The twelve tribes of Israel contribute to David’s army (1 Chr 12:23-12:37)

“These are the numbers of the divisions of the armed troops, who came to David in Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul over to him, according to the word of Yahweh. The people of Judah bearing shield and spear were six thousand eight hundred armed troops. Of the Simeonites, mighty warriors, there were seven thousand one hundred. Of the Levites, there were four thousand six hundred. The prince Jehoiada, of the house of Aaron, had with him three thousand seven hundred. Zadok, a young man mighty in valor, had twenty-two commanders from his own father’s house. Of the Benjaminites, the kindred of Saul, there were three thousand, of whom the majority had hitherto kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. Of the Ephraimites there were twenty thousand eight hundred, mighty men of valor famous men in their fathers’ houses. Of the half-tribe of Manasseh there were eighteen thousand, who were expressly named to come and make David king. Of Issachar men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, there were two hundred chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command. Of Zebulun fifty thousand seasoned troops came, equipped for battle with all the weapons of war, to help David with singleness of purpose. Of Naphtali there were a thousand commanders with whom were thirty-seven thousand men armed with shield and spear. Of the Danites there were twenty-eight thousand six hundred men equipped for battle. Of Asher there were forty thousand seasoned troops ready for battle. Of the Reubenites and Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh from beyond the Jordan, there were one hundred and twenty thousand men armed with all the weapons of war.”

Up to now, there was a lot about the leaders and officer, here there is remarkable gathering of ground troops. The numbers from the northern tribes and the east Jordan tribes are staggering unrealistic, equaling over 300,000 troops, while the southern tribes are small in comparison, around 20,000. In fact, it would have been difficult to sustain this large gathering of troops. Each tribe, including the Levites, contributed to the army of Israel with ground troops. Here are the numbers:

  • Judah = 6,800 troops
  • Simeonites = 7,100 troops
  • Levites = 4,600 troops
  • Benjaminites = 3,000 troops
  • Ephraimites = 20,800 troops
  • Half tribe of Manasseh = 18,000 troops
  • Issachar = 200 chiefs and their men
  • Zebulun = 50,000 troops
  • Naphtali = 1.000 commanders and 37,000 troops
  • Danites = 28,000 troops
  • Asher = 40,000 troops
  • Reubenites, Gadites, half tribe of Manasseh = 120,000 troops.

The war between Ephraim and Gilead (Judg 12:1-12:6)

“The men of Ephraim were called to arms. They crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah. ‘Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down over you. Jephthah said to them. ‘My people and I were engaged in conflict with the Ammonites. They oppressed us severely. When I called you, you did not deliver me from their hand. When I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hand. I crossed over against the Ammonites. Yahweh gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day, to fight against me?’ Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. The men of Gilead defeated Ephraim. The men of Ephraim had said. ‘You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.’ Then the Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. Whenever one of the fugitives of Ephraim said, ‘let me go over,’ the men of Gilead said to him, ‘are you an Ephraimite?’ When he said, ‘no,’ they said to him. ‘Then say Shibboleth.’ He said, ‘Sibboleth,’ because he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him. They killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites fell at that time.”

There was a strange dispute between the Ephraimites and the Gileadites about whether the people of Ephraim were invited to battle with the people of Gilead against the Ammonites. The Ephraimites were also upset with Gideon in chapter 8 of this work. Either this work of Judges was anti-Ephraim or they were hard to get along with. The Gileadites had a test to tell if someone was an Ephraimite by how they would say ‘shibboleth’ the name for a stream. In the Ephraim dialect they did not pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘sh.’ Due to this, the Gileadites, who might be a newer version of the Gadites were able to kill 42,000 Ephraimites, quite a large number of people. This was clearly Israelite against Israelite. The Gileadites seem to the Gadites since there is no mention of the people of Gad, but the Gileadites seem to be in that territory. Certain tribes seem to be receding into the background.

Erection of the altar (Josh 22:9-22:12)

“So the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home. They parted from the Israelites at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, their own land that they had taken possession by command of Yahweh through Moses. When they came to the region near the Jordan that lies in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of a great size. The Israelites heard that the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region near the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the Israelites. When the Israelites heard of it, the whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh, to make war against them.”

This is an odd incident since it talks about a separate altar built on the west side of the Jordan by the east side tribes. This starts a war between the East and the West Jordan tribes. Notice the change in tone. The west bank tribes are referred to as ‘the Israelites,’ while the eastern tribes retain their tribal names. The west bank tribes believe that they are the true Israelites while the east bank tribes are not.

The establishment of the Transjordan area (Deut 3:1-3:17)

“When we headed up the road to Bashan, King Og of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people for battle at Edrei. Yahweh said to me, ‘Do not fear him. I have handed him over to you, along with his people and his land. Do to him as you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.’ Yahweh our God also handed over to us King Og of Bashan and all his people. We struck him down until not a single survivor was left. At that time, we captured all his towns. There was no citadel that we did not take from them, sixty towns, the whole region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these were fortress towns with high walls, double gates, and bars, besides a great many villages. We utterly destroyed them, as we had done to King Sihon of Heshbon. In each city we utterly destroyed men, women, and children. But all the livestock and the plunder of the towns we kept as spoil for ourselves.”

This is a more detailed account of Numbers, chapter 21, where both King Sihon and King Og are defeated. They did exactly the same thing to Og as they had done to Sihon. They captured over 60 towns and villages. Not a single survivor remained. All the men, women, and children were wiped out. The Israelites took over the kingdom of Bashan and keep the spoils for themselves.

“So at that time we took from the two kings of the Amorites the land beyond the Jordan, from the Wadi Arnon to Mount Hermon. The Sidonians call Hermon Sirion, while the Amorites call it Senir. We took all the towns of the tableland, the whole of Gilead, and all Bashan, as far as Salecah and Edrei, towns of Og’s kingdom in Bashan. Now only King Og of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. In fact his bed, an iron bed, can still be seen at Rabbah of the Ammonites. By the common cubit it is nine cubits long and four cubits wide.”

The two kings of the Amorites were defeated. The Israelites now possessed all the eastern land along the Jordan River form the Arnon River near the middle of the Dead Sea to Mount Hermon, near Lebanon. There was some dispute about the name of this mountain. King Og’s bed was about 13’ long and about 6’ wide, as he was one of the last of the giants.

“As for the land that we took possession of at that time, I gave to the Reubenites and the Gadites the territory north of Aroer that is on the edge of the Wadi Arnon, as well as half the hill country of Gilead with its towns. I gave to the half-tribe of Manasseh the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, Og’s kingdom. The whole region of Argob, all that portion of Bashan had been called a land of Rephaim. Jair the Manassite acquired the whole region of Argob, as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites. He named them, Bashan, after himself, Havvoth-jair, as it is to this day. To Machir I gave Gilead. To the Reubenites and the Gadites I gave the territory from Gilead as far as the Wadi Arnon, with the middle of the Wadi as a boundary, up to the Jabbok River, the Wadi being the boundary of the Ammonites. They had the Arabah also, with the Jordan and its banks, from Chinnereth down to the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, with the lower slopes of Pisgah on the east.”

This was a big area about 100 miles long and about 30 miles wide. Chinnereth was the name for the current Sea of Galilee. This is an explicit explanation of how Moses split up the territory of the east bank of the Jordan, between the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, where they had just crushed everyone and everything.   This was first mentioned in Numbers, chapter 32.

The division of the Transjordan area (Num 32:1-32:42)

“Now the Reubenites and the Gadites owned a very great number of cattle herds. They saw that the lands of Jazer and the lands of Gilead were a good place for cattle. The Gadites and Reubenites came and spoke to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation. ‘The towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, the land that Yahweh subdued before the congregation of Israel, are good lands for cattle. Your servants have cattle.’ They continued, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”

The descendants of Reuben and the descendants of Gad had a lot of cattle. They wanted the land of Jazer and Gilead, which was a very good place for cattle. They went to Moses, Eleazar, and the whole congregation to get the cities of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon. They wanted to know if they could stay on the east side of the Jordan River with their cattle. They did not want to cross the Jordan River. They wanted what we today called the country of Jordan that had been under the Moabites and the Amorites, because it was good land for grazing cattle. They had lots of cattle.

“But Moses said to the Gadites and the Reubenites, ‘Shall your brothers go to the war while you are here? Why will you discourage the heart of the Israelites from going over into the land that Yahweh has given them? Your fathers did this, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. When they went up to the Wadi Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the hearts of the Israelites from going into the land that the Yahweh had given them. Yahweh’s anger was kindled on that day.   He swore, saying, ‘Surely none of the people who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not unreservedly followed me. None shall enter the land except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they have unreservedly followed Yahweh. Yahweh’s anger was kindled against Israel. He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all that generation that had done evil in the sight of Yahweh had disappeared. Now you, a brood of sinners, have risen in place of your fathers to increase Yahweh’s fierce anger against Israel! If you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness. You will destroy all the Israelite people.’”

Moses wanted to know it the Gadites and Reubenites were going to sit here on the east bank while everyone else went to the war on the west side of the Jordan. This would discourage the Israelites from going to the Promised Land. The same thing happened in the Valley of Eshcol.   Yahweh got angry and said that none of the men, who came up out of Egypt, 20 years old or more, would see the Promised Land. Only Caleb and Joshua would enter the Promised Land. Thus the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, until all that generation that had done evil had passed away. Now the Gadites and Reubenites wanted to do the same.  If they turned away from Yahweh, he would again abandon them in the wilderness and destroy all his people. The incident referred to is in chapters 14 and 21 of this book.

“Then they came up to him, and said, ‘We will build sheepfolds here for our flocks, and towns for our little ones, but we will take up arms, as a vanguard before the Israelites, until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile, our little ones will stays in the fortified towns because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until the Israelites have obtained their inheritance. We will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has come to us on this side of the Jordan to the east.’”

They still wanted the land east of the Jordan, but they would lead the fight on the west side of the Jordan for the other Israelites. They would take up arms and not return to their homes until all the other Israelites had gotten their inheritance. They would not inherit anything on the other side of the Jordan. Their inheritance would be on east side of the Jordan River.

“So Moses said to them, ‘If you will do this, if you will take up arms to go before Yahweh for the war, and all those of you bear arms cross the Jordan before Yahweh, until he has driven out his enemies from before him and the land is subdued before Yahweh, then after that you may return and be free of obligation to Yahweh and Israel. This land shall be your possession before Yahweh. But if you will not do this, you have sinned against Yahweh. Be sure your sin will find you out. Build towns for your little ones, and folds for your flocks. But do what you have promised.’”

Moses says okay. If you fight until the land is subdued then you can return and be free of obligation to Yahweh and Israel. This land shall be your possession. But if you do not, you will have sinned against Yahweh and your sin will find you out. They built cities for their children and folds for their sheep. However, they had to do what they promised.

“Then the Gadites and the Reubenites said to Moses, ‘Your servants will do as my lord commands. Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our livestock shall remain there in the towns of Gilead. But your servants will cross over, everyone armed for war, to do battle for Yahweh, just as my lord orders.’”

The descendants of Gad and the descendants of Reuben said to Moses that they would obey Moses. They were going to leave behind their children, wives, flocks, and cattle in Gilead. However, they were going to war for Yahweh and Moses.

“Moses gave the command concerning them to Eleazar the priest, to Joshua son of Nun, and to the heads of the ancestral houses of the Israelite tribes. Moses said to them, ‘If the Gadites and the Reubenites, everyone armed for battle before Yahweh, will cross over the Jordan with you and the land shall be subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession. But if they will not cross over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.’ The Gadites and the Reubenites answered, ‘As Yahweh has spoken to your servants, so we will do. We will cross over armed before Yahweh into the land of Canaan, but the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us on this side of the Jordan.’”

It looks like everything is settled. Moses gave commands concerning them to Eleazar, Joshua, and the heads of the Israelite ancestral houses.  He was very clear. If the descendants of Gad and the descendants of Reuben help you subdue Canaan, then they get the land of Gilead for a possession. However, if they do not, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan. They all agreed to this.

“Moses gave them, the Gadites and the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of King Sihon of the Amorites and the kingdom of King Og of Bashan, the land and its towns, with the territories of the surrounding towns. The Gadites rebuilt Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, Atroth-shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, Beth-nimrah and Beth-haran, fortified cities, with folds for sheep. The Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, Nebo, Baal-meon, and Sibmah. They changed some names. They gave other names to the towns that they rebuilt. The descendants of Machir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, captured it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were there. Moses gave Gilead to Machir son of Manasseh. He settled there. Jair son of Manasseh went and captured their villages, and renamed them Havvoth-jair. Nobah went and captured Kenath and its villages, and renamed it Nobah, after himself.

Suddenly, there is mention of the half tribe of Manasseh, the son of Joseph, along with Gad and Reuben. They seem to have captured some towns and would not give them up. Moses gave them, the kingdom of Sihon to the Gadites, and the kingdom of Og to the Reubenites, with all the land and towns within their territories.

The descendants of Gad got the following towns:

1)      Dibon, capital of Moab, on the Arnon River, south of Amman;

2)      Ataroth, near Dibon;

3)      Aroer, north bank of the Arnon River, in the Moab area;

4)      Atroth-shophan;

5)      Jazer, in Gilead territory and Amorite territory;

6)      Jogbehah in Gilead territory;

7)      Beth-nimrah;

8)      Beth-haran, Amorite territory.

The descendants of Reuben got the following towns:

1)      Heshbon, an Amorite town, 50 miles east of Jerusalem;

2)      Elealeh, not far from Heshbon;

3)      Kiriathaim, Moab territory;

4)      Nebo, named after a Babylonian god;

5)      Baal-meon, Moab territory;

6)      Sibmah, Moab territory.

The descendants of Machir son of Manasseh got the area in the Gilead.

Jair, a descendent of Manasseh, got a series of villages called Havvoth-jair.

Nobah, a warrior, captured the town of Kenath and renamed it Nobah.