250 – Numbers 32 – Is this That?

I hope you’ll spend a few minutes reading the forty-two verses of Numbers chapter thirty-two. The descendants of Reuben and Gad, two of the tribes of Israel make an unusual request of Moses, Eleazar the priest, and to the tribal leaders. Verse five summarizes their petition and verses six and seven communicate Moses’ initial response.

Numbers 32:5-6 (LEB)

           5       They said, “If we have found favor in ⌊your sight⌋, let this land be given to your servants as property; do not lead us across the Jordan.” 

           6       But Moses said to the descendants of Gad and to the descendants of Reuben, “Will your brothers go to war while you yourselves live here? 

      7       Why are you discouraging the hearts of the ⌊Israelites⌋ from crossing into the land that Yahweh gave to them? 

Let’s start from the bottom with verse seven. What a powerful reminder that the decisions we make are not made in a vacuum. The choices that an individual makes have an impact on others. Now imagine the impact these two tribes, probably a few thousand people would have on the nation of Israel.

Moses suggests, by asking a question, that the request is “discouraging the hearts of Israel” from crossing into the promised land. I wonder if this is a case of if they don’t have to cross the Jordan then why should I? Or is it a fear that losing that many people would make their chances against their enemies across the river that much harder to defeat? 

Moses then says, in effect, this reminds me of Kadesh Barnea! Is this history repeating itself? Ten faithless spies convinced Israel to disobey Yahweh and not enter the land. This lack of National Faith caused Israel to wander forty years in the wilderness when the entire trip from Egypt would have only taken about three weeks!  (vs 13)

Moses continues in verse fourteen.

Numbers 32:14-15 (LEB)

           14       Behold, you stand in the place of your fathers, a brood of sinful men, to increase still more ⌊Yahweh’s fierce anger⌋ against Israel. 

           15       If you turn from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you would have destroyed all these people.” 

Reuben and Gad in verses sixteen through nineteen say to Moses, this is not that! Then they issue a proposition. My paraphrase, Let us build sheep pens, clean up a little, and leave our children, wives, and cattle here. We’ll come with you guys across the Jordan to fight with you against your enemies, then we’ll return to this land.

In verses, twenty through twenty-four Moses formalizes their proposition into a contract (or covenant) with a curse attached if they fail to keep their word. The two tribes agree to Moses’ terms as recorded in verses twenty-five through twenty-seven.

In verses, twenty-eight through thirty Moses does something I find interesting. He calls Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the families of the tribal leaders, to witness the contract giving them specific instructions should Reuben and Gad renege.

I absolutely love the verse that follows!

Numbers 32:31

      31       The descendants of Gad and the descendants of Reuben answered and said, “What Yahweh has commanded your servants, we will do. 

What a simple yet profound and powerful statement from these two tribes! Can you imagine thousands of men (the descendants of Gad and Reuben) resolving to do what Yahweh has commanded? They make this promise from a place of submission to Yahweh as evidenced by the fact that they call themselves your servants!

Moses was worried the actions of these two tribes would discourage the nation. In contrast, I have to believe their commitment to obey Yahweh was incredibly inspiring to the nation of Israel.

What impact do you think we’d have on the people around us if we resolved, what Yahweh has commanded your servants, we will do?

What if thousands of us made that commitment and followed through?

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