Numbers 32:38
And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded.
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Numbers 32:38. Their names being changed — Conquerors of places have been wont to change their names. But as the Israelites were forbidden to mention the names of other gods, and as these places, it seems had their names from the false gods worshipped in them, (which was unquestionably the case with Nebo and Baal-meon,) the Israelites might judge it proper to change the names of these places, in order to abolish all footsteps of idolatry.

32:28-42 Concerning the settlement of these tribes, observe, that they built the cities, that is, repaired them. They changed the names of them; probably they were idolatrous, therefore they should be forgotten. A spirit of selfishness, of seeking our own, not the things of Christ, when each one ought to assist others, is as dangerous as it is common. It is impossible to be sincere in the faith, sensible of the goodness of God, constrained by the love of Christ, sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost, and yet be indifferent to the progress of religion, and the spiritual success of others, through love of ease, or fear of conflict. Let then your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.The Reubenites established themselves more compactly than the Gadites. Elcalch (el-'Al) a mile to the northeast; Nebo (Nebbeh) probably three miles to the southwest; Baal-meon (Main) nearly two miles to the south; Kirjathaim (Kureiyat?): and Shibmah, more properly Sibmah, famous at a later period for its vines (compare Isaiah 16:8), four miles east of Heshbon; all clustered round the old Amorite Capital. The Reubenites probably retained at the partition all these cities with the exception of Heshbon, which, passing to the Levites, were thenceforth reckoned as within the tribe of Gad.

Neither the Reubenites nor the Gadites were "builders" in the sense of founders of the cities of which they thus took possession. They probably fortified them, for the first time or afresh, so as to render them places of safety for their families during the campaigns on the other side of the Jordan; and provided them with all conveniences for their flocks and herds.

38. (their names being changed)—either because it was the general custom of conquerors to do so; or, rather, because from the prohibition to mention the names of other gods (Ex 23:13), as Nebo and Baal were, it was expedient on the first settlement of the Israelites to obliterate all remembrance of those idols. (See Jos 13:17-20). Nebo; of which city see Deu 34:1 Jeremiah 48:1.

Their names being changed; either because conquerors of places use to do so; or because the names of other gods (which Nebo and Baal-meon unquestionably were) were not to be mentioned, Exodus 23:13, especially at the first settling of the Israelites there, that the very remembrance of the idols might be blotted out, and so the temptation to idolatry removed, though afterwards, when that danger was over, they were called by their old names again, Joshua 13:17,20.

And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,).... For Nebo was the name of an idol, after which perhaps the city was called: Baalmeon signifies "Baal's habitation", and where it is highly probable was a temple of his; and the children of Reuben, not liking to retain such idolatrous names, gave them others, but what they were it is not said; and certain it is, that when these places came into the hands of the Moabites, their ancient names were restored to them, as appears from Isaiah 15:2.

and Shibmah; the same with Shebam, Numbers 32:3, and gave other names unto the cities which they built; but they are neither known, nor did they always continue, as has been observed.

And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded.
38. their names being changed] The parenthesis is strange, for the change of names by the Manassites is related immediately afterwards. Some think that it is a marginal note to the reader that the names are to be changed and read otherwise than they are written in the text. The words refer to Nebo and Baal-meon. Both Nebo and Baal suggested pagan worship, and the latter was frequently altered, e.g. Ish-bosheth, Mephi-bosheth, El-yada, for Ish-baal, Merib-baal, Baal-yada.

Verse 38. - Baalomeon. Called Been in verse 3, Beth-meon in Jeremiah 48:23, Beth-Baal-meon in Joshua 13:17. Their names being changed. מוּסַבֹּת שֵׁם, "with change of name," dependent on the verb "built." The Septuagint has περικεκυκλωμένας (Symmachus, περιτετευχισμένας), apparently reading שׁוּר for שֵׁם, but without authority. It is possible that the Been of verse 3 may be an instance of this attempt to change names, many of which were connected with idolatry. The attempt failed, but both the attempt itself and its failure were very characteristic of the partial and feeble hold which Israel had on this territory. Gave other names to the cities which they builded. Literally, "they called by names the names of the towns;" a round-about expression correctly paraphrased by the A.V. Numbers 32:38The 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 H׬sban (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 Rosenm׬ller 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.))

Shibmah (Numbers 32:3, Shebam), which was only 500 paces from Heshbon, according to Jerome (on Isaiah 14:8), has apparently disappeared, without leaving a trace behind.

(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.

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