Joshua 22

1 Then Y'hoshua called the Re'uveni, the Gadi and the half-tribe of M'nasheh,
2 and said to them, "You have done everything Moshe the servant of ADONAI ordered you to do and heeded what I said in all the orders I gave you.
3 All this time you have not abandoned your kinsmen but have obeyed your commission, as ADONAI your God ordered.
4 Now ADONAI your God has given rest to your kinsmen, as he told them he would. So you too, return to your tents in the land which is your possession, which Moshe the servant of ADONAI gave you beyond the Yarden.
5 Only take great care to obey the mitzvah and the Torah which Moshe the servant of ADONAI gave you - to love ADONAI your God, follow all his ways, observe his mitzvot, cling to him, and serve him with all your heart and being."
6 Then Y'hoshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.
7 (To the one half-tribe of M'nasheh, Moshe had given an inheritance in Bashan; but to the other half, Y'hoshua gave one among their kinsmen on the west side of the Yarden.) When Y'hoshua sent them away to their tents he blessed them,
8 saying, "Return with great riches to your tents - with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, iron and with great quantities of clothing; share the spoil of your enemies with your kinsmen."
9 So the descendants of Re'uven, the descendants of Gad and the half-tribe of M'nasheh returned; they left the people of Isra'el in Shiloh, in the land of Kena'an, to go to the land of Gil'ad, to the land they were to possess and which they already did possess - according to the order of ADONAI through Moshe.
10 When the descendants of Re'uven, the descendants of Gad and the half-tribe arrived in the area of the land of Kena'an near the Yarden, they built an altar there by the Yarden, a large, impressive altar.
11 The people of Isra'el heard of it and said, "Look! The descendants of Re'uven, the descendants of Gad and the half-tribe of M'nasheh have built an altar by the frontier of the land of Kena'an, in the area by the Yarden, on the side that belongs to the people of Isra'el."
12 When the people of Isra'el heard of it, the entire community of Isra'el gathered together in Shiloh to wage war against them.
13 The people of Isra'el sent Pinchas the son of El'azar the cohen into the land of Gil'ad to the descendants of Re'uven, the descendants of Gad and the half-tribe of M'nasheh.
14 With him were ten leaders, one leader of an ancestral clan for each of the tribes of Isra'el; each one was a head of his ancestral clan among the thousands of Isra'el.
15 They came to the descendants of Re'uven, the descendants of Gad and the half-tribe of M'nasheh in the land of Gil'ad and spoke with them; they said,
16 "Here is what the whole community of ADONAI is saying: 'What is this treachery that you have committed against the God of Isra'el, turning away today from following ADONAI, in that you have built yourselves an altar, thus rebelling today against ADONAI?
17 Is the guilt we incurred at P'or not enough for us? We haven't cleansed ourselves from it to this day, even though a plague came on the community of ADONAI.
18 Is this why you have to turn away today from following ADONAI? If you rebel against ADONAI today, he will be angry tomorrow with the whole community of Isra'el.
19 If the land you have taken possession of is unclean, then cross back over into the land which belongs to ADONAI, where the tabernacle of ADONAI is located, and take a possession among us. But don't rebel against ADONAI, and don't rebel against us, by building yourselves an altar other than the altar of ADONAI our God.
20 Didn't Achan the son of Zerach commit a sin in regard to things set aside for destruction, and God's anger fell on the whole community of Isra'el? He was not the only one who died for his crime.'"
21 Then the descendants of Re'uven, the descendants of Gad and the half-tribe of M'nasheh answered the leaders of the thousands of Isra'el:
22 "The Mighty One, God, is ADONAI! He knows, and Isra'el will know - if we acted in rebellion or treachery against ADONAI, don't vindicate us today!
23 We haven't built an altar in order to turn away from following ADONAI or to offer on it burnt offerings, grain offerings or sacrifices as peace offerings. If we have, let ADONAI himself require us to atone for it.
24 Rather, we did this out of anxiety, because we thought, 'Sometime in the future, your descendants might say to our descendants, "You don't have anything to do with ADONAI, the God of Isra'el,
25 because ADONAI made the Yarden the border between us and you, so you descendants of Re'uven and Gad have no share in ADONAI."' In this way your descendants could make our descendants stop fearing ADONAI.
26 So we said, 'Let us now make preparations and build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices,
27 but as a witness between us and you, and between our generations who will come after us, so that we may perform the service for ADONAI in his presence with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and peace offerings - so that your descendants will not say to our descendants at some future time, "You have no share in ADONAI."'
28 For this reason we said, 'When they accuse us or future generations in this way, we will say, "Look! Here is a replica of the altar of ADONAI which our ancestors made, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you."'
29 Far be it from us that we should rebel against ADONAI and turn away today from following ADONAI by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings or sacrifices other than the altar of ADONAI our God which stands in front of his tabernacle!"
30 When Pinchas the cohen and the leaders of the community, the heads of the thousands of Isra'el who were with him, heard what the descendants of Re'uven, the descendants of Gad and the descendants of M'nasheh said, it satisfied them.
31 Pinchas the son of El'azar the cohen said to the descendants of Re'uven, the descendants of Gad and the descendants of M'nasheh, "Today we know that ADONAI is here with us, because you have not committed this treasonous act against ADONAI. Now you have saved the people of Isra'el from the anger of ADONAI."
32 So Pinchas the son of El'azar the cohen and the leaders returned from the descendants of Re'uven and Gad, from the land of Gil'ad to the land of Kena'an and the people of Isra'el, bringing word back to them.
33 What they said satisfied the people of Isra'el. The people of Isra'el blessed God and said no more about going to wage war against the descendants of Re'uven and Gad and destroying the land where they lived.
34 The descendants of Re'uven and Gad called the altar "'Ed [a witness]" between us that ADONAI is God.

Joshua 22 Commentary

Chapter 22

Reuben and Gad, with the half tribe of Manasseh, dismissed to their homes. (1-9) They build an altar of testimony, The congregation offended thereat. (10-20) The answer of the Reubenites. (21-29) The children of Israel satisfied. (30-34)

Verses 1-9 Joshua dismisses the tribes with good counsel. Those who have the commandment have it in vain, unless they do the commandment; and it will not be done aright unless we take diligent heed. In particular to love the Lord our God, as the best of beings, and the best of friends; and as far as that principle rules in the heart, there will be constant care and endeavour to walk in his ways, even those that are narrow and up-hill. In every instance to keep his commandments. At all times, and in all conditions, with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord, and to serve him and his kingdom among men, with all our heart, and with all our soul. This good counsel is given to all; may God give us grace to take it!

Verses 10-20 Here is the care of the separated tribes to keep their hold of Canaan's religion. At first sight it seemed a design to set up an altar against the altar at Shiloh. God is jealous for his own institutions; we should be so too, and afraid of every thing that looks like, or leads to idolatry. Corruptions in religion are best dealt with at first. But their prudence in following up this zealous resolution is no less commendable. Many an unhappy strife would be prevented, or soon made up, by inquiries into the matter of the offence. The remembrance of great sins committed formerly, should engage us to stand on our guard against the beginnings of sin; for the way of sin is down-hill. We are all concerned to reprove our neighbour when he does amiss, lest we suffer sin upon him, ( Leviticus 19:17 ) . The offer made that they should be welcome to come to the land where the Lord's tabernacle was, and settle there, was in the spirit of true Israelites.

Verses 21-29 The tribes took the reproofs of their brethren in good part. With solemnity and meekness they proceeded to give all the satisfaction in their power. Reverence of God is expressed in the form of their appeal. This brief confession of faith would remove their brethren's suspicion that they intended to worship other gods. Let us always speak of God with seriousness, and mention his name with a solemn pause. Those who make appeals to Heaven with a careless "God knows," take his name in vain: it is very unlike this. They express great confidence of their own uprightness in the matter of their appeal. "God knows it," for he is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and intents of the heart. In every thing we do in religion, it highly concerns us to approve ourselves to God, remembering that he knows the heart. And if our sincerity be known to God, we should study likewise to let others know it by its fruits, especially those who, though they mistake us, show zeal for the glory of God. They disdained the design of which they were suspected to be guilty, and fully explained their true intent in building this altar. Those who have found the comfort and benefit of God's ordinances, cannot but desire to preserve them to their seed, and to use all possible care that their children may be looked upon as having a part in him. Christ is the great Altar that sanctifies every gift; the best evidence of our interest in him is the work of his Spirit in our hearts.

Verses 30-34 It is well that there was on both sides a disposition to peace, as there was a zeal for God; for quarrels about religion, for want of wisdom and love, often prove the most fierce and difficult to be made up. Proud and peevish spirits, when they have passed any unjust blame on their brethren, though full evidence be brought of its unfairness, can by no means be persuaded to withdraw it. But Israel was not so prejudiced. They looked upon their brethren's innocence as a token of God's presence. Our brethren's zeal for the power of godliness, and faith and love, notwithstanding the fears of their breaking the unity of the church, are things of which we should be very glad to be satisfied. The altar was called ED, a witness. It was a witness of their care to keep their religion pure and entire, and would witness against their descendants, if they should turn from following after the Lord. Happy will it be when all professed Christians learn to copy the example of Israel, to unite zeal and steady adherence to the cause of truth, with candour, meekness, and readiness to understand each other, to explain and to be satisfied with the explanations of their brethren. May the Lord increase the number of those who endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! may increasing grace and consolation be with all who love Jesus Christ in sincerity!

Chapter Summary


The war with the Canaanites being ended, Joshua called to him the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, who came over Jordan with him to assist in it, and commended them for their obedience to Moses and to himself, and to God by them; and then dismissed them, with some instructions to keep the ways and worship of God, and with his blessing upon them, Jos 22:1-8; upon which they returned to their country, and when they came to the borders of it set up an altar by Jordan, Jos 22:9,10; which, when the children of Israel heard of, it gave them great offence, they fearing they were going to make a revolt from the pure worship of God, and therefore sent a deputation of princes to them, with the son of the high priest, to inquire into the matter, and expostulate with them about it, who did, Jos 22:11-20; and who received from them a very satisfactory answer, Jos 22:21-31; with which they returned and reported to the children of Israel, and which gave them pleasure, Jos 22:32-34.

Joshua 22 Commentaries

Complete Jewish Bible Copyright 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.