Jethro and the Jews

Jewish Biblical Interpretation and the Question of Identity 


In Jethro and the Jews, Beatrice J. W. Lawrence examines rabbinic texts that address the biblical character of Jethro, a Midianite priest, Moses’ advisor and father-in-law, and the creator of the system of Jewish jurisprudence. Lawrence explores biblical interpretations in Midrash, Targum and Talmud, revealing a spectrum of responses to the presence of a man who straddles the line between insider and outsider. Ranging from character assassination to valorization of Jethro as a convert, these interpretive strategies reveal him to be a locus of anxiety for the rabbis concerning conversion, community boundaries, intermarriage, and non-Jews.
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Biographical Note

Beatrice J. W. Lawrence is Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible at Seattle University. She received her PhD in Hebrew Bible and Jewish Hermeneutics from Emory University in 2009. Her research focuses on Jewish biblical interpretation, gender and sexuality in Jewish texts, popular culture and cultural theory, and critical interreligious engagement.

Table of contents


1 Introduction and Preliminaries

2 Jethro in the Bible: Texts, Contexts and Conundrums

3 Jethro in Tannaitic Midrashim: Bringing Near with the Right while Repelling with the Left

4 Jethro in Later Midrashim: Clarifications and New Problems

5 Jethro in the Targums: New Language, New Strategies

6 Conclusions



All interested in Jewish biblical interpretation, rabbinics, and Jewish identity from the biblical period through the 10th c. CE.

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