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  • William T. Howe Ph.D.

February 24, 2024

Read to Read …Again

 

Daily Reading:  Numbers 31-32

 

Numbers 32:5

 Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.

 

So it starts. That so simple a request would bring about historically bad results is alarming. As we read through the history of Israel and Judah more will be revealed as to the unintended results of the above request. For today just consider the request at face value.

 

Israel is on the east bank of the Jordan River; they are about to cross over into the long-awaited promise land. Initially two of the twelve tribes approach Moses with a request. Basically they wanted to stay on that east side of Jordan. They initially mentioned the reason why, which was for their herds. They had more livestock than all the rest of Israel and the land was good for them. That is what they said. But was it the real reason? Moses thought not.

 

Remember, Israel had no problem defeating the people, the Midianites. The two tribes that wanted to stay in that land were Reuben and Gad. Perhaps they felt that the battle against the Midianites was so easy that the rest of Israel would have no problem defeating the other “ites” they would encounter in the promise land. Perhaps they saw the land and only thought of their own selfish needs (grass and water for their flocks) similar to Lot choosing the well-watered plains of the Jordan years before. Perhaps they were just tired of it all and were ready to quit. These are guesses, but one thing we can know, when approaching Moses they mentioned nothing of the common good of Israel nor anything about their families (notice verses 1-4).

 

Moses went straight to the heart of the matter; Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? He goes on to say that their decision would discourage the nation, which is reminiscent of the discouragement the ten unfaithful spies caused forty plus years earlier (see verse 8). Then, the coup de grace, Moses also said unto them; And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers’ stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the LORD toward Israel. (verse 14) What a slap in the face!

 

These two tribes put livestock ahead of their families, their comfort before their country. They suffered from the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh (I John 2:16). Other dire issues would come from their wanting to live outside of the boundaries of promise land of God. For example, during the conquest of Sennacherib, King of Assyria they were the first tribes to be captured (ten years before the others) for they had no defense on their eastern borders.

 

But give credit where credit is due; they agreed with Moses’ rebuke, they did go to war on the west side of Jordan until all the other tribes received their inheritance, even staying another five to six years afterwards to settle the land. They displayed that rare trait of being rebuked; accepting it, learning from it, putting it aside, and did what was right. Or as right as it could be. May we do the same when suffering rebuke.

 

Dr. William T. Howe

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