Numbers 32

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Read Numbers 32

The Transjordan Tribes

32 The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon— the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”

Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, “Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them? This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to look over the land.After they went up to the Valley of Eshkol and viewed the land, they discouraged the Israelites from entering the land the Lord had given them.10 The Lord’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath:11 ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— 12 not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ 13 The Lord’s anger burned against Israeland he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.

14 “And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel. 15 If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the wilderness, and you will be the cause of their destruction.”

16 Then they came up to him and said, “We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children. 17 But we will arm ourselves for battle and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until each of the Israelites has received their inheritance. 19 We will not receive any inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan, because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan.”

20 Then Moses said to them, “If you will do this—if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for battle 21 and if all of you who are armed cross over the Jordan before the Lord until he has driven his enemies out before him—22 then when the land is subdued before the Lord, you may return and be free from your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. And this land will be your possession before the Lord.

23 “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. 24 Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.”

25 The Gadites and Reubenites said to Moses, “We your servants will do as our lord commands. 26 Our children and wives, our flocks and herds will remain here in the cities of Gilead. 27 But your servants, every man who is armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the Lord, just as our lord says.”

28 Then Moses gave orders about them to Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun and to the family heads of the Israelite tribes. 29 He said to them, “If the Gadites and Reubenites, every man armed for battle, cross over the Jordan with you before the Lord, then when the land is subdued before you,you must give them the land of Gilead as their possession. 30 But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must accept their possession with you in Canaan.”

31 The Gadites and Reubenites answered, “Your servants will do what the Lord has said. 32 We will cross over before the Lord into Canaan armed, but the property we inherit will be on this side of the Jordan.”

33 Then Moses gave to the Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan—the whole land with its cities and the territory around them.

34 The Gadites built up Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 35 Atroth Shophan, Jazer,Jogbehah, 36 Beth Nimrah and Beth Haran as fortified cities, and built pens for their flocks. 37 And the Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh and Kiriathaim, 38 as well as Nebo and Baal Meon (these names were changed) and Sibmah. They gave names to the cities they rebuilt.

39 The descendants of Makir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, captured it and drove out the Amorites who were there. 40 So Moses gave Gilead to the Makirites, the descendants of Manasseh, and they settled there. 41 Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, captured their settlements and called them Havvoth Jair. 42 And Nobah captured Kenath and its surrounding settlements and called it Nobah after himself.

Go Deeper

Numbers 32 is difficult to understand without recalling back to what happened years before in Numbers 13 and Numbers 14. As a refresher, twelve spies were sent to investigate the land of Canaan and report back what they saw. The Israelites had been promised the land and wondered what it looked like. Ten of the twelve, however, got cold feet and were scared off by the giants they saw inhabiting the land. As a result of their lack of faith, an entire generation (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) were not allowed into the promised land after all and they spent years and years wandering in the desert. 

In this chapter, the leaders of the tribes of Gad and Reuben found a place where they wanted to settle and establish their homes. Instead of continuing to fight against their enemies alongside their brothers and fellow Israelites, they wanted to leave the fighting up to someone else and take an easier way out. Moses, however, was discouraged by their proposal and reminded them of what had happened a generation before. This was an important part of Israel’s history and Moses didn’t want history to repeat itself in this way. 

As Moses points back to the story of Joshua and Caleb, he uses a word multiple times to describe their devotion: wholehearted (v. 11-12). That’s the kind of devotion God was looking for back then and it’s the same devotion He’s looking for today. We are easily distracted and amused people. We fill our minds, calendars, and free time with all kinds of things…but we often neglect the things of God. We are easily taken off mission by a lack of wholehearted devotion. While the leaders of Reuben and Gad eventually agree to join in the fighting, their obedience was delayed. 

Paul’s words in Acts 20:24 can serve as a helpful reminder to us that our only aim is to finish the race and to testify to the good news of God’s grace. As you go about your day to day, do so in a way that shows a wholehearted devotion to Jesus.


  1. What stuck out to you on your first read through this chapter? Why?
  2. What were the potential dangers if the leaders of Reuben and Gad had settled on the land? Why would that have been so disruptive to Israel?
  3. Where are you lacking wholehearted devotion today? What steps can you take today to center your devotion on Jesus today?

Keep Digging

What does it mean in verse 23 when it says “Be sure that your sin will find you out”? Check out this article from

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4 thoughts on “Numbers 32”

  1. On my first read I found it unbelievably selfish of Rueben and Gad to make such a request. Their motives seem questionable, especially in light of Israel’s past history of rebellion. They seem to want to take the easy way out and ignore God’s instructions. Had 40 years of wandering
    not taught them anything? I also find it interesting that Moses doesn’t stop and pray to God before giving his reply to their request. How was this going to impact the unity of Israel? There’s much to ponder and many implications for us today. Where have we stopped short of complete obedience to God? The wide ripple effect of our choices will reverberate into our relationships and our witness for Christ. Surely, we need the Holy Spirit’s wise counsel to speak into our decisions and a heart of obedience to follow through. I’ve been a “Rueben” with regrets and needed the reminder to count the cost to go full in with following Jesus. No turning back or stopping short, just fully committed.

  2. Our flesh, our sin nature at work, we want what we want when we want it. The grass is greener here not there or there not here. Do I really love and trust God? Is it just head knowledge or heart knowledge? Do I listen to the Holy Spirit? I believe God lets us struggle so that we understand our need for Him. Just think about a child, about 2-3 years old, trying to dress themselves. You can explain, show and help them daily but at some point there is the words “I will do it myself”. Then you get to sit back and watch, 95% of the time, a struggle. Shirt is on backwards, both legs in one leg of pants, frustration, anger, disappointment, ect. Eventually they get it or ask for help or both. That is us. As followers of Christ we have an advantage but I do not utilize it well. Holy Spirit guidance. God is ready willing and able to help me to know what is best for each situation in life. Listening, obeying without the words “I will do it myself”. Our life has a ripple effect. The decisions we make on listening to God or doing it myself effects me, my husband, my children, my grands, and outward. Listen and obey, with God all things are good, better, best.

    God thank You for Your guidance. Thank You when You give that guidance I obey without hesitation. God I desire my ripples of my life to be a glory to You. God trusting and obedience in You is abiding in You. To be still and know that You are God is my goal. God give me the open ears to listen to You, the eyes of understanding to know without a doubt You are guiding me and the obedience to follow You with all my heart. God I give You these minutes of this day. God show me, guide my words to love people in my path in Jesus name amen.

  3. Diane Frances Rogers

    I can understand the choices of Rueban and Gad to make a good life for their families as they saw an opportune area to settle. But, in our lives, do we want to settle for something we think is good or depend on our Father to show what good He has for us. I too have made decisions in haste without seeking counsel and have paid the cost. As we sang in church yesterday, ” I depend on Him”, I am reminded of Jesus on the cross for my sin. Wholeheartedly, I want to follow Jesus.

  4. 14 “And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel.”

    Wow! The apples didn’t fall far from the Gadite and Reubenite trees!

    God, help me to recognize and repent from that in my own life.

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