Appointing Moshe's Assistants in
Shemot 18, Bemidbar 11, and Devarim 1


Three Accounts

Three different chapters in the Torah (Shemot 18, Bemidbar 11, and Devarim 1) describe how Moshe was overwhelmed by the needs of the Children of Israel, and needed to appoint assistants to share in the burden. The accompanying table shows that the stories of Shemot 18 and Bemidbar 11 differ significantly from each other,1 while Moshe's retelling in his farewell address in Devarim 1 appears to fuse elements from both of the earlier accounts.2 What is the relationship between these three stories?

Perhaps the simplest option is to assume that Shemot 18 and Bemidbar 11 recount two different events; otherwise, why would the Torah confuse the reader by telling the same story twice. However, this approach must grapple with why Moshe is overwhelmed by the burden of the nation again in Bemidbar 11, if a solution had already been proposed and implemented in Shemot 18. Additionally, Devarim 1's combination of the two earlier stories may indicate that they are connected to each other. This leads some exegetes to explore the possibility that all three accounts overlap and provide different perspectives on the same or simultaneous events.