🔼The name Reuel: Summary
- Friend Of God
- From (1) the verb רעה (ra'a), to be a friend, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Reuel in the Bible
There are several men named Reuel (or Raguel or Reguel, as some translations have it, which is how it appears in the Greek Septuagint: Ραγουηλ, Raguel) in the Bible:
- A son of Esau the brother of Jacob, and Basemath the daughter of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar (Genesis 36:4). The four sons of this Reuel all became chiefs of Edom (Genesis 36:17).
- A priest in Midian and the father of Zipporah, who became the first wife of Moses (Exodus 2:18). This Reuel had six more daughters and at least one son, named Hobab (Numbers 10:29). In the Bible this Reuel is mostly known as Jethro (Exodus 3:1), although it may also be that Reuel was the name of the patriarch of the tribe, while Jethro and Hobab were descending individuals and spokespeople for that tribe of Reuel.
- The father of Eliasaph, the leader of the tribe of Gad at the time of the first census of Israel (Numbers 2:14). In some manuscripts, this same man is called Deuel in Numbers 1:14, and there are all kinds of theories on how that could be. Some say that the Reuel in Numbers 2:14 is due to a scribal error. The Hebrew letters for "r" and "d" are similar enough for an amateur to mistake either for the other: Reuel in Hebrew is רעואל and Deuel is דעואל. But no Hebrew scribe was an amateur and all knew the Scriptures, including the previous chapter, by heart. A Hebrew scribe mistaking an r for a d is much less likely than, say, E. Annie Proulx mistaking an English Q for an O. An ancient Hebrew Rabbi imagined that Eliasaph converted in some way, and changed his last name from Deuel to Reuel. This is, of course, rather fantastic, but it does show that the Biblical Scriptures were subject to interpretation and even change according to the perspectives of scholars and scribes.
- An ancestor of a man named Meshullam, who was among the people who returned from the Babylonian exile (1 Chronicles 9:8).
🔼Etymology of the name Reuel
The name Reuel consists of two elements, the final one being אל (El), the prominent Canaanite deity, whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
In names אל ('el) usually refers to אלהים ('elohim), that is Elohim, or God, also known as אלה ('eloah). In English, the words 'God' and 'god' exclusively refer to the deity but in Hebrew the words אל ('l) and אלה ('lh) are far more common and may express approach and negation, acts of wailing and pointing, and may even mean oak or terebinth.
The first part of our name probably comes from the verb רעה (ra'a II), meaning to associate with or be a friend of:
Most broadly, the root רעע (ra'a') describes compartmentalization: to break some continuum apart into separated elements. Human minds are designed to be nodes of a much greater network of exchange, and must continuously interact to maintain a liquidity of wisdom — hence the noun רע (rea'), meaning friend or companion (and hence too the story of the Tower of Babel).
All wealth requires liquidity and that requires units of economy to go around. This explains why "evil" — רע, ra', evil — is not the opposite of "good" but instrumental to it: hence the perfect Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the heart of perfect Paradise. Despite popular misconceptions, in the Bible, all רע (rea') comes from God (Isaiah 45:7) and has a specific and wonderful function in any naturally evolving system.
Verb רעה (ra'a I) means to pasture or feed and the participle רעה (ra'a) means shepherd. Nouns רעי (re'i) and מרעה (mir'eh) mean pasture. Noun מרעית (mar'it) means pasturage.
Verb רעה (ra'a II) means to associate with. Nouns רע (rea'), רעה (re'eh) and מרע (merea') mean friend, associate or "neighbor". Nouns רעיה (ra'ya), רעה (re'a) and רעות (re'ut) describe a female attendant, mate or friend.
There may or not be an unused verb רעה (ra'a III) or else the following belong to the previous: noun רע (rea'), aim or purpose; nouns רעות (re'ut) and רעיון (ra'yon), longing or striving.
Verb רוע (rua') means to produce a sudden burst of sound. Nouns רע (rea') and תרועה (teru'a) describe a collective rallying cry, a war cry.
For a meaning of the name Reuel, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read Friend Of God. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer a translation of this name but does list it under the verb רעה (ra'a II).