Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Numbers 32:34-38 notes.
Nu 32:1-42. The Reubenites and Gadites Ask for an Inheritance.
1-5. the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead—A complete conquest had been made of the country east of the Jordan, comprising "the land of Jazer," which formed the southern district between the Arnon and Jabbok and "the land of Gilead," the middle region between the Jabbok and Jarmouk, or Hieromax, including Bashan, which lay on the north of that river. The whole of this region is now called the Belka. It has always been famous for its rich and extensive pastures, and it is still the favorite resort of the Bedouin shepherds, who frequently contend for securing to their immense flocks the benefit of its luxuriant vegetation. In the camp of ancient Israel, Reuben and Gad were pre-eminently pastoral; and as these two tribes, being placed under the same standard, had frequent opportunities of conversing and arranging about their common concerns, they united in preferring a request that the trans-jordanic region, so well suited to the habits of a pastoral people, might be assigned to them.Ataroth; different from that Ataroth, Joshua 16:2,7, which was on the other side of Jordan.
Nimrah, called Beth-nimrah, Numbers 22:36 Joshua 13:27; and the waters of Nimrim, Isaiah 15:6. Shebam, called Shibmah, Numbers 32:38.
Beon which is thought to be the same place called Baal-meon, Numbers 32:38, and Beth-meon, Jeremiah 48:23. Isaiah 15:2, Jazer was a city, from whence the land about it had its name; it is the same with Jaazer, Numbers 21:32 and stood about fifteen miles from Heshbon (k), the capital city of the kingdom of Sihon:
and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon; these were all places in the same country; of Heshbon see Numbers 21:25, Nimrah is the same with Bethnimrah, Numbers 32:36 and sometimes called Nimrim, famous for its water, Isaiah 15:6. Jerom says (l) the name of it in his time was Benamerium, and lay to the north of Zoar; Elealeh, according to the same writer (m) was but a mile from Heshbon, of which see Isaiah 15:4. Shebam is the same with Shibmah, Numbers 32:36, and seems to be a place famous for vines, Isaiah 16:8; it is thought to be the same with the Seba of Ptolemy (n), and according to Jerom (o), there were scarce five hundred paces between this place and Heshbon; Nebo, the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan call the grave of Moses, because on a mountain of this name Moses died, and where it is supposed he was buried; but it is certain he was buried not on a mountain, but in a valley, Deuteronomy 34:6, this perhaps had its name from the mountain near which it was, and of which see Isaiah 15:2. Beon is the same that is called Baalmeon, Numbers 32:38 and Bethbaalmeon, Joshua 13:17, where was very probably a temple of Baal; it was about nine miles from Heshbon (p).Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. All these names recur in Numbers 32:34-38, three of them in a slightly different form (see R.V. marg.). Beon is probably a mere scribal slip for Meon.Verse 3. - Ataroth. As to the nine places here mentioned, see on verses 34-38. They all lie to the south of Gilead, properly so called, within a comparatively short distance of the route by which the main body of the Israelites had advanced. Probably the cattle which followed the host were still grazing under guard around these places, and it was very natural that tribes which had hitherto lived closely crowded together should not at first contemplate spreading themselves very far afield. Leviticus 1:4), namely, with the feeling that they were not worthy of any such grace, and not "because they had done wrong in failing to destroy all the enemies of Jehovah" (Knobel). This gift, which was offered as a heave-offering for Jehovah, consisted of the following articles of gold: אצעדה, "arm-rings," according to 2 Samuel 1:10 (lxx χελιδῶνα; Suidas: χελιδόναι κοσμοὶ περὶ τοὺς βραχιόνας, καλοῦνται δὲ βραχιάλια); צמיד, bands, generally armlets (Genesis 24:22, etc.); טבּעת, signet-rings; עגיל, hoops, - according to Ezekiel 16:12, ear-rings; and כּוּמז, gold balls (Exodus 35:22). They amounted in all to 16,750 shekels; and the men of war had received their own booty in addition to this. This gift, presented on the part of the officers, was brought into the tabernacle "as a memorial of the children of Israel before Jehovah" (cf. Exodus 30:16); that is to say, it was placed in the treasury of the sanctuary.
The fact that the Israelites did not lose a single man in the battle, is certainly a striking proof of the protection of God; but it is not so marvellous as to furnish any good ground for calling in question the correctness of the narrative.
(Note: Rosenmller has cited an example from Tacitus (Ann. xiii. 39), of the Romans having slaughtered all the foe without losing a single man on the capture of a Parthian castle; and another from Strabo (xvi. 1128), of a battle in which 1000 Arabs were slain, and only 2 Romans. And Hvernick mentions a similar account from the life of Saladin in his Introduction (i. 2, p. 452).)
The Midianites were a nomad tribe, who lived by rearing flocks and herds, and therefore were not a warlike people. Moreover, they were probably attacked quite unawares, and being unprepared, were completely routed and cut down without quarter. The quantity of booty brought home is also not so great as to appear incredible. Judging from the 32,000 females who had never lain with a man, the tribes governed by the five kings may have numbered about 130,000 or 150,000, and therefore not have contained much more than 35,000 fighting men, who might easily have been surprised by 12,000 brave warriors, and entirely destroyed. And again, there is nothing in the statement that 675,000 sheep and goats, 72,000 oxen, and 61,000 asses were taken as booty from these tribes, to astonish any one who has formed correct notions of the wealth of nomad tribes in flocks and herds. The only thing that could appear surprising is, that there are no camels mentioned.
But it is questionable, in the first place, whether the Midianites were in the habit of rearing camels; and, in the second place, if they did possess them, it is still questionable whether the Israelitish army took them away, and did not rather put to death all that they found, as being of no value to the Israelites in their existing circumstances. Lastly, the quantity of jewellery seized as booty is quite in harmony with the well-known love of nomads, and even of barbarous tribes, for ornaments of this kind; and the peculiar liking of the Midianites for such things is confirmed by the account in Judges 8:26, according to which Gideon took as much as 1700 shekels in weight of golden rings from the Midianites alone, beside ornaments of other kinds. If we take the golden shekel at 10 thalers (30 shillings), the value of the ornaments taken by the officers under Moses would be about 167,500 thalers (L.25,125). It is quite possible that the kings and other chiefs, together with their wives, may have possessed as much as this.
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