Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 5

The genealogical record of the Twelve Tribes of Israel continues in today’s Scripture reading (1 Chronicles 5). The focus is the two-and-one-half tribes that settled on the east side of the Jordan River (i.e., known as the “Trans-Jordan Tribes”).

The Tribe of Reuben (1 Chronicles 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 (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). As the firstborn son, it should have been Reuben’s lot to be the clan’s leader and receive an ample inheritance that he would pass down to his sons. Such, however, was not the case.

Reuben committed a great sin by lying with his father’s concubine (a lesser wife of Jacob, 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 the distinction of his lineage as a tribe (Genesis 49:3-4). As a result, Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, became distinct tribes in Israel (1 Chronicles 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, culminating in David as “the chief ruler” (1 Chronicles 5:2).

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

The Tribe of Gad (1 Chronicles 5:11-17)

Gad was Jacob’s seventh son, whose mother was Zilpah, Jacob’s concubine. Like the tribe of Reuben, the sons of Gad settled on the east side of the Jordan River and occupied land extending north to Gilead. Some prominent names of the Gadites were listed (1 Chronicles 5:12-17).

The Defeat of a Confederacy of Heathen Nations (1 Chronicles 5:18-22).

 

The genealogical record in the Chronicles was interrupted by a historical event. We are told that the Trans-Jordan Tribes, the “sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh [were] valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skilful in war” (1 Chronicles 5:18). Those tribes went to “war against the Hagarites, with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab” (1 Chronicles 5:18-19). The catalyst for the war was not given, but I suspect it was for the possession of fertile pastures.

 

The Trans-Jordan tribes enjoyed a glorious victory over their enemies; however, their military skill did not win the battle. We read that 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” (1 Chronicles 5:20). Though not stated, I believe the Hagarites were 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 (1 Chronicles 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” (1 Chronicles 5:24).

The Record of a Tragic Failure (1 Chronicles 5:25-26).

We have seen that the Trans-Jordan tribes were mighty men of war, and God prospered them. Sadly, the prosperity of those tribes came 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” (1 Chronicles 5:25). Their fathers had chosen the lands outside the Promised Land. It was their proximity to the heathen nations that was their undoing.

The influence of the ungodly inevitably drew away the children of the Trans-Jordan Tribes, who eventually failed to worship the God of Israel. They broke the 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 into captivity (1 Chronicles 5:26).

Closing thoughts:

Though victories marked their history, and the spoils taken in war 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 (1 Chronicles 5:26).

Lesson – We must be diligent in establishing standards and boundaries that will protect our children from the influences of the world and its sinful ways. Let us heed Paul’s admonition to Corinth and “be not deceived: [knowing that] evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Questions to ponder:

1) Why was the tribe of Reuben disqualified from being named among the Twelve Tribes of Israel? (1 Chronicles 5:1)

2) Who was given the birthright of Reuben? (1 Chronicles 5:2)

3) Who were the first tribes of Israel to be carried away into exile? (1 Chronicles 5:26)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

 

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