The Return of the Eastern Tribes and Joshua’s Farewell
Dismissal of the Tribes. 1 Joshua then summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites, and one of the halves of the tribe of Manasseh 2 and he said to them, “You have done all that Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you to do, and you have obeyed me in everything. 3 For a long time now, right up to this very day, you have not deserted your brothers. You have fulfilled the task that the Lord, your God, gave you. 4 Now that the Lord, your God, has given your brothers the rest that he had promised them, you can return to your homes in the land that Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave you as a possession on the other side of the Jordan. 5 Take heed to follow the commandments and the laws that Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave you: to love the Lord, your God, and to walk in his ways and to observe his commandments, holding fast to him and serving him with all your heart and all your soul.”[a]
6 Joshua then blessed them and sent them away, and they returned to their homes.
7 (Moses had given Bashan to one of the halves of the tribe of Manasseh, while Joshua gave the other half some land among their brothers on the western side of the Jordan.) When Joshua sent them to their homes, he blessed them 8 saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth: your numerous cattle as well as silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and your numerous garments. Divide the spoils from your enemies among your brethren.”[b]
9 So the Reubenites, the Gadites, and one of the halves of the tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh, in the land of Canaan, to travel to the land of Gilead, the land they were to possess. They were given possession of it by the word of the Lord through Moses.
10 The Altar across the Jordan. When they arrived at Geliloth near the Jordan, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and one of the halves of the tribe of Manasseh built an altar there beside the Jordan. It was an impressive altar, something to see.
11 The Israelites then heard that the Reubenites, the Gadites, and one of the halves of the tribe of Manasseh had built an altar at Geliloth, on the border of Canaan, on the Israelite side of the Jordan. 12 The Israelites heard about this and the whole assembly of the Israelites gathered together at Shiloh to go and attack them.
13 The Israelites sent Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and one of the halves of the tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead. 14 With him they sent ten leaders, a leader for each of the tribes of Israel, each one the head of an ancestral clan among the divisions of Israel. 15 They came to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and one of the halves of the tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead and they said to them, 16 “Thus says the whole assembly of the Lord: What is this treachery that you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away from the Lord this day by building an altar for yourselves so that you might rebel against the Lord? 17 Is the iniquity that was committed at Peor not enough for us? We have not been fully purified from it up to the present even though there was a plague in the assembly of the Lord. 18 Why do you turn away from following the Lord today? If today you rebel against the Lord, then tomorrow his anger will rage against the whole assembly of Israel. 19 If the land in your possession is unclean, then cross over to the land in the possession of the Lord where the tabernacle of the Lord is kept. You can share it with us. Only, do not rebel against the Lord, and do not rebel against us by building an altar other than the altar to the Lord, our God. 20 When Achan, the son of Zerah, committed a sin in regard to the things that had been dedicated, did not wrath come upon the whole assembly of Israel? That man was not the only one who perished because of his sin.”
21 So the Reubenites, the Gadites, and one of the halves of the tribe of Manasseh replied to the leaders of the divisions of Israel, 22 “The God of gods, the Lord! The God of gods, the Lord! He knows! Let Israel know as well! If this has been an act of rebellion or treachery against the Lord, then may we not be saved today. 23 If we have built an altar to turn away from the Lord, or to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings, or to make peace offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account! 24 No! We did this thing for fear that sometime in the future your descendants might say to our descendants, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between you and us, you Reubenites and Gadites. You have no share in the Lord.’ Then your descendants would have caused our descendants to stop fearing the Lord. 26 This is why we said to ourselves, ‘Let us prepare for it and build an altar, but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ 27 Let it be a witness between ourselves and yourselves as well as for the generations that come after us so that we might continue in the service of the Lord, offering burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings before him. This way, in the future, your descendants will not be able to say to our descendants, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’ 28 We said to ourselves, ‘If they ever say this to us or to our descendants in the future, we will be able to tell them to look at the copy of the Lord’s altar that was built by our fathers. It was not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but to serve as a witness between ourselves and yourselves. 29 God forbid that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from the Lord today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings, and sacrifices in any place other than the altar to the Lord, our God, that stands in front of his tabernacle.”
30 When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the assembly, the leaders of the divisions of Israel, heard what the Reubenites and the Gadites, and the Manassehites said, it greatly pleased them. 31 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, said to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and to the Manassehites, “Today we are sure that the Lord is with us, for you have not acted unfaithfully against the Lord in this matter. You have now rescued the Israelites out of the hand of the Lord.”
32 Then Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, and the leaders returned from the Reubenites and the Gadites in Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the Israelites, and they brought them a report. 33 The report greatly pleased the Israelites and they praised God. The Israelites decided not to go up against the Reubenites and the Gadites to fight them and destroy the land in which they dwelt. 34 The Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A witness between us that the Lord is God.[c]
- Joshua 22:5 Considering that the Israelites had for so many years been preoccupied with the physical side of life, Joshua takes this opportunity to restate the need for them to make love of God and obedience to his commandments the primary focus of their lives.
- Joshua 22:8 In Joshua’s parting blessing to the tribes he reminds them to share the spoils of victory with their less fortunate brothers and sisters.
- Joshua 22:34 A witness between us that the Lord is God: the name given by the Reubenite and Gadite tribes to the altar they built to dispel any notion of friction between the people on either side of the Jordan. It was a sign to all the Israelites and to future generations that they worshiped the same God.