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Shemot/Exodus 18:1 And Yitro, the priest of Midyan, Moshe's father-in-law, heard
What could it have been that Yitro heard that made him come out to Moshe and the people in the desert and, at least according to tradition, be prepared to convert to Judaism?Rashi points out that Chazal say it was two things: the parting of the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds) and the war with Amalek (b. Zevachim 116a). The battle with Amalek is assumed, as it is the last thing the Torah tells us about in the previous parasha (Shemot 17:8-15) and the parting of the Sea because it was a miracle that Moshe had prophesied that the whole (known) world would hear about: "The peoples have heard, and they tremble ... all those living in Kena'an are melted away" (Shemot 15:14-15, CJB). Forty years later, the inn-keeper Rachav tells Joshua's spies, "Fear of you has fallen on us ... we've heard how Adonai dried up the water in the Yam Suf ahead of you, when you left Egypt" (Joshua 2:9-10, CJB); the Canaanites were still talking about it.
Hundreds of years on, Isaiah reminds our people of the same thing, "Who divided the waters before them ... Who led them through the depths" (Isaiah 63:12-13, NASB), and Stephen alludes to it in his testimony before the Sanhedrin, "wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea" (Acts 7:36, NASB). Rav Sha'ul uses it in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 10:1-2); the writer to the Hebrews cites it as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:29) and it is still in synagogue currency to this day! Here is an event which has captured the heart and imagination of not only our people but generations of believers, notwithstanding the sceptics who would try to tell us of freak tidal waves or of a crossing further north in the shallows of the Delta. G-d moved in history, over 3000 years ago, and people the world over are still talking about it.
At the beginning of Matthew's gospel we read about some other travellers who said, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him" (Matthew 2:2, NASB). Here were magi, wise men, possibly astrologers, who had heard of what G-d was doing and, just like Yitro, came from a distance to find out what was going on. Once again, G-d had broken through into this world and it was already impacting peoples' lives so that they had to respond in some way. And, just as our people are still talking about the wayHaShem parted the Yam Suf so that we could walk through on dry land, so people the world over are still talking about the Baby who was born in Beit Lechem 2000 years ago and 33 years later died on the stake to bring atonement not just for our people, but for the sins of the world.
Further Study: Isaiah 40:7-8; Matthew 24:32-35
Application: Yitro and the Magi had to leave where they were and what they were doing to travel some distance in order to respond to what they had heard, but did not hesitate or delay. How have you responded to the news that you have heard about Yeshua?
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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