Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  Numbers Table of Contents  |  Previous Section   |  Next Section  |



(MT versing)
The Silver Trumpets The Silver Trumpets Other Events and Instructions
The Silver Trumpets The Trumpets
10:1-10 10:1-10 10:1-10 10:1-8a 10:1-4
The Tribes Leave Sinai Departure From Sinai Israel on the March The Israelites Break Camp The Order of March
10:11-16 10:11-13 10:11-16 10:11-12 10:11-12
10:13-16 10:13-16
10:17-20 10:17-20 10:17 10:17
10:18-21 10:18-20 10:18-20
10:21-24 10:21-24 10:21 10:21
10:22-24 10:22-24 10:22-24
10:25-28 10:25-28 10:25-28 10:25-28 10:25-27
Moses' Proposal to Hobab
10:29-32 10:29-32 10:29-32 10:29 10:29-32
The People Set Out The Departure
10:33-34 10:33-36 10:33-34 10:33-34 10:33

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1The Lord spoke further to Moses, saying, 2"Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out. 3When both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 4Yet if only one is blown, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall assemble before you. 5But when you blow an alarm, the camps that are pitched on the east side shall set out. 6When you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are pitched on the south side shall set out; an alarm is to be blown for them to set out. 7When convening the assembly, however, you shall blow without sounding an alarm. 8The priestly sons of Aaron, moreover, shall blow the trumpets; and this shall be for you a perpetual statute throughout your generations. 9When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and be saved from your enemies. 10Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder of you before your God. I am the Lord your God."

10:2 "two trumpets of silver" We find the same kind of trumpets in Egypt. This proves the historicity of this account. The marching order of the Hebrew tribes, the wheeled ox-carts, the silver trumpets, and the shaving of the entire bodies of the priests are all elements of Egyptian culture (see Intro. to Numbers). From Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews 3.12.6; and from Arch of Titus we learn that these silver trumpets were straight in shape with a flared end and were about eighteen inches long.

These trumpets had several functions.

  1. When both were blown together it signaled Israel to meet at the tent of meeting, Num. 10:2,3.
  2. When only one was blown, the leaders gathered at the tent of meeting, Num. 10:4.
  3. When they were blown the whole camp was to move out, Num. 10:2,5-6.
  4. When they are blown it was time to prepare for battle, Num. 10:7,9.
  5. They were blown at the beginning of feast days, Num. 10:10.

Remember that the camp of Israel was designed in the same way as Rameses II's army, so Israel was organized as an army and marched as an army.

There is Jewish tradition (Mishnah) that the silver trumpets were blown, not only one or two of them, but with different sounds.

  1. a long blast
  2. three different notes

See SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL. Josephus described the silver trumpets in Antiq. 3.12.6.

NASB, NRSV  "blow an alarm"
NKJV  "sound of the advance"
TEV, JPSOA  "short blasts"
NJB  "trumpet blast is accompanied by a battle cry"
REB  "a fanfare is sounded"
LXX  "trumpet a signal"

This Hebrew term (BDB 929) can mean

  1. a shout
  2. a war cry (cf. Num. 10:9; 31:6; Josh. 6:5,20)
  3. an alarm
  4. a blast for march
  5. a shout for joy

The exact differentiation between the signals the trumpets gave is uncertain (JPSOA footnote).

10:6 The MT does not list all the tribes but the LXX does.

10:8 "a perpetual statute" Notice its usage in Exod. 12:14,17; Lev. 3:17; 7:36. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER ('olam) and SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION.

10:9 "be saved from your enemies" See SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OT).

10:10 "I am the Lord your God" This is covenant language. For "Lord" see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, D. For "God" see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, C.

There is no VERB in this phrase, just the FIRST PERSON PRONOUN and two NOUNS (BDB 43 and 217).

11Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony; 12and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13So they moved out for the first time according to the commandment of the Lord through Moses. 14The standard of the camp of the sons of Judah, according to their armies, set out first, with Nahshon the son of Amminadab, over its army, 15and Nethanel the son of Zuar, over the tribal army of the sons of Issachar; 16and Eliab the son of Helon over the tribal army of the sons of Zebulun.

10:11-21:35 A new literary unit which covers 38 years begins here.

  1. Israel leaves Mt. Sinai and moves to Kadesh, Num. 10:11-12:16
  2. Israel at Kadesh, Num. 13:1-20:13
  3. Israel leaves Kadesh for the plains of Moab, Num. 20:14-21:35

10:11 "the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month" This is a very specific date. This would be nineteen days after the census of Num. 1:1.

The specificity is evidence of the historicity of the account. See Special Topics:


▣ "the cloud" This special physical symbol of YHWH's presence (cf. Num. 10:34) is described in Exod. 13:21-22; 14:19-28; 24:15-18; 40:34-5; Num. 9:15-22 (see the notes at these verses online). See SPECIAL TOPIC: COMING ON THE CLOUDS.

At the end of Num. 10:11 in the MT, the Samaritan Pentateuch inserts a text from Deut. 1:6-8.

10:12 "wilderness of Sinai. . .wilderness of Paran" See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE WILDERNESSES OF THE EXODUS and SPECIAL TOPIC: LOCATION OF MT. SINAI. The oasis of Kadesh-Barnea was in the wilderness of Paran.

10:13 "according to the commandment of the Lord" This theme of Israel's obedience is recurrent in Numbers (cf. Num. 1:54; 2:34; 5:4; 9:5, 23; 10:13).

10:14 "the standard of the camp" See full note at Num. 2:2. Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, p. 226, thinks this denotes a division of the army and not a banner.

▣ "the sons of Judah" This tribe moves out first in front as a way to show its preeminence.

  1. because of the prophecy of Gen. 49:10
  2. because of the sins of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi
  3. because of the size of the tribe

17Then the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari, who were carrying the tabernacle, set out. 18Next the standard of the camp of Reuben, according to their armies, set out with Elizur the son of Shedeur, over its army, 19and Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai over the tribal army of the sons of Simeon, 20and Eliasaph the son of Deuel was over the tribal army of the sons of Gad.

10:17 "the tabernacle was taken down" See full note at Numbers 4. The priests packed it and the Levities carried it.

21Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy objects; and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. 22Next the standard of the camp of the sons of Ephraim, according to their armies, was set out, with Elishama the son of Ammihud over its army, 23and Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur over the tribal army of the sons of Manasseh; 24and Abidan the son of Gideoni over the tribal army of the sons of Benjamin.

NASB, REB  "the holy objects"
NKJV, NRSV, LXX  "the holy things"
TEV, JPSOA  "the sacred objects"
NJB, Peshitta  "the sanctuary"

The UBS Text Project, p. 222, says "the sanctuary" (BDB 874) has an "A" rating (i.e. high probability). But, in its clarifying note it asserts that it refers to the tabernacle furnishing in this context.

25Then the standard of the camp of the sons of Dan, according to their armies, which formed the rear guard for all the camps, set out, with Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai over its army, 26and Pagiel the son of Ochran over the tribal army of the sons of Asher; 27and Ahira the son of Enan over the tribal army of the sons of Naphtali. 28This was the order of march of the sons of Israel by their armies as they set out.

10:25 "the rear guard" The tribe of Dan was the last. It formed a military unit known as "the rear guard." While Israel traveled through the wildernesses she had to always be on guard for attack. Her camp and marching order were designed after Rameses II's army camp. Moses was trained in Egypt's military schools.

29Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, "We are setting out to the place of which the Lord said, 'I will give it to you'; come with us and we will do you good, for the Lord has promised good concerning Israel." 30But he said to him, "I will not come, but rather will go to my own land and relatives." 31Then he said, "Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will be as eyes for us. 32So it will be, if you go with us, that whatever good the Lord does for us, we will do for you."

10:29 "Hobab the son of Reuel" See full note on this man online at Exodus 18, Contextual Insights, A. He is known by several names.

  1. Jether ‒ Exod. 4:18
  2. Ruel ‒ Exod. 2:18 (Num. 10:29)
  3. Hobab ‒ Num. 10:29; Jdgs. 4:11
  4. Jethro ‒ Exod. 18:1

See a good brief note in the NET Bible, p. 297.

Several groups joined Israel in their journey to Canaan.

  1. Moses' father-in-law (Midianite or Kenite) ‒ Num. 10:29-32
  2. a mixed multitude ‒ Exod. 12:38
  3. the rabble (possibly the same as #2) ‒ Num. 4:1

10:31 Moses pleads with this father-in-law to change his mind and come with Israel to the land of Canaan (the IMPERFECT of Num. 10:31 is used in a JUSSIVE sense).

33Thus they set out from the mount of the Lord three days' journey, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord journeying in front of them for the three days, to seek out a resting place for them. 34The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.

10:33 "the mount of the Lord" This refers to

  1. Mt. Sinai
  2. Mt. Horeb

In later passages this descriptive title is used for Mt. Zion, which is a collective term for Jerusalem and especially Mt. Moriah, the site of the Temple.


The ark was normally in the Holy of Holies within the inner shrine, but when Israel traveled it was taken to the front! YHWH went before His people in guidance and protection.

▣ "a resting place" Here, this (BDB 629) refers to a proper camping site (TEV, NJB). This term also has the connotation of peace, security, and rest because of YHWH's presence with His people.

The term is used of the "Promised Lane" (i.e., Canaan) in Deut. 12:9; Ps. 95:11. In Isaiah 32:18 it has an eschatological connotation.

35Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said,
  "Rise up, O Lord!
  And let Your enemies be scattered,
  And let those who hate You flee before You."
36 When it came to rest, he said,
  "Return, O Lord,
  To the myriad thousands of Israel."

10:35-36 This is a poetic structure (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW POETRY). Numbers 10:35 was spoken when the cloud lifted and the people set out.

  1. rise ‒ BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE; Israel's Deity dwelt above the cherubim on the ark
  2. Lord ‒ this is the covenant name for God; see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, D
  3. let Your enemies be scattered ‒ BDB 806, KB 918, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense (i.e., a prayer); note Israel's enemies are YHWH's enemies
  4. let those who hate you flee before you ‒ BDB 630, KB 684, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

The MT marks vv. 35-36 with an inverted nun (i.e., Hebrew letter), which was their way to assert that the text was out of place. The LXX has vv. 35, 36 and v. 34. Remember, the MT added many interpreted features to the consonantal text but these additions by the Masoretic scholars in the A.D. period are not inspired.

10:38 These are Moses' words when the cloud stopped and Israel camped.

  1. return ‒ BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERATIVE; it is used in the sense of a prayer asking YHWH to dwell again in the Holy of Holies
  2. thousands ‒ see SPECIAL TOPIC: THOUSAND (eleph)
    Here, this term may denote "Lord of Hosts." See SPECIAL TOPIC: LORD OF HOSTS. This would be imagery of YHWH as the Divine Warrior fighting for Israel (i.e., 1 Sam. 17:45; Isa. 1:24; 21:10; Zeph. 2:19). See NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 545-549, for a good summary of YHWH as Israel's Divine Warrior.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. List the items that show Israel's historical links to Egypt.
  2. In how many ways were the silver trumpets used?
  3. Why do scholars assert a contextual break at Num. 10:11?
  4. Why does Moses want Hobab to come with him?
  5. Was the ark in the midst of the camp or at the front?
  6. Why does Moses pray YHWH will return in Num. 10:36?

Home  |  Old Testament Studies  |  Numbers Table of Contents  |  Previous Section   |  Next Section  |