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Why is it that in Numbers 32:1–32 Moses only commands Reuben and Gad to cross the Jordan River, but then in Joshua 1:12–15 it has Joshua talking about how Moses commanded Manasseh to cross over as well? Some think these different commands are a result of the Yahwist, or Elohist communities of the Documentary Hypothesis.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya. This is a very insightful question, and I believe that one of the commentaries addresses this, as clearly it has to do with the phrasing in the verses and not what actually occurred. I recall seeing this a few months ago, as I had the same question in my mind. I'll try to research this during the weekend. I'm unclear what you mean by "Yahwist" communities. If your question is specifically seeking an answer from this perspective, that may be out of scope for this site. Please clarify, either way. – DanF Jan 15 '16 at 19:54
  • Hello there, I personally do not support the Documentary Hypothesis, but scholars think the reason for these differences in command by Moses are due to these communities Y, P, E, and D. One possibility for the difference is due to the fact that the only way for Moses to have commanded the Reubenites and Gadites was for him to be located south of the Jabb0k river. While the Manassites would have been living north of the Jabbok. – Ryu Tanaka Jan 15 '16 at 20:03
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See Meshech Chochma commentary #43 on Bemidbar (Numbers 32:33). It is a long, so I don't want to copy or translate everything.

The gist of it is that part of the tribe of Menashe afterwards decided to join the other two tribes. Prior to giving the them the land, Moses bound them by the same conditions as Reuven and Gad. This is a Talmudic principle that states that a "vow" or "promise" made based upon a future event is binding once that event occurs.

The example he gives is in Talmud Kiddushin that states that if someone says, "You are betrothed to me once it begins raining." Once it rains, the woman is betrothed.

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