“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;
5) Jazer, in Gilead territory and Amorite territory;
6) Jogbehah in Gilead territory;
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.