Why Is Moses’ Father-In-Law Called Reuel and Jethro

Why Is Moses’ Father-In-Law Called Reuel and Jethro?

Moses, one of the most prominent figures in the Bible, is known for his leadership of the Israelites and his significant role in their liberation from Egypt. In the book of Exodus, Moses’ father-in-law is mentioned by two different names, Reuel and Jethro, which has led to some confusion among readers. This article aims to unravel the mystery behind these names and shed light on their significance in Moses’ life.

The name Reuel is first mentioned in Exodus 2:18 when Moses arrives in Midian and helps the daughters of a priest named Reuel water their flock. It is believed that Reuel is the father of Zipporah, whom Moses marries shortly after this encounter. The name Reuel is of Hebrew origin and means “friend of God” or “God is a friend.” This name reflects the character and nature of Moses’ father-in-law, who later becomes a supporter and advisor to Moses during his time in the wilderness.

However, as the narrative progresses in Exodus 3:1 and onwards, the name Jethro is used to refer to Moses’ father-in-law. Jethro is referred to as a priest of Midian and the father of Zipporah. The name Jethro is also of Hebrew origin and has different meanings, including “his excellence” or “his abundance.” This name signifies the respect and honor given to Moses’ father-in-law, highlighting his wisdom and leadership qualities.

The reason behind the use of two different names for Moses’ father-in-law can be attributed to various factors. Firstly, it is common in biblical texts for individuals to have multiple names or titles, signifying different aspects of their identity or roles they play. These names are often used interchangeably throughout the narrative, causing confusion for readers.

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Secondly, it is possible that Reuel was the personal name of Moses’ father-in-law, while Jethro was his title or honorary name as a priest of Midian. This would align with the practice of using titles to address individuals in ancient societies, emphasizing their position or authority. In this context, Jethro would be the name by which Moses’ father-in-law was commonly known, while Reuel would be his given name.

Another perspective suggests that Reuel and Jethro may have been two different individuals altogether. Some scholars argue that Reuel was Moses’ father-in-law from his first marriage, and Jethro was his father-in-law from his second marriage to Zipporah. This theory is based on the assumption that Moses had two wives, as mentioned in Exodus 18:2. However, this interpretation is not widely accepted, and most scholars consider Reuel and Jethro to be the same person.

In conclusion, Moses’ father-in-law is referred to by two different names, Reuel and Jethro, in the biblical narrative. These names reflect different aspects of his identity and roles – Reuel representing his personal name and his relationship with God, while Jethro symbolizes his position as a priest and his wisdom. The use of multiple names or titles is a common practice in biblical texts, and it adds depth and complexity to the characters and their stories.


Q: Was Reuel a priest?
A: The biblical narrative does not explicitly mention Reuel as a priest. However, Jethro, who is believed to be Reuel, is referred to as a priest of Midian.

Q: Did Moses have two father-in-laws?
A: There is a theory suggesting that Moses had two father-in-laws, Reuel from his first marriage and Jethro from his second marriage. However, this theory is not widely accepted, and most scholars consider Reuel and Jethro to be the same person.

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Q: What was the significance of Moses’ father-in-law in his life?
A: Moses’ father-in-law played a significant role in his life by providing guidance and wisdom. He advised Moses on matters of governance and helped him establish a system of delegated leadership among the Israelites during their time in the wilderness. Additionally, he played a pivotal role in Moses’ spiritual journey by sharing his knowledge and understanding of God.