Numbers 32

1 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had much cattle, a very great multitude; and they saw the land of Jaazer, and the land of Gilead, and behold, the place was a place for cattle.
2 And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the princes of the assembly, saying,
3 Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jaazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elaleh, and Sebam, and Nebo, and Beon,
4 the country that Jehovah smote before the assembly of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle;
5 and they said, If we have found favour in thine eyes, let this land be given to thy servants for a possession: bring us not over the Jordan.
6 And Moses said to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall *ye* abide here?
7 And why do ye discourage the children of Israel from going over into the land that Jehovah has given them?
8 Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land:
9 they went up to the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, and discouraged the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land that Jehovah had given them.
10 And Jehovah's anger was kindled the same time, and he swore, saying,
11 If the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob! for they have not wholly followed me;
12 save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun; for they have wholly followed Jehovah.
13 And Jehovah's anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation was consumed that had done evil in the eyes of Jehovah.
14 And behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, a progeny of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of Jehovah toward Israel.
15 If ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.
16 And they drew near to him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones;
17 but we ourselves will go with diligence armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them to their place; and our little ones shall dwell in the strong cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
18 We will not return to our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited each one his inheritance.
19 For we will not inherit with them on yonder side the Jordan, and further, because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side the Jordan eastward.
20 And Moses said to them, If ye do this thing, if ye arm yourselves before Jehovah for war,
21 and all of you that are armed go over the Jordan before Jehovah, until he have dispossessed his enemies from before him,
22 and the land is subdued before Jehovah, and afterwards ye return, ye shall be guiltless toward Jehovah and toward Israel, and this land shall be your possession before Jehovah.
23 But if ye do not do so, behold, ye have sinned against Jehovah, and be sure your sin will find you out.
24 Build yourselves cities for your little ones, and folds for your flocks, and do that which has gone out of your mouth.
25 And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spoke to Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commands.
26 Our little ones, our wives, our cattle, and all our beasts shall be there in the cities of Gilead;
27 but thy servants will pass over, every one armed for war, before Jehovah to battle, as my lord says.
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.
29 And Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben pass with you over the Jordan, every one armed for battle, before Jehovah, and the land be subdued before you, then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession;
30 but if they do 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 Jehovah has said to thy servants, so will we do.
32 We will pass over armed before Jehovah into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance on this side the Jordan shall be ours.
33 And Moses gave to them, to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and to half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og the king of Bashan, the land, according to its cities and territories, the cities of the land round about.
34 And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer,
35 and Atroth-Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbebah,
36 and Beth-Nimrah, and Beth-haran, strong cities, and sheepfolds.
37 -- And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elaleh, and Kirjathaim,
38 and Nebo, and Baal-meon (of which the names were changed), and Sibmah; and they gave other names to the cities that they built.
39 -- And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and they dispossessed the Amorites that were therein.
40 And Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein.
41 And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took their hamlets, and called them Havoth-Jair.
42 And Nobah went and took Kenath, and its dependent villages, and called it Nobah, after his name.

Numbers 32 Commentary

Chapter 32

The tribes of Reuben and Gad request an inheritance on the east of Jordan. (1-5) Moses reproves the Reubenites and Gadites. (6-15) They explain their views, Moses consents. (16-27) They take possession of the land to the east of Jordan. (28-42)

Verses 1-5 Here is a proposal made by the Reubenites and Gadites, that the land lately conquered might be allotted to them. Two things common in the world might lead these tribes to make this choice; the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. There was much amiss in the principle they went upon; they consulted their own private convenience more than the public good. Thus to the present time, many seek their own things more than the things of Jesus Christ; and are led by worldly interests and advantages to take up short of the heavenly Canaan.

Verses 6-15 The proposal showed disregard to the land of Canaan, distrust of the Lord's promise, and unwillingness to encounter the difficulties and dangers of conquering and driving out the inhabitants of that land. Moses is wroth with them. It will becomes any of God's Israel to sit down unconcerned about the difficult and perilous concerns of their brethren, whether public or personal. He reminds them of the fatal consequences of the unbelief and faint-heartedness of their fathers, when they were, as themselves, just ready to enter Canaan. If men considered as they ought what would be the end of sin, they would be afraid of the beginning of it.

Verses 16-27 Here is the good effect of plain dealing. Moses, by showing their sin, and the danger of it, brought them to their duty, without murmuring or disputing. All men ought to consider the interests of others as well as their own; the law of love requires us to labour, venture, or suffer for each other as there may be occasion. They propose that their men of war should go ready armed before the children of Israel into the land of Canaan, and that they should not return till the conquest of Canaan was ended. Moses grants their request, but he warns them of the danger of breaking their word. If you fail, you sin against the Lord, and not against your brethren only; God will certainly reckon with you for it. Be sure your sin will find you out. Sin will surely find out the sinner sooner or later. It concerns us now to find our sins out, that we may repent of them, and forsake them, lest they find us out to our ruin.

Verses 28-42 Concerning the settlement of these tribes, observe, that they built the cities, that is, repaired them. They changed the names of them; probably they were idolatrous, therefore they should be forgotten. A spirit of selfishness, of seeking our own, not the things of Christ, when each one ought to assist others, is as dangerous as it is common. It is impossible to be sincere in the faith, sensible of the goodness of God, constrained by the love of Christ, sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost, and yet be indifferent to the progress of religion, and the spiritual success of others, through love of ease, or fear of conflict. Let then your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. Lit. 'prohibit the heart of:' so ver. 9.
  • [b]. Or 'The men that ... shall in no wise see:' see Note, ch. 14.23.
  • [c]. Strictly, 'walled enclosures for small cattle;' and so vers. 24,36.
  • [d]. Or 'he.'
  • [e]. 'Villages of tents,' see Deut. 3.14 and Note.
  • [f]. Lit. 'its daughters,' as ch. 21.25.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 32

This chapter relates, how that the tribes of Gad and Reuben requested a settlement in the country of Jazer and Gilead, being fit for the pasturage of their cattle, Nu 32:1-5 at which Moses at first was very much displeased, as being unreasonable, and tending to discourage the rest of the people; and as acting a part like that their fathers had done before them, which brought the wrath of God upon them, so that they all but two perished in the wilderness; and this he suggests would be the case again, if such measures were taken, Nu 32:6-15 upon which they explain themselves, and declare they had no intention of forsaking their brethren, but were willing to leave their children and cattle to the care of divine Providence, and go armed before Israel, until they were brought into, and settled in the land of Canaan; nor did they desire any part or inheritance in it, Nu 32:16-19, this satisfied Moses, and he agreed to it, that the land they requested should be their possession, provided the conditions were fulfilled by them, which they proposed, Nu 20:20-24, and which they again agreed unto, and promised to perform, Nu 32:25-27, wherefore Moses gave orders to Eleazar, Joshua, and the chief fathers of the tribes, to put them in possession of the land of Gilead on those conditions, Nu 32:28-30 and which were again promised that they would observe, Nu 32:31,32, and at the same time Moses made a grant of the kingdoms of Sihon and of Og to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, Nu 32:33 and the chapter is closed with an account of the cities built or repaired by the children of Gad and Reuben, Nu 32:34-38 and of the cities in Gilead taken and possessed by the children of Machir, and by Jair, who were of the tribe of Manasseh, Nu 32:39-42.

Numbers 32 Commentaries