In 1 Chronicles 5, the Chronicler focuses on those who settled on the other side of the Jordan: the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. According to Numbers 32, the tribes of Gad and Reuben asked Moses if they could settle there when they saw that the land was good for raising flocks. Moses initially objected because he thought the proposal showed an unwillingness to go into the land God had promised to Israel. Moses was also afraid that granting their request would dissuade the other tribes from obeying God’s command to possess the land. Half of the tribe of Manasseh decided to join them.
The genealogy begins on a note of shame by mentioning Reuben, who “defiled his father’s marriage bed” (v. 1; Gen. 35:22; 48:16–22). As a result, Jacob reassigned the rights of the firstborn to Joseph’s sons. The record that follows is a mixed one. On the one hand, there are deeds of faith mentioned. In verse 18 to 22 we learn about a military campaign against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab, who were Arab and Ishmaelite tribes. The Chronicler ascribes the victory of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh to prayer.
On the other hand, in verses 24 to 26 the Chronicler reminds his readers that the half-tribe of Manasseh was carried into exile by the Assyrians because “they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them” (v. 25). This is the writer’s reminder that position and power are not the most critical factors for success in God’s eyes. Instead, faith and obedience make all the difference. When these tribes relied upon God and acted in faith, they succeeded. When they forgot God, they failed.