Deuteronomy 3:18–20 (HCSB)
18 “I commanded you at that time: The Lord your God has given you this land to possess. All your fighting men will cross over in battle formation ahead of your brothers the Israelites. 19 But your wives, young children, and livestock—I know that you have a lot of livestock—will remain in the cities I have given you 20 until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as He has to you, and they also take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them across the Jordan. Then each of you may return to his possession that I have given you.
This pericope is focused on the distribution of captured land to the two and half tribes that had requested to remain east of the Jordan river. Deut 3:8-11 are a summary of the area that Moses divided up, along with an interesting reference to the bed of Og and its extremely large size, possibly there to emphasize the preceding passages significance in his defeat.
Deut 8:12-17 is concerned with the actual division of the land. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh were the three tribes receiving land, and this section gives the details of what portions each received. One interesting thing to note here is the phrase “as it is today,” in Deut 3:14. The phrase would suggest a later date writing of Deuteronomy, or at least this passage, else there would be no reference to this as a past event. Or, as at least one commentary suggests, this could be a later, editorial, addition.
The most interesting part of the passage, I think, is the final section: Deut 3:18-20. Here, Moses reminds the people of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh, that, just as God promised, these lands are theirs, but they must follow through with their commitment to accompany their Israelite brothers into Canaan and secure the rest of the promised land. How easy it would have been for these men to settle in and not follow through with their promise. They had a home after decades, centuries even, of being without one! Would we do the same today? Are we doing the same? Have we accepted a tremendous blessing from God, but stopped following through with the work He has assigned us, instead choosing to consume what He has given?
And take note of this as well: Moses reminds them that all the “fighting men” are to cross the Jordan. That means nobody stays back to protect the women, children, and livestock, which there is apparently much of. This is yet another demonstration of faith in God to protect and provide. How tight is our grip on what has been given to us by God? Are we busier “protecting” our stuff than we are marching forward for God?
Lord, thank You for delivering us. And that deliverance isn’t worldly, it isn’t big houses, fancy cars, and fat wallets… it’s a saved soul, adoption into Your family. I am sorry for clinging to those other things and often leaving the battlefield, or sometimes never marching into battle to begin with. I pray for right priorities, a conquering of greed and pride, through You, that frees me to do exactly as You have designed. Amen.