Today's text is Joshua 1:12-18. In these verses we find a lesser-known "Bible story", but one that has good lessons for us.
We tend to think of The Promised Land, that geographical area promised by God to the Israelites, to be the land west of the north-south flowing Jordan River. We also tend to think of the Israelite's conquest of the Land to have taken place after they crossed the Jordan from the east, headed west. And, that is true. However, the Land also extended east of the Jordan all the way to the Euphrates River, and the conquest of the Promised Land began before the people ever crossed the Jordan. These verses hearken back to Numbers 32, which gives the complete story. (You might want to turn to that lengthy passage and follow along.)
After the Israelites subdued the kingdoms of Og of Bashan and of Sihon (Amorites), the 3 tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh (1/2 the tribe) - - - all of whom were the cattlemen of Israel - - - recognized that this was prime cattle land. Note that this took place before the crossing of the Jordan, before the famous Battle of Jericho. Accordingly, they asked Moses (back then - - Numbers 32:5) if they could stay on that eastern side of the Jordan and claim that land as their inheritance. It made a lot of sense, really. Trying to conquer a people, with several thousand head of cattle in tow, is not usually good battle strategy. And, had a segment of Israel not stabilized that area, it would have fallen back into the hands of their enemies.
Moses was angry at their request, though (Numbers 32:6-15) and accused them of cowardice. "Shall your brothers go to war and you just sit here?" He also accused them of faithlessness - - not trusting in the power of the Lord their God. Even more, he warned them that their attitude could potentially anger God so much that He might send the entire people back for more decades of wilderness wandering (32:14-15).
We see in 32:16-19 that the men of these 2.5 tribes made a solemn vow - - - that they would do their part to help the other tribes conquer the land west of the Jordan and that they would not return to their new homeland east of the Jordan until the job was done.
Moses warned them solemnly that this vow would be fulfilled or they would be committing a great sin against their God. "Be sure your sin will find you out." (Num. 32:23) You wondered where that verse came from, didn't you?!
So, in the early chapters of Joshua, the debt came calling. It was time for these 2.5 tribes to do their part in securing the remainder of the Promised Land for their brethren. Leaving their women and children (and cattle!) behind, they dressed for battle and crossed the Jordan with the other tribes. We see in Joshua 1:16-18 their determined allegiance to Joshua and by extension to their God.
I'll just go ahead and tell you that these eastern "tribe-tribe-and 1/2 tribe" performed admirably in the conquest of the Canaanites on the west side of the Jordan. We'll explore the next "chapter" in their story tomorrow.
Lord, thank you for teaching me something new about O.T. history of the Israelites today. Equally important, thanks for reminding me that vows made to You are inviolate. Making a vow to You and then failing to fulfill it can have disastrous consequences. Thank you for giving us this example of the stalwart obedience and faith of the men of the 2.5 tribes. In Jesus' name, amen.