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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 32

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



The children of Reuben and Gad sue for their inheritance in Gilead, on this side Jordan; but, being reproved by Moses, promise that they will pass the Jordan, and fight with their brethren; upon which terms their petition is granted, and half the tribe of Manasseh is joined with them.

Before Christ 1452.

Verse 1

Numbers 32:1. Now the children of Reuben, &c.— These tribes, abounding in the largest stock of cattle, and desirous to be established, cast their eyes upon the country of Jazer and Gilead, lately taken from the two Amoritish princes, Sihon and Og, and by Divine appointment allowed to be inhabited by the Israelites, as well as the land of Canaan. Respecting Jazer and Gilead, see the note on chap. Num 21:32 and Bochart's Hieroz. pars i. lib. 2. c. 51.

Verse 3

Numbers 32:3. Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, &c.— All these towns belonged to the territories of Sihon and Og, and lay on the east side of Jordan. There was another Ataroth within the land of Canaan. Joshua 5:7. Nimrah, called Bethnimra in the 36th verse, and Jos 13:27 signifies, according to Bochart, the habitation of leopards, probably from its neighbourhood to those mountains which leopards frequented; for we find mention in those parts of the mountains of leopards. Song of Solomon 4:8. We may observe in general, that it is usual in Hebrew to cut off the former part of proper names; as Salem for Jerusalem, Psalms 76:2. Lehi for Ramath-lehi, Judges 15:17; Judges 15:19, &c. For Heshbon, see chap. Numbers 21:26, &c.—Shebam, called Shibmah, Num 32:38 and Sibmah, Isaiah 16:8-9. Jer 48:32 appears from those passages to have been a place famous for vines; and in the days of Jeremiah was fallen into the hands of the Moabites, as were Heshbon and Elealeh. Nebo, mentioned also Num 32:38 was situated near Dibon and Kirjathaim, as appears from Jer 48:1 who mentions it when it was fallen again into the hands of the Moabites. Nebo signifies prophecy, or divination; and this name is thought to have been given to the place, because the Moabites had there built a temple and oracle to one of their gods, probably the same who is called Nebo, Isa 46:1 and who was so considerable a divinity among the heathens, that he entered into the composition of many great names among the Babylonlans; as Nebuchadnezzar, Nebu-zaradan, Nabonassar: Beon is thought to be the same which is called Baal-meon in Num 32:38 and Beth-meon, Jeremiah 48:33. It was probably a place where Baal was worshipped. It is called, Joshua 13:17. Beth-baalmeon; i.e. the house, or temple of Baal-meon.

Verses 6-15

Numbers 32:6-15. And Moses said, &c.— Those two tribes had applied to Moses for a settlement in the country where they were, and desired that they might not be brought over Jordan, Numbers 32:5. This justly irritated the spirit of Moses, who, with a proper indignation, said unto them, shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? He remarked, that their ill example would certainly much dishearten the rest of their brethren; in which view he tells them that they are acting the part of their predecessors, the spies, who discouraged the rest of the people by their fears, and so kindled the Lord's anger against that generation, that they were all, for their mutinous and distrustful spirit, excluded from the land of Canaan. He, therefore, exhorts them to beware of the same spirit, lest the same evil consequences should follow, and the people be left to perish in the wilderness; Numbers 32:15.

Verse 12

Numbers 32:12. Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite Commentators seem to have mistaken this matter, in supposing that Caleb is called the Kenezite: this title is given to Jephunneh both here and in Joshua 14:14.; and it is probable, that Kenaz was a common ancestor of the family, see Joshua 15:17. Judges 1:13; Judges 3:9.

REFLECTIONS.—Pleased with the fertility of the soil, and the country of Gilead and Jazer, the children of Reuben and Gad cast a longing eye upon it for their possession. Whereupon 1. They make their request to Moses, plead its suitableness to the numerous herds which they kept, and beg that they may be permitted to have their lot on this side Jordan. Note; Too many, like them, take up their rest on earth; and, over-anxious about worldly things, quit all concern about a possession in the heavenly Canaan.

2. Moses highly resents their proposal, justly apprehensive of the consequences: it seemed to imply an unbelief of God's promises and a distrust of his power; to be the dictate of covetousness and cowardice; and might, in the issue, be fatally dangerous to the whole, either by weakening the army and discouraging the hearts of their brethren; or, as was more to be feared, and Moses reminds them, by provoking God, as their fathers had done, and thereby augmenting his fierce anger against Israel. Note; (1.) It is an alarming symptom of ruin coming upon a land, when the rising generation tread in the sinful paths of their fathers, and grow worse and worse. (2.) It is as base as it is selfish, to desire our own rest and ease when God's people are called to hardships and need our help and assistance. (3.) Past experiences should be treasured up as future memorials. (4.) Holy indignation against sin is a part of the character of the faithful ministers of God.

See commentary on Num 32:6

Verse 17

Numbers 32:17. We—will go ready armed before the children of Israel Having taken into consideration what Moses had said, the two tribes apply to him again, and offer, in a very reasonable manner, to go ready armed before the children of Israel; as much as to say, "though we desired to settle here with our families, we wish not to decline the fatigues of war, but are ready to furnish such quota of troops as shall be required of us." The LXX render it, we will put ourselves at the head of the troops of Israel; and accordingly we find, that forty thousand of them, ready armed for war, accompanied their brethren, Deuteronomy 3:18. Joshua 4:12. By the inhabitants of the land we are to understand the Moabites, the Idumaeans, and the rest of the conquered people, against whose attempts it was natural to guard.

Verses 20-21

Numbers 32:20-21. If ye will go armed before the Lord i.e. Before the ark, which was the symbol of the Divine presence; for the three tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Simeon marched immediately before the sanctuary, ch. Numbers 2:10; Num 2:14 Num 10:18 so that Moses requires of them only to hold their usual place when they went to war against the Canaanites. All of you, in the next verse, signifies, all of you who shall be called upon to go; for they were in the whole above one hundred thousand men able to bear arms, adding the half tribe of Manasseh to the tribes of Gad and Reuben. See on Numbers 32:17. To encourage them to go, Moses represents the idolatrous Canaanites as the enemies of Jehovah; upon whose protection, therefore, they might certainly depend, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him.

Verse 23

Numbers 32:23. Your sin will find you out The LXX render this, and ye shall know your sin, when evils fall upon you; which is not the meaning of the Hebrew. The sense is, the punishment of your sin will sooner or later overtake you; or, ye shall not continue unpunished. The heathens themselves had the same idea. Sooner or later God justifies his providence in punishing the wicked. See Homer, Iliad iv. ver. 160. Odyss. ii. ver. 31. Horace, Carm. lib. iii. Ode 3.

REFLECTIONS.—Though Moses had just suspicion for his fears, yet their reply seems to shew that they were groundless. A faithful minister watches with godly jealousy over the people; and his care and love of them appear even in suspicions which may arise from mistake or misinterpretation.

1. They engage to follow their brethren, and never to forsake them till they are comfortably settled: yea, offer to go before them; so far are they from being cowards or discouraging them. Only they would secure their wives and children, and cattle, till their return; and, content with their present lot, desire no part beyond Jordan. Note; It is always good to hear before we judge. Men may be actuated by the noblest motives, whose conduct, nevertheless, may be liable to such misrepresentation.

2. The proposal is consented to on these conditions: they shall go armed before the Lord to fight his battles, and never think of quitting the camp till the land is subdued; otherwise, sin would overtake them and punish them accordingly. Note; Sin will find us out if we are false and faithless, and we shall surely suffer for it.—Thus the matter is compromised, and they engage for ready obedience and punctual performance of the agreement. The most serviceable, about 40,000 men, accordingly followed Israel into Canaan till the land was divided, whilst the rest, by consent no doubt, were left as a guard to the country which they occupied.

Verse 30

Numbers 32:30. But if they will not pass, &c.— "Then thou shalt compel them to do so, and assign them, according to lot, their portion in the land of Canaan." The LXX has it, then you shall drive before you their cattle, their wives and possessions, into the land of Canaan; and they shall have, &c.

Verse 32

Numbers 32:32. On this side Jordan They were now in the land of Gilead, so that the east side of Jordan was, in respect of them, on this side Jordan; but when they were in Canaan it was on that side Jordan.

Verse 33

Numbers 32:33. And Moses gave unto them, &c.— As the whole territory was more than sufficient for the children of Gad and Reuben, the half tribe of Manasseh is ordered to have a settlement along with them; and the reason why it was given to them was, because they had dispossessed the Amorite, and so had a fairer pretence to it than the others. See Num 32:39 and Joshua 17:1. It is to be remembered, that this was not an absolute, but a conditional grant, as appears from Numbers 32:29. The Samaritan Pentateuch joins, throughout, the half tribe of Manasseh with the tribes of Gad and Reuben; but, as Houbigant himself thinks, improperly.

Verse 34

Numbers 32:34. And the children of Gad built Dibon, &c.— Though the original word signifies to build, yet there are many examples in which it signifies to rebuild; 1 Kings 12:25. 2Ki 14:22 and in this sense it must be here understood, as well as in the 37th verse; for the towns spoken of were built before; but having been desolated by the war were now rebuilt and fortified. See Deuteronomy 2:34-35.

Verse 38

Numbers 32:38. (Their names being changed)— The Israelites might judge it proper to change the names of these places, in order to abolish all the footsteps of idolatry in the country; though we find them still called by their ancient names, Joshua 13:17. Eze 25:9 and Isaiah 15:0; Isaiah 16:0. Houbigant renders the latter clause of this verse, and they gave their own names to the cities which they built. It was the custom of the founders or rebuilders of towns to give their own names to those towns which they founded or rebuilt.

Verse 40

Numbers 32:40. Moses gave Gilead unto Machir i.e. to the family or posterity of Machir, as appears from the 1st verse; for Machir himself, being the son of Manasseh, must have been dead long ago. To this family Moses gave Gilead, i.e. half of mount Gilead; for the other half was given to the sons of Reuben and Gad: Deuteronomy 3:12-13. Houbigant understands Gilead to mean, not the country, but the city so named, which was the capital of the country, and which, he thinks, appears evidently to have been a city, from the words and took it, Num 32:39 which, in the 41st and 42nd verses, are applied to the taking of cities, not countries.

Verse 41

Numbers 32:41. Jair the son of Manasseh One of the posterity of Manasseh by the mother's side; for he was the grandson of Gilead, the son of Machir, by his daughter, 1Ch 2:21-22 but his father was of the tribe of Judah. It seems that he had joined with the children of Machir in their expedition against Gilead, and, being successful, had his inheritance among them, which he called Havoth-jair, i.e. the villages or habitations of Jair. Nobah, Num 32:42 was some eminent person, probably of the same tribe, who accompanied Jair in the aforesaid expedition. As these two tribes and a half were the first that had their inheritance assigned them, so they were the first who, for their idolatry, were carried captives out of the land. 1 Chronicles 5:25-26. Their early defection from the true religion might, possibly, be owing, in a great measure, to their being situated at so great a distance from the place of public worship.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 32". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/numbers-32.html. 1801-1803.
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