Who Bowed to Who?

Parshat Yitro 5772

I am thinking of a man who I and many others consider to be a talmid chacham. I have learned from him and had the privilege for several years of having a private chevruta with him.

Yet, when I would walk over to him in the beit midrash, he would stand up to honor me!?!

Who should we honor? How should we show that honor?


This week’s parsha recounts the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. But first we are told about the meeting between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro.

Here is the translation from Judaica Press of Exodus 18:1-12:

Exodus Chapter 18

1 Now Moses’ father in law, Jethro, the chieftain of Midian, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, His people that the Lord had taken Israel out of Egypt.
2 So Moses’ father in law, Jethro, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after she had been sent away,
3 and her two sons, one of whom was named Gershom, because he [Moses] said, “I was a stranger in a foreign land,”
4 and one who was named Eliezer, because [Moses said,] “The God of my father came to my aid and rescued me from Pharaoh’s sword.”
5 Now Moses’ father in law, Jethro, and his [Moses’] sons and his wife came to Moses, to the desert where he was encamped, to the mountain of God.
6 And he said to Moses, “I, Jethro, your father in law, am coming to you, and [so is] your wife and her two sons with her.”
7 So Moses went out toward Jethro, prostrated himself and kissed him, and they greeted one another, and they entered the tent.
8 Moses told his father in law [about] all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians on account of Israel, [and about] all the hardships that had befallen them on the way, and [that] the Lord had saved them.
9 Jethro was happy about all the good that the Lord had done for Israel, that He had rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians.
10 [Thereupon,] Jethro said, “Blessed is the Lord, Who has rescued you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, Who has rescued the people from beneath the hand of the Egyptians.
11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the deities, for with the thing that they plotted, [He came] upon them.”
12 Then Moses’ father in law, Jethro, sacrificed burnt offering[s] and [peace] offerings to God, and Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to dine with Moses’ father in law before God.

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My Questions

Exodus 18:1

What did Jethro hear?

Exodus 18:6,7

Verse 6 states “and he said to Moses” but in Verse 7 it is written “and Moses went out to Jethro.” This implies that until Moses went out they were not close enough to speak to each other. How do we explain this contradiction?

Exodus 18:7

Who bowed to who? Who kissed who? Who greeted who?

The Judaica Press translation clearly states that Moses bowed to Jethro. However, the Hebrew could be understood to say that Jethro bowed to Moses.

Exodus 18:8

If Jethro had already heard, then why did Moses need to tell him?

Exodus 18:10

What is the difference between being saved “from the hand of Egypt” compared to being saved “from beneath the hand of Egypt”?

Exodus 18:11

Why does Jethro say, “Now I know …”?

Exodus 18:12

Why in this verse is Jethro again called father-in-law? Why twice? Why does this relationship need to be stressed?

Your Turn

Please share your questions and suggested answers in the comments.


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A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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3 thoughts on “Who Bowed to Who?”

  1. Shemot 18:10 What is the difference between being saved “from the hand of Egypt” compared to being saved “from beneath the hand of Egypt”?

    I think the former refers to the pursuit of our ancestors as they encamped at the Red Sea. And the later refers to their enslavement by the Egyptians for the period prior to Paro’s decision to release them from bondage.

    David Talbot
    Mesa, Arizona

    • David:
      Thanks for stopping by.
      I like your idea a lot.
      What you are suggesting does fit well with the wording at the beginning of the verse “from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of Paro.” Here, “hand” would mean the hand that was trying to grab them back.
      “Beneath the hand” would then mean the hand that was crushing them with servitude.


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