Jethro, Priest of Midian – Saudi Arabia Tour Destination

By Jennifer Bartlett

Archaeology has confirmed the location of biblical Midian, the place where the Bible says Moses fled to seek refuge after killing an Egyptian (Ex. 2:12-15). It was near the ancient city of Madyan, modern-day al Bad’, that Moses may have unwittingly rescued his future wife Tzipporah and her sisters from some water-hoarding shepherds (Ex. 2:16-17). Afterward, he received some warm Arab hospitality from none other than Jethro, the priest of Midian (Ex. 2:16; 20-21). Did Moses know he would encounter others who worshiped Yahweh, or was it merely a coincidence that his host was serving the same God as the Hebrews Moses had left behind in Egypt?

Who was Jethro, anyway?  Why do Living Passages tours include travel to this ancient site in modern-day Saudi Arabia?  

Well, wouldn’t we like to know? He seems to have gone by at least three different names. Known variously in different biblical passages as Reuel (possibly a title: “friend of God,” Ex. 2:16-18; Num. 10:29), Jethro (something like “profit” or “gain,” Ex. 4:18; 18:1-12), and Hobab (a form of the Hebrew word for “love,” Jdg. 4:11), Moses’ father-in-law was a Midianite (Num. 10:29), so he and Moses were distant cousins through two different wives of Abraham: Moses had descended from Sarah’s son Isaac, and Jethro was a descendant of Midian, who was the son of Abraham through his wife Keturah after Sarah had died. 

The Family Tree of Abraham
The Family Tree of Abraham

With nothing in the biblical text to indicate otherwise, Jethro probably offered sacrifices to the God of Abraham, and in addition to being a priest, he may have served a prophetic role. The Quran calls him Shu’ayb and relates how he preached a message against idolatry and dishonest trade practices, urging his listeners to worship the true God. Some mocked him and were consumed in an earthquake (Quran 7: 85-93).

It seems likely that Moses knew he had relatives living in Midian; he had been well-educated in Egypt, and Midianites probably traded there frequently, based on Joseph’s firsthand experience with them when his brothers sold him into slavery (Gen. 37:28,36). Perhaps Moses knew exactly who he would encounter when he arrived at what locals are still calling Moses’ Well.   

Jethro High Priest of Midian Map
Map of Midian in current-day Saudi Arabia.

Every tour Living Passages operates that is longer than 1 night / 2 days, will visit this spectacular destination of Midian in Northwest West Saudi Arabia.  

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