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INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 32
This chapter relates, how that the tribes of Gad and Reuben requested a settlement in the country of Jazer and Gilead, being fit for the pasturage of their cattle, Numbers 32:1 at which Moses at first was very much displeased, as being unreasonable, and tending to discourage the rest of the people; and as acting a part like that their fathers had done before them, which brought the wrath of God upon them, so that they all but two perished in the wilderness; and this he suggests would be the case again, if such measures were taken, Numbers 32:6 upon which they explain themselves, and declare they had no intention of forsaking their brethren, but were willing to leave their children and cattle to the care of divine Providence, and go armed before Israel, until they were brought into, and settled in the land of Canaan; nor did they desire any part or inheritance in it, Numbers 32:16, this satisfied Moses, and he agreed to it, that the land they requested should be their possession, provided the conditions were fulfilled by them, which they proposed, Numbers 20:20, and which they again agreed unto, and promised to perform, Numbers 32:25, wherefore Moses gave orders to Eleazar, Joshua, and the chief fathers of the tribes, to put them in possession of the land of Gilead on those conditions,
Numbers 32:28 and which were again promised that they would observe,
Numbers 32:31, and at the same time Moses made a grant of the kingdoms of Sihon and of Og to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, Numbers 32:33 and the chapter is closed with an account of the cities built or repaired by the children of Gad and Reuben,
Numbers 32:34 and of the cities in Gilead taken and possessed by the children of Machir, and by Jair, who were of the tribe of Manasseh,
Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle,.... By which it seems that they had more in proportion than any of the other tribes; by what means it is not easy to say; very probably they were more addicted to the pastoral life, and took more delight in breeding cattle, and were more diligent in taking care of them: however, the reason for this observation presently follows:
and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead; Jazer was in the kingdom of Sihon, and Gilead in the kingdom of Og, which had been both conquered by the Israelites:
that, behold, the place was a place for cattle; where much cattle was fed, there being a great deal of good pasturage for them: Jazer appears to be a well watered country, Jeremiah 48:32, and Gilead and Bashan which joined and belonged to the same country of Og, who was king of Bashan, were famous for good feeding of cattle: hence we read of the bulls of Bashan, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats on Mount Gilead that looked plump and sleek; see Micah 7:14.
The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses,.... The children of Gad are mentioned first, though Reuben was the firstborn, and had a standard under which Gad pitched: it may be, as Aben Ezra thinks, the Gadites were the first authors of this counsel, the contrivers of this scheme; who first moved it to the Reubenites, which they had an opportunity of doing, lying encamped by them; or however, they might be the most busy and active in this affair, or the best spokesmen; for it could be only some, in the name of the whole, that addressed Moses on this account, and spoke to him about it:
and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation; who perhaps were the seventy elders, and with Moses the chief ruler, and Eleazar the high priest, made up the grand sanhedrim, or great council of the nation, and were undoubtedly the most proper persons to apply unto:
saying: as follows.
Ataroth, Dibon, and Jazer,.... These were places which belonged to the Amorites, and were taken from Sihon, their king: of Ataroth we read nowhere else but in this chapter; of Dibon see
Isaiah 15:2, Jazer was a city, from whence the land about it had its name; it is the same with Jaazer, Numbers 21:32 and stood about fifteen miles from Heshbon k, the capital city of the kingdom of Sihon:
and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon; these were all places in the same country; of Heshbon see
Numbers 21:25, Nimrah is the same with Bethnimrah, Numbers 32:36 and sometimes called Nimrim, famous for its water, Isaiah 15:6. Jerom says l the name of it in his time was Benamerium, and lay to the north of Zoar; Elealeh, according to the same writer m was but a mile from Heshbon, of which see Isaiah 15:4. Shebam is the same with Shibmah, Numbers 32:36, and seems to be a place famous for vines,
Isaiah 16:8; it is thought to be the same with the Seba of Ptolemy n, and according to Jerom o, there were scarce five hundred paces between this place and Heshbon; Nebo, the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan call the grave of Moses, because on a mountain of this name Moses died, and where it is supposed he was buried; but it is certain he was buried not on a mountain, but in a valley, Deuteronomy 34:6, this perhaps had its name from the mountain near which it was, and of which see Isaiah 15:2. Beon is the same that is called Baalmeon, Numbers 32:38 and Bethbaalmeon, Joshua 13:17, where was very probably a temple of Baal; it was about nine miles from Heshbon p.
k Jerom. de loc. Heb. fol. 92. G. l lbid. K. m Ibid. fol. 91. A. n Geograph. l. 5. c. 19. o Comment. in Esaiam, c. 16. 8. p Eusebius apud Reland: Palest. Illustr. par. 2. l. 3. p. 611.
Even the county which the Lord smote before the congregation of Israel,.... In which the above cities were, and perhaps some others not named: this was now in the hands of the people of Israel, being subdued by them, the conquest of which is ascribed unto the Lord, for the victory was of him; it was he that smote their enemies; and delivered their country into their hands; and now Moses, Eleazar, and the princes of the congregation, being the representatives of the people, had a right to dispose of it, and, which these two tribes request might be given to them, because, say they:
it is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle; to stock it, with and great numbers of them; see Numbers 32:1
Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight,.... Directing their speech to Moses, the ruler of the congregation, in a very modest, decent, and respectable manner:
let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession; as their own portion and inheritance, to be enjoyed by them, and their children after them:
and bring us not over Jordan; into the land of Canaan, where as they after explain themselves, they did not desire to have any part with their brethren, but should be content with their possession here, should it be granted them.
And Moses said unto the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben,.... Being displeased with their motion, as his following discourse shows, it having at first sight an appearance of covetousness and cowardice:
shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? it is not reasonable that your brethren should be left by you and engage in a war with your common enemies, to dispossess them of their land before they can settle in it and you remain here easy and quiet in the possession of a fruitful country.
Wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel.... Which he suggests it would, should they settle on that side Jordan, since they would lose the assistance of two of their tribes, even two thirds of one of their standards in fighting with their enemies and subduing their land; and besides it might be thought that this request of theirs not only proceeded from selfish views and a love of ease, which might set a bad example to others, but carried in it a distrust of ever being able to enter into, at least to conquer and possess, the land of Canaan, and so might have a tendency to discourage their brethren:
from going over into the land, which the Lord hath given them? despairing of ever enjoying it, and so laying aside all thoughts of it, and not caring to make any attempt to get possession of it.
Thus did your fathers,.... Meaning not particularly and only the fathers of these two tribes he was speaking to, but of them and the other tribes also, who acted much such a part; did not choose to go into the good land to possess it, when they were bid to do it, but were for sending spies first, which brought an ill report of it, and discouraged the people from going into it; the history of which Moses here gives:
when I sent them from Kadeshbarnea to see the land; called only Kadesh, Numbers 13:26 the reason of the name
Numbers 13:26- :.
For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol,.... That is, when they went up the hill, for they were bid to go up into the mountain, and proceeded on into the country, until they came to the valley or brook, of Eshcol, so called from the cluster of grapes they there cut down, and brought along with them, Numbers 13:17
and saw the land; searching it for the space of forty days:
they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel; by telling them that there were giants in the land, and that the people in common were strong, and their cities walled, and that they were not able to go up against them and overcome them; and by this means they disheartened the people:
that they should not go, into the land which the Lord had given them; and this Moses feared, and suggests would be the consequence of the request the two tribes now made.
And the Lord's anger was kindled, the same time,.... Against the spies that brought the ill report, and against all the people that were disheartened and murmured upon it, and which, above all things, was to be dreaded now:
and he sware, saying; as follows.
Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upwards,.... See Numbers 14:28.
shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; the land of Canaan, which at various times he sware to give to them, and to their posterity:
because they have not wholly followed me; the laws which he prescribed them, the directions he gave them, and particularly the orders they had to go up and possess the land at once, Deuteronomy 1:21.
Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun,.... See Numbers 14:30, whether Caleb or Jephunneh is called the Kenezite is not so easy to determine; the latter rather seems to be most correct, for that Caleb should be called so from Kenaz the father of Othniel, who is said to be Caleb's brother seems not to be agreeable; since it is not likely that they were his own brothers, or Caleb would not have given his daughter to him; besides Jephunneh and not Kenaz is always said to be the father of Caleb, unless his father can be thought to have two names; it is most likely that Jephunneh, and so Caleb, might be called the Kenezite, from an ancestor of theirs of that name: Jarchi says, Caleb was the son-in-law of Kenaz, and Caleb's mother bore unto him Othniel:
for they have wholly followed the Lord; here what was said of Caleb,
Numbers 14:24 is said both of him and Joshua;
Numbers 14:24- :.
And the Lord's anger was kindled against Israel,.... For murmuring against the report of the spies:
and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years; for though it was but about thirty eight years from that time that they were in the wilderness, the round number of forty is given; and besides it includes the time of their first coming into it, which being reckoned, makes the complete number, within a few months: Kadesh, from whence the spies were sent, and whither they returned, and where the people murmured, and had this sentence pronounced on them, that they should not see the land of Canaan, but wander and fall in the wilderness, seems to have had the addition of Barnea made unto it on that account, which signifies the son of him that wandereth:
until all the generation which had done evil in the sight of the Lord was consumed; as they all were at this time when Moses spake these words.
And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead,.... Succeeded them in their families, of which they were now the heads; and in their substance, their flocks, and herds; and he suggests also, in their manners amid evil dispositions:
an increase of sinful men; this new generation was greatly increased, for when the number was taken, as it was but a little before this time, they were pretty near the same number as of those that came out of Egypt; but then they were not only an increase of men, but of sinful men, like fathers like sons:
to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord toward Israel; to make it greater and fiercer towards that nation than even their fathers had by their many sins and transgressions.
For if ye turn away from after him,.... From following him in the way of his commandments, from attending his word, worship, and ordinances, and from walking after him, who went before them in a pillar of cloud and fire, as it is suggested they would, should they stop short here and not go over Jordan into the land of Canaan:
he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; as he did at the time of the affair of the spies, when they were ordered to turn and get into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, and where they had been ever since unto this time, Numbers 14:25,
and ye shall destroy all this people; be the cause of their destruction, if the Lord should in such a manner resent this step of theirs, as to order them back into the wilderness again, though they were now as they were before, on the border of the land of Canaan.
And they came near unto him,.... The heads of the tribes of Gad and Reuben came a little nearer to Moses, having something more to say unto him, in order to explain their meaning, and in doing which they used some degree of freedom and boldness with him, see Genesis 44:18
and said, we will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones not build new ones, but repair the old ones; for there were cities enough in the country, as before named, and no doubt sheepfolds too, as the land was a place of cattle, but those were through the war broken down and demolished, and needed repairing; and this they proposed to do, and leave their children and their cattle to the care of their servants, under the protection of the divine Providence, and did not mean for the present to take up their abode here.
But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel,.... This they said to free themselves from the charge of cowardice, and that they did not mean to sit still while their brethren went to war; they were willing to put on their armour, and be ready to meet the enemy upon the borders of the land, and engage with them, and to expose their lives in favour of their brethren:
until we have brought them unto their place; to the land of Canaan, the place designed for them, and given unto them, to the possession of it, and a settlement in it:
and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities, because of the inhabitants of the land; where they might be safe from them, which they proposed to repair and refortify for the security of them, while they went with their brethren into the land of Canaan, to put them into possession of that, of which they made not the least doubt; and so served to clear them of suspicion of any distrust they had of entering into and possessing the land, which might tend to discourage the people.
We will not return unto our houses,.... In the cities built or repaired by them, or to their families, and their substance, their flocks and their herds; all which they should leave behind them, and never think of returning to them:
until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance; until all the tribes were settled in their respective places, and every family and everyone in them had their portion assigned them; and accordingly they did not return until the land was wholly subdued, nor even until every lot came up, and the land was divided by it, and the inheritance of the several tribes fixed, and even the cities of the Levites assigned to them out of the several tribes; see Joshua 22:1.
For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward,.... This they said, not as being determined whether Moses and the princes were willing or not to stay where they were, and not pass over Jordan to inherit any part there, and much less as despising the good land, but as giving up all pretensions to it, should they be settled where they desired; they were not of that selfish and covetous disposition as to desire any part on the other side Jordan, if it was but granted them to continue on this side, and possess the land they requested:
because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward; they seem to speak as if they were assured of it, and that it was so ordered by divine Providence, and wanted nothing but the consent of Moses, and the princes of the congregation.
And Moses said unto them,.... Being better disposed towards them, and more satisfied with the reasonableness of their request, it being explained unto him:
if ye will do this thing; which they had promised:
if ye will go armed before the Lord to war; they had said they would go ready armed before the children of Israel, but Moses expresses it "before the Lord"; which is more agreeable to their encampment and order in marching, for not the standard of Reuben but that of Judah went foremost, yet the standard of Reuben marched directly before the sanctuary bore by the Kohathites, Numbers 10:18, and so might be properly said to go before the Lord, who dwelt there.
And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the Lord,.... Moses tries them thoroughly, and is very express in his words, requiring them not only to go armed, or march from the place where they were, towards the land of Canaan, but to go over Jordan, and not some of them only, but all, and that before the Lord; though indeed, when the tribes came to the river Jordan, the ark, which was the symbol of the divine Presence, went before all the tribes into it, and there stayed till they passed over, and then these two tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh passed before the children of Israel, and before the Lord, unto battle, Joshua 3:11
until he hath driven out his enemies before him: the Canaanites, who were the enemies of the Lord, as well as of his people; and because of their sins, in which they showed their enmity to God, the land spewed them out, and he drove them out to make way for his people Israel, and till this was done the tribes of Reuben and Gad were to continue with them.
And the land be subdued before the Lord,.... For the inhabitants fleeing before his people, and being conquered by them, might be said to be subdued before the Lord, this being done in his presence, by his power, and for his people:
then afterward ye shall return: to this side of Jordan, the land of Jazer and Gilead, to their cities, and families there;
and be guiltless before the Lord, and before Israel: having fulfilled all that they promised:
and this land shall be your possession before the Lord; be established and settled in it as their inheritance, the Lord seeing and approving of it, and protecting them in the enjoyment of it.
But if ye will not do so,.... As they promised they would, and Moses insisted on it that they should:
behold, ye have sinned against the Lord making such a request, and not fulfilling the conditions on which it was granted:
and be sure your sin will find you out; fly in their faces, accuse them in their consciences, charge and load them with guilt, and bring deserved punishment upon them: sin may be put, as it often is, for the punishment of sin, which sooner or later will find out and come upon the impenitent and unpardoned sinner.
Build ye cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep,.... For their safety and security, as they proposed to do:
and do that which proceedeth out of your mouth; all that they had promised.
And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying,.... In answer to his speech:
thy servants will do as my lord commandeth; both with respect to their march before the Lord to battle, and with respect to their provision for their children and flocks.
Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle,.... Their families, and their substance:
shall be there in the cities of Gilead; such as are before mentioned,
Numbers 32:3 and which they proposed to repair and fortify, to preserve their families and possessions from the Amorites about them.
But thy servants will pass over,.... The river Jordan, and go into the land of Canaan:
every man armed for war; Moses had required that all should go over, and they consent to it, and promise that everyone should, though this was not insisted on when they came to it, for only about 40,000 went over, Joshua 4:13, whereas the two tribes of Gad and Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh, numbered more than 110,000; see Numbers 26:7:
before the Lord to battle, as my lord saith; for now, instead of saying, "before the children of Israel", a phrase they first used, they say, "before the Lord", as Moses had expressed it.
So concerning them Moses commanded,.... That they should have a grant of the land they requested: this looks as if Moses determined the case himself, though perhaps it was by the vote, and with the consent of the whole court; only Moses strictly enjoined them to observe it, namely,
Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel; and the rather he did this, because he knew that he should die, and not see either the thing itself or the conditions of it performed.
And Moses said unto them,.... To Eleazar, Joshua, and the princes of the congregation:
if the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle before the Lord; as they have promised they will:
and the land shall be subdued before you; which must be done before their return:
then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession; which, no doubt, included that of Jazer too, since Jaazer, which is the same, is after mentioned as one of the cities built by the children of Gad,
But if they will not pass over with you armed,.... Shall change their minds, and break their promise, and refuse to go over the river Jordan with the other tribes, and armed ready to engage in battle with the enemy:
they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan; take their lot there, but have no inheritance or possessions on this side Jordan.
And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered,...., The word is in the singular number, and shows their unanimity, that they agreed to what Moses said, and replied all of them as one man, as Jarchi expresses it; and it may be there was one that was the mouth of them all, and answered for them:
saying, as the Lord hath said unto thy servants, so will we do; here they make use of the word Jehovah, taking what Moses had said unto them as from the Lord, and therefore should strictly and punctually observe it, as if they heard the Lord himself speak it.
We will pass over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan,.... This is repeated again and again, for the confirmation of it, assuring that it should be strictly performed according to the true intent of it:
that the possession of our inheritance on this side Jordan may be ours; that is, that the possession and inheritance they desired, and which had been granted them, on conditions to be performed by them, might be ratified and confirmed unto them on their fulfilment of them.
And Moses gave unto them,.... By word of mouth, in the presence of the court, or rather by some instrument drawn up and signed by him and the sanhedrim, or witnessed by them:
[even] to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and unto half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph; no mention is made of this half tribe joining with the other two tribes in the request to settle on this side Jordan, and therefore it is generally thought that they were encouraged, by the success of the two tribes, to make a like motion; or else Moses and the princes, observing that there was too much land for the said tribes, joined this half tribe with them, the land being suitable for them:
the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land, with the cities thereof in the coasts, even the cities of the country round about; of which kingdoms, and the conquest of them, see Numbers 21:24, and several of the cities in them are after mentioned.
And the children of Gad built,.... Or rather repaired the walls and fortifications, and rebuilt houses which had been demolished in the wars with Sihon and Og; when the following places were taken by the Israelites:
Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer; the two first are mentioned in
Numbers 32:3. Aroer was a city situated on the river Arnon, and was after this in the hands of the Moabites: Jerom says q, it was showed in his day on the top of the mountain, upon the bank of the river Arnon, which flows into the Dead sea, Jeremiah 48:19.
q De loc. Heb. fol. 87. I.
And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah. Of these no mention is made elsewhere, except Jaazer, which is the same with Jazer,
And Bethnimrah, and Bethharan, fenced cities,.... The first of these is the same with Nimrah, Numbers 32:3, and the other is the same with Betharam, Joshua 13:27, it is called in the Jerusalem Talmud r, Bethramtha, and so by the Syrians, Bethramphta; and to the same place Herod gave the name of Livias or Julias s: these cities the children of Gad built or repaired for their families:
and folds for sheep; they also built for their cattle, as they promised to do, and Moses enjoined them, Numbers 32:16.
r Sheviith, fol. 38. 4. s Vid. Reland. Palestin. Illustrat. par. 2. p. 643.
And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim. Heshbon was the royal city of Sihon king of the Amorites, and Elealeh was within a mile of it, see Numbers 32:3, this shows that those cities were not built anew properly, only repaired, for they were cities in being long before; besides, they had not time to build new cities, for in a few months after this they passed over Jordan; though indeed they left men enough behind to rebuild cities, whom they might set to work about them when they departed: Kirjathaim is, by the Targum of Jonathan, called the city of two streets paved with marble, and it adds, this is Beresha: Jerom t says, it is now called Coraiatha, which is pretty near its ancient name, and that it is ten miles from Medeba, a city of Arabia, mentioned as one of the cities in the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, Numbers 21:30.
t De loc. Heb. fol. 89. M.
And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,).... For Nebo was the name of an idol, after which perhaps the city was called: Baalmeon signifies "Baal's habitation", and where it is highly probable was a temple of his; and the children of Reuben, not liking to retain such idolatrous names, gave them others, but what they were it is not said; and certain it is, that when these places came into the hands of the Moabites, their ancient names were restored to them, as appears from Isaiah 15:2
and Shibmah; the same with Shebam, Numbers 32:3, and gave other names unto the cities which they built; but they are neither known, nor did they always continue, as has been observed.
And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it,.... That part of it which Moses gave unto the half tribe of Manasseh, which till now was in the hand of the Amorites; for half Mount Gilead, and the cities thereof, were given to the Reubenites and Gadites, which is the land of Gilead they desired, and which was already conquered; for they call it the country which the Lord smote before Israel, Numbers 32:1:
and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it; for though they were driven out of one part of Gilead, yet not out of the whole.
And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh,.... That is, to the children of Machir, who went and took it; though some say, as Aben Ezra observes, that Machir himself was now alive, and that it was given to him, but that is not probable; for, supposing him to be living when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, all that came from thence, who were twenty years old and upwards, died in the wilderness, excepting two, see Numbers 32:11,
and he dwelt therein; that is, the family of the Macharite; see
And Jair the son of Manasseh,.... By his mother's side, otherwise he was of the family of Judah; for Hezron, of the family of Judah, married a daughter of Machir, the son of Manasseh, by whom he had a son called Segub, who was the father of Jair, 1 Chronicles 2:21, the same
went and took the small towns thereof; of that part of Gilead given to Machir:
and called them Havothjair; after his own name: in Deuteronomy 3:14, they are called Bashanhavothjair.
And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof,.... Who this Nobah was is not certain, very probably a descendant of Manasseh; it is said u he was among those that were born in Egypt, and died after the death of Moses, and was buried beyond Jordan, as it is said, also did Machir and Jair, so that there were none left but Caleb, and Joshua:
and called it Nobah, after his name; but it seems that in later times its ancient name was restored to it; for Jerom w, says there was a village in Arabia, called Cannatha, which is supposed to be this place; though he also tells us x, that eight miles from Heshbon; to the south, is shown a desert place called Naba. Pliny y places Cannatha in the Decapolis.
u Seder Olam Rabba, c. 9. p. 27. w Ut supra. (De loc. Heb. fol. 89. M.) x De loc. Heb. fol. 93. H. y Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 18.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 32". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13