Traveling the Desert

Numbers 9:15-10:36

Now the Torah describes the process of the people’s journeys through the wilderness. We are told that once the Tabernacle was erected in the camp, the cloud of God’s Glory would settle upon it. When the cloud lifted off the Tabernacle, it was a sign the time had come to travel again. The people would camp or travel according to the dictates of God. Sometimes they would camp briefly, other times for an extended period, but always in concert with God’s wishes.


God also orders two silver trumpets to be made, and tells how to use them to signal the camp. A long blast on both trumpets calls the community together. A long blast with only one is a signal to the leaders to assemble. Short blasts tell each camp in turn that the time has come to travel. The trumpets are to be blown by Aaron and his descendents.


In addition to signalling assembly and travel, the trumpets are to be blown for war, celebrations and over sacrifices.


On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the newly organized camp of Israel leaves Mount Sinai and travels in formation for the first time. The camp of Judah travels first, followed by the families of Gershon and Merrari, bearing the parts of the Tabernacle. Next the camp of Reuben sets out, followed by the family of Kehat with the holy vessels. They are to reassemble the Tabernacle at the next camp site. Next comes the camp of Ephraim, and finally that of Dan.


Before leaving, Moses invites his father-in-law (here called Hobab, one of the many names by which Jethro is known in the Bible) to join the people in their journeys, but he turns down the offer. Undaunted by the refusal, Moses begs him to reconsider. The Torah does not relate Jethro’s final decision.


This first journey lasts three days. As this first journey draws to a close, we are told of the words Moses would recite during their travels, lock-step with the movement of the Ark: “Rise up, O LORD, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.” When the Ark would come to a stop, he would say: “Return, O LORD, unto the ten thousands of the families of Israel.” (Numbers 10:35-36) The Israel Bible reminds us that the Ark served as a constant reminder of God’s presence in the camp, and was therefore its focal point. It contained the Tablets of the Law. Today, too, the Bible must remain the focal point of our lives.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think Moses invites his father-in-law to join them? Why do you think he refuses, at least initially?

Comments ( 6 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • I think that Jethro was a very wise man. He was giving advice to his son-in-law. From his mind came the 70 elders to help Moshe carry the load of responsabilities. He had become one with the people, even got a jewish name : Hobab (=love)
    So nothing would prevent him from staying. But he said that he would like to go "to my land". Ramban said that he meant to have in future a piece of land for himself. (and we know that Levites and priests didn't have land of themselves. (HeShem was their inheritance) Hobab seemingly went back to his country, but that's unsure. Children of him might have stayed. Anyhow later his family was allotted a piece of land amidst Jehudah near Jericho. I think it was a wise decision. So much influence he had but it remained a human influence on Moshe. Moshe had to listen first of all to HaShem. So the people couldn't say that they were governed by a family clan.

    • I'm sorry but I posted something wrong I want to correct: the 70 elders didn't come from the mind of Hobab but G-d advised Moshe to pick the out of the people. Jethro adviced to have from the tribes the leaders to help him in judging disagrements.

  • Sheila

    Perhaps the Lord was wanting Moses to completely put his faith in Him and not at times in Jethro who knew the ways of the desert. I sense that Jethro wanted Moses to recognise his capabilities —- after all Moses lived under his authority and headship for forty years. He discerned that Moses was ready and mature to fulfill God’s call on his life. Also as leader and priest of his clan he felt a responsibility to them.

    • I agree with you. Moses was the leader of Isreal, Jethro had a responsibility to his people.

  • Ken

    there is significant conjecture regarding the names of these individuals : Hobab, Jethro, Reuel.
    Here is one reference:

  • Diana Brown

    Yitro was a priest and he felt he had a homeland and a people to return to. He did not covet the Land of Milk and Honey that the Lord God had promised to His People.
    Because of this, Moses responded that God was for them and had enough provision for Israel to share with those who would support her. So again, Moses invited Yitro to join them as they journeyed to the Promised Land.

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