Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle;
The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large flocks and herds, petitioned Moses, Eleazar, and the princes of the congregation, to give them the conquered land of Gilead for a possession, as a land that was peculiarly adapted for flocks, and not to make them pass over the Jordan. מאד עצוּם, "very strong," is an apposition introduced at the close of the sentence to give emphasis to the רב. The land which they wished for, they called the "land of Jazer (see Numbers 21:32), and the land of Gilead." They put Jazer first, probably because this district was especially rich in excellent pasture land. Gilead was the land to the south and north of the Jabbok (see at Deuteronomy 3:10), the modern provinces of Belka in the south between the Jabbok and the Arnon, and Jebel Ajlun to the north of the Jabbok, as far as the Mandhur. Ancient Gilead still shows numerous traces of great fertility even in its present desolation, covered over as it is with hundreds of ruins of old towns and hamlets. Belka is mountainous towards the north, but in the south as far as the Arnon it is for the most part table-land; and in the mountains, as Buckingham says, "we find on every hand a pleasant shade from fine oaks and wild pistachio-trees, whilst the whole landscape has more of a European character. The pasturage in Belka is much better than it is anywhere else throughout the whole of southern Syria, so that the Bedouins say, 'You can find no country like Belka.' The oxen and sheep of this district are considered the very best" (see v. Raumer, Pal. p. 82). The mountains of Gilead on both sides of the Jabbok are covered for the most part with glorious forests of oak. "Jebel Ajlun," says Robinson (Pal. App. 162), "presents the most charming rural scenery that I have seen in Syria. A continued forest of noble trees, chiefly the evergreen oak (Sindin), covers a large part of it, while the ground beneath is covered with luxuriant grass, which we found a foot or more in height, and decked with a rich variety of flowers" (see v. Raumer, ut sup.). This also applies to the ancient Basan, which included the modern plains of Jaulan and Hauran, that were also covered over with ruins of former towns and hamlets. The plain of Hauran, though perfectly treeless, is for all that very fertile, rich in corn, and covered in some places with such luxuriant grass that horses have great difficulty in making their way through it; for which reason it is a favourite resort of the Bedouins (Burckhardt, p. 393). "The whole of Hauran," says Ritter (Erdkunde, xv. pp. 988, 989), "stretches out as a splendid, boundless plain, between Hermon on the west, Jebel Hauran on the east, and Jebel Ajlun to the south; but there is not a single river in which there is water throughout the whole of the summer. It is covered, however, with a large number of villages, every one of which has its cisterns, its ponds, or its birket; and these are filled in the rainy season, and by the winter torrents from the snowy Jebel Hauran. Wherever the soil, which is everywhere black, deep, dark brown, or ochre-coloured, and remarkably fertile, is properly cultivated, and you find illimitable corn-fields, and chiefly golden fields of wheat, which furnish Syria in all directions with its principal food. By far the larger part of this plain, which was a luxuriant garden in the time of the Romans, is now uncultivated, waste, and without inhabitants, and therefore furnishes the Bedouins of the neighbourhood with the desired paradise for themselves and their flocks." On its western slope Jebel Hauran is covered with splendid forests of oak, and rich in meadow land for flocks (Burckhardt, pp. 152, 169, 170, 173, 358; Wetstein, Reiseber. pp. 39ff. and 88). On the nature of the soil of Hauran, see at Deuteronomy 3:4. The plain of Jaulan appears in the distance like the continuation of Hauran (Robinson, App. 162); it has much bush-land in it, but the climate is not so healthy as in Hauran (Seetzen, i. pp. 353, 130, 131). "In general, Hauran, Jaulan, el Botthin, el Belka, and Ejlun, are the paradise of nomads, and in all their wanderings eastwards they find no pasture like it" (Seetzen, i. p. 364). מקום, a locality, or district. מקנה מאום equals מקנה ארץ (Numbers 32:4), a district adapted for grazing.
The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying,
Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon,
In Numbers 32:3 the country is more distinctly defined by the introduction of the names of a number of important towns, whilst the clause "the country which the Lord smote before the congregation of Israel," in which the defeat of Sihon is referred to, describes it as one that was without a ruler, and therefore could easily be taken possession of. For more minute remarks as to the towns themselves, see at Numbers 32:34. On the construction את יתּן, see at Genesis 4:18. - The words, "let us not go over the Jordan," may be understood as expressing nothing more than the desire of the speakers not to receive their inheritance on the western side of the Jordan, without their having any intention of withdrawing their help from the other tribes in connection with the conquest of Canaan, according to their subsequent declaration (Numbers 32:16.); but they may also be understood as expressing a wish to settle at once in the land to the east of the Jordan, and leave the other tribes to conquer Canaan alone. Moses understood them in the latter sense (Numbers 32:6.), and it is probable that this was their meaning, as, when Moses reproved them, the speakers did not reply that they had not cherished the intention attributed to them, but simply restricted themselves to the promise of co-operation in the conquest of Canaan. But even in this sense their request did not manifest "a shamelessness that would hardly be historically true" (Knobel). It may very well be explained from the opinion which they cherished, and which is perfectly intelligible after the rapid and easy defeat of the two mighty kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, that the remaining tribes were quite strong enough to conquer the land of Canaan on the west of the Jordan. But for all that, the request of the Reubenites and Gadites did indicate an utter want of brotherly feeling, and complete indifference to the common interests of the whole nation, so that they thoroughly deserved the reproof which they received from Moses.
Even the country which the LORD smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle:
Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.
And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?
Moses first of all blames their want of brotherly feeling: "Shall your brethren go into the war, and ye sit here?" He then calls their attention to the fact, that by their disinclination they would take away the courage and inclination of the other tribes to cross over the Jordan and conquer the land, and would bring the wrath of God upon Israel even more than their fathers who were sent from Kadesh to spy out the land, and who led away the heart of the people into rebellion through their unfavourable account of the inhabitants of Canaan, and brought so severe a judgment upon the congregation. מן את־לב הניא, to hold away the heart, i.e., render a person averse to anything. The Keri תּניאוּן, as in Numbers 32:9, is unquestionably to be preferred to the Kal תּנוּאוּן, in the Kethib of Numbers 32:7. - In Numbers 32:8-13, Moses reminds them of the occurrences described in ch. 13 and 14. On the expression, "wholly followed Jehovah," cf. Numbers 14:24. The words, "He drove them about in the desert," caused them to wander backwards and forwards in it for forty years, point back to Numbers 14:33-35.
And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them?
Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadeshbarnea to see the land.
For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land which the LORD had given them.
And the LORD'S anger was kindled the same time, and he sware, saying,
Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me:
Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, 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 consumed.
And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the LORD toward Israel.
"Behold, ye rise up instead of your fathers," i.e., ye take their place, "an increase (תּרבּוּת, from רבה; equivalent to a brood) of sinners, to augment yet the burning of the wrath of Jehovah against Israel." על ספה, to add to, or increase.
For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.
"If ye draw back behind Him," i.e., resist the fulfilment of the will of God, to bring Israel to Canaan, "He will leave it (Israel) still longer in the desert, and ye prepare destruction for all this nation."
And they came near unto him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones:
The persons thus reproved came near to Moses, and replied, "We will build sheep-folds here for our flocks, and towns for our children; but we will equip ourselves hastily (חשׁים, part. pass. hasting) before the children of Israel, till we bring them to their place" (i.e., to Canaan). צאן גּדרת, folds or pens for flocks, that were built of stones piled up one upon another (1 Samuel 24:4).
(Note: According to Wetstein (Reiseber. p. 29), it is a regular custom with the nomads in Leja, to surround every place, where they pitch their tents, with a Sira, i.e., with an enclosure of stones about the height of a man, that the flocks may not be scattered in the night, and that they may know at once, from the noise made by the falling of the smaller stones which are laid at the top, if a wolf attempts to enter the enclosure during the night.)
By the building of towns, we are to understand the rebuilding and fortification of them. טף, the children, including the women, and such other defenceless members of the family as were in need of protection (see at Exodus 12:37). When their families were secured in fortified towns against the inhabitants of the land, the men who could bear arms would not return to their houses till the children of Israel, i.e., the rest of the tribes, had all received their inheritance: for they did not wish for an inheritance on the other side of Jordan and farther on, if (כּי) their inheritance was assigned them on this side Jordan towards the east. The application of the expression היּרדּן מעבר to the land on the east of the Jordan, as well as to that on the west, points to a time when the Israelites had not yet obtained a firm footing in Canaan. At that time the land to the west of the river could very naturally be spoken of as "beyond the Jordan," from the subjective stand-point of the historian, who was then on the east of the river; whereas, according to the objective and geographical usage, the land "beyond Jordan" signifies the country to the east of the river. But in order to prevent misunderstanding, in this particular instance the expression היּרדּן עבר is defined more precisely as מזרחה, "towards the east," when it is intended to apply to the land on the east of the Jordan.
But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.
For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward.
And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war,
Upon this declaration Moses absolves them from all guilt, and promises them the desired land for a possession, on condition that they fulfil their promise; but he reminds them again of the sin that they will commit, and will have to atone for, if their promise is not fulfilled, and closes with the admonition to build towns for their families and pens for their flocks, and to do what they have promised. Upon this they promise again (Numbers 32:25-27), through their spokesman (as the singular ויּאמר in Numbers 32:25, and the suffix in אדני in Numbers 32:27, clearly show), that they will fulfil his command. The use of the expression "before Jehovah," in the words, "go armed before Jehovah to war," in Numbers 32:20 and Numbers 32:21, may be explained from the fact, that in the war which they waged at the command of their God, the Israelites were the army of Jehovah, with Jehovah in the midst. Hence the ark of the covenant was taken into the war, as the vehicle and substratum of the presence of Jehovah; whereas it remained behind in the camp, when the people wanted to press forward into Canaan of their own accord (Numbers 14:44). But if this is the meaning of the expression "before Jehovah," we may easily understand why the Reubenites and Gadites do not make use of it in Numbers 32:17, namely, because they only promise to go equipped "before the children of Israel," i.e., to help their brethren to conquer Canaan. In Numbers 32:32 they also adopt the expression, after hearing it from the mouth of Moses (Numbers 32:20).
(Note: This completely sets aside the supposed discrepancy which Knobel adduces in support of his fragmentary hypothesis, viz., that the Elohist writes "before Israel" in Numbers 32:17 and Numbers 32:29, when the Jehovist would write "before Jehovah," - a statement which is not even correct; since we find "before Jehovah" in Numbers 32:29, which Knobel is obliged to erase from the text in order to establish his assertion.)
נקיּים, innocent, "free from guilt before Jehovah and before Israel." By drawing back from participation in the war against the Canaanites, they would not only sin against Jehovah, who had promised Canaan to all Israel, and commanded them to take it, but also against Israel itself, i.e., against the rest of the tribes, as is more fully stated in Numbers 32:7-15. In Numbers 32:22, "before Jehovah" signifies according to the judgment of Jehovah, with divine approval. חטּאתכם וּדעוּ, "ye will know your sin," which will overtake (מצא) or smite you, i.e., ye will have to make atonement for them.
And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him,
And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD.
But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth.
And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth.
Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gilead:
But thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war, before the LORD to battle, as my lord saith.
So concerning them Moses commanded Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel:
Moses thereupon commanded Eleazar, Joshua, and the heads of the tribes of Israel, i.e., the persons entrusted in Numbers 34:17. with the division of the land of Canaan, to give the Gadites and Reubenites the land of Gilead for a possession, after the conquest of Canaan, if they should go along with them across the Jordan equipped for battle. But if they should not do this, they were to be made possessors (i.e., to be settled; נאחז in a passive sense, whereas in Genesis 34:10; Genesis 47:27, it is reflective, to fix oneself firmly, to settle) in the land of Canaan along with the other tribes. In the latter case, therefore, they were not only to receive no possession in the land to the east of the Jordan, but were to be compelled to go over the Jordan with their wives and children, and to receive an inheritance there for the purpose of preventing a schism of the nation.
And Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle, before the LORD, and the land shall be subdued before you; then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession:
But if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.
And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, As the LORD hath said unto thy servants, so will we do.
The Gadites and Reubenites repeated their promise once more (Numbers 32:25), and added still further (Numbers 32:32): "We will pass over armed before Jehovah into the land of Canaan, and let our inheritance be with us (i.e., remain to us) beyond the Jordan."
We will pass over armed before the LORD into the land of Canaan, that the possession of our inheritance on this side Jordan may be ours.
And Moses gave unto them, even to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and unto half the 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, with the cities thereof in the coasts, even the cities of the country round about.
Moses then gave to the sons of Gad and Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, namely, "the land according to its towns, in (its) districts, (namely) the towns of the land round about," i.e., the whole of the land with its towns and the districts belonging to them, or surrounding the towns. It appears strange that the half-tribe of Manasseh is included here for the first time at the close of the negotiations, whereas it is not mentioned at all in connection with the negotiations themselves. This striking fact may easily be explained, however, on the supposition that it was by the two tribes of Reuben and Gad alone that the request was made for the land of Gilead as a possession; but that when Moses granted this request, he did not overlook the fact, that some of the families of Manasseh had conquered various portions of Gilead and Bashan (Numbers 32:39), and therefore gave these families, at the same time, the districts which they had conquered, for their inheritance, that the whole of the conquered land might be distributed at once. As O. v. Gerlach observes, "the participation of this half-tribe in the possession is accounted for in Numbers 32:39." Moses restricted himself, however, to a general conveyance of the land that had been taken on the east of the Jordan to these two and a half tribes for their inheritance, without sharing it amongst them, or fixing the boundaries of the territory of each particular tribe. That was left to the representatives of the nation mentioned in Numbers 32:28, and was probably not carried out till the return of the fighting men belonging to these tribes, who went with the others over the Jordan. In the verses which follow, we find only those towns mentioned which were fortified by the tribes of Gad and Reuben, and in which they constructed sheep-folds (Numbers 32:34-38), and the districts which the families of Manasseh had taken and received as their possession (Numbers 32:39-42).
And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer,
The Gadites built, i.e., restored and fortified, the following places. Dibon, also called Dibon Gad, an hour's journey to the north of the central Arnon. Ataroth, probably preserved in the extensive ruins of Attarus, on Jebel Attarus, between el Krriath (Kureyat) and Makur, i.e., Machaerus (see Seetzen, ii. p. 342). Aroer, not the Aroer before Rabbah, which was allotted to the Gadites (Joshua 13:25), as v. Raumer supposes; but the Aroer of Reuben in the centre of the valley of the Arnon (Joshua 12:2; Joshua 13:9, Joshua 13:16), which is still to be seen in the ruins of Araayr, on the edge of the lofty rocky wall which bounds the Modjeb (Burckhardt, p. 633). Atroth Shophan: only mentioned here; situation unknown. Jaezer: probably to be sought for in the ruins of es Szir, to the west of Ammn (see at Numbers 21:32). Jogbehah: only mentioned again in Judges 8:11, and preserved in the ruins of Jebeiha, about two hours to the north-west of Ammn (Burckhardt, p. 618; Robinson, App. p. 168). Beth-nimrah, contracted into Nimrah (Numbers 32:3), according to Joshua 13:27, in the valley of the Jordan, and according to the Onomast. (s. v. Βηθναβράν) Beth-amnaram, five Roman miles to the north of Libias (Bethharam), now to be seen in the ruins of Nimrein or Nemrin, where the Wady Shaib enters the Jordan (Burckhardt, pp. 609, 661; Robinson, ii. p. 279), in a site abounding in water and pasturage (Seetzen, ii. pp. 318, 716). Beth-Haran, or Beth-Haram (Joshua 13:27): Beth-ramphtha, according to Josephus, Ant. 18:2, 1, which was called Julias, in honour of the wife of Augustus. According to the Onomast. it was called Beth-Ramtha by the Syrians (רמתא בּית, the form of the Aramaean stat. emphat.), and was named Livias by Herod Antipas, in honour of Livia, the wife of Augustus. It has been preserved in the ruins of Rameh, not far from the mouth of the Wady Hesbn (Burckhardt, p. 661, and Robinson, ii. 305). The words וגו מבצר ערי in Numbers 32:36 are governed by ויּבנוּ in Numbers 32:34 : "they built them as fortified cities and folds for flocks," i.e., they fortified them, and built folds in them.
And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah,
And Bethnimrah, and Bethharan, fenced cities: and folds for sheep.
And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim,
The Reubenites built Heshbon, the capital of king Sihon (see Numbers 21:16), which was allotted to the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 13:17), but relinquished to the Gadites, because it was situated upon the border of their territory, and given up by them to the Levites (Joshua 21:39; 1 Chronicles 6:66). It stood almost in the centre between the Arnon and Jabbok, opposite to Jericho, and, according to the Onomast., twenty Roman miles from the Jordan, where the ruins of a large town of about a mile in circumference are still to be seen, with deep bricked wells, and a large reservoir, bearing the ancient name of Hesban or Hsban (Seetzen; Burckhardt, p. 623; Robinson, Pal. ii. 278; cf. v. Raumer, Pal. p. 262; and Ritter's Erdkunde, xv. p. 1176). - Elealeh: half-an-hour's journey to the north-east of Heshbon, now called el Aal, i.e., the height, upon the top of a hill, from which you can see the whole of southern Belka; it is now in ruins with many cisterns, pieces of wall, and foundations of houses (Burckhardt, p. 523). - Kirjathaim, probably to the south-west of Medeba, where the ruins of el Teym are not to be found (see at Genesis 14:5). Nebo, on Mount Nebo (see at Numbers 27:12). The Onomast. places the town eight Roman miles to the south of Heshbon, whilst the mountain is six Roman miles to the west of that town. Baal-Meon, called Beon in Numbers 32:3, Beth-Meon in Jeremiah 48:23, and more fully Beth-Baal-Meon in Joshua 13:17, is probably to be found, not in the ruins of Maein discovered by Seetzen and Legh, an hour's journey to the south-west of Tueme (Teim), and the same distance to the north of Habbis, on the north-east of Jebel Attarus, and nine Roman miles to the south of Heshbon, as most of the modern commentators from Rosenmller to Knobel suppose; but in the ruins of Myun, mentioned by Burckhardt (p. 624), three-quarters of an hour to the south-east of Heshbon, where we find it marked upon Kiepert's and Van de Velde's maps.
(Note: Although Baal-Meon is unquestionably identified with Maein in the Onom. (see v. Raumer, Pal. p. 259), 1 Chronicles 5:8 is decidedly at variance with this. It is stated there that "Bela dwelt in Aroer, and even unto Nebo and Baal-Meon," a statement which places Baal-Meon in the neighbourhood of Nebo, like the passage before us, and is irreconcilable with the supposition that it was identical with Maein in the neighbourhood of Attarus. In the case of Seetzen, however, the identification of Maein with Baal-Meon is connected with the supposition, which is now generally regarded as erroneous, namely, that Nebo is the same as the Jebel Attarus. (See, on the other hand, Hengstenberg, Balaam; and Ritter's Erdkunde, xv. pp. 1187ff.))
(Note: The difference in the forms Shibmah, Baal-Meon (Numbers 32:38), and Beth-Nimrah (Numbers 32:36), instead of Shebam, Beon, and Nimrah (Numbers 32:3), is rendered useless as a proof that Numbers 32:3 is Jehovistic, and Numbers 32:36-38 Elohistic, from the simple fact that Baal-Meon itself is a contraction of Beth-Baal-Meon (Joshua 13:17). If the Elohist could write this name fully in one place and abbreviated in another, he could just as well contract it still further, and by exchanging the labials call it Beon; and so also he could no doubt omit the Beth in the case of Nimrah, and use the masculine form Shebam in the place of Shibmah. The contraction of the names in Numbers 32:3 is especially connected with the fact, that diplomatic exactness was not required for an historical account, but that the abbreviated forms in common use were quite sufficient.)
Thus all the places built by the Reubenites were but a short distance from Heshbon, and surrounded this capita; whereas those built by the Gadites were some of them to the south of it, on the Arnon, and others to the north, towards Rabbath-Ammon. It is perfectly obvious from this, that the restoration of these towns took place before the distribution of the land among these tribes, without any regard to their possession afterwards. In the distribution, therefore, the southernmost of the towns built by the Gadites, viz., Aroer, Dibon, and Ataroth, fell to the tribe of Reuben; and Heshbon, which was built by the Reubenites, fell to the tribe of Gad. The words שׁם מוּסבּת, "changed of name," are governed by בּנוּ: "they built the towns with an alteration of their names," mutatis nominibus (for סבב, in the sense of changing, see Zechariah 14:10). There is not sufficient ground for altering the text, שׁם into שׁוּר (Knobel), according to the περικυκλωμένας of the lxx, or the περιτετευχισμένας of Symmachus. The Masoretic text is to be found not only in the Chaldee, the Syriac, the Vulgate, and the Saadic versions, but also in the Samaritan. The expression itself, too, cannot be justly described as "awkward," nor is it a valid objection that the naming is mentioned afterwards; for altering the name of a town and giving it a new name are not tautological. The insertion of the words, "their names being changed," before Shibmah, is an indication that the latter place did not receive any other name. Moreover, the new names which the builders gave to these towns did not continue in use long, but were soon pressed out by the old ones again. "And they called by names the names of the towns:" this is a roundabout way of saying, they called the towns by (other, or new) names: cf. 1 Chronicles 6:50.
And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded.
And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it.
Moses gave the Manassites the land which was conquered by them; in fact, the whole of the kingdom of Bashan, including not only the province of Bashan, but the northern half of Gilead (see at Numbers 21:33-34). Of this the sons of Machir received Gilead, the modern Jebel Ajlun, between the Jabbok (Zerka) and the Mandhur (Hieromax, Jarmuk), because they had taken it and driven out the Amorites and destroyed them (see Deuteronomy 3:13). The imperfects in Numbers 32:39 are to be understood in the sense of pluperfects, the different parts being linked together by w consec. according to the simple style of the Semitic historical writings explained in the note on Genesis 2:19, and the leading thought being preceded by the clauses which explain it, instead of their being logically subordinated to it. "The sons of Machir went to Gilead and took it...and Moses gave," etc., instead of "Moses gave Gilead to the sons of Machir, who had gone thither and taken it..." The words בּהּ ויּשׁב, "Machir dwelt therein (in Gilead)," do not point to a later period than the time of Moses, but simply state that the Machirites took possession of Gilead. As soon as Moses had given them the conquered land for their possession, they no doubt brought their families, like the Gadites and Reubenites, and settled them in fortified towns, that they might dwell there in safety, whilst the fighting men helped the other tribes to conquer Canaan. ישׁב signifies not merely "to dwell," but literally to place oneself, or settle down (e.g., Genesis 36:8, etc.), and is even applied to the temporary sojourn of the Israelites in particular encampments (Numbers 20:1). - Machir (Numbers 32:40): for the sons of Machir, or Machirites (Numbers 26:29). But as Gilead does not mean the whole of the land with this name, but only the northern half, so the sons of Machir are not the whole of his posterity, but simply those who formed the family of Machirites which bore its father's name (Numbers 26:29), i.e., the seven fathers' houses or divisions of the family, the heads of which are named in 1 Chronicles 5:24. The other descendants of Machir through Gilead, who formed the six families of Gilead mentioned in Numbers 26:29-33, and Joshua 17:2, received their inheritance in Canaan proper (Joshua 17).
And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein.
And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havothjair.
The family of Manasseh named after Machir included "Jair the son (i.e., descendant) of Manasseh." Jair, that is to say, was the grandson of a daughter of Machir the son of Manasseh, and therefore a great-grandson of Manasseh on the mother's side. His father Segub was the son of Hezron of the tribe of Judah, who had married a daughter of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 2:21-22); so that Jair, or rather Segub, had gone over with his descendants into the maternal tribe, contrary to the ordinary rule, and probably because Machir had portioned his daughter with a rich dowry like an heiress. Jair took possession of the whole of the province of Argob in Bashan, i.e., in the plain of Jaulan and Hauran (Deuteronomy 3:4 and Deuteronomy 3:14), and gave the conquered towns the name of Havvoth Jair, i.e., Jair's-lives (see at Deuteronomy 3:14).
And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name.
Nobah, whose family is never referred to, but who probably belonged, like Jair, to one of the families of Machirites, took the town of Kenath and its daughters, i.e., the smaller towns dependent upon it (see Numbers 21:25), and gave it his own name Nobah. The name has not been preserved, and is not to be sought, as Kurtz supposes, in the village of Nowa (Newe), in Jotan, which is mentioned by Burckhardt (p. 443), and was once a town of half an hour's journey in circumference. For Kenath, which is only mentioned again in 1 Chronicles 2:23 as having been taken from the Israelites by Gesur and Aram, is Κάναθα, which Josephus (de bell. Jud. i. 19, 2), and Ptolemy speak of as belonging to Coelesyria, and Pliny (h. n. 5, 16) to Decapolis, and which was situated, according to Jerome, "in the region of Trachonitis, near to Bostra." The ruins are very extensive even now, being no less than 2 1/2 or 3 miles in circumference, and containing magnificent remains of palaces from the times of Trajan and Hadrian. It is on the western slope of Jebel Hauran, and is only inhabited by a few families of Druses. The present name is Kanuat. (For description, see Seetzen, i. pp. 78ff.; Burckhardt, pp. 157ff.; cf. Ritter, Erdk.)