Jethro Priest of Midian, Moses' Father in Law

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Ben Mordecai, Feb 28, 2018.

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  1. Ben Mordecai

    Ben Mordecai Puritan Board Freshman

    Jethro has always been a perplexing character to me. Initially I was confused because he is portrayed as a sympathetic character who shows kindness to Moses and gives him good advice, but at the same time he was not an Israelite and was called a priest. I had always assumed that this meant that he was a priest of some pagan deity like other non-Israelite priests, and that at most he quit being a priest once he met Moses, but that is why the portrayal of his goodness was confusing. Jethro and Moses both speak to one another in ways that express their shared belief that God exists, but in paganism it's not a problem to claim the existence of other gods.

    I'm just now realizing there was an option I hadn't considered, that Jethro was a priest of God after some other non-Israelite order, similar to Melchizedek, Job, or the virtuous men of prehistory like Enoch. That would make sense of his residence near the mountain of Horeb, which in Exodus 2 is called "the mountain of God" even before the theophanies and the ratification of the covenant and the Bible's constant portrayal of him as a hospitable, generous, and wise priest.

    Does anyone know if this is a novel interpretation? Any corrections to my claims? Any materials I need to look at?
  2. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I'm afraid I can't remember where I've heard it, but I have indeed heard the theory that Jethro knew of the true God before he met Moses and may have been a non-Israelite priest of the Lord. The theory I heard speculated this based on the fact that the people of Midian were descended from Abraham, though not in the chosen line (Genesis 25:2).
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2018
  3. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

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  4. Ben Mordecai

    Ben Mordecai Puritan Board Freshman

    I think one important consideration is the prospect of non-canonical revelation. God has always called us to worship rather than us reasoning our way to him. There is no reason to believe that God didn't reveal himself in additional ways to a variety of people and places, albeit in a way that wasn't explicitly covenant in something like the Mosaic administration.

    I am not sure I see where Calvin determines that Melchizedek was the last remaining priest from the text. It strikes me that Abram met Melchizedek only after his victory in Horeb, which is where Jethro was. It's like God had established the location as a place of holiness from the beginning.
  5. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Sorry, got interrupted by dinner...

    There is also the fact that Jethro offered up an apparently accepted sacrifice to Jehovah in Ex. 18:10ff, of which Calvin says:
    Further, I have read that the priests mentioned in Exodus 19 might have been some that came along with Jethro, as the Aaronic priesthood had not yet been established, but Calvin does not go there.
  6. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    Having to preach on Job two yrs ago and deal with his background, I sought the aid of some commentators. It seems that he lived In the era of Abraham and Jacob, which was a time of philosophical and meditative minds and contemplative discourses, as the conversations with his comforters reveals. They were used to discoursing in a lofty, poetical, dark and mysterious easy style. Interestingly some would think that Moses may have read Job’s book, inasmuch that Jethro, his father in law, was a priest in Midian, and the Priest was the custodian of sacred writings. Some would say that Job lived in UZ in the land of Idumea, whereas it was more likely the UZ east of Canaan in the border desert of Chaldea, UZ meaning thin and sandy. Also the three band Chaldean raiding parties that stole the camels and killed the servants, could sorte easily across that border. And Jethro and Midianites were therefore associated with the inhabitants of that desert region. So the knowledge of God was still prevelant in that desert area, which was not the case if Job lived among Edomites in UZ of Idumea.
    The conversation of his comforters shows that the
    knowledge of God had been retained, and Jethro was a successor to that knowledge and was a priestly practitioner. So Job was a contemporary of Abram and it seems they never met, yet the true religion was diffused to other regions and people apart from Abram.
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