He is one of my favorite biblical characters. His name means “His abundance” Jethro was Moses father in-law and father of seven girls. He was a priest of Midian and a descendant of Abraham’s. It would appear that he was a widower. There is no mention of a wife. He was a single parent raising seven daughters.
He was a gracious man. When he heard how Moses had rescued his daughters from the shepherds who tried to drive them away, he gently scolded them for leaving Moses behind. He instructed them to go and invite Moses to sup with them.
Supper extended to forty years during which Moses married one of Jethro’s daughters and tended his sheep. Over the years Moses and his father-in-law developed a close bond. It seemed as if Jethro was like a father to Moses. It is doubtful that Moses saw his natural parents again after his mother returned him to Pharaoh’s daughter. I think we would have read about it as we read about his reunion with Aaron and Miriam.
Jethro was the father Moses never had the opportunity to have a relationship with. A single woman raised him. There is no indication that Pharaoh’s daughter was married. It has been suggested that Moses was a neglectful father—he neglected to circumcise Gershom. In doing so he endangered the boy. The Lord had said to Abraham, “For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:12-14). Moses was struck down and would have died if Zipporah had not stepped in and circumcised their son.
Jethro grew to love Moses like a son. It is obvious the deep affection these men had toward each other. News of all that God had done for Moses and the people reached Jethro and he sent his son-in-law a message that he was going to see him and Moses’ family would accompany him. It is obvious the deep affection the two men had toward each other because of the manner in which they greeted each other. Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them.
Moses loved Jethro and wanted him to know the God whom he worshipped. Jethro was a good man who recognized God’s goodness because of Moses’ testimony. He blessed God and offered a burnt offering and sacrifices to Him. Then, he, Moses, Aaron and all the elders broke bread together in the Lord’s presence.
Jethro was more than family to Moses. He was a friend. He looked out for Moses and was able to offer him good advice when he saw how Moses alone was presiding over the people, listening to their disputes all day. Jethro, out of great concern said to Moses, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied” (Exodus 18:17-23).
Moses listened to his father-in-law and chose capable men to help him. They took care of the simple cases and he the difficult ones. Jethro returned to his own country and we don’t hear about him after that. He was a man whom Moses could depend on. While Moses was in the wilderness doing what God had called him to do, Jethro was taking care of Moses’ family. They had a home to stay in until it was time for them to join Moses. He had made a difference in Moses’ life. He supported his decision to let back to Egypt and bid him, “go in peace” (Exodus 4:18). He visited Moses in the desert, reuniting him with his family. He encouraged Moses in what he was doing but helped him to do it more efficiently by delegating the duties so that he was no longer stressed out.
Jethro was a man to be admired. I have no doubt that he was a good father to his seven daughters and a loving grandfather to Moses’ children. He filled in for their father until it was possible for them to be with him.