Matthew Poole's 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 sue for their inheritance on that side Jordan, as being fit for cattle, Numbers 32:1-5. Moses reproves them as discouraging the people, and herein following their fathers’ ill example, Numbers 32:6-15. They promise to leave their children and cattle there, and go armed before their brethren till Canaan should be subdued, Numbers 32:16-19; on which condition they, together with the half-tribe of Manasseh, obtain their desire, Numbers 32:20-42.
Jazer; a city and country taken from the Amorites, Numbers 21:32. Gilead; a mountainous country, famous for pasturage, Jeremiah 1:19 Micah 7:14.
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,No text from Poole on this verse.
Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon,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.
Even the country which the LORD smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle:Which the Lord smote before the congregation, and gave to them for a possession, in the same manner as he will give the land of Canaan.
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.To wit, to give us our possession there, but let this land on this side Jordan be our whole possession.
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?In case and peace, whilst your brethren are engaged in a bloody war. Their words were ambiguous, and Moses thought this to be an act of unbelief and sloth and self-love and policy.
And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them?No text from Poole on this verse.
Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadeshbarnea to see the land.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.That they should not attempt to go, but rather return to Egypt. Numbers 14:4
And the LORD'S anger was kindled the same time, and he sware, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
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:No text from Poole on this verse.
Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the LORD.The Kenezite; so called from Kenaz, his grandfather, or one of his eminent ancestors, Joshua 15:17 1 Chronicles 4:13-15.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Succeeding your fathers, as in their places and estates, so also in their sins.
For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.Who being moved by your counsel and example, will refuse to go over Jordan, and to possess the land of Canaan.
And they came near unto him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones:No text from Poole on this verse.
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 ourselves; either all, or as many of us as shall be thought necessary, leaving only so many as may be necessary to provide for the sustenance and defence of our wives and children here. See Joshua 4:12,13.
The inhabitants of the land; the Moabites and Edomites, or other bordering people.
We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war,Before the Lord; either,
1. Sincerely and heartily, as in God’s presence. Or rather,
2. Before the ark, which was the token of God’s presence. He alludes either to the order of the tribes in their march, whereby Reuben and Gad marched next and immediately before the ark, as appears from Numbers 2:10,14,16,17; or to the manner of their passage over Jordan, wherein the ark went first into Jordan, and stood there whilst all the tribes marched over Jordan by and before it, Jos 3 Jos 5, and these amongst the rest, as is expressly noted in these very words, that they passed over before the Lord, Joshua 4:13.
And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him,No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Before the Lord, i.e. by his presence, and gracious and powerful assistance.
But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.i.e. The punishment of your sin; as that word is very oft used.
Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth.Which you have uttered and promised to do. See this or the like phrase Numbers 20:2 Matthew 15:8.
And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth.No text from Poole on this verse.
Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gilead:Largely so called, as that word is oft used, for that whole country beyond Jordan, as in other places it is taken more strictly for a part of it, as here below, Numbers 32:39,40, and elsewhere.
But thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war, before the LORD to battle, as my lord saith.No text from Poole on this verse.
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:No text from Poole on this verse.
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:No text from Poole on this verse.
But if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.They shall forfeit and lose their possessions in Gilead, and shall be constrained to go over Jordan, and to seek possessions there among their brethren.
And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, As the LORD hath said unto thy servants, so will we do.As the Lord hath said; either at this time by thy mouth; or formerly, where he commandeth us as well as our brethren to go into Canaan and possess it.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Half the tribe of Manasseh are here added to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, either because upon the good success of the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, they were encouraged to make the same request for themselves, as having much cattle as well as they; or because upon further consideration it was found that this portion of land was more than sufficient for those two tribes; and it was given by Moses to these rather than to any other, because they fought against the Amorites with great courage and success, here Numbers 32:39 Joshua 17:1.
And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer,i.e. Repaired and fortified, as that word is oft used, as 1 Kings 12:25 2 Kings 14:22 2 Chronicles 8:1 11:5 26:2 Daniel 4:30; for they neither had need nor leisure as yet to do more, the old cities not being burnt and ruined, as divers in Canaan were.
And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah,No text from Poole on this verse.
And Bethnimrah, and Bethharan, fenced cities: and folds for sheep.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim,No text from Poole on this verse.
And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded.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 the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it.Took it, i.e. part of it; or Gilead is here taken more strictly. See Poole on "Numbers 32:29"; Genesis 31:21 Deu 3:12,13.
And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein.Unto Machir, i.e. not to Machir himself, who doubtless was long since dead; see Genesis 1:23; but the family or posterity of Machir, which are called by their father’s name; as the names of Abraham, Acts 7:16; of Isaac, Amos 7:9; of Jacob or Israel frequently; of Judah and Simeon, Judges 1:3; of David, 1 Kings 12:16; are manifestly put for their posterity.
And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havothjair.Jair is called here
the son of Manasseh, partly because he was so by his mother, 1 Chronicles 2:21,22; and partly because he joined himself with the Manassites in this expedition, and settled himself among them.
And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name.Nobah, who though not elsewhere named, was doubtless an eminent person of the tribe of Manasseh.