The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh return home

4. Accept God’s blessing

The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh return home – Joshua 22:1-34

Chapter 22

v1 Then Joshua called together the *tribes of Reuben, Gad and the *half-tribe of Manasseh. v2 Joshua said, ‘You have done all that Moses, the servant of the *Lord, told you to do.’ He said, ‘And you have obeyed me. You have done everything that I told you to do. v3 You have helped your brothers, for a long time. You have stayed even to this day. And you have done the work that the *Lord gave you to do.v4 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 that land to you.v5 But you must be very careful to obey the rules and the law that he gave you. This law says that you must love the *Lord your God. You must live in the way that pleases him. You must do everything that he tells you. And you must believe him. You must serve him with everything that you have.’

v6 Joshua then blessed them and he sent them away to their homes. Moses had given land in Bashan to half the *tribe of Manasseh. v7 (But Joshua had given land on the west side of the Jordan to the other half of the *tribe. This land was by the land of the other *Israelites.)

When Joshua sent these *tribes home, he blessed them. v8 ‘Go back to your homes with the good things that you took from your enemies’, he said. ‘Take many animals, gold and other metals and expensive clothes. You must share these things with the other *Israelites.’

v9 So the *tribes of Reuben, Gad and half the *tribe of Manasseh left the other *Israelites at Shiloh in *Canaan. They returned to Gilead, their own land. Moses had given this land to them, as the *Lord had told him to do.

Verses 1-4 See Notes on 1:10, 11 above. The two and a half *tribes had helped the rest of the *Israelites to make their home in the land. Now Joshua told them that they could go back to their own land on the east of the river Jordan.

Verse 5 Joshua gave the two and a half *tribes the following instructions and advice.

·  Love the *Lord.

·  Live in the way that pleases him.

·  Do everything that he tells you to do.

·  Believe in him.

·  Serve him with everything.

This advice is still very important for Christians today.

Verses 6-9 The two and a half *tribes could go home at last. Now they could enjoy all the good things that God had given to them. Joshua blessed them as they went home.

But they were not really living in the *promised land. Instead, they were living nearer to their enemies.

Christians must be careful. We should meet with other Christians. This is called *fellowship.

v10 The two and a half *tribes came to Geliloth. This was near the river Jordan, in *Canaan. They built a big *altar there, by the river Jordan. v11 The other *Israelites heard that they had built an *altar at the edge of *Canaan, at Geliloth. So these *Israelites became angry. It was on the side of the Jordan that belonged to the *Israelites. v12 So, the *Israelites all came together at Shiloh to fight the two and a half *tribes.

v13 Then the *Israelites sent Phinehas, son of Eleazar the priest, to the land of Gilead. He visited the *tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the *half-tribe of Manasseh. v14 The *Israelites sent 10 leaders with him. One man came from each one of the *tribes of *Israel. Each man was the leader of his own family group.

v15 They spoke to the *tribes of Reuben, Gad and the *half-tribe of Manasseh in Gilead. v16 They said, ‘You have not obeyed the *Lord God of *Israel. All the *Israelites are saying this. You should not have built this *altar. The *Lord said that you must not do this. You are turning away from him. v17 The *sin at Peor was bad. We still feel bad about it and God sent a terrible illness to punish us. v18 Now you seem to be doing another thing that is wrong.’

The leaders said, ‘You might do something that is wrong today. The *Lord will be angry with all the *Israelites tomorrow. v19 If your land here is not *holy, 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. v20 Achan, son of Zerah, took things that belonged to God. And then God became angry with all the *Israelites. Achan was not the only one that died.’

Verse 10-14 The two and a half *tribes built an *altar at Geliloth. It was near to Jericho. They wanted to show that they still *worshipped the *Lord. They wanted to show that they still belonged to *Israel. The *altar was on the west side of the river Jordan.

The other *tribes were not happy for several reasons:

·  They thought that the two and a half *tribes might be turning away from God.

·  The two and a half *tribes might *worship false gods.

·  God only wanted one place for *worship. (See Deuteronomy 12:1-7.)

·  The two and a half *tribes had built the *altar on the other *tribes’ land.

So, the other *Israelites became angry. They wanted to fight the two and a half *tribes. Anger is dangerous. Anger causes arguments. And arguments can even cause wars. It is easy to do foolish things when we are angry (Proverbs 14:17).

Paul taught that church leaders should not become angry quickly (Titus 1:7). In fact, this is good advice for everybody else, too.

But *Israel’s leaders made a wise decision. They did not go to war immediately. Instead, they sent Phinehas. They chose well. Phinehas was a holy man, whom everybody respected. And Phinehas was a hero. He had rescued *Israel before (Numbers 25). And now, he would rescue *Israel again.

Phinehas went with 10 other men to talk to the two and a half *tribes. The 10 men were leaders of their *tribes.

Verses 15-20 They tried to tell the two and a half *tribes that they had done something wrong.

Verses 17, 20 Phinehas reminded the *tribes about their history.

·  The *Israelites *worshipped false gods at Peor (Numbers 25). They *worshipped the gods of the Amorites. God punished *Israel. (Phinehas was a witness of these events. 24 000 *Israelites died when they suffered God’s punishment. But Phinehas himself stopped this punishment. So, God made a *covenant with Phinehas that his family would always be priests. See Numbers 25:6-13.)

·  Achan stole what belonged to God (Joshua 7). God punished Achan and his family. God was angry with *Israel.

The *Israelites thought that God would be angry. They thought that God might punish them.

Verse 19 The *Israelites thought the land would not be *holy if its inhabitants *worshipped false gods.

v21 Reuben, Gad and the half *tribe of Manasseh answered the leaders of *Israel. v22 They said, ‘God, the *Lord, is the great one. God, the *Lord, is the great one! He knows the truth! 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. v23 We did not build our own *altar to burn animals or food. We did not build it to give gifts to God. If we did anything wrong, we want the *Lord to punish us himself.’

v24 They also said, ‘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 no connection with the *Lord, the God of *Israel. v25The *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.

v26 That is why we said, “Let us build an *altar. It will not be an *altar where we burn *sacrifices. And it will not be an *altar where we give things to God. v27 But it will help us and you to remember to *worship the *Lord at his tent. It will help our children and your children. We will burn our *sacrifices at the *Lord’s tent. And we will give him our gifts there. Then, in later years, your children will not tell our children that they do not belong to the *Lord”.

v28 We said, “If they say this to us, we will answer them. We will tell them to look at the *altar. It is a copy of the *Lord’s *altar. We will not burn *sacrifices or give gifts to the *Lord on this *altar. Our fathers built it. They wanted us to remember that we are all part of *Israel. That is why they built it.”

v29 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.’

Verses 21-26 The two and a half *tribes gave the reason for the *altar.

The *altar would not be used for *sacrifice. The *altar would remind them that they belonged to *Israel. They could tell this to their children.

Verse 27-29 They would still go to the *Tent of Meeting. They would still *worship God. They would still be a part of *Israel.

v30 Phinehas the priest and the leaders (the men from each *tribe of *Israel) heard this. They were pleased with what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had told them. v31 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.’

v32 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. v33 They were happy to hear about it, and they gave thanks to God. They did not talk about war with them any more. They would not destroy the land where the two and a half *tribes lived.

v34 The people from Reuben and Gad gave a name to the *altar. They called it ‘Remember, all of us, that the *Lord is God.’

Verses 30-34 Phinehas and the 10 men accepted what the two and a half *tribes had told them. *Israel was at peace again.