This will be my last post on Jacob Milgrom’s Excursus 70 in his Jewish Publication Society commentary on the Book of Numbers. The excursus is entitled “The Settlement of Transjordan (chap. 32)”. My last two posts have been about the settlement of Reuben and Gad in the Transjordan, but this post will concern the settlement of the half-tribe of Manasseh there.
Numbers 32:39-42 presents Manassites taking territory in the Transjordan, and such passages as Numbers 34:14-15; Deuteronomy 3:13-15; 4:43; 29:7; Joshua 1:12; 12:6; 13:29; 14:3; 17:1-16; and 18:7 hold that the Manassite settlement in the Transjordan occurred in the time of Moses. And yet, Joshua 17:14-18 has a different picture, when one reads it together with Deuteronomy 3:13: the Josephites settled in the Cisjordan (the mainland of Canaan) and did not have enough room, and so some of them “were told by Joshua to clear the forests in the land of the refa’im, who (according to Deut. 3:13) lived in upper Transjordan” (page 496). Consequently, Milgrom asserts that there is scholarly consensus that Manassites moved to the Transjordan during the time of the judges. (Why not Joshua?)
But the Septuagint does not mention the Rephaim in its version of Joshua 17:14-18, and so it presents the Manassites clearing forests, not fighting Rephaim. M.H. Segal concludes that the Israelites must have already possessed the land, if all the Manassites had to do was clear forests, without fighting for the land. But Milgrom has another suggestion: that “Gad and Reuben requested land that had already been conquered by all Israel, whereas the Manassite clans conducted their own campaigns of conquest. Hence, they did not ask for Moses’ permission but for his ratification, which he then granted (v. 40; Deut. 3:13-15)” (page 496). Milgrom seems to be saying that the Manassites took territory in the Transjordan, and Moses ratified that. But I’m unclear as to how that reconciles the apparent contradiction between the Manassite conquest of the Transjordan occurring in the time of Moses, and it happening during the time of Joshua—unless Milgrom’s claim is that the Manassites took the Transjordan under Moses, and, later under Joshua, Manassites in the Cisjordan expanded into the Transjordan by clearing forests of still uninhabited territory.
Milgrom then says that the phrase “half-tribe of Manasseh” is an interpolation in places. In Joshua 22, Manasseh is mentioned along with Gad and Reuben as Transjordanian tribes, except that vv 25, 33-34 mention only Reuben and Gad. For Milgrom, that shows that “half-tribe of Manasseh” was interpolated sometime after Manassite clans had entered the Transjordan.