Joshua sent for the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh.
He said to them, "You have done everything that Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded. You have also obeyed everything I commanded.
For a long time now you haven't deserted the other Israelites. Instead, you have done what the LORD your God sent you to do. You have obeyed him to this very day.
"Now the LORD your God has given the other tribes peace and rest. That's what he promised to do. So return to your homes. They are in the land that Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave you. It's on the east side of the Jordan River.
"Be very careful to obey the law that Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave you. He commanded you to love the LORD your God. He told you to live exactly as the LORD wants you to. He told you to obey the LORD's commands. He told you to remain true to the Lord. And he told you to serve the LORD with all your heart and with all your soul."
Joshua gave the eastern tribes his blessing. Then he sent them home. So they went.
Moses had given land in Bashan to half of the tribe of Manasseh. Joshua had given land to the other half of the tribe along with the other tribes on the west side of the Jordan River. When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them.
He said, "Return to your homes. Take your great wealth with you. Return with your large herds of livestock. Take your silver, gold, bronze and iron with you. Return with all of your clothes. Divide up the things you have taken from your enemies. Share them with your people."
So the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh went home. They left the other people of Israel at Shiloh in Canaan. They returned to Gilead. That was their own land. They had gotten it in keeping with the LORD's command through Moses.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh came to Geliloth. It was near the Jordan River in the land of Canaan. They built a large altar there by the Jordan.
The rest of the people of Israel heard that they had built the altar. They heard that they had built it on the border of Canaan at Geliloth. It was near the Jordan River on the west side.
So the whole community of Israel gathered together at Shiloh. They decided to go to war against the eastern tribes.
The people of Israel sent the priest Phinehas to the land of Gilead. Phinehas was the son of Eleazar. They sent him to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh.
They sent ten of their leaders with him. There was one for each of the tribes of Israel. Each man was the leader of a family group among the larger family groups of Israel.
They went to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh in the land of Gilead. They said to them,
"We're speaking for the LORD's whole community. How could you disobey the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord? How could you disobey him by building an altar for yourselves?
"Don't you remember how we sinned at Peor? The LORD struck us with a plague because of what we did. Up to this very day we're still suffering because of that sin.
Are you turning away from the LORD now? "Suppose you disobey the LORD today. If you do, he'll be angry with the whole community of Israel tomorrow.
"If your own land isn't 'clean,' come over to the LORD's land. It's where his holy tent stands. Share our land with us. But don't disobey the Lord. Don't turn against us by building an altar for yourselves. Don't build any altar other than the altar of the LORD our God.
"Remember Achan, the son of Zerah. Achan wasn't faithful to the Lord. He took the things that had been set apart to the LORD in a special way to be destroyed. Didn't the LORD's anger come on the whole community of Israel? And 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 replied. They answered the leaders of the family groups of Israel.
They said, "The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And we want Israel to know! Have we opposed the Lord? Have we refused to obey him? If we have, don't spare us today.
"Have we built our own altar so we can turn away from the Lord? Have we built it to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings on it? Have we built it to sacrifice friendship offerings on it? If we have, may the LORD himself hold us accountable.
"No! We built it because we were afraid. Someday your children might speak to our children. We were afraid they might say, 'What do you have to do with the Lord? What do you have to do with the God of Israel?
The LORD has made the Jordan River a border between us and you. You people of Reuben! You people of Gad! You don't have anything to do with the Lord.' If your children say that, they might cause our children to stop worshiping the Lord.
"That's why we said to ourselves, 'Let's get ready and build an altar. But let's not build it to offer burnt offerings or sacrifices on it.'
"So just the opposite is true. The altar will be a witness between us and you. It will be a witness between our children and yours after us. It will also be a witness that we will worship the LORD at his sacred tent. We'll worship him there with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and friendship offerings. Then in days to come your children won't be able to say to ours, 'You don't have anything to do with the Lord.'
"So we said to ourselves, 'Suppose they say that to us sometime. Or suppose they say it to our children after us. Then we'll answer, "Look at this altar. It's exactly like the LORD's altar. Our people built it. They didn't build it to offer burnt offerings and sacrifices on it. Instead, they built it to be a witness between us and you." '
"We would never refuse to obey the Lord. We would never turn away from him now. We wouldn't build an altar to offer burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices on it. We wouldn't use any altar other than the altar of the LORD our God. That altar stands in front of his holy tent."
The priest Phinehas heard what the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say. The leaders of the family groups of the community of Israel heard it too. All of them were pleased with what they heard.
The priest Phinehas spoke to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. Phinehas was the son of Eleazar. He said, "Today we know that the LORD is with us. That's because you have been faithful to him in this matter. Now you have saved the people of Israel from the LORD's anger against them."
Then the priest Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, returned to Canaan. So did the leaders. All of them went back from their meeting with the tribes of Reuben and Gad in Gilead. They brought a report back to the people of Israel.
The people were glad to hear the report. They praised God. They didn't talk anymore about going to war against the eastern tribes. And they didn't talk anymore about destroying the country where the tribes of Reuben and Gad lived.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad gave the altar a name. They called it A Witness Between Us That the LORD Is God.