When Israel wanted to fight Israel
Joshua sends warriors home1 Joshua met with warriors from tribes east of the Jordan River: Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh. 2 He told them, “You did everything Moses and I asked you to do. 3 You stuck with your brothers. You didn’t quit on them. And you carried out the mission the LORD gave you. 4 Now, the LORD is letting us enjoy the peace, as he promised. So, your work is done here. Go home to the land Moses gave you across the Jordan River. 5 When you get there, stay true to the laws and teaching Moses gave you. They came from the LORD. So, love your God. Show it by keeping the law and by doing whatever the LORD says—and do it with all the heart and spirit you’ve got in you.” 6 Joshua sent them off with encouraging words of blessing for good things ahead. They headed home.
Joshua: “Share your wealth”7 Moses had already given half the tribe of Manasseh the territory of Bashan. Joshua gave the other half of the tribe land west of the Jordan, with Israel’s other tribes.
Joshua sent home the warriors from east of the Jordan—from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh. He sent them off with encouraging words of blessing. 8 He said, “It’s time to go home. You’ve become rich off your enemies. You’ve taken their livestock, silver, gold, bronze, along with iron tools and weapons. You have a lot of their clothing, too. Take it all back home and share it with your people. 9 So, fighters from Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh left the base camp at Shiloh in Canaan. They traveled back to the region of Gilead, the land the LORD told Moses to give them.
Israelites build an altar at the Jordan River10 When they got near the Jordan River, they built a huge altar. You couldn’t miss it. 11 Word got back to the tribes in Canaan. They heard that the men of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh built an altar on their land, near the Jordan River. 12 Israel’s tribes in Canaan were furious. They met at Shiloh and wanted to attack the two-and-a-half eastern tribes. 13 They decided, instead, to first send a delegation, led by the priest Phinehas, Eleazar’s son. 14 One leader from each of the 10 western tribes went with him—each a head of his extended family. 15 They arrived in Gilead and met with leaders of the two-and-a-half eastern tribes. They gave them this message: 16 “We’re talking now for all of us who still serve the LORD. What on earth do you think you’re doing? Are you crazy? Betraying the God of Israel? Building a pagan altar not sanctioned by God? 17 Don’t you remember what happened when our people sinned like this at Peor? Don’t you remember the plague we suffered because of it? We still haven’t gotten all the dirt off ourselves for that sin. It sticks to us. 18 And now you’re walking away from God again. If you don’t stop this, our entire nation will suffer the consequences. Again. 19 If what you’ve done has trashed your land here, and left it ritually unclean, come with us back across the river to the worship center of the LORD. You can make your home there with us. But whatever you do, stop rebelling against the LORD. 20 Remember what happened to Achan, son of Zerah, when he took for himself what belonged to God. We all suffered because of what he did. He wasn’t the only one who died because of it.” 21 Leaders from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh answered the charges.
“We didn’t do it!”22 “LORD God Almighty! LORD God Almighty! He knows. And all of Israel is about to find out. If what we did was an act of rebellion or a betrayal of God, kill us now. 23 If we built an altar dedicated to anyone but the LORD, and if we used it to sacrifice anything—animals or grain offerings—may the LORD give us what we deserve for this sin. 24 We built this out of fear that one day your descendants might say to our descendants, “You’re not part of us. You have nothing to do with the LORD. He’s the God of Israel. 25 And Israel ends where the Jordan River begins. That’s the boundary the LORD set up. You people of Reuben and Gad are on the wrong side of the river. You’re not one of us. We belong to the LORD.’
We’re afraid your descendants might drive us away from the LORD. 26 That’s why we built the altar. We said to ourselves, ‘Let’s build an altar as a monument, not as a place to burn sacrifices and offerings.’ 27 We aren’t rebelling. We’re reminding. This altar is a monument for the generations to come—a reminder of the connection we have to you and to the LORD. It’s a marker pointing the way to the LORD’s true altar and sanctuary. That’s where we will bring our sacrifices and offerings. We don’t want your people to ever tell us that we don’t belong with you. 28 We figure if that ever happened, our descendants could point to this altar and say, ‘What are your talking about? See this replica of the LORD’s altar. It’s not for sacrifices. It’s a reminder that God’s people live on both sides of the river.’ 29 We would never build a sacrificial altar to take the place of the altar at the LORD’s worship center.”
Civil war averted30 Phinehas the priest and the rest of his delegation were delighted to hear that from Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. 31 Phinehas told them, “Now we know the LORD is with us all since you haven’t betrayed him. You spared us from the LORD’s punishment.” 32 Phinehas, son of Eleazar, returned home with his delegation and they gave their report. 33 The people of Israel were relieved and delighted. They thanked God for the good news. All talk of war against the eastern tribes ended that day. 34 The people of Reuben and Gad named the altar “The Reminder.” They gave it this name because they wanted it to remind people of Israel everywhere that the LORD is their God.
After the Israelites conquered land east of the Jordan River, in what are now Jordan and Syria, these three tribes wanted to settle there. Moses agreed to their request. But he insisted they help the other tribes finish conquering the region and taking Canaan on the west side of the river. In addition, they had to take point in every attack (Numbers 32; Joshua 1:10-15).
The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh said they liked the land east of the Jordan because it was good for grazing their livestock. So, Moses assigned it to them (Numbers 32:33).
About 24,000 Israelites died in a plague after some Israelite men engaged in sex rituals with women of Moab who were worshipping their own gods (Numbers 25:9).
Achan and his family and his livestock were stoned to death and burned (Joshua 7:24-25).
Jews sacrificed animals and brought grain offerings only at the altar located at the tent worship center, and later at the Jerusalem Temple (Deuteronomy 12:8-12). Perhaps part of the reason for this is that priests survived on the “salary” from their share of those offerings (Numbers 18:31). They would get nothing if people of Israel sacrificed at locations not serviced by priests.
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