There are two prominent portraits of fathers-in-law in the Torah: Laban and Jethro. Laban was the father-in-law twice over of Jacob as he was the father of both Leah and Rachel. When Jacob arrived in Padam-Aram, he fell in love with Rachel. When he asked Laban for her hand in marriage, Laban agreed, but only if Jacob worked for him for seven years. At the end of that term, Laban stealthfully switched Leah for Rachel and then insisted that Jacob work for him for another seven years in order to marry Rachel as well. Throughout this time, he cheated and stole from his son-in-law, and, when Jacob wished to leave, he tried to physically stop him.
Jethro* was Moses’ father-in-law. After Moses fled Egypt for killing an Egyptian (before he was instructed to save the Jewish people), he stopped some men from bullying Jethro’s daughters at the well. Jethro warmly welcomed Moses into his tent, and, soon thereafter, gave him his daughter, Tziporah, as a wife. When Moses told his father-in-law that he wished to leave in order to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites to freedom, Jethro responded, “Go in peace” (Exodus 4:18). Not only did Jethro encourage him to go, but, according to Jewish tradition,after the Israelites received the Ten Commandments, Jethro joined his son-in-law, converted to Judaism, and even advised Moses on how to make the justice system work more smoothly.
*Jethro is one of several biblical personalities who is known by several names (according to tradition, Jethro had seven). In Exodus 2:18, he is referred to as Reuel; in Exodus 3:1, he is called Jethro.
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