HOBAB (hō'băb, Heb. hōvāv, beloved). A person who is named only twice in the Bible. In Num.10.29 he is called “son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law”; this would seem to make him a brother of Moses’ wife Zipporah (Exod.18.2) and thus Moses’ brother-in-law. In Judg.4.11, most versions—e.g., KJV, JB, MLB, Mof, NASB, and RSV—speak of Hobab as the “father-in-law of Moses,” while ASV, NEB, and NIV refer to him as “Moses’ brother-in-law.” The Hebrew word generally refers to one who gives his daughter in marriage. On the other hand, the people of the Middle East use words of relationship loosely; also, it has been argued that the aged Jethro (Reuel) could hardly have served with Moses as a guide to Israel in the wilderness, even if he desired to leave his work as the priest of Midian. In any case, Moses pleaded with Hobab to accompany Israel; after refusing at first, evidently he finally consented (Num.10.29; Judg.1.16; Judg.4.11).
Various attempts have been made to harmonize these differences, but none has commended itself to all. According to Mohammedan tradition, Hobab was only another name for Jethro, but there is no way of checking the accuracy of this tradition.
While the children of Israel were encamped near Sinai, Moses persuaded Hobab to accompany them so that they might have the benefit of his experience as a desert sheik (Num 10:29-32; Judg 1:16).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
This name occurs only twice (Nu 10:29; Jud 4:11). It is not certain whether it denotes the father-in-law or the brother-in-law of Moses. The direct statement of Nu 10:29 is that Hobab was "the son of Reuel" (the King James Version "Raguel"). This is probably the correct view and finds support in Ex 18:27, which tells us that some time before the departure of the Israelites from Sinai, Jethro had departed and returned to his own land. The statement of Jud 4:11 is ambiguous, and therefore does not help us out of the difficulty, but is rather itself to be interpreted in the light of the earlier statement in Nu 10:29.
Mohammedan traditions favor the view that Hobab was only another name for Jethro. But this has little weight against the statements of Scripture. However, whether father-in-law or brother-in-law to Moses, the service he rendered to the leader of the hosts of Israel was most valuable and beautiful. Hobab was an experienced sheikh of the desert whose counsel and companionship Moses desired in the unfamiliar regions through which he was to journey. His knowledge of the wilderness and of its possible dangers would enable him to be to the Israelites "instead of eyes."
The facts recorded of this man are too meager to enable us to answer all the questions that arise concerning him. A difficulty that remains unsolved is the fact that in Jud 1:16 and 4:11 he is described as a Kenite, while in Ex 3:1 and 18:1, the father-in-law of Moses is spoken of as "the priest of Midian."
Jesse L. Cotton