Inheritance of the Reubenites. B. C. 1452.
28 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: 29 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: 30 But if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan. 31And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, As the LORD hath said unto thy servants, so will we do. 32We 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. 33And 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. 34And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer, 35 And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah, 36 And Beth-nimrah, and Beth-haran, fenced cities: and folds for sheep. 37 And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim, 38 And Nebo, and Baal-meon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded. 39 And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it. 40 And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh and he dwelt therein. 41And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havoth-jair. 42And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name.
Here, 1. Moses settles this matter with Eleazar, and with Joshua who was to be his successor, knowing that he himself must not live to see it perfected, Numbers 32:28-30. He gives them an estate upon condition, leaving it to Joshua, if they fulfilled the condition, to declare the estate absolute: "If they will not go over with you," he does not say "you shall give them no inheritance at all," but "you shall not give them this inheritance which they covet. If their militia will not come over with you, compel the whole tribes to come over, and let them take their lot with their brethren, and fare as they fare they shall have possessions in Canaan, and let them not expect that the lot will favour them." Hereupon they repeat their promise to adhere to their brethren, Numbers 32:31,32. 2. Moses settles them in the land they desired. He gave it to them for a possession, Numbers 32:33. Here is the first mention of the half tribe of Manasseh coming in with them for a share probably they had not joined with them in the petition, but, the land when it came to be apportioned proving to be too much for them, this half tribe had a lot among them, perhaps at their request, or by divine direction, or because they had signalized themselves in the conquest of this country: for the children of Machir, a stout and warlike family, had taken Gilead and dispossessed the Amorites, Numbers 32:39. "Let them win it and wear it, get it and take it." And, they being celebrated for their courage and bravery, it was for the common safety to put them in this frontier-country. Concerning the settlement of these tribes observe, (1.) They built the cities, that is, repaired them, because either they had been damaged by the war or the Amorites had suffered them to go to decay. (2.) They changed the names of them (Numbers 32:38), either to show their authority, that the change of the names might signify the change of their owners, or because their names were idolatrous, and carried in them a respect to the dunghill-deities that were there worshipped. Nebo and Baal were names of their gods, which they were forbidden to make mention of (Exodus 23:13), and which, by changing the names of these cities, they endeavoured to bury in oblivion and God promises to take away the names of Baalim out of the mouths of his people, Hosea 2:17.
Lastly, It is observable that, as these tribes were now first placed before the other tribes, so, long afterwards, they were displaced before the other tribes. We find that they were carried captive into Assyria some years before the other tribes, 2 Kings 15:29. Such a proportion does Providence sometimes observe in balancing prosperity and adversity he sets the one over-against the other.