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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 32

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


The record of the last war to the east of the Jordan is followed by the assignment of the lands already conquered to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and to certain families of the tribe of Manasseh.

Verse 1

Jazer - Compare the marginal reference. This district, although included in the land of Gilead, seems to have had special attractions for the Israelite settlers. All travelers in Gilead, the modern Belka, bear witness to its richness as compared with the country to the west of the Jordan. Its general character is that of an upland pasture, undulating and thickly timbered. In the last respect its northern portions excel its southern; but for fertility of soil the southern province is preferred by the Arabs, in whose lips it has passed into a proverb: “Thou canst not find a country like the Belka.”

Verse 3

See Numbers 32:34-38 notes.

Verse 8

Your fathers - The generation of the Exodus was now substantially extinct. Compare Numbers 26:64-65.

Kadesh-barnea - See Numbers 13:26.

Verse 12

The Kenezite - Kenaz Genesis 36:11 was the name of one of the “dukes of Edom:” but Israel and Edom were of kindred origin, and the use of similar names by the two peoples is not surprising.

Verse 23

Be sure your sin will find you out - literally, “know ye your sin that it will find you out.” Moses implies that their sin would eventually bring its own punishment along with it.

Verse 27

Before the Lord - i. e., immediately in front of the sacred tokens of the Lord’s presence; compare Numbers 10:17 note.

Verse 33

Half the tribe of Manasseh - That is, (compare Numbers 32:39; Joshua 17:1) the families of Machir. Moses, when assigning to the pastoral tribes the inheritance which they desired, appropriated to these Manassites especially the district they had already subdued, as a reward for their valour and exploits. Thus the whole of the conquered country was provisionally disposed of, and the forwardness anti valour of the Machirites rewarded. It seems clear from Numbers 32:39 and Joshua 17:1, that the claims of the Machirites arose simply out of their exploits.

Verses 34-36

The cities here named fall into three groups. On Dibon, compare Numbers 21:19. The Moabite stone was discovered here in 1868. This city, occupied on the first acquisition of the territory by the Gadites, and assigned by Joshua to the Reubenites, was eventually recaptured by the Moabites, in whose hands it remained. Ataroth, i. e., “crowns” (Attarus?) was seven miles northwest of Dibon. Aroer (Arair) lay between Dibon and the Arnon.

Atroth, Shophan - , was Atroth-Shophan, i. e., Atroth, or Ataroth of Shophan, or “of the burrow;” thus distinguished from the Ataroth named in the verse preceding from which it was probably not far distant. These four cities may be styled the Dibon settlement.

Numbers 32:35

Jaazer - (compare Numbers 32:1) with the neighboring “Jogbehah” (Jebeiha), seven miles to the northeast, formed the second group.

Numbers 32:36

The third Gadite settlement lay in the valley of the Jordan, to the west of the preceding. It comprised the cities of Bethnimrah (Nimrun) and “Beth-haran” (Beit-ha-ran).

Verses 37-38

The Reubenites established themselves more compactly than the Gadites. Elcalch (el-’Al) a mile to the northeast; Nebo (Nebbeh) probably three miles to the southwest; Baal-meon (Main) nearly two miles to the south; Kirjathaim (Kureiyat?): and Shibmah, more properly Sibmah, famous at a later period for its vines (compare Isaiah 16:8), four miles east of Heshbon; all clustered round the old Amorite Capital. The Reubenites probably retained at the partition all these cities with the exception of Heshbon, which, passing to the Levites, were thenceforth reckoned as within the tribe of Gad.

Neither the Reubenites nor the Gadites were “builders” in the sense of founders of the cities of which they thus took possession. They probably fortified them, for the first time or afresh, so as to render them places of safety for their families during the campaigns on the other side of the Jordan; and provided them with all conveniences for their flocks and herds.

Verse 39

The children of Machir - Machir, the son of Manasseh, was long since dead: even his sons had been brought up upon Joseph’s knees Genesis 50:23. But the renown acquired by his descendants raised his family almost to the dignity of a tribe; and the Machirites are in the next verse styled Machir, just as the children of Judah or of Ephraim are often spoken of as Judah or Ephraim. So in Judges 5:14 Machir is coupled with Ephraim and Zebulun.

Went - i. e., “had gone:” the statement is preparatory to the ensuing record of the grant to them of the land they had won.

Gilead - More strictly part of north Gilead; which, though inhabited by the Amorites, had belonged to the kingdom of Og. Gilead was the district from which had sprung the ancestress of the Machirites (compare 1 Chronicles 7:14).

Verse 41

The exploits of Jair - he was the conqueror of Argob Deuteronomy 3:14 - gave new. luster to his name; and the fame of the family is attested by the history of Jair the Israelite judge, doubtless a descendant; perhaps also by the mention of Jairus Luke 8:41, the ruler of the synagogue at the neighboring city of Capernaum.

Havoth-jair - That is, the villages, or rather groups of tents, or “kraals,” of Jair. Originally they were twenty-three in number 1 Chronicles 2:22 : in the days of the youuger Jair, to whom they probably descended by inheritance, they either had increased to thirty, or were reckoned at that round number Judges 10:4.

Verse 42

Kenath - Now Kenawat, an important site near the southern extremity of the tract el-Lejah, and on the western slopes of the mountains of the Hauran. The name given to it by its conqueror, as in other cases, fell ere long into disuse, and the old name has held its ground to this day.

The notices, both Scriptural and traditional, of the conquest of northeastern Gilead and Bashan by the Machirites, plainly intimate that it was effected by a few chiefs of great military prowess, who overran rapidly a far larger district than they could colonize. The father of Jair, however, Segub, was of the tribe of Judah (compare Numbers 27:1, and note; 1 Chronicles 2:21-22), and it is likely that the Manassite leaders induced many of the more adventurous of this tribe, and some possibly of other tribes, to join them in their enterprise against Bashan (see Joshua 19:34).

The Machirites did not exterminate the whole population of this district (see Joshua 13:15, etc.). The conquest of the district east of Jordan seems never to have been so effectually accomplished as that on the other side.

During the troublous times of the Judges the eastern Manassites rendered good service to the nation; compare Judges 5:14. Gideon, and probably Jephthah, were of this tribe, and reflect in a later generation the warlike and adventurous spirit which Jair and Nobah exhibited in the days of Moses.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Numbers 32". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/numbers-32.html. 1870.
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