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It caught my attention that in Parashat Matot the first time Reuven and Gad asks for permission to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan they are mentioned in their order of birth (Bemidbar 32:1):

וּמִקְנֶ֣ה ׀ רַ֗ב הָיָ֞ה לִבְנֵ֧י רְאוּבֵ֛ן וְלִבְנֵי־גָ֖ד עָצ֣וּם מְאֹ֑ד וַיִּרְא֞וּ אֶת־אֶ֤רֶץ יַעְזֵר֙ וְאֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ גִּלְעָ֔ד וְהִנֵּ֥ה הַמָּק֖וֹם מְק֥וֹם מִקְנֶֽה׃

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,

However, in all subsequent verses ִin the weekly portion Gad is mentioned first and Reuven second (see verses 32:2, 6, 25, 29, 31, 33, 34 and 37). Does it have any relevance? What do commentators say about this issue? Does it matter that in Masei the order is reverted to the original (34:14)?

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    Also וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת יָרַשְׁנוּ, בָּעֵת הַהִוא; מֵעֲרֹעֵר אֲשֶׁר-עַל-נַחַל אַרְנֹן, וַחֲצִי הַר-הַגִּלְעָד וְעָרָיו--נָתַתִּי, לָראוּבֵנִי וְלַגָּדִי and וַנִּקַּח, אֶת-אַרְצָם, וַנִּתְּנָהּ לְנַחֲלָה, לָראוּבֵנִי וְלַגָּדִי--וְלַחֲצִי, שֵׁבֶט הַמְנַשִּׁי. – Double AA Jul 20 '20 at 16:09
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Bamidbar 32:2

וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ בְנֵֽי־גָ֖ד וּבְנֵ֣י רְאוּבֵ֑ן וַיֹּאמְר֤וּ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֙ וְאֶל־אֶלְעָזָ֣ר הַכֹּהֵ֔ן וְאֶל־נְשִׂיאֵ֥י הָעֵדָ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר׃

2 The descendants of Gad and the descendants of Reuben came, and they spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the kohen and to the princes of the community, saying,

Bamidbar 32:2 is explained by Ibn Ezra

ויבאו בני גד – הם בעלי העצה בתחלה, על כן הקדימם הכתוב.

The descendants of Gad came - They were the main initiators of this event, therefore they are spoken of first.

While Bnai Reuven are spoken of first with regard to the multitude of flocks, because of birth order, the idea of settling on the eastern side of the Jordan River was actually initiated by the tribe of Gad. Not only was it their idea, but they were the ones who spoke before Moshe. Reuven went along with them.

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  • "While Bnai Reuven are spoken of first with regard to the multitude of flocks, because of birth order": can you source that it was because of birth order and not for some other specific reason? – msh210 Jul 21 '20 at 12:06
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    @msh210 As a general rule in the torah, unless there is a different reason, the tribes are usually spoken of in birth order. If there is a different reason, the meforshim will explain it. For example when they are grouped by their mothers or some other specific reason. In this case there is no reason to put Reuven first other than he is the older. – sabbahillel Jul 21 '20 at 13:44

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