Request of Gad and Reuben. 1Now the Reubenites and Gadites had a very large number of livestock. Noticing that the land of Jazer and of Gilead* was a place suited to livestock, 2the Gadites and Reubenites came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community and said, 3* “The region of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Baal-meon— 4the land which the LORD has laid low before the community of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” 5They continued, “If we find favor with you, let this land be given to your servants as their possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”
Moses’ Rebuke. 6But Moses answered the Gadites and Reubenites: “Are your kindred, then, to go to war, while you remain here? 7Why do you wish to discourage the Israelites from crossing to the land the LORD has given them? 8That is just what your ancestors did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to reconnoiter the land.a 9They went up to the Wadi Eshcol and reconnoitered the land, then so discouraged the Israelites that they would not enter the land the LORD had given them. 10b At that time the anger of the LORD flared up, and he swore: 11None of the men twenty years old or more who have come up from Egypt will see the land I promised under oath to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, because they have not followed me unreservedly— 12c except the Kenizzite* Caleb, son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua, son of Nun, since they have followed the LORD unreservedly. 13So the anger of the LORD flared up against the Israelites and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD had disappeared. 14And now here you are, offspring of sinful stock, rising up in your ancestors’ place to add still more to the LORD’s blazing anger against the Israelites. 15If you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will bring about the ruin of this entire people.”
Counter Proposal. 16But they approached him and said: “We will only build sheepfolds here for our flocks and towns for our families; 17but we ourselves will march as troops in the vanguard before the Israelites,d until we have led them to their destination. Meanwhile our families will remain in the fortified towns because of the land’s inhabitants. 18We will not return to our homes until all the Israelites have taken possession of their heritage. 19e But we will not claim any heritage with them across the Jordan and beyond, because we have received a heritage for ourselves on the eastern side of the Jordan.”
Agreement Reached. 20* Moses said to them in reply: “If you do this—if you march as troops before the LORD into battle 21and cross the Jordan in full force before the LORD until he has driven his enemies out of his way 22and the land is subdued before the LORD, then you may return here, free from every obligation to the LORD and to Israel, and this land will be your possession before the LORD.f 23But if you do not do this, you will have sinned against the LORD, and you can be sure that the consequences of your sin will overtake you. 24Build the towns, then, for your families, and the folds for your flocks, but fulfill what you have promised.”
25The Gadites and Reubenites answered Moses, “Your servants will do as my lord commands. 26g While our wives and children, our livestock and other animals remain there in the towns of Gilead, 27all your servants will go across as armed troops before the LORD to battle, just as my lord says.”
28So Moses gave this command in their regard to Eleazar the priest, to Joshua, son of Nun, and to the heads of the ancestral houses of the Israelite tribes: 29He said to them, “If all the Gadites and Reubenites cross the Jordan with you in full force before the LORD into battle, the land will be subdued before you, and you will give them Gilead as a possession. 30But if they will not go across in force with you before the LORD, you will bring their wives and children and livestock across before you into Canaan, and they will possess a holding among you in the land of Canaan.”
31To this the Gadites and Reubenites replied, “We will do what the LORD has ordered your servants. 32We ourselves will go across in force before the LORD into the land of Canaan, but we will retain our hereditary property on this side of the Jordan.”* 33So Moses gave them—*the Gadites and Reubenites, as well as half the tribe of Manasseh, son of Joseph—the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan, the land with its towns, and the districts of the surrounding towns.h
34The Gadites rebuilt the cities of Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 35Atroth-shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, 36Beth-nimrah and Beth-haran—fortified cities—and sheepfolds. 37The Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, 38Nebo, Baal-meon (names to be changed!),* and Sibmah. These towns, which they rebuilt, they called by their old names.
Other Conquests. 39The descendants of Machir, son of Manasseh, went to Gilead and captured it, dispossessing the Amorites who were there. 40(Moses gave Gilead to Machir,i son of Manasseh, and he settled there.) 41Jair,j a descendant of Manasseh, went and captured their tent villages, and called them Havvoth-jair.* 42Nobah went and captured Kenath with its dependencies and called it Nobah after his own name.
* [32:1] Gilead: the name of the western part of the plateau east of the Jordan, sometimes signifying the whole region from the Yarmuk to the Jordan, sometimes only the northern part of this region, and sometimes, as here, only its southern part. Jazer lay to the east of southern Gilead.
* [32:3] The places named in this verse, as well as the additional ones given in vv. 34–38, were all in the former kingdom of Sihon, that is, in the region between the Jabbok and the Arnon. Cf. 21:23–24; Jos 13:19–21, 24–27.
* [32:12] Kenizzite: a member of the clan of Kenaz, which, according to Gn 36:11, 15, 42, was Edomite; but, according to Nm 13:6; 34:19, Caleb belonged to the tribe of Judah; cf. also Jos 14:6, 14.
* [32:20–22] Since the ark of the Lord was carried into battle with the Israelite army, the vanguard was said to march before the Lord (see Jos 6:6–9).
* [32:32] This side of the Jordan: lit., “beyond the Jordan”; the perspective in Hebrew is from the west bank looking toward the east bank where the Reubenites and Gadites finally settled.
* [32:33] The preceding is concerned solely with the two tribes of Gad and Reuben and with the land of the former kingdom of Sihon; it seems probable that the sudden reference here to the half-tribe of Manasseh and to their territory in Bashan, the former kingdom of Og, is a later addition to the text.
* [32:38] The phrase in parentheses is probably a gloss, warning the reader perhaps to substitute some other word for Nebo and Baal, the names of foreign deities mentioned in the last two city names. They called by their old names: lit., “they called by their names”; however, some understand the current Hebrew text to mean, “they called by new names,” or “their own names.”
* [32:41] Havvoth-jair: that is, “villages of Jair.”
a. [32:8–9] Nm 13:31–33; Dt 1:22.
h. [32:33] Dt 3:12; 29:7; Jos 12:6; 13:8.