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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 5

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-10

First Chronicles - Chapter 5

Tribe of Reuben, Verses 1-10

As the genealogical account of Israel continues the tribe of Reuben is reached at last. It was deemed necessary to make an explanation why this firstborn of all Jacob’s sons is relegated to a secondary position. It was an act of his father Jacob’s, pronounced in his deathbed predictions about his sons and was the result of an act of incest by Reuben against Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah (Genesis 49:3-4; Genesis 35:22). He was characterized as unstable, a trait which is prominent in his history, and he never produced any outstanding Bible characters nor did any significant deeds of record.

For this deed of incest, then, Reuben was set aside for the birthright, and it was given to Joseph’s sons. (Joseph was the firstborn of Rachel and Jacob, though much younger than Reuben). Quite early also Judah became the dominant tribe of Leah’s sons, so that Reuben did not succeed to the kingly, or Messianic, line either.

In none of the tribal genealogies are all the generations enumerated. Usually the patriarch’s sons are named, some of the prominent grandsons, and perhaps some of the third or fourth generations. Thereafter significant persons in the tribe’s history and development may be named. In the case of Reuben the prince of the tribe at the time of the Assyrian conquest of the eastern tribes by Tilgath-pilneser is named (verse 6). The prince of the tribe at that time was Beerah, and he was carried away captive by the Assyrians. These tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh) on the east side of Jordan were the first to suffer captivity by the Assyrian incursions (cf. 2 Kings 15:29).

Reuben and Gad, later joined by half-Manasseh had requested their tribal allotment of Moses on the east of Jordan because of the fine pastureland for their cattle (Numbers - Chapter 32). Reuben’s portion was in the south, and this passage shows that they occupied the land to the entrance, or beginning of the wilderness which spread away to the Euphrates River northeastward. In the days of King Saul’s reign they had to contend with the Hagarites, a desert tribe, for the land. They succeeded in dispossessing them and occupying the land.

Verses 11-17

Tribe of Gad Verses 11-17

The territory alloted the tribe of Gad was adjacent to that of the tribe of Reuben on the north. It is identified as Bashan, but comparison indicates that only the northern half of Gad came out of the portion Israel conquered from the giant king Og of Bashan by Moses and the Israelites. The land was also called Gilead, and was considered a rich and prosperous land in Bible times. Actually Gilead extended into the half tribe of Manasseh still farther to the north.

Reference is made to a genealogical accounting of this tribe in the days of King Jotham (father of Ahaz) of Judah and of Jeroboam II, king of Israel. It appears that the brief record inserted here in the Chronicles was based on that. The purpose of that earlier genealogical record is not stated, but it is interesting to note that it was made about the time the Assyrian armies became a serious molestation to the tribes. They first became a threat to Judah during the reign of Jotham (2 Kings 15:36-38).

The reference to "suburbs of Sharon" are thought to refer to lands occupied in common with other tribes of the times.

Verses 18-22

Transjordanic War, Verses 18-22

Here is the only place in the Scriptures where is recorded this very significant and important event in the history of Israel. It enlightens the Bible student as to the deeds and character of the two and a half tribes who dwelled across the Jordan from the remainder of Israel. They are called valiant men and able warriors. This engagement with the desert­ dwelling Hagarites might be identical with that mentioned of the Reubenites back in verse 10, though not necessarily. It may have been an earlier engagement, at the time the tribes were consolidating themselves after the death of Joshua.

This army consisted of 44,760 men. They attacked. the Hagarites in their tribes, three of which are named. These were located in the eastern border area with the wilderness. No more definite identification of them is possible today. These tribes of Israel relied on the Lord (verse 20) and trusted Him for the victory, and He gave them a complete victory. The spoils of battle were great; camels numbered fifty thousand, sheep two hundred fifty thousand, donkeys two thousand, and captives a hundred thousand. This territory was occupied by these Israelitish tribes until they were carried away in captivity.

Verses 23-26

Eastern Half-Manasseh, Verses 23-26

The inspired record devotes only two verses to the genealogy of the three Manassite families who settled east of Jordan The broad expanse of the area they possessed is stressed. Their allotment territorially was by far the largest of them all, though some parts were poor and disputed with other peoples. It reached from Bashan across the Golan heights northward, following the valley of the upper Jordan to the foothills around Baal-hermon, and beyond to the Lebanese peaks of Hermon and Senir. Only a few of their men are listed as outstanding.

Verses 25-26 pertain not to east-Manasseh only, but to the other two tribes east of Jordan, Reuben and Gad, as well. Their early apostasy in adopting idolatry is recounted. "Going a whoring after the gods of the people of the land" means that they turned to worshipping the false gods of the very people they had vanquished by the help of their own God. This transgression of the Lord caused Him to unleash on them the power of the Assyrian kings, Pul and Tilgath-pilaeser. These cruel kings were bent on annexing all outlying kingdoms to their empire. Their custom was to deport the inhabitants of a conquered land and to repopulate it with people brought in from other conquered lands. This is what happened to the people of Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh. They were removed far away to Babylonian and Assyrian cities and lands.

Some lessons: 1) Instability will eventually result in great loss for the unstable one; 2) complacency and apostasy in the Lord’s service will always eventuate in chastisement; 3) on the other hand trust and reliance on the Lord will result in victory; 4) people are fickle and constantly display it by turning away from the Lord by whose providence they enjoy life.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 5". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-chronicles-5.html. 1985.
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