There seems to be some confusion in the traditions preserving—or creating as the case may be—the name of Moses’ father-in-law, Zipporah’s father.
The textual tradition identified as the Yahwist consistently refers to him as Reuel (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29), while the Elohist tradition uses the name Jethro (Ex 3:1, 3:18, 18:1-27).
To further complicate issues, another source names Hobab as the father-in-law of Moses (Judg 4:11), and Num 10:29 refers to Hobab as Reuel’s son, implying therefore that Reuel was Moses’ grandfather-in-law!
These differences most likely represent varying oral traditions. Many scholars have sought to caution against using modern ideas to understand how texts were written in the ancient world. So rather than thinking about an author a more appropriate model might be a scribe who was himself merely copying down a handed-down tradition. This might be a good analogy to understand this textual contradiction. Indeed, it has often been conjectured that the Yahwist and Elohist were just that—scribes recording traditions that they themselves inherited, and who weaved these stories into unique narratives with particular political or religious orientations.
If you’ve ever read Herodotus’ Histories you might have an idea of what I’m referring to. In that ancient piece of historiography when Herodotus discovers variant tellings of the same story on his wanderings, he informs his readers while nonetheless providing both variations. And he weaves these stories together into a narrative that he himself is composing, and one that nonetheless has a specific religious punch line—God does not tolerate hubris!
Could the biblical scribes have been doing a comparable thing? In this case the composite biblical text, or scrolls, might have been understood as a repository of conflicting stories rather than as a coherent and continuous “historical” narrative. Too often we impose our own ideas of text, narrative, and authorship onto these ancient texts.