Judges 4:11 (NKJV)

11 Now Heber the Kenite, of the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, had separated himself from the Kenites and pitched his tent near the terebinth tree at Zaanaim, which is beside Kedesh.

Numbers 10:29 (NKJV)

29 Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel a the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.”

How can we reconcile the two texts because in one instance it would seem Hobab is the father in-law of Moses but on the other hand he is the son of Reuel Moses father in-law

  • 2
    In English, it seems to simply be missing a comma: "Hobab, the son of Reuel a the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law" In this case "the son of Reuel the Midianite" is an appositive modifying Hobab and "Moses' father-in-law" is referring back to Hobab. But we would need a Hebrew expert to confirm which phrase modifies which in the Hebrew (which is why this is a comment not an answer). I'm just saying in English it looks like they just missed a comma.
    – Joshua
    Dec 3, 2016 at 14:07
  • The comma is there in KJV
    – Bob Jones
    Sep 4, 2017 at 0:42
  • highly related: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/20541/…
    – bach
    Jan 2, 2018 at 14:56

3 Answers 3


Rashi resolves this by bringing in a 3rd text (besides the Number text and the Judges text already mentioned). In Exodus 2:18-21

18 When they (the 7 sisters) came to their father Reuel, he said, “Why have you come back so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian saved us from the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 So he said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.” 21 And Moses was willing to live with the man. And he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses.

Now let us revisit all the verses

  1. Exodus explicitly states that Tziporah was Moses' wife and the daughter of Reuel, implying Reuel is Moses' father-in-law

  2. Numbers uses the phrase "Hovav the son of Reuel the Midianite, the Father-in-law of Moses". It doesn't matter what you do with commas. There is a serious problem here in that Reuel is already identified in Exodus as Moses father-in-law. This raises the question of who chovav is.

  3. Judges clearly states "Chovav, Moses father-in-law"

To resolve the contradictions, Rashi interprets Exodus metonymically:

Grandchildren frequently (metonymically) refer to their grandparents as their parents

Note: This is use of metonymy and not specific to any language; it would be a universal phenomenon

Thus Rashi's resolution is as follows:

  1. Moses married Tziporah.

  2. Tziporah was daughter of a man called Jehtro, Jether, and Chovav and therefore these are the names of Moses father-in-law.

  3. Reuel was the father of Moses father-in-law.

  • 1
    My apologies for the typo: "Ex 18:21" should be Ex 2:18-21" Feb 18, 2021 at 1:15
  • I think it's more probable that it was the author's way of alluding to the house or 'race' of Hobab(e.g. Lev. 25:47b), imo.
    – user21676
    Feb 18, 2021 at 15:52
  • 1
    I am uncertain whether this answer is ultimately correct, it is not a simple situation. But this answer is excellent in its statement and content. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 19, 2021 at 12:57

Some scholars believe that the term חׂׂתֵן used in all the aforementioned verses is non-specific and refers to all the woman's male relatives. Thus all Tziporrah's blood relatives would all be referred to, in the Bible, as חׂׂתֵן. See my answer somewhere else.

So in this case Reuel may have been Moses father-in-law and Hobab and Jethro his brothers-in-law. Alternatively, Reuel may have been the grandfather head of the clan, and Jethro may have been the father-in-law of Moses, and Hobab his brother-in-law, Jethro’s son.


His name is Hobab ben-Reuel. If he were Irish he would be Hobab O'Reuel. And Swedish; Habab Reuelson. Take your pick. You don't separate his name to say he was the father-in-law.

Nu 10:29 His name is Hobab son of Reuel חבב בן-רעואל . Hobab is a Midianite as is his father (but it refers to Hobab), he is the father-in -law חתןto Moses.

Ju 4:11 Merely describes him as the father-in-law to Moses.

The additional information that Hobab was the son of Reuel does not make a contradiction requiring reconciliation.

Hobab ben-Reuel is his proper name designating his family line.

The question is based on a perceived contradiction in an English translation, there is no question in Hebrew.

  • 1
    I've downvoted, as this answer does not show its work, and does not interact with either of the biblical texts in question. It looks like little more than an opinion.
    – user2910
    Feb 3, 2018 at 2:09

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