Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.
Verses 1-10. - THE SONS OF REUBEN. The tribe of Reuben is now taken third in order by the compiler, though Reuben was the first of all the sons of Israel. The distinct statements of vers. 1 and 2, respecting the degradation of Reuben and his loss of the rights of primogeniture, are not to be understood, however, as mentioned in any way to account for his standing third here. That Judah takes in any genealogy the first place needs no other apology than that contained in this passage, "Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler" (i.e. David, and in him "David's greater Son and Lord"). And that Simeon is taken immediately after Judah was natural enough, both because the second place belonged to him, and because his tribe, in journeying, in settlement, and in acknowledged friendship, was so nearly related to that of Judah. It is as an important historical fact, a lesson and stern memento of crime, that the tale of Reuben is here as elsewhere told. Indeed, in the remarkably exalting language applied to Reuben (Genesis 49:3) by the dying father in those "blessings" of his sons which were so marvellously living with prophecy, that "blessing" seemed weighted with hard reality, and may really carry this meaning: "O Reuben I though thou art my firstborn, though my might and the beginning of my strength, though the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power," yet, because of thy boiling lust (Genesis 35:22) "thou shall not excel." In that endowing charter of the patriarch's death-bed, the birthright of Reuben is not in so many words given to Joseph and his sons, but what is given to Joseph is so abundant above the lot of all the others, that we find no difficulty in accepting the formal statement of the fact here first found in this passage. The large measure of promise meted to Judah (Genesis 49:8-12) rests, no doubt, upon the title already referred to. There would seem to be also a righteous moral reason in Joseph after all becoming heir to the birthright, inasmuch as he was the eldest child of her who was Israel's real love, and who, but for deception and sharp practice, would have been his first wife. How he remembered her, and with what determined practical consequence, the affecting passage, Genesis 48:1-7, 16, 21, 22, sufficiently reveals; yet comp. Deuteronomy 21:15-17. The meaning of the last clause of ver. 1 is evidently that, though thus Reuben was the natural firstborn, and Joseph had really the birthright, the registration did not proceed in this instance (probably partly for the very reason of the ambiguity) by the order of birthright, but everything yielded to the special call for precedence on the part of Judah (ver. 2).
For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's:)
The sons, I say, of Reuben the firstborn of Israel were, Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.
Verse 3. - The four sons of Reuben here given are first enumerated in Genesis 46:9; then in Exodus 6:14; and again in Numbers 26:5-7, where are also found the corresponding chief families of the tribe, the total of their fighting numbers amounting to 43,730, compared with 46,500 at the time of the Sinai census (Numbers 2:11), a diminution due to the plague for the idolatry of Baal-peor (Numbers 25:9).
The sons of Joel; Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son,
Verses 4-6. - From which of the four sons of Reuben the line came in which Joel would appear, we do not know. Juntas and Tremellius say Hanoch, others Carmi, while the Syriac Version has Carrot vice Joel. It is to be remarked that in Numbers 26:8-10 a line of descent through Pallu is given, but reaching only to the second generation, Beerah in the present list will be only ninth at furthest from Reuben, so that it is evident that it is a very fragmentary genealogy, whether the hiatus be only one, viz. between Reuben's son (whichever it may be in question) and Joel, or whether both there and elsewhere also. Of none of the eight persons beginning with Joel and ending with Beerah is anything else known, unless either Shemaiah or Shimei may be identical with the Shema of ver. 8, in which case it might be also that the Joel of ver. 8 is identical with that of ver. 4. In this passage and 1 Chronicles 8:30 Baal appears as the name of a man. In this passage, and in ver. 26 and 2 Chronicles 28:20, we have a different form in each part of the word, of the Tiglath-pileser of 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 16:7. These slight differences in the position of the radicals, with the introduction or omission of the א, make as many as four different readings in the Hebrew. Tiglath-pileser, the second Assyrian king who came into conflict with the Israelites, reigned about B.C. 747-727. Gesenius thinks that the former half of the word is the same as Diglath, i.q. Tigris; and that the latter, a root occurring also in the name Nabo-pola-saris, is from an Assyrian verb meaning "to guard." He translates the word as "Lord of the Tigris." The Assyrian reproduction of the name is Tigulti-pal-tsira (Smith's 'Bible Dictionary'), or Tukulti-pal-zara ('Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.). The Captivity is spoken of further in the last verse of this chapter and in 2 Kings 15:27-31. The Septuagint reads vers. 4 and 5 differently: "The sons of Joel, Semei and Banaea his son; and the sons of Gog the son of Semei," etc., and this in all three editions - Vatican, Alexandrine, and Aldine.
Micah his son, Reaia his son, Baal his son,
Beerah his son, whom Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria carried away captive: he was prince of the Reubenites.
And his brethren by their families, when the genealogy of their generations was reckoned, were the chief, Jeiel, and Zechariah,
Verses 7, 8. - Of Jeiel, Zechariah, Bela, and Asaz nothing further is known. Shema and Joel may be those of ver. 4, as above. The expression, his brethren, i.e. the brethren of Beerah, must be read generally. The intimation, when the genealogy of their generations was reckoned, is probably explained by the contents of ver. 17 (of which hereafter). Aroer (עֲרֹעֵר or עְרועֵר); a place east of the Jordan, overhanging the torrent of Arnon, which was a boundary between Moab and the Amorites, and afterwards between Moab and Reuben. There is little doubt that Burckhardt has identified the ruins of Aroer (see Numbers 32:38; Deuteronomy 2:24, 36; Deuteronomy 3:8, 12, 16; Joshua 12:1, 2; Joshua 13:9, 16; Judges 11:13, 26, where note transposition of letters in the Hebrews 1; 2 Kings 10:33). Moab seems to have regained it later (Jeremiah 48:1-47; see interesting arts. "Amen" and "Areer," Smith's' Bible Dictionary'). Nebo and Baal-meon are also mentioned together in Numbers 32:38; and Baal-meon with Moab in Ezekiel 25:9. This Nebo, the town, is distinct from Mount Nebo. It is remarkable that it is not mentioned, unless under one of the "changed" names (Numbers 32:38), in the list of the towns of Reuben (Joshua 13:15-23). Nebo was the name of a heathen deity, known among the Chaldeans (Isaiah 46:1), Babylonians, and Assyrians; and this constituted one reason, if not the reason, for changing its name when it had been affixed to the Moabite city.
And Bela the son of Azaz, the son of Shema, the son of Joel, who dwelt in Aroer, even unto Nebo and Baalmeon:
And eastward he inhabited unto the entering in of the wilderness from the river Euphrates: because their cattle were multiplied in the land of Gilead.
Verse 9. - Keil and others refer this verse to the people of Bela; yet others apply it to Joel It would seem nearest the facts to apply it to the main subject of the paragraph - Reuben. Gilead (Deuteronomy 3:12-16) had for its boundaries, on the north Bashan, on the south Moab, on the east the Arabian desert. Its situation evidently exposed it to Assyrian invasion and frequent encounter with desert tribes (Joshua 17:1; Numbers 26:29, 30).
And in the days of Saul they made war with the Hagarites, who fell by their hand: and they dwelt in their tents throughout all the east land of Gilead.
Verse 10. - Among such conflicts, one with a people descended presumably from Hagar or Ishmael (though 1 Chronicles 27:30, 31, and Psalm 83:6 are somewhat needlessly interpreted to be opposed to this) is here alluded to. It takes us to the time of Saul, and from that time up to the time of "the Captivity" (ver. 22) the victorious Reubenites, Gadites, and people of the half-tribe Manasseh had the benefit of enlarged domain at their expense: "They dwelt in their steads," after seizing great spoil. It is exceedingly likely that we have the perpetuation of the name Hagarenes in the Agraeei (modern Hejer) of Strabo, 16:767; Pliny, 'Hist. Nat.,' 6:32; Dionysius, 'Perieg.,' 956; Pt. 5:2 (see art. "Hagarenes" in Smith's 'Bible Dictionary').
And the children of Gad dwelt over against them, in the land of Bashan unto Salchah:
Verses 11-17. - The tribe of Gad is taken next, and occupies but few lines. Gad was born seventh in order of all the sons of Jacob (Genesis 30:9-12), and first of the children of Leah's maid Zilpah. The compiler seems to pass easily on to Gad, from the mere circumstance of the name of the tribe being so constantly linked with that preceding, in the matter of local settlement on the east of Jordan, after the journeyings of the wilderness (Joshua 13:7, 8). The geography in vers. 11 and 16 offers very little difficulty. Compared with the time of the first settling of the Gadites (Deuteronomy 3:10-13; Joshua 13:25, 30), it is evident that they had pushed their borders further to the north, trenching somewhat upon the lot of the half-tribe Manasseh, as they also in turn extended their limits northward to Hermon (ver. 23). This reconciles Joshua 13:30 with the present passage. Salcah, or (Authorized Version) Salchah (Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 13:11), is probably to be identified as the modern Sulkhad, at the extreme eastern point of the plain Hauran, which is bordered by the desert. "In Gilead in Bashan" may be read, with some, as two coordinate places, separating them by a stop; or may point to a time when Bashan included the upper half of Gilead. Sharon, which Keil, quoting Reland, 'Pal. Ill.,' 370, would make the well-known Sharon of Carmel and the Mediterranean, is, though unmentioned elsewhere, probably distinguished sufficiently from it by the absence of the article, which is invariably prefixed to the other. Stanley's suggestion ('Sinai and Palestine,' edit. 1866, pp. 484, 485, 260) would seem exceedingly apt, that it is one in fact, as one in derivation and meaning, with the Mishor (i.e. "level ]ands," "table-land") of Gilead and Bashan. With this explanation, however, the term "suburbs" does not so well agree. Upon the other side, distant as the well-known Sharon is, a link of connection might be found with it, in that the other Manasseh half-tribe stretched into its plains; and in that case the last word of the verse, תּועְאותָם, might mean (Joshua 17:9) "the outgoings" of the land or regions in question to the "sea"-coast.
Joel the chief, and Shapham the next, and Jaanai, and Shaphat in Bashan.
Verse 12. - The four proper names in this verse are not known in connection with the same persons elsewhere. The Septuagint translates Shaphat as "the scribe," applying the description to the foregoing Jaanai.
And their brethren of the house of their fathers were, Michael, and Meshullam, and Sheba, and Jorai, and Jachan, and Zia, and Heber, seven.
Verse 13. - And their brethren. This chapter (see ver. 7) seems to introduce the use of this word, which must be understood generically. The seven persons are nowhere else mentioned.
These are the children of Abihail the son of Huri, the son of Jaroah, the son of Gilead, the son of Michael, the son of Jeshishai, the son of Jahdo, the son of Buz;
Verses 14, 15. - These are the children of Abihail; i.e. the seven "brethren" of the preceding verse. A rapid line of descent, or rather of ascent, consisting of ten generations, from Abihail to Guni, here follows. The division between these verses has unfortunately cut in half one name, i.e. Buzaki. The translators of the Septuagint saw that the two verses composed one line of ascent, but instead of piecing "Aki" to "Buz," translated it as" brother." Though this line takes us some way back, we find nowhere else any clue or identification of any of these ten persons. Of the twenty-one persons in all, therefore, named as belonging to the tribe of Gad, nothing else is known; and we have nothing to guide us to connect them with any one rather than another of the original" sons of Gad" (Genesis 46:16; Numbers 16:15-18).
Ahi the son of Abdiel, the son of Guni, chief of the house of their fathers.
And they dwelt in Gilead in Bashan, and in her towns, and in all the suburbs of Sharon, upon their borders.
All these were reckoned by genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.
Verse 17. - The very form of the language of this verse would indicate that two genealogies are intended. This quite tallies with the fact that there were two chronicles, one for each division of the nation, i.e. "the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (2 Kings 15:6) and "the chronicles of the kings of Israel" (2 Kings 15:11), in which same chapter both Jeroboam (II.) of Israel and Jotham of Judah are spoken of, the latter beginning to reign in Judah some twenty years (the exact chronology is very confused here) after the death of the former. Although presumably it would be an object of closer interest with Israel than with Judah to effect the registration of the Gadite genealogy, yet it was most just that Judah should do so as well. This would both vindicate Judah's own right place and be a happy omen of the continued predominance of her position compared with that of Israel. Independently of the question of effecting the actual registration, however, it is quite possible that, so long as history ran by the side of history. Israel would gather and keep all it could of Judah, and Judah all it could of Israel.
The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh, of valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skilful in war, were four and forty thousand seven hundred and threescore, that went out to the war.
Verses 18-22. - These verses appear to be the fuller development of the war in Saul's time, mentioned in ver. 10 - the account apparently there delayed till the genealogy of the tribe of Gad had been given, and which still seems premature till the contents of vers. 23 and 24 should have been given.
And they made war with the Hagarites, with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab.
Verse 19. - The name of Nodab we have not elsewhere; but those of Jetur and Nephish are names from the very origin of the tribe of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13-16; 1 Chronicles 1:29-31). It would be possible to consider them here as in apposition with the description, the Hagarites (respecting whom see note on ver. 10); but they may more probably be regarded as favourite names, still repeated in the descendants of the tribe. The people of Nephish have not made their mark deep on the page of ethnographic history; but the people of Jetur have done so. Their stinted territory appears in the name Ituraea (Luke 3:1). Their people reappear also (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 13. e. 11, § 3; Strabo, 16:518, 520). Nor is it an unnoticeable contribution to the truth of our history here to put, side by side with the description of the qualities and of the arms and weapons of warfare of the Manassites and their helpers of Reuben and Gad (ver. 18), those of the Ituraeans, their antagonists (Virgil, 'Georg.,' 2:448; Cicero, 'Philippians,' 2:44; Luean, 'Pharsalia,' 7:230; see Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 1:905).
And they were helped against them, and the Hagarites were delivered into their hand, and all that were with them: for they cried to God in the battle, and he was intreated of them; because they put their trust in him.
And they took away their cattle; of their camels fifty thousand, and of sheep two hundred and fifty thousand, and of asses two thousand, and of men an hundred thousand.
Verse 21. - Of men; literally, of the soul, i.e. life of men (comp. 2 Kings 7:7 with Jeremiah 44:7, in illustration of the twofold application of נֶפֶשׁ; see also Numbers 31:19, 28, 32-35).
For there fell down many slain, because the war was of God. And they dwelt in their steads until the captivity.
And the children of the half tribe of Manasseh dwelt in the land: they increased from Bashan unto Baalhermon and Senir, and unto mount Hermon.
Verses 23, 24. - "The half-tribe of Manasseh" is here very briefly treated cf. Manasseh and his brother Ephraim stand in the place of Joseph, both the children of Joseph's Egyptian wife, Asenath, and born before the famine. Though Manasseh was the elder, Jacob gave the chief blessing (Genesis 48:10-22) to Ephraim. The Manassites were descended from Manasseh through his son Machir, born of a Syrian concubine (Septuagint, Genesis 46:20; Genesis 1:23; Numbers 26:28-34; Joshua 17:1-3; 1 Chronicles 7:14, 15). Machir evidently was spes gregis (though apparently not the only son, for see Asriel, or Ashriel, in above references), and is repeatedly mentioned with his sou Gilead. It is probable that the division of the tribe was determined partly according to the energy of those who composed it at the time of division - the more warlike being more adapted to the east of Jordan. Nevertheless Machir is distinctly mentioned westward, as well as with Gilead eastward (comp. Judges 5:14-17; Joshua 13:29-31). (For the further prosecution of this part of the subject, see Exposition, 1 Chronicles 7:14-19.) Verse 23. - Baal-hermon, etc. These three names need scarcely be read as different names for exactly the same region, but as designating different sides or heights of what was essentially one and the same well-known mountain district, with which would agree Psalm 43:6, "Therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.' So Deuteronomy 3:8-10 tells us that Hermon was called Sirion by the Sidonians; Shenir, i.q. Senir (שְׂנִיר, exactly the same word in the Hebrew text in all the four places of its occurrence - Song of Solomon 4:8; Ezekiel 27:5), by the Amorites. And the suggestion of Grove is likely enough, that Baal-hermon was the Phoenician cast of the name. If any point were to be gained by reading the names, however, as intended to cover exactly the same tract, it may be noted
(1) that the Hebrew conjunction will perfectly admit of being translated "even;" and
(2) that the order of the names, going from the foreign to the native Hermon itself, would so far favour it.
And these were the heads of the house of their fathers, even Epher, and Ishi, and Eliel, and Azriel, and Jeremiah, and Hodaviah, and Jahdiel, mighty men of valour, famous men, and heads of the house of their fathers.
Verse 24. - Epher; same root with Ophrah (Judges 6:11, 15). Of the seven heads of this half-tribe here quoted, no individual mention is made elsewhere. 1 Chronicles 12:19-22 confirms their renown for valour.
And they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land, whom God destroyed before them.
Verses 25, 26. - The "transgressors" here described include manifestly not this half-tribe Manasseh alone, but the other tribes of Israel of whom this chapter has treated. Verse 25. - And they went a-whoring (וַיַּזְנוּ); so 2 Chronicles 21:11, 13. This verb, in one form of its root or another, occurs as many as ninety-seven times in the Pentateuch, Judges, Joshua, Psalms, Proverbs; and prophets, for only twice in Kings and four times in Chronicles, in all the rest of the Old Testament writings.
And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.
Verse 26. - Pul and Tilgath-pilneser. These two were chosen ministers of God's will, if not ministers of himself. We can identify the date of this punishment which befell the transgressing Israelites east of the Jordan. The visit of the former, in the reign of Menahem (2 Kings 15:15-20), may be interpreted and might have operated as a lesson and a warning. He was bought off with a thousand talents of silver. It seems to be said with significance," So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land." It was in the reign of Pekah, the usurping successor of Menahem's son Pekahiah, that the completer punishment fell, and Tilgath-pilneser effected the captivity spoken of here and in 2 Kings 15:27-29. The name Pul cannot, it would appear, be a pure Assyrian name, and there is reason to think it may be identified with Vul-lush (grandson of the Shalmaneser who warred with Benhadad, etc.), a name found on Assyrian monuments, and belonging to a king who reigned at Calah, B.C. 8004750 (see art. "Pul," Smith's 'Bible Dictionary'). Tilqath-pilneser (see notes on ver. 6) was probably the founder of the lower dynasty of Assyria, and first king of the new empire. His first invasion was one chiefly of Israel and Samaria (2 Kings 15:29; Isaiah 9:1). His second was of a much more significant character. Called in to aid Judah under Ahaz against Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria in alliance, he both conquered these latter and brought into vassalage Judah itself (2 Kings 15:37; 2 Kings 16:9, 10; 2 Chronicles 28:6-8; Isaiah 9:1). Halah; Habor Hara; Gozan. This enumeration exceeds that of 2 Kings 17:6 by the addition of Hara, important as helping with consistent witness to the antiquity of the region described. Halah (not the "Calah" of Genesis 10:11) is believed to be identifiable with Chalcitis, its verbal resemblance to which comes out a little more evidently in its Hebrew form (חֲלַח). A trace of it possibly remains in the name of a hill, Gla, on the Khabour, i.q. Habor of this passage, an important tributary of the Euphrates, and not the "Chebar" of Ezekiel. This name Khabour is found in an Assyrian inscription dating upwards of eight centuries before Christ. The mention of Habor in 2 Kings 17:6 and 2 Kings 18:11 is, in the Authorized Version, made to convey the impression of a place "by" the "river of Gozan," instead of being, what the Hebrew says, "the river of Gozan." Here, on the other hand, Gozan is, in the Authorized Version, incorrectly translated as a river itself, instead of the region of a river. It is, according to the testimony of Layard ('Nineveh and Babylon,' pp. 270-312), a remarkably fertile tract, being the Gauzanitis of Ptolemy, and substantially the Mygdonia of Polybius and Strabo. Hara; חָרָה, with little doubt, the same as חָרָן, Haran, or Charran (Genesis 11:31), the ancient adopted home of Abraham, in Padan-aram, in Mesopotamia, on the Belik, a small tributary of the Euphrates. It is the Greek Carrhae of Strabo and Polybius. These four names purport to give us, probably in brief, the information that those of the Captivity here alluded to were divided - some to settle at Halab on one river, some in Hara on another, and the rest in the district called Gauzanitis. The region called Halah and that called Gau-zanitis, however, were both watered by the Khabour, and therefore the insertion of the name Haran where it is inserted occasions some difficulty.