Joshua 22
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The Eastern Tribes Return Home

1Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh 2and told them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and you have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you. 3All this time you have not deserted your brothers, up to this very day, but have kept the charge given you by the LORD your God.

4And now that the LORD your God has given your brothers rest as He promised them, you may return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you across the Jordan. 5But be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

6So Joshua blessed them and sent them on their way, and they went to their homes. 7(To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan among their brothers.) When Joshua sent them to their homes he blessed them, 8saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth, with immense herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, iron, and very many clothes. Divide with your brothers the spoil of your enemies.”

The Offensive Altar

9So the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in the land of Canaan to return to their own land of Gilead, which they had acquired according to the command of the LORD through Moses. 10And when they came to Gelilotha near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan.

11Then the Israelites received the report: “Behold, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the border of the land of Canaan, at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side.” 12And when they heard this, the whole congregation of Israel assembled at Shiloh to go to war against them.

13The Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest to the land of Gilead, to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 14With him they sent ten chiefs—one family leader from each tribe of Israel, each the head of a family among the clans of Israel.

15They went to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead and said to them, 16“This is what the whole congregation of the LORD says: ‘What is this breach of faith you have committed today against the God of Israel by turning away from the LORD and building for yourselves an altar, that you might rebel against the LORD this day?

17Was not the sin of Peor enough for us, from which we have not cleansed ourselves to this day? It even brought a plague upon the congregation of the LORD. 18And now, would you turn away from the LORD? If you rebel today against the LORD, tomorrow He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.

19If indeed the land of your inheritance is unclean, then cross over to the land of the LORD’s possession, where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take possession of it among us. But do not rebel against the LORD or against us by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God.

20Was not Achan son of Zerah unfaithful regarding what was set apart for destruction,b bringing wrath upon the whole congregation of Israel? Yet it was not only Achan who perished because of his sin!’”

21Then the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the leaders of the clans of Israel, 22“The LORD, the Mighty One, is God! The LORD, the Mighty One, is God! He knows, and may Israel also know. If this was in rebellion or breach of faith against the LORD, do not spare us today. 23If we have built for ourselves an altar to turn away from Him and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings on it, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the LORD Himself hold us accountable.

24But in fact we have done this for fear that in the future your descendants might say to ours, ‘What have you to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? 25For the LORD has made the Jordan a border between us and you Reubenites and Gadites. You have no share in the LORD!’ So your descendants could cause ours to stop fearing the LORD.

26That is why we said, ‘Let us take action and build an altar for ourselves, but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices. 27Rather, let it be a witness between us and you and the generations to come, that we will worship the LORD in His presence with our burnt offerings, sacrifices, and peace offerings.’ Then in the future, your descendants cannot say to ours, ‘You have no share in the LORD!’

28Therefore we said, ‘If they ever say this to us or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the altar of the LORD that our fathers made, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’

29Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from Him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings, or sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God, which stands before His tabernacle.”

30When Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation—the heads of Israel’s clans who were with him—heard what the descendants of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had to say, they were satisfied. 31Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest said to the descendants of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, “Today we know that the LORD is among us, because you have not committed this breach of faith against Him. Consequently, you have delivered the Israelites from the hand of the LORD.”

32Then Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders returned to the Israelites in the land of Canaan and brought back a report regarding the Reubenites and Gadites in the land of Gilead. 33The Israelites were satisfied with the report, and they praised God and spoke no more about going to war against them to destroy the land where the Reubenites and Gadites lived. 34So the Reubenites and Gadites named the altar Witness, saying, “It is a witness between us that the LORD is God.”

Footnotes:

10 a Or to the circle of stones or to the region; similarly in verse 11
20 b The Hebrew term refers to giving over things or persons to the LORD, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering.

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