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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Numbers 32

 

 

Verses 1-42

NINTH SECTION

The grant of the conquered land beyond the Jordan to Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh

Numbers 32:1-42

1Now 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; 2The 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, 3Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, 4and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon, Even the country which the Lord smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle: 5Wherefore, 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.

6And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall 7 your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? And wherefore [FN1]discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord hath given them? 8Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land 9 For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into 10 the land which the Lord had given them. And the Lord’s anger was kindled the same time, and he sware, saying, 11Surely 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 [FN2]followed me: 12Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: 13for they have wholly followed the Lord. And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all 14 the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed. And behold, ye are risen up in your fathers’ stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord toward Israel 15 For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.

16And they came near unto him, and said, We will build sheep-folds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones: 17But 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 18 We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance: 19For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward.

20And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the Lord to war, 21And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the Lord, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him, 22And the land be subdued before the Lord: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the Lord, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the Lord 23 But if ye will not do Song of Solomon, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out 24 Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth 25 And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth 26 Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gilead: 27But thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war, before the Lord to battle, as my lord saith 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: 29And 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: 30But if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan 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 32 We will pass over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, that the possession of our inheritance on this side Jordan may be ours 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.

34, 35And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer, And Atroth, 36Shophan, and [FN3]Jaazer, and Jogbehah, And [FN4]Bethnimrah, and Beth-haran, fenced cities; and folds for sheep 37 And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim, 38And Nebo, and Baal-meon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and [FN5]gave other names unto the cities which they builded 39 And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it 40 And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein 41 And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havoth-jair 42 And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[ Numbers 32:7. תְנִואוּן to disallow or hinder. They withdrew their own support, and brought the people to abandon the purpose.—Hirsch. The Keri תְנִיאוּן is a preferable reading. See Numbers 32:9.—A. G.]

[ Numbers 32:16. לְטַפֵנוּ, used here as in 2 Chronicles 31:18; Genesis 47:12, to include the whole family except the head; all the defenceless.—A. G.]

[ Numbers 32:23. But ye shall know your sin, which shall overtake you; come upon you.—A. G.]

[ Numbers 32:35. Should be Atroth Shophan; omit comm.—A. G.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The key to the understanding of the short and strange conflict which threatened for a time to break out between the tribes, or rather a schismatic portion of the tribes, and the theocratic unity represented by Moses, lies, as Keil following O. Von Gerlach urges, by reading the imperfects in Numbers 32:39 seq. as pluperfects; thus the half tribe of Manasseh had gone and conquered the region of Og king of Bashan. As the half tribe of Manasseh were prominent in the conquest, so also it is assumed that the tribes of Reuben and Gad were conspicuous, in the earlier war with Sihon, and thus we may explain their present wealth in flocks and herds, following so soon upon their poverty in this respect. As they shared equally with the other tribes in the Midianitish plunder, their peculiar wealth in cattle may have resulted from their prominent part in the greater victories. Now, however, things took shape in such a way as to lead them to make their request, which at all events was expressed in a very faulty method. The land beyond the Jordan (this is already the style adopted in the narration), the land of Gilead, in the first place appeared to them from its rich pasturage to be peculiarly adapted to their uses, regarding their large possessions in cattle, and then in the second place this land seemed to be without an owner, as it was not included literally in the promised land, and still further they seemed to themselves to have acquired a special claim upon it. As to their peculiar relationship in the warlike camp, it may be noted that the tribes of Reuben and Gad belonged to the same division of the host which encamped upon the south (chap2), while the tribe of Manasseh lay upon their western border, in immediate contact with them. Already in the blessing of Jacob ( Genesis 49) Reuben had been described as unstable as water, as a bubbling spring, and Gad was praised for his martial power, and Joseph, i. e. Ephraim and Manasseh together, is blessed also for his valiant qualities. The martial nature of Gad was celebrated again in the blessing of Moses. It is well known further that Gilead was glorified especially through its hero Jepthae, and Gideon also was sprung from Prayer of Manasseh, although not from its east-Jordan division.

There was nothing in the way of the request of the two tribes, Reuben and Gad, if modestly and rightly proposed, as the result shows. For the request was granted. There is no allusion to any request by the half tribe of Manasseh. They may have been prevented from making any by their connection with the other half of the tribe. The more brilliant was the distinction which fell to their lot unsought. It may appear remarkable that Moses should have committed his arrangement in their favor, as a command to Joshua and the high-priest, without mentioning the lot. Perhaps the division of the inheritance of Israel by lot, may have been confined to the heritage in Canaan. However, the request of the two tribes sounded at first so equivocal that Moses felt that it deserved the strongest expression of his displeasure, and the denunciation of divine wrath upon them. Keil remarks: “The words bring us not over Jordan may be understood as meaning nothing more than the desire of the speakers not to receive their inheritance on the western side of Jordan, without desiring to withdraw their assistance from the other tribes in the conquest of Canaan, as they subsequently explain ( Numbers 32:16), or they may be understood as expressing a wish to settle at once in the land east of Jordan, and leave the other tribes to conquer Canaan alone. Moses understood the words in the latter sense ( Numbers 32:6 seq.), and probably they seem so intended, since when Moses reproved them, the speakers did not reply, that they had not entertained the meaning attributed to them, but simply restricted themselves to the promise of cooperation in the conquest of Canaan. But even in this sense their request did not manifest a “shamelessness which could not be historically true” (Knobel), but may be explained from the opinion they cherished, and which is perfectly intelligible after the rapid and easy defeat of the two mighty kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, that the other tribes were quite strong enough to conquer the land of Canaan on the west side of the Jordan.” Moreover, it is not necessary to suppose that the alternatives entered their minds. They might have uttered their wish without full reflection upon the two possible consequences; otherwise the reproof of Moses would scarcely have brought them to declare that they were ready to battle in the front of the Israelitish army until all Canaan should be conquered. This history is further a glorious example of the sacredness and blessing of national unity. [The attempt of Knobel to cut this chapter into pieces and to assign its parts severally to the Elohist and Jehovist, in the fashion of the critics, scarcely merits the notice which Keil gives it. It is a fair instance, however, of how violent and arbitrary a course these critics take. Numbers 32:1-2; Numbers 32:16-19; Numbers 32:24; Numbers 32:28-30; Numbers 32:33-38 are attributed to the Elohist, and the remainder, Numbers 32:3-15; Numbers 32:20-23; Numbers 32:25-27; Numbers 32:31-32; Numbers 32:39-42 to the Jehovist. The grounds upon which the assumption rests are some diversity in the language, especially in the proper names used, and mainly upon the notion of the critic that it is improbable that the two tribes would have been so shameless as to wish to remain on the eastern side of Jordan, and leave the conquest of Canaan to the other tribes; and that their subsequent willingness to help their brethren, which they afterwards express, is irreconcilable with their selfish intention in their earlier request. But history is not surely to be interpreted according to the fancy of critics—their notions of what men would do or not do thousands of years after the occurrences it relates—nor is it so strange a thing surely that an earlier and selfish intention should be abandoned when its real nature and consequences are seen and reflected upon. For the assumed diversities in the text, see the exegesis.—A. G.]

Numbers 32:1-5. The request of the two tribes. They call the land which they desire Jazer and Gilead, including southern Peræa, in which Jazer was situated, and the northern part of Peræa also. “Gilead was the land to the south and the north of Jabbok, the modern provinces of the Belka in the south, between the Jabbok and the Arnon, and Jebel Ajlun to the north of the Jabbok as far as Mandhur. Ancient Gilead still shows numerous traces of great fertility, even in its present desolation, covered over as it is with hundreds of ruins of old towns and hamlets.” Keil. [“All travellers in Gilead, the modern Belka, bear witness to its richness, as compared with the country to the west of the Jordan. Its general character is that of an upland pasture, undulating and thickly timbered. In the last respect its northern portion excels its southern; but for fertility of soil the southern province is preferred by the Arabs, in whose lips it has passed into a proverb: “Thou canst not find a country like the Belka.” Bib. Com. See Robinson’s Researches, App., Ritter, Erdk., Vol. XV, Tristram’s Land of Israel.—A. G.]

[ Numbers 32:4. Which the Lord smote before the congregation, indicating that it was now unoccupied and ownerless, and therefore presented as a strong reason why it should be assigned to them.—A. G.] The offensive part of the request comes out in the final sentence: “Let us not go over Jordan, or so we will not cross the Jordan.” [They seem to have been half conscious that their proposal would not be favorably received. They gather up all their courage to put their request, and then, entreat for it as a signal favor. If they had been clear in their own minds, and without a sense that their proposition involved the forsaking of their brethren, they would have asked at once and without the frequent pauses with which they venture now to break their request.—A. G.] It is remarkable, that according to Numbers 32:2 the children of Gad take the lead. [The same thing is observable throughout the narrative. The Reubenites are named first ( Numbers 32:1) because their ancestor was the elder; but, Numbers 32:6 (and see Deuteronomy 33:20-21), Gad assumes, what his greater vigor and boldness entitled him to, the position of a leader, and the instigator in the whole procedure.—A. G.] It is no less observable that their claim may have formed a prejudice against the merits of the half tribe of Manasseh.

Numbers 32:6-15. The reproof of Moses. Their request is taken in the strictest and most literal sense. Moses at first holds up their unbrotherly thought and its flagrant injustice ( Numbers 32:6), and then the evil example which they would set for Israel (27). He compares their conduct with the cowardice of the spies who disheartened the people beforehand and brought upon them the judgment of God, by which the entire generation had fallen in the wilderness, the two well-known heroes excepted. It was their fault that Israel did not enter upon its inheritance, and you now arise as an aftergrowth, a propagation (תַּרבּוּת), a brood of such sinners (timid unbelievers), to arouse still once more the anger of Jehovah, to renew the doom of tarrying in the wilderness, and thus destroy the people altogether, now so near the goal of all their strivings. The Keri here is to be preferred to the Kethib. See Numbers 32:9. To turn or hold away the heart: a very remarkable expression (see Text. Note). The נוּעַ, Numbers 32:13, He drove them about in the desert, made them go here and there, corresponds with the נוּא here. See James 1:8. Numbers 32:15. If ye turn away from after him. Lange: If ye draw back behind Him. The recusants who draw back from the leading of God, destroy themselves, and the nation with them.

Numbers 32:16-19. The explanation of the tribes. They come near to Moses, as an expression of their good conscience. Their real thought is uttered in the words: We will go ready armed before the children of Israel; but we will not inherit with them beyond the Jordan, but let our inheritance fall to us on this side[FN6] of Jordan eastward. They will first erect folds or pens for their cattle and build cities, i. e. fortify the cities already built, for their children, or families; but they themselves will arm themselves hastily in order to march before the children of Israel to the conquest of the land, and will not return until every tribe has secured its possession. [Hirsch: “The words of the sons of Gad and Reuben betray their overmastering love of their possessions. Their herds lie nearer their hearts than their children; hence first protect their herds, then when they were secure, their families. The alluring pastures led them to endanger their spiritual connection with the national unity and with the sanctuary. In the reply of Moses, Numbers 32:24, the order is carefully reversed.”—A. G.] The phraseology of their promise is purposely boastful and martial in its tone; but at the close of his campaigns Joshua ( Numbers 22:1 seq.) could dismiss them with the testimony that they had fulfilled their word. Yet even then they gave occasion for reproof ( Joshua 22:10), which was, however, by their explanation proved to be groundless, but serves to show how jealously at that time the national unity was guarded. [It was not, however, as that narrative shows, merely the national unity which was concerned, but rather their loyalty to their faith and worship. The cases are not parallel. Here their boastfulness betrays a consciousness of the selfish motive in which their request took its origin, but which, detected and reproved, they now cover up with their conspicuous proffer of zeal and service. There was nothing of this when they returned from the conquest.—A. G.]

Numbers 32:20-24. The consent of Moses. He now grants their request upon their promise, but still impresses upon them the evil consequences which would surely come upon them if they should desert their brethren, and now in addition violate their word. The expression is solemn and earnest. If you arm yourselves for battle before Jehovah, i. e. in perfect sworn sincerity, then let every one bearing arms pass over Jordan, fully armed, determined, before Jehovah. No one should go with them for the sake of appearance, or with a half heart. Until the land is actually subdued before Jehovah, and not merely according to their judgment, biassed by their longing for their homes. That done, they may return and be held guiltless [i. e. freed from obligation, their duty discharged,—A. G.] before Jehovah as well as before Israel, and then also first will they have right to their land as a possession before the Lord. [Keil: “The expression ‘before the Lord’ may mean that in the war which they waged at the command of God, the Israelites were the army of Jehovah, with Jehovah in the midst. And hence we may easily see why the children of Gad and Reuben do not use these words in Numbers 32:17, because they only promised to go before the children of Israel, i. e. to help their brethren to conquer Canaan. Later they also, taught by Moses, adopt the expression before Jehovah, Numbers 32:32.”—A. G.] Then follows the threatening: if ye do not keep your word, you shall learn how your sin will find you out. A striking designation of the judgment. Upon the supposition of their truthfulness, they may now secure their families and flocks. [Be sure your sin will find you out. Bib. Com.: “Your sin will bring its own punishment along with it.” Keil: “Ye will have to make atonement for them.” Hirsch: “Sin follows in its results, the sinner.” They would in no way escape its punishment.—A. G.].[FN7]

Numbers 32:25-32. The agreement.—The children of Gad appear again in the front. Upon their renewed promise, Moses gives his assent in the shape of a command addressed to the high-priest, to Joshua, and to the heads of the houses of the fathers, since Moses knew that he would not live to see its accomplishment. The alternative which he adds in case the two tribes do not proceed before them, armed for the conquest, is altogether peculiar. They shall then be settled in the midst of the other tribes in the land of Canaan. This seems to imply not only that in such case, they should not be permitted to possess the land east of the Jordan, but also that they, according to the will of the people in Canaan—but not as two separate and independent tribes—should be distributed among the others. The two tribes recognize this decision as the word of Jehovah, and now comes the solemn vow that they will go armed before Jehovah over into Canaan, and that only under this provision will they hope or expect to have their possession on this side (east) of the Jordan. The compact is thus concluded. [ Numbers 32:32. That the possession of our inheritance on the side of Jordan may be ours, not merely as Keil, “that it may remain to us;” east of Jordan rather than west. It is rather that they recognize and express the fact, that their possession is suspended upon their fulfilling the condition. Not until every tribe receives its inheritance will they receive theirs. Legally and formally they entered upon their inheritance when they returned from the wars of the conquest.—A. G.].

Numbers 32:33-42. The investiture. Comp. this Commentary upon Joshua 13. It is now that the half tribe of Manasseh is first named. Although they had not urged their claims upon the ground of their merits, Moses places them, the half tribe, by the side of the two tribes, as having equal claims, and the narrative dwells with pleasure upon the attribute of Prayer of Manasseh, as “the son of Joseph.” The two conquered Amoritish kingdoms, constituted the grant in the main. Then follows a record of the fortification of the cities for their families, and the folds for their flocks and herds. [The first mention of the half-tribe of Manasseh here is just in its proper place. They had not urged their claims, but Moses in distributing the land, assigns to the half tribe its portion from a sense of right and justice. They had displayed signal valor, and had conquered that part of the land. He recognized the right which they had thus acquired. It is clear from Numbers 32:39 that this is the ground upon which they appear here, and also why only the half tribe or the children of Machir. It was that part of the tribe which had distinguished itself in the conquest and which now receives its reward.—A. G.].

1. The Gadites.—Dibon called also Dibon-Gad, an hour northward of the central Arnon. [“Its extensive ruins still bear the name Dhibân. It was here that the Moabite stone was discovered in1868 by Rev. T. Klein. It is reckoned as a Reubenite town, Joshua 13:9, while in Isaiah 15:2 it is spoken of as Moabite. Occupied on the first acquisition of the territory by the Gadites, and assigned by Joshua to the Reubenites when the boundaries of their respective allotments were determined, it was eventually recaptured by the Moabites, in whose hands it remained.”—A. G.].—Ataroth, i.e., crowns, preserved in the ruins of Attarus or Jebel Attarus, was seven miles north-east of Dibon.—Aroer of Reuben in the centre of the valley of Arnon. It was located on the brink of the rocky ravine through which that torrent flows, and must be distinguished from the Aroer before Rabbah—Ataroth Shophan. [Bib. Com.: “It probably lay near the Ataroth above, and had the name Shophan ‘of the burrow’ to distinguish it from the other Ataroth.”—A. G.].—Jaazer. The ruins Es Szir—Jogbehah, Judges 8:11, preserved in the ruins of Jebeiha. Beth-Nimrah (Nimrah), Joshua 13:27, also Numbers 32:3 in the valley of the Jordan now to be seen in the ruins Nimrein about five Roman miles north of Libias. Beth-haran ( Joshua 13:27, Beth-aram). [“According to Josephus called Julias, in honor of the wife of Augustus. It has been preserved in the ruins of Ramah not far from the mouth of the Wady-Hesban.” Keil.—A. G.].

2. The Reubenites. Heshbon, the residence of king Sihon, Joshua 13:27. Keil. “It was relinquished to the Gadites because it lay upon the border of their territory, and by them given up to the Levites ( Joshua 21:39; 1 Chronicles 6:66). It stood almost in the centre between the Arnon and the Jabbok, opposite to Jericho, and according to the Onomast, twenty Roman miles from the Jordan, where large ruins are now found bearing the ancient name of Hesban or Hüsban.” Elealeh, now El Aal the height—Kirjathaim probably the ruins et Teim about three miles south of Heshbon—Nebo on mount Nebo—Baal-meon with changed names. The city was called Beon or Beth-meon, avoiding the name Baal. The ruins Maein or Myun not far from Heshbon. [They changed the names of the last two cities probably from their connection with idolatrous worship. The other cities retained the names they had, or as some suppose, the Reubenites restored the old Moabite names which had been changed under the Amorite dominion. Keil, Bib. Com., regard Baal Meon as the present Myun. “The city must have fallen into the hands of the Moabites before the days of Mesha, who speaks of himself as having there built a temple, no doubt to Chemosh, and as having fortified it.”—A. G.]. Shibmah. According to Jerome, near Heshbon. It has apparently disappeared, not leaving a trace behind. [It seems however to be alluded to in Isaiah 16:8, where it appears as Sibmah, noted for its vines. On the difference in the names, Numbers 32:3; Numbers 32:36; Numbers 32:38, Keil remarks that it cannot be regarded as any proof, that Numbers 32:3 is Jehovistic, and the after verses Elohistic, since Baal-meon is itself a contraction for Beth-Baal-meon ( Joshua 13:17). The contraction of the names in Numbers 32:3 is accounted for by the fact that diplomatic exactness was not requisite in a historical account, the abbreviated forms in common use were quite sufficient.—A. G.].

3. The Manassites. Numbers 32:39. Went, had gone, and thus understood it gives the reason why the Manassites received this region, to wit, the kingdom of Bashan, and the northern part of Gilead—the Jebel-ajlun between the Jabbok and the Mandhur. We render with Keil, Numbers 32:39. “The sons of Machir the son of Prayer of Manasseh, had gone and taken,” etc.; and Numbers 32:41, and Jair the son of Manasseh had gone and taken, etc.; and lastly, Numbers 32:42. And Nobah had gone and taken, etc. The sons of Machir parted into two divisions or lines, of which the one received northern Gilead ( 1 Chronicles 5:24) while the other settled in Canaan proper ( Joshua 17). Jair has descended on his father’s side through Segub, and Hezron from Judah, but through Hezron’s intermarriage with a daughter of Machir he passed over into the tribe of his mother, contrary to the general rule. See Deuteronomy 3:4; Deuteronomy 3:14 The villages which he had taken he named after his own name. Finally we have Nobah otherwise unknown, who took Kenath, with its daughters or dependent villages, and called them after his name Nobah. Kurtz applies the name Nobah to the village Newa, an ancient city of ruins. Kenath afterward lost to the Syrians, 1 Chronicles 2:23, alluded to by Josephus, Jerome and Pliny, comes into light again in the extensive ruins called Kanwat and inhabited by Druses. [Porter, Giant cities of Bashan, gives a full and elaborate description of these ruins. Kunawat. “The general aspect of the city is very striking—temples, palaces, churches, theatres, and massive buildings whose original use we cannot tell, are grouped together in picturesque confusion, while beyond the walls, in the glen, on the summits and sides of wooded peaks, away in the midst of oak forests, are clusters of columns and massive towers and lofty tombs. A colossal head of Ashteroth, sadly broken, lies before a little temple, of which probably it was once the chief idol. The crescent moon which gave the goddess the name Carnaim (‘two-horned’) is on her brow. I saw in this a visible illustration of an incidental allusion to this ancient goddess in the very earliest historic reference to Bashan. We read in Genesis 14:6 that ‘the kings of the east’ on their way to Sodom, “smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim.’ May not this be the very city?” pp42, 48. The Machirites who hold so prominent a place in this history, were only a part of the sons of Machir; but they won their way to distinction, so that they are called Machir. They drew away attention from the other member of the family. They were led by bold, energetic and skillful men, and the rapid conquest of the east Jordan country, especially its northern portion, was largely due to their instrumentality. And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havoth-jair. And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah after his own name. In Deuteronomy 3:14 this whole conquest and possession is ascribed to Jair alone. In Deuteronomy 3:4, the cities taken and named were sixty, while in 1 Chronicles 2:22-23 we read Jair had twenty-three cities in Gilead, and Geshur and Aram took the towns of Jair (Havoth-Jair) from them, with Kenath and its daughters, sixty towns. This passage suggests at once the key to the solution of the difficulty. The twenty-three Havoth-Jair, with Kenath and its daughters form the sixty towns referred to in Deuteronomy. The term Havoth-Jair is used in a narrower and in a wider sense; in the strict or narrow sense it designates those which Jair himself took, who was the leading chief of the Machirites in Gilead, and in the wider sense these towns, with the thirty-seven of Kenath and its daughters. The passage here and in Deuteronomy 3:4; Deuteronomy 3:14, and in 1 Chronicles 2:23, all fall into perfect harmony. As Keil says, “Consequently Bashan or the region of Argob, with its sixty fortified towns, was divided between two of the leading families of Machir the Manassite, the families of Jair and Nobah, each family receiving the districts it had conquered, viz., the family of Nobah Kenath and its daughters, thirty-seven towns in the eastern portion, and the family of Jair twenty-three towns in the western. In Deuteronomy when Moses is making a rapid survey, all the sixty towns are comprehended under the name Havoth-Jair—probably because Nobah was a subordinate branch of the family of Jair.” For the descent of Jair see Numbers 27:1, and comp. Joshua 13:13; Joshua 19:34, which latter passage finds its solution in the text 1 Chronicles 2:22-23.—A. G.].

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

By the grant of the country east of the Jordan, Israel has already gained, as it were, a foothold in its inheritance; but no scope is given here for the process of disintegration.

[As the conquest of the Amorite kingdoms was preliminary to the conquest of the land of promise literally, so this distribution of the land was the pledge to Israel of its possessions. It was the earnest of the inheritance. The promise included more than the literal Canaan. There was nothing, therefore, wrong in the request itself, nothing premature or overhasty in the time at which it was made; nothing in the thought that it was peculiarly fitted to the tastes and habits of these two tribes, but in the spirit which led to the request—the intention expressed in these words, bring us not over this Jordan, to forsake their brethren, and to separate themselves from the leadership of Moses and of Jehovah.

Be sure your sin will find you out. The certainty of retribution. The statement of a principle which has been a working factor in all history, but which has its final application in the issues of the future, where sin itself becomes our avenger.—A. G.].

HOMILETICAL HINTS

The law of the unity in heart and conduct of the army of God, as the indispensable condition to the conquest of the promised land. How the Christian world has failed in this respect in its relations to the heathen world. The ancient Church as over against Mohammedanism. The Protestant world, especially in its theology, in its relations to Romanism and Jesuitism. The danger of the separation of the tribes is avoided, 1) By a mutual understanding; 2) by solemn warnings; 3) by brotherly sacrifices; 4) by wise concessions.

The demand of the tribes of Reuben and Gad was certainly, while unexplained, in the sense in which Moses understood it, in the highest degree dangerous. The reproof of Moses in its application to all times. The declaration of heroic faithfulness on the part of the reproved tribes. The peaceful and blessed reconciliation.—[Henry: “Two things common in this world induced these tribes to make this choice, and this motion upon it, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. The land was pleasant to the eye, and it was good for pasturage. Perhaps there was something of pride in it too. These tribes were all first-born. They may have been striving after precedence, and assuming that their claims must first be met. Too many seek their own things, and not the things of the public good, or of Christ, and so take up short of the heavenly Canaan. Their choice implied: 1. A contempt of the land of promise; 2. A distrust of the power of God3. A neglect of the interests of their brethren4. An undue consulting of their own convenience and wealth.—The good effect of plain, faithful dealing. Moses, by showing to them their sin and the danger of it, brought them to their duty without murmuring or disputing523. Sin will without doubt find out the sinner sooner or later. It concerns us, therefore, to find out our sins, that we may repent of them and forsake them. It is observable that as these tribes were now first placed, before the other tribes, so long afterward they were displaced before the other tribes”. Then afterward ye shall return and this shall be your possession. No full and legal inheritance for any single tribe until all receive their possession. The people of God are not only one in their warfare and conquest, but in their possession. A common warfare and peril, a common triumph and inheritance.—A. G.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Marg. break.

FN#2 - Marg. fulfilled after me.

FN#3 - Marg. Numbers 32:1; Numbers 32:3, Jazer.

FN#4 - Marg. Numbers 32:3, Nimrah.

FN#5 - Marg. they called by names the names of the cities.

FN#6 - The Heb. uses the same word here מֵעִבֶר to designate the east and the west side of the Jordan. See also Numbers 32:32, which, however, does not refer to the western side of Jordan, as Bib. Com. says. It is clear, however, that the term is used with considerable freedom, and while usually applied to the eastern side, it had not yet acquired that strict and technical sense. See Deuteronomy 1:1.—A. G.]

FN#7 - Hirsch: “This conditional agreement with the sons of Gad and Reuben is the classic example in the Jewish jurisprudence of the most binding form of an act upon a condition stated. It is necessary, a) that the condition, with its results fulfilled or unfulfilled, must be clearly stated, and not merely implied. b) The condition must precede the facts. c) That the affirmative case should precede the negative. d) The condition must not contain anything destructive of the facts, or which will prevent their accomplishment. e) That the facts must be such as can be accomplished, as were the division and possession of the land.”—A. G.].

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Numbers 32:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/numbers-32.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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