Numbers 32: Inheritance

The inheritance of 2.5 tribes is given before the Israelites even cross the Jordan. Numbers 32 covers the stipulations regarding their inheritance.


The tribes of Reuben and Gad set their sights on the land of Jazer and Gilead. Their desire for this land is stirred because the land was well suited for their multitude of cattle. When the idea strikes them to claim that land for their inheritance, they ask Moses and Eleazar if it would be acceptable for them to claim this land instead of the promised land on the other side of the Jordan.

Remember, the last time the Israelites didn't cross the Jordan, God became very angry, punishing them to wander 40 years in the desert. None of the men who had refused to cross were permitted to enter the promised land; all of the men over the age of 20 (minus Joshua and Caleb) at the time had died. Moses didn't want to bring more wrath from God on the people (remember 24,000 people had just died in the idolatry incident at Baal-peor). Moses tells the tribes that this time, God might actually destroy the people.


The men of these tribes propose that they build pastures and cities for their flocks and children on the land now, but assure that they will go into battle with Israel. They vow to only return to their land when Israel has conquered all of the promised land.

Moses agrees to this proposal, reminding them that if they don't hold up their end of the bargain, their sin will find them. Likely this is a warning deflecting the blame of their sin from the nation of Israel to their specific tribes. I assume Moses was insinuating that if they didn't fulfill their oath, God would punish the individual tribes.

When the men of the Reuben and Gad agree to these conditions, the agreement is made public amongst the rest of the Israelites.

2 1/2 Tribes Inherit Land

Obviously Reuben and Gad are 2 tribes that inherit land. The other 1/2 a tribe that inherits land on that side of the Jordan is Manasseh. This land is the land of Sihon and Og. It is not clear when the tribe of Manasseh petitions for land or how they came to inherit land there as well, though it is hinted that perhaps it is a reward for conquering the remaining Amorites.
Cities of Gad
  1. Dibon
  2. Ataroth
  3. Aroer
  4. Atroth
  5. Shopan
  6. Jaazer
  7. Jogbehah
  8. Bethnimrah
  9. Bethharan
Cities of Reuben
  1. Heshbon
  2. Elealeh
  3. Kirjathaim
  4. Nebo
  5. Baalmeon
  6. Shibmah

The tribe of Gad builds 9 cities behind fences; they also build enclosures for their sheep. The area in which they build is north of the Dead Sea and east of the Jordan River. Roughly, this is located at 35.8°E and 32°N. The tribe of Reuben builds 6 cities for which we are given the names; these cities are located at approximately 35.8°E and 31.5°N.[2] The land given to these tribes is in modern day Jordan. Numbers 32:38 tells us that the names of many cities are changed. Upon my first reading, I was unsure if the names given were the old names or the new names the tribes came up with. Once source reminds us that the original names may have referenced false gods forcing the Israelites to rename the area.[1] Since both Nebo and Baal are the names of pagan gods, I assume the names listed are the previous names.

Most of these cities have been identified and located on the map today. Many of the names are merely spelled different, while others have more pronounced differences.[1]

The half of Manasseh that inherits land are the children of Machir. They find an Amorite hiding in Gilead and take the city from the Amorite. Presumably, this is how they came to inherit land on that side of the Jordan. It appears that they did not ask for this land as Reuben and Gad did. One of the sons of Manasseh named Nobah takes the city of Kenath and renames it after himself. Another son of Manasseh, Jair, takes many small towns and calls them Havothjair. Manasseh's portion of these lands is located north of Gad from about 32.5°N to 33.6°N.[2] Including part of the Sea of Galilee and Lake Huleh, today this land is part of Jordan and Syria.

Since none of this land is actually part of the land promised to the Israelites and these 3 tribes are part of the 10 lost tribes (i.e. those who claim Jewish heritage today are not from these 3 tribes[4]), it makes perfect sense that God did not move the United Nations to include these territories when they re-established the country of Israel in 1948.[3] Top

Relating To Today

Photocredit: Holman KJV Study Bible (pg. 294)
The tribes of Reuben and Gad became enamored with the land they have just conquered and were willing to forfeit the land promised to them by God. Not only did they endanger the Israelites of God's wrath, but they may have short changed the themselves as well. This situation is almost equivalent to the two tribes deciding to stay on Earth because they saw a magnificent space of land instead of entering Heaven, which they had never seen but were promised would be great. They didn't trust that God's gift to them was the best gift they could receive, so they chose what they saw with their own eyes.

We have to be careful of this today. Many times what we see in front of us looks like the best option, but God has our best interest in mind. You may be content to stay where you are, but God may have something even better in store for you. Can you imagine passing up one of God's blessings in favor of something that would always be subpar?


  1. Numbers 32. Bible Study Tools. 2014
  2. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 294. 2014
  3. Creation of Israel, 1948. Office of the Historian. 2016
  4. Ten Lost Tribes of Israel . Encyclopædia Britannica. 2016

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