The tribes that were living east of the Jordan go home
1 Then Joshua called together the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. 2 Joshua said, ‘You have done everything that Moses, the servant of the Lord, told you to do. (Numbers 32:20-22) You have also obeyed everything that I told you to do. 3 You have helped your brothers for a long time. You have stayed even to this day. You have done all the work that the Lord your God gave you to do. 4 Now your brothers have finished fighting for their land, as the Lord promised them. So you can go to your homes on the other side of the river Jordan. Moses, the Lord's servant, gave them to you. 5 But you must be very careful to obey the rules and the laws that Moses gave to you. You must love the Lord your God, and you must obey the rules that he gave to you. You must listen to him and serve him with everything that you have.’
6 Joshua then blessed them and sent them away to their homes. Moses had given land in Bashan to half the tribe of Manasseh. 7 (But Joshua had given land on the west side of the Jordan to the other half of the tribe, with their brothers.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them. 8 He said, ‘Go back to your homes with the good things that you took from your enemies. Take many animals, gold and other metals and rich clothes. You and your brothers must each have some of these things.’
9 So the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh left their brothers there in Shiloh in Canaan. They returned to Gilead, their own land. Moses had given them this land, as the Lord had told him.
10 The two and a half tribes came to Geliloth, near the Jordan, in Canaan. They built a big altar there, by the river Jordan. 11 When the other Israelites heard that they had built an altar at the edge of Canaan, at Geliloth, they were angry. It was on the side of the Jordan that the Israelites had. 12 They all came together at Shiloh to fight the two and a half tribes.
13 So the Israelites sent Phinehas, son of Eleazar the priest, to the land of Gilead. He went to see Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. 14 They sent 10 of the leaders with him. They chose one man from each of the tribes of Israel. Each man was the leader of his own family group.
15 The leaders spoke to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh in Gilead. 16 They said, ‘You have not obeyed the Lord God of Israel. All the people of Israel are saying this. Why have you built an altar? The Lord said that you must not do this (Deuteronomy 13:13-14). You are turning away from him. 17 The wrong thing that we did at Peor was very bad (Numbers 23:27-29). Even now, we have not made it right. The Lord made us sick to punish us as his people. 18 Now you are doing another bad thing. You no longer want to obey the Lord. You are turning against him today. So tomorrow the Lord may be angry with all the people of Israel.
19 If your land here is not clean, come back to the Lord's land. And we will give you some of it. The Lord's tent is there. Do not turn against the Lord or against us. Do not build an altar for yourselves that is not for the Lord our God. 20 When Achan, son of Zerah, took things that belonged to God, he became angry with all the people of Israel. Achan was not the only one that died.’ (Joshua 7:1)
21 Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered the leaders of Israel. 22 They said, ‘God, the Lord, is the great one. God, the Lord! He knows! So let all Israel know! Punish us today if we have done anything against the Lord. We have not done anything that he told us not to do. 23 We did not build our own altar to burn animals or food, or to give gifts to the Lord. If we did anything wrong, may the Lord punish us himself.
24 No! We had a very different idea. We were afraid that in later times, your children might speak to ours. They might say, “You have nothing to do with the Lord, the God of Israel. 25 The Lord put the Jordan between us and your tribes, Reuben and Gad. You do not belong to the Lord!” So your children might stop our children from worshipping the Lord.
26 That is why we said, “Let us build an altar”. It will not be an altar where we burn food. And it will not be an altar where we give things to God. 27 But it will help us and you, and our children and your children, to remember to worship the Lord at his tent. We will burn animals and seeds and give him gifts there. Then, in later years, your children will not tell our children that they do not belong to the Lord.
28 We said, “If they say this to us, we will answer them. We will say ‘Look at this altar. It is a copy of the Lord's altar. It is not for burning food or giving gifts to the Lord. Our fathers built it so that we should remember that we are all part of Israel’ ”.
29 We never wanted to turn away from the Lord. We wanted to do the things that please him. We would never burn anything at an altar that was not the altar of the Lord our God. His altar stands in front of his tent.’
30 Phinehas the priest and the leaders of all the Israelite families heard this. They were happy with what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had told them. 31 They said to them, ‘You have not done anything that would not please the Lord. So today we know that the Lord is with us. Now he will not be angry with us.’
32 Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest and the leaders went back to Canaan. They told the Israelites what had happened when they had met the men of Reuben and Gad. 33 They were happy to hear about it, and gave thanks to God. They did not talk about fighting them any more. They would not destroy the land where the two and a half tribes lived.
34 Reuben and Gad gave the altar a name. They called it ‘Remember, all of us, that the Lord is God’.