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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 32

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-42

Numbers 32:12 . Save Caleb the Kenezite. Kenaz was probably Caleb’s grandfather. This solves all the difficulty in this passage. Raguel is called the father of Moses’ wife, and he was evidently her grandfather. So Othniel, Caleb’s brother, was evidently his kinsman; for the Israelites could not marry a niece. Leviticus 18:14. Joshua 15:17.

Numbers 32:14 . An increase of sinful men. It is the glory of a prince and a magistrate to address the wicked in becoming language. Moses well knew that every new generation of men were liable to so strong a charge.

Numbers 32:38 . Baal-Meon; a city on the borders of Moab, afterward called Menes, from Misor, the Mitzraim of Egypt, the Zeus of the Greeks, and the Jupiter of the Romans. Men before the flood had begun to call themselves by the name of God. Menes is thought to be the title of Misor. Peor (Priapus) was a name of abhorrence, because of the immodesty of the place. Zebub, or flies, is added by way of contempt. See on 2 Kings 1:2.

Numbers 32:40 . Unto Machir; that is, to the posterity of Machir.


Whether the tribe of Reuben and of Gad had contributed more than the other tribes in the conquest of the countries of Zihon and Og, we are not told; but they fixed their heart upon the fertile banks of Arnon and Jordan; and they urge no plea but the abundance of their cattle. How many are the glosses and fair pleas which covetousness assumes. To make an advantageous purchase, how artfully will that dealer plead that he is seeking your interest. He dazzles, he captivates you by a show of disinterestedness, and by a plausible display of seeking your advantage. Time wears off the tinsel, and then you perceive that all those fine speeches proceeded from avarice and self-love. Ah, how contrary to the childlike simplicity of the gospel.

Moses, knowing their character of old, was bold to avow his suspicions, and to urge the consequences of their sin; that a base and cowardly repose, while their brethren were in arms, would discourage the tribes, who certainly had a right to ballot for those districts, if they had chosen to urge their claims. It was this bold speech which brought forward the overture to go over the Jordan armed, with their brethren; and the proposal would have come with a much better grace, had it been mentioned when they asked for the inheritance. Let all christian ministers learn of Moses to use plainness of speech, when tracing the depravity of the human heart. The man who fears to speak the whole truth, when occasions so require, cannot be called a servant of Jesus Christ.

Moses not only cautioned them, but pointedly averred, that their sin would certainly find them out. Moses could assert this with more authority than any other man. He had lived to a great age, he had a large acquaintance with providence, and had compared the works of the Lord in Egypt, and in the desert, with all that antiquity had recounted of the patriarchs. Here we see is a pursuing hand of providence, to discover and punish the sins of men. What are the leading crimes of which a wicked man has been guilty. Is it theft, robbery, adultery, or perjury? Has he wronged the widow, or defrauded the orphan; and what are the measures he has adopted to cover his crime? Has he dipped the coat in the blood of a kid? Has he caused Uriah to be slain, that no witness may survive against him? Has he committed a multitude of crimes to cover one? Does he daily tell one side of the story, and conceal the other? Vain are all his cares, for the two principal witnesses, God and his conscience yet live. The labourings of his mind appear in the gloom and anxiety of his countenance; society has lost its charms; he sighs when he ought to be cheerful; the bloody ghost of Uriah, the image of ruined innocence, the tears of defrauded orphans, or the heaps of wealth unjustly acquired, accompany him wherever he goes. As the seeds sown in the earth discover themselves by their growth, so vice is unfolded by its fruits. The sins covered with the thick gloom of midnight darkness all come to light by their consequences and connections. The same in fact may be said of every other sin. Besides, the hand of justice very often repays the wicked in kind. The sword does not depart from the murderer’s house; the leprosy of Naaman cleaves to Gehazi; and those who have shed the blood of the saints, are made to drink the same cup in return. The measure they have meted to others is meted to them again. Let all men therefore, troubled in conscience, and afflicted with the load of sin, no longer conceal, but open their case to God, and even to those who are able to afford them help. By so doing the heart will be relieved, and the consequences of such sins much diminished by the fruits of repentance. Moses, after cautioning those men in a singular boldness of language, and receiving promises of their fidelity, grants their request, and takes measures for the confirmation of the grant. He was about to die, but he charged Eleazar and Joshua to carry it into effect. When rulers set a fine example of fidelity to the people, it is often a powerful means of their fidelity in return. This covenant was an act of faith on both sides; for no man any longer doubted of God’s giving them a speedy possession of the promised land.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 32". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/numbers-32.html. 1835.
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