Joshua 22:10-34

An altar causes trouble

10 The 2½ tribes came to Geliloth, near the Jordan River, in Canaan. They built a big altar there, beside the river. 11 The other Israelites heard this news: ‘Those 2½ tribes have built an altar on the border of Canaan, at Geliloth! They have built it on the west side of the Jordan River, our side!’ 12 So the Israelites came together at Shiloh to fight against the other 2½ tribes.

13 The Israelites sent Phinehas, son of Eleazar the priest, to the land of Gilead. He went to meet with the 2½ tribes, Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. 14 10 Israelite leaders went with him, one man from each of their tribes. Each man was a leader of his own clan.

15 The Israelite leaders arrived in the land of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, in Gilead. 16 They said, ‘You have not obeyed the Lord, Israel's God. All the people of Israel agree that you have done a bad thing. You have turned against the Lord. You should not have built this altar for yourselves. 17 We did something very bad at Peor. Even now, we have not made it right. The Lord brought a bad disease 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 punish us all!

19 If your land here in Gilead is unclean, come back across the river to the Lord's own land. You can come and live among us, in the land where the Lord's tabernacle is. But do not turn against the Lord or against us. Do not build an altar for yourselves. The Lord our God already has his altar here. 20 Remember the time when Achan, son of Zerah, took things that belonged to God for himself. He refused to obey God's command about Jericho's valuable things. Then God became angry with all the people of Israel. Achan died because of his sin, but he was not the only one.’

22:20See Joshua 7:1-5.

21 Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered the Israelite leaders. 22 They said, ‘God, the Lord, is the great God! God, the Lord knows what is true! So all Israel must also know! Punish us today if we have turned against the Lord. We have not refused to obey him. 23 We did not build our own altar to make burnt offerings or grain offerings or friendship offerings on it. If we have done that, the Lord himself should certainly punish us.

24 No! We had a very different idea. We were afraid that in the future, your descendants might say to our descendants, “You have nothing to do with the Lord, Israel's God. 25 The Lord put the Jordan River as a border between our tribes and your tribes. The tribes of Reuben and Gad cannot worship the Lord!” In that way, your descendants might stop our descendants from serving the Lord.

26 That is why we decided to build this altar. It will not be an altar where we make sacrifices or burnt offerings. 27 But it will help us all, our descendants and your descendants, to remember to obey the Lord. We will go to worship him at his tabernacle. There we will bring to him our burnt offerings, our sacrifices and our friendship offerings. Then, in future years, your descendants will not say to our descendants, “You cannot worship the Lord with us.”

28 If they say that to us, we will reply, “Look at this altar that our ancestors built. It is a copy of the Lord's true altar. It is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices. They built it so that we would remember that we all belong to the Lord.” 

29 We would never decide to turn against the Lord. We want to continue to obey him. We know that the only altar where we must make burnt offerings, sacrifices and friendship offerings is the true altar of the Lord our God. That altar stands in front of his tabernacle.’

30 Phinehas the priest and the Israelite leaders that were with him heard this. They were happy with what the people of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had told them. 31 They said to them, ‘Now we know that the Lord is with us! You have not refused to obey the Lord. So we know that he will not punish us Israelites.’

32 Then Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest, and the leaders left Gilead and they went back to the land of Canaan. They told the Israelites in Canaan what the people of Reuben and Gad had said. 33 The Israelites were happy to hear their report. They thanked God. They did not think any more that they might attack the other tribes and destroy their land.

34 The people of Reuben and Gad gave their altar a name, because they wanted to remember that the Lord is their God. So they called the altar ‘Remember’.