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Who was Jethro in the Bible?

Jethro, also referred to as Reuel (Exodus 2:18), is the priest of Midian who owned flocks (Exodus 2:16) and became Moses' father-in-law (Exodus 2:21). After Moses killed an Egyptian, he fled to Midian (Exodus 2:15). There, he witnessed shepherds harassing women trying to water their own flocks at a well, and Moses came to the women's defense (Exodus 2:17). When these women, who happened to be Jethro's daughters, recounted the ordeal to their father, Jethro invited Moses to stay with him (Exodus 2:20–21). Moses eventually married Jethro's daughter Zipporah and had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer (Exodus 18:3–4).

Jethro, being a Midianite, was a fellow descendant of Abraham. After Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah, who bore six sons, one of whom was Midian (Genesis 25:1–6). Jethro was not only a distant relative of Moses, but also seems to have continued worshipping the one true God of Abraham. Jethro's faithfulness to Abraham's God can be seen in what he taught his daughters. His daughter Zipporah was obviously familiar with the covenant of circumcision because she performed the rite on their son when Moses was facing God's anger apparently for not having carried out this command (Exodus 4:24–26). Jethro "rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel" (Exodus 18:9) and he "brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God" (Exodus 18:12). It seems, then, that Jethro was related to Moses both through blood and through shared faith in God (Exodus 18:10–12).

Jethro was an upstanding man and an exemplary father-in-law. He practiced hospitality inviting Moses to stay with him. He wished Moses well when Moses followed God's call to return to Egypt (Exodus 4:18). He protected his daughter and grandsons when Moses sent them back to Midian (Exodus 18:2–4). Jethro even shared sound advice with his son-in-law. When he saw Moses "sit alone [as judge], and all the people stand around [him] from morning till evening" (Exodus 18:14), Jethro suggested Moses delegate the easier cases to other capable men and only take on the more complex cases. He explained, "So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you" (Exodus 18:22). After safely returning his daughter and grandsons to his son-in-law Moses at Mount Horeb and seeing things were in order there, Jethro "went away to his own country" (Exodus 18:27). Thus Jethro acts as a model father-in-law and grandfather: welcoming his new son-in-law as part of the family, releasing them to follow God's leading, providing care and protection for his daughter and grandchildren as needed, sharing sound advice to support his son-in-law's success—all without being meddlesome or overbearing.

Perhaps Jethro's faithfulness to Abraham's God and his actions supporting Moses' role in serving God is why Jethro is also referred to as Reuel. Reuel means "friend of God" and Jethro, the priest of Midian, certainly lived up to that name.

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