🔼The name Jethro: Summary
- Excellent, His Excellence, His Remnant
- From the verb יתר (yatar), to be a rest or surplus.
🔼The name Jethro in the Bible
Jethro is the father of Zipporah, the first wife of Moses. Jethro is also known by the very similar name Jether (Exodus 4:18) and the completely different name Reuel (Exodus 2:18), although Reuel is probably the name of Jethro's tribe or patriarch (see Numbers 10:29).
Jethro is a priest in Midian (that's in Arabia), but his allegiance to the God of Israel becomes evident only after the obvious success of the latter (Exodus 18:11). In this sense Jethro is very different from the other famous, non-Abrahamic priest Melchizedek.
As a major tributary to Israel's legislative organization, Jethro gives Israel not only its signature judicial system, he also introduces the idea that every man should personally be aware of the law (Exodus 18:20). This is of course the very principle that makes Jesus a personal savior rather than some distant national liberator.
🔼Etymology of the name Jethro
The name Jethro comes from the Hebrew root יתר (yatar) meaning to remain over, or be a rest:
The verb יתר (yatar) means to remain or to be a rest (a remainder). It may emphasize the survival of some carnage (being the last ones left), but it may also emphasize surplus (rest money after all bills are paid). Noun יתר (yeter) means remnant; יתרה (yitra) means abundance; יותר (yoter) means superiority; יתרון (yitron) means excellence.
The nouns יתר (yeter) and מיתר (metar) describe cords to tie things together with. This indicates that a remnant is not simply that what remains, but rather that which kept the original collective together in the first place.
The letter ו (waw) upon which our name ends could be ascribed to the third person personal pronoun: his.
For a meaning of the name Jethro, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Excellent; Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads His Excellence.
Here at Abarim we propose His Remnant.