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Q&A

Who protected the women and children of Reuven, Gad, and 1/2 Menashe during the conquest?

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The conquest of the land described in the book of Yehoshua took seven years (Arakhin 13a).1 It is only at the end of the conquest that Yehoshua dismisses the "shock troops".

We know from Yehoshua 1:14 that "all the mighty men of valor" from the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and 1/2 of Menashe led the conquest, and the declaration in 1:18 (calling for anybody who rebels from this command to be put to death) sounds like they took it seriously.

So if all the men capable of fighting were with Yehoshua conquering the land, who was protecting their families on the other side of the Yarden from the surrounding peoples? Or was there a miracle and the surrounding peoples did not attack this easy target during all those years?

When I asked this question some time ago on Mi Yodeya, someone suggested that there was a concept of "garrison troops" who don't meet the standards needed for a conquest but can still fight. I haven't otherwise heard of there being different types of troops in torah, though it's also not an area I know much about. Is it that -- that there were "lesser" troops who were enough, plus people who were not quite of age at the beginning would then reach it during? Or was there some other provision for these families?

  1. Caleb was 40 when he spied the land and is 85 now (14:10), and they were in the wilderness 38 years after the spies' mission.

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The count of the soldiers in Numbers 26 of the two and a half tribes were over 100,000. However, Joshua 4:13 shows that the special troops were about 40,000.

12 And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them.

13 About forty thousand armed for war passed over before the Lord to battle, to the plains of Jericho.

The Chida on Joshua 1:14 says

Your wives, your children, and your cattle shall settle in the land that Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan, and you, all the mighty warriors, shall cross over armed before your brothers, and you shall help them.

כל גבורי חיל All the mighty warriors Apparently Joshua did not ask for all the men of fighting, only the mighty warriors. This would account for an apparent discrepancy. According to the census in Numbers 26, there were over 100,000 fighters in the three tribes, but only 40,000 participated in the first battle for Eretz Yisrael (Joshua 4:12-13), they were the mighty warriors (Chida)

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