1Then Joshua summoned the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
2He told them, “You have done everything that Moses, the servant of the Lord, told you to do, and you have followed all the commands I gave you.
3You have never abandoned your brothers all this time, right up to the present day. You have carefully followed what the Lord your God ordered you to do.
4Now that the Lord your God has given peace to your brothers, as he promised, go back home to your land that Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave you on the other side of the Jordan.
5But make sure you keep the commandments and the law as Moses instructed you. Love the Lord your God, follow all his ways, keep his commandments, stay close to him, and serve him with your whole being.”
6Joshua blessed them, sent them on their way, and they went home.
7Moses had given to the half-tribe of Manasseh the land of Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua had given land west of the Jordan. Joshua blessed them and sent them home.
8He told them, “Take all the wealth you have gained back home: the great herds of livestock, the things made of gold, silver, copper, and iron, the huge quantity of clothes. Share all this plunder with your brothers.”
9So the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the rest of the Israelites at Shiloh in the land of Canaan and went home to their land in Gilead that they had received at the Lord's command through Moses.
10When they approached the Jordan region, still in the land of Canaan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built a large and impressive altar beside the Jordan River.
11The Israelites were told, “Look, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar in the Jordan region of the land of Canaan, on the side belonging to the Israelities.”
12The Israelites gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.
13Before they did so, they sent Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead.
14Ten leaders went with him, one from each of the ten tribes of Israel, and each the head of his family.
15After they arrived they told the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh,
16“This is what all of the Lord's people say, ‘What is this disloyal act you have committed against the God of Israel by building an altar for yourselves? How could you turn away from him now in such rebellion?
17Wasn't our sin at Peor enough? Even now we're still not clean from the plague that attacked the Lord's people.
18So why are you turning away from the Lord now? If you rebel against the Lord today, he will be angry with all of us tomorrow!
19But if you think your land is tainted then come over to the land of the Lord where the Tabernacle of the Lord is located and share some of our land with us. Just don't rebel against the Lord, or against us, by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the Lord our God.
20When Achan, son of Zerah, acted disloyally in taking consecrated things, didn't the whole of Israel suffer punishment? He wasn't the only one who died because of his sin!”
21Then the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the Israelite leaders,
22“The Lord is God of gods, the Lord is God of gods, and he knows! May Israel also know! If we're in rebellion against God or being disloyal to him then kill us right now!
23If our action of building an altar was to turn away from the Lord, or to use the altar to make burnt offerings or grain offerings or friendship offerings, then may the Lord punish us.
24We did this because we were worried that in the future your descendants might say to ours, ‘What have you got to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?
25The Lord put a border—the Jordan River—between us and you, descendants of Reuben and Gad. You don't belong to the Lord.’ So your descendants might stop our descendants from worshiping the Lord.
26So we said to ourselves, ‘Let's build an altar, not for burnt offerings or for sacrifices,
27but as a witness between us and you, and for the generations that come after us, that we will come to worship the Lord in his presence with our burnt offerings, sacrifices, and friendship offerings.’ Then your descendants will not be able to say to ours in the future, ‘You don't belong to the Lord.’
28If they were to do so in the future, our descendants could reply, ‘Look at this copy of the Lord's altar which our forefathers made, not for burnt offerings or for sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’
29We would never think to rebel against the Lord or to turn away from him now by building an altar to make burnt offerings or grain offerings or sacrifices. The only altar of the Lord our God is the one stands in front of his Tabernacle.”
30When Phinehas and the Israelite leaders heard this from the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh they were delighted.
31Phinehas replied to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is with us because you have not acted disloyally in doing this. Now you have saved the Israelites from being punished by the Lord.”
32Then Phinehas and the Israelite leaders left the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead and returned to the land of Canaan to explain the situation to the Israelites.
33The Israelites were pleased with the report and God blessed them. They didn't talk about going to war any more to destroy the land where the tribes of Reuben and Gad were living.
34The tribes of Reuben and Gad called the altar, “Witness,” because they said, “It is a witness between us that the Lord is also our God.”