And Moses said to Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in law, We are journeying to the place of which the LORD said…
I. MOSES' PROPOSAL During their stay at Sinai, it is probable that deputations from neighbouring tribes visited the people, and amongst them was this chieftain of a tribe closely related to Moses by marriage. Hobab, we are told, was the son of Reuel, the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law. Of course, he knew the country well, every foot of it, where the springs lay, and the pastures, and the safest, shortest routes, and so Moses approached him with the request that he would go with them, to give them the benefit of his practical knowledge. "Leave us not, I pray thee, forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou shalt be to us instead of eyes." This request was, of course, most natural. Moses was a very lonely man, and it was pleasant to have one, bound to him by a blood affinity, to unburden himself to, in any special crisis. At the same time, it was at variance with the general custom, which even then must have commenced strongly to assert itself, of Israelite exclusiveness. There must have been a strong reason that prompted this invitation. And shall we not find it in that instinctive shrinking of the human heart from the strange and unknown way? How well to have a Hobab who knows the ground! We seek our Hobabs in the advice of sage, grey-haired counselors; in the formation of strong, intelligent, and wealthy committees; in a careful observance of precedent. Anything seems better than a simple reliance on a unseen guide. Now, in one sense, there is no harm in this. We have neither right nor need to cut ourselves adrift from others, who have had special experience in some new ground on which we are venturing. God often speaks to us through our fellows; they are His ministers to us for good. But there is also a great danger that we should put man before God; and that we should so cling to Hobab, as to become unmindful of the true Guide and Leader of souls. How often God is compelled to isolate us from human voices.
II. THE FAILURE OF HOBAB AND THE DIVINE SUBSTITUTE. The desert chieftain was by no means enamoured of the proposal of his great relative. Several considerations may have weighed with him. It was only a month before that Aaron and his sons had been set apart for their sacred work, and the fire of God had fallen on their dedicatory sacrifices. For some violation of the sacred ritual, for personal misconduct whilst engaged in their ministry, the two young priests had been stricken dead, and Aaron forbiddin to weep. This must have struck an awful fear through the camp. Shortly after this another incident occurred. The son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, had blasphemed the holy name of God, and cursed in the midst of conflict with a man of Israel. The blasphemer had been stoned. The result of it all was that in reply to Moses' request, he said bluntly, "I will not go, but I will depart unto mine own land and to my kindred." Moses still further entreated him, but whether he succeeded or not is doubtful, though there are some reasons for thinking that the second request prevailed, because the descendants of the Kenite are numbered amidst the chosen people. But it would seem as if his aid was rendered needless by the provision of guidance immediately promised. Up to this moment the position of the Ark had been in the midst of the host in front of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, but hence-forth it went three days' journey in front of the people, "to seek out a resting-place for them." The Lord Himself had become Director and Guide, and all that Israel had to do was to keep at a distance sufficiently wide to enable them to reap the fullest benefit of its advance guard. Thus God Himself superseded the proposal of Moses by an expedient which more than met their needs. What consolation there is to each of us, in realising the spiritual truth underlying this historical fact! We have to pass into the untried and unknow, and know not the way we should take. Some have to go alone. Some with the memory of companions that once went at their side, but whom they will see no more in this life. But amid all Jesus is with them, and goes before them, whether for war or rest. He never will forsake nor leave them. The Lord Jesus is the true Ark of the Covenant, who has gone before us through the world and death, through the grave and the last rally of the hosts of darkness to the glory. We have but to follow Him.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Moses said to Hobab, the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, "We are journeying to the place of which Yahweh said, 'I will give it to you.' Come with us, and we will treat you well; for Yahweh has spoken good concerning Israel."