Oremus labels this chapter as the “conquest and division of Transjordan.” The modern term for the same area is “The West Bank,” i.e. the most contested bit of land on the planet. Some Christians who read the Bible “literally” would undoubtedly use this passage as proof that God intended these lands to be part of the state of Israel, because they are being given to Reuben and Gad… two tribes that no longer existed by the time the Hebrew Bible was written down. Okay, I know they use other proof verses, but I feel like pointing out that even the writers knew that these lands hadn’t belonged to them for a long, long time. More than two thousands years is a long time to try to keep insisting on permanent borders.

The most interesting thing reading this chapter in Japanese was just how incredibly deferential the tribes of Reuben and Gad are when they come to Moses to ask to settle on the east side of the Jordan River. In Japanese, there are multiple ways of saying everything, and which words you choose to translate with completely transforms the scenes. If they were using regular speech, they’d come across as demanding in this situation. Since the translators use keigo, humble speech, they sound as though they are being very polite and reasonable. In English and Hebrew, these things are either implied or left open to interpretation by the reader. In Japanese, they have to be there in the text. Translation is interpretation (had an argument about this with a troll recently on another blog).

Eventually, though, this is another origin story, this one explaining why Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh were the only tribes to have territory east of the Jordan river. It explains the names of cities as being given by various clan leaders as they take them one by one and rename. There’s no mention of what happens to the people in these places. Are we to assume they were destroyed like the Midianites? Or were they just conquered and treated as a lower class?

Next chapter looks like a recap episode, so if I think of anything else for this chapter it may be in my next entry.

The Japanese: teki shita “adequate, suitable” (v 1), kujiku “to foil, to discourage, to damp down” (v 7), minasu “to deem, to consider, to regard as” (v 13), matamoya “once again” (v 14), okizari ni suru “to abandon” (v 15), ishigakoi “stone fence” (v 16), seifuku suru “to conquer, to subdue” (v 22), aratameru “to replace” (v 38), senryou suru “to occupt, to capture” (v 41).