Joshua 1:12 has my wheels turning and seeking clarity and understanding. There is a group of people that seem to be singled out throughout Joshua and other portions of scripture, it’s the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. What’s different about this portion of the Israel? Why are they being singled out? What makes them different?
I did a search of where this portion of the tribe of Israel was mentioned together, and was lead back to Numbers 32. It’s a long, interesting story! I would highly recommend sitting down with your favorite beverage to dig in.
So I think (please correct me if I missed this), the people were living in the land of Shittim, next to the land of Moab. The Israelites had defeated the Midianites (not sure where that is in relation to Shittim) in Numbers 31. And in Numbers 32, it states that the the tribes of Reuben and Gad had seen the land of Jazer and Gilead. So I wonder if during the journey of this battle they saw the land and thought it desirable. The tribes of Reuben and Gad had a great number of livestock, so they would need a lush place with plenty of area for their flocks to graze. They saw the lands of Jazer and Gilead and asked that these lands be their inheritance, they asked to not be taken across the Jordan.
Moses seems like he may have gotten a little upset with this request, not wanting Reuben and Gad to dishearten the rest of the tribes. “Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over in the land that the LORD has giving them?” (Num. 32:7) And then Moses reminds them about when spies were sent out into Canaan (Num. 12) and they came back saying “they are stronger than we are.” The people of Israel got very disheartened, and Moses having learned from that didn’t want it to happen again. To me, it sounds like a little bartering and remembering goes on between Reuben, Gad and Moses and the end product sounds something like this …
(my words) Rueben & Gad :: “Look, if you let us build pens for our animals and settle down here then we’ll go over and fight for you. We won’t rest until all of our brothers have their inheritance too. But we want this portion.”
(my words) Moses :: “Fine, you can do that. But if you don’t, you will have sinned against the Lord and that trouble is on you.”
So Moses said, after all the Israelites have their inheritance across the Jordan the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh would have the kingdom of Sihon and the kingdom of Og, the land with all it’s cities and territories throughout the country. This is land to the east of the Jordan river, towards the sunrise.
Up to this point it’s just been the Reubenites and the Gadites mentioned, I’m not exactly sure where the half-tribe of Manasseh got thrown in the mix. Perhaps they got wind of what was going on and wanted in on the deal? Perhaps Moses knew their hearts? Perhaps Moses was listening, God’s plan was just being enacted and wanted them to have this land too? I don’t know.
What I do know is that they (especially the tribes of Reuben & Gad) spoke up for what they wanted. I do know that as the story goes, they fought across the Jordan and kept their agreement. I do know that in Joshua 1:12-18 they are reminded by Joshua (Moses’ successor) of their agreement and acknowledged they will fight. Then, it’s states “Only be strong and courageous.” What a good insert for that reminder!
There is so much power in asking for what we want and keeping our agreements.
As Joshua addresses the tribes of Israel in Joshua 1, they were already living in their land of inheritance! Notice in Joshua 1:10-11 Joshua is speaking to the people as a whole, but down in verses 12-18 Joshua is speaking to just these three groups of people. The “men of valor” would have to leave their families to cross the Jordan and fight for their brothers.
I still have so many questions! Why these tribes? What is the significance here? Maybe it’s just because they had a very great number of livestock (Num. 32:1). Whatever it is, I’m curious.