16 ¶ Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. 18 And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day? 19 And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. 20 And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. 22 And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
The priest of Midian, we will come to know as Reuel and as Jethro. It is not uncommon for a person to have two names. For instance, my brother’s name is Douglas and also Brent as at different times of his life, for various reasons, he has preferred one over the other. In addition, we have seen that some names in the Bible that appear to be given names are actually titles. It is possible that either Jethro or Reuel is a title or it is likely that they are both names for the same person.
I suspect Reuel is a personal name, used only once here, regarding his daughters, and Jethro, which we will come to later, is a more formal name.
Moses, a bold man, probably skilled in the warrior arts of Egypt, defended the daughters of the priest of Midian in their efforts to feed their own flock of sheep against shepherds who apparently bullied them. He was given sanctuary by the priest of Midian and eventually a daughter to take as a wife, named Zipporah. She bare him a son named Gershom, which in the context means a stranger in a strange land to be understood as a foreigner. Moses suffers the worse kind of alienation. He did not belong anywhere. As the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter he was always a Hebrew yet his own people regarded him as a member of the oppressing Egyptians and now he has fled as a fugitive to seek refuge in a desert place with people who were not his people. Sometimes, we know that God has to bring us to a desert place in our lives to prepare us for His use, a state of mind where we feel as if we have no place where we belong.
The stage is being set by God for some great events in God’s plan of reconciling man to Himself, nothing like of which has been seen since the Flood of Noah’s time or the dispersal at Babel.
23 ¶ And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.
The Pharaoh that sought to kill Moses has died. But, the descendants of Jacob are still struggling as slaves under hard work. They prayed to God for deliverance. It must have been pretty painful. We have only to look at our own experience with racial slavery in America to see how awful it can be to live under those conditions; a despised, hated race serving in hard bondage to masters and mistresses who can have you killed and do whatever they wish to your person. But, God’s plan is unfolding in His own time.
We do not know who these Pharaohs were although many have tried to guess. One problem is that kings were not liable to make monuments to their defeats only their victories. In fact, like the communist North Vietnamese in the war with America and South Vietnam who declared every defeat a victory, it is more likely that the ancient kings would twist the truth to glorify themselves. Be careful about accepting scholarly opinions which are based on limited and tainted evidence as most of the truth of history is buried in the dust and no amount of archaeologists’ spades and shovels will ever dig it up. Trust the Bible only, God’s preserved words given to us for our learning and understanding. As Paul explained the purpose of these histories of God’s ministry of reconciliation of man to Himself;
Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.