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Numbers 32:1-42

Context
The Petition of the Reubenites and Gadites

32:1 1 Now the Reubenites and the Gadites possessed a very large number of cattle. When they saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were ideal for cattle, 2  32:2 the Gadites and the Reubenites came and addressed Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the leaders of the community. They said, 32:3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, 3  Nebo, and Beon, 4  32:4 the land that the Lord subdued 5  before the community of Israel, is ideal for cattle, and your servants have cattle.” 32:5 So they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, 6  let this land be given to your servants for our inheritance. Do not have us cross 7  the Jordan River.” 8 

Moses’ Response

32:6 Moses said to the Gadites and the Reubenites, “Must your brothers go to war while you 9  remain here? 32:7 Why do you frustrate the intent 10  of the Israelites to cross over into the land which the Lord has given them? 32:8 Your fathers did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to see the land. 32:9 When 11  they went up to the Eshcol Valley and saw the land, they frustrated the intent of the Israelites so that they did not enter 12  the land that the Lord had given 13  them. 32:10 So the anger of the Lord was kindled that day, and he swore, 32:11 ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, 14  not 15  one of the men twenty years old and upward 16  who came from Egypt will see the land that I swore to give 17  to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 32:12 except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ 32:13 So the Lord’s anger was kindled against the Israelites, and he made them wander in the wilderness for forty years, until all that generation that had done wickedly before 18  the Lord was finished. 19  32:14 Now look, you are standing in your fathers’ place, a brood of sinners, to increase still further the fierce wrath of the Lord against the Israelites. 32:15 For if you turn away from following him, he will once again abandon 20  them in the wilderness, and you will be the reason for their destruction.” 21 

The Offer of the Reubenites and Gadites

32:16 Then they came very close to him and said, “We will build sheep folds here for our flocks and cities for our families, 22  32:17 but we will maintain ourselves in armed readiness 23  and go before the Israelites until whenever we have brought them to their place. Our descendants will be living in fortified towns as a protection against 24  the inhabitants of the land. 32:18 We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has his inheritance. 32:19 For we will not accept any inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River 25  and beyond, because our inheritance has come to us on this eastern side of the Jordan.”

32:20 Then Moses replied, 26  “If you will do this thing, and if you will arm yourselves for battle before the Lord, 32:21 and if all your armed men cross the Jordan before the Lord until he drives out his enemies from his presence 32:22 and the land is subdued before the Lord, then afterward you may return and be free of your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. This land will then be your possession in the Lord’s sight.

32:23 “But if you do not do this, then look, you will have sinned 27  against the Lord. And know that your sin will find you out. 32:24 So build cities for your descendants and pens for your sheep, but do what you have said 28  you would do.”

32:25 So the Gadites and the Reubenites replied to Moses, “Your servants will do as my lord commands. 32:26 Our children, our wives, our flocks, and all our livestock will be there in the cities of Gilead, 32:27 but your servants will cross over, every man armed for war, to do battle in the Lord’s presence, just as my lord says.”

32:28 So Moses gave orders about them to Eleazar the priest, to Joshua son of Nun, and to the heads of the families of the Israelite tribes. 32:29 Moses said to them: “If the Gadites and the Reubenites cross the Jordan with you, each one equipped for battle in the Lord’s presence, and you conquer the land, 29  then you must allot them the territory of Gilead as their possession. 32:30 But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must receive possessions among you in Canaan.” 32:31 Then the Gadites and the Reubenites answered, “Your servants will do what the Lord has spoken. 30  32:32 We will cross armed in the Lord’s presence into the land of Canaan, and then the possession of our inheritance that we inherit will be ours on this side of the Jordan River.” 31 

Land Assignment

32:33 So Moses gave to the Gadites, the Reubenites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph the realm of King Sihon of the Amorites, and the realm of King Og of Bashan, the entire land with its cities and the territory surrounding them. 32  32:34 The Gadites rebuilt Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 32:35 Atroth Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, 32:36 Beth Nimrah, and Beth Haran as fortified cities, and constructed pens for their flocks. 32:37 The Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, 32:38 Nebo, Baal Meon (with a change of name), and Sibmah. They renamed 33  the cities they built.

32:39 The descendants of Machir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, took it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were in it. 32:40 So Moses gave Gilead to Machir, son of Manasseh, and he lived there. 34  32:41 Now Jair son of Manasseh went and captured their small towns and named them Havvoth Jair. 32:42 Then Nobah went and captured Kenath and its villages and called it Nobah after his own name.

1 sn While the tribes are on the other side of Jordan, the matter of which tribes would settle there has to be discussed. This chapter begins the settlement of Israel into the tribal territories, something to be continued in Joshua. The chapter has the petitions (vv. 1-5), the response by Moses (vv. 6-15), the proposal (vv. 16-27), and the conclusion of the matter (vv. 28-42). For literature on this subject, both critical and conservative, see S. E. Loewenstein, “The Relation of the Settlement of Gad and Reuben in Numbers 32:1-38, Its Background and Its Composition,” Tarbiz 42 (1972): 12-26; J. Mauchline, “Gilead and Gilgal, Some Reflections on the Israelite Occupation of Palestine,” VT 6 (1956): 19-33; and A. Bergmann, “The Israelite Tribe of Half-Manasseh,” JPOS 16 (1936): 224-54.

2 tn Heb “the place was a place of/for cattle.”

3 tc Smr and the LXX have Sibmah. Cf. v. 38.

4 tn Cf. Baal-meon in v. 38.

5 tn The verb is the Hiphil perfect of נָכָה (nakhah), a term that can mean “smite, strike, attack, destroy.”

6 tn Heb “eyes.”

7 tn The verb is the Hiphil jussive from עָבַר (’avar, “to cross over”). The idea of “cause to cross” or “make us cross” might be too harsh, but “take across” with the rest of the nation is what they are trying to avoid.

8 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

9 tn The vav (ו) is a vav disjunctive prefixed to the pronoun; it fits best here as a circumstantial clause, “while you stay here.”

10 tn Heb “heart.” So also in v. 9.

11 tn The preterite with vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated to the parallel yet chronologically later verb in the next clause.

12 tn The infinitive construct here with lamed (ל) is functioning as a result clause.

13 tn The Lord had not given it yet, but was going to give it. Hence, the perfect should be classified as a perfect of resolve.

14 tn The clause is difficult; it means essentially that “they have not made full [their coming] after” the Lord.

15 tn The sentence begins with “if they see….” This is the normal way for Hebrew to express a negative oath – “they will by no means see….” The sentence is elliptical; it is saying something like “[May God do so to me] if they see,” meaning they won’t see. Of course here God is taking the oath, which is an anthropomorphic act. He does not need to take an oath, and certainly could not swear by anyone greater, but it communicates to people his resolve.

16 tc The LXX adds “those knowing bad and good.”

17 tn The words “to give” are not in the Hebrew text but have been supplied in the translation for clarity.

18 tn Heb “in the eyes of.”

19 tn The verb is difficult to translate, since it has the idea of “complete, finish” (תָּמָם, tamam). It could be translated “consumed” in this passage (so KJV, ASV); NASB “was destroyed.”

20 tn The construction uses a verbal hendiadys with the verb “to add” serving to modify the main verb.

21 tn Heb “and you will destroy all this people.”

22 tn Heb “our little ones.”

23 tn The MT has חֻשִׁים (khushim); the verbal root is חוּשׁ (khush, “to make haste” or “hurry”). But in light of the Greek and Latin Vulgate the Hebrew should probably be emended to חֲמֻשִׁים (hamushim), a qal passive participle meaning “in battle array.” See further BDB 301 s.v. I חוּשׁ, BDB 332 s.v. חֲמֻשִׁים; HALOT 300 s.v. I חושׁ, חישׁ; HALOT 331 s.v. I חמשׁ.

24 tn Heb “from before.”

25 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

26 tn Heb “said to them.”

27 tn The nuance of the perfect tense here has to be the future perfect.

28 tn Heb “that which goes out/has gone out of your mouth.”

29 tn Heb “and the land is subdued before you.”

30 tn Heb “that which the Lord has spoken to your servants, thus we will do.”

31 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

32 tn Heb “the land with its cities in the borders of the cities of the land all around.”

33 tn Heb “called names.”

34 tn Heb “in it.”



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