Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jethro (Yitro) , Moses' Father-in-Law and His Descendants-the Druze of Israel

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                        

         Members of the Druze faith believe that Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah was God incarnate.(in earthly form

Exodus 2-13 tells about  how Moses (1391 BCE-1271 BCE)  met his father-in-law, Jethro (Yitro).  Moses found himself in a spot in Egypt where the Pharaoh had wanted to kill Moses since he had killed an Egyptian who had been beating a slave. Moses had hid his body in the sand  but there were witnesses to this murder, 2 slaves. So Moses fled to the land of Midian.   With his luck, the 7 daughters of the leader and priest of Midian met him at the well where they had stopped to water their flock of sheep and one thing led to another.  Moses wound up marrying the oldest of the daughters, Zipporah,  and led a happy life living in Jethro's home and tending his flocks.  On traveling to Egypt with Moses, she saved her son's life by circumcising him (Exod.4:24-6). He had just been born and was due for his circumcision.   Later she returned to her father with her 2 sons, Gershom and Eliezer, and rejoined Moses at Mount Sinai (Exod. 18:1).  Both sons die later.  It is Aaron, Moses' older brother who produces many heirs.

Moses was called by G-d to return to Egypt and speak with the Pharaoh which led to the Exodus.  After the Exodus, Jethro visited Moses at Rephidim and advised him on legal administration.  (Exod. 18).  Jethro had met him and had brought with him with his 2 sons and Zipporah.  Jethro said, "Now I know that G-d is greater than all the gods, for in the very matter in which the Egyptians had conspired against them...!  Jethro ....took a burnt-offering and feast-offerings for G-d;  and Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with the father-in-law of Moses before G-d.  It was on the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood by Moses from the morning until the evening.  Jethro saw everything that he was doing to the people, and he said, "What is this thing that you do to the people?  Why do you sit alone with all the people standing by you from morning to evening?".. Moses had been trying to do everything himself, but his father-in-law told him it was impossible and he had to appoint leaders.
Jethro (Yitro)'s tomb is near Kephar Hittin in Israel.   The government of Israel has decided to transfer this tomb for a symbolic fee of 18 Shekels to Israel's Druze community.  The location the  Tomb has been in is called Shuaib's tomb which is in the lower Galilee.   There is another tomb in Jordan, west of the town of Mahis in Wadi Shuaib.  They claim that holds Shuaib's tomb, too.  .  The Druze honor him as Nebi Shu'aib there.  This was a pre-Islamaic prophet mentioned in the Koran.  The Druze identify Yitro as their prophet Shuaib.  One problem with this is that the timelines don't match up.

The Druze will get Yitro's tomb and 170 dunams of land around it in a 49 year lease. A dunam was a land measurement used during the Ottoman Empire days and is still used in the Middle East.  This amounts to 42.008 acres.  One dunam = 4.05 acres.   The Druze community and Israel have been discussing this for the past 18 years.  Minister Uri Ariel said that Israel recognizes the Druze's contributions to Israel and so they have this tomb now.  83% of Druze serve in the IDF.  Of these, 40% are combat soldiers.  In 2010 there were 125,000 Druze living in Israel.  They speak Arabic and Hebrew.  Worldwide there are about 3,500,000 to 4,000,000 Druze.

The Druze believe that they are the descendants of Yitro and he is important in their religion, which is monotheistic and different from Islam.  The Jewish history of Jethro shows that his son was Hobab who went with Moses to Canaan and his family eventually settled in the Galilee.  From him was descended Jael (12th century BCE) who was the wife of Heber the Kenite.  After the forces of Jabin of Hazor were defeated by the Israelites, the fleeing commander Sisera sought refuge in Jael's tent.  She killed him in his sleep. (Judg. 4-5).    In 2 places, Jethro was called Reuel, which may have been his personal name.  Jethro could have been a sobriquet (nickname).  The Druze honor him as Nebi Shu'aib at the shrine.

The Druze are a religious sect from Islam, say some sources though this is questionable.  They have people living in Syria, Lebanon and Israel.  Benjamin of Tudela in 1170 was one of the first Europeans to describe the Druze and their religion to the western world.  Out of a total of over 200,000 and 20,000 more who had migrated overseas, 53,000 lived  in Israel in 1992 and are concentrated in 18 villages in the Western Galilee and on Mt. Carmel.  During the War of Independence ( 1947-1949) the Druze cooperated with the Israel forces and since that war they have had representatives sit in the Knesset.  They have their own religious courts which administer Druze religious law.

Their religion takes in the doctrine of a cosmic struggle between the powers of Good and Evil in the world.  This was taught in the ancient religion of Persia and later by the gnostics.  Even in biblical times, this teaching was opposed by the prophets who insisted that G-d alone is the source of light and darkness, good and evil (Is. 45:7).

Jethro's Midian:  Midian was made up of Beduin tribes related to Abraham who traveled with caravans of incense from Gilead to Egypt and later to other countries.  They were closely connected with the Israelites.   because of Moses.  They lived near the Moabites and Edomites.  From 2nd Temple times, the Land of Midian was thought to be located in NW Arabia.

DNA studies on such an ancient group prove to be most interesting.  Y-chromosomal haplogroups:
  • Mount Carmel: L 27%, R 27%, J 18%, E 15%, G 12%.
  • Galilee: J 31%, R 20%, E 18%, G 14%, K 11%, Q 4%, L 2%.
  • Golan Heights: J 54%, E 29%, I 8%, G 4%, C 4%.
  • Lebanon: J 58%, K 17%, L 8%, Q 8%, R 8%.
  • Syria: J 39%, E 29%, R 14%, G 14%, K 4%.
  • Also found was haplogroup D in 52.2% occurrences.  This is a 6,000 year old allele.  35% were found to carry the Y haplogroup of L.  L-M20 was in 25% of Israeli Druze, 8% in Lebanese Druze and none in the 59 Syrian Druze tested.  #1b1b1a2 or (E-V13) was found in 10% of the Druze.  In the mtDNA, X haplogroup was found.  
  • Such haplogroups as J, R, E, G, Q are also found in Jewish people.  
  • The question is, what was the Y haplogroup of Jethro?  

Resource: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Tanakh, Art Scroll Series

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