Exodus 18:1, 5, 7, 17-19, 24 “When Jethro the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt… Then Jethro came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, when he encamped at the mount of God…And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent…And Moses’ father-in-law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee: thou are not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God…So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.”
According to Edersheim, the man Jethro “may be regarded as a kind of firstfruits unto God from among the Gentiles, and his homage as an anticipating fulfillment of the promise; ‘And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.’ Isaiah 2:3.”
Jethro, the Midianite was a descendant of Abraham’s son Midian, who was born of Keturah. He was not in the line of the covenant but rather a Gentile descendant of God’s friend. But a child of God nonetheless. Abraham’s short influence on the sons of Keturah (probably no more than 30 years) bears fruit in the life of Jethro some 500-600 years later.
Who can possibly know the ways of the Lord? We can only guess at the process. From generation to generation in the family of one of the sons of Midian, God’s name was glorified and reverenced. Jethro, a name which means “excellency,” is also, according to Exodus 2:18, called Reuel, which means “Friend of God.” So even in his very name we see the evidence of faith that must have dominated the life of his parents.
We also read that he was a priest of Midian. Ophoff suggests that his priesthood was more on the order of that of Melchizedek. The very fact that in Ex. 18:12, Jethro offers the “burnt offerings and sacrifices for God” and not Aaron, suggests the possibility that his priestly office was recognized by Moses and Aaron and the elders of Israel to be higher than that of Aaron. His was of superior excellence.
As a priest, he too offered typical sacrifices and he seems to do this spontaneously. He no doubt understood that the typical sacrifice was an instrument of praise to God. He was also aware of the need for atonement and the symbolism of a blood sacrifice as a covering for sin.
He was the father-in-law of Moses. When Moses fled from the wrath of Pharaoh, God led him to the house of Jethro. For 40 years Moses enjoyed his fellowship and companionship. He married one of Jethro’s daughters and became part of the intimate family circle. A mutual respect grew up between them. It was a relationship of love and friendship. It was on the basis of this friendship that Jethro could give sage advice to Moses. On the other hand, it was the basis for Moses’ willingness to not only listen courteously to this advice, but also to accept it and put it into practice. Jethro was indeed a firstfruit, not of the heathen, but of the Gentiles. God used him so that His people Israel could receive good.
Moses was, as you know, overextending himself. He was attempting to carry the entire load of Israel’s problems all by himself. Jethro saw this immediately. And so he advised Moses to elicit the help of other wise men in Israel to be judges to handle the many smaller problems that always arise within a society or culture of people.
It’s important to note also that Jethro came to Moses and to Israel, to the mountain of Jehovah, and to house of the God of Jacob. He came and was taught the ways of the Lord with His people Israel. And he was a willing and appreciative listener. His immediate response to this instruction was that he rejoiced for all the goodness which God had done to Israel. He is unable to contain himself. He blesses the name of the Lord.
In Genesis 12:3 God promised Abraham that he would “bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” That promise is fulfilled in Jethro.
Jethro in his generations experiences God’s blessing and favor. His descendants were the Kenites who continued to be the friends of Israel and Israel’s God. Jael, the wife of Heber, killed Sisera the captain of the Canaanites–she was a Kenite. During the reign of Saul, the Kenites are warned about the destruction of the Amalekites and willingly move from among them. Jehonadab, the son of Rechab, the godly man Jehu invited into his chariot, was also a descendant. Another reference is made to Jonadab in Jeremiah 35:5-10. His family is commended for obeying the voice of their father. Because of that obedience, God would protect them from the evil about to fall on the house of Judah.
God blesses those who bless the people of His covenant. Though Jethro and his progeny were Gentiles, they experienced the wonderful blessings of Jehovah throughout the ages. They were taught the truth about God and walked from generation to generation in His paths.
And so it is with us today. God blesses our efforts as school teachers and as parents when we diligently instruct His covenant seed. That’s a promise He has made. He kept that promise with Jethro. He will keep that promise even today with us. Now we have the wonderful incentive diligently to continue carrying out our calling to God’s glory.