The Other Side of the Jordan

Numbers 32:1-42

As the nation prepares to enter the Promised Land, the tribes of Reuben and Gad approach Moses with a proposal. They are laden with sheep and cattle and have noticed that the newly-conquered lands on this side of the Jordan River are suitable for livestock. Instead of being given a portion of the land of Canaan, they ask for the conquered lands instead.


Moses sees in their request a hint of their fathers’ sin of rejecting the land. Why else would they want to stay on this side of the river? To assuage any possible fears that they are shirking their responsibilities, Reuben and Gad insist that they will help with the conquest. In fact, if allowed to build pens for their animals and homes for their families, they will lead the way in battle in the land of Canaan.


Moses agrees to their modified request, stipulating that, once they build homes for their families and pens for their animals, if they neglect to fight alongside their brethren, they will suffer for their sins. From this insistence, we learn an important lesson in responsibility, pointed out by the Israel Bible. Although these tribes already had their homes, they were not permitted to settle down until every member of the nation had a place. In addition, Moses includes half the tribe of Manasseh to live alongside them.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think half the tribe of Manasseh, who did not ask to live in this region, is given a share on the eastern bank of the Jordan? Why Manasseh and not any other tribe?

Comments ( 5 )

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  • Elizabeth Farah

    Speaking from reason, but without biblical authority:
    The two tribes on the other side of Jordan would tend to develop a close relationship with each other and that could develop into a separationist mentality, which, would be unwise. The inclusion of the half tribe of Manasseh (with the special relationship to Ephraim and the balance of its own tribe) on both side of Jordan, would lessen this effect. Also, The selection of Manasseh could have foundation in the "otherness" of the tribe along with the tribe of Ephraim. Coming from Egyptian stock (Joseph's wife) this preserves the mixture on both sides and in both groups.

  • Angela B

    I think the other half-tribe of Manasseh was given the eastern side of the Jordan so that they would not feel separated from their brother — the other half-tribe of Manasseh that settled on the western side of the Jordan along with Reuben and Gad.

  • Herman Arentsen

    Why Manashe? Reuven and Gad had a lot of flocks. So they were rural people, especially caring for their lifestock. They might easily loose the contact with the rest of the Israelites.
    1. Manashe was placed in the midst of them, though be it only 2 of the 8 Manashe-families.
    2. It also might be that the land itself was too large for only two tribes
    3. The tribe Manashe had outstanding Torah-figures. These persons maintained the spiritual health also of the other tribes.
    After all they lived in the (former) land of people that seduced them into sin.
    4. Manashe had already connections with the other tribes and should not easily loose these tribes out of the eyes. (Chr.2:21-22) Jaïr , was the son of Manashe and belonged to the tribe Jehudah. His grandmother was a daughter of Machir.

  • Doreen Poole

    I might have missed something, but how large was the full tribe? I always thought it was there decision to split in half, but I realized I always just read over that portion quickly. I have learned a lesson here not to skip over a single verse in Numbers. Wow we can miss so much by skimming over what we thought we knew.

  • Diana Brown

    The lots were drawn for portions of inheritance. That set the boundaries. Perhaps the half-tribe of Manasseh was so few in number that they could fit into the territory requested by Gad and Reuben. The half-tribe didn’t protest and the land must have been appealing to their agricultural lifestyle.
    Would that be correct?

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