Numbers 10:31
And he said, 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) How we are to encamp . . . —It is clear from these words, as well as from many indications of the same nature, that notwithstanding the direct guidance which was vouchsafed from heaven, and the miraculous interpositions of Providence which the Israelites experienced throughout their journeys, Moses did not neglect to take advantage of all the ordinary precautions of which it was incumbent upon him as the leader of his people to avail himself. The line of march and the places of encampment were clearly marked out by the cloud, but many difficulties would arise in the course of the journeys, and at the places of encampment, which Hobab’s familiarity with the desert would enable him to meet.

Numbers 10:31. Thou mayest be to us instead of eyes — A very significant expression, importing that he should be to them as a guide to the blind. Several ancient versions, however, give a different turn to these words, probably in order to reconcile them with the promise of the divine conduct. The Chaldaic Paraphrase explains it thus: Thou knowest how we have encamped in the wilderness, and thine eyes have seen the miracles which have been wrought for us. The Samaritan thus: Thou knowest our encampments, and hast been to us instead of eyes. But this cannot be a just interpretation, for Hobab had not yet followed their camp. The Syriac thus: Thou shalt be dear to us as our eyes. The LXX., εση εν ημιν πρεσβυτης, Thou shalt be a senator among us; the counsellors of princes being sometimes called their eyes. But our translation seems most exactly to express the sense of the Hebrew, and certainly implies nothing inconsistent with the promise of the divine guidance; for though the cloud determined them to a general place, yet many particulars might be unknown to Moses, wherein Hobab, having long lived in those parts, might be able to advise him; as concerning the conveniences of water for their cattle; concerning the safety or danger of the several parts, by reason of serpents, or wild beasts, or enemies, in the parts adjoining to them, that so they might guard themselves better against them. Or, this is to be understood of his directing them not so much in their way, as about great and difficult matters, wherein the counsel Moses had from God did not exclude the advice of men, as we see in Hobab’s father, Jethro, Exodus 18. And it is probable this was the wise son of a wise father.

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.Thou mayest be to us instead of eyes - A proverbial expression still in use in the East. Hobab would indicate the spots where water, fuel, and pasture might be found, or warn them of the dangers from hurricanes, and point out localities infested by robbers. 31. Leave us not, I pray thee … and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes—The earnest importunity of Moses to secure the attendance of this man, when he enjoyed the benefit of the directing cloud, has surprised many. But it should be recollected that the guidance of the cloud, though it showed the general route to be taken through the trackless desert, would not be so special and minute as to point out the places where pasture, shade, and water were to be obtained and which were often hid in obscure spots by the shifting sands. Besides, several detachments were sent off from the main body; the services of Hobab, not as a single Arab, but as a prince of a powerful clan, would have been exceedingly useful. To direct and guide us; for though the cloud determined them to a general place, yet many particulars might be uncertain and unknown to Moses, wherein Hobab, having long lived in those parts, might be able to advise him, as concerning the conveniences of water for their cattle, concerning the safety or danger of the several parts by reason of serpents or wild beasts, or enemies, in the parts adjoining to them, that so they might guard themselves better against them. Or this to be understood of his directing them not so much in their way, as about great and difficult matters, wherein the counsel he had from God did not exclude the advice of men, as we see in Hobab’s father Jethro, Exo 18. And it is probable this was the wise son of a wise father.

And he said,.... That is, Moses, he replied to Hobab, unwilling to take him at his word and go without him:

leave us not, I pray thee; or "not now"; as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; at this present time, under our present difficulties, while we are in the wilderness; though Jarchi says the particle signifies beseeching or supplication:

forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness; that this will be our case, that we shall be obliged, before we get to the promised land, to pitch our tents in the wilderness, in our passage through it; and thou knowest which are the best and most convenient places for that purpose, and therefore must entreat thee to go with us:

and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes; not to show the way, as Aben Ezra notes, or guide and direct them in the road through the wilderness; for the cloud by day and the fire by night were of that use to them, as well as when it rested, it directed them when and where to pitch their tents; rather to assist with his advice in difficult matters, when they should be in pressing circumstances: the Targum of Jonathan is,"thou hast been dear unto us, as the apple of our eyes, and therefore we cannot part with thee.''

And he said, 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
31. instead of eyes] his presence would obviate the necessity of searching for halting places.

Verse 31. - Forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes. It is an obvious conclusion, from the reasons here urged by Moses, that the many and wonderful promises of Divine guidance and Divine direction did not supersede in his eyes the use of all available human aids. It is not indeed easy to say where any room was left for the good offices and experience of Hobab; the cloud of the Divine Presence seemed to control absolutely the journeying and encamping of the people; yet if we really knew in detail the actual ordering of that wondrous march, we should doubtless find that the heavenly guidance did but give unity and certainty to all the wisdom, caution, and endeavour of its earthly leaders. Indeed if we recall to mind that the host is calculated at more than two millions of people, it is quite evident that even during the march to Kadesh (and much more in the long wanderings which followed) it must have been extremely difficult to keep the various divisions together. In the broken and difficult country which they were to traverse, which had been familiar to Hobab from his youth, there would be scope enough for all his ability as a guide. And it would seem that it was just this prospect of being really useful to the people of Israel that prevailed with Hobab. He must indeed have felt assured that a wonderful future awaited a nation whose past and present were, even within his own knowledge, so wonderful. But that alone could not move him to leave his own land and his own kindred, a firing so unspeakably repugnant to the feelings and traditions of his age and country. Doubtless to the child of the desert, whose life was a never-ending struggle with the dangers and vicissitudes of the wilderness, the land of promise, flowing with milk and honey, watered with the rain of heaven, seemed like the garden of Eden. Yet the offer of an heritage within that land moved him not so much, it would appear, as the claim upon his own good offices in helping the chosen people to reach their own abode. The Septuagint translation, or rather paraphrase, of this verse is, "Leave us not, forasmuch as thou wast with us in the wilderness, and thou shalt be an elder among us." This seems, on the one hand, to identify Hobab with Jethro; on the other, to imply that he was shortly afterwards one of the seventy elders upon whom the spirit came. This, however, is not likely. Hobab does indeed seem to have gone with the people, but his descendants were not incorporated into Israel; they were with them, but not of them. Numbers 10:31The 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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