Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people.
And the people stood about Moses from the morning unto evening.”

Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. Chapter 18 speaks of Moses’ reunion with his wife, two sons, and father-in-law.
Abravanel notes that due to the leader’s inordinately busy schedule, he only managed to take one day
off to spend with family. After that, Moses was back at the grind.

Jethro observed his son-in-law’s arduous hours serving the Hebrews, and asked him: “What is this thing
that you do to the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand about you from morning unto
evening?” Abravanel fills in the details regarding Moses’ intense workload, listing the prophet’s manifold
duties that gave him no respite. A close reading of the verses reveals much, as we shall now illustrate.

“And Moses said unto his father-in-law: Because the people come unto me to inquire of God.” This,
according to Abravanel, stresses Moses as man of God. That is, the Jews waited in line to speak with
Moses in order to learn of the future. Hence, if someone was sick, he would ask if the disease would
subside, or kill him? Perhaps, someone might inquire of the prophet if he could tell him to where his
animals scampered off? Seeing that Moses was privy to “inside information”, if you will, those
individuals who were distressed waited in cue to get answers to pressing, personal needs.

Moses also advised people who worked in the camp’s administration or tribal councils. They sought
sagely counsel from their leader concerning travel logistics, for example, or other administrative issues.

Still others required Moses’ legal mind to sort out folk’s quarrels and questions of torts etc., as it says:
“When they have a matter, it comes unto me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor.”

In addition, Moses attracted another category of visitors. We refer to students who sought to learn
God’s teachings. “And I make them know the statutes of God and His law.” Although Jethro and the
family arrived prior to the Law giving event at Sinai, still Moses had received some divine statutes at
Marah. Eager pupils desired to grasp God’s ethos, His law.

Abravanel ties the discussion all together. Moses, he writes, wore four hats, per se. In his role as a
trusted prophet, he revealed the future. As leader par excellence, he advised others how to govern
wisely. Sitting on the court’s bench, he mediated judiciously. Finally, as a pedagogue, Moses
disseminated Torah, educating students in the intricacies of law.

Abravanel’s World discusses more of Jethro’s concerns and solutions, so that Moses and the Hebrews
would function maximally and smoothly.