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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Now 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.
His birthright was given ... - In particular, the right of the first-born to a double inheritance Deuteronomy 21:17 was conferred on Joseph, both by the expressed will of Jacob Genesis 48:22 and in the actual partition of Canaan Joshua 16-17. But though the birthright, as respecting its material privileges, passed to Joseph, its other rights, those of dignity and pre-eminence, fell to Judah; of whom came the chief ruler, an allusion especially to David, though it may reach further, and include a glance at the Messiah, the true "Ruler" of Israel Micah 5:2.
2For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's:)
3The sons, I say, of Reuben the firstborn of Israel were, Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.
4The sons of Joel; Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son,
The sons of Joel - The line of succession here given must be broken by one great gap or several smaller ones, since nine generations before Tiglath-pileser would carry us back no further than the reign of Rehoboam.
5Micah his son, Reaia his son, Baal his son,
6Beerah his son, whom Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria carried away captive: he was prince of the Reubenites.
7And his brethren by their families, when the genealogy of their generations was reckoned, were the chief, Jeiel, and Zechariah,
8And Bela the son of Azaz, the son of Shema, the son of Joel, who dwelt in Aroer, even unto Nebo and Baalmeon:
9And eastward he inhabited unto the entering in of the wilderness from the river Euphrates: because their cattle were multiplied in the land of Gilead.
He inhabited - i. e. Reuben. Eastward the Reubenites inhabited as far as the commencement of the great Syrian Desert, which extended all the way from the river Euphrates to their borders.
10And 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.
The "Hagarites" or "Hagarenes" are generally regarded as descendants of Hagar, and a distinct branch of the Ishmaelites 1 Chronicles 27:30-31; Psalm 83:6. They appear to have been one of the most wealthy 1 Chronicles 5:21 and widely-spread tribes of the Syrian Desert, being found on the side of the Euphrates in contact with the Assyrians, and also in the Hauran, in the neighborhood of Palestine, in contact with the Moabites and Israelites. If identical with the Agraei of the Classical writers, their name may be considered as still surviving in that of the district called Hejer or Hejera in northeastern Arabia, on the borders of the Persian Gulf. A full account of the war is given in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22.
11And the children of Gad dwelt over against them, in the land of Bashan unto Salchah:
From this passage and from the subsequent account of the Manassites 1 Chronicles 5:23-24, the Gadites extended themselves to the north at the expense of their brethren, gradually occupying a considerable portion of the tract originally allotted to the "half tribe."
12Joel the chief, and Shapham the next, and Jaanai, and Shaphat in Bashan.
13And their brethren of the house of their fathers were, Michael, and Meshullam, and Sheba, and Jorai, and Jachan, and Zia, and Heber, seven.
14These 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;
15Ahi the son of Abdiel, the son of Guni, chief of the house of their fathers.
16And they dwelt in Gilead in Bashan, and in her towns, and in all the suburbs of Sharon, upon their borders.
17All these were reckoned by genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.
The writer refers here to two registrations, one made under the authority of Jeroboam II when he was king and Israel flourishing, the other made under the authority of Jotham, king of Judah, during the troublous time which followed on the great invasion of Tiglath-pileser. There is nothing surprising in a king of Judah having exercised a species of lordship over the trans-Jordanic territory at this period.
18The 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.
19And they made war with the Hagarites, with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab.
Jetur no doubt gave his name to the important tribe of the Ituraeans who inhabited the region southwest of the Damascene plain, between Gaulonitis (Jaulan) and the Ledjah. This tribe was noted for its thievish habits, and was regarded as savage and warlike.
20And 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.
21And 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.
22For there fell down many slain, because the war was of God. And they dwelt in their steads until the captivity.
23And the children of the half tribe of Manasseh dwelt in the land: they increased from Bashan unto Baalhermon and Senir, and unto mount Hermon.
"Baal-Hermon," "Senir" Deuteronomy 3:9, and "Mount Hermon," are here not so much three names of the one great snow-clad eminence in which the Anti-Lebanon terminates toward the south, as three parts of the mountain - perhaps the "three summits" in which it terminates.
24And 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.
25And 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.
26And 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.
"Habor" here seems to be a city or a district, and not a river, as in marginal reference There is some reason to believe that districts among the Assyrians were occasionally named from streams.
Hara is probably the same as "Haran" Genesis 11:31; 2 Kings 19:12; Ezekiel 27:23, being a softening down of the rugged original "Kharan."