of character to be both compassionate and fair, who can be respected by the community as of excellent reputation and integrity. So perhaps Moshe summed his choice up in one word rather than four!

Rav Sha'ul wrote to his friend and disciple Timothy about the qualities he should encourage in the people of G-d, that "when the men pray, no matter where, they should lift up hands that are holy - they should not become angry or get into arguments" (1 Timothy 2:8, CJB). There is an echo of Psalm 24 here: "clean hands and a pure heart", as Sha'ul stresses the spiritual and behavioural characteristics of one who worships G-d. "Likewise, the women, when they pray, should be dressed modestly and sensibly in respectable attire" (1 Timothy 2:9, CJB). Nothing outlandish here, no unreasonable restrictions, just a simple focus on being quiet, normal decent people behaving sensibly towards each other. The following verses go on to list the qualities that mark out leaders and officers/servants within the community - qualities that seem very reasonable for all of us - and Sha'ul sums up by saying, "I am writing these things so that ... you may know how someone should behave in the household of G-d" (1 Timothy 3:14-15, CJB) thus establishing a pattern for all of us to live and share our lives together in the body of Messiah.

Further Study: 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 2:1-10

Application: Are you living your life in a way that is consistent with Scripture? In the modern world, where competitiveness and a certain ruthless drive to succeed and to stand out from the crowd are considered de rigeur, we are called to be different, to show those qualities that G-d values. Think about your lifestyle today!

© Jonathan Allen, 2006

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