Reuben and Gad want to stay out of Canaan
The twin golden pots of Yazer and Gilead on the east side of the River Jordan were prime cattle land (place for livestock, maqom miqneh). Perhaps ranchland is a good interpretation for the modern reader. These two territories could not have been any more appropriate than what Canaan itself had to offer. After all, Canaan was the land of promise and Transjordan was not. The episode shows how human interests can seem attractive and beneficial but be the opposite. In a rebuke to insularity and I-got-it-now-ism God establishes that he does not have or accept premature slots of progress for selected individuals, tribes, people, or nations.
Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle; Num 32:1
They leaped at the opportunity.
Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan. Num 32:5
Moses had a different view of the situation.
And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? Num 32:6
Taking advantage of excellent lands for livestock seemed reasonable, but shortsighted and self-centred. Moses received the proposal as “we want to stay out of the fight”. Num 32:6
Not a great idea
Leaving the two tribes on the east side of Canaan would have diminished the vision of a family inheriting together. Not only would they be separated from their cousins they would not be in the land God promised. The tribes inheriting together is a big deal for God and this particular configuration of his purposes in not restricted to ancient times. It also shapes the inheritance of all believers Heb 11:39-40.
I see now too how the fundamentals of modern interpretation have spilled a great deal of in in appreciating the gold off this particular transistional crisis. The parallels between the Ranchland Proposal and a couple of moderns views give us certainty about the error of premature progress.
Sometimes, dying and going to heaven immediately seems like a “why not?” Hebrews 11:39-40 and the whole chapter tells of faith heroes who are waiting dead. Sometimes, sin and grace seem like enemies when in fact there is no other remedy.
The die and go to heaven or hell slogan has not been revised since Jonathan Edwards raised the flag of impatience in his work Absent from the Body. Instant personal gratification is obviously a faculty we inherit from the Creator, but finding a place for it in the common progress and inheritance of the saints plan is next to impossible.
The saints do go marching in at the same time, after the return of Yeshua, and no-one gets in without instantaneous change (1Th 4:16-17, 1 Co. 15:50-54 ), and all come from the grave or among the living. It is not progress that someone is claiming that his dead mother is alive in heaven or that the lost are burning in hell now and will be resurrecetd to be thrown into the Fiery Lake. This Inuit is not buying ice.