Questions From Readers
● What kind of priest was Jethro, who is referred to at Exodus 3:1?
According to Exodus 3:1, “Moses became a shepherd of the flock of Jethro, the priest of Midian, whose son-in-law he was.” Jethro was evidently the patriarchal leader of a tribe of Midianites and, as such, in keeping with the custom of those times, was responsible to teach and lead them in all religious and secular matters. How pure the practice of their religion was we are not informed by the Scriptures. It should be kept in mind, however, that they had descended from Abraham by Keturah, the wife he took sometime after the death of Sarah. In Moses’ day they would still have memories of the pure worship that Abraham always enjoined upon his household, the worship of the true God, Jehovah. Indeed, the account in Exodus 18:1-24 indicates considerable appreciation of Jehovah as God on the part of Jethro, for he blesses Jehovah, offers sacrifice to him, and, in company with Moses and Aaron and the older men of Israel, eats bread before him. More than that, he gave Moses very good advice as to appointing “capable men, fearing God, trustworthy men, hating unjust profit,” to assist him in judging the people, and with this Moses immediately complied. At best, Jethro’s position as a priest was one of either natural inheritance from his forefathers or by appointment by his tribe, rather than by any special appointment by God.
● What is the significance of the command found in Exodus 23:19, “You must not boil a kid in its mother’s milk”?
This statute, in common with a number of others, seems to emphasize that there is a proper and fitting order in all matters, and that this should be adhered to. God provided the milk of the mother for the purpose of nourishing her young. To use it to boil her offspring would be using it to its harm and its death, the very opposite of that intended.
Another lesson that seems to be here intended for his covenant people is that they should be compassionate, not acting in a heartless manner. Jehovah has shown himself to be compassionate in all his dealings with his creatures, and he calls upon them to emulate his perfect example.
Still another possibility is that Jehovah was here steering his people clear of the senseless and hurtful practices of the heathen nations round about. According to The Bible and Archaeology (1940) by Sir Frederic Kenyon, the seething or boiling of a kid in its mother’s milk was a pagan ritual for producing rain.