At noon on May 22, 1889, more than 50,000 people poured into the Oklahoma Territory, rushing to stake their claims to cheap land offered by the federal government. It was the beginning of the Oklahoma Land Rush. Those who illegally slipped into the territory early were called “Sooners,” which became the state’s nickname.
The Reubenites and Gadites came to Moses to stake their claims to land on the east side of the Jordan River. This land had been conquered as part of Israel’s early military victories. The problem, from Moses’ perspective, was that allowing them to do so might discourage the rest of the nation from obeying God and entering Canaan, thus repeating the previous generation’s disobedience (vv. 6–15).
How could he approve their request and yet avoid this danger? The Reubenites and Gadites responded with a wise solution: They promised to cross the Jordan River with the rest of the nation, going to war along with their brothers even though their inheritance was already won. This answered the obedience question, showing their genuine commitment to God’s plan and promise. It also answered the political question, showing their genuine commitment to the other tribes and acknowledging that the entire nation had won the land to which they now wished to stake a claim (v. 18).
On the basis of their vow (see Numbers 30), Moses granted their petition. They and the half-tribe of Manasseh (v. 33) would receive their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan while the other tribes would receive theirs on the west side. The two-and-a-half tribes promised to make preparations for leaving their families and livestock behind, then to join the rest of the Israelite army for the conquest of Canaan.