Joshua summoned the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh.
He said to them, "You have done everything the LORD's servant Moses commanded you. You have also obeyed me in everything I commanded you.
All this time, to this day, you have never deserted your relatives. You have carefully kept the commands of the LORD your God.
"Now the LORD your God has given your relatives peace, as he promised them. So return home, to the land that is your own possession. It is the land that the LORD's servant Moses gave you east of the Jordan River.
Carefully follow the commands and teachings that the LORD's servant Moses gave you. Love the LORD your God, follow his directions, and keep his commands. Be loyal to him, and serve him with all your heart and soul."
Then Joshua blessed them. He sent them on their way, and they went to their homes.
Moses had given land in Bashan as an inheritance to half of Manasseh, and Joshua had given the other half of the tribe their land with their relatives west of the Jordan. When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them.
He also said to them, "Return to your homes with your vast wealth, large herds of livestock, silver, gold, bronze, iron, and loads of clothing. Divide the loot from your enemies with your relatives."
So the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh left the rest of the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan. They returned to Gilead. This was their own possession which they had captured as the LORD had instructed them through Moses.
Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh came to the region of the Jordan that was still in Canaan. They built an altar by the Jordan River. The altar was very large and highly visible.
The rest of the Israelites heard about it and said, "See there! Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the border of Canaan. It's in the region near the Jordan River on Israel's side."
When the people of Israel heard about it, the whole congregation of Israel gathered at Shiloh. They intended to wage war against them.
The Israelites sent Phinehas, son of the priest Eleazar, to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh in Gilead.
Ten leaders, one from each tribe in Israel, went with him. Each man was a leader of a household and head of a family division in Israel.
When they arrived these leaders said to the people of Gilead,
"All of the LORD's congregation is asking, 'What is this faithless act you have committed against the God of Israel?' Today you have turned away from following the LORD by building an altar for yourselves. Today you have rebelled against the LORD!
Does the sin we committed at Peor mean nothing to us anymore? Didn't we cleanse ourselves from it? Because of that sin there was a plague on the LORD's congregation!
You have turned away from following the LORD! Today you rebel against the LORD, and tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.
If your land is unclean, come over here to the LORD's land. The LORD's tent is standing here. Take some property for yourselves among us. Don't rebel against the LORD or against us by building an altar for yourselves in addition to the altar of the LORD our God.
Didn't Achan, son of Zerah, act faithlessly with the things claimed by the LORD? Didn't the LORD become angry with the whole congregation of Israel? Achan wasn't the only one who died because of his sin."
Then the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh answered the heads of the divisions of Israel.
They said, "The LORD is [the only true] God! The LORD is [the only true] God! He knows, so let Israel know! If our act is rebellious or unfaithful to the LORD,
don't spare us today. If we built an altar with the intention of no longer following him, and if we built it for making burnt offerings, grain offerings, or fellowship offerings, let the LORD punish us.
"We were worried because of the situation we're in. We thought sometime in the future your children might say to our children, 'What relationship do you have with the LORD God of Israel?
The LORD has made the Jordan River a dividing line between us and you, the descendants of Reuben and Gad. You have no connection with the LORD!' So your descendants would stop our descendants from worshiping the LORD.
Then we said, 'Let's build an altar for ourselves. It will not be for burnt offerings or sacrifices,
but it will stand as a witness between us for generations to come. It will stand as a witness that we may worship in the presence of the LORD with our burnt offerings, sacrifices, and fellowship offerings.' Then your descendants cannot say to our descendants, 'You have no connection with the LORD!'
So we thought, if this statement is made to us or to our descendants in the future, we will answer, 'Look at the model of the LORD's altar our ancestors made. They didn't make it for burnt offerings or sacrifices but to stand as a witness between us.'
It would be unthinkable for us to rebel against the LORD or to turn back today from following the LORD by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings, or sacrifices in addition to the altar of the LORD our God that is in front of his tent."
When the priest Phinehas, the leaders of the congregation, and the heads of the divisions of Israel heard what the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh said, they were satisfied.
Then Phinehas, son of the priest Eleazar, said to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, "Today we know the LORD is among us, because you did not commit an unfaithful act against the LORD. Now you have rescued the people of Israel from the LORD's punishment."
Then Phinehas (son of the priest Eleazar) and the leaders returned from Reuben and Gad in Gilead to Israel in Canaan and gave them the report.
The people of Israel were satisfied with the report. So they praised God and didn't talk anymore about going to war against Reuben and Gad and destroying the land where they were living.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad gave the altar a name: Witness Between Us That the LORD Is [the Only True] God.