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    Reuben & Gad – Mattot

    Reuben & Gad ask for land on the east of the Jordan

    When the people were ready to enter the Promised Land, the tribes of Reuben and Gad wanted to stay back and not cross over the Jordan with the rest of the tribes (Num. 32:5). The reason seems to be that they were possessed of “a great multitude of cattle”.

    Moses was having none of this. He said, “Shall your brethren go to battle whilst you stay here?”

    We are puzzled. Surely the fate of the fighters was already ordained by God. Why would the absence of Reuben and Gad affect the battle if God had decided that the Israelites would be victorious?

    In the end the dissident tribes agreed that they would accompany their fellows even if afterwards they went back across the Jordan and stayed in the wilderness.

    What then was the quarrel all about? It was a matter of ethics, not economics. The whole people ought to be as one without any group failing to play its own part in the affairs of the nation.

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