22 Joshua now called together the troops from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2-3 and addressed them as follows:

“You have done as the Lord’s disciple Moses commanded you, and have obeyed every order I have given you—every order of the Lord your God. You have not deserted your brother tribes, even though the campaign has lasted for such a long time. And now the Lord our God has given us success and rest as he promised he would. So go home now to the land given you by the Lord’s servant Moses, on the other side of the Jordan River. Be sure to continue to obey all of the commandments Moses gave you. Love the Lord and follow his plan for your lives. Cling to him and serve him enthusiastically.”

So Joshua blessed them and sent them home. 7-8 (Moses had assigned the land of Bashan to the half-tribe of Manasseh, although the other half of the tribe was given land on the west side of the Jordan.) As Joshua sent away these troops, he blessed them and told them to share their great wealth with their relatives back home—their loot of cattle, silver, gold, bronze, iron, and clothing.

So the troops of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the army of Israel at Shiloh in Canaan and crossed the Jordan River to their own homeland of Gilead. 10 Before they went across, while they were still in Canaan, they built a large monument for everyone to see, in the shape of an altar.

11 But when the rest of Israel heard about what they had done, 12 they mustered an army at Shiloh and prepared to go to war against their brother tribes. 13 First, however, they sent a delegation led by Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest. They crossed the river and talked to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. 14 In this delegation were ten high officials of Israel, one from each of the ten tribes, and each a clan leader. 15 When they arrived in the land of Gilead they said to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh,

16 “The whole congregation of the Lord demands to know why you are sinning against the God of Israel by turning away from him and building an altar of rebellion against the Lord. 17-18 Was our guilt at Peor—from which we have not even yet been cleansed despite the plague that tormented us—so little that you must rebel again? For you know that if you rebel today the Lord will be angry with all of us tomorrow. 19 If you need the altar because your land is defiled, then join us on our side of the river where the Lord lives among us in his Tabernacle, and we will share our land with you. But do not rebel against the Lord by building another altar in addition to the only true altar of our God. 20 Don’t you remember that when Achan, the son of Zerah, sinned against the Lord, the entire nation was punished in addition to the one man who had sinned?”

21 This was the reply of the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to these high officials:

22-23 “We swear by Jehovah, the God of gods, that we have not built the altar in rebellion against the Lord. He knows (and let all Israel know it too) that we have not built the altar to sacrifice burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings—may the curse of God be on us if we did. 24-25 We have done it because we love the Lord and because we fear that in the future your children will say to ours, ‘What right do you have to worship the Lord God of Israel? The Lord has placed the Jordan River as a barrier between our people and your people! You have no part in the Lord.’ And your children may make our children stop worshiping him. 26-27 So we decided to build the altar as a symbol to show our children and your children that we, too, may worship the Lord with our burnt offerings and peace offerings and sacrifices, and your children will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no part in the Lord our God.’ 28 If they say this, our children can reply, ‘Look at the altar of the Lord that our fathers made, patterned after the altar of Jehovah. It is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices but is a symbol of the relationship with God that both of us have.’ 29 Far be it from us to turn away from the Lord or to rebel against him by building our own altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings, or sacrifices. Only the altar in front of the Tabernacle may be used for that.”

30 When Phinehas the priest and the high officials heard this from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, they were very happy.

31 Phinehas replied to them, “Today we know that the Lord is among us because you have not sinned against the Lord as we thought; instead, you have saved us from destruction!”

32 Then Phinehas and the ten ambassadors went back to the people of Israel and told them what had happened, 33 and all Israel rejoiced and praised God and spoke no more of war against Reuben and Gad. 34 The people of Reuben and Gad named the altar “The Altar of Witness,” for they said, “It is a witness between us and them that Jehovah is our God too.”

Living Bible (TLB)

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Eastern Tribes Return Home

22 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded,(A) and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given them rest(B) as he promised, return to your homes(C) in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan.(D) But be very careful to keep the commandment(E) and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord(F) your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands,(G) to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.(H)

Then Joshua blessed(I) them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan,(J) and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side(K) of the Jordan along with their fellow Israelites.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them,(L) saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock,(M) with silver, gold, bronze and iron,(N) and a great quantity of clothing—and divide(O) the plunder(P) from your enemies with your fellow Israelites.”

So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh(Q) in Canaan to return to Gilead,(R) their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.

10 When they came to Geliloth(S) near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar(T) there by the Jordan. 11 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, 12 the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh(U) to go to war against them.

13 So the Israelites sent Phinehas(V) son of Eleazar,(W) the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 14 With him they sent ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.(X)

15 When they went to Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh—they said to them: 16 “The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith(Y) with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion(Z) against him now? 17 Was not the sin of Peor(AA) enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! 18 And are you now turning away from the Lord?

“‘If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community(AB) of Israel. 19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle(AC) stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar(AD) for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things,[a](AE) did not wrath(AF) come on the whole community(AG) of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”(AH)

21 Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God,(AI) the Lord!(AJ) He knows!(AK) And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings,(AL) or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account.(AM)

24 “No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.

26 “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ 27 On the contrary, it is to be a witness(AN) between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings.(AO) Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’

28 “And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the Lord’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness(AP) between us and you.’

29 “Far be it from us to rebel(AQ) against the Lord and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle.(AR)

30 When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. 31 And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is with us,(AS) because you have not been unfaithful to the Lord in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s hand.”

32 Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites.(AT) 33 They were glad to hear the report and praised God.(AU) And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived.

34 And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness(AV) Between Us—that the Lord is God.

Footnotes

  1. Joshua 22:20 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.
New International Version (NIV)

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