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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 6: Harmony of the Law, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Numbers 10

Numbers 10:29-36

29. 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.

29. Dixit autem Moses ad Hobab filium Reuel Madianitae soceri sui, Nos proficiscimur ad locum de quo dixit Jehova, Illum dabo vobis: veni nobiscum, et benefaciemus tibi: quia Jehova loquutus est beneficentiam super Israelem.

30. And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred.

30. Respondit autem ei, Non veniam: sed ad terram meam, et ad natale solum meum ibo.

31. And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes.

31. Tunc dixit, Ne derelinquas nos: quia propterea nosti mansiones nostras in deserto, et fuisti nobis pro oculis.

32. And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.

32. Quum autem veneris nobiscum, et evenerit nobis bonum illud quod benefacturus est Jehova nobis, tum benefaciemus tibi.

33. And they departed from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting-place for them.

33. Profecti sunt itaque a monte Jehovae via trium dierum: et arca foederis Jehovae proficiscebatur ante eos via trium dierum illorum, ad explorandam illis requiem.

34. And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.

34. Et nubes Jehovae erat super eos interdiu, dum proficiscerentur e castris.

35. And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.

35. Quum autem coepit proficisci arca, dicebat Moses, Surge Jehova, et despergantur inimici tui, et fugiant odio habentes te a facie tua:

36. And when it rested, he said, Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel.

36. Quando vero requiescebat, dicebat, Revertere Jehova ad decem millia millium Israelis.

29. And Moses said unto Hobab the son of Raguel. Very grossly are those mistaken who have supposed Hobab  7 to be Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, whom we have already seen to have returned a few days after he had come to see him. Now, old age almost in a state of decrepitude would have been but little suited for, or equal to, such difficult labors. Moses was now eighty years old, and still far short of the age of his father-in-law. But all doubt is removed by the fourth chapter of Judges, where we read that the descendants of Hobab were still surviving in the land of Canaan. When, therefore, the good old man went home, he left Hobab his son — still in the vigor of life, and to whom on account of his neighborhood, the desert-country was well known — as a companion for his son-in-law, that might be useful to him in the performance of many services. Here, however, whether wearied by delay and difficulties, or offended by the malignant and perverse spirit of the people, or preferring his home and a stationary life to those protracted wanderings, he desired to follow his father. In order, however, that we might know that he had not sought his dismissal as a mere feint, (as is often the case,)  8 Moses expressly states that he could not immediately prevail upon him to stay by his prayers; nay, that he was not attracted by the promises whereby Moses endeavored to tempt him, until he had been perseveringly entreated. Although the expectation of the promised land is set before him, yet, since mention is only made of temporal and transient prosperity, it may thence be probably conjectured that he had not profited by his advantages as he should. He had seen and heard the tokens of God’s awful power when the Law was given; yet Moses urges him to come on by no other argument than that he would enjoy the riches of the land. Unless perhaps Moses desired to give him some taste of the graciousness and fatherly love of God as manifested in the temporal blessing, in order to lift up his mind to higher things. Still he merely refers to the promise of God, and then engages that he shall share in all their good things. Nevertheless, this alone is no trifle, that he should be attracted by no uncertain hope, but by the sure enjoyment of those good things which God, who cannot lie, had promised: for deceptive allurements often invite men to undergo labors, and to encounter perils; but Moses brings forward God, as it were, as his surety, inasmuch as tie had promised that He would give the people a fertile land, full of an abundance of all good things. At any rate, Hobab represents to us, as in a mirror, the innate disposition of the whole human race, to long for that which it apprehends by the carnal sense. It is natural to prefer our country, however barren and wretched, to other lands the most fertile and delightful: thus the Ithaca of Ulysses has passed into a proverb.  9 But let me now reprove another fault, viz., that, generally speaking, all set their affections on this present life: thus Hobab despises the promise of God, and holds fast to the love of his native land.

31. And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee. Moses perseveres and urges what he had just said, that Hobab should be a sharer in the prosperity which God had given his people reason to expect. “To this end” (he says) “thou hast known all our stations in the desert,” which words commentators do not appear to have observed or understood; for they translate them simply, “for thou hast known,” as if Moses desired to retain Hobab to be of use to himself, whereas there is more than one causal particle here;  10 and thus it is literally, “Since, for this cause, thou hast known all our resting-places,” etc. Its meaning, then, is as follows, that Hobab was ill-advised for his own interest; for he had borne many inconveniences, for this reason, that he might at sonic time or other receive his recompense; as if it were said, Wherefore hast thou hitherto endured so many inconveniences whilst directing our course, unless that thou mightest enjoy with us the blessings of our repose? In a word, Moses signifies that the labors of Hobab would be vain and fruitless, unless he should endure them a little while longer, until, together with the children of Israel, he should enjoy the promised inheritance. What is here said, then, does not relate to the future, as if Moses had said, Be to us instead of eyes, as thou hast been heretofore; but by reminding him that the reward of his labors was at hand, he urges and encourages him to proceed.

33. And they departed from the mount of the Lord. He calls Sinai “the mount of the Lord,” because in no other place had God’s glory been so conspicuously manifested. This, I admit, it had been called by anticipation (κατὰ πρόληψιν) before the promulgation of the law; but this name was imposed upon it afterwards to inspire eternal reverence for the law. By “three days’ journey,” we must understand a continuous march of three days, for they did not pitch their tents until they reached the desert of Paran, but slept in the. open air. When it is said that the ark went before them in the three days’ journey, there is no reference to its distance, as if it was sent forward three days ahead; but that it was so placed in their van that, when the cloud settled upon it, they halted as at a station prescribed to them by God. This was the searching for a resting-place of which he speaks.

35. And it came to pass, when the ark set forward. Since their journey was by no means a peaceful one, but the attack of enemies was constantly to be dreaded, it was needful to beseech God that He would go forth as if prepared for battle. Thus, too, did Moses support their courage, lest any more immediate cause for terror should render them sluggish and inert. It is, then, as if he had prayed thus: O Lord, not only show us the way, but open it to us also by the power of thy hand in the destruction of the enemies. He calls them not the enemies of the people but of God, in order that the Israelites might be assured that they fought under His auspices; for thus might both a more certain victory be expected, since the righteous God, who avenges iniquity, was defending His own cause; and also, it was no slight matter of consolation and rejoicing, when the people heard, that whosoever should arise to harass them unjustly were also the enemies of God, since He will protect his people as the apple of His eye. Therefore has the Prophet borrowed this passage, in order to arm the Church with confidence, and to maintain it in cheerfulness under the violent assaults of its enemies. (Ps 68:1.) Further, the analogy and similitude between the visible sign, and the thing signified, must be observed; for Moses was not so foolish as to address the Ark in these words; he only asked God to prove effectually that the Ark was a lively image of His power and glory.

36. And when it rested, he said, Return, O Lord. By thus praying he also exhorts the people to be patient, lest the weariness which arose from the delay should beget indignation. Otherwise it would have been annoying that the time of their journeying should be protracted, so that they would arrive the later at their rest. And we see, indeed, how their minds were exasperated, as if a slower progress was a kind of disappointment. In order, therefore, to correct this impatience, Moses reminds them that their halts were advantageous to them, so that God, dwelling at home like the father of a family, might manifest His care of them; for the allusion is to men who Lake advantage of a time of repose and release from other business, to occupy themselves more un-restrainedly in paying attention to their own family.



So De Lyra, S.M., Fagius, Tostatus, the 70, etc. See note on Exodus 2:18, ante, vol. 1, p. 54.


“(Comme il adviendra souventes fois que les hommes font des rencheris);” as it will often happen that people want to be pressed to stay. — Fr.


“Comme l’isle en laquelle Ulysses estoit ne, n’estant qu’une poure isle, voire quasi semblable a un rocher, est venue en un proverbe;” thus the island in which Ulysses was born, being but a poor island, indeed almost like a rock, has passed into a proverb. — Fr. See Cicero De Orat., 1:44, and De Legg., 2:1.


כי על-כן. Translated in A. V., Ge 18:5, for therefore; Jud 6:22, for because; Jer 38:4, for thus; and here, forasmuch as.

Next: Numbers 11:1-35