A Father-in-Law’s Love

Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians.” – Exodus 18:10-11

The love most parents have for their children comes naturally.  It is not worthy of much praise.  Instead, it is expected that parents will love their own children.  After all, parents are genetically pre-disposed to love their children.

This is not the case with parents-in-law.  There is nothing natural about the love of parents-in-law and, in fact, in-law relationships can be notoriously challenging.  And so, parents-in-law are frequently the butt of jokes.  

Because love is not expected from a parent-in-law in the same way it is expected from a parent, the love of a parent-in-law can be particularly touching in its generosity.  Such was the love of Jethro for Moses.

Jethro had to be one of the best fathers-in-law ever.  When Moses killed a man in Egypt and fled to the foreign land of Midian, Jethro took him in and even “gave” Moses his daughter Zipporah to marry.  Then Jethro gave Moses a job in his fields, where Moses stayed for 40 years.  When Moses was convinced that he needed to go to Egypt to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, Jethro took in Zipporah and her two sons and cared for them while Moses was away.

Then, when Moses finally returned to Jethro’s household after the Exodus, Jethro blessed Moses and his God.  Jethro’s support is all the more remarkable because he was neither a Jew nor an Egyptian, so he had nothing at stake personally in these larger events.  But he loved Moses.

The love of this father-in-law was no joke.  It was a generous love worthy of praise and emulation.


Bless you, God, for the love of those who extend to me a generous love that is beyond expectation.  And, while you are at it, please bless them, too.

About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is President of Andover Newton Theological School.  His newest book is Room to Grow: Meditations on Trying to Live as a Christian.