The Circuitous Route

Finally, the children of Israel reached the frontiers of Edom, Ammon, and Moab, directly on their route to the Promised Land. But these nations refused to let the Jews pass through their countries. G‑d forbade the children of Israel to make war upon these people. Therefore, the Jews had to march all around these countries, until they reached the River Arnon.

Defeat of Sihon and Og

From there Moses sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites, asking his permission for the children of Israel to pass through his land. Moses promised to use only the highway, and to make full reparations for any damage that might ensue. They would purchase their food and water from the natives.

Sihon refused this request and mobilized his entire army against the children of Israel. Sihon was defeated, and the children of Israel took possession of his entire country. The next king to challenge Israel was Og, the giant king of Bashan. He too was vanquished and slain by Moses, and his land passed into the hands of the children of Israel.

The Division of Trans-Jordan

These, two lands, the lands of the Amorites and of Bashan, were superbly suited for the raising of cattle and sheep. It so happened that the tribes of Reuben and Gad owned great numbers of flocks. Therefore, the leaders of these two tribes approached Moses and asked to be given the land of the Amorites and Bashan as their share of the conquest, instead of their due part in the land of Canaan, across the Jordan. Half the tribe of Manasseh joined the two tribes in their request. Reproachfully, Moses asked them whether they would have the nerve to sit by idly, watching their flocks, whilst their brethren would wage war against the natives of Canaan. But the men of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh assured Moses that not only would they fight shoulder to shoulder with the rest of Israel, but that they would also be in the forefront of the fight for the Holy Land. All they requested was that their families and flocks be permitted to remain on the east side of the Jordan till they returned after the complete conquest of Canaan. Moses agreed to this, and the women and children of these tribes of Israel were immediately settled in Transjordania. Their men, however, were among the vanguard of the Jewish troops. Only after the entire Holy Land had been conquered, did they return to their families and flocks, to settle on their permanent heritage in Transjordania.