Study Notes

Numbers 32:1-34:29

32:1-5 Reuben And Gad Make A Request

Back in chapter 21, the Israelites captured the Amorites' land of Yah-az-AYR and Ghil-AWD. When the tribes of Reuben and Gad saw that the land was ideal for their many livestock, they asked Moses and El-aw-ZAWR if they could stay there - not going across the Jordan into the promised land. They asked if they could have the cities of At-aw-ROTH, Dee-BONE, Yah-az-AYR, Nim-RAW, Khesh-BONE, El-aw-LAY, Seb-AWM, Neb-O, and Beh-OHN as their inheritance instead.

The problem was that God had a perfect plan, a wonderful inheritance for these tribes. Although they hadn't yet seen it, they should have trusted that what God had for them was better than what they saw before them. But they thought that being on the edge of the wilderness, close to the promised land, was good enough for them.

Too often, we fall into this trap of finding a comfort zone in the wilderness and staying there. We decide, "This is as far as I'm going into this Christianity thing. I'm in the wilderness enough to have a good time, but I'm close enough to the promised land to feel spiritual."

Greg Laurie calls people like this Mugwumps. They're sitting on the fence with their mug on one side, and their "wumps" on the other!

What happens when we do this is that we settle for less than God wants to bless us with. It's like the game show that says, "You can keep this hundred dollar bill, or risk it to get what's behind curtain number one!" Fearing the unknown, and afraid that they'll lose what they know they have, many people walk away from the curtain holding their hundred dollar bill. But in the kingdom of God, we have a guarantee: what's behind the curtain will definitely be better than what we have in our hands now!

Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.

Jer. 29:11 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

1Cor. 2:9 ...THINGS which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, AND {which} HAVE not entered the heart of man, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM."

God has so much He wants to bless us with... but we must keep pressing on, we must continue. We mustn't decide that this is as far as we're going.

What kept these tribes on the wrong side of the Jordan? Their worldly goods - their livestock. How true for us as well - more than any other weight, it is our possessions that weigh us down, keeping us in the wilderness. Jesus said,

Matt. 16:26 "For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

Too many people have turned down the Lord's call to ministry and missions because they couldn't give up their worldly possessions.

32:6-15 Moses' Rebuke

Obviously, Moses wasn't too keen on the idea. What they were basically saying was, "The rest of you go on and fight the Canaanites for your land. We like it here." Moses rebukes them for committing the same sin that their fathers had 40 years before when they came to the border of the promised land.

And just like the spies who faltered in faith, causing the entire congregation to become fearful, their sons would do the same thing with this action - discouraging the rest of the Israelites from crossing over into the land. This would surely bring God's wrath down on the people, and they would be destroyed in the wilderness.

32:16-27 Offer To Fight

The tribes of Reuben and Gad didn't want to cause the destruction of Israel, so they offered this deal: "Let us build sheepfolds for our livestock and cities for our families here. Then we will go with you over the Jordan to fight the wars with you. We won't come back until everyone in Israel has gotten their inheritance."

This is going to backfire. Because now what will happen is that they will enter the promised land, see the blessings of God, and then turn and go back to the land in the world that they had chosen for themselves. Jesus said,

Luke 9:62 "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

Their futures will not be as blessed as they might have been by walking in God's will. "The subsequent history of the trans-Jordanic tribes is a melancholy commentary on the real unwisdom of their choice." (Winterbotham)

32:28-33 The Half Tribe Of Manasseh

Moses allows them to have their wish. It is up to them to walk in victory or defeat, so long as it does not discourage the rest of the congregation. But like so much sin, it did effect more than the tribes of Reuben and Gad.

We don't know exactly when half the tribe of Manasseh got in on this act, but they also decided to stay on the wrong side of the Jordan.

And sin begets more sin. By the book of 1Chronicles, we read,

1Chr. 5:25-26 But they acted treacherously against the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of ...(the) king of Assyria, and he carried them away into exile, namely the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh...

When the attack came, those who chose to live in the wilderness were the first to be picked off.

32:34-38 Reuben And Gad Build Cities And Sheepfolds

The tribes re-build the cities which the Israelites had conquered. Gad built up Dee-BONE, At-aw-ROTH, Ar-o-AYR, At-ROTH Sho-FAWN, Yah-az-AYR, Yog-beh-HAW, Bayth Nim-RAW, and Bayth Haw-RAWN. Reuben built Khesh-BONE, El-aw-LAY, and Keer-yaw-THAH-yim, Neb-O, Bah-al Meh-ONE, and Seb-AWM.

There are few things worse than going back and rebuilding strongholds that the Lord has helped you tear down.

32:39-42 Manasseh's Cities

The half-tribe of Manasseh settled in three areas. The sons of Maw-KEER took Ghil-AWD, the sons of Yaw-ERE called their area Khav-VOTHE Yaw-EER after themselves, and the sons of NO-bach took the area of Ken-AWTH and named it after themselves.

You can always tell carnality is happening when children of God begin to name things after themselves. Whether it's a ministry or a university or a church, when your name gets on it, it becomes an altar and a monument to you rather than God. Jesus said,

Luke 14:33 "...No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

He wasn't commanding us to give up everything in our possession, but rather giving up all claim to these things being our possessions. We must always remember that everything we own is actually the Lord's that He's given us stewardship of.

33:1-2 The Journeys Of The Sons Of Israel

Now Moses looks back at their forty years in the wilderness and recalls all of their journeyings.

(33:3-49) The Journeys Outlined

These verses list the places they went in detail.

33:50-56 Drive Out And Destroy

God's strict command for the Israelites when they cross over into Canaan is to drive out every single inhabitant of the land, and destroy all of their idols and altars. Any compromise will result in terrible trouble.

The same is true in our lives as well. Anytime that we only obey God partially, we have left the devil a foothold. Paul told the Corinthians,

1Cor. 5:6 ...Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?

The Israelites' disobedience to this command will result in ongoing troubles, even to this very day in Israel. Take, for example, the partial obedience of King Saul. In 1Samuel 15, Samuel told King Saul,

1Sam. 15:2-3 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek {for} what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'"

1Sam. 15:8-9 And he captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.

The Lord was angry with Saul because of his partial obedience. Why did God care about this one guy? By sparing just this one man, King Agag, the people of Israel were almost completely destroyed! We know this because we read in the book of Esther of a man named Haman who was nearly successful in having all the Jews killed. Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of King Agag, the one man that King Saul had spared.

So let's learn from their mistakes. When God calls us to deny our flesh completely, to obey entirely, to pluck out a root of bitterness in its entirety, we must not only obey partially. These things will come back to haunt us and very possibly destroy us.

(34:1-15) God Describes The Borders

In these fifteen verses, the Lord describes in detail the borders of the promised land that God was giving to Israel. As you look at this land in a Bible Atlas, you see that it is much, much larger than the small parcel of land that Israel inhabits today. In the Millennial Reign of Christ, when the Jews finally possess all that has been promised to them, the land of Israel will extend all the way from the Nile to the Euphrates, which includes the entire western half of Iraq.

(34:16-29) The Men Who Will Apportion

Finally, in the second half of this chapter, the Lord gives Moses the name of the men who will be responsible for dividing and apportioning the land to the various tribes and families.

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