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Deuteronomy 3:12-17

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Deuteronomy 3:12
  • Deuteronomy 3:13
  • Deuteronomy 3:14
  • Deuteronomy 3:15
  • Deuteronomy 3:16
  • Deuteronomy 3:17

The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth and last book of the Torah (“law”). It continues the story of the first 4 books and picks up exactly where the book of Numbers ends (with the people on the plain of Moab). Therefore, as we set the context for the book of Deuteronomy, it is important that we briefly summarize the theme of the previous books to see how the story of God unfolds.

Genesis describes God’s plan to bless the Israelites and the world through one man named Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Exodus focuses on God’s loving act by which He rescued the Israelites from Egypt in order to have a covenant relationship with them. Once the children of Israel are redeemed, Leviticus instructs them to live a holy life that reflects the life of their covenant redeemer (cf. Lev. 19). Since the first generation of the Israelites failed to obey God wholeheartedly, the book of Numbers displays a strong contrast between God’s faithfulness and the nation’s failure. That is why the book of Deuteronomy reiterates and expands on the covenant to a new generation of Israelites poised to enter and conquer the Promised Land. The message of the book is centered around two key terms: love and loyalty (Deut. 6:4-5).


After the defeat of King Sihon, the Israelites next defeat King Og of Bashan (2:32-37). After the defeat of both kings, Moses distributes their territory to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Following the land distribution, Moses commands these two and half tribes to help the remaining tribes in the conquest of the west side of Jordan and encourages Joshua to cross over the Jordan with the people. Finally, Moses pleads with the LORD that he be allowed to enter Canaan, but God rebukes him and simply allows him to view the land from afar. The chapter can be outlined as follows:

I. Moses explains the defeat of King Og and summarizes Israel’s victory over both kings of the Amorites (3:1-11).

II. Moses distributes the territory of King Sihon and King Og to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (3:12-17).

III. Moses commands the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to help the remaining tribes to conquer Canaan (3:18-22).

IV. Moses pleads with the LORD that he be allowed to enter Canaan, but God rebukes him and simply allows him to view it from afar (3:23-29).


Moses recalls the distribution of the territory of King Sihon to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the distribution of the territory of Og to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

After Israel’s victory over King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan, Moses distributed ownership of their territories to tribes of Israel. Moses declared, “So we took possession of this land at that time.” The Reubenites and the Gadites received all the territory of King Sihon, as well as a portion of land extending from Aroer, which is by the valley of Arnon, and half the hill country of Gilead. The remainder of Gilead and the whole kingdom of Og were given to the half-tribe of Manasseh. Gilead is the northern part of the current country of Jordan.

According to the book of Genesis, the Reubenites were descendants of the first son of Jacob by his wife named “Leah” (Genesis 35:23). The Gadites were descendants of Jacob’s son named “Gad”by his maidservant, Zilpah (Genesis 35:26). The half-tribe of Manasseh, the first son of Joseph, consisted of two clans represented by Jair and Machir (Genesis 41:51). These tribes were to receive the portions of land located east of Jordan.

In verses 14-15, Moses proceeded to offer some details concerning the land he distributed to the half-tribe of Manasseh. Jair, who received all the region of Argob as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, renamed his kingdom to Havvoth-jair. The border of the Geshurites was in the Golan heights, east of the Sea of Galilea. The Maacathites refer to the inhabitants of the small state called “Maaca” in the Golan heights located further north. Makir, the second clan of the half-tribe of Manasseh (in addition to Jair) received Gilead as his inheritance.

In verses 16-17, Moses summarized the occupation of this portion of land. He said, “To the Reubenites and to the Gadites I gave from Gilead even as far as the valley of Arnon, the middle of the valley as a border and as far as the river Jabbok, the border of the sons of Ammon; the Arabah also, with the Jordan as a border, from Chinnereth even as far as the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah on the east.”

The Reubenites and the Gadites settled from Gilead south to the valley of Arnon and east to the river Jabbok, the border of the Ammonites. Then, the Arabah, a term used as a virtual synonym for “desert” is the continuation of the Jordan rift between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Elath, approximately 110 miles long. The Arabah with the Jordan as its western boundary went from the sea of Chinnereth (that is, the Sea of Galilea), down to the sea of the Arabah, the Salt sea, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah on the east. The mountain called “Pisgah” probably refers to Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1-4). It lies east of the Jordan River and northeast of the Dead Sea. It is identified with modern Ras es-Siyaghah, about ten miles of the Jordan River.

Biblical Text:

12 So we took possession of this land at that time. From Aroer, which is by the valley of Arnon, and half the hill country of Gilead and its cities I gave to the Reubenites and to the Gadites. 13 The rest of Gilead and all Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to the half-tribe of Manasseh, all the region of Argob (concerning all Bashan, it is called the land of Rephaim.14 Jair the son of Manasseh took all the region of Argob as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and called it, that is, Bashan, after his own name, Havvoth-jair, as it is to this day.) 15 To Machir I gave Gilead. 16 To the Reubenites and to the Gadites I gave from Gilead even as far as the valley of Arnon, the middle of the valley as a border and as far as the river Jabbok, the border of the sons of Ammon; 17 the Arabah also, with the Jordan as a border, from Chinnereth even as far as the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah on the east.

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