One question that disturbs us in Numbers 10 is, what is the name of Moses’ father-in-law? Numbers 10:29 (ESV) says, “Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law…” This section is very confusing. The meaning in the Recovery Version that we are reading is “Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, is the son of Reuel the Midianite,” because Judges 4:11 mentions “Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses.” But when I first read it, I felt like “Moses’ father-in-law is Reuel, and he has a son named Hobab.” One person at the meeting said that this understanding was not consistent with Judges 4:11. It seems to her that the father of Hobab, Moses’ father-in-law, was called Reuel. But I said that when Exodus 2:18 was talking about Moses had helped to water the flock of the daughters of a Midianite priest in the wilderness, it was mentioned that their father’s name was “Reuel”. This proves that Reuel is not Moses’ grandfather, but rather Moses’ father-in-law himself. When Exodus 3:1 mentions Moses’ father-in-law, the name used is “Jethro”.

What is the name of Moses’ father-in-law? There is an explanation that “Jethro” is just a title, just like the title of the Midianite priest, and “Reuel” is the name of his father-in-law. In Judges 4:11, the word “father-in-law” in “Moses’ father-in-law Hobab” is the same as “brother-in-law” in the original Hebrew text. Therefore, some Bible translation scholars also advocate that the father-in-law in Judges 4:11 be translated as “brother-in-law”.

There are different translations in the different English Bible versions. NRSV and some other versions such as “Darby Bible Translation”, “King James”, “ESV” and other translations have translated Judges 4:11 into “Moses’ father-in-law Hobab”.

But there are also many versions, including “New Living Translation”, “NIV”, “Good News Translation”, “New Heart English Bible” , “American Standard Version”, “English Revised Version”, “World English Bible” and other versions which have translated it as “Moses’ brother-in-law.” It can be seen that theologians also have different understandings or disputes on how to translate this verse.

My inspiration is Hobab is Moses’ brother-in-law. Why? I will give an example to prove my guess. First, let us look at the story in Exodus 18. Exodus 18 talks about when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of the great things God had done for Moses and for the Israelites, he had brought Moses’ wife and two children with him. Moses had then testified to his father-in-law again of how God saved the Israelites. The reaction of Jethro listening to Moses was recorded in Exodus 18:9-12:

18:9 (ESV) “And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians.

18:10 (ESV) Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.

18:11 (ESV) Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”

18:12 (ESV) And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.”

Looking at these verses, we can see that Jethro thanked and praised Jehovah, and offered sacrifices to God. Using a common phrase that we Christians use, Jethro seems to have received salvation and accepts God’s salvation when he heard Moses’ testimony. Then Exodus 18:13-26 recorded that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gave Moses advice of appointing chiefs of thousands and hundreds etc. to help him judge the people. Please note that verse 18:27 (ESV) says, “Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.

What I need you to pay attention to is the place and time when Jethro came. He might have come to Mount Sinai, the place where Moses set up the tabernacle, sometime in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt. Exodus 16:1 (ESV) recorded that the Israelites came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. After Moses let his father-in-law depart (ESV, Exodus 18:27), Exodus 19:1 (ESV) recorded that the Israelites came to the wilderness of Sinai “on the third new moon” in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt. NIV says “on the first day of the third month” instead. And Numbers 10:11-13 (ESV) mentioned, “In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. They set out for the first time at the command of the Lord by Moses.”

The book of Numbers records that they have been traveling from the wilderness of Sinai on February 20 of the second year. Perhaps, they have stop and go along the way. Perhaps they were still in Sinai someday in March, where Jehovah descended on Mount Sinai. Exodus 19 records Moses going up the mountain to meet with God, the Lord speaking to Moses for a long time and promulgating the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Moses stayed with God on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18). After which, in Exodus 31, the Lord commanded Moses to build the tabernacle. After Moses went down the mountain, he found that the Israelites broke the law as they had worshipped the golden calf. Later, he went to Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 34:28). Chapter 35 begins to record the details of the construction of the tabernacle. At Exodus 40:2 (ESV), the Lord said to Moses: “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.” It can be seen that Moses was setting up the tabernacle on the first day of the first month of the second year after the Israelites left Egypt. The record of leaving Egypt ends here. It was mentioned that the clouds covering the tabernacle guided the Israelites’ movement. It’s when the cloud was lifted from above the tabernacle before the Israelites would set out. The book of Numbers is a continuation of the records here. It continues to record the journey of the Israelites.

I guess that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, left during the period around February 20, the second year after the Israelites left Egypt. Plus this was also recorded in chapter 16 before Jethro came in Exodus 18. The Israelites were in the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, around February 15. If this was recorded in chronological order, Moses’ father-in-law may have come to see Moses after February 15th. On February 20th, the Israelites began to “set out for the first time”. Perhaps the wilderness of Sinai was large and they had walked for quite a long time.

Although we don’t know exactly when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came, we can guess from the above verses that he may come around February 15-20. Why do I tend to think that the Hobab recorded in Numbers 10:29 might be Moses’ brother-in-law, rather than his father-in-law? If he was his father-in-law, how do you explain the special record in Exodus 18:27 (ESV), “Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.” If in Numbers 10, Moses had begged for his father-in-law to not leave him, why didn’t he prevent his father-in-law from leaving in Exodus 18, and had even “let” him went away to his own country? And how far is the place where Moses’ father-in-law is located and the place where Moses camped? At that time, the transportation was inconvenient. It is impossible for Jethro to leave and would just come back soon. This makes no sense!

I shared that Moses’ father-in-law was old and he had praised and offered sacrifices to Jehovah. So Moses was also at ease to let him leave, giving him a proper burial in his own country. Moreover, it is very difficult for people to leave their hometowns when they are old. This is normal. So Moses was not willing to stop his father-in-law from leaving. However, when Moses’ father-in-law came, he might have brought Moses’ brother-in-law Hobab with him and might have lived with Moses for a few more days. When Moses was encamping, Hobab might have said that he hoped to go back to his own country as his father, Jethro. That’s why Moses began to beg him. Why did Moses beg him? My guess is although Hobab wanted to return to his hometown, he was still young and the Bible does not record that he knew Jehovah, so if he went back, he might not be able to enter the kingdom of God peacefully like his father. Thus Moses hoped that Hobab could embark on a difficult but promising journey with him so that Hobab’s family could be saved. Although he also has thoughts of leaving, he is young so there is still room to persuade him.

Thus Moses begged Hobab and said, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. And if you do go with us, whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same will we do to you.” (ESV, Numbers 10:31-32). Some people think that Moses does not trust God enough here but I think maybe is not like that.  Because whenever Moses went, he had the presence and leading of the cloud. He does not necessarily need the help of Hobab. But if Hobab leaves Moses, he would not necessarily be able to enjoy the presence of God. So it is not necessarily that Moses needs Hobab when he was begging Hobab. Rather, he is worried that Hobab would wander away from God.

I shared my own testimony. My brother-in-law and I live together. He and his daughter are studying in the United States. The inspiration of my wife and I is we hope that they will gradually know Jesus Christ when they are living with us. As expected, after they had lived with us for a period of time, I discovered that my brother was gradually opening up to the gospel. For a while, he and his sister had a dispute over a small matter and wanted to move out, I then tried to let him stay. I later proved that this was right. If he moves away because of an argument, he may stumble. It is inevitable that there will be some little conflicts when family members live together. We do not live out Christ in everything, but if we can make people walk with us, it will still increase their chances of being saved and knowing Jesus Christ.

Of course, the Bible does not record in Numbers 10 whether Hobab agreed to Moses’ request, but other verses suggest that Hobab did walk with Moses. Judges 1 tells the story of Judah going up first to fight. It is especially recorded in verse 16 (ESV): “The descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad, and they went and settled with the people.” From this verse, we can see that Hobab may have agreed to Moses’ request, and thus received God’s blessing and became dwelling with the tribe of Judah. Judges 4:11 (ESV) says, “Heber the Kenite had separated from the Kenites, the descendants of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses (or brother-in-law), and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.” The descendant of Hobab, which is Jael, killed Sisera, Israel’s enemy. They are indeed part of warriors to fight for God.

I heard Chuck Pierce, a prophet in the United States, say that the tent peg of the tabernacle that Jael use to hit Sisera’s head was the same word in the Hebrew text and Genesis 1 “God created the heavens and the earth”. This tent peg is made of wood. It represents that when Christ was crucified on the cross, the heavens and the earth will be linked together, and the power of God’s enemy Satan (represented by Sisera) will be removed. Since Hobab followed Moses and took this arduous journey, he had also received great blessings.

Several other stories in Numbers 10 (How to blow the trumpets, verses 1-10; How to set out, verses 11-13; Order of march as they set out, verses 14-28; Leading of the ark, 33-36), and the stories inserted in the middle like when Moses begged Hobab (verses 29-32), what is the relationship of these to each other?

I said that they are related and are closely linked. The theme of this connection is the relationship between God’s presence and fighting the warfare for God.

When I was reading Numbers 10:1-10, the Holy Spirit highlighted verse 10:8 (ESV) to me, “The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations.” The two trumpets that Jehovah let Moses make specify the meaning of blowing the trumpets, and only the sons of Aaron the priests could blow them. What does this mean? This is signifying the presence of God. A priest is a group of people who serve God to enter into His presence. Christians today must first be priests to draw near to God and minister to God Himself, and then enter into His presence before we can hear and release His words. The words of God are represented by the trumpets here, and these trumpets will lead us into battle.

When two trumpets are sounded, all the Israelites will come. When only one trumpet is sounded, only the leader will come. When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out. At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. Numbers 10:9 (ESV) says, “When you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies.” It can be seen that blowing the trumpets is indeed for war purposes.

I shared my observations about some people’s pursuit of spiritual warfare in the Pentecostal Movement. Some people I personally met have limited life and spiritual experience, but they often claimed that they engaged in spiritual warfare against enemies all day. I personally encountered this kind of people. They would see demons in every place and under every situation. I even saw that they were instead deceived by the enemy in the end. I felt they have a good heart but our focus should not be centered on spiritual enemies. Rather, we need to focus on the Lord.

The secret of spiritual warfare is not to fight but to rest and enter into God’s presence. Only by entering the presence of God and the richness and fullness of God’s life can you overcome the enemy. However, this does not mean that spiritual warfare is not real. Many evangelical brothers and sisters ignore the reality of spiritual warfare and dare not to be in contact with spiritual realm or purse spiritual gifts, which is also wrong. The purpose of our pursuit of God is not just to have the presence for the sake only. After we enter into God’s presence, we will naturally enter a spiritual battle.

This is also true in the second paragraph. The leading of the cloud is also the presence of God. In the third paragraph, the order of the seven camps of the twelve tribes is also for war. The tribes in the east shall set out first. After the tabernacle was taken down, the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari, who carried the tabernacle, carry them away. The tabernacle represents God’s presence. When there is war in the Old Testament, one must walk with the ark and exalt it to win. This is proved by the later experience of Moses and the experience of the Israelites in the book of Judges. Then the camps on the south side shall set out before the Kohathites will carry the objects of the sanctuary. After they arrived, the Gershonites and Merarites will set up the tabernacle and will directly put the objects in the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies into the tabernacle. This is to bring in or maintain God’s constant presence.

Did you see this cycle? God’s presence will bring in spiritual warfare. But it’s with God’s presence that can bring victory in war. The purpose of war is to bring in more presence of God. It is a circle. On the one hand, there is God’s presence. On the other hand, there is victory in wars with the help of God.

It’s after this before Moses begged Hobab. My inspiration is this is also to signify the theme of God’s presence and war. The process of the Israelites leaving Egypt is a process of manifesting the power of God. Along the way, it is like testifying to the Gentiles. Let the prostitute Rahab (Joshua 6) and Gibeon (Joshua 9) etc. be able to join the army of God. This is a natural result of God’s presence. Hobab might be hard-mouthed, but he was still subdued and attracted by God’s presence. Thus in the end, he may follow Moses embark on a journey and a battle of leaving his home.

How can the presence of God not attract people? If we really have the presence of God, our relatives will follow us. I did find it is true in my own case. It was not me but the presence of God in my family drew my brother in law to Him. Like Hobab, they will join us into the army of God. Therefore, from this perspective, Hobab will not and cannot leave Moses in this place. If he left, I felt it is an insult to the presence of God.

Of course, I do not deny that Moses had his weakness. We can imagine Moses’ mood. Suppose that Hobab is Moses’ brother-in-law, and may have grown up together with Moses, thus they are very close. They might have lived together for 40 years. Moses might say to Hobab, “Look, God put the burden of leading the Israelites on my shoulders. I already have told God to kill me. I can’t bear it, but God still won’t listen. Although God let me to lead the Israelites in leaving Egypt and performing miracles for them, but they soon will complain (Numbers 11 records that the Israelites were complaining about God, and God burning some of them to death). Look at my brother Aaron and sister Miriam. They are also helping me, but they may defame me and be jealous of me in their hearts (Chapter 12 records this story). I just have a few like-minded people. We have lived together for 40 years. You are someone I may be able to rely on sometimes. Please help me out.”

This is my imagination. However, the Israelites had just left Egypt and had not built much together with Moses. Moses and his brother and sister had not lived together for a long time, so they are not familiar with each other. I don’t believe that Moses needed Hobab to lead them into camping in the wilderness. On the one hand, the cloud of God led them. On the other hand, Moses also lived in the wilderness for forty years, so he himself may be familiar with the wilderness. What Moses needed was a like-minded person. Imagine the situation of the church today. What many pastors lack is not the presence and leading of God, but like-mindedness from his fellow church members. Thus many times God’s call cannot be fulfilled. I think Paul also have the same feeling as he has repeatedly reminded brothers and sisters to be like-minded (Philippians 2:20).

In order to win the battle, we need the presence of God and the support from like-minded man or one soul with other members of the body of Christ

In the last verses 33-36, it is recorded that Moses was praying to exalt the ark. This shows even more clearly that our inspiration may be right. Wherever there is the exaltation of the ark, there is the presence of God and there will be victory in battles, and enemies will also be scattered. The result of the victory in battles will naturally bring more presence of God, and will also bring more people of God into His kingdom.

I will put the last two verses here as they are really great. May we be inspired by these two verses.

10:35 (ESV) And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.”

10:36 (ESV) And when it rested, he said, “Return, O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.”

I pray that in your spiritual journey, you will be filled with the presence of God and like-minded people so that you can win the battle. Let the name of Jehovah be exalted and for His glory to fill the whole world in order to bring more people into the kingdom that He has prepared for us.