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(MT versing)
Reuben and Gad Settle in Gilead The Tribes Settling East of the Jordan The Allotment of Land in Trans Jordan The Tribes East of the Jordan The Allocation of the Trans-Jordan
32:1-5 32:1-5 32:1-5 32:1-5 32:1-5
32:6-15 32:6-15 32:6-15 32:6-15 32:6-15
32:16-19 32:16-19 32:16-19 32:16-19 32:16-19
32:20-24 32:20-27 32:20-24 32:20-24 32:20-24
32:25-27 32:25-27 32:25-27 32:25-27
32:28-32 32:28-32 32:28-32 32:28-30 32:28-30
32:31-33 32:31-33
32:33-42 32:33-42 32:33-42
32:34-38 32:34-38
32:39-42 32:39-42

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock, 2the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 3"Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon, 4the land which the Lord conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock." 5They said, "If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan."

32:1 There are two tribes listed here that had many livestock. It is not stated if this is related to

  1. the capture of Midian livestock listed in Numbers 31
  2. livestock from Egypt (cf. Exod. 112:38)

A third tribe (i.e., half tribe) is also mentioned as desiring to dwell on this eastern side of Jordan (i.e., Manasseh) in Num. 32:33.

These three tribes will be given the land of (Num. 32:33; Numbers 21)

  1. Sihon, king of the Amorites
  2. Og, king of Bashan

This is also found in Deut. 3:12-20 and Josh. 13:8-32; 22:1-9.

32:2 Notice the levels of leadership.

  1. Moses, the main leader
  2. Eleazar, the priest
  3. the leaders of the tribes (cf. Num. 32:28)
  4. Joshua, the soon to be successor of Moses (Num. 32:28)

32:5 "If we have found favor in your sight" This is a Hebrew idiom used over 40 times in the OT. It denotes a request from an inferior to a superior (usually YHWH, but here, Moses). This is a tactful request (two IMPERFECTS used in a JUSSIVE sense). However, the second one made Moses think they did not want to go into Canaan at all.

6But Moses said to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben, "Shall your brothers go to war while you yourselves sit here? 7Now why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the Lord has given them? 8This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. 9For when they went up to the valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the sons of Israel so that they did not go into the land which the Lord had given them. 10So the Lord's anger burned in that day, and He swore, saying, 11'None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully, 12except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the Lord fully.' 13So the Lord's anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the Lord was destroyed. 14Now behold, you have risen up in your fathers' place, a brood of sinful men, to add still more to the burning anger of the Lord against Israel. 15For if you turn away from following Him, He will once more abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all these people."

32:6-15 At first Moses was not pleased. He assumed these tribes did not want to participate in the conquest of Canaan. He also assumed this reluctance was related to the unbelief of Numbers 13 (i.e., the report of the spies).

32:11 YHWH's anger at the unbelief of the Israelites in refusing to have faith in His promises to the Patriarchs (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT PROMISES TO THE PATRIARCHS) was the death of that entire generation (i.e., 20 years of age and up) in the wilderness (v. 13). None of them, except Joshua and Caleb, would enter Canaan (v. 12).

32:4-15 This is Moses' assumption of the motives of these tribes and his warning (also v. 23).

NASB, NKJV, JPSOA  "a brood of sinful men"
NRSV  "a brood of sinners"
TEV  "a new generation of sinful people"
NJB  "an offshoot of sinful stock"
REB  "a fresh brood of sinful men"
LXX  "a band of sinful persons"
Peshitta  "a generation of sinful people"

The MT has "a brood of sinful men." The word "brood" (BDB 916) appears only here in the OT. The same concept of a generation or groups of sinful people is used by Jesus of the religious leaders of His day (cf. Matt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33). Here, Moses initially accuses the tribes of Reuben and Gad of following the same path of unfaithfulness as the Israelites in Numbers 13.

NASB, JB  "to add still more"
NKJV  "to increase still more"
NRSV, NJB  "increase"
JPSOA, LXX  "add still further"
REB  "to fire"
Peshitta  "to augment still"

The MT has the VERB (BDB 705, KB 763, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT), which means "sweep away," but the versions are assuming a different root (BDB 414), meaning "to increase." The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 278, #3, suggests that the MT root could denote "fanning or heaping up" Israel's sin, so as to increase YHWH's fiery anger (BDB 354 CONSTRUCT BDB 60 I).

16Then they came near to him and said, "We will build here sheepfolds for our livestock and cities for our little ones; 17but we ourselves will be armed ready to go before the sons of Israel, until we have brought them to their place, while our little ones live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. 18We will not return to our homes until every one of the sons of Israel has possessed his inheritance. 19For we will not have an inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this side of the Jordan toward the east."

32:16-19 The tribes of Reuben and Gad explain their intentions.

  1. building temporary pens for their livestock
  2. fortifying a few key cities for their families
  3. their commitment to accompanying the rest of the tribes into the conquest of Canaan
  4. every able bodied man would go and not return until the conquest was completed

32:17 This implies these two tribes will be the vanguard of the Israeli troops. They would not just accompany Israel but go before them (i.e., Josh. 4:12-13, the traditional marching order of Judah).

There is an emendation suggested by the LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate. The MT has the Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE, "make hast" (BDB 301, KB 300) but the ancient versions have changed it to a similar Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE, "in battle array" (BDB 332, cf. Exod. 13:18; Josh. 1:14; 4:12; Jdgs. 1:11; NEB, NJB).

20So Moses said to them, "If you will do this, if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for the war, 21and all of you armed men cross over the Jordan before the Lord until He has driven His enemies out from before Him, 22and the land is subdued before the Lord, then afterward you shall return and be free of obligation toward the Lord and toward Israel, and this land shall be yours for a possession before the Lord. 23But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. 24Build yourselves cities for your little ones, and sheepfolds for your sheep, and do what you have promised."

32:20-27 Moses was pleased with their suggestion and promise.

32:21 "you armed men" The VERB (BDB 323, KB 321, Niphal IMPERFECT, cf. Num. 32:17, 20, 30; 31:3; Josh. 6:7, 9, 13), basically means "to strip," but in this military context, it means to equip oneself for battle (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 157-158).

32:22 "be free of obligation toward the Lord" This ADJECTIVE (BDB 667) denotes freedom from a vow/oath (cf. Josh. 2:17, 20). Although this context does not mention an oath, it is surely implied.

25The sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben spoke to Moses, saying, "Your servants will do just as my lord commands. 26Our little ones, our wives, our livestock and all our cattle shall remain there in the cities of Gilead; 27while your servants, everyone who is armed for war, will cross over in the presence of the Lord to battle, just as my lord says."

28So Moses gave command concerning them to Eleazar the priest, and to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the heads of the fathers' households of the tribes of the sons of Israel. 29Moses said to them, "If the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben, everyone who is armed for battle, will cross with you over the Jordan in the presence of the Lord, and the land is subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession; 30but if they will not cross over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan." 31The sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben answered, saying, "As the Lord has said to your servants, so we will do. 32We ourselves will cross over armed in the presence of the Lord into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us across the Jordan."

32:28-32 Moses states clearly the conditions and consequences of the two tribes' promises.

33So Moses gave to them, to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben and to the half-tribe of Joseph's son Manasseh, the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og, the king of Bashan, the land with its cities with their territories, the cities of the surrounding land. 34The sons of Gad built Dibon and Ataroth and Aroer, 35and Atroth-shophan and Jazer and Jogbehah, 36and Beth-nimrah and Beth-haran as fortified cities, and sheepfolds for sheep. 37The sons of Reuben built Heshbon and Elealeh and Kiriathaim, 38and Nebo and Baal-meon—their names being changed—and Sibmah, and they gave other names to the cities which they built. 39The sons of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead and took it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were in it. 40So Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh, and he lived in it. 41Jair the son of Manasseh went and took its towns, and called them Havvoth-jair. 42Nobah went and took Kenath and its villages, and called it Nobah after his own name.

32:33 Without explanation half of the tribe of Manasseh chooses to be a part of this compact.

32:38 The pagan cities of "Nebo" and "Baal-meon" had their names changed by the Israelites but the text does not mention the new names.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why did Reuben and Gad want to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan?
  2. How did Reuben and Gad get so much more livestock than their brothers?
  3. Why was Moses initially so angry with them?
  4. What did Reuben and Gad
    1. ask of Moses?
    2. promise to do?

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