Question: Jory, in the blessing of the tribe of Gad in Deut.33:21 we are told that the tribe of Gad “shares in a portion of the lawgiver” and in Jer.49:1-6 we find God in his judgment upon the Ammonites saying that their “king inherits Gad”. That they were to be Israel’s heir as “sons of Israel,” but because they backslid apparently, it didn’t happen. I know that Ammon was the youngest son of Lot.
I want to know how the tribe of Gad fits into this? I also want to know how the Ammonites became affiliated with the Israelites and fits into the scheme of things as having this inheritance? I also want to know, in particular, if the “children of Ammon” are affiliated in any way with Ishmael.
Answer: How did the tribe of Gad “share in a portion of the lawgiver?” We read this in Deuteronomy 33:20-21: “And of Gad he said, Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head. And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel. (KJV)
The word, “lawgiver,” is translated from the Hebrew, “chaqaq,” with a wide variety of uses. Strong’s Concordance gives the meaning “a primitive root, properly to hack, that is, engrave (Judg. 5:14, to be a scribe simply); by implication to enact (laws being cut in stone or metallic tablets in primitive times) or (generally) prescribe: appoint, decree, governor, grave, lawgiver, note, portray, print, etc.”
The Amplified Version instead translates verse 21, “He selected the best land for himself, for there was the leader’s portion reserved…” The ERV says, “He chose the best part for himself. He took the king’s share. The leaders of the people come to him. He did what the LORD says is good. He did what is right for the Israelites.”
There is no question that the tribe of Gad was one of the leading tribes in Israel. Keil and Delitzsch Commentary says, “the statement [in Numbers 32:33] that Gad chose the hereditary possession is in harmony with Num. 32:2, Num. 32:6, Num. 32:25., where the children of Gad are described as being at the head of the tribes, who came before Moses to ask for the conquered land as their possession. The meaning of the next clause, of which very different explanations have been given, can only be, that Gad chose such a territory for its inheritance as became a leader of the tribes: he who determines, commands, organizes; hence both a commander and also a leader in war.”
What apparently took place was that the Tribe of Gad, although given land on the east side of the Jordan, also joined in helping to conquer the territories on the west side of Jordan. They were, in fact, a war-like tribe who eagerly took the initiative to help their brother tribes in the struggle for possession of the Promised Land. This is not surprising, for their tribal emblem and motif was “a troop.”
Author and historian, Steven M. Collins, in his fascinating study, “Israel’s Tribes Today,” includes an important chapter on the tribe of Gad. Collins writes, “To identify Gad in the modern world, we must rely on the brief but revealing prophetic clue of Genesis 49:19, which states, “Gad, a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at last.” (KJV) Interestingly, the tribe of Gad is the only Israelite tribe which is prophesied to be ‘overcome’ during the latter days.” (p.218) Collins then gives evidence to connect this tribe to the modern nation of Germany.
Why are we told that “the Ammonites…inherit Gad”? We read in Jeremiah 49:1, “Concerning the Ammonites, thus saith the LORD; Hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? why then doth their king inherit Gad, and his people dwell in his cities?” This indicates a sudden dearth of population, allowing the Ammonites to take over the depopulated land of Gad. The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary says, “The question presupposes that the Israelites had been carried away by Tiglath-pileser” in 732 B.C. This was the first of several exiles of the Houses of Israel and Judah to Assyria between 732 and 676 B.C.
We read about this first exile in 2 Kings 15:29, “In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.” Keil & Delitzsch says, “Gilead is the whole of the land to the east of the Jordan, the territory of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh.”
We also read about this in 1 Chronicles 5:26, “And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.”
Liberal churchmen choose to disbelieve Scripture and instead talk of the “myth of the empty land” as if no one was exiled by Assyria, and therefore no lost tribes! We instead read that the expulsion of God’s people was so complete that the Ammonites moved into Gad’s empty territory. Yet this was not the end of the tribe of Gad, for “he shall overcome at the last.” (Gen. 49:19, KJV) The Ammonites therefore did not “inherit Gad” the people, but only seized their empty land since God had declared, “Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime.” (2 Sam. 7:10, KJV)
Are the Ammonites associated with the Ishmaelites? The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says this about the descendants of Ishmael: “The supposed descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar, whom Abraham sent away from him after the birth of Isaac (Genesis 21:14-21). The sons of Ishmael are given in Genesis 25:13, 14; they were twelve in number and gave rise to as many tribes, but the term Ishmaelite has a broader signification, as appears from Genesis 37:28, 36, where it is identified with Midianite. From Genesis 16:12 it may be inferred that it was applied to the Bedouin of the desert region East of the Jordan generally, for the character there assigned to Ishmael, “His hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him,” fits the habits of Bedouin in all ages. Such was the character of the Midianites as described in Judges 7, who are again identified with the Ishmaelites (8:24). These references show that the Ishmaelites were not confined to the descendants of the son of Abraham and Hagar, but refer to the desert tribes in general, like “the children of the east” (Judges 7:12).”
Moab, Ammon, and Midian were all in the region east of the Jordan River and it is most probable that they eventually intermingled along with many Jews. For example, Solomon’s wife was Naamah, an Ammonite princess (1 Ki. 14:21, 31), who was the mother of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. The descendants of the Ammonites would thus be found in both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples today.