|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
His excellence, or gain, a prince or priest of Midian, who succeeded his father Reuel. Moses spent forty years after his exile from the Egyptian court as keeper of Jethro's flocks. While the Israelites were encamped at Sinai, and soon after their victory over Amalek, Jethro came to meet Moses, bringing with him Zipporah and her two sons. They met at the "mount of God," and "Moses told him all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh" (Exodus 18:8). On the following day Jethro, observing the multiplicity of the duties devolving on Moses, advised him to appoint subordinate judges, rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens, to decide smaller matters, leaving only the weightier matters to be referred to Moses, to be laid before the Lord. This advice Moses adopted (Exodus 18). He was also called Hobab (q.v.), which was probably his personal name, while Jethro was an official name. (see MOSES.)
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
jeth'-ro, je'-thro (yithro, "excellence," Exodus 3:1; Exodus 4:18 b; 18:1-12 (in 4:18a, probably a textual error, yether, "Iether," the King James Version margin, the Revised Version margin); Septuagint always Iothor): The priest of Midian and father-in-law (chothen) of Moses.
1. His Relation to Reuel and Hobab:
It is not easy to determine the relation of Jethro to Reuel and Hobab. If we identify Jethro with Reuel as in Exodus 2:18; Exodus 3:1 (and in Ant, III, iii; V, ii, 3), we must connect "Moses' father-in-law" in Numbers 10:29 immediately with "Reuel" (the King James Version "Raguel"), and make Hobab the brother-in-law of Moses. But while it is possible that chothen may be used in the wider sense of a wife's relative, it is nowhere translated "brother-in-law" except in Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11 ("father-in-law," the King James Version, the Revised Version margin). If we insert, as Ewald suggests (HI, II, 25), "Jethro son of" before "Reuel" in Exodus 2:18 (compare the Septuagint, verse 16, where the name "Jethro" is given), we would then identify Jethro with Hobab, the son of Reuel, in Numbers 10:29, taking "Moses' father-in-law" to refer back to Hobab. Against this identification, however, it is stated that Jethro went away into his own country without any effort on the part of Moses to detain him (Exodus 18:27), whereas Hobab, though at first he refused to remain with the Israelites, seems to have yielded to the pleadings of Moses to become their guide to Canaan (Numbers 10:29-32 Judges 1:16, where Kittel reads "Hobab the Kenite"; Judges 4:11). It may be noted that while the father-in-law of Moses is spoken of as a "Midianite" in Exodus, he is called a"Kenite" in Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11. From this Ewald infers that the Midianites were at that time intimately blended with the Amalekites, to which tribe the Kenites belonged (HI, II, 44).
2. His Hearty Reception of Moses:
When Moses fled from Egypt he found refuge in Midian, where he received a hearty welcome into the household of Jethro on account of the courtesy and kindness he had shown to the priest's 7 daughters in helping them to water their flock. This friendship resulted in Jethro giving Moses his daughter, Zipporah, to wife (Exodus 2:15-21). After Moses had been for about 40 years in the service of his father-in-law, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush as he was keeping the flock at Horeb, commanding him to return to Egypt and deliver his enslaved brethren out of the hands of Pharaoh (Exodus 3:1). With Jethro's consent Moses left Midian to carry out the Divine commission (Exodus 4:18).
3. His Visit to Moses in the Wilderness:
When tidings reached Midian of "all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel" in delivering them from Egyptian bondage, Jethro, with a natural pride in the achievements of his relative, set out on a visit to Moses, taking Zipporah and her two sons with him (Exodus 18:1-12). On learning of his father-in-law's arrival at the "mount of God," Moses went out to meet him, and after a cordial exchange of courtesies they retired to Moses' tent, where a pleasant interview took place between them. We are told of the interest Jethro felt in all the particulars of the great deliverance, how he "rejoiced for all the goodness which Yahweh had done to Israel," and how the conviction was wrought within him that Yahweh was "greater than all gods; yea, in the thing wherein they dealt proudly against them" (Exodus 18:11). In this condition so expressed there is evidently a reference to the element by which the Egyptians thought in their high-handed pursuit they would be able to bring back Israel into bondage, but by which they were themselves overthrown.
It is worth noting that in the religious service in which Jethro and Moses afterward engaged, when Jethro, as priest, offered a burnt offering, and Aaron with all the elders of Israel partook of the sacrificial feast, prominence was given to Jethro over Aaron, and thus a priesthood was recognized beyond the limits of Israel.
4. His Wise Counsel:
This visit of Jethro to Moses had important consequences for the future government of Israel (Exodus 18:13-27). The priest of Midian became concerned about his son-in-law when he saw him occupied from morning to night in deciding the disputes that had arisen among the people. The labor this entailed, Jethro said, was far too heavy a burden for one man to bear. Moses himself would soon be worn out, and the people, too, would become weary and dissatisfied, owing to the inability of one judge to overtake all the eases that were brought before him. Jethro, therefore, urged Moses to make use of the talents of others and adopt a plan of gradation of judges who would dispose of all eases of minor importance, leaving only the most difficult for him to settle by a direct appeal to the will of God. Moses, recognizing the wisdom of his father-in-law's advice, readily acted upon his suggestion and appointed "able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens." Thereafter, Jethro returned to his own country.
5. His Character and Influence:
The story of Jethro reveals him as a man of singular attractiveness and strength, in whom a kind, considerate disposition, a deeply religious spirit, and a wise judgment all met in happy combination. And this ancient priest of Midian made Israel and all nations his debtors when he taught the distinction between the legislative and the judicial function, and the importance of securing that all law be the expression of the Divine will, and that its application be entrusted only to men of ability, piety, integrity and truth (Exodus 18:21).
Jethro (10 Occurrences)
Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God's mountain, to Horeb. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Exodus 4:18 Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, "Please let me go and return to my brothers who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive." Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Exodus 18:1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, how that Yahweh had brought Israel out of Egypt. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Exodus 18:2 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, received Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her away, (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Exodus 18:5 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the Mountain of God. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Exodus 18:6 He said to Moses, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, have come to you with your wife, and her two sons with her." (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Exodus 18:9 Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which Yahweh had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Exodus 18:10 Jethro said, "Blessed be Yahweh, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh; who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
Exodus 18:12 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God. Aaron came with all of the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Exodus 18:27 Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way into his own land. (See NIV)