Numbers 10



The Silver Trumpets (10:1–10)

1–10 The last–mentioned of Israel’s preparations for the march to Canaan was the making of two silver trumpets. These trumpets were to be used to assemble the people (verse 3), to signal the start of a march (verses 5–6), to call the people into battle (verse 9), and to announce the offerings at Israel’s festivals (verse 10). For each of these functions a different set of notes was required, so that the people would understand what instructions the trumpets were communicating33 (verse 7).

The sounding of the trumpets was not only a signal for the Israelites; it was also a “signal” for God. It wasn’t that God needed to be summoned or “woken up”; rather, sounding the trumpets was similar to offering prayer. In verse 9, after instructing the priests to blow the trumpets before going into battle, the Lord says, “Then you will be remembered by the LORD . . . and rescued.” Just as the Lord wants believers today to pray in every circumstance, so He instructed the priests to sound the trumpets at each important event in the life of Israel; then the Israelites could be assured that the Lord would be with them.

The Israelites Leave Sinai (10:11–36)

11–13 The Israelites had been encamped at Mount Sinai for eleven months; now they were finally prepared to begin their march to Canaan. If all had gone well—that is, if they had remained obedient to the Lord—they could have completed the conquest of Canaan within a few months. But, as we shall see, all did not go well.

The cloud led them toward the Desert of Paran (verse 12) in the northeastern part of the Sinai Peninsula, at the southern border of Canaan. From there the Israelites would easily be able to enter the promised land.

14–28 In these verses the order of Israel’s march is given. The order of the twelve tribes was based on their position around the tabernacle, as described in Numbers Chapter 2. The leaders of each tribe have already been listed in previous chapters (Numbers 1:5–15; 2:3–31; 7:12–83). Of particular interest was the position of the Levites on the march. In front of everyone went those Levites assigned to carry the ark (verse 33). Then behind the first three tribes went the Gershonites and Merarites carrying the tabernacle. Then behind the second three tribes went the Kohathites carrying the holy objects.

29–32 Moses’ father-in-law Reuel (also called Jethro in Exodus 3:1) had been of great help to Moses after the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus Chapter 18). Now his son Hobab (Moses’ brother-in-law) was in the Israelite camp, and because he was familiar with the desert, Moses asked him to stay with the Israelites and help them find water and pasture on their journey to Canaan.

Hobab at first refused; but in the end he must have agreed, because later, in Judges 1:16, we read that the descendants of Moses’ father–in–law were living in Canaan. However, Hobab himself probably never reached the promised land; like the rest of that first generation of Israelites he most likely ended his days in the desert.

Hobab is an Old Testament example of one who has been invited to join the people of God. Moses said to him, “Come with us” (verse 29). Jesus says, “Follow me.” Joining the Israelites would mean a total change in Hobab’s life: he’d be leaving behind his family and his land. But he’d be gaining a new family, a new land, a new life. That same choice faces every person who hears Jesus say: “Follow me.”

33–34 So they set out (verse 33). A year earlier the Israelites had been a disorganized mob escaping from Egypt; now they were an organized army marching to the promised land. Two million people were on the move—women, children, animals, tents; a whole nation was marching across that desert. Their leader was God Himself, going before them in the cloud and speaking to them through His servant Moses. And at the head of the nation went the ark of the covenant, the symbolic throne of God (see Exodus 25:10–22).

35–36 These verses record Moses’ “battle song.” The song expresses two great prayers: first, that the Lord would be victorious over all His enemies; and second, that He would continue to dwell among His people. As the Israelites set out on their march, those first steps marked the beginning of the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth, where God would reign in victory and dwell in peace. However, the Old Testament Canaan was only an earthly copy of the true kingdom of God revealed in the New Testament, a spiritual kingdom where God through His Spirit reigns and dwells in people’s hearts.