Jethro (Bible)

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This article is about the view of this character in the Hebrew Bible. For the view of him as a Prophet in Islam, see Shuayb (prophet).
For other uses, see Jethro.

In the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible, Jethro (/ˈɛθr/; Hebrew: יִתְרוֹ, Standard Yitro Tiberian Yiṯrô; "His Excellence/Posterity" ; Arabic شعيب Shu-ayb) is Moses' father-in-law, a Kenite shepherd and priest of Midian.[1] In Exodus 2:18 Jethro is also referred to as Reuel[2] and is the father of Hobab in the Book of Numbers 10:29.[3] He is also revered as a prophet in his own right in the Druze religion,[4] and considered an ancestor of the Druze.[5]

In Exodus[edit]

Moses takes his leave of Jethro by Jan Victors, c. 1635, from the incident in Exodus 4:18. Jethro is seated on the left, in red.

Jethro is called a priest of Midian and became father-in-law of Moses after he gave his daughter, Zipporah, in marriage to Moses. He is introduced in Exodus 2:18.

Jethro is recorded as living in Midian; a territory stretching along the eastern edge of the Gulf of Aqaba in what is today, northwestern Saudi Arabia. Some believe Midian is within the Sinai Peninsula. Biblical maps from antiquity show Midian on both locations.[citation needed]

Jethro's daughter, Zipporah, became Moses's wife after Moses had fled Egypt, after he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Moses is said to have worked as a shepherd for Jethro for 10 years before returning to Egypt to lead the Hebrews to Canaan, the "promised land". After Moses had begun to lead the Israelites on their Exodus, it was Jethro that encouraged Moses to appoint others to share in the burden of ministry to the nation Israel by allowing others to help in the judgment of smaller matters coming before him. This takes place in the Torah portion Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23).


There is some disagreement over the name(s) of Moses' father-in-law. In the KJV translation of Judges 4:11, a man named Hobab appears as Moses' father-in-law, while Numbers 10:29 makes him "the son of Raguel [Reuel] the Midianite, Moses' father in law". Reuel is noted Exodus 2:16, as "a priest of Midian" who had seven daughters. Exodus 2:18 "the girls returned to Reuel their father". Reuel becomes Moses' father in law in Exodus 2:21 "Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage." One thing to consider is that there is only one Biblical Hebrew word for both "brother-in-law" and "father-in-law" (chathan).[6] It is, in fact, the word for any and all relations by marriage. If one takes into account the Biblical custom of multiple names for one person as well as Judges 4:11 calling Hobab Reuel's son, Reuel and Jethro both appear as Moses' father-in-law,[7] while Hobab may be seen as his brother-in-law. However, this is disputed among theologians.[8][9]

Jethro in Islam[edit]

Main article: Shuaib

Under the name Shuaib or Shoaib or Shu'ayb, (Arabic: شعيب‎; meaning Who shows the right path), Jethro is revered as a Prophet of Islam[10] though Islam attributes to him many deeds not attested in the Bible. He is believed to have lived after Ibrahim, and Muslims believe that he was sent as a prophet to two communities, namely the Midianites [11] and the People of the Wood.[12] To both the people, Shuaib proclaimed the faith of Islam and warned the people to end their fraudulent ways. When they did not repent, Allah destroyed both communities.[13][14] Shuaib is understood by Muslims to have been one of the few Arabian prophets mentioned by name in the Quran, the others being Saleh, Hud, Ishmael and Muhammad. It is said that he was known by early Muslims as "the eloquent preacher amongst the prophets", because he was, according to Islamic tradition, granted talent and eloquence in his language.[15]

Almost similar to the account in the Hebrew Bible, Islam mentions Shuaib as the father-in-law of Musa.[16] However, unlike the account in the Hebrew Bible, the exact historic event that brought Musa and Jethro/Shuaib - although not mentioned by name - together is clearly described. In Surat Al-Qasas - The Stories - states:

"And when he directed himself toward Madyan/Midian, he said, "Perhaps my Lord will guide me to the sound way." And when he came to the well of Madyan, he found there a crowd of people watering [their flocks], and he found aside from them two women driving back [their flocks]. He said, "What is your circumstance?" They said, "We do not water until the shepherds dispatch [their flocks]; and our father is an old man." So he watered [their flocks] for them; then he went back to the shade and said, "My Lord, indeed I am, for whatever good You would send down to me, in need." Then one of the two women came to him walking with shyness. She said, "Indeed, my father invites you that he may reward you for having watered for us." So when he came to him and related to him the story, he said, "Fear not. You have escaped from the wrongdoing people." One of the women said, "O my father, hire him. Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong and the trustworthy." He said, "Indeed, I wish to wed you one of these, my two daughters, on [the condition] that you serve me for eight years; but if you complete ten, it will be [as a favor] from you. And I do not wish to put you in difficulty. You will find me, if Allah wills, from among the righteous." [Moses] said, "That is [established] between me and you. Whichever of the two terms I complete - there is no injustice to me, and Allah , over what we say, is Witness." —Quran, sura 28 (Al-Qasas), ayat 22-28[17]

Shuaib is particularly central in the rites and pilgimages of the Druze religion.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Lev, David (25 October 2010). "MK Kara: Druze are Descended from Jews". Israel National News. Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Blumberg, Arnold (1985). Zion Before Zionism: 1838-1880. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p. 201. ISBN 0-8156-2336-4. 
  6. ^ Strong's number 2859
  7. ^ Exodus|2:21|NIV,Exodus|18:1,2,5,6,12,27|NIV
  8. ^ Parallel Translations of Judges 4:11 with commentaries
  9. ^ Parallel Translations of Numbers 10:29 with commentaries
  10. ^ Brandon M. Wheeler, Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Shuayb, pg. 303
  11. ^ Quran 7:85-93
  12. ^ Quran 26:176-177
  13. ^ Quran 7:85–91
  14. ^ Quran 26:189
  15. ^ Stories of The Prophets, Ibn Kathir, pg. 220
  16. ^ Quran 28:22-28
  17. ^

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