Does the Bible support the
concept of mentoring? What references to mentors and mentees can
we find in scripture? What principles, if any, can we learn from
Although the Bible doesn’t use the words mentor, mentee,
or mentoring, it frequently refers to what we believe are successful
mentoring relationships: Jesus and His disciples, Barnabas and
Paul, Paul and Timothy, Naomi and Ruth, Elijah and Elisha, Moses
and Joshua, Deborah and Barak, Elizabeth and Mary (the mother
of Jesus), and many others. All are powerful examples of pairs
and the God-inspired actions they took to help each other
Moses and Joshua (Mentor and Mentee) aptly illustrate a successful
mentoring partnership. Moses demonstrated the wisdom of a mentor
by deciding to delegate an important task (Exodus 17:9). He placed
one of his soldiers, Joshua, in command of a battle with the Amalekites
over a water dispute. In making this decision, Moses demonstrated
trust in Joshua’s gifts and leadership potential. He opened
the way for their ongoing teamwork. This is the first time this
“mentor” asked someone else to lead an attack, one
of many that his “mentee” Joshua would command.
Did they sit down and negotiate this developmental relationship,
calling each other mentor and mentee? Probably not. It’s
more likely that Moses wasn’t cognizant of applying mentoring
principles and didn’t necessarily regard Joshua as his mentee.
Yet the ingredients of mentoring were there, and Joshua entered
a relationship with a respected man that changed Joshua’s
Following this successful assignment, Joshua became a frequent
companion of Moses. Even though he was called a servant (e.g.,
Exodus 24:13, 33:11), he was actually more of a colleague. (Notice
Exodus 3:11. Joshua refused to leave with Moses, something that
would not have been permitted of a servant.) Their mentoring
relationship deepened, and Joshua gained valuable knowledge, skills,
We find evidence that their mutual trust increased when Moses
allowed his mentee to accompany him to an important meeting .
. . with none other than God! (Exodus 24:13-14) We’re not
sure that Joshua was actually with Moses in the presence of the
Lord, but we know for certain that he was on the mountain (Exodus
32:17) and talked with Moses on their return to the camp. Imagine
the incredible lessons Joshua received that day!
Moses took Joshua to another meeting in a special tent where
Moses spoke with God again. Joshua chose to stay at the tent after
Moses left to return to camp (Exodus 33:11). Joshua remained on
his own in the presence of God. Moses demonstrated significant
trust by not interfering in this major opportunity for Joshua.
Moses continued to offer Joshua opportunities to develop. He
assigned him (along with 11 other men) to spy out the Promised
Land. The mentor gave him a job that required a plan, teamwork,
and a report (Numbers 13:16). Moses probably also provided some
suggestions for how to carry out this plan.
Finally, Moses affirmed his mentee by commissioning Joshua in
the presence of the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:7-8). He
gave Joshua public recognition for the lessons he learned. What’s
more, Moses conferred power on his mentee, and vacated his position
to him. Their formal mentoring relationship ended. When Moses
died, Joshua was appointed as the new leader of Israel and later
took his people into the Promised Land (Numbers 27:15-23).
Moses provided a great lesson in how to transfer leadership.
A time comes to either step aside to allow our successors to lead
in our place or allow them to move on to a place of leadership
elsewhere. Moses gave the proper direction, teaching, and recognition
to prepare Joshua to fulfill his role in life.
The mentoring relationship of Moses and Joshua was very task-and-performance
oriented. They provide clear-cut illustrations of several excellent
- assigning the mentee preliminary stretch tasks;
- depending on the mentee’s initial performance, making
additional assignments requiring more skills and responsibilities;
- inviting him (or her) to key events;
- allowing the mentee to observe the mentor in action;
- affirming the mentee for achievements; and
- stepping aside to let the mentee succeed.
For more information on Biblical examples of mentoring, see What
the Bible Teaches about Mentoring: A Case for Discipling with
a Capital D.