Jethro (Bible)

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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 referred to as Hobab in the Book of Numbers.[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]

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, Ismail (is not consider an Arab Prophet) 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]

Unlike the account in the Hebrew Bible, Islam does not closely associate Shuaib with Musa, also honoured as a Prophet of Islam.

Shuaib is particularly central in the rites and pilgimages of the Druze religion.


  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

See also[edit]

External links[edit]