Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 5

The genealogical record of the Twelve Tribes of Israel continues in today’s Scripture reading (1 Chronicles 5), beginning with the two-and- one-half tribes that had settled on the east side of the Jordan River (I will identify them as the “Trans-Jordan Tribes”).

The Tribe of Reuben (5:1-10)

The introductory verses of 1 Chronicles 5 explain how Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob (Genesis 29:31-32), suffered the loss of his inheritance (5:1-2). As the firstborn son, it should have been Reuben’s lot to be the leader of the clan, and receive an ample inheritance that he would pass down to his sons. Such, however, was not the case.

Reuben committed a great sin against his father, by lying with his father’s concubine (a lesser wife, but nevertheless his father’s wife, Genesis 35:22). Reuben’s sin brought generational consequences for himself, and his family. He forfeited his inheritance and distinction as a tribe (Genesis 49:3-4), and Joseph’s sons became distinct tribes in Israel (5:1). Furthermore, the leadership of the Twelve Tribes of Israel fell to the tribe of Judah whose lineage emerged to become superior to his brethren, and David “the chief ruler” (5:2).

The great land mass occupied by Reuben on the east side of the Jordan River is described in 1 Chronicles 5:9, including their victory over the Hagarites (5:10).

The Tribe of Gad (5:11-17)

Gad was the seventh born son of Jacob, whose mother was Zilpah, Jacob’s concubine. Like the tribe of Reuben, the sons of Gad had settled on the east side of the Jordan, and occupied land extending north to Gilead. Some of the prominent names of the Gadites are listed (5:12-17).

The Defeat of a Confederacy of Heathen Nations (5:18-22).

The genealogical record is interrupted by a historical event, for the “sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh” (5:18) “made war against the Hagarites, with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab” (5:19). They were “valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skilful in war” (5:18). The catalyst for the war with their neighbors was not given, but I suspect it was for the possession of fertile pastures.

The Trans-Jordan tribes experienced a glorious victory over their enemies; however, it was not their military skill that won the battle. We read, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh “were helped against them [their enemies], 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” (5:20). Though not stated, I believe the Hagariteswere descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and the Egyptian concubine Hagar (Genesis 16:15; 17:20; 25:12-17), which would make them the ancient ancestors of today’s Arabic nations.

Half-Tribe of Manasseh (5:23-24)

A portion of the genealogical record of the half-tribe of Manasseh is given, including the names of seven “mighty men of valour, famous men, and heads of the house of their fathers” (5:24).

The Record of a Tragic Failure (5:25-26).

We have seen that the Trans-Jordan tribes were mighty men of war, and God prospered them. Tragically, the prosperity of those tribes would come to a tragic end for “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” (5:25). They had chosen the lands outside the Promised Land, and it was their proximity to the heathen nations that was their undoing. The influence of the ungodly inevitably drew away their children from worshiping the God of Israel. They had broken covenant with the LORD, and He stirred the hearts of Assyrian kings, who invaded the lands of the two-and-one-half tribes, and took their children away into captivity (5:26).

Closing thoughts: Though their history was marked by victories, and the spoils taken in war had enriched them, it was the compromise of the Trans-Jordan tribes with the heathen that enslaved the hearts of their children to serve their gods (5:26).

Be diligent to establish standards and boundaries, and protect your children from the influence of the world and its sinful ways (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith