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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 32

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5


Verses 1:5:

Reuben and Gad were both camped on the south side of the Tabernacle, see chapter 2. Simeon was the other tribe in this group, but he appears not to have joined in the request of the other two, to be allowed to possess their inheritance on the east of Jordan, rather than in the Land itself.

"Cattle," miqneh, "a possession, thing purchased," a general term for livestock.

Land of Jazer, the entire plateau of Heshbon, De 3:10.

Land of Gilead, the territory extending from the northern end of the Dead Sea to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, and from Jordan on the west to the desert on the east. At the time of this lesson, it was a lush region with forests, rich grazing lands, and adequate moisture. The region figures prominently in Scripture history, e.g. Ge 31:7-43; Jos 22:10; Eze 27:17; Jer 8:22; 46:11; Jg 10:3; 11:1-3; 12:1-7; 2Sa 15:13-23; Ho 6:8; 2 Kings 10:32-34; 15:27-29.

Ataroth, the modern Khirbet-at-tarus, about six miles east of the Dead Sea.

Dibon, about ten miles east of the Dead Sea. Israel captured this city in the conquest of Sihon, Nu 21:21-31.

Jazer, or Jaazer, a city about seventeen miles east of Jordan, on a plateau over which Israel passed on their way to the plains of Moab.

Nimrah, a city in the district of Gilead, also "Beth-nimrah." It was about ten miles northeast of Jericho, Jos 13:27.

Heshbon, a Moabite city about twenty miles east of JorDa Sihon made this his capitol when he took that territory from Moab. Israel later took it from Sihon, Nu 21:21-31.

Elealeh, always mentioned with Heshbon. It was about a mile from Heshbon. Today it is a heap of ruins, called El Ah.

Shebam, also called Shibmah. Its exact location is unknown.

Nebo, a Moabite city near or on Mount Nebo.

Beon, about ten miles east of the upper Dead Sea, near Nebo.

All nine cities were in the southern region of Gilead, and near Israel’s main to their encampment in Moab. It is likely that the large herds of livestock belonging to Gad and Reuben were at this time grazing near these places. The region was ideally suited to the pastoral life. ,

Verses 6-15

Verses 6-15:

The proposal of Gad and Reuben implied that they intended to settle down quietly in the comfortable district of Gilead, and leave their brethren to fight alone for the Land God had promised them. Moses sternly rebuked them. This would discourage the other ten tribes, just as the faithless spies had done thirty-eight years earlier. This led to the death of an entire generation. If Gad and Reuben were at this point to settle in comfort and leave their brethren to fight alone, they would be responsible for the judgment of God which would surely fail.

This is a powerful lesson for Missions today. Many of God’s people are willing to sit in comfort, in pleasant surroundings, while their brethren are on the front lines of the spiritual warfare. This is discouraging to those who feel the brunt of the battle.

Verses 16-19

Verses 16-19:

Scripture does not reveal the reason for the promise of Reuben and Gad. They may have intended from the outset to accompany their brethren into Canaan. Or, Moses’ impassioned speech may have convicted them and caused them to promise to aid their brethren.

The two tribes promised they would only erect temporary sheepfolds, and rebuild the cities which had been destroyed so their families could live in safety during the military campaign in Canaan. They agreed that they would not return to their homes to dwell in peace, nor would they divide the land for their inheritance, until all twelve tribes had secured their territory, putting God first, Mt 6:33.

Verses 20-27

Verses 20-27

Moses agreed to grant the request of Gad and Reuben, with the provision that they fulfill their pledge to assist their brethren in the battles west of Jordan This they promised faithfully to do.

Moses made clear the consequences of any mental reservation or equivocation on the part of Gad and Reuben. They could not hide from the all-seeing Eye of God, see Mt 10:26; Lu 12:2; Ga 6:7, 8.

Verses 28-33

Verses 28-33:

Moses solemnly ratified the request of Gad and Reuben, before both the religious leaders and the political officials of Israel, verse 28. Once more the two tribes affirmed their purpose: to assist their brethren in the conquest of Canaan.

For the first time, the name of Manasseh appears in this episode.

No explanation is given as to why only half this tribe received an allotment on the east of Jordan along with Gad and Reuben. It may be that there was an earlier schism within the tribe that made it desirable to divide. Or the 63% increase in the tribe of Manasseh over the first census may have accounted for the need to divide. There is no record in Scripture that Manasseh joined Gad and Reuben in their request to Moses. However, Moses may have given them the territory they had won in battle with the Amorites (verses 39-42).

Verses 34-42

Verses 34-42:

Gad "built" or refurbished a number of cities for temporary use by their families during the campaign in Canaan:

Dibon, about four miles north of Arnon, now known as Dhiban. Ataroth, seven miles from Dibon, known today as Attarus.

Aroer, by the river Arnon, De 2:36; Jos 13:16.

Atroth and Shopan, or Atroth-Shophan, site unknown. Jaazer, see verse I.

Jogbehah, north of Jaazer, Jg 8:11; possibly Jebeiha.

Gad occupied these cities only temporarily. In the territorial assignment of the Land, they were in Reuben’s allottment.

Reuben "built" or restored six cities for temporary use:

Heshbon, see Nu 21:25; 3.

Elealeh, see verse 3.

Kirjathaim, "double city," about ten miles east of the Dead Sea, and south of Ataroth.

Nebo, see verse 3.

Baal-meon, also called Beon, verse 3; Beth-meon, Jer 43:23; Beth-Baal-meon, Jos 13:17.

Shibmah, site unknown; a city taken from the Moabites.

Reuben apparently gave different names to some of the cities taken, possibly to remove any stigma of idolatry.

"Children of Machir," or "Beni-Machir." All Manasseh was descended from Machir, as he was an only son. This text apparently refers to one branch of the family of Machir, who developed into a powerful tribe:

"Went to Gilead," likely a reference to the expedition recorded in Nu 21:33. Its insertion here is out of chronological order. The reason is likely to identify the territory occupied by the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Gilead is used here in a general sense. The territory assigned to Manasseh was properly in Bashan.

Jair, a descendant of Machir, became a prominent figure in Israel’s history, De 3:14. According to the genealogy table in 1Ch 2:21, Jair was of the tribe of Manasseh through the female side. His father was Segub, son of Hezron of the tribe of Judah who married a daughter of Machir.

"Small towns" (verse 41), the villages of the Amorites who lived in Argob. He called these villages "Havoth-Jair," or villages of Jair." This was a group consisting of thirty villages, Jg 10:4; 1Ch 2:22, 23. Later, thirty more towns were added to this number, De 3:14; Jos 13:30; 1 Kings 4:13.

Nobah, a chieftian nowhere else named.

Kenath, the modern Kenawat, the most easterly territory occupied by Israel. Its name was changed to Nobah, in honor of the man who captured it, Jg 8:11.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 32". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-32.html. 1985.
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