On the Border of the Promised Land
The time had come to number the people of Israel again, and Moses and Eleazor, the high priest, began to count the men in the tribes, as Moses and Aaron had done at Sinai. After the counting was over it was found that all those who had been afraid to go over into Canaan the first time were dead, just as the Lord had said. Only Caleb and Joshua, the good spies, were left, for the Lord had promised that they should live and lead the people into the promised land.
Now the Midianites had tempted the children of Israel to worship idols and to commit sin in the eyes of the Lord. In order to punish these heathen, Moses sent twelve thousand men against them to give them battle. God gave the Israelites a great victory over their enemies, and their kings were slain.
The Midianites were despoiled of all their goods, and all their cattle, and thousands of their oxen, asses, and sheep. Their cities were burned, and even the castles which they lived in were destroyed by fire.
After the battle was over the leaders of the hosts of Israel came to Moses and said: "Thy servants have taken count of the men under our charge, and there is not one missing." Thus did the Lord give the children of Israel a great victory over their enemies.
At last the people of Israel came near the land of Canaan. For forty years they had been wandering in the wilderness, and a new generation of them had been born, and grown into manhood. During all these years the Lord had provided them with food and water, had protected them from their enemies, had punished them for their sins, had given them laws, and had led them on with his pillar of cloud by day and his pillar of fire by night. Now they were near the river Jordan and there they made their camp.
While they waited for the Lord to direct them, two of the tribes of the children of Israel came to Moses and told him they did not wish to go over Jordan, but desired to stay in the land of Gilead where they were. They had a great many cattle, and the land was rich and well watered and they were satisfied as they were. They said to Moses: "Let this land be given to thy servants for a possession and bring us not over Jordan. We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle and cities for our little ones."
Moses was angry with these tribes, for he thought they were afraid to go to war with the people of Canaan and asked their leaders: "Shall your brethren go to war, and shall you sit here?"
The leaders had no such intention, and told Moses they would leave their cattle and their wives and children in the land of Gilead, and the men would go forward and help their brethren conquer the land of Canaan. After that the men would return and live in the land of Gilead where they had built them sheepfolds and left their families.
Moses told the two tribes which were the tribes of Reuben and Gad, that they might have the land of Gilead for their own, provided the men go across Jordan and help the others conquer the country. And so the men built their sheepfolds, and houses for their wives and children to live in on that side of Jordan, but the men themselves made ready to accompany their brethren in their march to the promised land. Half of the tribe of Manasseh asked to join the tribes of Reuben and Gad and stay on that side of Jordan, and Moses allowed them also.