The heads of the half-tribe of Manasseh, that were seated on the other side Jordan, are named here, 1 Chron. 5:23, 24. Their lot, at first, was Bashan only; but afterwards they increased so much in wealth and power that they spread far north, even unto Hermon. Two things only are here recorded concerning these tribes on the other side Jordan, in which they were all concerned. They all shared,
I. In a glorious victory over the Hagarites, so the Ishmaelites were now called, to remind them that they were the sons of the bond-woman, that was cast out. We are not told when this victory was obtained: whether it be the same with that of the Reubenites (which is said 1 Chron. 5:10 to be in the days of Saul), or whether that success of one of these tribes animated and excited the other two to join with them in another expedition, is not certain. It seems, though in Saul’s time the common interests of the kingdom were weak and low, some of the tribes that acted separately did well for themselves. We are here told,
1. What a brave army these frontier-tribes brought into the field against the Hagarites, 44,000 men and upwards, all strong, and brave, and skilful in war, so many effective men, that knew how to manage their weapons, 1 Chron. 5:18. How much more considerable might Israel have been than they were in the time of the judges if all the tribes had acted in conjunction!
2. What course they took to engage God for them: They cried to God, and put their trust in him, 1 Chron. 5:20. Now they acted as Israelites indeed. (1.) As the seed of believing Abraham, they put their trust in God. Though they had a powerful army, they relied not on that, but on the divine power. They depended on the commission they had from God to wage war with their neighbours for the enlarging of their coasts, if there was occasion, even with those that were very far off, besides the devoted nations. See Deut. 20:15. They depended on God’s providence to give them success. (2.) As the seed of praying Jacob, they cried unto God, especially in the battle, when perhaps, at first, they were in danger of being overpowered. See the like done, 2 Chron. 13:14. In distress, God expects we should cry to him; he distrains upon us for this tribute, this rent. In our spiritual conflicts, we must look up to heaven for strength; and it is the believing prayer that will be the prevailing prayer.
3. We are told what success they had: God was entreated of them, though need drove them to him; so ready is he to hear and answer prayer. They were helped against their enemies; for God never yet failed any that trusted in him. And then they routed the enemy’s army, though far superior in number to theirs, slew many (1 Chron. 5:22), took 100,000 prisoners, enriched themselves greatly with the spoil, and settled themselves in their country (1 Chron. 5:21, 22), and all this because the war was of God, undertaken in his fear and carried on in a dependence upon him. If the battle be the Lord’s, there is reason to hope it will be successful. Then we may expect to prosper in any enterprise, and then only, when we take God along with us.
II. They shared, at length, in an inglorious captivity. Had they kept close to God and their duty, they would have continued to enjoy both their ancient lot and their new conquests; but they transgressed against the God of their fathers, 1 Chron. 5:25. They lay upon the borders, and conversed most with the neighbouring nations, by which means they learned their idolatrous usages and transmitted the infection to the other tribes; for this God had a controversy with them. He was a husband to them, and no marvel that his jealousy burnt like fire when they went a whoring after other gods. Justly is a bill of divorce given to the adulteress. God stirred up the spirit of the kings of Assyria, first one and then another, against them, served his own purposes by the designs of those ambitious monarchs, employed them to chastise these revolters first, and, when that humbled them not, then wholly to root them out, 1 Chron. 5:26. These tribes were first placed, and they were first displaced. They would have the best land, not considering that it lay most exposed. But those who are governed more by sense than by reason or faith in their choices may expect to fare accordingly.