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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 32

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-19

The Petition of the Reubenites and Gadites

v. 1. Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle, having apparently gained great wealth in this respect by the recent conquests of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle, for they had become acquainted with this great country east of the Jordan on their recent campaigns,

v. 2. 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,

v. 3. Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon,

v. 4. even the country which the Lord smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, a very rich and fertile country, especially for purposes of stock-raising, and thy servants have cattle;

v. 5. wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan. Even if this request was made in consequence of the supposition that the other tribes would be fully able to conquer the land west of the Jordan, the real Canaan, it was an evidence of selfishness on the part of these two tribes and showed that they did not feel the bond of unity which held them together with the other tribes. It seems that at this time the two tribes did not even have the intention of aiding their brethren in gaining possession of the Land of Promise.

v. 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? To think of enjoying peace, security, and plenty while the other tribes were still engaged in warfare did not give evidence of much brotherly feeling.

v. 7. And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel, make their heart heavy with apprehension and fear, from going over into the land which the Lord hath given them? For this effect their action was likely to have, to turn or hold away the hearts of the people, to make them unwilling, to draw them away from the leadership of God.

v. 8. Thus did your fathers, the spies, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land.

v. 9. For when they went up into the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, turned it away from the Lord by filling it with fear, that they should not go into the Land which the Lord had given them. Cf Numbers 13.

v. 10. And the Lord's anger was kindled the same time, and He sware, saying,

v. 11. Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, because they have not wholly followed Me, they had not done their full duty in following the Lord;

v. 12. save Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, the Eenezite, and Joshua, the son of Nun; for they have wholly followed the Lord.

v. 13. And the Lord's anger was kindled against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, driving them about, causing them to wander back and forth aimlessly, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was consumed.

v. 14. And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers stead, an increase of sinful men, a brood carrying on the tradition of your fathers, to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord toward Israel.

v. 15. For if ye turn away from after Him, He will yet again leave them in the wilderness, that would be the consequence of their refusal to take part in the conquest of Canaan proper, and ye shall destroy all this people, the entire nation would suffer as a result of their willfulness.

v. 16. And they came near unto him, to show that they had a good conscience, and that they were perfectly willing to amend their first thoughtless and selfish proposition, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle and cities for our little ones, rebuild and fortify the towns for their wives and children;

v. 17. but we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, they would arm themselves in haste and act as a vanguard of champions before the army of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place, until every tribe has secured its possession; and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land, for the latter had not been utterly uprooted and annihilated, as had the Midianites.

v. 18. We will not return unto our houses until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.

v. 19. For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan or forward, because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward, toward sun-rising. These two tribes, therefore, in a manner of speaking, would not receive a clear title to the land for which they asked until they had fulfilled their promise. That is the rule in the kingdom of God: first war and battle, then the inheritance. He who will not battle need expect no inheritance.

Verses 20-42

The Petition Granted with the Proposed Condition

v. 20. And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the Lord to war,

v. 21. and will go all of you armed over Jordan before the Lord, until He hath driven out His enemies from before Him, the matter was to be performed in good faith, in solemn earnestness, as before the face of Jehovah, with His eyes resting upon them,

v. 22. and the land be subdued before the Lord, then, afterward, ye shall return and be guiltless before the Lord and before Israel, since they would then have fulfilled all the obligations resting upon them as members of the Lord's people; and this land shall be your possession before the Lord.

v. 23. But if ye will not do so, refusing to fulfill the duty which lay before them so plainly, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out, its punishment would surely strike them.

v. 24. Build you cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth, they should keep the promise which they had made of their own free will.

v. 25. And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth.

v. 26. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle shall be there in the cities of Gilead;

v. 27. but thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war, before the Lord to battle, as my lord saith.

v. 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, since Moses knew that he himself would not live to see the accomplishment of the agreement;

v. 29. 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, who still accompanied the host, and the land shall be subdued before you, then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession, which they were now holding only in a temporary and tentative manner, subject to the fulfillment of their promise;

v. 30. but it they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan. The text seems to imply that the two tribes would lose their identity in that case, their status as two separate and distinct tribes, their members being distributed among the other tribes of Israel.

v. 31. And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, As the Lord hath said unto thy servants, so will we do, thus declaring their willingness to accept the terms as stated.

v. 32. We will pass over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, that the possession of our inheritance on this side of Jordan may be ours, for the possession of it was actually dependent upon their fulfilling the condition.

v. 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, this tribe thus being recognized as having equal claims with the other two, 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 (boundaries), even the cities of the country round about, the entire country with its cities and the cultivated land in the neighborhood of the cities.

v. 34. And. the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer,

v. 35. and Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah,

v. 36. and Beth-nimrah, and Beth-haran, fenced cities; and folds, walled corals, for sheep.

v. 37. And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, the city which had been the capital of Sihon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim,

v. 38. and Nebo, and Baal-meon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah; and gave other names unto the cities which they builded. Some of these cities have been located more or less exactly, while the location of others is altogether a matter of conjecture; but they were all in the territory east of the Jordan. y. 39 . And the children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, went to Gilead, that is, they had gone there, this fact causing them to be included in this grant, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it.

v. 40. And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir, the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein.

v. 41. And Jair, the son of Manasseh, went, had gone, and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havoth-jair.

v. 42. And Nobah went, had gone, and took Kenath and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name. Cf Deuteronomy 3:4-14; 1 Chronicles 2:22-23, where we learn that Jair was the leader in these expeditions, that he himself took twenty-three cities, and that the total number of towns with their suburbs taken in the campaign was sixty. For the people of God the motto holds true: A common warfare and peril, a common triumph and inheritance.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Numbers 32". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/numbers-32.html. 1921-23.
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