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Jethro (biblical figure)

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Jethro and Moses (watercolor circa 1900 by James Tissot)

In the Hebrew Bible, Jethro (/ˈɛθr/; Hebrew: יִתְרוֹ, Modern: Yītrō, Tiberian: Yīṯrō, lit. "His Excellence/Posterity"; Arabic: يثرون, romanizedYaṯrūn) was Moses' father-in-law, a Kenite shepherd and priest of Midian,[1] sometimes called Reuel (or Raguel).[2] In Exodus, Moses' father-in-law is initially referred to as "Reuel" (Exodus 2:18) but afterwards as "Jethro" (Exodus 3:1). He was also identified as the father of Hobab in Numbers 10:29, though Judges 4:11 identifies him as Hobab.[3][4][5]

Muslim scholars and the Druze identify Jethro with the prophet Shuayb, also said to come from Midian.[6][7][8] For the Druze, Shuayb is considered the most important prophet, and the ancestor of all Druze.[9][10]

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, northwestern 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, having killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Having fled to Midian, Moses intervened in a water-access dispute between Jethro's seven daughters and the local shepherds; Jethro consequently invited Moses into his home and offered him hospitality. However, Moses remained conscious that he was a stranger in exile, naming his first son (Jethro's grandson) "Gershom", meaning "stranger there".

Moses is said to have worked as a shepherd for Jethro for 40 years before returning to Egypt to lead the Hebrews to Canaan, the "promised land". After the Battle at Rephidim against the Amalekites, word reached Jethro that under Moses' leadership the Israelites had been delivered out of Egypt, so he set out to meet with Moses. They met in the wilderness at the "Mountain of God";[11] Moses recounted to Jethro all that had taken place, and then, according to Exodus 18:9–12a:

Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.

And Jethro said, "Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them".

Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God.[12]

Following this event, it was Jethro who encouraged Moses to appoint fellows to share the burden of ministering to the Israelites by allowing others to help in judging smaller matters.

These events take place in the Torah portion Yitro (Exodus 18:1–20:23).


There is some disagreement over the name(s) of Moses' father-in-law. When he is first mentioned in Exodus 2:16, his name is Reuel, or Raguel in translations of the Septuagint. In Exodus 3:1, he is called Jethro, and in Exodus 4:18 he is called both Jether and Jethro. In Judges 4:11, a man named Hobab appears as Moses' brother-in-law, while Numbers 10:29 calls Hobab "the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father in law", which scholars have considered more likely.[13]

In Jewish tradition, these discrepancies were explained in the belief that the father-in-law of Moses had seven names: "Reuel", "Jether", "Jethro", "Hobab", "Heber", "Keni" (comp. Judges i. 16, iv. 11), and "Putiel"; Eleazar's father-in-law (Ex. vi. 25) being identified with Jethro by interpreting his name either as "he who abandoned idolatry" or as "who fattened calves for the sake of sacrifices to the idol".[14][15]

According to some modern scholars, "Jethro" was a title meaning "His Excellency", and that "Reuel" was his personal, given name.[16]


Jethro, Moses' non-Hebrew father-in-law, is a central figure, particularly in the rites and pilgrimages, of the Druze religion.[17][18] He is called Shuayb and viewed as the most important prophet for the Druze.[19][20]

Nabi Shuʿayb is the site recognized by Druze as the tomb of Shuʿayb. It is located at Hittin in the Lower Galilee and is the holiest shrine and most important pilgrimage site for the Druze.[21][22] Each year on 25 April, the Druze gather at the site in a holiday known as Ziyarat al-Nabi Shuʿayb to discuss community affairs and commemorate the anniversary of Jethro's death with singing, dancing and feasting.[23][24] Another Druze shrine in Ein Qiniyye is the supposed burial place of Jethro's sister, Sit Shahwana.[25]

Jethro is revered as the chief prophet in the Druze religion.[26][8] They believe he was a "hidden" and "true prophet" who communicated directly with God and then passed on that knowledge to Moses, whom they describe as a "recognised" and "revealed prophet."[27][28] According to Druze belief, Moses was allowed to wed Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, after helping save his daughters and their flock from competing herdsmen. He is also considered an ancestor of the Druze;[9] as is expressed by such prominent Druze as Amal Nasser el-Din,[29] and according to Salman Tarif, who was a prominent Druze shaykh, this makes the Druze related to the Jews through marriage.[30] This view has been used to represent an element of the special relationship between Israeli Jews and Druze.[31] The Israeli Druze also have a folktale called "Jethro's revenge on the [Sunni Muslim] inhabitants of the village of Hittin."[32] In Islam he is mentioned in the Quran as a prophet who was sent to the city of Midian. His people were destroyed because of their corruption except for the believers. He is thought to be the father-in-law for prophet Moses.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  2. ^ Meyers, Carol (1 March 2018). Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Newsom, Carol A.; Perkins, Pheme (eds.). The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Fifth ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 81–83. ISBN 978-0-19-027605-8. Like the rest of the Pentateuch, Exodus contains contradictions and redundancies. For example, Moses' father-in-law is sometimes called Reuel and sometimes Jethro; and the mountain of revelation is Sinai in some passages and Horeb in others.
  3. ^ Harris, Stephen (20 January 2010). Understanding The Bible (8 ed.). McGraw-Hill Education. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-07-340744-9. J names Moses' father-in-law as Reuel or Hobab, whereas E knows him as Jethro, priest of Midian.
  4. ^ "Judges 4 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre". www.mechon-mamre.org. Archived from the original on 10 April 2022. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  5. ^ Hamilton, Victor P. (2008). Handbook on the Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther. Baker Publishing Group. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-4412-0569-8. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  6. ^ Corduan, Winfried (2013). Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions. InterVarsity Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-8308-7197-1.
  7. ^ Mackey, Sandra (2009). Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-3933-3374-9.
  8. ^ a b Lev, David (25 October 2010). "MK Kara: Druze are Descended from Jews". Israel National News. Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  9. ^ a b Blumberg, Arnold (1985). Zion Before Zionism: 1838–1880. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p. 201. ISBN 0-8156-2336-4.
  10. ^ Rosenfeld, Judy (1952). Ticket to Israel: An Informative Guide. p. 290.
  11. ^ Exod 18:5
  12. ^ Exod: 18:9–12a NKJV
  13. ^ Clarke, Adam, Commentary on The Holy Bible, Abingdon Press, Nashville, vol. 1, pp. 300–301.
  14. ^ Ex. R. xxvii. 7; Mek., Yitro, 'Amaleḳ, 1; Tan., Shemot, 11; comp. Targ. pseudo-Jonathan to Ex. vi. 25 and Soṭah 43a
  15. ^ http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=258&letter=J&search=Jethro#1035 JewishEncyclopedia.com – JETHRO
  16. ^ "JETHRO - JewishEncyclopedia.com". jewishencyclopedia.com.
  17. ^ Robert Ullian (5 November 2010). Frommer's Israel (6 ed.). John Wiley & Sons. p. 422. ISBN 9780470934388.
  18. ^ Thomas, Amelia (2010). Israel and the Palestinian Territories. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-7422-0351-5.
  19. ^ Timothy Hogan (1 March 2012). Entering the Chain of Union. Lulu.com. pp. 213–14. ISBN 9781105594236. According to traditional Druze oral teaching, certain souls in antiquity came to earth (and by some accounts to Egypt in particular) and they all agreed to reincarnate until all humanity had attained Gnosis, or Divine Knowledge of God. The names of these souls were then engraved on two tablets, which were then placed inside two hollow pillars – one to withstand fire and one to withstand water. According to their tradition, Jethro was one of these souls, and he initiated Moses into the tradition. Consequently, Jethro is revered by Druze as one of their greatest Prophets.
  20. ^ Sol Scharfstein (1 January 1994). Understanding Israel (illustrated ed.). KTAV Publishing House, Inc. p. 22. ISBN 9780881254280.
  21. ^ Phil Karber (18 June 2012). Fear and Faith in Paradise: Exploring Conflict and Religion in the Middle East. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 86. ISBN 9781442214798.
  22. ^ Norbert C. Brockman (13 September 2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places [2 volumes] (2, reprint, revised ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 259. ISBN 9781598846553.
  23. ^ "Historical Sites". Archived from the original on 10 May 2006.
  24. ^ Rivka Gonen (2000). Biblical Holy Places: An Illustrated Guide (illustrated, reprint ed.). Paulist Press. p. 212. ISBN 9780809139743.
  25. ^ Rivka Gonen (2000). Biblical Holy Places: An Illustrated Guide (illustrated, reprint ed.). Paulist Press. p. 85. ISBN 9780809139743.
  26. ^ Sandra Mackey (16 March 2009). Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict (illustrated, reprint ed.). W. W. Norton & Company. p. 28. ISBN 9780393333749.
  27. ^ Alex Weingrod (1 January 1985). Studies in Israeli Ethnicity: After the Ingathering. Taylor & Francis. p. 273. ISBN 9782881240072. The Druze believe that prior to the full revelation of the true religion in the 11th century, there had been a series of "true prophets" whose identities were masked behind that of the "revealed prophet", and through whom they imparted a partial revelation. In accordance with this belief, they claim that Jethro/Shu'eyb was the "true" concealed prophet behind the secondary, revealed prophet, Moses.
  28. ^ Rivka Gonen (2000). Biblical Holy Places: An Illustrated Guide (illustrated, reprint ed.). Paulist Press. p. 212. ISBN 9780809139743. The Druze believe that in every generation a prophet appears who is recognized as such by the people but he, in fact, receives his inspiration from a hidden prophet who communicates directly with God. The Druze believe that Jethro was the hidden prophet who inspired Moses, the recognized prophet.
  29. ^ Mordechai Nisan (1 January 2002). Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 282. ISBN 9780786451333.
  30. ^ Eugene L. Rogan; Avi Shlaim (2001). The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 (illustrated, reprint ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 72. ISBN 9780521794763.
  31. ^ Alex Weingrod (1 January 1985). Studies in Israeli Ethnicity: After the Ingathering. Taylor & Francis. p. 273. ISBN 9782881240072.
  32. ^ Kais Firro (1999). The Druzes in the Jewish State: A Brief History (illustrated ed.). BRILL. p. 240. ISBN 9789004112513.

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