Numbers 10


‘The LORD said to Moses: “Make two trumpets of hammered silver and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. When both are sounded, the whole community is to assemble before you at the entrance to the tent of meeting. If only one is sounded, the leaders—the heads of the clans of Israel—are to assemble before you. 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. The blast will be the signal for setting out. To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets, but not with the signal for setting out. “The sons of Aaron, the priests, are to blow the trumpets. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you and the generations to come. When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies. Also at your times of rejoicing—your appointed festivals and New Moon feasts—you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the LORD your God.” Numbers 10:1-10

The Silver Trumpets

As we can imagine, moving a vast amount of people was never going to be easy, and so, God instructs Moses to make two silver trumpets, which when blown, would certainly get everyone’s attention.

These trumpets were different from the ram’s horn trumpets which were used in reference to worship. When the silver trumpets were blown, all the tribes would come together, but when they were blown continuously, this meant that all the tribes should begin to march.

The trumpets were also used to call the armies to war and to celebrate certain feast days. We also know when the Lord returns, the trumpet will be blown, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

Cook, in his commentary, says the following concerning why there were only two trumpets.

‘It was because, at that time, Aaron had only two sons and when the number of priests greatly increased at a later date, the number of trumpets was increased, there were seven in the times of Joshua and 120 in the times of Solomon, 2 Chronicles 5:12.’

At this time there were only two ‘sons of Aaron’ but in later times, when the number of priests was greater, more trumpets were used, we read of seven in the days of Joshua and David and of a hundred and twenty in the days of Solomon, 2 Chronicles 5:12.

The Israelites Leave Sinai

‘On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law. Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and travelled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. They set out, this first time, at the LORD’s command through Moses. The divisions of the camp of Judah went first, under their standard. Nahshon son of Amminadab was in command. Nethanel son of Zuar was over the division of the tribe of Issachar, and Eliab son of Helon was over the division of the tribe of Zebulun. Then the tabernacle was taken down, and the Gershonites and Merarites, who carried it, set out.  The divisions of the camp of Reuben went next, under their standard. Elizur son of Shedeur was in command. Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai was over the division of the tribe of Simeon, and Eliasaph son of Deuel was over the division of the tribe of Gad. Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived. The divisions of the camp of Ephraim went next, under their standard. Elishama son of Ammihud was in command. Gamaliel son of Pedahzur was over the division of the tribe of Manasseh, and Abidan son of Gideoni was over the division of the tribe of Benjamin. Finally, as the rear guard for all the units, the divisions of the camp of Dan set out under their standard. Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai was in command. Pagiel son of Okran was over the division of the tribe of Asher, and Ahira son of Enan was over the division of the tribe of Naphtali. This was the order of march for the Israelite divisions as they set out. Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place about which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will treat you well, for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.” He answered, “No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.” But Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the LORD gives us.” So they set out from the mountain of the LORD and travelled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest. The cloud of the LORD was over them by day when they set out from the camp. Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Rise up, LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.” Whenever it came to rest, he said, “Return, LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel.” Numbers 10:11-36

After being at Mount Sinai for a year now, Exodus 19:1, notice that the ‘cloud lifted up’, this meant it was time to move. The listing of the tribes by their leaders was to set the order of their march throughout the wilderness.

As we have mentioned in previous chapters, some commentators suggest that the name Deuel, Numbers 2:14 / Numbers 10:20, should actually be the name Reuel. Jethro, that is, Reuel, Moses’ father-in-law, eventually returned to Midian.

Hobab, one of Jethro’s sons, however, stayed with the Israelites while they were at Mount Sinai. But when the Israelites were moving on, Hobab also decided to return to his father’s house in Midian.

Notice that Moses wants him to go with Israel because of his knowledge of the wilderness and so, Moses’ perseverance convinced him to stay with Israel, since his descendants are mentioned to be living in Canaan many years later, Judges 1:16 / 1 Samuel 15:6.

The ark of the covenant was carried before the people, Joshua 3:6, which meant that God was taking the lead.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘From Numbers 10:21 / Numbers 2:17, it would appear that the usual place of the ark during the march was in the midst of the host. It was evidently an exceptional case when, in Joshua 3:3 / Joshua 3:6, the ark preceded the people into the bed of the Jordan. Hence, the words ‘went before them’ do not here imply local precedence. The phrase, or its equivalent, is used of a leader going out in command of his troops, Numbers 27:17 / Deuteronomy 31:3 / 1 Samuel 18:16 / 2 Chronicles 1:10, and similarly, the ark may well be said to have gone at the head of the Israelites, when it was borne solemnly in the midst of them as the outward embodiment of the presence whose sovereign word was their law.’

Thompson, in his commentary, says the following concerning Hobab.

1. Hobab is here called a Midianite, but in Judges 4:11, he is said to be a Kenite. ‘Hobab was the leader of a group known as the Kenites, a Midianite clan, Judges 1:16 / Judges 4:11. What is wrong with calling a man a ‘Texan’ on one occasion, and an ‘American’ on another?’

2. Moses’ father-in-law is called ‘Reuel’, Exodus 2:18, ‘Jethro’ in Exodus 3:1 and ‘Hobab’ here. Due to missing information, ‘This problem is insoluble. The word here rendered father-in-law, in Hebrew, actually may mean father-in-law, brother-in-law, or some other close family relationship. There is also the question (unknown) as to whether any one, any two, or even all three of these names may have referred to one individual. Also, it is not clear whether the name Reuel, for example, might not have been a title held by Jethro, or whether Jethro might have been a title held by Reuel. It is a careless scholar indeed who can bring himself to allege a ‘contradiction’ in any area where such a profound lack of information exists.

3. Did Hobab actually go with Moses? ‘From Judges 1:16, it appears likely that Hobab acceded to Moses’ request’.

When Moses asks the Lord to rise up, he’s praying that God would scatter Israel’s enemies even before they begin their march.

As long as Israel was obedient to the will of God, this prayer was answered. When the ark of the covenant settled in a specific place, the prayer was that God remains among His people.

Go To Numbers 11


"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."