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Nu 32:1-42. THE REUBENITES AND GADITES ASK FOR AN INHERITANCE.
1-5. the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead--A complete conquest had been made of the country east of the Jordan, comprising "the land of Jazer," which formed the southern district between the Arnon and Jabbok and "the land of Gilead," the middle region between the Jabbok and Jarmouk, or Hieromax, including Bashan, which lay on the north of that river. The whole of this region is now called the Belka. It has always been famous for its rich and extensive pastures, and it is still the favorite resort of the Bedouin shepherds, who frequently contend for securing to their immense flocks the benefit of its luxuriant vegetation. In the camp of ancient Israel, Reuben and Gad were pre-eminently pastoral; and as these two tribes, being placed under the same standard, had frequent opportunities of conversing and arranging about their common concerns, they united in preferring a request that the trans-jordanic region, so well suited to the habits of a pastoral people, might be assigned to them.
6-19. Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here--Their language was ambiguous; and Moses, suspicious that this proposal was an act of unbelief, a scheme of self-policy and indolence to escape the perils of warfare and live in ease and safety, addressed to them a reproachful and passionate remonstrance. Whether they had really meditated such a withdrawal from all share in the war of invasion, or the effect of their leader's expostulation was to drive them from their original purpose, they now, in answer to his impressive appeal, declared it to be their sincere intention to co-operate with their brethren; but, if so, they ought to have been more explicit at first.
16. they came near--The narrative gives a picturesque description
of this scene. The suppliants had shrunk back, dreading from the
undisguised emotions of their leader that their request would be
refused. But, perceiving, from the tenor of his discourse, that his
objection was grounded only on the supposition that they would not
cross the Jordan to assist their brethren, they became emboldened to
approach him with assurances of their goodwill.
17. and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the
inhabitants of the land--There was good policy in leaving a sufficient
force to protect the conquered region lest the enemy should attempt
reprisals; and as only forty thousand of the Reubenites and the
Gadites, and a half of Manasseh, passed over the Jordan
there were left for the security of the new possessions 70,580 men,
besides women and children under twenty years (compare
Nu 26:7, 18, 34).
20-33. Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing--with sincerity
28-32. concerning them Moses commanded--The arrangement itself, as well as the express terms on which he assented to it, was announced by the leader to the public authorities. The pastoral country the two tribes had desired was to be granted them on condition that they would lend their aid to their brethren in the approaching invasion of Canaan. If they refused or failed to perform their promise, those possessions should be forfeited, and they themselves compelled to go across the Jordan and fight for a settlement like the rest of their brethren.
33. half the tribe of Manasseh--It is nowhere explained in the record how they were incorporated with the two tribes, or what broke this great tribe into two parts, of which one was left to follow the fortunes of its brethren in the settled life of the western hills, while the other was allowed to wander as a nomadic tribe over the pasture lands of Gilead and Bashan. They are not mentioned as accompanying Reuben and Gad in their application to Moses [Nu 32:1]; neither were they included in his first directions (Nu 32:25); but as they also were a people addicted to pastoral pursuits and possessed as immense flocks as the other two, Moses invited the half of them to remain, in consequence, probably, of finding that this region was more than sufficient for the pastoral wants of the others, and he may have given them the preference, as some have conjectured, for their valorous conduct in the contests with the Amorites (compare Nu 32:39, with Jos 17:1).
34-36. And the children of Gad
35-38. Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, &c.--Jaazer, near a famed fountain, Ain Hazier, the waters of which flow into Wady Schaib, about fifteen miles from Hesbon. Beth-nimrah, now Nimrin; Heshbon, now Hesban; Elealeh (Hebrew, "the high"), now Elaal; Kirjathaim (Hebrew, "the double city"); Nebo, now Neba, near the mountain of that name; Baal-meon, now Myoun, in ruins, where was a temple of Baal (Jos 13:17; Jer 48:23); Shibmah, or Shebam (Nu 32:3), near Heshbon, famous for vines (Isa 16:9, 10; Jer 48:32).
38. (their names being changed)--either because it was the general custom of conquerors to do so; or, rather, because from the prohibition to mention the names of other gods (Ex 23:13), as Nebo and Baal were, it was expedient on the first settlement of the Israelites to obliterate all remembrance of those idols. (See Jos 13:17-20).
39. Gilead--now Jelud.
42. Nobah--also a distinguished person connected with the eastern branch of the tribe of Manasseh.