Eastern tribes go home
22 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh. 2 He said to them, “You obeyed everything that Moses the Lord’s servant commanded you. You have also obeyed me in everything that I have commanded you. 3 During these many years, you never once deserted your fellow Israelites. You faithfully obeyed the command of the Lord your God. 4 The Lord your God has now given rest to your fellow Israelites, exactly as he promised them. So turn around and go back home. Go to the land where you hold property, which Moses the Lord’s servant gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5 Just be very careful to carry out the commandment and Instruction that Moses the Lord’s servant commanded you. Love the Lord your God. Walk in all his ways and obey his commandments. Hold on to him and serve him with all your heart and being.” 6 Then Joshua blessed them. He sent them away, and they went home.
7 Moses had provided for half of the tribe of Manasseh in Bashan. But Joshua provided for the other half on the west side of the Jordan along with their fellow Israelites. When he sent them back home, Joshua also blessed them. 8 He said to them, “Return home with great wealth and many cattle, with silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and with much clothing. Divide the spoil taken from your enemies among your own people.”
Disagreement about an altar
9 So the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh went back. They left the Israelites at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan. They went to the land of Gilead, to the land that they owned. They had settled there at the Lord’s command given by Moses. 10 They came to the districts of the Jordan that are in the land of Canaan. The people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, an altar that appeared to be immense. 11 Then the Israelites heard a report: “Look. The people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the far edge of the land of Canaan. It lies in the districts of the Jordan on the Israelite side!” 12 When the Israelites heard this, the entire Israelite community assembled at Shiloh to go up to war against them.
13 Then the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest to the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead. 14 They sent with him ten leaders, one leader from each important family among the tribes of Israel. Each was the head of an important family among the military units of Israel. 15 They came to the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead and spoke with them. 16 They said, “Here is what the Lord’s entire community says: ‘What’s this disrespectful thing that you’ve done to the God of Israel? Today you’ve turned away from following the Lord by building yourselves an altar as an act of rebellion against the Lord. 17 Wasn’t the offense of Peor enough for us? Even today we still haven’t cleansed ourselves from that sin, when there was a plague on the Lord’s community! 18 Today you are turning away from following the Lord. If you rebel against the Lord today, he will be angry with the entire community of Israel tomorrow. 19 If your own property is unclean land, then cross over into the land of the Lord’s property and settle among us. That’s where the dwelling of the Lord stands. But don’t rebel against the Lord. And don’t involve us in rebellion by building an altar for yourselves other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 Didn’t Achan, Zerah’s son, do such a disrespectful thing with the items reserved for God? Wrath came on the entire community of Israel. And he wasn’t the only one to die for his crime.’”
21 Then the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh answered the heads of the military units of Israel: 22 “The Lord is God of gods! The Lord is God of gods! He already knows, and now let Israel also know it! If we acted in rebellion or in disrespect against the Lord, don’t spare us today. 23 If we’ve built ourselves an altar to turn away from following the Lord or to offer on it an entirely burned offering or gift offering, or to perform well-being sacrifices on it, let the Lord himself seek punishment. 24 No! The truth is we did this out of concern for what might happen. In the future your children might say to our children, ‘What have you got to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has set the Jordan as a border between us and you people of Reuben and Gad. You have no portion in the Lord!’ So your children might make our children stop worshipping the Lord. 26 As a result we said, ‘Let’s protect ourselves by building an altar. It isn’t to be for an entirely burned offering or for sacrifice.’ 27 But it is to be a witness between us and you and between our descendants after us. It witnesses that we too perform the service of the Lord in his presence through our entirely burned offerings, sacrifices, and well-being offerings. So in the future your children could never say to our children, ‘You have no portion in the Lord.’ 28 We thought, If in the future they ever say this to us or to our descendants, we could say, ‘Look at this replica of the altar of the Lord that our ancestors made. It isn’t for entirely burned offerings or for sacrifice but to be a witness between us and you.’ 29 God forbid that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away today from following the Lord by building an altar for an entirely burned offering, gift offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his dwelling!”
30 Phinehas the priest, the leaders of the community, and the heads of the military units of Israel who were with him heard the words that the people of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh spoke and approved them. 31 So Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the people of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is among us, because you haven’t done a disrespectful thing against the Lord. Now you’ve delivered the Israelites from the power of the Lord.” 32 Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders left the people of Reuben and Gad in the land of Gilead and came back to the Israelites in the land of Canaan. They brought word back to them. 33 The Israelites agreed and blessed God. They no longer spoke of going to war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and Gad were living. 34 The people of Reuben and Gad referred to the altar in this way: “It is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”