“Moshe said to Hovav the son of Reuel the Midyani, Moshe’s father-in-law, “We are traveling to the place about which Adonai said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well, because Adonai has promised good things to Israel.”-Numbers 10:29
From verse 29, right out of the blue we encounter a person called “Hobab, son of Reuel the Midianite“.
Here we see Moses making a heartfelt appeal to this fellow to stick around with Israel as they continue their journey onwards towards the wilderness.
However, HOBAB seems more than a tad bit reluctant to go and says he’d rather go back to his homeland which is Midian.
Now who exactly is this dude?
He is called Moses father-in-law but earlier in the Book of Exodus, Moses’ father-in-law is identified as being either REUEL or JETHRO.
“When they came to Re‘u’el their father, he said,
“How come you’re back so soon today?”
“Now Moshe was tending the sheep of
Yitro his father-in-law, the priest of Midyan.
Leading the flock to the far side of the desert,
he came to the mountain of God, to Horev.”
So in Exodus, Moses’ father-in-law is initially referred to as “Reuel” (Exodus 2:18) but then as “Jethro” (Exodus 3:1).
There has actually been some debate concerning exactly who this HOBAB fellow really is.
Well, there are a couple of plausible solutions to get around this seeming contradiction.
First, you’ve got to understand how families are organized and spoken of in the Bible.
In the Western world, one’s family tree is pretty much determined by one’s last name.
But in the ancient Middle East, the folks back then went by a different system.
You see where it says “the son of Reuel”?
Understand that it’s highly probable that “Reuel” is simply the name of one of the many Midianite clans.
So when it says that HOBAB is the son of Reuel (or Jethro) it simply means he was a member of the clan of Reuel.
So I see two plausible explanations.
The first one is that HOBAB is the same person as REUEL or JETHRO, in other words, “Hobab” is just another name for REUEL or JETHRO but in a different language.
Or HOBAB could just be a brother-in-law to Moses which simply means he was of the same clan as Reuel (or Jethro).
Understand that is also totally possible!
My whole point in sharing this information is to encourage you not to so easily dismiss an apparent contradiction in the Bible as an error but to get you to think in the way the ancient Israelites thought and get you to understand the way their culture operated in the Bible.
Again, the “son of Reuel” could just as well mean “of the clan of Reuel“.
Also, in Scripture, the term “Father” could just as equally apply to both a person’s biological father or one’s grandfather.