Who Was Jethro In The Bible?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Who was the Jethro that is mentioned in the Bible?

Who is Jethro?

We have our first introduction of Jethro right after Moses had fled Egypt for killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew (Ex 2:11-12).  Moses escaped to Midian where “the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock” (Ex 2:16) and when some shepherds prevented the priest’s daughters from watering their sheep, “Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock” (Ex 2:17) so “they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock” (Ex 2:18-19) so Jethro (also called Reuel), the Midian priest, invited Moses to stay with him and Moses did.

Moses the Shepherd

Moses was hired by Jethro to help tend his sheep (Ex 3:1) when Moses had his first encounter with God in the burning bush and that changed everything for Moses.  God commanded Moses to bring His people, Israel, out of the land of Egypt and help deliver them from their cruel bondage so “Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace” (Ex 4:18). As you know, God delivered Israel out of Egypt and they were headed for the Promised Land, although there would be a forty-year delay with that.

Who Was Jethro In The Bible

Jethro the Midian Priest

After Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Jethro saw Moses again and “Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt” (Ex 18:1) and “Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”) (Ex 18:2-4).  Jethro sent Moses a message, saying “’I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,’” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent” (Ex 18:6-7), so apparently, Moses and his father-in-law Jethro, enjoyed a close relationship with one another as “Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians” (Ex 18:9).

A Former Midian Priest?

You have to wonder if Jethro, Moses father-in-law, dropped his pagan priesthood because later, “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 has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians” (Ex 18:10) and “Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God” (Ex 18:12). That doesn’t sound very consistent with being a priest of Midian. There is every indication that Jethro became a believer and stayed with Moses and Israel because he blessed God’s name and he offered sacrifice to God. He knew by then that the Midian’s many pagan gods were not gods at all and there was only one true God.


Jethro spent 40 years with Moses and must have gotten very close to him and later, after Jethro joined the nation of Israel, he became part of that nation. Jethro is a picture of all of us coming out of our own pagan idolatry worship, where we are the objects of worship.  Everything was all about us.  Little did we know that God would reveal Himself to us and show us why we need to place our faith in Christ.  Jethro discovered God was real by all of the miraculous accounts but we are drawn by God’s Spirit to become aware of our sins and see our need to flee to Christ.

Some more for you to read: Moses From the Bible

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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