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The Two and a Half Tribes Return Home

22 Joshua had the men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh come for a meeting, and he told them:

2-3 You have obeyed every command of the Lord your God and of his servant Moses. And you have done everything I’ve told you to do. It’s taken a long time, but you have stayed and helped your relatives. The Lord promised to give peace to your relatives, and that’s what he has done. Now it’s time for you to go back to your own homes in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan River.

Moses taught you to love the Lord your God, to be faithful to him, and to worship and obey him with your whole heart and with all your strength. So be very careful to do everything Moses commanded.

6-9 You’ve become rich from what you’ve taken from your enemies. You have big herds of cattle, lots of silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and plenty of clothes. Take everything home with you and share with the people of your tribe.

I pray that God will be kind to you. You are now free to go home.

The tribes of Reuben and Gad started back to Gilead, their own land. Moses had given the land of Bashan to the East Manasseh tribe, so they started back along with Reuben and Gad. God had told Moses that these two and a half tribes should conquer Gilead and Bashan, and they had done so.

Joshua had given land west of the Jordan River to the other half of the Manasseh tribe, so they stayed at Shiloh in the land of Canaan with the rest of the Israelites.

10-11 The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh reached the western side of the Jordan River valley[a] and built a huge altar there beside the river.

When the rest of the Israelites heard what these tribes had done,[b] 12 the Israelite men met at Shiloh to get ready to attack the two and a half tribes. 13 But first they sent a priest, Phinehas the son of Eleazar, to talk with the two and a half tribes. 14 Each of the tribes at Shiloh sent the leader of one of its families along with Phinehas.

15 Phinehas and these leaders went to Gilead and met with the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh. They said:

16 All of the Lord’s people have gathered together and have sent us to find out why you are unfaithful to our God. You have turned your backs on the Lord by building that altar. Why are you rebelling against him? 17 Wasn’t our people’s sin at Peor[c] terrible enough for you? The Lord punished us by sending a horrible sickness that killed many of us, and we still suffer because of that sin.[d] 18 Now you are turning your backs on the Lord again.

If you don’t stop rebelling against the Lord right now, he will be angry at the whole nation. 19 If you don’t think your land is a fit place to serve God, then move across the Jordan and live with us in the Lord’s own land, where his sacred tent is located. But don’t rebel against the Lord our God or against us by building another altar besides the Lord’s own altar.[e] 20 Don’t you remember what happened when Achan was unfaithful[f] and took some of the things that belonged to God? This made God angry with the entire nation. Achan died because he sinned, but he also caused the death of many others.

21 The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh answered:

22 The Lord is the greatest God! We ask him to be our witness, because he knows whether or not we were rebellious or unfaithful when we built that altar. If we were unfaithful, then we pray that God won’t rescue us today. Let us tell you why we built that altar, 23 and we ask the Lord to punish us if we are lying. We didn’t build it so we could turn our backs on the Lord. We didn’t even build it so we could offer animal or grain sacrifices to please the Lord or ask his blessing.

24-25 We built that altar because we were worried. Someday your descendants might tell our descendants, “The Lord made the Jordan River the boundary between us Israelites and you people of Reuben and Gad. The Lord is Israel’s God, but you’re not part of Israel, so you can’t take part in worshiping the Lord.”

Your descendants might say that and try to make our descendants stop worshiping and obeying the Lord. 26 That’s why we decided to build the altar. It isn’t for offering sacrifices, not even sacrifices to please the Lord.[g] 27-29 To build another altar for offering sacrifices would be the same as turning our backs on the Lord and rebelling against him. We could never do that! No, we built the altar to remind us and you and the generations to come that we will worship the Lord. And so we will keep bringing our sacrifices to the Lord’s altar, there in front of his sacred tent. Now your descendants will never be able to say to our descendants, “You can’t worship the Lord.”

But if they do say this, our descendants can answer back, “Look at this altar our ancestors built! It’s like the Lord’s altar, but it isn’t for offering sacrifices. It’s here to remind us and you that we belong to the Lord, just as much as you do.”

30-31 Phinehas and the clan leaders were pleased when they heard the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh explain why they had built the altar. Then Phinehas told them, “Today we know that the Lord is helping us. You have not been unfaithful to him, and this means that the Lord will not be angry with us.”

32 Phinehas and the clan leaders left Gilead and went back to Canaan to tell the Israelites about their meeting with the Reuben and Gad tribes. 33 The Israelites were happy and praised God. There was no more talk about going to war and wiping out the tribes of Reuben and Gad.

34 The people of Reuben and Gad named the altar “A Reminder to Us All That the Lord Is Our God.”[h]

Joshua’s Farewell Speech

23 The Lord let Israel live in peace with its neighbors for a long time, and Joshua lived to a ripe old age. One day he called a meeting of the leaders of the tribes of Israel, including the old men, the judges, and the officials. Then he told them:

I am now very old. You have seen how the Lord your God fought for you and helped you defeat the nations who lived in this land. 4-5 There are still some nations left, but the Lord has promised you their land. So when you attack them, he will make them run away. I have already divided their land among your tribes, as I did with the land of the nations I defeated between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Be sure that you carefully obey everything written in The Book of the Law[i] of Moses and do exactly what it says.

Don’t have anything to do with the nations that live around you. Don’t worship their gods or pray to their idols or make promises in the names of their gods. Be as faithful to the Lord as you have always been.

When you attacked powerful nations, the Lord made them run away, and no one has ever been able to stand up to you. 10 Any one of you can defeat a thousand enemy soldiers, because the Lord God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 Be sure to always love the Lord your God. 12-13 Don’t ever turn your backs on him by marrying people from the nations that are left in the land. Don’t even make friends with them. I tell you that if you are friendly with those nations, the Lord won’t chase them away when you attack. Instead, they’ll be like a trap for your feet, a whip on your back, and thorns in your eyes. And finally, none of you will be left in this good land that the Lord has given you.

14 I will soon die, as everyone must. But deep in your hearts you know that the Lord has kept every promise he ever made to you. Not one of them has been broken. 15-16 Yes, when the Lord makes a promise, he does what he has promised. But when he makes a threat, he will also do what he has threatened. The Lord is our God. He gave us this wonderful land and made an agreement with us that we would worship only him. But if you worship other gods, it will make the Lord furious. He will start getting rid of you, and soon not one of you will be left in this good land that he has given you.

We Will Worship and Obey the Lord

24 Joshua called the tribes of Israel together for a meeting at Shechem. He had the leaders, including the old men, the judges, and the officials, come up and stand near the sacred tent.[j] Then Joshua told everyone to listen to this message from the Lord, the God of Israel:

Long ago your ancestors lived on the other side of the Euphrates River, and they worshiped other gods. This continued until the time of your ancestor Terah and his two sons, Abraham and Nahor. But I brought Abraham across the Euphrates River and led him through the land of Canaan. I blessed him by giving him Isaac, the first in a line of many descendants. Then I gave Isaac two sons, Jacob and Esau. I had Esau live in the hill country of Mount Seir, but your ancestor Jacob and his children went to live in Egypt.

5-6 Later I sent Moses and his brother Aaron to help your people, and I made all those horrible things happen to the Egyptians. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, but the Egyptians got in their chariots and on their horses and chased your ancestors, catching up with them at the Red Sea.[k] Your people cried to me for help, so I put a dark cloud between them and the Egyptians. Then I opened up the sea and let your people walk across on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, I commanded the sea to swallow them, and they drowned while you watched.

You lived in the desert for a long time, then I brought you into the land east of the Jordan River. The Amorites were living there, and they fought you. But with my help, you defeated them, wiped them out, and took their land. King Balak decided that his nation Moab would go to war against you, so he asked Balaam[l] to come and put a curse on you. 10 But I wouldn’t listen to Balaam, and I rescued you by making him bless you instead of curse you.

11 You crossed the Jordan River and came to Jericho. The rulers of Jericho fought you, and so did the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. I helped you defeat them all. 12 Your enemies ran from you, but not because you had swords and bows and arrows. I made your enemies panic and run away, as I had done with the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River.

13 You didn’t have to work for this land—I gave it to you. Now you live in towns you didn’t build, and you eat grapes and olives from vineyards and trees you didn’t plant.

14 Then Joshua told the people:

Worship the Lord, obey him, and always be faithful. Get rid of the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived on the other side of the Euphrates River and in Egypt. 15 But if you don’t want to worship the Lord, then choose right now! Will you worship the same idols your ancestors did? Or since you’re living on land that once belonged to the Amorites, maybe you’ll worship their gods. I won’t. My family and I are going to worship and obey the Lord!

16 The people answered:

We could never worship other gods or stop worshiping the Lord. 17 The Lord is our God. We were slaves in Egypt as our ancestors had been, but we saw the Lord work miracles to set our people free and to bring us out of Egypt. Even though other nations were all around us, the Lord protected us wherever we went. 18 And when we fought the Amorites and the other nations that lived in this land, the Lord made them run away. Yes, we will worship and obey the Lord, because the Lord is our God.

19 Joshua said:

The Lord is fearsome; he is the one true God, and I don’t think you are able to worship and obey him in the ways he demands. You would have to be completely faithful, and if you sin or rebel, he won’t let you get away with it. 20 If you turn your backs on the Lord and worship the gods of other nations, the Lord will turn against you. He will make terrible things happen to you and wipe you out, even though he had been good to you before.

21 But the people shouted, “We won’t worship any other gods. We will worship and obey only the Lord!”

22 Joshua said, “You have heard yourselves say that you will worship and obey the Lord. Isn’t that true?”

“Yes, it’s true,” they answered.

23 Joshua said, “But you still have some idols, like those the other nations worship. Get rid of your idols! You must decide once and for all that you really want to obey the Lord God of Israel.”

24 The people said, “The Lord is our God, and we will worship and obey only him.”

25 Joshua helped Israel make an agreement with the Lord that day at Shechem. Joshua made laws for Israel 26 and wrote them down in The Book of the Law[m] of God. Then he set up a large stone under the oak tree at the place of worship in Shechem 27 and told the people, “Look at this stone. It has heard everything that the Lord has said to us. Our God can call this stone as a witness if we ever reject him.”

28 Joshua sent everyone back to their homes.

Joshua, Joseph, and Eleazar Are Buried

29 Not long afterwards, the Lord’s servant Joshua died at the age of one hundred ten. 30 The Israelites buried him in his own land at Timnath-Serah, north of Mount Gaash in the hill country of Ephraim.

31 As long as Joshua lived, Israel worshiped and obeyed the Lord. There were other leaders old enough to remember everything that the Lord had done for Israel. And for as long as these men lived, Israel continued to worship and obey the Lord.

32 When the people of Israel left Egypt, they brought the bones of Joseph along with them. They took the bones to the town of Shechem and buried them in the field that Jacob had bought for one hundred pieces of silver[n] from Hamor, the founder of Shechem. The town and the field both[o] became part of the land belonging to the descendants of Joseph.

33 When Eleazar the priest[p] died, he was buried in the hill country of Ephraim on a hill that belonged to his son Phinehas.

Footnotes

  1. 22.10,11 western. . . valley: Or “the town of Geliloth, which is in the land of Canaan near the Jordan River.”
  2. 22.10,11 built a huge altar. . . tribes had done: According to Deuteronomy 12.5-14, the Lord wanted the Israelites to have only one altar for offering sacrifices. To build another altar would be to disobey the Lord.
  3. 22.17 our people’s sin at Peor: See Numbers 25.
  4. 22.17 we still. . . sin: Or “There are still people in Israel who want to worship other gods.”
  5. 22.19 or against. . . altar: Or “by building another altar besides the Lord’s own altar. That would even make us into rebels along with you.”
  6. 22.20 Achan was unfaithful: See 7.1,26.
  7. 22.26 sacrifices to please the Lord: See the note at 8.30-32.
  8. 22.34 named. . . God: Or “gave a name to the altar. They explained, <This altar is here to remind us all that the Lord is our God> “; most Hebrew manuscripts. A few Hebrew manuscripts and one ancient translation “named the altar <Reminder.’ They explained, <This altar is here to remind us all that the Lord is our God.’ “
  9. 23.6 Law: See the note at 8.30-32.
  10. 24.1 near. . . tent: Or “in front of the sacred chest” ; Hebrew “in the presence of God.”
  11. 24.5,6 Red Sea: See the note at 2.10.
  12. 24.9 King Balak. . . Balaam: The Hebrew text has “King Balak the son of Zippor. . . Balaam the son of Beor.”
  13. 24.26 Law: See the note at 8.30-32.
  14. 24.32 pieces of silver: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew word.
  15. 24.32 town. . . both: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  16. 24.33 Eleazar the priest: Hebrew “Eleazar the son of Aaron.”

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