Matthew Henry's Commentary
Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle;
32:1-5 Here is a proposal made by the Reubenites and Gadites, that the land lately conquered might be allotted to them. Two things common in the world might lead these tribes to make this choice; the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. There was much amiss in the principle they went upon; they consulted their own private convenience more than the public good. Thus to the present time, many seek their own things more than the things of Jesus Christ; and are led by worldly interests and advantages to take up short of the heavenly Canaan.
The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying,
Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon,
Even the country which the LORD smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle:
Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.
And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?
32:6-15 The proposal showed disregard to the land of Canaan, distrust of the Lord's promise, and unwillingness to encounter the difficulties and dangers of conquering and driving out the inhabitants of that land. Moses is wroth with them. It will becomes any of God's Israel to sit down unconcerned about the difficult and perilous concerns of their brethren, whether public or personal. He reminds them of the fatal consequences of the unbelief and faint-heartedness of their fathers, when they were, as themselves, just ready to enter Canaan. If men considered as they ought what would be the end of sin, they would be afraid of the beginning of it.
And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the LORD hath given them?
Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadeshbarnea to see the land.
For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land which the LORD had given them.
And the LORD'S anger was kindled the same time, and he sware, saying,
Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me:
Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the LORD.
And the LORD'S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed.
And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the LORD toward Israel.
For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.
And they came near unto him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones:
32:16-27 Here is the good effect of plain dealing. Moses, by showing their sin, and the danger of it, brought them to their duty, without murmuring or disputing. All men ought to consider the interests of others as well as their own; the law of love requires us to labour, venture, or suffer for each other as there may be occasion. They propose that their men of war should go ready armed before the children of Israel into the land of Canaan, and that they should not return till the conquest of Canaan was ended. Moses grants their request, but he warns them of the danger of breaking their word. If you fail, you sin against the Lord, and not against your brethren only; God will certainly reckon with you for it. Be sure your sin will find you out. Sin will surely find out the sinner sooner or later. It concerns us now to find our sins out, that we may repent of them, and forsake them, lest they find us out to our ruin.
But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.
For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward.
And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war,
And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him,
And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD.
But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth.
And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth.
Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall be there in the cities of Gilead:
But thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war, before the LORD to battle, as my lord saith.
So concerning them Moses commanded Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel:
32:28-42 Concerning the settlement of these tribes, observe, that they built the cities, that is, repaired them. They changed the names of them; probably they were idolatrous, therefore they should be forgotten. A spirit of selfishness, of seeking our own, not the things of Christ, when each one ought to assist others, is as dangerous as it is common. It is impossible to be sincere in the faith, sensible of the goodness of God, constrained by the love of Christ, sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost, and yet be indifferent to the progress of religion, and the spiritual success of others, through love of ease, or fear of conflict. Let then your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
And Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle, before the LORD, and the land shall be subdued before you; then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession:
But if they will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.
And the children of Gad and the children of Reuben answered, saying, As the LORD hath said unto thy servants, so will we do.
We will pass over armed before the LORD into the land of Canaan, that the possession of our inheritance on this side Jordan may be ours.
And Moses gave unto them, even to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and unto half the tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land, with the cities thereof in the coasts, even the cities of the country round about.
And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer,
And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah,
And Bethnimrah, and Bethharan, fenced cities: and folds for sheep.
And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim,
And Nebo, and Baalmeon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded.
And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it.
And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein.
And Jair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havothjair.
And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name.