Name: Brandon T. Ward
Answer: Virginia, thank you for the question.
While it is commonly believed Moses father-in-law was a Kenite, nothing could be further from the truth as we will document.
Moses father-in-law was named “Reuel” or “Raguel” (Strong’s: H7467) which means a “friend of God”, (Exodus 2:18, Numbers 10:29). Though Reuel is more commonly referenced in the Bible by his title of “Jethro” (Strong’s: H3503) which means, “his excellence“.
It should be no surprise that Jethro was a “friend of God”, he was a “priest of Midian”, (Exodus 3:1). In order to become a priest of the Midian people, you had to be a Midianite by ancestry. Just as all Israelite priests had to be Levites.
This word “Midian” (Strong’s: H4080) means,
“A son of Abraham; also his country and (collectively) his descendants“.
We should understand the land of Midian was named after one of Abraham’s sons, Midian who went on to establish the Midianite people. We can further document this in Genesis 25:1-2 where Midian is listed as the son of Abraham and Keturah.
Obviously then, Jethro was a Midianite, and a descendent of Abraham who “took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God”, (Exodus 18:12).
The confusion for so many arises due to the following verse.
16 “And the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.”
At first glance, this verse seems to indicate Jethro was a Kenite, yet we know he was a descendent of Abraham.
Have we found a contradiction in the Bible?
Of course not.
Jethro being identified as a Kenite simply identifies the land where he lived, not his heritage. You will notice in Exodus 2:19 Jethro’s daughters called Moses an Egyptian, yet we know Moses was a Hebrew. No contradiction, simply an identifier of the land Moses was from.
When Moses fled from Egypt, he came to live in the land of Midian where he married Zipporah, one of Jethro’s daughters, (Exodus 2:15-21). Moses would tend the flock of Jethro for 40 years, leading them “to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb”, (Exodus 3:1).
“Horeb” (Strong’s: H2722) is “a (generic) name for the Sinaitic mountains”. We are talking about the land of Arabia, the Sinai Peninsula. This documents for us the general region where Jethro and his family lived, among the Amalikites.
God’s Word explains, “the Amalekites dwell in the land of the south,” (Numbers 13:29). This word “south” (Strong’s: H5045) means, “specifically the negeb or southern district of Judah, occasionally, Egypt”, (see: The Exodus Map).
Essentially, the Amalikites occupied the southern portion of land that would later become Judah’s all the way to Egypt, including the Sinai Peninsula, (1 Samuel 15:7, 27:8). In fact, Exodus 17:8-16 documents the first war between the Israelites and the Amalikites in Rephidim, which is believed to have been located in the southern portion of the Sinai Peninsula.
Further, 1 Samuel 27:8 explains, “the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land”. Naturally the Scripture is referencing the land of Canaan. So we can see they covered a large portion of ground.
This leads us up to the Kenites.
Please turn you Bible with me to,
1 Samuel 15:6
6 “And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.”
This verse clearly documents, the Amalekites and the Kenites occupied the same land, the land where Jethro and his family lived. We can now see why Jethro and his children were referred to as Kenites. They were Kenites by geographical location, not ancestry as we previously documented.
Understanding that, Saul like Joshua before him made a great mistake by not destroying all the inhabitants of the land. Way back in Genesis 15:18,
The LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
God then goes on to mention the people who already occupied the land; Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaims (Strong’s: H7497, Giants), Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Jebusites, (Genesis 15:19).
This is important to understand as God would later tell the Israelites they must destroy all the inhabitants of the land. This further documents, Jethro was not a Kenite as God wanted the Kenites destroyed. God would never allow a Kenite to become so close to one of God’s most trusted servants, Moses.
Let us continue and turn your Bible with me to,
16 “But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:”
God revealed a little more about His plan mentioned in Genesis 15:18 to the Israelites. They were to destroy all the inhabitants of the land, those nations and people mentioned in Genesis 15:19.
17 “But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:”
You will notice there are only six tribes mentioned compared to the ten in Genesis 15:19. God did not change His mind, the Israelites were to destroy everyone in the land, they are simply not listed.
Why did God want the Israelites to destroy everyone in the land?
18 “That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.”
God knew the people in the land were extremely perverse, they were heathen who served other god’s, and many of these people mixed in with the Giants who were descendents of the Fallen Angels, (Genesis 6:1-8). God knew the Israelites would be led astray and intermarry with these idolators, turning from God, and polluting the genealogy Christ would come through. Due to that, our Father repeated these instructions often to Israel, (Deuteronomy 7:1-5).
Your Father explained why in Deuteronomy 20:18, which is reason enough. Yet, some of you may be thinking, but the Kenites,
“Shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt” – 1 Samual 15:6
Why do you think that is?
The Kenites knew, just as the Hivites knew, the Israelites were to destroy everyone in the land. That is why the Hivites played the roll of travelers from a far country, and made a league with Joshua and the Israelites, (Joshua 9:3-24). When Joshua found out the Hivites lied about their origin, he asked them,
“Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us?” – Joshua 9:22
The Hivites replied stating,
“Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing.” – Joshua 9:24
There you have it.
The Hivites knew God wanted everyone in the land destroyed, including themselves. They knew about the promise God made to Abraham, and they knew it meant their death as we previously documented.
It seems more than reasonable then to believe the Kenites also knew about their death sentence. We should understand this word “Kenite” (H7017) means, “a Kenite or member of the tribe of Kajin“. So we know these are a group of people related by ancestry.
Kenite comes from the base word “Kajin” (H7014) which means, “Kajin, the name of the first child, and of an Oriental tribe: – Cain“.
The Kenites are quite literally the children of Cain who was the literal son of Satan, (see: Adam And Eve In The Garden Of Eden). Is it any wonder then why our Heavenly Father told the Israelites to destroy all the inhabitants of the land, everything that breaths “lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee”, (Exodus 34:11-12).
All of these facts conclusively prove, Jethro was not a Kenite, rather a descendent of Abraham.