Numbers 32

The Petition of the Reubenites and Gadites

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.
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,
Heb “the place was a place of/for cattle.”
2the Gadites and the Reubenites came and addressed Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the leaders of the community. They said, 3“Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam,
Smr and the LXX have Sibmah. Cf. v. 38.
Nebo, and Beon,
Cf. Baal-meon in v. 38.
4the land that the Lord subdued
The verb is the Hiphil perfect of נָכָה (nakhah), a term that can mean “smite, strike, attack, destroy.”
before the community of Israel, is ideal for cattle, and your servants have cattle.”
5So they said, “If we have found favor in your sight,
Heb “eyes.”
let this land be given to your servants for our inheritance. Do not have us cross
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.
the Jordan River.”
The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

Moses’ Response

6 Moses said to the Gadites and the Reubenites, “Must your brothers go to war while you
The vav (ו) is a vav disjunctive prefixed to the pronoun; it fits best here as a circumstantial clause, “while you stay here.”
remain here?
7Why do you frustrate the intent
Heb “heart.” So also in v. 9.
of the Israelites to cross over into the land which the Lord has given them?
8Your fathers did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to see the land. 9When
The preterite with vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated to the parallel yet chronologically later verb in the next clause.
they went up to the Eshcol Valley and saw the land, they frustrated the intent of the Israelites so that they did not enter
The infinitive construct here with lamed (ל) is functioning as a result clause.
the land that the Lord had given
The Lord had not given it yet, but was going to give it. Hence, the perfect should be classified as a perfect of resolve.
10So the anger of the Lord was kindled that day, and he swore, 11‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly,
The clause is difficult; it means essentially that “they have not made full [their coming] after” the Lord.
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.
one of the men twenty years old and upward
The LXX adds “those knowing bad and good.”
who came from Egypt will see the land that I swore to give
The words “to give” are not in the Hebrew text but have been supplied in the translation for clarity.
to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
12except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ 13So 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
Heb “in the eyes of.”
the Lord was finished.
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.”
14Now 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. 15For if you turn away from following him, he will once again abandon
The construction uses a verbal hendiadys with the verb “to add” serving to modify the main verb.
them in the wilderness, and you will be the reason for their destruction.”
Heb “and you will destroy all this people.”

The Offer of the Reubenites and Gadites

16 Then they came very close to him and said, “We will build sheep folds here for our flocks and cities for our families,
Heb “our little ones.”
17but we will maintain ourselves in armed readiness
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.
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
Heb “from before.”
the inhabitants of the land.
18We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has his inheritance. 19For we will not accept any inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River
The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
and beyond, because our inheritance has come to us on this eastern side of the Jordan.”

20 Then Moses replied,
Heb “said to them.”
“If you will do this thing, and if you will arm yourselves for battle before the Lord,
21and if all your armed men cross the Jordan before the Lord until he drives out his enemies from his presence 22and 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.

23 “But if you do not do this, then look, you will have sinned
The nuance of the perfect tense here has to be the future perfect.
against the Lord. And know that your sin will find you out.
24So build cities for your descendants and pens for your sheep, but do what you have said
Heb “that which goes out/has gone out of your mouth.”
you would do.”

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

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. 29Moses 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,
Heb “and the land is subdued before you.”
then you must allot them the territory of Gilead as their possession.
30But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must receive possessions among you in Canaan.” 31Then the Gadites and the Reubenites answered, “Your servants will do what the Lord has spoken.
Heb “that which the Lord has spoken to your servants, thus we will do.”
32We 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.”
The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

Land Assignment

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.
Heb “the land with its cities in the borders of the cities of the land all around.”
34The Gadites rebuilt Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 35Atroth Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, 36Beth Nimrah, and Beth Haran as fortified cities, and constructed pens for their flocks. 37The Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, 38Nebo, Baal Meon (with a change of name), and Sibmah. They renamed
Heb “called names.”
the cities they built.

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

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