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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 32

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle;

The land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead. A complete conquest had been made of the country east of the Jordan, comprising" the land of Jazer," which formed the southern district between the Arnon and Jabbok; "the land of Gilead," the middle region between the Jabbok and Jarmouk (or, as the Greeks called it, Hieromax, one of whose sources is a lake at Mezareib, probably identical with Ashtaroth Karnaim), Hieromax, including Bashan, which lay on the north of that river. The whole of this region is now called the Belka. It has always been famous for its rich and extensive pastures, for its high-fed and fierce cattle, for its gigantic oaks; and it is still the favourite resort of the Bedouin shepherds, who frequently contend for securing to their immense flocks the benefits of its luxuriant vegetation. In the camp of ancient Israel, Reuben and Gad were pre-eminently pastoral; and as these two tribes, being placed under the same standard, had frequent opportunities of conversing and arranging about their common concerns, they united in preferring a request that the Transjordanic region, so well suited to the habits of a pastoral people, might be assigned to them.

Verses 2-5

The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying,

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 6

And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?

Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? Their language was ambiguous, and Moses, suspicious that this proposal was an act of unbelief-a scheme of self-policy and indolence, to escape the perils of warfare and live in ease and safety, addressed to them a reproachful and passionate remonstrance. Whether they had really meditated such a withdrawal from all share in the war of invasion, or the effect of their leader's expostulation was to drive them from their original purpose, they now, in answer to his impressive appeal, declared it to be their sincere intention to co-operate with their brethren; but, if so, they ought to have been more explicit at first.

Verses 7-15

And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

And they came near unto him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones:

They came near. The narrative gives a picturesque description of this scene. The suppliants had shrunk back, dreading, from the undisguised emotions of their leader, that their request would be refused. But, perceiving from the tenor of his discourse that his objection was grounded only on the supposition that they would not cross the Jordan to assist their brethren, they became emboldened to approach him with assurances of their good-will.

We will build ... cities for our little ones - i:e., rebuild, repair. It would have been impossible within two months to found new cities, or even to reconstruct those which had been razed to the ground. Those of the Amorites were not absolutely demolished, and they probably consisted only of mud-built or dry-stone walls.

Verse 17

But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land.

Because of the inhabitants of the land. There was good policy in leaving a sufficient force to protect the conquered region, lest the enemy should attempt reprisals; and as only 40,000 of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and a half of Manasseh, passed over the Jordan (Joshua 4:13), there was left for the security of the new possessions 70,580 men, besides women and children under twenty years (cf. Numbers 26:17).

Verses 18-19

We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 20

And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war,

If ye will do this thing - with sincerity and zeal.

Ye will go armed - i:e., all of you in a collective body, or as many as may be deemed necessary, while the rest of your number shall remain at home to provide for the sustenance and secure the protection of your families and flocks (see the notes at Joshua 4:12-13).

Before the Lord to war. The phrase was used in allusion to the order of march, in which the tribes of Reuben and Gad immediately preceded the ark (see the notes at 12:10-77), or to the passage over the Jordan, in which the ark stood in mid-channel, while all the tribes marched by in succession (Joshua 3:4), of course including those of Reuben and Gad, so that, literally, they passed over before the Lord and before the rest of Israel (Joshua 4:13). Perhaps, however, the phrase is used merely in a general sense to denote their marching on an expedition, the purpose of which was blessed with the presence, and destined to promote the glory, of God. The displeasure which Moses had felt on the first mention of their proposal had disappeared on the strength of their solemn assurances. But a lurking suspicion of their motives seems still to have been lingering in his mind. He continued to speak to them in an admonitory strain; and concluded by warning them that, in case of their failing to redeem their pledge, the judgments of an offended God would easily fall upon them. This emphatic caution against such an eventuality throws a strong doubt on the honesty of their first intentions; and yet, whether through the opposing attitude or the strong invectives of Moses, they had been brought to a better state of mind, their final reply showed that now all was right.

Verses 21-27

And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him,

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 28

So concerning them Moses commanded Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel:

Concerning them Moses commanded. The arrangement itself, as well as the express terms on which he assented to it, was announced by the leader to the public authorities - i:e., the pastoral country the two tribes had desired was to be granted them on condition of their lending their aid to their brethren in the approaching invasion of Canaan. If they refused, or failed to perform their promise, those possessions should be forfeited, and themselves compelled to go across the Jordan, and fight for a settlement like the rest of their brethren.

Verses 29-32

And Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle, before the LORD, and the land shall be subdued before you; then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 33

And Moses gave unto them, even to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and unto half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, 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.

Half the tribe of Manasseh. It is nowhere explained in the record how they were incorporated with the two tribes, or what broke this great tribe into two parts, of which one was left to follow the fortunes of its brethren in the settled life of the western hills, while the other was allowed to wander as a nomadic tribe over the pasture lands of Gilead and Bashan. They are not mentioned as accompanying Reuben and Gad in their application to Moses, neither were they included in his first directions (Numbers 32:25); but as they also were a people addicted to pastoral pursuit, and possessed as immense flocks as the other two, Moses invited the half of them to remain, in consequence, probably, of finding that this region was more than sufficient for the pastoral wants of the others, and gave them the preference, as some have conjectured, for their valorous conduct in the contests with the Amorites (cf. Numbers 32:39 with Joshua 17:1).

Verse 34

And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer,

The children of Gad built - (see the note at Numbers 32:16).

Dibon - identified with the extensive ruins called Dhiban, three miles north of the Arnon (Mojeb).

Ataroth - crowns. There are several towns so called in Scripture; but this one in the tribe of Gad has not been identified, though it is supposed by some to be found in some ancient remains which bear the name of 'Atara.

Aroer - now Arair, standing on a precipice on the north bank of the Arnon.

Verse 35

And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah,

Atroth, Shophan - or Zaphon (Joshua 13:27). The English translation after the Vulgate, which has Etroth et Sophan, makes Ataroth and Shophan different places, whereas Shophan seems added to the former to distinguish it from the other Ataroth [Septuagint, Kariatham]. Jaazer - near a famed fountain, Ain Hazier, the waters of which flow into Wady Schaib, about 15 miles from Hesbon.

Verse 36

And Bethnimrah, and Bethharan, fenced cities: and folds for sheep.

Beth-nimrah - now Nimrin.

Verse 37

And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim,

Heshbon - now Hesban.

Elealeh (the high) - now Elaal.

Kirjathaim - the double city.

Verse 38

And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded.

Nebo - now Neba, near the mountain of that name (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:8; 1 Chronicles 15:2; Jeremiah 48:1).

Baal-meon - now Main, in ruins, situated on an eminence where was a temple of Baal (Joshua 13:17; Jeremiah 48:23), called also Beth-meon (Jeremiah 48:28).

Shibmah or Shebam (Numbers 32:2), Hebrew, Sibmah, near Heshbon, famous for vines (Isaiah 16:9-10; Jeremiah 48:32).

(Their names being changed,) - either because it was the general custom of conquerors to do so, or rather because, from the prohibition to mention the names of other gods (Exodus 23:13), as Nebo and Baal were, it was expedient on the first-settlement of the Israelites to obliterate all remembrance of those idols (see the notes at Joshua 13:17-20).

Verse 39

And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it.

Gilead - now Jelud.

Verse 40

And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 41

And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havothjair.

Havoth-jair - i:e., tent-villages. Jair, who captured them, was a descendant of Manasseh on the mother's side (1 Chronicles 2:21-22).

Verse 42

And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name.

Nobah - also a distinguished person connected with the eastern branch of this tribe. In the rich and extensive provinces of Gilead and Bashan these tribes found ample room for all their numbers, both of men and cattle, and in deep fertile soil, dense forests, luxuriant pasturage, and abundance of flowing streams, they must have seemed to realize the good land which had been promised them. The regions occupied by the two tribes and a half do not, according to the ordinary maps, appear to extend far eastward. But Michaelis, reasoning from the site of mount Gilead, which, as he thinks evident from the journeys of Jacob and Laban, lay not far from the Euphrates, maintains that the eastern border of the pasture-lands of these tribes must have touched close upon the Euphrates, thus fulfilling the promise (Genesis 15:18).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 32". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/numbers-32.html. 1871-8.
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