19 Apr. Numbers 32:1-38

19 Apr. The tribes of Reuben and Gad try to opt out of fighting

“The people of Reuben and Gad had large flocks and herds. When they saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were good for the animals, they came to Moses, Eleazar the priest and the leaders of the people.”

“They said, ‘We, your servants, have flocks and herds. The LORD has captured for the Israelites a land that is good for animals – the land [of Gilead] around Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon. If it pleases you, we would like this land to be given to us. Don’t make us cross the Jordan River.’”

“Moses told the people of Gad and Reuben, ‘Shall your brothers go to war while you stay behind? You will discourage the Israelites from going over to the land the LORD has given them. Your ancestors did the same thing. I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to look at the land. They went as far as the Valley of Eshcol, and when they saw the land, they discouraged the Israelites from going into the land the LORD had given them…’”

“’The LORD was angry with Israel, so he made them wander in the desert for 40 years. Finally all the people who had sinned against the LORD died, and now you are acting just like your ancestors!…'”

“Then the Reubenites and Gadites came up to Moses and said, ‘We will build pens for our animals and cities for our children here. Then our children will be in fortified cities, safe from the people who live in this land, Then we will prepare for war. We will help the other Israelites get their land, and we will not return home until every Israelite has received his land…’”

“So Moses told them, ‘You must do these things. You must go before the LORD into battle and cross the Jordan River armed, until the LORD forces out the enemy. After the LORD helps us take the land, you may return home. You will have done your duty to the LORD and Israel, and you may have this land as your own.’”

“’But if you don’t do these things, you will be sinning against the LORD; know for sure that you will be punished for your sin. Build cities for your children and pens for your animals, but then you must do as you promised.’”

“The Gadites and Reubenites said to Moses, ‘We are your servants, and we will do what you, our master, command. Our children, wives and all our cattle will stay in the cities of Gilead, but we, your servants, will prepare for battle. We will go over [the Jordan River] and fight for the LORD, as you, our master, have said.'…”

“So Moses gave that land to the tribes of Gad, Reuben and East Manasseh. (Manasseh was Joseph’s son.) That land had been the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan, as well as all the cities and the land around them.”

“The Gadites rebuilt the cities of Dibon, Ataroth, Areor, Atroth Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, Beth Nimrah and Beth Haran. These were fortified cities. And they built sheep pens. The Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, Nebo, Baal Meon and Sibmah. They renamed Nebo and Baal Meon when they rebuilt them.”

          (Numbers 32:1-38)



Following the successful defeat of the five Midianite kings and the capture of Gilead, the Israelite tribes of Reuben and Gad asked if they could opt out of any further fighting.

They wanted to stay in the lands of Gilead and Bashan east of the River Jordan that were taken from King Sihon and King Og (see Numbers 21:33-35). This included the towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon.

Moses refused at first, and reminded the Reubenites and Gadites how the seven spies had dissuaded the people of Israel from attacking the Canaanites nearly forty years previously (see Numbers 13:26-29). They were guilty of the same sin if they dissuaded the other Israelites from crossing the River Jordan and attacking now.

The Reubenites and Gadites quickly proposed a compromise: If they built pens for their animals and rebuilt the fortified cities of Gilead for their families, they would then come across the Jordan and fight with the other Israelites.

Moses agreed that, after crossing the River Jordan and helping the other Israelites to conquer Canaan, they could return to Gilead and Bashan and settle here with their large herds of cattle and their flocks of sheep and goats.

In the following chapter, the author recaps on the story so far – producing a summary of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to Moab (see Numbers 33:1-56).

The photo (by David Bjorgen) shows the hills of Gilead.

You can read more about the conquest and settlement of Gilead and Bashan @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/26-the-journey-continues-from-sinai-to-moab/the-israelites-defeat-the-kings-of-midian

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