Numbers 32

Numbers 32

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Reuben and Gad Settle in Gilead

32 Now the people of Reuben and the people of Gad had a very great number of livestock. And they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, and behold, the place was a place for livestock. So the people of Gad and the people of Reuben came and said to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the chiefs of the congregation, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, the land that the LORD struck down before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” And they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession. Do not take us across the Jordan.”

But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them? Your fathers did this, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the LORD had given them. And the LORD’s anger was kindled on that day, and he swore, saying, ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.’ And the LORD’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone. And behold, you have risen in your fathers’ place, a brood of sinful men, to increase still more the fierce anger of the LORD against Israel! For if you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all this people.”

Then they came near to him and said, “We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place. And our little ones shall live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance. For 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.” So Moses said to them, “If you will do this, if you will take up arms to go before the LORD for the war, and every armed man of you will pass over the Jordan before the LORD, until he has driven out his enemies from before him and the land is subdued before the LORD; then after that you shall return and be free of obligation to the LORD and to Israel, and this land shall be your possession before the LORD. But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out. Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep, and do what you have promised.” And the people of Gad and the people of Reuben said to Moses, “Your servants will do as my lord commands. Our little ones, our wives, our livestock, and all our cattle shall remain there in the cities of Gilead, but your servants will pass over, every man who is armed for war, before the LORD to battle, as my lord orders.”

So Moses gave command concerning them to Eleazar the priest and to Joshua the son of Nun and to the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel. And Moses said to them, “If the people of Gad and the people of Reuben, every man who is armed to battle before the LORD, will pass with you over the Jordan and the land shall be subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession. However, if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.” And the people of Gad and the people of Reuben answered, “What the LORD has said to your servants, we will do. We will pass over armed before the LORD into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance shall remain with us beyond the Jordan.”

And Moses gave to them, to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben and to the half-tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land and its cities with their territories, the cities of the land throughout the country. And the people of Gad built Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, Atroth-shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, Beth-nimrah and Beth-haran, fortified cities, and folds for sheep. And the people of Reuben built Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, Nebo, and Baal-meon (their names were changed), and Sibmah. And they gave other names to the cities that they built. And the sons of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead and captured it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were in it. And Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh, and he settled in it. And Jair the son of Manasseh went and captured their villages, and called them Havvoth-jair. And Nobah went and captured Kenath and its villages, and called it Nobah, after his own name.

(ESV)


Numbers 32 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Perhaps he jumped to conclusions.  We all do this don’t we?  We hear a bit of information without the full story and make an assumption then a decision as to our opinion.  This was what took place with Moses as the Reubenites and Gadites came before him asking to settle in the land where they were.  He had been down this track before with a group of people bringing discouragement through stirring words and action.

Moses feared their attitudes would keep the rest of Israel from entering the Promised Land.  It had happened before and could certainly again.  When the conversation took off, Moses wanted them to know there was a battle ahead and everyone, every single tribe was in it together.  Just because they wanted to stay where they were didn’t take away their own responsibility and involvement.  The entire nation had learned the hard way when the previous generation of unbelief had chosen to live in fear and consequently would all die in the desert.

As a leader Moses was guarding against discouragement hitting the ranks.  It took just 10 unfaithful spies that came back with a report after the initial spy route to upset the apple cart and the entire nation to follow.  They stayed in the desert an additional 38 years because of it.  Only 2 stood firm in faith – Joshua and Caleb.  They didn’t bend to the thoughts and were spared.  But these 10 reports blew through the camp like wildfire and one by one, the people became discouraged.

The enemy will use whomever he can to bring discouragement to people, even when it’s coming from Believers.  When we are not fully following God, our outlook is warped and tainted.  Our mindset is on the earthly aspect of things.  Consequently, we then poison others with our own lack of faith perspective and begin to influence others as we ourselves are.

What’s interesting is Moses didn’t confront them on what they wanted to do.  That was a bad choice to decide to stay in the land.  It would hurt them as a tribe in settling east of the Jordan River.  But if they chose to make a foolish decision like this, then so be it.  No, Moses’ line of confrontation was about the issue that could affect others due to their settling.

If there is a person, a Believer even who is simply content to settle for less than what God has called of them – what can be done?  Nothing.

Truly nothing as we have free will and make choices that affect our own future.  But when those choices are affecting the Body or the family, other Believers it MUST be confronted.  Their own complacency and bad choices have a direct assault on others.  This was the basis of Moses’ confrontation.  And maybe it should be the perspective we take.

If there is someone who we see making bad choices, living a life that is not like Jesus but still claiming to be His, that’s their choice.  They will of course answer for these things.  But when it begins to affect the Body of Christ, or simply others who are young in the faith, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the issue must be addressed.  For just like what happened 38 years prior with the entire population of unbelief had swept through the camp and the people were wasting away in the desert waiting, that can take place here as well. 

Moses became proactive for he didn’t want to see the people experience it again.  He confronted them and so must we.  Other people’s destinies were at stake is how Moses saw it.  Maybe we should look beyond the person making such foolish decisions and weigh how it is affecting others and future generations.  That then will give us the answer as to what we must do next.


Numbers 32 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

The LORD became angry with the people and made them wander in the wilderness forty years until that whole generation that had displeased him was dead.

Numbers 32:13 GNB

I found myself wondering why God didn’t operate with optimal efficiency. In our western culture, efficiency is the name of the game. This is why we are obsessed with multi-tasking and working long hours. We want to get things done so we can free ourselves to get more things done. So taking that mindset to this story, I was puzzled as to why God would even allow these people to continue to live. It sounds harsh, but, if He knew they would never enter the Promised Land, allowing them to live and wander for another 40 years seems like a waste of time.

Have you ever questioned the timing or decisions of God? Are you currently questioning? I’m sure there was a good reason for allowing them to wander. The first question we must ask ourselves is, do we really believe that? In your current situation where God is not moving as fast as you would like or He is allowing something to happen that you don’t understand, are you humble enough to believe that He’s in control? Do you agree that His timing is always perfect?

I believe God allows us to struggle because He loves us. He wants us to learn and grow but that only happens with struggle. One of the most difficult challenges for an efficiency-minded leader is walking alongside another potential leader as they stumble and fall. It’s natural for us to want to jump in a fix things. In this case, it would have been much quicker and easier for God to wipe this generation away and start fresh. But God knew they needed those 40 years of wandering. They needed the struggle in order to grow. They needed to understand that when they rebel against God’s ways, consequences will follow.

Furthermore, the younger generation who was watching needed to understand that this would soon be them one day. They would have to make a decision to follow their fathers or follow the Lord.

So, there are many challenging questions to consider. Is God encouraging you to grow in strength and perseverance by allowing a struggle to continue? How are you responding to it? Another question to consider is, where are you stepping in and “fixing things” when God actually wants you to step back and allow failure. As crazy as that sounds, many times we stunt the spiritual growth of others by rescuing them from a growing experience. It’s tough, but necessary. Where do you need to grow in your trust of His sovereignty?

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