Numbers 32

Listen to Numbers 32
1 The tribes of Reuben and Gad owned vast numbers of livestock. So when they saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were ideally suited for their flocks and herds,
2 they came to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the other leaders of the community. They said,
3 “Notice the towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sibmah, Nebo, and Beon.
4 The LORD has conquered this whole area for the community of Israel, and it is ideally suited for all our livestock.
5 If we have found favor with you, please let us have this land as our property instead of giving us land across the Jordan River.”
6 “Do you intend to stay here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting?” Moses asked the men of Gad and Reuben.
7 “Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the LORD has given them?
8 Your ancestors did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land.
9 After they went up to the valley of Eshcol and explored the land, they discouraged the people of Israel from entering the land the LORD was giving them.
10 Then the LORD was very angry with them, and he vowed,
11 ‘Of all those I rescued from Egypt, no one who is twenty years old or older will ever see the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for they have not obeyed me wholeheartedly.
12 The only exceptions are Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they have wholeheartedly followed the LORD .’
13 “The LORD was angry with Israel and made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation that sinned in the LORD ’s sight had died.
14 But here you are, a brood of sinners, doing exactly the same thing! You are making the LORD even angrier with Israel.
15 If you turn away from him like this and he abandons them again in the wilderness, you will be responsible for destroying this entire nation!”
16 But they approached Moses and said, “We simply want to build pens for our livestock and fortified towns for our wives and children.
17 Then we will arm ourselves and lead our fellow Israelites into battle until we have brought them safely to their land. Meanwhile, our families will stay in the fortified towns we build here, so they will be safe from any attacks by the local people.
18 We will not return to our homes until all the people of Israel have received their portions of land.
19 But we do not claim any of the land on the other side of the Jordan. We would rather live here on the east side and accept this as our grant of land.”
20 Then Moses said, “If you keep your word and arm yourselves for the LORD ’s battles,
21 and if your troops cross the Jordan and keep fighting until the LORD has driven out his enemies,
22 then you may return when the LORD has conquered the land. You will have fulfilled your duty to the LORD and to the rest of the people of Israel. And the land on the east side of the Jordan will be your property from the LORD .
23 But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the LORD, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.
24 Go ahead and build towns for your families and pens for your flocks, but do everything you have promised.”
25 Then the men of Gad and Reuben replied, “We, your servants, will follow your instructions exactly.
26 Our children, wives, flocks, and cattle will stay here in the towns of Gilead.
27 But all who are able to bear arms will cross over to fight for the LORD, just as you have said.”
28 So Moses gave orders to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders of the clans of Israel.
29 He said, “The men of Gad and Reuben who are armed for battle must cross the Jordan with you to fight for the LORD . If they do, give them the land of Gilead as their property when the land is conquered.
30 But if they refuse to arm themselves and cross over with you, then they must accept land with the rest of you in the land of Canaan.”
31 The tribes of Gad and Reuben said again, “We are your servants, and we will do as the LORD has commanded!
32 We will cross the Jordan into Canaan fully armed to fight for the LORD, but our property will be here on this side of the Jordan.”
33 So Moses assigned land to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph. He gave them the territory of King Sihon of the Amorites and the land of King Og of Bashan—the whole land with its cities and surrounding lands.
34 The descendants of Gad built the towns of Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer,
35 Atroth-shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah,
36 Beth-nimrah, and Beth-haran. These were all fortified towns with pens for their flocks.
37 The descendants of Reuben built the towns of Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim,
38 Nebo, Baal-meon, and Sibmah. They changed the names of some of the towns they conquered and rebuilt.
39 Then the descendants of Makir of the tribe of Manasseh went to Gilead and conquered it, and they drove out the Amorites living there.
40 So Moses gave Gilead to the Makirites, descendants of Manasseh, and they settled there.
41 The people of Jair, another clan of the tribe of Manasseh, captured many of the towns in Gilead and changed the name of that region to the Towns of Jair.
42 Meanwhile, a man named Nobah captured the town of Kenath and its surrounding villages, and he renamed that area Nobah after himself.

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 2

  • [a]. As in Samaritan Pentateuch and Greek version (see also 32:38 ); Hebrew reads Sebam.
  • [b]. Hebrew Havvoth-jair.

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