Thursday, July 31, 2014
Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22
Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22
(These are the) words – Hebrew
Second naming/law – Greek
Parashah #7 - Devarim 3:15 – 22
“…and to Machir I gave Gilead, and to the Reubenites and to the Gadites I gave from Gilead to the brook of Arnon, in the midst of the brook and the border, until the brook of Jabbok, which is the boundary of the children of Ammon, the plain, the Jordan and the border thereof, from Kinnereth to the sea of the plain of the Salt Sea, under the waterfalls of Pisgah, eastward.” (vss. 15 – 17)
The finale of this week’s parashot begins with a continuation of the previous portion, Moses’ rehashing what has already occurred regarding the distribution of the land in the Trans-Jordan area. The Trans-Jordan refers to the land east of the Jordan River. Of the twelve tribes to receive land sandwiched between the waters of the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, two had requested permission to remain in the Trans-Jordan. Reuben and Gad were the tribes that made this request. Upon Moses’ approval, it was also determined that ½ of the tribe of Manasseh was to remain in the Trans-Jordan as well. (See Numbers 32 for a more in depth presentation of these events.)
Briefly, let me describe what is mentioned here. Machir, a man of the tribe of Manasseh, was given the city of Gilead. We will revisit Machir a little later. The Reubenites and the Gadites received territory between the Jabbok and Arnon Rivers. This is an area that covers about 35 – 40 miles north to south; it began at about the midpoint between the southernmost point Sea of Galilee (Kinnereth) and the northernmost tip of the Dead (Salt) Sea and extended southward to near the mid-way point of the Dead (Salt) Sea. The ½ tribe of Manasseh, of which Machir is a member, received as their portion the land from the Jabbok River northward to about the center point on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee (the southern portion of the Golan Heights), and their land then fanned out northeastwardly from there.
Let us now return to Machir. As was already reported, Machir had been given Gilead; this would have been the city of Gilead, Gilead; in other words, the settlement of Gilead within the boundaries of the territory of Gilead.
However, who is Machir? What is important about him and his progeny? According to Numbers 27:1, 32:39, and 36:1, he was the son of Manasseh which would make him the grandson of Joseph. As we follow his genealogy in the direction of his descendants we discover that he had a son named Gilead, a grandson named Hepher, a great-grandson named Zelophehad (Num. 26:33), and five great great granddaughters known as the daughters of Zelophehad. According to Joshua 17:4 – 6 it seems that his five daughters were given territory near Gilead, the city which had been given to their great-great-grandfather.
These five women had a great uncle who was the son of their great-grandfather Gilead. He was a half brother of their grandfather Hepher, and his name was Jephthah. Scripture has information regarding him in Judges 11:1 – 12:7. Judges 11:13 reveals that the Ammonites wanted “their land” returned to them.
What land? Jephthah’s response from verses 15 through 23 accurately described the history of what had occurred some three hundred years previously – in the time of our parashah. Israel had not taken any of the land of the Ammonites for they had been forbidden to do so. Yes, they did conquer the Amorites, but that land bordered on the northern part of the Ammonites, it was not part of Ammon.
A wise man once said, “…there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). To put this situation in modern terms, “Give back the land to the Palestinians.” NO! There has never been a group of people called the Palestinians, there never was a land of Palestine despite the nomenclature given to it by the Romans, and the Ammonites had no historical right to Trans-Jordan Israel. There is no land to “give back”.
According to map #45 in the Holman Bible Atlas (© 1998) as well as map #4-7 in the Satellite Bible Atlas – Historical Geography of the Bible (© 2013), Ammon had at this time expanded to the east and north thereby expanding their territory east of Trans-Jordan Israel. The Ammonites, besides raiding the lands of Reuben, Gad, and the ½ tribe of Manasseh, also traversed through these lands in order to raid Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. Scriptural support for this comes from Judges 10:6 – 9 where we also find that this occurred for 18 years. Students of the Tanakh could probably guess the cause of these raids; Israel had once again sinned against HaShem by serving other gods, including those of the Ammonites.
It seems that most of the Jephthah-led fighting actually took place in the territory of the Gadites and the Reubenites, for Judges 11:33 states as follows:
“He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer
to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as
Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued
before the sons of Israel.” NASB
Aroer seems to have been located just north of the Arnon River, in the territory of Reuben, and the defeat of the Ammonites continued northward to Abel-keramim, well in the northern portion of Gad, some 20 miles south of the Jabbok River, which was the southern border of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh.
There is a comparison I would like to bring up before closing these thoughts on our parashah. There are six women who merit mention in the readings of Deuteronomy and Judges; and they are related to each other. We know the names of the five daughters of Zelophehad, but the sixth women we only know as the daughter of Jephthah; she was their 1st cousin once removed. (“Once removed” means that there is a one-generation difference between them.)
Though I cannot pretend to know why HaShem has these six Gileadite women mentioned, I can give you a thought of mine. These women had chutzpah, and their chutzpah was admiral.
Zelophehad’s daughters honored their father through their request of an inheritance so that his name would be maintained among his family (Numbers 27:4). The sisters really had nothing to gain for themselves by this request once they were married or had died. In addition to showing utmost respect for the property of their tribe, this request was for the honor of their father’s name. What better example is there of honoring your father and mother?
Did not Jephthah’s daughter do likewise? Of whom does she remind you? She reminds me of Isaac as he permitted himself to be bound and lay down on the altar. She was willing to allow her father to fulfill his vow to Adonai. How much trust is exhibited here – not only in her father, but also in her Father?
Lastly, the half tribe of Manasseh had not requested to remain in Trans-Jordan as far as I can tell. Why did Moses send them there? Was it because of their faithfulness? Was it because Joseph had been separated from his brethren, and in a sense, splitting this son of Joseph separates them from the rest of the tribes who all remain whole – excluding the priesthood. Not only does Joseph have representation on both sides of the Jordan River, but also in the western territories he has representation in what will become known as Israel and Judah. Perhaps Joseph’s representation on both sides of the river is symbolic of his faithfulness to the mitzvot of HaShem, and as a protector/life-giver to all his brethren.
May we all remember and rejoice at HaShem’s everlasting faithfulness to His Word. Shalom.