Numbers 32:1-42


Introduction:  This chapter is the story of a group of people who join together to walk by sight instead of faith.  It is a story of a group of people who compromise the end result even though they have to fight the same battles as the rest of Israel.  It is the story of a group of people who believe what they see is better than anything God could give them.  May we always remember, "God always gives the best to those who leave the choice with Him".  This is also the story of a group of people who are able to work through some bad circumstances, and remain friends with each other.


I.    Verse 1-5.

A.  These people see the land before them is good for cattle, and they have much cattle.

1.      Many times the sight of our eyes keeps us from seeing by faith the great blessings God has in store for us.

2.   I must also remark that according to verse 4, these people believe that God has "cleared" the land for them.

3.      This vision reminds me of Lot, who saw the well watered plains of Sodom and decided to move into that area and raise his children in that God forsaken place.

4.      There are many people today who cannot see the good things God has because they are too busy looking at the things they can see.

5.      John 3:3 - Jesus told Nicodemus a man must be born again to see the kingdom of God.

6.      These tribes of Israel are probably saved, but they are living by sight, not faith.

B.   The proposition for compromise.

1.   I believe these people have in mind to drop out of the fight for the promised land and dwell in the land before them.

2.      Verse 4 - They use the claim that the Lord smote the country before Israel, therefore it must be a part of the promised land.

C.   Reuben seems to be the leader of this "semi-rebellion".

1.      Genesis 49:3,4 - The tribe of Reuben seems to be still under the curse of Jacob because of uncovering the nakedness of his fathers wife.

2.   The tribe of Gad and Manasseh, and Reuben all travel under the same ensign and camp together.  This is likely the reason they joined together in this thing.  Birds of a feather flock together.

3.   II Kings 16:29 - All of Israel finally goes into captivity because of their rebellion against God, but these 2½ tribes go into Assyrian bondage before the rest of Israel.

D.  It must be noted that the tribes of Gad and Reuben were in agreement.

1.      Sometimes people can be in agreement and still be wrong.

2.      Sometimes people can be in agreement and still not see the "big picture" of how their actions affect others.

3.      Note that the tribes of Gad and Reuben follow all the proper procedures, they are not trying to work behind the backs of the other tribes.

4.   It is very obvious that the tribes of Gad and Reuben do not understand how the rest of Israel will perceive their staying on the east side of Jordan because they openly talk of it among themselves, then bring their proposition before Moses, Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation.  They are being honest in their dealings even though they don't understand how wrong they are.

5.      Verse 4, "even the country which the Lord smote before the congregation of Israel" refers to chapter 31 and the victory God gave Israel over their enemies.  See my notes on that chapter.


II.   Verse 6-15 - Moses reaction.

A.  Moses reply to their compromise.

1.      Verse 6 - It is not right for the rest of Israel to go to war, leaving these 2½ tribes sitting in their land.

2.      Verse 7 - It is a great discouragement to the other tribes for you to drop out.

a.   This action by the 2½ tribes will set a precedent for the other tribes to follow.

b.   If this precedent follows through, each tribe will drop out of the battle when they have won their share.

c.   Thus, the last tribe will have to fight their battles all by themselves.

d.   This would indeed be a great discouragement to the remaining tribes.

3.      Verse 8-15 - You are doing the exact same thing your fathers did which brought upon them death in the wilderness.

B.   Moses now gives the entire story of the rebellion and the death in the wilderness.

1.   We might consider this repetitious, but we must remember that this generation of people have only heard of the punishment, and witnessed it upon their parents, they do not really believe it will happen to them.

2.      Verse 9 - It was a few that caused all of Israel to be discouraged, thus not going into the promised land.

3.      When the Lord got angry, he denied any of Israel going into the promised land except Joshua and Caleb, who were full of faith.

4.      Moses says they are just exactly like their fathers.

a.   They are sinful men, who do evil in the sight of the Lord.

b.   If this 2½ tribes turn against the promises of God, the rest of Israel will also turn, thus bringing the judgment of God upon them all.

c.   The result will be the same as before.

C.   This ought to teach us that what we do effects many people.  We might decide we aren't going to live by the promises of god.  We will live by sight.  But others see the way we live and they will follow us.


III. Verse 16-19 - The second compromise.

A.  Verse 16 - I believe the 2½ tribes left the presence of Moses, talked among themselves and came up with this second compromise offer.

1.   The reason I believe this is because the Bible says, "And they came near unto him,..."

2.   It seems they went for off from Moses, then later came near to him again.

B.   They want to prepare the land for habitation, then leave their possessions and families there, while they cross Jordan with the rest of Israel to fight for the promises of God.

1.      This may sound like a good idea, but I believe they are still walking by sight.

2.      They are still hanging onto the things they can see, instead of believing God can give them a land better than the one they see.

3.      They have decided their inheritance is on the east side of Jordan.  God has not decided this for them.


IV. Verse 20-33 - Moses reply.

A.  Verse 20-24 - He told them this compromise would be acceptable, only under certain terms.

1.      They must first build the safe dwellings for their families and possessions.

2.      They must go over Jordan armed for the battle and stay until the entire land of Canaan is conquered.

3.      They must not decide to return home early.

4.      These conditions will make these 2½ tribes guiltless before Israel and the Lord.

5.   If the terms of this compromise are not fulfilled:

a.   they have sinned against the Lord.

b.   Be sure your sins will find you out.

c.   Israel, as a nation, will not punish them in any way, but they will be in the hands of an angry God.

B.   Verse 25-27 - The terms of the agreement are repeated.

1.      Moses doesn't want any misunderstanding of this contract.

2.      When the 2½ tribes repeat the agreement, both sides know the terms.

C.   Verse 28-30 - Moses passes this information on to the generation that will lead Israel after he is dead.

1.      Eleazar, Joshua, and the chief of the fathers of the tribes of Israel hear these terms and agree.

2.   If the agreement is obeyed, the 2½ tribes shall have their possession on the east side of Jordan, otherwise, they shall have their possession on the west side of Jordan.

D.  Verse 31-33 - This agreement is now finalized, and all are in agreement.


V.  Verse 34-42 - The building of residences and fenced cities is undertaken by the 2½ tribes.

1.   There is indication that only those 2½ tribes build these places.

2.   It seems the rest of Israel does something else while this building is going on.

3.   There is no mention of what that is.