Chapter 10

NUMBERS CHAPTER 10

Two Silver Trumpets

    • The Lord spoke to Moses and gave him the following instructions:

      • Make two trumpets out of silver. Aaron and the priests will use them for calling the community together and for signaling to break camp. When calling the community together, blow the trumpet with long blasts. This is a permanent law for you throughout your generations.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Two silver trumpets provided a simple, effective means to signal all the tribes to move. These trumpets were not the ram’s horns (Hebrew shopar) mentioned frequently in the OT (Joshua 6:4-6); they were fashioned by Israelite craftsmen from hammered silver brought out of Egypt.”

        • When both trumpets are sounded everyone is to gather in front of the Tabernacle, but if only one trumpet is blown, only the leaders (heads of the Israelite clans) will gather in front of the Tabernacle.”

        • When you sound the trumpet in short blasts, the camps on the east will set out. When you sound the short blasts a second time, the camps on the south will set out.”

        • When you come to your land and go to battle with enemies, sound short trumpet blasts and I will remember you and rescue you.”

        • You are also to sound the trumpets during joyous occasions, when you are offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, during your annual festivals, and at the beginning of each month. This will be your reminder that I am the Lord your God.”

The Israelites Move from Sinai to Paran

    • The book of Numbers has done some chronological jumping around which can make it difficult to place exactly where the Israelites are with respect to the amount of time that has passed since they left Egypt. The HCSB Apologetics Study Bible provides a much needed explanation of how much time has passed and what time of year it is as the Israelites set out from Sinai:

        • The historical setting for the second section of the book of Numbers is the twentieth day of the second month of the second year after the exodus from Egypt, or about a month after the week-long Passover described in Numbers 9:1-14 (Exodus 13:6). Those Passover worshipers who had been unclean in the first month had been able to celebrate on the fourteenth of the second month (Numbers 9:6-12). Less than two months have elapsed since the completion and dedication of the Tabernacle. But after spending 11 months in the Wilderness of Sinai, the Israelites would now begin to follow the Lord’s leading toward His intended destination for them, the promised land. These verses are an introductory summary of the first stages of the journey, as the Israelites followed the cloud of God from Mount Sinai to the Wilderness of Paran of the northwest Sinai region. Again, the Israelites are described as faithfully following the Lord’s command through Moses, in the language of the journey song of 9:17-23.”

    • In the second year after the Israelites had left Egypt- on the 20th day of the 2nd month- the cloud rose up from the Tabernacle, so the Israelites traveled following the cloud out of the Wilderness of Sinai. They moved from place to place until the cloud stopped in the Wilderness of Paran.

      • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible makes the following notes about this journey, “The geographic parameters of this initial movement are the Sinai and the Paran Deserts. According to 33:16-18, the Israelites camped at Taberah (11:3), Kilbroth Hattaavah (11:34-35), and Hazeroth (12:6) on their way to the Paran Desert, the parameters of which are hard to outline. No cartographic mapping remains from this period to identify these regions. From the Biblical data Paran was west of Midian and east of Egypt, extending from some point north or northeast of Mount Sinai- north toward Kadesh Barnea and east to the Arabah.”

    • The first time the Israelites set out they followed the instructions that the Lord had given them through Moses:

      • Judah’s troops led the way (with Nahshon as the leader) marching behind their banner. Then Issachar’s troops led by Nethanel, and Zebulun’s troops led by Eliab.

      • Then, the Tabernacle was taken down and the Gershonites and Merarites set out carrying the Tabernacle.

      • Reuben’s troops departed next (led by Elizur) marching behind their banner. Then Simeon’s troops led by Shelumiel, and Gad’s troops led by Eliasaph.

      • Next, the Kohathites (division of the Levites) set out transporting the holy objects. By the time they arrived at the next camp, the Tabernacle would already be set up.

      • Ephraim’s troops departed next (led by Elishama) marching behind their banner. Then Manasseh’s troops led by Gamaliel, and Benjamin’s troops led by Abidan.

      • Finally, Dan’s troops set out serving as the rear guard (led by Ahiezer) marching behind their banner. Then Asher’s troops led by Pagiel, and Naphtali’s troops led by Ahira.

Hobab the Guide

    • Moses said to his brother-in-law Hobab (Reuel the Midianite’s son), “We’re heading out to the land the Lord promised us when He said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us. We’ll treat you well, the Lord has promised Israel good things.” Hobab replied, “No, I’ll go back to my own land and family.” Moses continued, “Please don’t leave us. Come be our guide- you know the places in the wilderness that we should camp. If you’ll accompany us, we’ll share all the blessings the Lord gives us with you.”

      • Two questions arise with this passage: 1) Who was Hobab son of Reuel; and 2) is Moses demonstrating a lack of faith in the Lord by requesting the Hobab come with them so that he can be their guide?”

              1. There are actually a couple of elements to this controversy:

                             A. Who was Reuel? Here are some options:

                • Reuel is just another name for Jethro. HCSB notes that this is a common scenario for the time period, “…Jethro and Reuel could well be the same person, since dual names are often encountered in Bronze Age texts from Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean region.”

                • Stephen Valcourt lists the following option in his article on the subject, “Reuel could be the father of the clan (or household) and the daughters of Jethro were, therefore, attributed to Reuel. This would be consistent with the practices of the day (such as Jacob claiming Joseph’s children as his own in Genesis 48:5). However, this would also force the character called Hobab into the role of Moses’ father-in-law, which while seeming to work just fine raises difficulties later on when considering that Hobab is recorded as staying with the Israelites as a guide after their exodus from Egypt while Jethro is recorded as returning home.”

                • HCSB notes another suggestion, “Others suggest the reference to Hobab, whose name means ‘beloved friend,’ is a later scribal insertion, to give identity to a friend of Moses.

                • Reuel” is the man’s actual name, whereas “Jethro” is his title. The article Who was Moses’ Father explains, “’Reuel’ means ‘friend of God’ and it is most likely an actual name, but the word used for ‘father’ is ‘ab and this also refers to the chief patriarch of a clan. Reuel, as the chief patriarch, was the one who arranged all the marriages for his female descendants. He was most likely a grandfather (or perhaps great-grandfather), which the word combination father/daughter allows.” In Hebrew, “Jethro” actually means, “His Excellence/Posterity.” This actually works well with our first option- Reuel and Jethro are the same man- Reuel is his name, Jethro is his title.

                      B. Father-in-Law or Brother-in-Law?

            • Numbers 10:29 calls Hobab Moses’ brother-in-law (son of Moses’ father-in-law), while Judges 4:11 calls Hobab Moses’ father-in-law. According to HCSB commentary, “The Hebrew choten can mean ‘brother-in-law’ (preferred here) or ‘father-in-law’ (Exodus 3:1).”

            • Fausset’s Bible Dictionary offers the following entry under the name “Hobab”: “(“beloved”.) Only in Numbers 10:29; Judges 4:11. Not probably ‘father-in-law,’ but as the Hebrew Chathan often means, ‘brother in law,’ of Moses. Son of Raguel = Reuel (as Gazah = Azzah), Exodus 2:18. Moses’ entreaty, ‘Leave us not, I pray thee, forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes,’ implies that Hobab was younger than Moses’ father-in-law could now have been. Reuel had seven grown daughters when Moses first went into the wilderness at 40, and now Moses was 80. It is therefore probable that by this time Reuel’s son Jethro had succeeded him in his hereditary priesthood. Moreover, Hobab is not Jethro (Exodus 18:27), for Jethro left the Israelites for his own land Midian before they reached Sinai, whereas Hobab accompanied them and settled in Canaan (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11). Hobab and Jethro (‘excellency’) were probably brothers of Zipporah, Moses’ wife, and sons of Reuel; Hobab the younger, and therefore not bound, as Jethro the elder, to his own tribe by the duties of an hereditary priesthood. We do not hear of Jethro after his departure from Israel before Sinai.”

              1. Was Moses demonstrating a lack of faith?

            • HCSB notes, “The text does not even hint at this possibility, focusing instead on Hobab as a potential recipient of Israel’s covenant blessings.”

          • Why would Hobab’s insight be useful? NLT Illustrated Study Bible explains, “As a Midianite shepherd, Hobab knew the routes and possible sources of food and water in this region of the Sinai peninsula.”

            • Guzik provides an excellent answer, “Moses was a wise enough leader to know his limitations, and to know that he needed help… God plans it this way, often arranging it so His help comes to us partially through people He has ordained to help us.”

    • Following the Ark, the Israelites left Mount Sinai and traveled for three days before the cloud stopped at the place they were to rest. The cloud hovered over them as they traveled during the day. When the Ark would set out, Moses would say, “Arise Lord! Let Your enemies scatter, and those who hate You run from Your presence.” When the Ark stopped, Moses would say, “Lord, return to the countless thousands of Israel.”

      • Moses words when the Ark moved and stopped are known as the “Battle Song of the Ark.” HCSB notes, “Preceding the Battle Song of the Ark is a chronological marker for the first stage of the movement of the Lord’s cloud. As the symbol of God’s presence and leadership (Exodus 40:38), the cloud would go ahead of the people at a distance over a journey of three days (about 35-45 miles), while still covering them for protection. The Ark, symbolic throne of God in covenant relationship to Israel, would lead the way for the people. The three day journey is reminiscent of Moses’ request of Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to journey three days into the wilderness to worship God.”