The Transjordan is the area to the east of the Jordan river where the Israelites had already conquered the occupying tribes. The land on the west (Canaan) still had to be conquered and then the Israelites would be able to settle in their “Promised Land”.
Were the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh trying to shirk their duties in leaving the other tribes to continue clearing the land of its sinful occupants? Were they being half-hearted, in that the land they were already in was good enough for them to settle in: so why did they need to fight for more land on the other side of the Jordan? It appears that they just wanted to be able to settle in the eastern side as the land was better for their herds and flocks of animals. At first Moses thought they were being selfish and as they were unbelievers (which for their predecessors had resulted in them dying in the wilderness) these men did not want to have the risk of fighting when they were already where they wanted to be. Moses was reassured that they would fight when the time came but wanted to protect their flocks and families whilst they were away at battle. Why should the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh just sit and watch their brothers fight for the rites that was entitled to them all? They said they would fight and then return to where they wanted to make their home.
Are we ever guilty of doing the same? Has someone helped us with something and then when the time comes that they need help, we make excuses as to why we can’t? It as much a sin to do nothing when you could do something, as it is to do something wrong.
Family and the relationships within it are important in God’s eyes. In 1 Timothy 5:8 we are warned that if we ignore the needs of our family then we are denying our faith. So were the tribes mentioned here fulfilling their faith in God by providing for their families whilst they were away doing God’s work? They were certainly being good role models in the end for their children, in continuing the work that the earlier generations had done in clearing the land in the previous years.
Help me to help others Lord. Help me to see the need in others and I pray for the strength