Today: [1 Chronicles Five] Reuben, Gad and Mannesseh. In this chapter we see the genealogy and reference to Reuben, Gad and Mannesseh who were treated together because they comprised a separate colony in the history of Israel for having settled on the eastern banks of the Jordan rather than in the promised lands that God accorded to them through Moses. Reuben is mentioned after Judah and an explanation is given for what Reuben is not honored as the first born. The sons of Gad are mentioned by name which doesn’t occur anywhere else in the scripture. Explanation is given as to why these three tribes were taken together by the king of Assyria into captivity from whence they never returned.
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[1Ch 5:1-26 KJV] 1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he [was] the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. 2 For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him [came] the chief ruler; but the birthright [was] Joseph’s:) 3 The sons, [I say], of Reuben the firstborn of Israel [were], Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. 4 The sons of Joel; Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son, 5 Micah his son, Reaia his son, Baal his son, 6 Beerah his son, whom Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria carried away [captive]: he [was] prince of the Reubenites. 7 And his brethren by their families, when the genealogy of their generations was reckoned, [were] the chief, Jeiel, and Zechariah, 8 And Bela the son of Azaz, the son of Shema, the son of Joel, who dwelt in Aroer, even unto Nebo and Baalmeon: 9 And eastward he inhabited unto the entering in of the wilderness from the river Euphrates: because their cattle were multiplied in the land of Gilead. 10 And in the days of Saul they made war with the Hagarites, who fell by their hand: and they dwelt in their tents throughout all the east [land] of Gilead.
Ezra not only chronicles the generations of the tribe of Judah but proceeds as well to document the generations of the tribe of Reuben. Reuben was actually the first born of Jacob however Judah is mentioned first because upon his death Jacob disowned Reuben’s birthright because he transgressed against his father and copulated with one of Jacob’s concubines. Ezra responds to the necessity of explaining why Reuben being the oldest was not mentioned first. Both Reuben and Levi and Simeon were older than Judah and each in line for the right of the first born but were all rejected for various infractions against the family and their father Jacob.
In this chapter we specifically see the tribes that settled on the eastern banks of the Jordan addressed. They chose not to occupy their ancestral inheritance given to them by God but chose instead lands on the wilderness side of the Promise. In writing of these tribes it is important to note that Ezra is just being thorough because at this point these tribes are not longer significantly present in post exilic period. Ezra does mention that Tiglath Pileser took Reuben into captivity in approximly 727 – 745 B.C. and also imposed tribute on Ahaz the king of Judah during the same period. In verse 10 the wars of Reuben against the descendants of Hagar are also mentioned.
11 And the children of Gad dwelt over against them, in the land of Bashan unto Salchah: 12 Joel the chief, and Shapham the next, and Jaanai, and Shaphat in Bashan. 13 And their brethren of the house of their fathers [were], Michael, and Meshullam, and Sheba, and Jorai, and Jachan, and Zia, and Heber, seven. 14 These [are] the children 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, chief of the house of their fathers. 16 And they dwelt in Gilead in Bashan, and in her towns, and in all the suburbs of Sharon, upon their borders. 17 All these were reckoned by genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel. 18 The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh, of valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skilful in war, [were] four and forty thousand seven hundred and threescore, that went out to the war. 19 And they made war with the Hagarites, with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab. 20 And they were helped against them, and the Hagarites were delivered into their hand, and all that [were] with them: for they cried to God in the battle, and he was intreated of them; because they put their trust in him. 21 And they took away their cattle; of their camels fifty thousand, and of sheep two hundred and fifty thousand, and of asses two thousand, and of men an hundred thousand. 22 For there fell down many slain, because the war [was] of God. And they dwelt in their steads until the captivity.
In this particular passage we find more detail on the tribe of Gad than we see in any other portion of scripture. Here we find four of the seven sons of Gad are mentioned by name whereas in other passages no reference is given. By way of explanation Ezra states that his reference material comes down to him from archives compiled at the time of Jothams reign in Jerusalem after the death of king Uzziah during Isaiah’s service to the southern crown. These are spoken of along with regard to their miltary service suggesting that the original information was part of a military census conducted at the time. In verse 18 we see mention of the wars of the eastern tribes and the fact that they prevailed not because of their number but because they cried out to God for assistance in their campaigns against the Hagarites.
23 And the children of the half tribe of Manasseh dwelt in the land: they increased from Bashan unto Baalhermon and Senir, and unto mount Hermon. 24 And these [were] the heads of the house of their fathers, even Epher, and Ishi, and Eliel, and Azriel, and Jeremiah, and Hodaviah, and Jahdiel, mighty men of valour, famous men, [and] heads of the house of their fathers. 25 And they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land, whom God destroyed before them. 26 And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.
The remainder of the passage deals with the half tribe of Mannasseh that also settled on the eastern shores of the Jordan. These tribes are treated together because they shared a common fate along with the other northern tribes of going into captivity because they went “whoring” (or prostituted themselves) to other gods.
We can see that these tribes when they cried out to God victory was won and they defeated their enemies. However when they chose to resort to other dependencies they were unable to stand in battle and ultimately went into captivity and in time ceased to exist as a cohesive tribal identity. The lesson for us is the same. In 1 John 5:21 the apostle warns us as believers “little children keep yourselves from idols…” He is not just referring to leering statues in a grotto somewhere. An idol is any false depency. An idol is an outward dependency in our lives that takes the place of inner dependency on who God is in our lives. When you are under pressure what do you resort to? Early in their histories these tribes cried out to God and prevailed. Later when the prostituted themselves to idolatry they paid a dear cost. This is our lesson and a perspective on understanding why we at times prevail and other times are overrun by our enemies.
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