Gad and Reuben Receive Land in the Transjordan: A Documentary Approach
Numbers 32 tells the story of the apportionment of the Transjordan to two of the twelve tribes, the Reubenites and the Gadites. The basic outline of this story is relatively straightforward: as the Israelites are getting ready to enter the land of Canaan, the leaders of the two tribes ask Moses if they can inhabit the land east of the Jordan River instead of Canaan itself.
When the Reubenites and Gadites ask Moses to grant them the Transjordanian land, their request has two parts, one immediate and one long-term. Their long-term request is to settle east of the Jordan River, rather than in Canaan with the other ten tribes. In the short-term, they want to leave their women, children, and livestock in the Transjordan to keep them safe while their men of fighting age help the rest of the Israelites conquer Canaan. Moses agrees.
Beyond this broadest summary of the story, however, the narrative coherence of the chapter begins to break down. There are contradictions within the story about crucial details of the agreement between Moses and the two tribes.
The methodological approach I am using is known as the neo-documentary hypothesis. It takes as its starting point the idea that a text is a literary unity, and only when the narrative breaks down is it necessary to begin hypothesizing the presence of multiple authors. Examples of narrative breakdown include when characters or the narrator act without knowledge of what they have said or done moments before, a sudden and unexplained change in the personality of a character, or inconsistency in the story’s timeline or in the presentation of space in the story world.
1. When and from Whom Did Reuben and Gad Receive Their Land?
After the tribes make their request, Moses tells them that they will only be given the land as their inheritance (אחזה) after they help the Israelites conquer Canaan. While they can leave their women, children, and livestock behind, they have no right to permanently settle in the land until after they help conquer Canaan. Moreover, Joshua will be the one to give them the land (32:28–30):
במדבר לב:כח וַיְצַו לָהֶם מֹשֶׁה אֵת אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְאֵת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן וְאֶת רָאשֵׁי אֲבוֹת הַמַּטּוֹת לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. לב:כטוַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֲלֵהֶם אִם יַעַבְרוּ בְנֵי גָד וּבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן אִתְּכֶם אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן כָּל חָלוּץ לַמִּלְחָמָה לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְנִכְבְּשָׁה הָאָרֶץ לִפְנֵיכֶם וּנְתַתֶּם לָהֶם אֶת אֶרֶץ הַגִּלְעָד לַאֲחֻזָּה. לב:ל וְאִם לֹא יַעַבְרוּ חֲלוּצִים אִתְּכֶם וְנֹאחֲזוּ בְתֹכְכֶם בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן.
Num 32:28 Moses then instructed Elazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the Israelite tribes, 32:29 and Moses said to them, “If the Gadites and the Reubenites cross over the Jordan with you, all of them equipped for battle before YHWH, and the land is subdued before you, then you will give them the land of Gilead as their inheritance. 32:30 But if they do not cross over equipped for war with you, then they will inherit with you in the land of Canaan.”
But then, only moments later in the story, after the Reubenites and Gadites enthusiastically agree to Moses’s conditions, Moses himself gives the Transjordanian land to the two tribes—and this happens before they ever set foot in Canaan (v. 33):
במדבר לב:לג וַיִּתֵּן לָהֶם מֹשֶׁה לִבְנֵי גָד וְלִבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן וְלַחֲצִי שֵׁבֶט מְנַשֶּׁה בֶן יוֹסֵף אֶת מַמְלֶכֶת סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִי וְאֶת מַמְלֶכֶת עוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן הָאָרֶץ לְעָרֶיהָ בִּגְבֻלֹת עָרֵי הָאָרֶץ סָבִיב
Num 32:33 Then Moses gave them—to the Gadites, the Reubenites, and to 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 land and its cities, along with the cities of the surrounding land.
What happened to Moses’s condition that the tribes help conquer Canaan before taking ownership of the Transjordan? Why does he give it to them now?
The question of when and by whom the land is given appears again in Joshua 22, which narrates the fulfillment of Moses’ command according to Num 32:28–30. Joshua summons the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh and tells the two and a half tribes that they have fulfilled their obligations, and that they may settle in the Transjordan as they had requested. He then gives the tribes their permanent inheritance (אחזה) in the Transjordan.This part of the story makes little sense if Moses has already granted them permanent possession of the land, as described in Num 32:33.
So which is it? Does Joshua follow Moses’ instructions and allow the Reubenites and Gadites to permanently settle in the Transjordan after Canaan is conquered? Or did Moses himself give it to them right away, based on their promise to help?
2. The Conquests of the Transjordan and the Resulting Landscape
In Num 32:33, Moses gave the two tribes “the land and its cities, and all the cities in the surrounding land” (הָאָרֶץ לְעָרֶיהָ בִּגְבֻלֹת עָרֵי הָאָרֶץ סָבִיב). Immediately after that, the narrator describes the Reubenites and Gadites building cities and towns in the Transjordan to house their women, children, and flocks (Num 32:34–38). Why would they need to build cities if the cities already exist?
The problem here can be traced back even further in the Pentateuch—what happened when the Israelites conquered the Transjordan? There are two different stories about the conquest of the Transjordan in Numbers, found in chapter 21 and chapter 31.
It is relatively common in the Pentateuch for sources to use different names to refer to the same geographical region. In this case both Midian (Num 31) and Amorite (Num 21) are terms used to describe the whole Transjordanian region.
Numbers 21: In Num 21, the Israelites conquered the kingdoms of Sihon and Og, killed the inhabitants of those cities, and then settled in the cities.
במדבר כא:כה וַיִּקַּח יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵת כָּל הֶעָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל עָרֵי הָאֱמֹרִי בְּחֶשְׁבּוֹן וּבְכָל בְּנֹתֶיהָ.
Num 21:25 Israel took all those towns. And Israel settled in all the towns of the Amorites, in Heshbon and all its dependencies.
The Israelite settlement in the Transjordan is repeated in v. 31, though without the explicit mention of cities:
במדבר כא:לא וַיֵּשֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ הָאֱמֹרִי.
Num 21:31 And Israel settled in the land of the Amorites.
By the time the two tribes approach Moses in Num 32, the Israelites have been living in the Transjordan. Thus, the two tribes are speaking about remaining in cities where the Israelites have already settled.
Yet this contradicts the implication of what the two tribes suggested to Moses just a few verses earlier:
במדבר לב:טז …גִּדְרֹת צֹאן נִבְנֶה לְמִקְנֵנוּ פֹּה וְעָרִים לְטַפֵּנוּ.
Num 32:16 …We will build here sheepfolds for our flocks and towns for our children.
Furthermore, after granting them permission to settle in the (pre-existing) cities, Moses then says:
במדבר לב:כד בְּנוּ לָכֶם עָרִים לְטַפְּכֶם וּגְדֵרֹת לְצֹנַאֲכֶם…
Num 32:24 Build towns for your children and folds for your sheep…
If they have been settled in the Transjordanian cities and towns already, why would they need to build cities now? The need to build cities assumes a landscape without cities.
Numbers 31: Another account of the conquest of the Transjordan appears in Numbers 31. In this account, the Israelites destroy all of the settled cities and towns of the Midianite inhabitants:
במדבר לא:י וְאֵת כָּל עָרֵיהֶם בְּמוֹשְׁבֹתָם וְאֵת כָּל טִירֹתָם שָׂרְפוּ בָּאֵשׁ.
Num 31:10 And they destroyed by fire all the towns in which they were settled, and all their fortified encampments.
When the Reubenites and Gadites ask to build sheepfolds and towns in v. 16, and then do so in Num 32:34–38, it is because no such structures exist in the Transjordan. Immediately prior to the events of Numbers 32, the Israelites destroyed the cities that stood in the Transjordan. Before the Reubenites and Gadites can leave their women, children, and flocks behind to go to war, they must rebuild.
A number of other contradictions and inconsistencies in Numbers 32 suggest this is a composite text which divides into an Elohistic and a Priestly strand (see further on). Careful attention to them helps disentangle the two separate strands present in this chapter.
A. Where are the Israelites during this episode?
Elohistic – Within the Transjordanian land being requested (32:1–2 and 20:31)
Priestly – The steppes of Moab, outside of the Transjordanian land being requested (see vv. 34–38 and 31:12).
B. Who initiates the promise?
Elohistic – The Reubenites and Gadites take it upon themselves, as part of their request, to offer to lead the Israelites into battle (vv. 17–18)
Priestly – The Reubenites and Gadites simply ask for the land. Moses has to impose the condition that they accompany the Israelites to war (vv. 6, 20–22).
C. What happens if the Reubenites and Gadites fail to help the Israelites conquer Canaan?
Elohistic – They will have committed a sin, and they will be subject to some form of divine punishment (v. 23).
Priestly – No sin is mentioned, and they will be forced to inherit land in Canaan alongside the Israelites, rather than in the Transjordan as they have requested (v. 30).
D. Where in the military formation do the Reubenites and Gadites march?
Elohistic– The Reubenites and Gadites are the vanguard, leading all of the Israelites into war (v. 17).
Priestly – The Reubenites and Gadites fight לפני י-הוה, before YHWH (v. 29), a direct reference to the military formation described in Num 2, where the Reubenites and Gadites are positioned just in front of the Levites who carry the Tabernacle and its accoutrements.
A Documentary Solution
The presence of these inconsistencies and contradictions has led centuries of scholars to argue that Num 32 is a composite text, the product of more than one author. In each of the issues I raised above, two different and opposing options are presented. In my view, separating these contradictory elements in the story allows for the identification of two parallel accounts of the apportionment of the Transjordan to the Reubenites and Gadites, each of which draws on narrative claims made by E and P elsewhere in the Pentateuch.
In the Elohistic story, the Israelites conquer the kingdom of Sihon and Og in the Transjordan, destroying only the inhabitants, but not the cities (Num 21: 31, 35). Shortly before the Israelites set out to conquer Canaan, the Reubenites and the Gadites approach Moses to ask if they can settle in the Transjordan, rather than receive an inheritance in Canaan alongside the other ten tribes. They promise to help with the conquest. Moses agrees, but explains that if the two tribes fail to cross the Jordan to help with the conquest, they will have sinned against YHWH and they will be subject to divine punishment (v. 23). Then, trusting their promise to help with the conquest, Moses gives the Reubenites and the Gadites their lands in the Transjordan before the Israelites cross the Jordan to begin conquering Canaan (v. 33).
This story is the shorter of the two stories in Num 32, but there are a number of connections with other narratives in the Pentateuch. First and foremost, it presupposes the conquest of the kingdoms Sihon and Og, a story told in Num 20–21. In both Num 20–21 and Num 32, YHWH is almost entirely absent, particularly when it comes to discussions concerning the military campaign. This stands in stark contrast to other pentateuchal texts describing military campaigns with YHWH either leading the charge or in the center of the battle formation.
The presence of the descendants of Machir, son of Manasseh, links this story to Gen 50:23, an Elohistic text that legitimates Manasseh as a tribe of Israel and sets the stage for their ability to inherit land as such in Num 32. A corroborating piece of evidence is that only the Elohistic and Priestly sources refer to individual tribes after the time of Joseph. The Yahwistic source speaks only of a single entity, Israel.
In the Priestly story, the Israelites conquer the Midianite lands (in the Transjordan), and destroy the cities and towns by burning them (Num 31:10). Shortly before continuing their campaign into Canaan, the Gadites and Reubenites ask Moses if they can have the Transjordan as their allotted portion. Moses agrees, but with a major caveat: the Gadites and Reubenites will receive the Transjordanian land only after they help to subdue Canaan (vv. 20–22, 28–29). If they fail to join their fellow-tribes in subduing Canaan, they will not be given the Transjordanian land, but will instead inherit in Canaan alongside the rest of the Israelites (v. 30). Because they have destroyed the Midianite land, the tribes must rebuild the cities and towns before they can be inhabited by the women, children, and flocks.
There are a number of elements of this story that connect to other Priestly texts in the Pentateuch. The description of the battle formation and the place of the Reubenites and Gadites before YHWH (לפני י-הוה) aligns perfectly with the description of the camp and military movements in Num 2. This story also assumes the complete destruction of the Transjordanian lands, something that occurs only in Num 31.
When the two tribes ask Moses to permit them to build cities and sheepfolds so they can leave behind their families and cattle, they justify that request by referencing the “inhabitants of the land” (Num 32:17). The context for this reference can be found in the priestly story of the spies in Num 13–14. In Num 13:32, the spies tell Moses that the inhabitants of the land of Canaan are of an unusually large size. Shortly thereafter, the Israelites express their concern that their wives and children will be taken as plunder, presumably by these unusually large people (14:3).
There are two parallel accounts of the apportionment of the Transjordan to the Reubenites and Gadites in Numbers 32. The major difference between these two stories is the approach Moses takes to adjudicating their request. In the E story, the tribes enthusiastically offer to fight alongside the Israelites, and Moses quickly grants them their request for the land before the battle has even begun. This kind of interaction is fitting. There is no E version of the spies story, and these Israelites have never expressed dismay or doubt as to their ability to conquer the land. Moreover, they have not been wandering in the desert for 40 years; these are the same people who were led out of Egypt. Their enthusiasm has not flagged over a generation of wilderness wandering.
In the P story, Moses imposes a number of conditions on the two tribes, and delays granting their request until YHWH’s plan for the conquest of the promise land is fulfilled. This is, in part, a reflection of the characterization of YHWH in the Priestly narrative: once a command has been given, it must be fulfilled exactly. Each and every command in the Priestly narrative has a corresponding fulfillment notice.
The conquest of the land is no different, and if the Reubenites and Gadites want to alter that plan, they must first do what they have been commanded. This is precisely what they do when they agree to fight “before YHWH” in accordance with the order prescribed in Numbers 2, and when they respond to Moses in Num 32:31, saying: “whatever YHWH has spoken concerning your servants, that we will do!”
Full Division of the Two Stories in Numbers 32
1וּמִקְנֶה רַב הָיָה לִבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן וְלִבְנֵי־גָד עָצוּם מְאֹד וַיִּרְאוּ אֶת־אֶרֶץ יַעְזֵר וְאֶת־אֶרֶץ גִּלְעָד וְהִנֵּה הַמָּקוֹם מְקוֹם מִקְנֶה: 2וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה 4 הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הִכָּה יְהוָה לִפְנֵי עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶרֶץ מִקְנֶה הִוא וְלַעֲבָדֶיךָ מִקְנֶה 5 וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִם־מָצָאנוּ חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ אַל־תַּעֲבִרֵנוּ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן 17 וַאֲנַחְנוּ נֵחָלֵץ חֻשִׁים לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד אֲשֶׁר אִם־הֲבִיאֹנֻם אֶל־מְקוֹמָם 18 לֹא נָשׁוּב אֶל–בָּתֵּינוּ עַד הִתְנַחֵל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אִישׁ נַחֲלָתוֹ19 כִּי לֹא נִנְחַל אִתָּם מֵעֵבֶר לַיַּרְדֵּן וָהָלְאָה כִּי בָאָה נַחֲלָתֵנוּ אֵלֵינוּ מֵעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן מִזְרָחָה20 וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם מֹשֶׁה אִם־תַּעֲשׂוּן אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה22 וִהְיִיתֶם נְקִיִּים מֵיְהוָה וּמִיִּשְׂרָאֵל23 וְאִם־לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן כֵּן הִנֵּה חֲטָאתֶם לַיהוָה וּדְעוּ חַטַּאתְכֶם אֲשֶׁר תִּמְצָא אֶתְכֶם24 וְהַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיכֶם תַּעֲשׂוּ33 וַיִּתֵּן לָהֶם מֹשֶׁה אֶת־מַמְלֶכֶת סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִי וְאֶת–מַמְלֶכֶת עוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן הָאָרֶץ לְעָרֶיהָ בִּגְבֻלֹת עָרֵי הָאָרֶץ סָבִיב39 וַיֵּלְכוּ בְּנֵי מָכִיר בֶּן־מְנַשֶּׁה גִּלְעָדָה וַיִּלְכְּדֻהָ וַיּוֹרֶשׁ אֶת־הָאֱמֹרִי אֲשֶׁר־בָּהּ40 וַיִּתֵּן מֹשֶׁה אֶת־הַגִּלְעָד לְמָכִיר בֶּן־מְנַשֶּׁה וַיֵּשֶׁב בָּהּ41וְיָאִיר בֶּן־מְנַשֶּׁה הָלַךְ וַיִּלְכֹּד אֶת־חַוֹּתֵיהֶם וַיִּקְרָא אֶתְהֶן חַוֹּת יָאִיר42 וְנֹבַח הָלַךְ וַיִּלְכֹּד אֶת־קְנָת וְאֶת־בְּנֹתֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא לָה נֹבַח בִּשְׁמוֹ:
1 The Reubenites and the Gadites owned cattle in very large numbers and they saw that the lands of Jazer were good cattle land, 2 and they said to Moses 4 “The land that YHWH has conquered for the community of Israel is cattle country, and your servants have cattle.” 5 They said, “If we find favor in your eyes, do not move us across the Jordan. 17 We will hasten to fight at the head of all the Israelites until we have established them in their home, 18 and we will not return to our homes until every one of the Israelites is in possession of his portion.19 But we will not have a share with them in the territory beyond the Jordan, for we have received our share on the east side of the Jordan.” 20 Moses said to them, “If you do this, 22 you shall be clear before YHWH and before Israel, 23 But if you do not do so, then you will have sinned against YHWH; and know that your sin will overtake you. 24 Do what you have promised.” 33 Then Moses gave to them the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of King Og of Bashan, the land with its various cities and the territories of their surrounding towns. 39 The descendants of Machir son of Manasseh went to Gilead and captured it, dispossessing the Amorites who were there. 40 Moses gave Gilead to Machir son of Manasseh, and he settled there. 41 Jair son of Manasseh went and captured their villages, which he renamed Havvoth-jair. 42 And Nobah went and captured Kenath and its dependencies, renaming it Nobah after himself.
2 וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי־גָד וּבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל־אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְאֶל־נְשִׂיאֵי הָעֵדָה לֵאמֹר: 3 עֲטָרוֹת וְדִיבֹן וְיַעְזֵר וְנִמְרָה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן וְאֶלְעָלֵה וּשְׂבָם וּנְבוֹ וּבְעֹן: 5 יֻתַּן אֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לַעֲבָדֶיךָ לַאֲחֻזָּה 6 וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה לִבְנֵי־גָד וְלִבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן הַאַחֵיכֶם יָבֹאוּ לַמִּלְחָמָה וְאַתֶּם תֵּשְׁבוּ פֹה: 16 וַיִּגְּשׁוּ אֵלָיו וַיֹּאמְרוּ גִּדְרֹת צֹאן נִבְנֶה לְמִקְנֵנוּ פֹּה וְעָרִים לְטַפֵּנוּ: 17 וְיָשַׁב טַפֵּנוּ בְּעָרֵי הַמִּבְצָר מִפְּנֵי יֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ: 20 וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם מֹשֶׁה אִם־תֵּחָלְצוּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה לַמִּלְחָמָה: 21 וְעָבַר לָכֶם כָּל־חָלוּץ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן לִפְנֵי יְהוָה עַד הוֹרִישׁוֹ אֶת־אֹיְבָיו מִפָּנָיו: 22 וְנִכְבְּשָׁה הָאָרֶץ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְאַחַר תָּשֻׁבוּ וְהָיְתָה הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לָכֶם לַאֲחֻזָּה לִפְנֵי יְהוָה: 24בְּנוּ־לָכֶם עָרִים לְטַפְּכֶם וּגְדֵרֹת לְצֹנַאֲכֶם וְהַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיכֶם תַּעֲשׂוּ: 25 וַיֹּאמֶר בְּנֵי־גָד וּבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵאמֹר עֲבָדֶיךָ יַעֲשׂוּ כַּאֲשֶׁר אֲדֹנִי מְצַוֶּה: 26 טַפֵּנוּ נָשֵׁינוּ מִקְנֵנוּ וְכָל־בְּהֶמְתֵּנוּ יִהְיוּ־שָׁם בְּעָרֵי הַגִּלְעָד: 27וַעֲבָדֶיךָ יַעַבְרוּ כָּל־חֲלוּץ צָבָא לִפְנֵי יְהוָה לַמִּלְחָמָה כַּאֲשֶׁר אֲדֹנִי דֹּבֵר: 28 וַיְצַו לָהֶם מֹשֶׁה אֵת אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְאֵת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן־נוּן וְאֶת־רָאשֵׁי אֲבוֹת הַמַּטּוֹת לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: 29וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֲלֵהֶם אִם־יַעַבְרוּ בְנֵי־גָד וּבְנֵי־רְאוּבֵן אִתְּכֶם אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן כָּל־חָלוּץ לַמִּלְחָמָה לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְנִכְבְּשָׁה הָאָרֶץ לִפְנֵיכֶם וּנְתַתֶּם לָהֶם אֶת־אֶרֶץ הַגִּלְעָד לַאֲחֻזָּה: 30 וְאִם־לֹא יַעַבְרוּ חֲלוּצִים אִתְּכֶם וְנֹאחֲזוּ בְתֹכְכֶם בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן: 31 וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי־גָד וּבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן לֵאמֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל־עֲבָדֶיךָ כֵּן נַעֲשֶׂה: 32 נַחְנוּ נַעֲבֹר חֲלוּצִים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן וְאִתָּנוּ אֲחֻזַּת נַחֲלָתֵנוּ מֵעֵבֶר לַיַּרְדֵּן: 34 וַיִּבְנוּ בְנֵי־גָד אֶת־דִּיבֹן וְאֶת־עֲטָרֹת וְאֵת עֲרֹעֵר: 35וְאֶת־עַטְרֹת שׁוֹפָן וְאֶת־יַעְזֵר וְיָגְבֳּהָה: 36וְאֶת־בֵּית נִמְרָה וְאֶת־בֵּית הָרָן עָרֵי מִבְצָר וְגִדְרֹת צֹאן: 37 וּבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן בָּנוּ אֶת־חֶשְׁבּוֹן וְאֶת־אֶלְעָלֵא וְאֵת קִרְיָתָיִם: 38 וְאֶת־נְבוֹ וְאֶת־בַּעַל מְעוֹן מוּסַבֹּת שֵׁם וְאֶת־שִׂבְמָה וַיִּקְרְאוּ בְשֵׁמֹת אֶת־שְׁמוֹת הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ:
2 The Gadites and the Reubenites came and they said to Moses and to Elazar the priest, and the chieftains of the community, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, 5 let this land be given to your servants as a holding.” 6 Moses replied to the Gadites and the Reubenites, “Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here?” 16 Then they approached him and said, “We will build here sheepfolds for our flocks and towns for our children and our children stay in the fortified towns because of the inhabitants of the land.” 20Moses said to them, if you go to battle to fight before YHWH, 21 and every fighter among you crosses the Jordan before YHWH, until he has dispossessed his enemies before him, 22 and the land has been subdued before YHWH and then you return, and then this land shall be your holding before YHWH. 24 Build towns for your children and sheepfolds for your flocks.” 25 The Gadites and the Reubenites answered Moses, “Your servants will do as my lord commands. 26 Our children, our wives, our flocks, and all our other livestock will stay behind in the towns of Gilead; 27 while your servants, all those recruited for war, cross over before YHWH to engage in battle as my lord orders.” 28 Then Moses gave instructions concerning them to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the family heads of the Israelite tribes. 29 Moses said to them, “If every fighter among the Gadites and the Reubenites crosses the Jordan with you to do battle before YHWH and the land is subdued before you, you shall give them the land of Gilead as a holding. 30 But if they do not cross over with you to fight, then they shall receive holdings among you in the land of Canaan.” 31 The Gadites and the Reubenites said in reply, “Whatever YHWH has spoken concerning your servants, that we will do. 32 We ourselves will cross over to fight before YHWH, into the land of Canaan; and we shall keep our hereditary holding across the Jordan.” 34The Gadites rebuilt Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 35 Atroth-shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, 36 Beth-nimrah, and Beth-haran as fortified towns or as enclosures for flocks. 37The Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, 38Nebo, Baal-meon — some names being changed — and Sibmah; they gave names to towns that they rebuilt.
For a full source division of Numbers 32 with color coding, see PDF
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Dr. Liane Feldman is Assistant Professor in New York University’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from The University of Chicago, M.A.s from Yale University and Boston College. She is the author of, “The Composition of Numbers 32: A New Proposal” (Vetus Testamentum) and “Ritual Sequence and Narrative Constraints in Leviticus 9:1–10:3” (Journal of Hebrew Scriptures).
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