Tribes beyond Jordan Return
1Then Joshua called the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2 and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have listened to and obeyed my voice in everything that I commanded you. 3 You have not deserted your brothers these many days to this day, but have [carefully] kept the obligation of the commandment of the Lord your God. 4 And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as He has promised them; so turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the [east side of the] Jordan. 5 Only be very careful and diligently observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord has commanded you to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul [your very life].” 6 So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.
7 Now to the one-half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given a possession in Bashan, but to the other half Joshua gave a possession on the west side of the Jordan among their brothers. So when Joshua sent them away to their tents, he blessed them, 8 and he said to them, “Return to your tents with great riches and with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, iron, and with very many clothes; divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers (fellow tribesmen).” 9 So the sons (descendants) of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home and departed from the [other] sons (western tribes) of Israel at Shiloh which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, to the land of their own which they had possessed, in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.
The Offensive Altar
10 When they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, an altar that was great to behold. 11 And the [other] sons of Israel heard it said, “Look, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an [a]altar at the edge of the land of Canaan, in the region [west] of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel.” 12 When the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.
13 Then the sons of Israel sent Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest to the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, 14 and with him ten leaders, one leader from each father’s household from each of the tribes of Israel; and each one was the head of his father’s household among the thousands of Israel. 15 They came to the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and they said to them, 16 “This is what the entire congregation of the Lord says, ‘What is this disloyal and unfaithful act which you have committed against the God of Israel, so as to turn away from following the Lord this day, by building yourselves an altar, to rebel against the Lord this day? 17 Is the wrongdoing (idolatry) of Peor not enough for us, from which we have not cleansed ourselves to this day, even though the affliction [in which twenty-four thousand died] came on the congregation of the Lord, 18 that you would turn away this day from following the Lord? If you rebel against the Lord today, He will be angry with the entire congregation of Israel tomorrow. 19 If, however, the land of your possession is unclean, then cross into the land of the possession of the Lord, where the Lord’s tabernacle is situated, and settle down among us. But do not rebel against the Lord, or rebel against us by building an altar for yourselves, besides the altar of the Lord our God [at Shiloh]. 20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and [as a result God’s] wrath came on the entire congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his wrongdoing.’”
21 Then the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered and said to the heads of the families of Israel, 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, the Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion, or if in an unfaithful act against the Lord, do not save us this day! 23 If we have built an altar for ourselves to turn away from following the Lord, or if [we did so] to offer a burnt offering or grain offering on it, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, may the Lord Himself require it [of us and hold us responsible]. 24 But in truth we have done this out of concern, for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your sons (descendants) may say to our sons, “What [b]claim do you have to the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you sons of Reuben and sons of Gad; you have no part in the Lord.” So your sons (descendants) may cause our sons to stop fearing the Lord.’
26 “So we said, ‘Let us prepare and build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice, 27 but to be a witness between us and you and between the generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, so that your sons (descendants) will not say to our sons in time to come, “You have no part in the Lord.”’ 28 So we said, ‘If your descendants should say this to us or to our descendants in time to come, then we can reply, “See the copy of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice, but rather it is a witness between us and you.”’ 29 Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from following the Lord this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His [c]tabernacle [in Shiloh].”
30 So when Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the congregation and heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh spoke, it [d]pleased them. 31 Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is among us, because you have not committed this unfaithful act against the Lord; indeed you have saved Israel from the hand of the Lord.”
32 Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders returned from the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad, from the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the sons of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33 The report [e]pleased the sons of Israel, and the sons of Israel blessed God; and they said no more about going to battle against them to destroy the land in which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad were living. 34 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad called the altar Witness; “For it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”
- Joshua 22:11 The immediate assumption of the Israelites was that this altar was an act of rebellion and was built to compete with the true altar of God in Shiloh.
- Joshua 22:24 Lit to you and to the Lord.
- Joshua 22:29 Lit dwelling place.
- Joshua 22:30 Lit was good in their eyes.
- Joshua 22:33 Lit was good in the eyes of.