1. What led to Moses’ action described at Deuteronomy 1:12, 13?
ISRAEL was on the plains of Moab, poised to cross the Jordan and enter the land of Canaan. For their benefit, Moses recounted God’s dealings with them during their 40 years in the Sinai wilderness. The early part of that period had been a stormy one, particularly for Moses, due to wrong attitudes prevailing among the nation. Now, Moses reminded them that, feeling unable to carry any longer the burden of a quarreling people by himself, he had followed the counsel of Jethro and had said to the people: “Get wise and discreet and experienced men of your tribes, that I may set them as heads over you.”—Deut. 1:3, 12, 13; Ex. 18:17-26.
2. Why was the use of such men in handling problems not something radically new and different?
2 In selecting these men, Moses was drawing on what appears to be the oldest form of community direction. Bodies or councils of elders are shown to have functioned among ancient peoples from the earliest stages of human history. In their own experience, the Israelites, as descendants of Jacob, had earlier contact with elder bodies of Egypt, Moab and Midian. (Gen. 50:7; Num. 22:4, 7) Sheiks of Arabian peoples were also tribal elders, for the Arabic word sheikh means simply “elder,” or “older man.” (Gen. 36:15) Before Moses was commissioned to lead the people, Israel already had such elders, and it was to them that Moses was instructed to present the evidence of his divine appointment. (Ex. 3:16, 18) So Moses’ later action in Sinai, availing himself of the aid of elders to decentralize the handling of problems, was not a major innovation.
[Chart on page 17]
Israelite elders Christian elders
To be capable, wise To be qualified to teach, able
to exhort and reprove
fearing God righteous, lover of goodness,
holding firmly to faithful
word in teaching
trustworthy free from accusation, loyal,
fine testimony from outsiders
hating unjust profit not greedy of dishonest gain
or lover of money
discreet moderate in habits, sound in
experienced father of family (in many
cases), not new convert