Israel's Civil Government
Midian was one of the children of Abraham and Keturah (see Abraham's Life After Sarah). Midian's descendants, the Midianites, settled in the territory east of the Jordan River (see The Jordan Valley) and The Dead Sea (much of which was later occupied by Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites) and southward through the desert wilderness of the Arabah. During the time of the Exodus, their territory also included portions of The Sinai Peninsula. After fleeing from Egypt, Moses married a Midianite woman, Zippporah, a daughter of Jethro (see Palace Prince To Sinai Shepherd).
"Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel"
Moses and Zipporah had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. When Moses returned to Egypt for The Exodus, his wife and children remained with Jethro. They were reunited afterward, as the Israelites encamped near Mount Sinai.
"18:1 When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses [see The Master's Messenger], and for Israel his people [see Let My People Go], and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt [see The LORD Is My Banner];
18:2 Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back, 18:3 And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land: 18:4 And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh [see Plagues Of The Pharaohs: Past and Future]:
18:5 And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness [see The Wilderness of Sin], where he encamped at the mount of God: 18:6 And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her." (Exodus 18:1-6 KJV)
Moses had genuine fondness and respect for Jethro who was a believer in the LORD i.e. "Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them."
"18:7 And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. 18:8 And Moses told his father in law all that the LORD had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the LORD delivered them.
18:9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 18:10 And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 18:11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them. 18:12 And Jethro, Moses' father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron [see Aaron: The Prophet's Prophet] came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father in law before God." (Exodus 18:7-12 KJV)
The Exodus gave birth to Israel as a national entity (Israel entered Egypt four centuries earlier merely as a family of seventy people - see The Goshen Refugees). They thereafter learned to work for themselves (see Manna For The Children) and to defend themselves (see The LORD Is My Banner) as a nation - under the LORD. They then learned to govern themselves as a nation - under the LORD. Jethro counselled Moses on how to establish a civil government, based on God's Law.
"18:13 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. 18:14 And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?
18:15 And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God: 18:16 When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws."
18:17 And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
18:18 Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. 18:19 Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: 18:20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: 18:22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. 18:23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace." (Exodus 18:17-23 KJV)
And so Israel's civil structure was founded - with the advice of Jethro the Midianite.
"18:24 So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.
18:25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 18:26 And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.
18:27 And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land." (Exodus 18:24-27 KJV)
Fact Finder: How did Israel's system of "Judges" later develop?
See The Judges; also the notes for Joshua 23-24, Judges 1, Judges 2-4, Judges 5-7, Judges 8-12, Judges 13-15, Judges 16-18 and Judges 19-21