Thursday, November 5, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 32

Chapter 32
Summary:Both tribes of Reuben and Gad had a vast amount of cattle, and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead they noticed how well suited the place was for their cattle. They approached Moses, Eleazar, and the leaders of the congregation to speak with them about the land.

They pointed out that the countries that God had smote along the way to the "promised land" - the lands of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Shebam, Nebo, and Beon - were perfect for raising cattle. The servants of the tribes of Reuben and Gad asked for permission - if they were in good graces - to instead of crossing the Jordan with the rest of the Israelites and claim an inheritance in the "promised land", that they instead be able to settle here instead.

Moses answered them by inferring that they were simply trying to get out of their military duties, and that if they were to settle outside of the "promised land", it would send off a bad message to the rest of the Israelites and discourage them as what happened when Moses sent forth the spies. Moses furthered that when the spies had scouted out the valley of Eschol, they had discouraged "the heart of the people of Israel", that they were unwilling to go into the "promised land" that God had "given" them.

Moses continues the story, explaining that God's anger was kindled by the incident and swore that no man twenty years or older would be allowed to see the land sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because those people did not wholly follow God - with the exception of Caleb (son of Jephunneh the Kenezite) and Joshua (the son of Nun), because they did wholly follow God. Fueled with anger, God had made the Israelites wander in the wilderness for forty years until that generation had died off - because they had "done evil" in the eyes of God.

Moses then told the tribes of Reuben and Gad, that here they were now being "sinful" and doing the same thing that their forefathers had done. He warned them that if they turned away from God, then God will yet again leave them out in the wilderness, which would destroy the people of Israel.

The tribes then assured Moses that although they would have to build sheepfold for their cattle and cities for their young in the meantime - to protect them from the nearby inhabitants, that they would be willing to arm themselves and march ahead of the people of Israel until they safely reached the "promised land". They promised Moses that they would not return to their homes here until the people of Israel have occuppied the "promised land".

Moses responded that if they armed themselves, went to war, and drive out the enemies of Israel, then they will be guiltless before God and before the people of Israel, and then the land will be theirs. However, if they break their promise then they shall have "sinned" against God and that their "sin" will be upon them. He tells the tribes to go ahead and build their walled cities for their young, and folds for their sheep, and do as they had promised.

The tribes of Gad and Reuben assured Moses that they would do as he commanded, stating that their wives, children, flocks, and cattle would stay behind in the cities of Gilead, but that every man able to go to war will battle for God.

Moses then said to Eleazar, Joshua, and the leaders of the tribes of Israel that if the people of Gad and Reuben cross the Jordan River armed to do battle, then when the "promised land" is conquered, Gilead must be given to the tribes of Gad and Reuben as a possession. Moses continues, stating that if they refuse to cross the Jordan River to battle, then they will have to accept land amongst the rest of the Israelites in Canaan.

Again the tribes of Gad and Reuben agreed saying that they would do as God commands them, fighting in Canaan for God as so that the lands on the other side of the Jordan River would be theirs.

Moses gave the kingdom of Sihon (king of the Ammorites) and the kingdom of Og (king of Bashan) - and all the land and cities contained within - to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh.

The people of Gad built the following cities: Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, Atroth, Shophan, Jaazer, Jogbehah, Bethnimrah, and Bethharan. They were all fortified cities with sheepfolds.

The people of Reuben built the following cities: Heshbon, Elealah, Kirjathaim, Nebo (the name being changed), Baalmeon (the name also being changed), and Shibmah. They also gave other names to the cities they rebuilt.

The clan of Machir (son of Manasseh) from the tribe of Manasseh went to Gilead, took the land, and drove out the Amorites who were residing there. Moses gave Gilead to the clan of Machir, and they lived there.

Another clan of Manasseh, Jair (another son of Manasseh) went and took the small towns surrounding Gilead and renamed the area Havothjair.

A man named Nobah went and took Kenath, and the surrounding villages, and named it Nobah, after himself.
Thoughts:Both the tribes of Reuben and Gad noticed that the ruins of the lands of Jazer and Gilead seemed extremely well suited for raising cattle. So they approached Moses and Eleazar asking if they could forfeit their inheritance in the "promised land" and instead settle in these lands.

Moses however, accuses them of trying to skirt out of their military duty, and says that if they were to settle outside of the "promised land", that this would send off a bad message to the rest of the Israelites. He claims that
this would discourage the others from wanting to conquer the "promised land" much in the same way as what happened when the spies Moses sent out had discouraged the people with their reports of giants.

Moses recounts the whole story over again about how the people's reluctance to conquer the "promised land" angered God so much that he made them all wander around in the desert for forty years until the entire generation died off (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, and of course Moses and Aaron's priestly sons). Moses accuses the tribes of doing the same thing that the spies had done forty years ago, and tells the tribes of Gad and Reuben that if God got angry with the Israelites again for being reluctant to conquer the "promised land", that it would surely be the end of the Israelites.

Basically what Moses is saying is that the people of Israel are highly gullible, easily manipulated, and easily led astray. Honestly, when we look at this rationally, this would make sense in regards to indoctrinating people with religion.

Moses then threatens the tribes of Reuben and Gad by telling them if they don't conquer the "promised land" as God had ordered, then that God would simply wipe out the people of Israel.

The problem I have with this whole "promised land" concept is that God "promised" this land to Abraham and his descendants hundreds of years prior; since then he has done absolutely nothing to prevent other people from inhabiting this land; and now is encouraging the Israelites to go around violently killing other civilizations and keeping their virgin daughters in order to claim their "promised land".

Think of it this way - My family built a house 400 years ago, and they told one of your ancestors that this house will belong to your family someday - not in your ancestor's lifetime, but that his descendants will own this house in due time. Years go by and squatters inhabit the house, and they manage to turn the run down house into a livable home. They paint the house, mow the yard, tend the garden, and maintain this house throughout their generations over the next 400 years. Then the day comes where I finally decide that you can have the house, but I'm going to make you get the squatters out of there yourself. I haven't told the squatters to leave, given them any formal warning, and I'm certainly not going to kick them out myself. So instead, I tell you that not only do you have to kick these people out yourself, but that you are not to leave a single person in the house alive - except for the family's daughter, providing she's a virgin, who you can then "keep for yourself". How anyone can justify this absurd story as moral, just, or ethical is beyond me.

Anyways, the tribes of Reuben and Gad assure Moses that they had no intention of shirking their military duties. They tell Moses, that if they can keep this land in Gilead, that as soon as they finish building some folds for their cattle and fortified cities for their wives and children (so that they could defend themselves from invaders), then they would actually arm themselves and lead the charge into the "promised land" themselves. They further promised Moses that they would not return to their homes in Gilead until the Israelites had finally occupied the "promised land".

Moses then accepts that if they follow through with their military promise, then they will be "guiltless" before God and the rest of the Israelites, and Moses then gives them permission to build their sheep folds and walled cities. (Moses also points out that if they fail, then they will be branded as "sinners".)

The tribes agree to the terms but answer curiously, stating that "they will do as God commands them" - which seems a bit backwards considering that the entire idea was their suggestion, and not God's.

Moses then gives the former kingdoms of Og and Sihon to the tribes of Gad and Reueben, as well as to the tribe of Manasseh - presumably because the clan of Machir drove out the Amorites from Gilead, and the clan of Jair conquered the towns surrounding Gilead (both clans hailed from the tribe of Manasseh).

The people of Gad built the cities of Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, Atroth, Shophan, Jaazer, Jogbehah, Bethnimrah, and Bethharan; while the people of Reuben built the cities of Heshbon, Elealah, Kirjathaim, Nebo , Baalmeon , and Shibmah. They fortified these cities and built sheepfolds in them, and changed the names of some of the cities from their original names.

The chapter ends by stating that a man named Nobah conquered the city of Kenath (and the surrounding villages) and named it after himself.

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