Introduction: 1 Chronicles 5 tells the story of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, two and a half tribes which lived outside of God’s Promised Land. For a time, these tribes enjoyed what the world had to offer. But, over time, these two and a half tribes squandered their inheritance. They were the first to be sent into exile. They also never had a land to return to because they were not in God’s Promised Land. Abraham instead gave the lands that they claimed to the descendants of Lot. From their mistakes, God provides seven warnings on ways that you can squander your spiritual inheritance. These include: (1) covetousness, (2) pride, (3) worldliness, (4) double mindedness, (5) faithlessness, (6) bad company, and (7) obstinance.
First, Reuben coveted his father Jacob/Israel’s power. To demonstrate his belief that he was superior to his brothers, he slept with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah. As a result of his covetousness, he lost his right to a double inheritance as Jacob/Israel’s firstborn son. Like Reuben, covetousness can cause you to squander your spiritual inheritance. Second, after Reuben’s sins and the sins of his brothers, Chronicles reveals that the firstborn’s rights were transferred to Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim. But pride and other sins would cause them to also squander their spiritual inheritance. Because of their sins, the line leading to the Messiah would instead run through Judah. Pride can also cause you to squander your spiritual inheritance. Third, the tribe of Reuben loved what it saw in the world more than what God promised them. Thus, they pleaded with Moses not to take them into the Promised Land. Although they enjoyed life outside the Promised Land for a season, they had no lands to return to following the exile. Like the tribe of Reuben, worldliness can also cause you to squander your spiritual inheritance. Fourth, the tribe of Gad also followed in the sins of the tribe of Reuben. Both tribes tried to maintain dual allegiances between the things of the world and the things of God. But, as a result of their double mindedness, these tribes squandered their spiritual inheritance. Like these tribes, double mindedness can also cause you to squander your spiritual inheritance. Fifth, even though the tribes of Reuben and Gad had dual allegiances, God blessed them in battle whenever they put their full faith and trust in Him. Yet, because their faith was not consistent, these victories were temporary. Like these tribes, faith can also bring you great blessings, even if you have sinned. But faithlessness can also cause you to squander your spiritual inheritance. Sixth, the tribe of Manasseh was the most faithful and obedient while it was in the wilderness. But it kept bad company with the wayward tribes of Reuben and Gad. Thus, the tribe split into two with half of the tribe forgoing their inheritance in the Promised Land. Like Manasseh, bad company can also cause you to squander your spiritual inheritance. Finally, Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh ignored God’s repeated attempts to change their behavior through warnings and discipline. Thus, they were the first that God sent into exile, and they never had their own lands to return to following the exile. Their disobedience and refusal to repent caused them to squander their inheritance. Obstinance can also cause you to squander your spiritual inheritance.
Reuben lost his firstborn status due to his sins. Although Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son and should have received a double portion of the Promised Land territories, he squandered his spiritual inheritance: “1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright.” (1 Chr. 5:1). Reuben was the son of Leah and Jacob’s firstborn son (Gen. 29:30-32). Under the normal rules of inheritance, a firstborn son received a double inheritance: “But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.” (Dt. 21:17). As Jacob’s firstborn son, Reuben should have been the preeminent tribe with twice the land allotment given to the other tribes in Israel. But Reuben squandered this blessing.
Reuben squandered his blessings by sleeping with his step mother Bilhah1
Reuben squandered his inheritance through covetousness. Reuben was not content with the promise of a double blessing upon his father’s death (Dt. 21:15-17). Instead, out of a lust for power, he slept with his step mother, Bilhah, Rachel’s maid servant: “It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard of it.” (Gen. 35:22(a)). In old Testament times, seizing another person’s concubine was a sign that the person had usurped the other person’s power (e.g., 2 Sam. 16:22). But Reuben’s actions violated the Fifth Commandment because he dishonored his father (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16). His actions violated the Seventh Commandment against adultery (Ex. 20:14; Dt. 5:18). His actions further violated the Tenth Commandment against coveting (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). His actions also violated God’s sexual purity laws (Lev. 18:7-8; Dt. 23:30). Even though Moses had not yet received the Ten Commandments, God’s laws were written on Reuben’s heart (Ro. 2:15). For his actions, he was cursed: ‘“Cursed is he who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s skirt.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.”’ (Dt. 27:20). Because Bilhah was Reuben’s mother-in-law, he received a double curse: ‘“Cursed is he who lies with his mother-in-law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.”’ (Dt. 27:23). Among other punishments, he lost his firstborn status (1 Chr. 5:1). Jacob prophesized that Reuben would be unstable like water: “Reuben, you are my firstborn; my might and the beginning of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it-- he went up to my couch.” (Gen. 49:3-4). But Jacob spared him from the death that he deserved: “If there is a man who lies with his father's wife, he has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.” (Lev. 20:11). Thus, even though he was disciplined, he received God’s mercy and grace. Covetousness, however, still limited his ability to receive the fullness of God’s blessings. Do you covet things in this world that do not belong to you?
Joseph’s sons received an opportunity to lead that they squandered through pride. Although Jacob’s second youngest son Joseph received a double portion of the Promised Land territories, his sons also squandered their spiritual inheritance: “2 Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph),” (1 Chr. 5:2). Before his death, Jacob/Israel elevated Joseph’s two oldest sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to the status and importance of his 12 original sons: “5 Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. 6 But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance.” (Gen. 48:5-6). Jacob/Israel spoke prophetically of a time when the Levites would become God’s priests and lose their right to a land inheritance (Dt. 18:1-2; 10:9; 12:12; Nu. 18:20). To keep the number of tribes with a land inheritance at 12, Joseph’s sons would receive a double inheritance. Reuben’s defilement of Bilhah caused the firstborn land rights to be transferred to Joseph (1 Chr. 5:1). One son would receive Joseph’s inheritance. The other son would receive Levi’s inheritance. In addition to giving Joseph’s sons an inheritance equal to their uncles, Jacob switched the birth order of Joseph’s sons to give the second son Ephraim the greater inheritance (Gen. 48:8-14). Manasseh would have normally received a double inheritance. But that honor went to Ephraim. In addition to receiving more land, Jacob/Israel prophetically announced that Ephraim’s would be greater in influence and power than Manasseh’s tribe (Gen. 48:17-20). This later proved to be true. Ephraim became the dominant power with Northern Israel. Indeed, Isaiah at times referred to all of Northern Israel as “Ephraim” (Is. 7:8; 7:11). Both Ephraim and Manasseh received a special inheritance through God’s mercy and grace alone. But sin also affected the ability of each tribe to fully realize all of God’s intended inheritance. Ephraim, however, became prideful over its special status and squandered its spiritual inheritance.
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669) “Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph” (1656)2
Ephraim’s inheritance was based upon God’s mercy and grace. Ephraim’s tribe did nothing to earn its special blessing. Ephraim’s tribe sinned while it was in the wilderness. As a result, the fighting men in their tribe shrank from 40,500 fighting men (Nu. 1:33) to 32,500 (Nu. 26:37), a decrease of 19.75%. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God later fulfilled Israel’s prophetic word and gave the first and most important land blessing to the younger tribe of Ephraim: “5 Now this was the territory of the sons of Ephraim according to their families: the border of their inheritance eastward was Ataroth-addar, as far as upper Beth-horon. 6 Then the border went westward at Michmethath on the north, and the border turned about eastward to Taanath-shiloh and continued beyond it to the east of Janoah. 7 It went down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, then reached Jericho and came out at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the border continued westward to the brook of Kanah, and it ended at the sea.” (Josh. 16:5-8(a)). Joshua, a hero of the faith and the successor to Moses, was a member of the Ephraim tribe (Nu. 13:8, 14:6-9). Like Ephraim, God has also blessed you in many ways through mercy and grace. Have you given thanks for the many undeserved blessings that you have received?
Don’t let God’s blessings cause you to become prideful. You cannot lose your eternal salvation based upon your works. But sin can keep you from fully realizing all of the blessings that God meant for you. After Solomon’s death when the Kingdom of Israel separated into two, Ephraim was the dominant power in the north. Yet, the tribe of Ephraim was later condemned for its pride (Jdgs. 8:1; 12:1). It was then also condemned for apostasy (Hosea 4:17; 5:3). Its pride led to its decline and eventual destruction. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). Pride is one of the few things that God “hates.” (Prov. 8:13). For this reason, although Israel transferred the privilege of “the first born” to “Joseph,” the line of eternal kings and the Messianic line would still run through Judah (Gen. 49:8-10; 2 Sam 7:12-13). Are you prideful about any of the things that God has given you in life?
Rueben’s descendants settle outside the Promised Land. Despite Reuben’s sins, God blessed his descendants and gave them every opportunity to succeed. Yet, Reuben’s descendants decided that the lands outside of God’s Promised Land looked more attractive than what God had to offer: “3 the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel were Hanoch and Pallu, Hezron and Carmi. 4 The sons of Joel were Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son, 5 Micah his son, Reaiah his son, Baal his son, 6 Beerah his son, whom Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria carried away into exile; he was leader of the Reubenites. 7 His kinsmen by their families, in the genealogy of their generations, were Jeiel the chief, then Zechariah 8 and Bela the son of Azaz, the son of Shema, the son of Joel, who lived in Aroer, even to Nebo and Baal-meon. 9 To the east he settled as far as the entrance of the wilderness from the river Euphrates, because their cattle had increased in the land of Gilead. 10 In the days of Saul they made war with the Hagrites, who fell by their hand, so that they occupied their tents throughout all the land east of Gilead.” (1 Chr. 5:3-10). Even though Reuben lost his firstborn status, God did not cease to love his descendants. Including the book of Chronicles, the Bible records the names of Reuben’s sons, Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi four times (Gen. 46:9; Ex. 6:14; Nu. 26:5-7). Reuben’s sons all further went on to form important clans that carried their names. For example, Hanoch became the father of the Hanochites. Pallu became the father of the Palluites. Hezron became the father of the Hezronites, and Carmi became father of the Carmites. The line of Reuben is recorded, with possible gaps, up to the time of the reign of the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser (745-727 B.C.) (2 Kgs. 16:7-20; 2 Chr. 28:16-21). The boundaries of their territories included the towns Aroer, Nebo, and Baal-meon. These places were all to the east of the Jordan River. During the reigns of David and Solomon, their lands even temporarily reached as far as river Euphrates in Syria (1 Chr. 5:9; 2 Sam. 8:3). They continued to be strong through Saul’s reign when they waged war against the Hagarites, descendants from Hagar and Ishmael (Gen. 25:12-18). But their victories were temporary. Because they chose to live outside of the Promised Land, they would be amongst the first tribes taken into captivity.
The tribe of Reuben continued the sins of its father. By the beginning of the Jews’ journey to the Promised Land, Reuben’s tribe had 46,500 fighting men (Nu. 1:22). But, while in the wilderness, Rueben’s tribe joined in Korah’s rebellion against God’s appointed deliverer Moses (Nu. 16:1). This may have been motivated by their desire to regain their pre-eminent role amongst the 12 tribes. But those who desire to be first in power will be last in God’s Kingdom (Mk. 10:31). Like unstable water, Reuben’s tribe gave into various sins in the wilderness. It then stood on the edge of the Promised Land and decided that the world was better than God’s Promised Land. Thus, it chose a land inheritance outside of the Promised Land. Reuben was double minded between the things of God and the world. After more than 38 years in the wilderness, their numbers totaled only 43,730 (Nu. 26:7). This was a decrease of 2,770 or 5.95%. If you love things of the world, you are also double minded. This will also lead to spiritual decline.
Reuben’s squandered future inheritance. Before entering the Promised Land, God blessed the Jews with the wealth from four wars. First, He defeated the Egyptians and allowed the Jews to loot their wealth (Ex. 3:22; 12:35-6). Second, He helped them defeat the Midianites (Nu. 31:7-11). From Midian alone, the Jews captured 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, and 61,000 donkeys (Nu. 31:36-37). Third, He defeated the Amorite King Sihon (Nu. 21:23-31; Dt. 2:24-37). Fourth, He defeated the Amorite King Og (Nu. 21:32-35). With the one exception of Moab in the south, the Jews controlled all of modern day Jordan. God gave the Jews these things to prepare them for the Promised Land. But the tribes of Rueben and Gad (discussed below) assumed that God gave them this wealth for their own benefit. Like the servant who was given a talent and hid it, these tribes decided to bury their talents in a foreign land instead of watching them grow in God’s Promised Land (Matt. 25:14-30; Lk. 19:12-28). After receiving God’s many blessings, the tribes of Reuben and Gad noticed that they had “an exceedingly large number of livestock.” (Nu. 32:1). They also noticed that the conquered land that they were staying in “was indeed a suitable place for livestock.” (Nu. 32:1, 4). After realizing the comfort of God’s blessings, these tribes pleaded with Moses: “do not take us across the Jordan.” (Nu. 32:5). The lands east of the Jordan River would have been part of the Promised Land. But Abraham brought Lot to Israel when God had not called him to do so. To avoid a conflict, Abraham later gave these lands to Lot’s descendants (Gen. 13:6-8). Moses later agreed to let the two and a half tribes live outside Israel. God cannot force people into His Promised Land if they don’t want to be there. Moses agreed to their request provided that they first fight to win the Promised Land. God also cannot force His people to want to accept His rule over their lives to spend an eternity in heaven with Him. Just as he gave the two and a half tribes the free will to reject an inheritance in God, God gives people today the free will to reject Him and what He offers in heaven.
Two and a Half Tribes Reject God’s Promised Land (Art by Rivka Korf Studio)3
God judged these tribes before any other tribe. While living outside of God’s Promised Land, the tribes of Reuben and Manasseh adopted pagan idolatry and turned from God. During King Jehu’s reign in Northern Israel, circa 841 to 814 B.C. (2 Kgs. 10:36), God judged the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the Manassites by sending them into exile before any other Jews in either Northern Israel or Judah: “32 In those days the Lord began to cut off portions from Israel; and Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel: 33 from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites and the Reubenites and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.” (2 Kgs. 10:32-33). The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh lost territories east of the Jordan River that they had held for more than 600 years (Nu. 32:1-42).
God faithfully restores cities taken from Northern Israel. God showed mercy and grace in protecting the Jews who lived outside the Promised Land from immediate destruction. He gave them 600 years to come back to Him. He then also allowed the Jews to defeat King Ben-hadad III of Syria in battle and recover cities that the Jews had previously lost in battle: “24 When Hazael king of Aram died, Ben-hadad his son became king in his place. 25 Then Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again from the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities which he had taken in war from the hand of Jehoahaz his father. Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel.” (2 Kgs. 13:24-25). The Jews recovered territory in Gilead and Bashan. These cities belonged to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (2 Kgs. 10:33). God did not want to turn His back on His people: “For the LORD will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance.” (Ps. 94:14) But the Jews who chose to live outside the Promised Land failed to use this second opportunity for good. Thus, the Jews again lost these territories.
If you love the world more than God, His truth is not in you. Like the Jews who loved the world more than the Promised Land, God warns you not to let your love of worldly things exceed your love for Him: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Ja. 4:4). “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,” (Ro. 8:7). “And do not be conformed to this world, . . .” (Ro. 12:1(a)). Are there things that the world has to offer that you enjoy more than your relationship with Jesus?
The tribe of Gad choses to also live outside the Promised Land. Following Reuben’s example, the tribe of Gad also chose to settle outside of God’s Promised Land: “11 Now the sons of Gad lived opposite them in the land of Bashan as far as Salecah. 12 Joel was the chief and Shapham the second, then Janai and Shaphat in Bashan. 13 Their kinsmen of their fathers’ households were Michael, Meshullam, Sheba, Jorai, Jacan, Zia and Eber, seven. 14 These were the sons 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; 15 Ahi the son of Abdiel, the son of Guni, was head of their fathers’ households. 16 They lived in Gilead, in Bashan and in its towns, and in all the pasture lands of Sharon, as far as their borders. 17 All of these were enrolled in the genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.” (1 Chr. 5:11-17). The Gadites also lived to the east of the Jordan River. Their territories stretched as far as a place called Salcah, which was one of the cities of the defeated King Og (Dt. 3:10). Their territory also included “Gilead” in northwest Jordan. Some of the descendants included “the chief” Joel, Shapham, Jaanai, Shaphat, Michael, Meshullam, Sheba, Jorai, Jachan, Zia, and Heber. The references to Jotham and Jeroboam refer to census records to record the numbers of this tribe. Although these people and the census counts are now forgotten, God records these people and facts to show that He cannot forget His people: “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (Is. 49:15).
Gad kept bad company and also became double minded. Gad was the son of Zilpah, Leah’s maid (Gen. 30:11). Leah had Jacob sleep with her maid Zilpah out of jealousy to have more children than her sister Rachel. Gad, like his other brothers, was guilty of selling Joseph into slavery out of jealousy. Although Gad was Jacob’s seventh son, God gave the tribe an undeserved honor. He listed it as the third tribe in the census counts. Like us, Gad was a child of the flesh whom God adopted by grace into His holy line (Eph. 1:5). Yet, Gad kept bad company which stumbled the tribe in its walk. Gad guarded behind Reuben on the southern flank of the Tabernacle (Nu. 2:14-15). Rather than being a light to its wayward brother, it participated in Reuben’s sins. Both tribes participated in the multiple revolts against Moses and God while in the wilderness. Like Rueben, Gad also declined while in the wilderness. At the beginning of the journey, Gad’s fighting men totaled 45,650 (Nu. 1:25). Yet, at the end of the journey, their numbers dropped to 40,500 (Nu. 26:18). This was a decrease of 5,150 or 11.28%. Sadly, some use God’s mercy and grace as a license to sin (Ro. 6:1). A believer who associates with carnal friends may ultimately be brought down in his or her walk (1 Cor. 15:33). Are you hanging out with the wrong people?
Being double minded, Gad also failed to discern the purpose of God’s blessings. Like the tribe of Reuben, God blessed the tribe of Gad with the wealth of the defeated Amorite King Sihon (Nu. 21:23-31; Dt. 2:24-37; Jdgs. 11:19-22), the Amorite King Og (Nu. 21:32-35) and the Midianites (Nu. 31:7-11). Like the tribe of Rueben, the tribe of Gad noticed that they had “an exceedingly large number of livestock.” (Nu. 32:1). They also noticed that the conquered land that they were staying in “was indeed a suitable place for livestock.” (Nu. 32:1, 4). Like the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad also pleaded with Moses: “do not take us across the Jordan.” (Nu. 32:5). Like Reuben, Gad loved what the world had to offer more than what God had to offer.
The two tribes rejected God’s prior allocation of land for them. God previously directed Moses to divide up the Promised Land into 12 randomly selected lots without regard to merit (Nu. 26:56). Then, to prevent the smaller tribes from having more land per capita, Moses adjusted the map with the final census count to expand the territories of the larger tribes and to shrink the territories of the smaller tribes (Nu. 26:54). This ensured fairness. Yet, it had another implication. Because growth was tied to obedience, the Jews experience in the Promised Land was in part based upon grace (they did not deserve to be there in the first place) and it was in part impacted by their faith-led works (some got more land than others). The tribes of Reuben and Gad both shrank in size because of their disobedience while in the wilderness. Thanks to God’s mercy and grace, these two tribes still had a place in the Promised Land. But God slightly reduced their allotment to give more to His faithful servants. God may have given them a part of Israel that may not have appeared to them to be the best grazing land. We can infer this because they told Moses that the land of Jordan “is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” (Nu. 32:4). They presumed that the land of Jordan was better than the portion of Israel that they were given for raising livestock. Knowing also that their allotment in the Promised Land would be reduced because of their prior disobedience, the tribes of Reuben and Gad thought that they had a better solution. They believed that they could live outside the Promised Land and receive even more land that appeared better suited for grazing. They may have tried to justify their decision by reasoning that their brothers in the faith would benefit by receiving an increased share of the Promised Land. But this was not God’s plan. Solomon warned: “There is a way that seems right to a man. But it ends in the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). Jesus also warned: “. . . the way is broad that leads to destruction . . . the way is narrow that leads to life.” (Matt. 7:13-14). Are you following God’s path or your own?
A double-minded believer should not always expect God to answer prayers. If you vacillate between depending upon Jesus and the world, Jesus considers your faith unstable. Believers who are double-minded should not expect Jesus to answer their prayers: “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:7-8). “I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Your law.” (Ps. 119:113). Elijah challenged the Jews to either pick God or Baal instead of trying to follow both: “Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kgs. 18:21). Jesus also warned that you cannot have two masters in your life: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24). Are your allegiances torn between Jesus and the world in any area?
God blessed Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh when they turned to Him. Even though God knew the poor choices that His people would make, He blessed Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh when they put their faith and trust in Him: “18 The sons of Reuben and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, consisting of valiant men, men who bore shield and sword and shot with bow and were skillful in battle, were 44,760, who went to war. 19 They made war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab. 20 They were helped against them, and the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hand; for they cried out to God in the battle, and He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him. 21 They took away their cattle: their 50,000 camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 donkeys; and 100,000 men. 22 For many fell slain, because the war was of God. And they settled in their place until the exile.” (1 Chr. 5:18-22). God blessed these two and a half tribes with both the resources and the talents to be valiant warriors. The tribes east of the Jordan River waged war against the Hagarites, descendants of Hagar’s son Ishmael (Gen. 25:15). Ishmael’s twelve sons also included Jetur (Gen. 25:15), who is mentioned in these verses. Jetur’s descendants were called the Ituraeans. Naphish is another spelling for Ishmael’s eleventh son Nephish (Gen. 25:15). Nodab may also be one of the other sons by a different spelling. Yet, Bible scholars are not certain. When these Jews turned to God and trusted Him, He blessed them. Yet, because their trust was limited, God’s provision and protection came to an end with the Assyrian deportation of 722 B.C.
God responds to the faithful prayers of His people. Chronicles makes clear that it was the Jews’ faith in God and their prayers for help that prompted God to intervene on their behalf: “for they cried out to God in the battle, and He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him.” (1 Chr. 5:20). Whenever the Jews put their faith and trust in God, He delivered them from their enemies: “So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.” (Ezra 8:26). “In You our fathers trusted; they trusted and You delivered them.” (Ps. 22:4). “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Ps. 9:10). As an example of this, God intervened to deliver Asa from an army from Cush when he cried out for help (2 Chr. 14:11-13). But God did not limit His willingness to intervene to those who lived righteously. When Manasseh - - the most wicked king in Judah - - repented, God heard his cries for mercy and delivered him from bondage: “When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.” (2 Chr. 33:13). Thus, even though the tribes who lived outside the Promised Land were dual minded about their devotion toward God, God was ready to intervene on their behalf the moment they were willing to put their full faith and trust in Him.
Faith can restore your blessings. These verses are important because they show that God did not walk away from these two and a half tribes. He was ready to bless and protect them as soon as they turned back to Him. He promises to restore His people if they repent of their sins and turn to Him in faith: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14). If our nation will repent and return back to God, God promises to heal it.
Faithlessness can cause you to squander God’s blessings. While the tribes who lived east of the Jordan River at times enjoyed God’s blessings when they showed faith, God did not protect them in battle when they lost their faith in Him. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. . . . So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:12, 19). “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Is there any part of your walk that is filled with doubt? If left unchecked, it can pull you off your walk and cause you to squander the fullness of God’s blessings.
The half tribe of Manasseh also squanders its blessings. Although Joseph received a double inheritance, his sons’ tribes squandered their inheritance by joining the wayward tribes of Reuben and Gad: “23 Now the sons of the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land; from Bashan to Baal-hermon and Senir and Mount Hermon they were numerous. 24 These were the heads of their fathers’ households, even Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah and Jahdiel, mighty men of valor, famous men, heads of their fathers’ households.” (1 Chr. 5:23-24). Manasseh was divided between the things of the world and God’s promises. Half of the tribe decided to join Reuben and Gad’s claims to an inheritance to the east of the Jordan River. God also wanted the wayward members of this tribe to survive. Thus, He blessed them with “mighty men of valor, famous men”. These included people whose contributions are today lost to historians, including Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah, and Jahdiel. Only Hepher and Azriel are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible (Nu. 26:31). As He did with the other tribes, God recorded these names to show that He never forgets His people, when they forget Him.
The territories of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh4
Manasseh enjoyed great blessings before half of its members fell into temptation. Manasseh was the most obedient of all the tribes in the wilderness, and it grew the most. By the beginning of their journey, the Manasseh tribe had fighting men totaling 32,200 (Nu. 1:35). By the end of their 38-year-journey, their fighting men totaled 52,700 (Nu. 26:34). This was an increase of 20,500 or 63.66%. God promised the tribe of Manasseh within the Promised Land: “9 together with the cities which were set apart for the sons of Ephraim in the midst of the inheritance of the sons of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages.” (Josh. 16:9). But half of this tribe gave up God’s blessings for a counterfeit promise of a better life outside the Promised Land. They were influenced by the company that they kept with Reuben and Gad. The lesson is that you should not let yourself be unequally yoked with others: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). If you do, you might be pulled off your walk with God.
The half tribe that stayed in the Promised Land had a split inheritance. After Manasseh split into two, the part that stayed in the Promised Land shared a border on the north side of the Ephraim tribe in central Israel (Ezek. 48:5). Yet, their inheritance was mixed within the lands given to three other tribes, Issachar, Asher, and Napheth (Josh. 17:7-11). Seven of their cities were in other territories: (1) Beth-shean; (2) Ibleam; (3) Dor; (4) En-dor; (6) Taanach; and (7) Megiddo (Josh. 17:11). They also failed to drive out the Canaanites dwelling amongst them. They instead used the Canaanites as laborers: “12 But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. 13 It came about when the sons of Israel became strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.” (Josh. 17:12-13). Using the Canaanites as slave labor, however, was against God’s plan. He warned the Jews not to make peace with the people of Canaan because of the threat that they would pose to the Jews if left behind (Nu. 33:52-56; Dt. 7:1-2; 20:16-18). Because the Jews failed to drive out the Canaanites, they later grew to become a threat to the tribe of Manasseh that stayed in the Promised Land. They also became a snare on their walk, causing them to adopt the idolatry of the Canaanites.
Avoid the company of ungodly people. Like the tribe of Manasseh, even the most zealous believers can be brought down through “bad company: ‘Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.”’ (1 Cor. 15:33). You must be careful not to allow people who are not walking with God to draw you off of your walk: “2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” (2 Tim. 3:2-5). Are you keeping bad company?
God sent the three wayward tribes into exile to discipline them. Because these three tribes repeatedly abused God’s mercy and grace, God was forced to send these tribes back into exile: “25 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. 26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away into exile, namely the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara and to the river of Gozan, to this day.” (1 Chr. 5:25-26). Although the Jews who lived across the Jordan River at times received God’s blessings when they trusted Him and put their faith in Him (1 Chr. 5:18-22), these moments of faith were not consistent. Because they were dual minded, these Jews frequently placed their trust in their own resources and in the world. God used the Assyrian King Pul, aka Tiglath-pileser, as the instrument of His judgment against these tribes (2 Kgs. 15:19-20).
God warned the Jews not to follow after the pagan gods. God’s First Commandment prohibited the Jews from worshiping other gods (Ex. 20:3; Dt. 5:7). While living outside the Promised Land, these two and a half tribes repeatedly broke God’s Covenant. They
“played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them” (1 Chr. 5:25). The penalty for worshiping other gods was death: “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed.” (Ex. 22:20). Out of mercy and grace, God gave these tribes opportunities to repent. But they repeatedly ignored those chances to repent and change their ways.
God warned the Jews that repeated rebellion would result in their exile. God’s exile of these tribes did not come without warning. Just before his death, Moses warned that repeated rebellion would lead to the Jews’ exile: “64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.” (Dt. 28:64). “The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” (Dt. 4:27-28; 29:28; 32:26). ‘“You, however, I will scatter among the nations . . .” (Lev. 26:33(a)). God also sent multiple other prophets to warn the Jews to repent. The Jews’ physical bondage was the outward manifestation of their spiritual bondage to sin. When you rebel against God’s Word, you may also be placed into spiritual bondage. “So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices.” (Ps. 81:12).
Don’t be obstinate when God disciplines you. God called His people obstinate in the face of discipline: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.”’ (Ex. 32:9; 33:3). Jeremiah later also lamented God’s people who refused to accept His discipline: “O LORD, do not Your eyes look for truth? You have smitten them, but they did not weaken; You have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.” (Jer. 5:3). Are you stiff-necked and obstinate in the face of discipline?
When the Holy Spirit exposes your sins, repent. God wanted the Jews to recognize and repent of their sins. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, o God, You will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17). Although the call to repent is not popular in seeker churches that only offer feel good messages, Jesus began His ministry by preaching repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2). “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17). “and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”’ (Mk. 1:15). The apostles also preached the importance of repentance: “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”’ (Acts 2:38). “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19). When God exposes your sins, repent so that He can forgive you. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). The Holy Spirit convicts you of your sins when you rebel against God (Jo. 14:26). Do you have any sins to repent of?