Righteous Gentiles

Jethro and Melchizadek: Two Righteous Gentiles

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem not only remembers those who died in Europe during that awful period from 1933-45, it also honors non-Jews who protected and rescued their Jewish neighbors from death. They are memorialized on the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles.

In Exodus 17 and 18 I have pondered how the Amalekites, history’s “first terrorists” (17), contrasted so sharply with the Midianites (18) in the ways the two “Gentile” peoples related to Israel after they departed from Egypt. The Amalekites were descendants of Abraham through Esau who viciously attacked Israel (Exo.17:8-16) by killing the stragglers at the rear of the Israelite column (Deut. 25:17-19). In both of these passages God promised eternal vengeance on this people who never ceased in their hatred for Israel until they were finally eliminated in the days of Esther and Mordecai (Esther 3:1; 7:10; 9:14).

The Midianites, however, were descendants of Abraham through Keturah who greeted peacefully the Israelites in the person of their priest, Jethro (Exo. 18:1-12). The father-in-law of Moses is one paradigm of the righteous Gentile who provides for Israel rather than attacks them. While Jethro is best known for his sage counsel to Moses to recruit a team who could help him in his excessive labors (Exo. 18:13-27), there are also some interesting parallels with an earlier righteous Gentile named Melchizedek. Note some of these amazing points of comparison between the two, first suggested to me by John Sailhamer.

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