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Numbers 10:29-32

Context
The Appeal to Hobab

10:29 1 Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel, the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, 2  “We are journeying to the place about which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will treat you well, 3  for the Lord has promised good things 4  for Israel.” 10:30 But Hobab 5  said to him, “I will not go, but I will go instead to my own land and to my kindred.” 10:31 Moses 6  said, “Do not leave us, 7  because you know places for us to camp in the wilderness, and you could be our guide. 8  10:32 And if you come with us, it is certain 9  that whatever good things the Lord will favor us with, we will share with you as well.”

1 sn For additional bibliography for this short section, see W. F. Albright, “Jethro, Hobab, and Reuel in Early Hebrew Tradition,” CBQ 25 (1963): 1-11; G. W. Coats, “Moses in Midian,” JBL 92 (1973): 3-10; B. Mazar, “The Sanctuary of Arad and the Family of Hobab the Kenite,” JNES 24 (1965): 297-303; and T. C. Mitchell, “The Meaning of the Noun h£tn in the Old Testament,” VT 19 (1969): 93-112.

2 sn There is a problem with the identity of Hobab. The MT says that he is the son of Reuel, making him the brother-in-law of Moses. But Judg 4:11 says he is the father-in-law. In Judg 1:16; 4:11 Hobab is traced to the Kenites, but in Exod 3:1 and 18:1 Jethro (Reuel) is priest of Midian. Jethro is identified with Reuel on the basis of Exod 2:18 and 3:1, and so Hobab becomes Moses’ חֹתֵן (khoten), a relative by marriage and perhaps brother-in-law. There is not enough information to decide on the identity and relationships involved here. Some suggest that there is one person with the three names (G. B. Gray, Numbers [ICC], 93); others suggest Hobab is a family name (R. F. Johnson, IDB 2:615), and some suggest that the expression “the son of Reuel the Midianite” had dropped out of the genealogy of Judges, leading to the conflict (J. Crichton, ISBE 2:1055). If Hobab is the same as Jethro, then Exod 18:27 does not make much sense, for Jethro did go home. On this basis many conclude Hobab is a brother-in-law. This would mean that after Jethro returned home, Moses conversed with Hobab, his brother-in-law. For more discussion, see the articles and the commentaries.

3 tn The verb is the Hiphil of the root “to be good” (יָטַב, yatav); it may be translated “treat well, deal favorably, generously with.” Here it is a perfect tense with vav (ו) following the imperative, showing a sequence in the verbal ideas.

4 tn The Hebrew text simply has “has spoken good” for Israel.

5 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Hobab) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 tn The form with אַל־נָא (’al-na’) is a jussive; negated it stresses a more immediate request, as if Hobab is starting to leave, or at least determined to leave.

8 tn In the Hebrew text the expression is more graphic: “you will be for us for eyes.” Hobab was familiar with the entire Sinai region, and he could certainly direct the people where they were to go. The text does not record Hobab’s response. But the fact that Kenites were in Canaan as allies of Judah (Judg 1:16) would indicate that he gave in and came with Moses. The first refusal may simply be the polite Semitic practice of declining first so that the appeal might be made more urgently.

9 tn Heb “and it shall be.”



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