From the wide ranging body of commentary on these topics we can find exegetes who sketch two opposite composite portraits of Yitro:
- R. Avraham Saba in his Tzeror HaMor depicts Yitro as the antithesis of Amalek and a symbol of justice, truth, and peace. He adds that Yitro came in order to convert,1 and that his advice demonstrated great wisdom and Divine inspiration.
- R. Yitzchak Arama in his Akeidat Yitzchak presents a uniformly flattering portrayal of Yitro. He praises Yitro for both the fine character reflected in his bringing Zipporah back to Moshe and the intellect displayed in his sagacious advice to Moshe. The Akeidat Yitzchak does not address the question of whether Yitro converted, but in his commentary on Bemidbar (Chapter 72) he suggests that after Yitro departed he returned and remained with the Children of Israel.
- Philo's portrayal of Yitro is extremely negative.2 In On the Change of Names, he writes how Yitro's name symbolizes superfluousness and pride. Similarly, in On Drunkenness he criticizes Yitro's advice saying that Yitro in his arrogance "proposes laws contrary to those of nature."3 Philo even attempts to cast even Yitro's recognition of Hashem's might in Shemot 18:12 as an offensive comparison of Hashem to other gods.4
- Some Midrashim – Tanchuma and Tanchuma Buber Yitro 2-4 read Yitro (with Amalek) into the verse in Mishlei 19:25 "Flog a scoffer, and the simple will become prudent," thus portraying Yitro in an unflattering light. Shemot Rabbah and Midrash Shemuel take this even further, deepening Yitro's relationship with the enemies of the Children of Israel. See Yitro and Amalek for more.
An analysis of the personality of Yitro is related to the following topics:
- Yitro's Religious Identity and the meaning of kohen
- Yitro's Names and his Relationship to Moshe
- Yitro and Amalek
- The Purpose of Yitro's Visit
- The meaning of vayichad
- Did Moshe Need Yitro's Advice?
- Why did Yitro Leave? and Did he Return and Remain with the Nation?
Click here to proceed to Yitro's Religious Identity.