The Two and a Half Tribes Return Home
1Joshua held a meeting with the men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh, and he told them:
2-3 You have obeyed every command of the Lord your God and of his servant Moses. And you have done everything I've told you to do. It's taken a long time, but you have stayed and helped your relatives. 4The Lord promised to give peace to your relatives, and that's what he has done. Now it's time for you to go back to your own homes in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan River.
5Moses taught you to love the Lord your God, to be faithful to him, and to worship and obey him with your whole heart and with all your strength. So be very careful to do everything Moses commanded.
6-9You've become rich from what you've taken from your enemies. You have big herds of cattle, lots of silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and plenty of clothes. Take everything home with you and share with the people of your tribe.
I pray that God will be kind to you. You are now free to go home.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad started back to Gilead, their own land. Moses had given the land of Bashan to the East Manasseh tribe, so they started back along with Reuben and Gad. God had told Moses that these two and a half tribes should conquer Gilead and Bashan, and they had done so.
Joshua had given land west of the Jordan River to the other half of the Manasseh tribe, so they stayed at Shiloh in the land of Canaan with the rest of the Israelites.
10-11The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh reached the western side of the Jordan River valley and built a huge altar there beside the river.
When the rest of the Israelites heard what these tribes had done, 12the Israelite men met at Shiloh to get ready to attack the two and a half tribes. 13But first they sent a priest, Phinehas the son of Eleazar, to talk with the two and a half tribes. 14Each of the ten tribes at Shiloh sent the leader of one of its families along with Phinehas.
15Phinehas and these leaders went to Gilead and met with the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh. They said:
16 All of the Lord's people have gathered together and have sent us to find out why you are unfaithful to our God. You have turned your backs on the Lord by building that altar. Why are you rebelling against him? 17 Wasn't our people's sin at Peor terrible enough for you? The Lord punished us by sending a horrible sickness that killed many of us, and we still suffer because of that sin. 18Now you are turning your backs on the Lord again.
If you don't stop rebelling against the Lord at once, he will be angry with the whole nation. 19If you don't think your land is a fit place to serve God, then move across the Jordan and live with us in the Lord's own land, where his sacred tent is located. But don't rebel against the Lord our God or against us by building another altar besides the Lord's own altar. 20 Don't you remember what happened when Achan was unfaithful and took some of the things that belonged to God? This made God angry with the entire nation. Achan died because he sinned, but he also caused the death of many others.
21The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh answered:
22The Lord is the greatest God! We ask him to be our witness, because he knows whether or not we were rebellious or unfaithful when we built that altar. If we were unfaithful, then we pray that God won't rescue us today. Let us tell you why we built that altar, 23and we ask the Lord to punish us if we are lying. We didn't build it so we could turn our backs on the Lord. We didn't even build it so we could offer animal or grain sacrifices to please the Lord or ask his blessing.
24-25We built that altar because we were worried. Someday your descendants might tell our descendants, “The Lord made the Jordan River the boundary between us Israelites and you people of Reuben and Gad. The Lord is Israel's God, but you're not part of Israel, so you can't take part in worshiping the Lord.”
Your descendants might say that and try to make our descendants stop worshiping and obeying the Lord. 26That's why we decided to build the altar. It isn't for offering sacrifices, not even sacrifices to please the Lord. 27-29To build another altar for offering sacrifices would be the same as turning our backs on the Lord and rebelling against him. We could never do that! No, we built the altar to remind us and you and the generations to come that we will worship the Lord. And so we will keep bringing our sacrifices to the Lord's altar, there in front of his sacred tent. Now your descendants will never be able to say to our descendants, “You can't worship the Lord.”
But if they do say this, our descendants can answer back, “Look at this altar our ancestors built! It's like the Lord's altar, but it isn't for offering sacrifices. It's here to remind us and you that we belong to the Lord, just as much as you do.”
30-31Phinehas and the clan leaders were pleased when they heard the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh explain why they had built the altar. Then Phinehas told them, “Today we know that the Lord is helping us. You have not been unfaithful to him, and this means that the Lord will not be angry with us.”
32Phinehas and the clan leaders left Gilead and went back to Canaan to tell the Israelites about their meeting with the Reuben and Gad tribes. 33The Israelites were happy and praised God. There was no more talk about going to war and wiping out the tribes of Reuben and Gad.
34The people of Reuben and Gad named the altar “A Reminder to Us All That the Lord Is Our God.”