The Other Side of the Jordan

Jul 7, 2015

וּמִקְנֶה רַב הָיָה לִבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן וְלִבְנֵי־גָד עָצוּם מְאֹד וַיִּרְאוּ אֶת־אֶרֶץ יַעְזֵר וְאֶת־אֶרֶץ גִּלְעָד וְהִנֵּה הַמָּקוֹם מְקוֹם מִקְנֶה׃

The Reubenites and the Gadites owned cattle in very great numbers. Noting that the lands of Jazer and Gilad were a region suitable for cattle,

Numbers 32:1

וְנֹבַח הָלַךְ וַיִּלְכֹּד אֶת־קְנָת וְאֶת־בְּנֹתֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא לָה נֹבַח בִּשְׁמוֹ׃

And Nobah went and captured Kenath and its dependencies, renaming it Nobah after himself.

Numbers 32:42

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?

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