Joshua sends the eastern tribes home. The eastern tribes build an altar. Israel prepares for war. The eastern tribes defend their action.
These three are sometimes referred to as the eastern tribes. That is because they settled to the east of the Promised Land.
VERSE 2. and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you.
VERSE 3. You have not left your brothers these many days to this day, but have performed the duty of the commandment of the LORD your God.
You have not left your brothers. They fought alongside the other tribes in conquering the Promised Land.
VERSE 4. Now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers, as he spoke to them. Therefore now return and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan.
now return and go to your tents. For seven long years the men of the eastern tribes were separated from their wives and families.
But now the battles are over, the land is divided, and it is time to go home.
VERSE 5. Only take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded 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.”
do the commandment. We Christians say salvation is by faith. Yet the Bible calls us to put our faith into action. Otherwise our faith is worthless. Read more »
VERSE 6. So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away; and they went to their tents.
VERSE 7. Now to the one half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given inheritance in Bashan; but Joshua gave to the other half among their brothers beyond the Jordan westward. Moreover when Joshua sent them away to their tents, he blessed them,
VERSE 8. and spoke to them, saying, “Return with much wealth to your tents, with very much livestock, with silver, with gold, with bronze, with iron, and with very much clothing. Divide the plunder of your enemies with your brothers.”
Divide the plunder … with your brothers. They are to share the plunder with those people who had remained at home.
Honors and rewards do not go only to those who fight in battle. They also go to those who stay home to perform the commonplace duties:
1 Samuel 30:24. Who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays with the baggage. They shall share alike.
VERSE 9. The children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession, which they owned, according to the commandment of the LORD by Moses.
VERSE 10. When they came to the region near the Jordan, that is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, a great altar to look at.
built an altar. As the armies of the eastern tribes head for home, they arrive at the Jordan River. They decide to build an altar.
a great altar to look at. Their altar will be huge, able to be seen from a great distance.
VERSE 11. The children of Israel heard this, “Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar along the border of the land of Canaan, in the region around the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the children of Israel.”
on the side that belongs to the children of Israel. They built this altar on the western side of the Jordan River. It is on property that does not belong to them.
VERSE 12. When the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up against them to war.
to go up against them to war. The children of Israel prepare to go to war against the eastern tribes.
VERSE 13. The children of Israel sent to the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest.
Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest. Phinehas serves as an ambassador.
VERSE 14. With him were ten princes, one prince of a fathers’ house for each of the tribes of Israel; and they were each head of their fathers’ houses among the thousands of Israel.
With him were ten princes. Phinehas heads a deputation of ten tribal rulers who will confront the others.
VERSE 15. They came to the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, to the land of Gilead, and they spoke with them, saying,
VERSE 16. “The whole congregation of the LORD says, ‘What trespass is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away today from following the LORD, in that you have built yourselves an altar, to rebel today against the LORD?
against the God of Israel. The altar is seen as a symbol of apostasy.
VERSE 17. Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we have not cleansed ourselves to this day, although there came a plague on the congregation of the LORD,
the iniquity of Peor. Peor brought the LORD God’s judgment on the whole nation (see Numbers chapter 25).
VERSE 18. that you must turn away today from following the LORD? It will be, since you rebel today against the LORD, that tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.
VERSE 19. However, if the land of your possession is unclean, then pass over to the land of the possession of the LORD, in which the LORD’s tabernacle dwells, and take possession among us; but don’t rebel against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building an altar other than the LORD our God’s altar.
VERSE 20. Didn’t Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the devoted thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? That man didn’t perish alone in his iniquity.’ ”
Achan the son of Zerah. Achan brought the LORD God’s judgment on the whole nation (see Joshua chapter 7).
VERSE 21. Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered, and spoke to the heads of the thousands of Israel,
VERSE 22. “The Mighty One, God, the LORD, the Mighty One, God, the LORD, he knows; and Israel shall know: if it was in rebellion, or if in trespass against the LORD (don’t save us today),
God, the LORD, he knows. This is like when Christians of today defend their lax discipleship by saying “The Lord knows what’s in my heart.”
VERSE 23. that we have built us an altar to turn away from following the LORD; or if to offer burnt offering or meal offering, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings, let the LORD himself require it.
VERSE 24. “If we have not out of concern done this, and for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your children might speak to our children, saying, “What have you to do with the LORD, the God of Israel?
VERSE 25. For the LORD has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you children of Reuben and children of Gad. You have no portion in the LORD.” ’ So your children might make our children cease from fearing the LORD.
VERSE 26. “Therefore we said, ‘Let’s now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice;
not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice. The eastern tribes say their altar is not for religious purposes.
VERSE 27. but it will be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings;’ that your children may not tell our children in time to come, ‘You have no portion in the LORD.’
a witness between us and you. The eastern tribes say their altar is a monument.
VERSE 28. “Therefore we said, ‘It shall be, when they tell us or our generations this in time to come, that we shall say, “Behold the pattern of the LORD’s altar, which our fathers made, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice; but it is a witness between us and you.” ’
VERSE 29. “Far be it from us that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn away today from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offering, for meal offering, or for sacrifice, besides the LORD our God’s altar that is before his tabernacle!”
VERSE 30. When Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation, even the heads of the thousands of Israel that were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them well.
it pleased them well. The explanation from the eastern tribes is deemed acceptable.
VERSE 31. Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the children of Reuben, to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, “Today we know that the LORD is among us, because you have not committed this trespass against the LORD. Now you have delivered the children of Israel out of the LORD’s hand.”
VERSE 32. Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the princes, returned from the children of Reuben, and from the children of Gad, out of the land of Gilead, to the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought them word again.
VERSE 33. The thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and spoke no more of going up against them to war, to destroy the land in which the children of Reuben and the children of Gad lived.
spoke no more of going up against them to war. They avoided going into a Civil War.
VERSE 34. The children of Reuben and the children of Gad named the altar “A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God.”
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.