In Matos, 32:2–4, we have (in loose translation):

The children of Gad and the children of R'uven came and said to Moshe, to El'azar the kohen, and to the heads of the congregation as follows:

Ataros, Divon, Ya'zer, Nimra, Cheshbon, El'ale, S'vam, N'vo, and B'on — the land [whose inhabitants] God struck[1] before the Jewish people — is a land for animals[2]. And [we] your servants have animals[2].

Then there's a break (a blank "s'suma" space in the Torah scroll), and the narrative continues (verse 5):

And they said:

If we have found favor in your eyes, the land should be given to [us] your servants for ownership: do not cross us over the Jordan.

What's with the paragraph break and the repeated "And they said"? It seems to be one long speech.

I see ibn Ezra (in his "long" commentary, the one in "mikraos g'dolos" chumashim) has a brief explanation, but I don't understand it; an explication of what he says is very welcome, certainly, among answers below. The Or Hachayim also has an explanation (that the new "they said" is for their request, whereas the first part is forestalling potential objections), but I don't see how that really explains the need for a new "they said" (or break), so, again, if someone can explain it, that'd be very welcome as an answer.

[1] Onkelos. (The tafsir of Rav Saadya Gaon has "the land God captured" or something like that.)
[2] The word used is one that denotes sheep and/or goats, actually. Hey, I said it was a loose translation!

  • I saw this year that Abarbanel also says that the second speech is their request whereas the first is to forestall objections.
    – msh210
    Jul 19, 2015 at 3:37

1 Answer 1


R' Hirsch's commentary on verse 5 addresses this curiosity:

This repeated restarting their speech implies a pause, and shows that they themselves were not without suspicion as to how their proposition would be received. They required a pause to pull themselves together to continue bringing their request forward.

  • 1
    Slightly different angle: they paused, hoping Moshe would volunteer a solution (he didn't). "Well dad you know it's a really long walk to college and a car would be nice ..." Or another tweak -- the pause wasn't in their speech per se, it's the Chumash telling us they should have stopped there, presenting the facts, and let Moshe propose the solution.
    – Shalom
    Jul 8, 2013 at 16:06
  • 1
    @Shalom, your first idea is similar to how R' Hirsch interprets this sort of pattern in Lavan's conversation with Ya'akov Avinu regarding compensation. Lavan: "I have this religious feeling that you've been quite the good luck charm. (So, tell me you're flattered, and we won't have to get into the crass matter of compensation.)" Ya'akov: <Stares at Lavan silently, thinking "No, I've been quite the good worker!"> Lavan: "OK, what do you want to be paid." reddit.com/r/Judaism/comments/mxdfi/…
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 8, 2013 at 16:29
  • 1
    @IsaacMoses by your second sentence I was picturing XtraNormal bears.
    – Shalom
    Jul 8, 2013 at 17:04
  • RSRH's explanation may fit with the Or Hachayim's (mentioned in the question).
    – msh210
    Jul 9, 2013 at 17:54
  • @msh210, Yes. The RSRH's and OHCh's explanations are different, but they could complement each other.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 9, 2013 at 20:02

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