“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. And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred. ” (Numbers 10:29-30)
Exodus 18:5-7 states, “And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God: And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land.” As a result, some have concluded that Hobab was Moses’ brother in law. However, Judges 4:11 makes it clear that Hobab is in fact Moses Father in law. “Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.”
Jethro is repeatedly referred to as Jethro, the priest of Midian. Jethro means “his excellence”, and is a title rather than a name. Hobab means “cherished,” and is his name. His visit in Exodus 18 ended with his returning to his home in Midian. That he has returned a few month later makes it clear the distance from Sinai to Midian is small, as does the fact that Moses had herded Jethro’s sheep on Mount Sinai. The location of Mount Sinai in the present day Sinai peninsula would require going north around the end of the Gulf of Aqaba before going south to the mountain, adding several days travel toe the trip. Present day Jebal Al Laws is only a couple days Journey from Midian, further supporting our belief that this is the Mount Sinai of the Old Testament.
“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. 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.” (Numbers 10:31-32)
Moses knew that Jethro was even more familiar with the region then he was himself, and asked Jethro to accompany them as a scout or guide. Whatever blessings God might give Israel would benefit Hobab as well. More than forty years later, Judges 1:16 describes his descendants accompanying the tribe of Judah. “And the children of the Kenite, Moses' father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.” Apparently, this time he decided to stay with them.
Remember that many Midianites were descendants of Ishmael according to Genesis 37:28. “Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.” They were descendants of Abraham, and still had some knowledge of God, so there was both blood ties and cultural similarity.
“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. And the cloud of the LORD was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.” (Numbers 10:33-34)
Here is another little detail, that the men bearing the ark led the entire march, following the pillar of cloud. This first move was a three day journey from mount Sinai into the wilderness of Paran.
“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. And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.” (Numbers 10:35-36)
Each day when the cloud led them out and when it stopped Moses pronounced a blessing on the Lord, acknowledging his direction.