One of the best pieces of advice given in the Bible came from a man named Reuel (Ex. 2:18) who is also known as Jethro (Ex. 3:1). “Why two names?” you might ask. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Biblical times. Sometimes people had more than one name due to the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nature of ancient societies (not so much as in our modern sensitivity to this subject but rather due to the nature of kingdoms being conquered or conquering others and assimilating their captives into their kingdom). Two names could also be used to distinguish a life-changing event in that person’s life (Gen. 35:1-13; Est. 2:5-7; Dan. 1:3-7; Acts 9:36; 13: 6-9). In the case of Reuel/Jethro we see another cultural device at work. Leaders often had names that designated their title or role such as “Pharaoh” and “Abimelech”. While these titles appear to be personal names, they are not. That is the case with Jethro which literally means “his excellence”. A modern day parallel to this is the way we address royalty with the words “your majesty”. The man called Jethro is first addressed as, Reuel, a personal name, and like his title, it indicates something about him as it means “friend of God”.
Jethro’s story begins in Gen. 25:1-5 where we learn that after the death of Sarah and in his old age Abraham has taken another wife. Her name is Keturah and after sons have been born to her, and sons to their sons, Abraham gives each child a “gift” and sends them eastward to “live in the land of the east”.
Eventually this area becomes known as “Midian” and the descendents of Abraham and Keturah become known as the Midianites. On a modern day map today it would cover a portion of the eastern and western sides of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Sinai Peninsula.
While on the run from Egypt Moses befriends Jethro’s daughters at the local well and ends up staying in Midian for 40 years. However, an encounter with a “burning bush” and wise discernment from his father-in-law sends Moses back to Egypt for Scripture’s most epic story other than the Resurrection. Moses is reunited with Jethro after the Exodus and it is noted several times that Jethro is a priest (Ex. 3:1; 18:1). But Jethro is not a priest for some pagan god. In some way he has remained connected to the One True God of his forebear Abraham. Jethro recognizes and attests that it is Yahweh who has brought Moses success (Ex. 18:9-12). During the reunion Jethro sees the enormous load of leadership which Moses is carrying and realizes quickly that no man can take on that responsibility forever. It’s time for a father and son-in-law talk (Ex. 18: 1-27)! Moses took his advice and Jethro returned home.
Have you ever had a Jethro or Dr. Dale in your life? A person who offered you sound advice when you really needed it? For Moses his father-in-law’s insight came at a critical time. One man could not humanly oversee all the legal and judicial matters he was attempting to manage. From the Bible’s perspective godly counsel is a valuable asset in anyone’s life (Prov. 12:5-6, 15; 13:20; 25:11-12; Ecc. 4:9-12; Eph. 5:6; 2 Tim. 1:13; Heb. 10:24). Perhaps you have been given advice at a critical time in your life and it has proven to be immensely helpful. Maybe you are looking for someone to be that kind of mentor right now. Take a close look at the qualities of Jethro then. He was strong, but kind, had a considerate disposition, used wise judgment and most importantly had a deep relationship with the God he served. If you are looking for insight or guidance these qualities are crucial for keeping you on the path God desires. God might also be asking you to be a “Jethro” to someone. If so, the same is true in reverse. Base your advice on the Scriptures, just as Paul did with Timothy (2 Tim. 3:10-17) so that your words will be “apples of gold” (Prov. 25:11) and a blessing to those who hear them.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 1/22/2017