Jeith'ro (Heb. Yithro', יַתרוֹ, i.q. יַתרוֹן, excellence or gain, as often in Eccles.; occurs in Ex 3:1; Ex 4:18 ; 18:1, 2, 5, 6, 9,10, 12; Sept. Ι᾿οθόρ) or JETHER (יֶתֶר, abundance, as often; occurs with reference to this person, Ex 4:18, where it is Anglicized "Jethro" in the Auth. Vers., though in the Heb.-Samuel text and Samuel version the reading is יתרו, as in the Syriac and Targ. Jon., one of Kennicott's MSS., and a MS. of Targ. Onk., No. 16 in De Rossi's collection; Sept. Ι᾿οθόρ), a "priest or prince (for the word כּהֵן carries both significations, and both these offices were united in the patriarchal sheiks) of Midian, a tract of country in Arabia Petrea, on the eastern border of the Red Sea, at no great distance from Mount Sinai, where Moses spent his exile from the Egyptian court, B.C. 1698. The family of this individual seems, in the sequel at least, to have observed the worship of the true God in common with the Hebrews (Ex 18:11-12), and from this circumstance some suppose it to have been a branch of the posterity of Midian, fourth son of Abraham, by Keturah, while others, on the contrary, maintain that the aspersion cast upon Moses for having married a Cushite is inconsistent with the idea of its genealogical descent from that patriarch (Calmet). SEE MIDIAN.
"Considerable difficulty has been felt in determining who this person was, as well as his exact relation to Moses; for the word חֹתן, which, in Ex 3:1; Nu 10:29; Jg 4:11, is translated father-in- law, and in Ge 19:14, son-in-law, is a term of indeterminate signification, denoting simply relationship by marriage; and besides, the transaction which in one place (Ex 18:27) is related of Jethro, seems to be in another related of Hobab (Nu 10:28). Hence some have concluded that, as forty years had elapsed since Moses' connection with this family was formed, his father-in-law (Ex 2:18), Reuel or Raguel (the same word in the original is used in both places), was dead, or confined to his tent by the infirmities of age, and that the person who visited Moses at the foot of Sinai was his brother-in-law, called Hobab in Nu 10:29; Jg 4:11; Jethro in Ex 3:1; and in Jg 1:16, Keni (קֵינַי, which there, as well as in 4:11, is rendered 'the Kenite')" (Kitto). Against this explanation, however, there lies this serious objection, that in Nu 10:29 Hobab is expressly called the son of Raguel (or Reuel), who in Ex 2:16-21 is evidently made the father-in-law of Moses, and in 3:1 is clearly the same as Jethro. Nor will the interpretation of the Targum avail, which makes Reuel the grandfather of Moses' wife (by a frequent Hebraism of "daughter" for granddaughter, etc.); for then Moses' real father-in-law would be nowhere named; and it is clearly Jethro whose flocks he kept, and to whom he "made obeisance" (Ex 18:7); which, with other incidental allusions, are all natural on the supposition that Moses was his son-in-law, but are out of place in a brother-in-law. Besides, it is Jethro who is called the sacerdotal and tribal head of the clan, which could not, under the patriarchal domestic constitution, have been the case had his father Reuel been still alive. If, indeed, we could accept the ingenious conjecture of Ewald (Gesch. des Isr. sec. 2:33) that, by an ancient clerical error, the words יתרו בן, "Jethro, son of," had dropped out before the name of Reuel, it would then be easy, with the Targum Jonathan, Aben-Ezra, Rosenmüller, etc., to assume that Jethro was Reuel's son; but there is no trace of such an error. All those methods of adjusting these accounts must therefore be abandoned which maintain the identity of Jethro and Hobab, in whatever way they seek (see Winer's Realworterbuch, s.v. Raguel) to reconcile the discrepancies; and the whole of the statements maybe cleared up by understanding, with Von Lengerke (Kenaan, 1, 393), Bertheau (Gesch. Isra. sec. 242), Kalisch (Exodus p. 35), and others, that Jethro and Raguel were but different names of Moses' father-in-law, and that the son Hobab was his brother-in- law (referring חֹתֵן in Nu 10:29 to Raguel, and in Jg 4:11 taking it in the general sense of affinis, relative by marriage). Josephus, in speaking of Raguel, remarks once (Ant. 2, 12, 1) that he "had Iothor (Ι᾿οθόρ, i.e. Jethro) for a surname" (Ι᾿εθεγλαῖος ην ἐπίκλημα τῷ ῾Ραγοοήλ). "The abbreviated form of his name (Jether or Jethro, for Jethron) is enumerated by the Midrash as the first of the seven (or, according to another version, eight) names by which this Midianitish priest was known [viz. Jether or Jethro, because he heaped up (הותיר) good deeds, or because 'he added a Parasha to the Torah;' Cheber (חבר), because he was a friend of the Lord; Chobeb (חבב), because he was beloved by the Lord, or because 'he loved the Torah;' Reuel, because he was a companion (רע) to the Lord; Petuel, because he freed himself (פטר) from idolatry]. Indeed, Jether is considered his original name, to which, when he became a believer and a convert to the faith, an additional letter (ו) was affixed. According to the Midrash (fol. 53, 54), he had been one of Pharaoh's musicians, and had got possession of Adam's staff, which had belonged to Joseph; but he was driven from Egypt because he opposed the decree for drowning the Israelitish infants." SEE HOBAB; SEE RAGUEL.
"The hospitality, free hearted and unsought, which Jethro at once extended to the unknown, homeless wanderer, on the relation of his daughters that he had watered their flock, is a picture of Eastern manners no less true than lovely. We may perhaps suppose that Jethro, before his acquaintance with Moses, was not a worshipper of the true God. Traces of this appear in the delay which Moses had suffered to take place with respect to the circumcision of his son (Ex 4:24-26): indeed, it is even possible that Zipporah had afterwards been subjected to a kind of divorce (Ex 18:2, שַׁלּוּחֶיה), on account of her attachment to an alien creed, but that growing convictions were at work in the mind of Jethro, from the circumstance of Israel's continued prosperity, till at last, acting upon these, he brought back his daughter, and declared that his impressions were confirmed, for now he knew that the Lord was greater than all gods, for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly, he was above them: consequently. we are told that 'Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt- offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God.' as if to celebrate the event of his conversion" SEE MOSES.
"Shortly after the Exodus (B.C. 1658), Jethro paid a visit to Moses, while the Hebrew camp was lying in the environs of Sinai, bringing with him Zipporah, Moses' wife, who, together with her two sons, had been left with her family while her husband was absent on his embassy to Pharaoh. The interview was on both sides affectionate, and was celebrated first by the solemn rites of religion, and afterwards by festivities, of which Aaron and the elders of Israel were invited to partake. On the following day, observing Moses incessantly occupied in deciding causes that were submitted to him for judgment, his experienced kinsman remonstrated with him on the speedy exhaustion which a perseverance in such arduous labors would superinduce; and in order to relieve himself, as well as secure a due attention to every case, he urged Moses to appoint a number of subordinate officers to divide with him the duty of the judicial tribunals, with power to decide in all common affairs, while the weightier and more serious matters were reserved to himself. This wise suggestion the Hebrew legislator adopted (Exodus 18). As the Hebrews were shortly afterwards about preparing to decamp from Sinai, the kinsmen of Moses announced their intention to return to their own territory," and Moses interposed no special objection to the purpose on the part of his father-in-law, whose presence was doubtless essential at home, and who accordingly took his departure (Ex 18:27). His brother-in-law Hobab naturally purposed to accompany his father back to Midian, and at first expressed a refusal to the invitation of Moses to accompany the Israelites to Canaan (Nu 10:29-30). It is not stated whether he actually returned with his father, "but if he did carry that purpose into execution, it was in opposition to the urgent solicitations of the Jewish leader, who entreated him, for his own advantage, to cast in his lot with the people of God; at all events to continue with them, and afford them the benefit of his thorough acquaintance with the wilderness. 'Leave us not, I pray thee,' said Moses, 'forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes;' which the Sept. has rendered 'and thou shalt be an elder among us.' But there can be little doubt that the true meaning is that Hobab might perform the office of a hyber or guide (see Bruce's Travels, 4, 586)-his influence as an Arab chief, his knowledge of the routes, the situation of the wells, the places for fuel, the prognostics of the weather, and the most eligible stations for encamping, rendering him peculiarly qualified to act in that important capacity. SEE CARAVAN. It is true that God was their leader, by the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, the advancement or the halting of which regulated their journeys and fixed their encampments. But beyond these general directions the tokens of their heavenly guide did not extend. As smaller parties were frequently sallying forth from the main body in quest of forage and other necessaries, which human observation or enterprise were sufficient to provide, so Moses discovered his wisdom and good sense in enlisting the aid of the son of a native sheik, who, from his family connection with himself, his powerful influence, and his long experience, promised to render the Israelites most important services." To these solicitations we may infer, from the absence of any further refusal, that Hobab finally yielded; a conclusion that, indeed, seems to be explicitly referred to in Jg 1:16; Jg 4:11. SEE KENITE; SEE ITHRITE.
No other particulars of the life of Jethro are known, but the Arabs, who call him Shoaib, have a variety of traditions concerning him. They say that Michael, the son of Taskir, and grandson of Midian, was his father; this last was the immediate son of Ishmael, according to the author of Leb-Tarik, but Moses makes no mention of Midian among the sons of Ishmael (Ge 25:13-14). Jethro gave his son-in-law Moses the miraculous rod; it had once been the rod of Adam, and was of the myrtle of Paradise, etc. (Lane's Koran, p. 190; Weil's Bibl. Legends, p. 107-109). Although blind (Lane, p.180, note), he was favored with the gift of prophecy, and God sent him to the Midianites to preach the unity of God, and to withdraw them from idolatry. A commentator on the Koran affirms that whenever Jethro performed his devotions on the top of a certain mountain, the mountain became lower, in order to render his ascent more easy. Another Arabian commentator says that Jethro took pains to reform the bad customs of the Midianites, such as stealing, having two sorts of weights and measures, for buying by the larger and selling by the smaller. Besides these frauds of the Midianites in their trading, they offered violence to travelers, and robbed them on the highways. They threatened even Jethro for his remonstrances. This insolence obliged God to manifest his wrath: he sent the angel Gabriel, who, with a voice of thunder, made the earth to tremble, which destroyed them all except Jethro, and those who, like him, believed' the unity of God (Lane, p. 179-181). After this punishment Jethro went to Moses, as related in Ex 18:1-3. The Mohammedans term him, from the advice he gave to Moses, "The preacher of the prophets" (D'Herbelot, Bibl. Orient. 3, 273 sq.; comp. J. C. Maier, De Jethrone, Helmst. 1715). -- "The name of Sho'eib still remains attached to one of the wadys on the east side of the Jordan, opposite Jericho, through which, according to the tradition of the locality (Seetzen, Reisen, 1854, 2, 319, 376), the children of Israel descended to the Jordan. Other places bearing his name and those of his two daughters are shown at Sinai and on the Gulf of Akaba (Stanley, Syr. and Pal. p. 33)"