Numbers 32-34

I am sometimes amazed at how people think of their own needs before others.  When I was growing up my parents would say, “Oh, look-after-yourself-time, is it?”  We so quickly default to making sure our own needs are met without being motivated to care for others.  In today’s passage two tribes almost settle on the east side of the Jordan and leave their fellow Israelites to conquer the Promised Land alone.  Moses points out how selfish this is.  we would expect the Gadites and Reubenits to throw a tantrum and be smitten by God.  However, they are mature enough to have realised their ways.  The 12 tribes will cross the Jordan together.  Is there an area where you have relaxed because you have got what you wanted while others are still struggling?

Numbers 32-34

 1 The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. 2 So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon- 4 the land the LORD subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. 5 If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”

 6 Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, “Shall your countrymen go to war while you sit here? 7 Why do you discourage the Israelites from going over into the land the LORD has given them? 8 This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to look over the land. 9 After they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and viewed the land, they discouraged the Israelites from entering the land the LORD had given them. 10 The LORD’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath: 11 ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob- 12 not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the LORD wholeheartedly.’ 13 The LORD’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.

 14 “And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the LORD even more angry with Israel. 15 If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the desert, and you will be the cause of their destruction.”

 16 Then they came up to him and said, “We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children. 17 But we are ready to arm ourselves and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has received his inheritance. 19 We will not receive any inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan, because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan.”

 20 Then Moses said to them, “If you will do this—if you will arm yourselves before the LORD for battle, 21 and if all of you will go armed over the Jordan before the LORD until he has driven his enemies out before him- 22 then when the land is subdued before the LORD, you may return and be free from your obligation to the LORD and to Israel. And this land will be your possession before the LORD.

 23 “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. 24 Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.”

 25 The Gadites and Reubenites said to Moses, “We your servants will do as our lord commands. 26 Our children and wives, our flocks and herds will remain here in the cities of Gilead. 27 But your servants, every man armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the LORD, just as our lord says.”

 28 Then Moses gave orders about them to Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun and to the family heads of the Israelite tribes. 29 He said to them, “If the Gadites and Reubenites, every man armed for battle, cross over the Jordan with you before the LORD, then when the land is subdued before you, give them the land of Gilead as their possession. 30 But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must accept their possession with you in Canaan.”

 31 The Gadites and Reubenites answered, “Your servants will do what the LORD has said. 32 We will cross over before the LORD into Canaan armed, but the property we inherit will be on this side of the Jordan.”

 33 Then Moses gave to the Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan—the whole land with its cities and the territory around them.

 34 The Gadites built up Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 35 Atroth Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, 36 Beth Nimrah and Beth Haran as fortified cities, and built pens for their flocks. 37 And the Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh and Kiriathaim, 38 as well as Nebo and Baal Meon (these names were changed) and Sibmah. They gave names to the cities they rebuilt.

 39 The descendants of Makir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, captured it and drove out the Amorites who were there. 40 So Moses gave Gilead to the Makirites, the descendants of Manasseh, and they settled there. 41 Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, captured their settlements and called them Havvoth Jair. [a] 42 And Nobah captured Kenath and its surrounding settlements and called it Nobah after himself.

 1 Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 At the LORD’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:

 3 The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out boldly in full view of all the Egyptians, 4 who were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them; for the LORD had brought judgment on their gods.

 5 The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Succoth.

 6 They left Succoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.

 7 They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol.

 8 They left Pi Hahiroth [b] and passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had traveled for three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah.

 9 They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there.

 10 They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea. [c]

 11 They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin.

 12 They left the Desert of Sin and camped at Dophkah.

 13 They left Dophkah and camped at Alush.

 14 They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.

 15 They left Rephidim and camped in the Desert of Sinai.

 16 They left the Desert of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah.

 17 They left Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth.

 18 They left Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.

 19 They left Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez.

 20 They left Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah.

 21 They left Libnah and camped at Rissah.

 22 They left Rissah and camped at Kehelathah.

 23 They left Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher.

 24 They left Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah.

 25 They left Haradah and camped at Makheloth.

 26 They left Makheloth and camped at Tahath.

 27 They left Tahath and camped at Terah.

 28 They left Terah and camped at Mithcah.

 29 They left Mithcah and camped at Hashmonah.

 30 They left Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.

 31 They left Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan.

 32 They left Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Haggidgad.

 33 They left Hor Haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah.

 34 They left Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.

 35 They left Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber.

 36 They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.

 37 They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom. 38 At the LORD’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. 39 Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.

 40 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming.

 41 They left Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.

 42 They left Zalmonah and camped at Punon.

 43 They left Punon and camped at Oboth.

 44 They left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, on the border of Moab.

 45 They left Iyim [d] and camped at Dibon Gad.

 46 They left Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim.

 47 They left Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, near Nebo.

 48 They left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. [e] 49 There on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.

 50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the LORD said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

 55 ” ‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’ “

Numbers 34

 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance will have these boundaries:

 3 ” ‘Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. On the east, your southern boundary will start from the end of the Salt Sea, [f] 4 cross south of Scorpion [g] Pass, continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, 5 where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Sea. [h]

 6 ” ‘Your western boundary will be the coast of the Great Sea. This will be your boundary on the west.

 7 ” ‘For your northern boundary, run a line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor 8 and from Mount Hor to Lebo [i] Hamath. Then the boundary will go to Zedad, 9 continue to Ziphron and end at Hazar Enan. This will be your boundary on the north.

 10 ” ‘For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. 11 The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Kinnereth. [j] 12 Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Salt Sea.
      ” ‘This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.’ “

 13 Moses commanded the Israelites: “Assign this land by lot as an inheritance. The LORD has ordered that it be given to the nine and a half tribes, 14 because the families of the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance. 15 These two and a half tribes have received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan of Jericho, [k] toward the sunrise.”

 16 The LORD said to Moses, 17 “These are the names of the men who are to assign the land for you as an inheritance: Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun. 18 And appoint one leader from each tribe to help assign the land. 19 These are their names:
       Caleb son of Jephunneh,
       from the tribe of Judah;

 20 Shemuel son of Ammihud,
       from the tribe of Simeon;

 21 Elidad son of Kislon,
       from the tribe of Benjamin;

 22 Bukki son of Jogli,
       the leader from the tribe of Dan;

 23 Hanniel son of Ephod,
       the leader from the tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph;

 24 Kemuel son of Shiphtan,
       the leader from the tribe of Ephraim son of Joseph;

 25 Elizaphan son of Parnach,
       the leader from the tribe of Zebulun;

 26 Paltiel son of Azzan,
       the leader from the tribe of Issachar;

 27 Ahihud son of Shelomi,
       the leader from the tribe of Asher;

 28 Pedahel son of Ammihud,
       the leader from the tribe of Naphtali.”

 29 These are the men the LORD commanded to assign the inheritance to the Israelites in the land of Canaan.


  1. Why did Reuben and Gad want to stay East of the Jordan?
  2. Whose descendants drove out the Amorites?
  3. What does the list of place names retell?
  4. Why was it wrong for Reuben and Gad not to help their fellow Israelites?
  5. How do people renege on their responsibilities when they have what they want?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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