As Israel prepared to cross the Jordan to take the promised land, the tribes of Reuben and Gad and Manasseh petitioned Moses for the Transjordan territory of the Amorites, the lands taken by Israel in the war with Sihon and Og as described in Numbers 21. Though the Transjordan lay outside the borders of the promised land proper, the three tribes were well-pleased with the rich grazing land of Bashan and Gilead, and they wanted to settle their flocks and families there.
Moses feared that the three tribes would refuse to further assist the conquest of the promised land. He scolded them and reminded them of how their fathers had also refused to enter Canaan and thereby forfeited their opportunity to take possession of the land that God had sworn to give to them. He said, “The LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the LORD was destroyed” (Numbers 32:13).
Moses was afraid that the decision of the three tribes might dissuade the rest of the people from entering Canaan. He said, “If you turn away from following Him, He will once more abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all these people” (Numbers 32:15). The tribes assured Moses that they would cross the Jordan and fight with their brothers before returning and permanently settling in the Transjordan.
In this way, the three tribes reversed the tragedy of the previous generation. Not only did they agree to enter Canaan and fight to take possession of the promised land, they also expanded the borders of the holy land and took hold of that promised possession prior to crossing the Jordan. The situation with the three tribes settling in the Transjordan can be compared to the idea of entering the kingdom prior to the final redemption. The New Testament teaches that entering the land of Israel symbolizes entering the kingdom.
Disciples of Yeshua endeavor to live kingdom-lives now in this current age, and they seek to attain the exalted spiritual status of the Messianic Era by clinging to King Messiah now. In this way, the disciples of Yeshua extend the borders of the Messianic Era into this current age. Figuratively speaking, they take territory on the east side of the Jordan. At the same time, they keep the final redemption in clear view, and they acknowledge that despite their best efforts to bring the kingdom now, the world has not yet entered the Messianic Era. That will happen only when King Messiah comes to lead His people into the promised land. The disciple of Yeshua, however, is not content to wait until the final redemption; he seeks to enter the kingdom now by laying claim to the promises of the new covenant through faith in the Messiah.
Along the same lines of interpretation, one might say something similar about Zionism and the formation of the modern State of Israel. The return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and the formation of the modern state certainly seem to fulfill some of the ancient prophecies about the end of exile and the return to the land. However, the ultimate ingathering of Israel and redemption of the land has not yet occurred. Messiah has not yet come; neither has all Israel yet returned. Despite that, the Jewish people are taking hold of the redemption as much as possible in this current era. Just as the three tribes laid hold of their inheritance before Joshua had led them into the land and apportioned it out, so too, the modern state has laid hold of the land before the final redemption. The return of the Jewish people to the land and the modern State of Israel represents the first fruits of the final ingathering, the first glimmering of the dawn of redemption.
Mattot/Massei – מטות/מסעי : “Tribes” / “Journeys”
Torah : Numbers 30:2(1)-36:13
Haftarah : Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4
Gospel : John 18-21
Source: Torah Portion