Numbers 10:29
And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.
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(29) Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father in law.—Raguel is the same as Reuel (Exodus 2:18), and the orthography should be the same in all places. Reuel is commonly supposed to be identical with Jether (Exodus 4:18), or Jethro (Exodus 3:1), who is frequently described as the hothen (in the Authorised Version, “father-in-law”) of Moses (Numbers 18:2; Numbers 18:5-6, &c.). But, according to the ordinary rules of Hebrew syntax, Hobab, not Jethro, is here spoken of as the hothen of Moses; and in Judges 4:11 he is expressly so called. Inasmuch, however, as the cognate noun hathan is used to designate any near relation by marriage—as, e.g., the sons-in-law of Lot (Genesis 19:14)—the word hothen may here and in Judges 4:11 be rendered brother-in-law. Some, however, think that Hobab, whether identical with Jethro or not, was the son of Reuel, and that Zipporah was the daughter of Hobab. But when it is remembered that more than forty years had elapsed since Moses left the land of Egypt and came into that of Midian, and that he was now upwards of eighty years of age, it is much more probable that he should seek the aid of a guide through the wilderness amongst those of the same generation with Zipporah than amongst those of a generation above her. Whether Hobab accompanied Jethro on the occasion of the visit to Moses which is recorded in Exodus 18, whilst the Israelites were encamped at Sinai, and remained with them after Jethro’s departure (Numbers 10:27), or whether the Israelites had already commenced their journey (compare the words of Moses, “We are journeying,” or, setting forward, with the concluding words of Numbers 10:28, and they set forward, and were at this time passing through the territory in which Hobab, as the chief of a nomad tribe, was living, cannot positively be determined.

We are journeying unto the place . . . —These words imply a strong faith in God’s promise on the part of Moses, and a desire, not indeed altogether devoid of reference to mutual advantages, that those with whom he was connected by ties of earthly relationship should be partakers with himself and his people in the peculiar blessings which were promised to the chosen people of God. In any case, the invitation of Moses, when viewed as the mouthpiece of the Jewish Church, may be regarded in the light of an instructive lesson to the Church of Christ in all ages. It is alike the duty and the privilege of all who have heard and obeyed the Gospel invitation themselves to become the instruments of its communication to others. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come” (Revelation 22:17).



Numbers 10:29

There is some doubt with regard to the identity of this Hobab. Probably he was a man of about the same age as Moses, his brother-in-law, and a son of Jethro, a wily Kenite, a Bedouin Arab. Moses begs him to join himself to his motley company, and to be to him in the wilderness ‘instead of eyes.’ What did Moses want a man for, when he had the cloud? What do we want common-sense for, when we have God’s Spirit? What do we want experience and counsel for, when we have divine guidance promised to us? The two things work in together. The cloud led the march, but it was very well to have a man that knew all about the oases and the wells, the situation of which was known only to the desert-born tribes, and who could teach the helpless slaves from Goshen the secrets of camp life. So Moses pressed Hobab to change his position, to break with his past, and to launch himself into an altogether new and untried sort of life.

And what does he plead with him as the reason? ‘We will do thee good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.’ Probably Hobab looked rather shy at the security, for I suppose he was no worshipper of Jehovah, and he said, ‘No; I had rather go home to my own people and my own kindred and my father’s house where I fit in, and keep to my own ways, and have something a little more definite to lay hold of than your promise, or the promise of your Jehovah that lies behind it. These are not solid, and I am going back to my tribe.’ But Moses pressed and he at last consented, and the following verses suggest that the arrangement was made satisfactorily, and that the journeyings began prosperously. In the Book of Judges we find traces of the presence of Hobab’s descendants as incorporated among the people of Israel. One of them came to be somebody, the Jael who struck the tent-peg through the temples of the sleeping Sisera, for she is called ‘the wife of Heber the Kenite.’ Probably, then, in some sense Hobab must have become a worshipper of Jehovah, and have cast in his lot with his brother-in-law and his people. I do not set Hobab up as a shining example. We do not know much about his religion. But it seems to me that this little glimpse into a long-forgotten and unimportant life may teach us two or three things about the venture of faith, the life of faith, and the reward of faith.

I. The venture of faith.

I have already said that Hobab had nothing in the world to trust to except Moses’ word, and Moses’ report of God’s Word. ‘We will do you good; God has said that He will do good to us, and you shall have your share in it.’ It was a grave thing, and, in many circumstances, would have been a supremely foolish thing, credulous to the verge of insanity, to risk all upon the mere promise of one in Moses’ position, who had so little in his own power with which to fulfil the promise; and who referred him to an unseen divinity, somewhere or other; and so drew bills upon heaven and futurity, and did not feel himself at all bound to pay them when they fell due, unless God should give him the cash to do it with. But Hobab took the plunge, he ventured all upon these two promises-Moses’ word, and God’s word that underlay it.

Now that is just what we have to do. For, after all talking about reasons for belief, and evidences of religion, and all the rest of it, it all comes to this at last-will you risk everything on Jesus Christ’s bare word? There are plenty of reasons for doing so, but what I wish to bring out is this, that the living heart and root of true Christianity is neither more nor less than the absolute and utter reliance upon nothing else but Christ, and therefore on His word. He did not even condescend to give reasons for that reliance, for His most solemn assurance was just this, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you.’ That is as much as to say, ‘If you do not see in Me, without any more argument, reason enough for believing Me, you do not see Me at all.’

Christ did not argue-He asserted, and in default of all other proof, if I might venture to say so, He put His own personality into the scales and said, ‘There, that will outweigh everything.’ So no wonder that ‘they were astonished at His doctrine,’-not so much at the substance of it as at the tone of it, ‘for He taught them with authority.’

But what right had He to teach them with authority? What right has He to present Himself there in front of us and proclaim, ‘I say unto you, and there is an end of it’? The heart and essence of Christian faith is doing, in a far sublimer fashion, precisely what this wild Arab did, when he uprooted himself from the conditions in which his life had grown up, and flung himself into an unknown future, on bare trust in a bare word. Jesus Christ asks us to do the same by Him. Whether His word comes to us revealing, or commanding, or promising, it is absolute, and, for His true followers, ends all controversy, all hesitation, all reluctance. When He commands it is ours to obey and live. And when He promises it is for us to twine all the tendrils of our expectations round that faithful word, and by faith to make ‘the anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.’ The venture of faith takes a word for the most solid thing in the universe, and the Incarnate Word of God for the basis of all our hope, the authority for all our conduct, ‘the Master-light of all our seeing.’

II. Hobab suggests to us, secondly-

The sort of life that follows the venture of faith. The hindrances to his joining Moses were plainly put by himself. He said in effect, ‘I will not come; I will depart to mine own land and to my kindred. Why should I attach myself to a horde of strangers, and go wandering about the desert for the rest of my life, looking out for encampments for them, when I can return to where I have been all my days; and be surrounded by the familiar atmosphere of friends and relatives?’ But he bethought himself that there was a nobler life to live than that, and because he was stirred by the impulse of reliance on Moses and his promise, and perhaps by some germ of reliance on Moses’ God, he finally said, ‘The die is cast. I choose my side. I will break with the past. I turn my back on kindred and home. Here I draw a broad line across the page, and begin over again in an altogether new kind of life. I identify myself with these wanderers; sharing their fortunes, hoping to share their prosperity, and taking their God for my God.’ He had perhaps not been a nomad before, for there still are permanent settlements as well as nomad encampments in Arabia, as there were in those days, and he and his relatives, from the few facts that we know of them, seem to have had a fixed home, with a very narrow zone of wandering round it. So Hobab, an old man probably, if he was anything like the age of his connection by marriage, Moses, who was eighty at this time, makes up his mind to begin a new career.

Now that is what we have to do. If we have faith in Christ and His promise, we shall not say, ‘I am going back to my kindred and to my home.’ We shall be prepared to accept the conditions of a wanderer’s life. We shall recognise and feel, far more than we ever have done, that we are indeed ‘pilgrims and sojourners’ here. Dear Christian friends, we have no business to call ourselves Christ’s men, unless the very characteristic of our lives is that we are drawn ever forward by the prospect of future good, and unless that future is a great deal more solid and more operative upon us, and tells more on our lives, than this intrusive, solid-seeming present that thrusts itself between us and our true home. That is a sure saying. The Christian obligation to live a life of detachment, even while diligent in duty, is not to be brushed aside as pulpit rhetoric and exaggeration, but it is the plainest teaching of the New Testament. I wish it was a little more exemplified in the daily life of the people who call themselves Christians.

If I am not living for the unseen and the future, what right have I to say that I am Christ’s at all? If the shadows are more than the substance to me; if this condensed vapour and fog that we call reality has not been to our apprehension thinned away into the unsubstantial mist that it is, what have the principles of Christianity done for us, and what worth is Christ’s word to us? If I believe Him, the world is-I do not say, as the sentimental poet put it, ‘but a fleeting show, for man’s illusion given’;-but as Paul puts it, a glass which may either reveal or obscure the realities beyond; and according as we look at, or look through, ‘the things seen and temporal,’ do we see, or miss, ‘the things unseen and eternal.’ So, then, the life of faith has for its essential characteristic-because it is a life of reliance on Christ’s bare word-that future good is consciously its supreme aim. That will detach us, as it did Hobab, from home and kindred, and make us feel that we are ‘pilgrims and sojourners.’

III. Lastly, our story suggests to us-

The rewards of faith.

‘Come with us,’ says Moses; ‘we are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you. Come thou with us, and we will do thee what goodness the Lord shall do unto us.’ He went, and neither he nor Moses ever saw the land, or at least never set their feet on it. Moses saw it from Pisgah, but probably Hobab did not even get so much as that.

So he had all his tramping through the wilderness, and all his work, for nothing, had he? Had he not better have gone back to Midian, and made use of the present reality, than followed a will-of-the-wisp that led him into a bog, if he got none of the good that he set out expecting to get? Then, did he make a mistake? Would he have been a wiser man if he had stuck to his first refusal? Surely not. It seems to me that the very fact of this great promise being given to this old-dare I call Hobab a ‘saint’? -to this old saint, and never being fulfilled at all in this world, compels us to believe that there was some gleam of hope, and of certainty, of a future life, even in these earliest days of dim and partial revelation.

To me it is very illuminative, and very beautiful, that the dying Jacob bursts in his song into a sudden exclamation, ‘I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord!’ It is as if he had felt that all his life long he had been looking for what had never come, and that it could not be that God was going to let him go down to the grave and never grasp the good that he had been waiting for all his days. We may apply substantially the same thoughts to Hobab, and to all his like, and may turn them to our own use, and argue that the imperfections of the consequences of our faith here on earth are themselves evidences of a future, where all that Christ has said shall be more than fulfilled, and no man will be able to say, ‘Thou didst send me out, deluding me with promises which have all gone to water and have failed.’

Hobab dying there in the desert had made the right choice, and if we will trust ourselves to Christ and His faithful word, and, trusting to Him, will feel that we are detached from the present and that it is but as the shadow of a cloud, whatever there may be wanting in the results of our faith here on earth, there will be nothing wanting in its results at the last. Hobab did not regret his venture, and no man ever ventures his faith on Christ and is disappointed. ‘He that believeth shall not be confounded.’

Numbers 10:29. Raguel — Called also Reul, Exodus 2:18, who seems to be the same with Jethro; it being usual in Scripture for one person to have two or three names. And therefore this Hobab is not Jethro, but his son, which may seem more probable, because Jethro was old and unfit to travel, and desirous, as may well be thought, to die in his own country, whither he returned, Exodus 18:27; but Hobab was young, and fitter for these journeys, and therefore entreated by Moses to stay and bear them company.

10:29-32 Moses invites his kindred to go to Canaan. Those that are bound for the heavenly Canaan, should ask and encourage their friends to go with them: we shall have none the less of the joys of heaven, for others coming to share with us. It is good having fellowship with those who have fellowship with God. But the things of this world, which are seen, draw strongly from the pursuit of the things of the other world, which are not seen. Moses urges that Hobab might be serviceable to them. Not to show where they must encamp, nor what way they must march, the cloud was to direct that; but to show the conveniences of the place they marched through, and encamped in. It well consists with our trust in God's providence, to use the help of our friends.Hobab, the son of Raguel - Or Reuel Exodus 2:18. Reuel was probably not identical with Jethro: and Hobab was the brother-in-law, not the father-in-law, of Moses; the Hebrew word translated in the King James Version "father-in-law," signifying simply any relation by marriage (Exodus 3:1 note). Hobab Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11 eventually accompanied the Israelites and obtained a settlement with them in the land of Canaan. Hobab and Jethro may have been brethren and sons of Reuel. 29. Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite—called also Reuel (the same as Jethro [Ex 2:18, Margin]). Hobab, the son of this Midianite chief and brother-in-law to Moses, seems to have sojourned among the Israelites during the whole period of their encampment at Sinai and now on their removal proposed returning to his own abode. Moses urged him to remain, both for his own benefit from a religious point of view, and for the useful services his nomad habits could enable him to render. Raguel, called also Reuel, Exodus 2:18, who seems to be the same who is called Jethro, Exodus 3:1, it being usual in Scripture for one person to have two or three names. And therefore this Hobab is not Jethro, but his son, which may seem more probable, because Jethro was old and unfit for travel, and desirous, as may well be thought, to die in his own country, whither he returned, Exodus 18:27; but Hobab was young and fitter for these journeys, and therefore entreated by Moses to stay and bear them company.

Moses’s father-in-law; which words are ambiguous, but seem to belong to Raguel, or Reuel, not to Hobab, though others are of another mind.

And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite,

Moses's father in law,.... Some think this Hobab was the same with Jethro, whose father's name was Raguel or Reuel; so Jarchi and Ben Gersom; but rather Raguel or Reuel, and Jethro, seem to be the same, and was Moses's father-in-law, and this Hobab was the son of him, and brother of Zipporah, Moses's wife; and the same relation is designed whether the word is rendered his "father-in-law" or his "wife's brother", so Aben Ezra; as it may be either; if the former, then it may be joined to Raguel, if the latter, then to Hobab: Jethro or Raguel, Moses's father-in-law, came to see him as soon as he came to Horeb, and after some short stay with him returned to Midian, and left this his son Hobab, who remained with Moses unto this time; but now, as Israel was about to remove from the wilderness of Sinai, he showed a disposition to return to his own country, when Moses addressed him in order to persuade him to continue with them:

we are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you; that is, the land of Canaan, which God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their posterity: Moses puts himself among the children of Israel as journeying towards Canaan, with an expectation to possess it; for as yet the decree, as Jarchi observes, was not made, or made manifest, that he should not enter it; or he said this, as others think, because he would not discourage the Israelites nor Hobab, who might argue from thence, that if he, by whom God had brought Israel out of Egypt, and had done such wonders by him, should not enter into the good! and, how should they? but as yet Moses himself knew not that he should not enter into it; however, he speaks of it as a certain thing, that God had promised to give it to Israel, and it might be depended upon; and now they were just going to set forward in their journey, in order to take possession of it, he entreats that Hobab would go with them:

come thou with us, and we will do thee good; by giving him a part of the spoils of their enemies, and a settlement in the land:

for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel; and he is faithful, who has promised and will perform.

And Moses said unto {m} Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.

(m) Some think that Reuel, Jethro, Hobab, and Keni were all one: Kimhi says that Reuel was Jethro's father: so Hobab was Moses father-in-law, see Ex 2:18,3:1,4:18,18:1 Jud 4:11

29. Hobab, the son of Reuel … Moses’ father in law] These words do not make it clear whether Moses’ father-in-law is Ḥobab or Reuel. In Exodus 2:18 he is Reuel; and accordingly in Jdg 4:11 Ḥobab is described (in R.V. ) as ‘the brother-in-law of Moses’ (and cf. Jdg 1:16). But ‘brother-in-law’ and ‘father-in-law’ are renderings of the same Heb. word ḥôthçn; and it would be strange to find the father and the brother of the same man’s wife described by the same term. Moreover Exodus 2:16 appears to imply that Moses’ father-in-law had no sons. It seems probable that ‘Reuel’ is a late insertion in Exodus 2:18 by some one who misunderstood the present passage, and that Ḥobab was really the name of Moses’ father-in-law in J . In E the name Jethro is used (Exodus 3:1; Exodus 4:18; Exodus 18:1-2; Exodus 18:5-6; Exodus 18:9-11). The form Raguel (A.V. from the Vulg. ) for Reuel is due to the LXX. Ῥαγουήλ, where the γ represents the guttural ‛ayin in the Heb. word.

The narrative of the incident is only fragmentary, for the account of Ḥobab’s arrival at Sinai (to which the parallel in E is found in Exodus 18) is omitted, and also the answer which he made to Moses’ intreaty. It may be gathered, however, from Jdg 1:16; Jdg 4:11 that he yielded and went with them.

Verse 29. - Hobab, the sou of Raguel (or rather Reuel, of which Raguel is simply the Septuagint and Vulgate variation), Moses' father-in-law. It is not quite certain who this "Hobab" was. The name occurs only here and in Judges 4:11. The older opinion, followed by the A.V., identified Hobab with Jethro, and Jethro with Reuel the "priest of Midian," and father of Zipporah, Moses' wife. It is, of course, no real objection to this opinion that Hobab is here called the "son of Reuel;" for the name may quite well have been an hereditary one, like Abimelech and so many others. Nor need the multiplicity of names given to one individual astonish us, for it is of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament, and not infrequent in the New. The father-in-law of Moses was a priest, holding (probably by right of birth) the patriarchal dignity of tribal priest, as Job did on a smaller, and Melchizedec on a larger, scale. He may very well, therefore, have had one or more "official" names in addition to his personal name. If this is accepted, then it may serve as one instance amongst many to remind us how extremely careless the inspired writers are about names - "careless" not in the sense of not caring whether they are right or wrong, but in the sense of not betraying and not feeling the least anxiety to avoid the appearance and suspicion of inaccuracy. Even in the lists of the twelve apostles we arc forced to believe that "Judas the brother of James" is the same person as "Lebbaeus" and "Thaddaeus;" and it is a matter of endless discussion whether or no "Bartholomew" was the same as "Nathanael." On the face of it Scripture proclaims that it uses no arts, that it takes no pains to preserve an appearance of accuracy - that appearance which is so easily simulated for the purposes of falsehood. Holy Scripture may therefore fairly claim to be read without that captiousness, without that demand for minute carefulness and obvious consistency, which we rightly apply to one of our own histories. The modern historian avowedly tells his story as a witness does in the presence of a hostile counsel; the sacred historian tells his as a man does to the children round his knee. Surely such an obvious fact should disarm a good deal of the petty criticism which carps at the sacred narrative. Many, however, will think that the balance of probability is against the older opinion. It is certain that the word translated "father-in-law" has no such definiteness either in the Hebrew or in the Septuagint. It means simply a "marriage relation," and is even used by Zipporah of Moses himself (Exodus 4:25, 26 - Hebrew. The Septuagint avoids the word). It is just as likely to mean "brother-in-law" when applied to Hobab. As Moses was already eighty years old when Jethro is first mentioned (Exodus 3:1), it may seem probable that his father-in-law was by that time dead, and succeeded in his priestly office by his eldest son. In that case Hobab would be a younger son of Reuel, and as such free to leave the home of his ancestors and to join himself to his sister's people. Numbers 10:29The conversation in which Moses persuaded Hobab the Midianite, the son of Reguel (see at Exodus 2:16), and his brother-in-law, to go with the Israelites, and being well acquainted with the desert to act as their leader, preceded the departure in order of time; but it is placed between the setting out and the march itself, as being subordinate to the main events. When and why Hobab came into the camp of the Israelites-whether he came with his father Reguel (or Jethro) when Israel first arrived at Horeb, and so remained behind when Jethro left (Exodus 18:27), or whether he did not come till afterwards-was left uncertain, because it was a matter of no consequence in relation to what is narrated here.

(Note: The grounds upon which Knobel affirms that the "Elohist" is not the author of the account in Numbers 10:29-36, and pronounces it a Jehovistic interpolation, are perfectly futile. The assertion that the Elohist had already given a full description of the departure in vv. 11-28, rests upon an oversight of the peculiarities of the Semitic historians. The expression "they set forward" in Numbers 10:28 is an anticipatory remark, as Knobel himself admits in other places (e.g., Genesis 7:12; Genesis 8:3; Exodus 7:6; Exodus 12:50; Exodus 16:34). The other argument, that Moses' brother-in-law is not mentioned anywhere else, involves a petitio principii, and is just as powerless a proof, as such peculiarities of style as "mount of the Lord," "ark of the covenant of the Lord," היטיב to do good (Numbers 10:29), and others of a similar kind, of which the critics have not even attempted to prove that they are at variance with the style of the Elohist, to say nothing of their having actually done so.)

The request addressed to Hobab, that he would go with them to the place which Jehovah had promised to give them, i.e., to Canaan, was supported by the promise that he would do good to them (Hobab and his company), as Jehovah had spoken good concerning Israel, i.e., had promised it prosperity in Canaan. And when Hobab declined the request, and said that he should return into his own land, i.e., to Midian at the south-east of Sinai (see at Exodus 2:15 and Exodus 3:1), and to his kindred, Moses repeated the request, "Leave us not, forasmuch as thou knowest our encamping in the desert," i.e., knowest where we can pitch our tents; "therefore be to us as eyes," i.e., be our leader and guide, - and promised at the same time to do him the good that Jehovah would do to them. Although Jehovah led the march of the Israelites in the pillar of cloud, not only giving the sign for them to break up and to encamp, but showing generally the direction they were to take; yet Hobab, who was well acquainted with the desert, would be able to render very important service to the Israelites, if he only pointed out, in those places where the sign to encamp was given by the cloud, the springs, oases, and plots of pasture which are often buried quite out of sight in the mountains and valleys that overspread the desert. What Hobab ultimately decided to do, we are not told; but "as no further refusal is mentioned, and the departure of Israel is related immediately afterwards, he probably consented" (Knobel). This is raised to a certainty by the fact that, at the commencement of the period of the Judges, the sons of the brother-in-law of Moses went into the desert of Judah to the south of Arad along with the sons of Judah (Judges 1:16), and therefore had entered Canaan with the Israelites, and that they were still living in that neighbourhood in the time of Saul (1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Samuel 27:10; 1 Samuel 30:29).

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