Reuben and Gad tribes ask to stay behind
- 1 Two of Israel’s tribes—Reuben and Gad—had a lot of livestock. They had huge herds and flocks. They could see that the land they captured in Jazer1 and Gilead2 would make good grazing fields for their animals.
- 2 Some people from the tribes of Reuben and Gad met with Moses, Eleazar, and other Israelite leaders.
- 3 They said, “We’ve looked at the land around the towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon.3
- 4 This land the LORD conquered for Israel is perfect for livestock. We have livestock.”
- 5 They added, “If you’re okay with it, we would like you to assign this land to us as our property. Don’t make us move to the other side of the Jordan River.”
Moses isn’t happy
- 6 Moses answered, “Would you really send your brothers off to war, while you stay here?
- 7 What are you trying to do? Discourage the people of Israel from crossing the river and going into the land the LORD gave them?
- 8 That’s exactly what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to scout out the land.4
- 9 They scouted all the way up to Cluster Valley.5 But when they came back, they deflated the people. They discouraged them so much that the people refused to go into the land the LORD gave them.
- 10 The LORD became furious. He made them a devastating promise.
- 11 He said, ‘I brought you out of Egypt. But none of you age 20 and older will live to see the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You’re not devoted to me.
- 12 The exceptions are Caleb the Kenizzite, son of Jephunneh, along with Joshua, son of Nun. They are committed 100 percent.’
- 13 The LORD got so angry with the people that he sentenced them to wander in the desert badlands for 40 years. A full generation that disobeyed the LORD is buried in the dirt there.
- 14 What are you? The replacements? Is this just another generation to take the place of the dead one, and to get the LORD angry with Israel again?
- 15 Listen to me, if you turn your back on the LORD, he will leave all of you in the desert. You’ll be destroying the people.”
- 16 They said, “We’ll build livestock pens for our animals. And for our people, we’ll rebuild the towns we captured.
- 17 But when it comes time to fight, we’ll arm ourselves and lead the charge. We’ll fight alongside the other men of Israel. And we’ll stay until they have their land. All the while, back home, our children can rest in the protection of walled cities.
- 18 But we won’t go back until every Israelite has a place to call home in the land they inherited.
- 19 Our inheritance, however, won’t be with them. Ours will be on the other side of the Jordan River.”
- 20 Moses, said, “Okay, here’s how it will work. You’ll fight in this war that the LORD declared.
- 21 And you’ll keep fighting on the other side of the Jordan River until all our enemies are gone.
- 22 When the land belongs to the people of Israel, your obligation is over. You can go home.
- 23 But if you don’t do this, you’ll be disobeying the LORD. And you can be sure that your sin will hunt you down and collect the debt.6
- 24 Now go ahead and build your livestock pens and your towns. Then keep your promise.”
- 25 The people of Gad and Reuben said, “We’re here to serve you and we’ll be there to help you. Whatever you ask.
- 26 In the meantime, our children, wives, flocks, and cattle will stay behind in the cities we rebuild in Gilead.
- 27 Yet those of us who serve you will do whatever you say. We’ll arm ourselves for battle and cross the river, while the LORD watches over us.”
Moses agrees to a deal
- 28 Moses ordered it done. He gave this order to Eleazar the priest, Joshua the son of Nun, and to the leaders of Israel’s tribes.
- 29 Moses said, “Men in the tribes of Gad and Reuben will arm themselves and cross the Jordan River while the LORD watches over them. They’ll fight alongside men from the other tribes. And they’ll stay until the job is done and the land has been conquered. Then you should give them the land of Gilead.
- 30 But if they don’t arm themselves and cross the river with you, assign them land in Canaan.”
- 31 Men from the tribes of Gad and Reuben answered, “We’ll do whatever the LORD tells us to do.
- 32 We’ll arm ourselves and cross into Canaan, with the LORD watching over us. But our land will remain behind, across the river from Canaan.”
- 33 Moses assigned land east of the Jordan River to the tribes of Gad and Reuben and to half the tribe of Manasseh. The man named Manasseh was Joseph’s son. Moses assigned them a territory with cities that once belonged to several kings. Each king ruled his own kingdom: Sihon, Og, Bashan, and the Amorites.
- 34 People in the Gad tribe rebuilt these walled cities they captured:
Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer,
- 35 Atroth-shophan,7 Jazer, Jogbehah,8
- 36 Beth-nimrah,9 and Beth-haran.10 They also built fenced pens for their sheep.
- 37 People in the Reuben tribe rebuilt:
Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim,
- 38 Nebo, Baal-meon (these two names have been changed), and Sibmah. They renamed other cities they rebuilt.
- 39 Machir’s clan in Manasseh’s tribe went to Gilead. They drove out the Amorite people living there and took the land for themselves.
- 40 So Moses gave Gilead to Machir’s extended family, a clan that made up half the Manasseh tribe. Machir’s people lived there.
- 41 Jair,11 from Manasseh’s tribe, captured the towns. He renamed them “Jair Towns.”
- 42 A man called Nobah captured the city of Kenath12 along with the outlying villages. He renamed the territory after himself, “Nobah.”
Jezar was a town along Ammon’s northern border, in what is now the country of Jordan. It was in a region known as the Transjordan. The word means “across Jordan,” referring to the Jordan River. So, it’s east of the Jordan River, in what is now mainly the country of Jordan.
Gilead was a territory neighboring Jezar. It was known for its rolling hills and pastures.
Possible locations of cities, in what is now the country of Jordan:
Ataroth is today’s Attarus;
Dibon is today’s Dhiban, about 4 miles (6 km) north of the Arnon River;
for Jezar see note for 32:1;
Nimrah’s location is unknown, but one educated guess is the ruins called Tell Nimrin, about 6 miles (10 km) east of the Jordan River and about the same distance north of the Dead Sea;
Heshbon is modern Hesban, about a dozen miles (20 km) north of the Dead Sea;
Elealeh is today’s el-‘Al, a couple miles north of Heshbon;
Sebam’s location is unknown, but may be the ruins called Khirbet Sumiyeh, a few miles north of Heshbon;
Nebo’s location is uncertain, but perhaps somewhere in the neighborhood of Mount Nebo, today identified as Mt. Neba, a few miles southwest of Heshbon;
Beon is linked to the city of Main, about 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Heshbon and east of the Dead Sea.
In Hebrew, it’s literally the valley of Eschol, a word that means “cluster,” as in cluster of grapes. Location of the ancient valley is unknown. Some have guessed Beit Ishkahil, about four miles (6 km) northwest of Hebron. But that location is uncertain. Scouts would have had to carry those grapes about 75 miles (120 km) to reach the Israelite camp, just beyond the southern border of what is now Israel. Typically, 20 miles (32 km) was a reasonable day’s walk. Scholars most often identify Kadesh, also called Kadesh Barnea, as the spring-fed oasis at Tel el-Qudeirat, on Egypt’s side of the border with Israel. Another contender is Ain Qadeis, also on Egypt’s side of the border. Bible writers put the location in different deserts: Zin Desert (Numbers 20:1) and Paran Desert (Number 13:26). Some theorize there were two Kadesh oases. West Kadesh and East Kadesh. Not many scholars seem to buy into that.
The phrase that grew into a proverb is more commonly said: “Your sin will find you out.”
Jogbehah may have been what is now Jubeihat or perhaps one of two nearby ruins: Khirbet Umm Oseij or Tell Safut.
Beth-nimrah is a longer version of Nimrah, from verse 3.
Beth-haran’s location is uncertain. Several ruins are contenders, including Tell er-Ram and Tell Iktanu.
Jair is one of the Israelite heroes often called “judges” (Judges 10:3).
Kenath may have been what is now Kanawat (Qanawat), in southern Syria.