Chapter 32

NUMBERS CHAPTER 32

The Settlement of Israelite Tribes East of the Jordan

    • The tribes of Reuben and Gad had a very large number of livestock. So, when they saw that the lands in the region of Jazer and Gilead were well suited for their livestock, they came before Moses, Eleazar, and the community leaders and said, “These towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, which the Lord has already conquered, are ideal for us and our livestock. If we have found favor with you, let us have this land. Please don’t make us cross the Jordan River.”

      • Guzik writes, “Israel had conquered the Moabites and the Midianites, and the ideal grazing lands on the east side of the Jordan River were laid out before them. The tribal leaders of Reuben and Gad were content with these lands, and asked to be given them as their tribal inheritance…Though this had been the longing of the children of Israel for some 400 years, ever since Jacob moved the family into Egypt to find relief from famine, now these two tribes were be content to stay where they are. It seemed good enough for them.”

      • Wenham notes, “That any Israelite tribe should consider settling outside the land promised to Abraham showed a disturbing indifference to the divine word, the word on which Israel’s existence entirely depended.”

    • Moses asked the Gadites and Reubenites, “Should your brothers go to war while you remain here? Why are you discouraging the others from crossing over into the land that the Lord has promised to give them? This is exactly what your ancestors did when I sent them out from Kadesh-barnea to scout out the land. They went all the way to the Eschol Valley, but when they returned they discouraged the others from proceeding into the land the Lord promised them. This caused the Lord to be very angry with them and He decreed that no one above the age of 20, with the exception of Jephunneh’s son Caleb (the Kennezite) and Nun’s son Joshua, would see the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is the very reason the Lord made Israel wander in the wilderness for 40 years so that generation would die out. And here you are following in your fathers’ footsteps, you brood of sinners, making the Lord even angrier with Israel. If you turn away from Him now, He will leave them all in the wilderness again, and you will be responsible for their death.”

      • The HCSB writes, “Moses confronts their true reason for wanting to settle the Transjordan highlands; their reluctance to go to war, which is tantamount to rebellion against God’s plan for the nation. The promised land was across the Jordan to the west, not on its eastern side. Moses saw that the possible outcome had all the hallmarks of the great rebellion in which Israel rejected God’s gift of the land. The hallmarks are disunity among the tribes, discouragement to the others, and the potential destruction of the people in another wilderness experience.”

      • Guzik adds, “Moses perhaps felt that the tribes of Reuben or Gad made a bad choice for themselves; that is, they hurt themselves by settling on the lands east of the Jordan River. But Moses did not confront them with that issue. If a child of God is content to settle for less in their Christian life, there is little or nothing one can do. But when their complacency begins to affect their brothers and sisters, it must be confronted. This was the basis of Moses’ confrontation.”

    • The Reubenites and Gadites replied, “We want to build pens for our livestock and fortified cities for our women and children so they will be safe from attacks by the people who live in this land. But, we will arm ourselves and lead our brothers into battle until we have brought them into their land. We won’t go back home until all the Israelites have received their portion of land. However, we will not take our portion of land from across the Jordan River because we accept this land on the east side of the Jordan River as our inheritance.”

      • The Reubenites and Gadites pledge their full support for the conquest of the land west of the Jordan, provided that Moses will let them have their inheritance in Transjordan and allow them to leave their families in safekeeping of the local towns. The issue of disunity remains in their words, ‘we will not have an inheritance with them across the Jordan.’” (HCSB commentary)

    • Moses replied saying, “If you keep your word and fight with your fellow Israelites until the Lord has conquered all the land and driven out His enemies, then your obligation to the Lord and to your brothers will be fulfilled and you can accept the land east of the Jordan River as your inheritance and return there. However, if you don’t keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord and your sin will catch up with you. Go build your cities for your families and pens for your livestock, but be sure you keep your promises.”

    • The Gadites and Reubenites agreed saying, “We, your servants, will do just as you have instructed us. Our children, wives, and livestock will stay here in Gilead, but we will cross over the Jordan and fight for the Lord just as you have said.”

    • So Moses gave Eleazar, Joshua, and the clan leaders of Israel orders regarding the agreement that had been reached with the Gadites and Ruebenites, “If they cross over the Jordan River, fight with you, and conquer the lands with you, you must give them the land of Gilead as their inheritance. However, if they do not keep this promise, they must accept a land inheritance with the rest of you in the land of Canaan.”

    • The Gadites and Reubenites reaffirmed that they would fulfill their promises.

      • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes that this reaffirmation occurred in front of the Israelite leadership.

    • Therefore Moses assigned the Gadites, Reubenites, and half of the tribe of Manasseh (Joseph’s son) the territory of King Sihon (Amorite king) and King Og (king of Bashan) including the its cities and the surrounding territories.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Half the tribe of Manasseh suddenly appears in the discussion of territorial distribution. Part of Manasseh settled east of the Jordan River, while another part of the tribe settled in Canaan, west of the Jordan (Joshua 17:1-12; 22:7).”

    • The Gadites rebuilt the cities of Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, Atrothshophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, Beth-nimrah, and Beth-haran. They fortified them and built pens for their flocks.

    • The Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, Nebo, Baal-meon, and Sibmah. They renamed some of the cities they rebuilt.

    • Those descended from Manasseh’s son Machir went and captured Gilead and drove out the Amorites that were living there. So, Moses gave Gilead to the Machirites and they settled there.

      • HCSB writes, “The Machirite clan of the tribe of Manasseh apparently joined in the quest for territory in Transjordan, based upon their conquest of it.”

    • Another descendant of Manasseh, Jair, captured many of the villages in Gilead and renamed them “Jair’s Villages.”

    • A man named Nobah captured the town called Kenath and its surrounding villages and renamed them “Nobah” after himself.

      • Guzik notes in his commentary, “…in total, two and one-half tribes never took possession of land west of the Jordan River.”