Joshua Sends Home the Eastern Tribes
Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh and told them: “You have carried out all the instructions of Moses the Lord’s servant, and you have obeyed all I have told you. You have not abandoned your fellow Israelites this entire time, right up to this very day. You have completed the task given you by the Lord your God. Now the Lord your God has made your fellow Israelites secure, just as he promised them. So now you may turn around and go to your homes in your own land which Moses the Lord’s servant assigned to you east of the Jordan. But carefully obey the commands and instructions Moses the Lord’s servant gave you. Love the Lord your God, follow all his instructions, obey his commands, be loyal to him, and serve him with all your heart and being!”
Joshua rewarded them and sent them on their way; they returned to their homes. (Now to one half-tribe of Manasseh, Moses had assigned land in Bashan; and to the other half Joshua had assigned land on the west side of the Jordan with their fellow Israelites.) When Joshua sent them home, he rewarded them, saying, “Take home great wealth, a lot of cattle, silver, gold, bronze, iron, and a lot of clothing. Divide up the goods captured from your enemies with your brothers.” So the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites in Shiloh in the land of Canaan and headed home to their own land in Gilead, which they acquired by the Lord’s command through Moses.
Civil War is Averted
The Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan and built there, near the Jordan, an impressive altar. The Israelites received this report: “Look, the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the entrance to the land of Canaan, at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side.” When the Israelites heard this, the entire Israelite community assembled at Shiloh to launch an attack against them.
The Israelites sent Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. He was accompanied by ten leaders, one from each of the Israelite tribes, each one a family leader among the Israelite clans. They went to the land of Gilead to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and said to them: “The entire community of the Lord says, ‘Why have you disobeyed the God of Israel by turning back today from following the Lord? You built an altar for yourselves and have rebelled today against the Lord. The sin we committed at Peor was bad enough. To this very day we have not purified ourselves; it even brought a plague on the community of the Lord. Now today you dare to turn back from following the Lord! You are rebelling today against the Lord; tomorrow he may break out in anger against the entire community of Israel. But if your own land is impure, cross over to the Lord’s own land, where the Lord himself lives, and settle down among us. But don’t rebel against the Lord or us by building for yourselves an altar aside from the altar of the Lord our God. When Achan son of Zerah disobeyed the command about the city’s riches, the entire Israelite community was judged, though only one man had sinned. He most certainly died for his sin!’”
The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the leaders of the Israelite clans: “El, God, the Lord! El, God, the Lord! He knows the truth! Israel must also know! If we have rebelled or disobeyed the Lord, don’t spare us today! If we have built an altar for ourselves to turn back from following the Lord by making burnt sacrifices and grain offerings on it, or by offering tokens of peace on it, the Lord himself will punish us. We swear we have done this because we were worried that in the future your descendants would say to our descendants, ‘What relationship do you have with the Lord God of Israel? The Lord made the Jordan a boundary between us and you Reubenites and Gadites. You have no right to worship the Lord.’ In this way your descendants might cause our descendants to stop obeying the Lord. So we decided to build this altar, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a reminder to us and you, and to our descendants who follow us, that we will honour the Lord in his very presence with burnt offerings, sacrifices, and tokens of peace. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to our descendants, ‘You have no right to worship the Lord.’ We said, ‘If in the future they say such a thing to us or to our descendants, we will reply, “See the model of the Lord’s altar that our ancestors made, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as a reminder to us and you.”’ Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord by turning back today from following after the Lord by building an altar for burnt offerings, sacrifices, and tokens of peace aside from the altar of the Lord our God located in front of his dwelling place!”
When Phinehas the priest and the community leaders and clan leaders who accompanied him heard the defence of the Reubenites, Gadites, and the Manassehites, they were satisfied. Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the priest, said to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the Manassehites, “Today we know that the Lord is among us, because you have not disobeyed the Lord in this. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s judgment.”
Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders left the Reubenites and Gadites in the land of Gilead and reported back to the Israelites in the land of Canaan. The Israelites were satisfied with their report and gave thanks to God. They said nothing more about launching an attack to destroy the land in which the Reubenites and Gadites lived. The Reubenites and Gadites named the altar, “Surely it is a Reminder to us that the Lord is God.”