Numbers 32 – A Potentially Disastrous Situation

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

Having conquered Sihon and Og on the east side of the Jordan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad declared their desire to settle there as it was good for their livestock. They gathered Israel’s leadership and informed them of their desires and intent.

Moses immediately recoiled at the idea. He told them that by not going over the Jordan with their brethren to help conquer Canaan, Israel’s hearts would be discouraged, just like at Kadesh Barnea 40 years earlier. Because that generation did not wholly follow the Lord, his anger was aroused and they perished. This current situation seemed to be a sad repetition with the same sad result.

Happily, Gad and Reuben said that was not their intent. They would prepare places for their children and livestock and then cross the Jordan and fight alongside their brethren until each received their inheritance, doing exactly as Moses commanded.

Moses agreed with this, but since he would die before Israel crossed the Jordan he informed Joshua, Eliezer, and Israel’s elders of this, adding that if Reuben and Gad did not cross over they would instead be settled in Canaan. Moses warned Reuben and Gad that if they did not do as they said, “be sure your sin will find you out” (v. 23).

Reuben and Gad then moved in to the territories formerly belonging to Sihon and Og, fortifying and building as needed. Half the tribe of Manasseh joined them, receiving territory north of Reuben and Gad. This area had not yet been conquered, but the Amorites there were swiftly defeated.

Note:

  1. The difference between judgment and blessing is faith and obedience. At Kadesh-Barnea the people rebelled and sought to kill Moses, Joshua, and Caleb (14:10) and all those rebels died. Here Reuben and Gad willingly submitted and committed themselves to obey (32:25).
  2. Sound wisdom and direction for the present and future comes from God’s revealed will. People and circumstances will be different, but the cause of the Lord and how he says it should be accomplished do not.
  3. Wisdom learns from the past for faithful obedience in the present.
  4. God’s people must be unified to do God’s work in God’s way. When there is division because of disobedience and doubt there will be discouragement and defeat.
  5. It is entirely right to warn of the dangers of deception and the Lord’s sure judgment.
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