Chapter ten records God’s final instruction to Moses before Israel first started out from Sinai. While they were still camped at God’s mountain, there was no reason to signal the people. However, as they began their trek, Moses would need a way to communicate with the nation, so God instructed him to have two long trumpets made (Numbers 10:1-10). These were to be used only by the priests and for five purposes – to assemble the whole community, to assemble just the leaders of the people, to announce when they were to move, to lead the army into battle, and to announce times of national celebration.
Fifty days after Moses began to assemble the tabernacle for the first time, God had the people get up and move from Sinai (Numbers 10:11-28; see Exodus 40:1).1 It happened just as God had instructed – the cloud moved, the trumpets sounded, and the people moved. The order of the line began with the three tribes associated with Judah, then the Levites carrying the tabernacle frames and curtains. The second sets of three tribes, led by Reuben, were followed by the Levites who carried the tabernacle furniture. The final six tribes came up in the back. The exception to this pattern was that the ark of the covenant led the entire process, and the cloud hovered over the ark (Numbers 10:33).
In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law gave him some wise counsel about leading the nation, which Moses followed. Exodus 18:27 says that Jethro then returned back to his home. Although there is some confusion over exactly who Hobab is here in Numbers 10:29-32, because of the timing, the translations that use “brother-in-law” seem to make more sense. After Jethro (called Reuel here) returned home, Hobab must have stayed with Israel until they prepared to go to Canaan. Moses tried to get him to go with them, and although this text does not say whether he did or not, Judges 1:16 indicates that he did.
The final two verses record a prayer that Moses gave when the cloud moved and when it stopped (Numbers 10:35-36). At the beginning of each leg of the journey, he prayed for God’s protection for the people from their enemies. When they stopped, he prayed for God’s presence to remain with them. There is an obvious thought of God going before them to fight, then returning to them and dwelling with them. It is a wonderful concept, and certainly necessary for them, but believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling us and the promise that he does not leave and has no need to return.
- This indicates that the entire book of Leviticus and the book of Numbers to this point took place during this time. ↩