Joshua 22

1 Then Joshua called together the sons of Ruben, and the sons of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasse,
2 and said to them, Ye have heard all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and ye have hearkened to my voice in all that he commanded you.
3 Ye have not deserted your brethren these many days: until this day ye have kept the commandment of the Lord your God.
4 And now the Lord our God has given our brethren rest, as he told them: now then return and depart to your homes, and to the land of your possession, which Moses gave you on the other side Jordan.
5 But take great heed to do the commands and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you to do; to love the Lord our God, to walk in all his ways, to keep his commands, and to cleave to him, and serve him with all your mind, and with all your soul.
6 And Joshua blessed them, and dismissed them; and they went to their homes.
7 And to half the tribe of Manasse Moses gave a portion in the land of Basan, and to half Joshua gave a portion with his brethren on the other side of Jordan westward: and when Joshua sent them away to their homes, then he blessed them.
8 And they departed with much wealth to their houses, and they divided the spoil of their enemies with their brethren; very much cattle, and silver, and gold, and iron, and much raiment.
9 So the sons of Ruben, and the sons of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasse, departed from the children of Israel in Selo in the land of Chanaan, to go away into Galaad, into the land of their possession, which they inherited by the command of the Lord, by the hand of Moses.
10 And they came to Galaad of Jordan, which is in the land of Chanaan: and the children of Ruben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasse built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to look at.
11 And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the sons of Ruben, and the sons of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasse have built an altar at the borders of the land of Chanaan at Galaad of Jordan, on the opposite side to the children of Israel.
12 And all the children of Israel gathered together to Selo, so as to go up and fight against them.
13 And the children of Israel sent to the sons of Ruben, and the sons of Gad, and to the sons of the half tribe of Manasse into the land of Galaad, both Phinees the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest,
14 and ten of the chiefs with him; one chief of every household out of all the tribes of Israel; (the heads of families are the captains of thousands in Israel.)
15 And they came to the sons of Ruben, and to the sons of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasse into the land of Galaad; and they spoke to them, saying,
16 Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, What this transgression that ye have transgressed before the God of Israel, to turn away today from the Lord, in that ye have built for yourselves an altar, so that ye should be apostates from the Lord?
17 Is the sin of Phogor too little for you, whereas we have not been cleansed from it until this day, though there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord?
18 And ye have this day revolted from the Lord; and it shall come to pass if ye revolt this day from the Lord, that to-morrow there shall be wrath upon all Israel.
19 And now if the land of your possession little, cross over to the land of the possession of the Lord, where the tabernacle of the Lord dwells, and receive ye an inheritance among us; and do not become apostates from God, neither do ye apostatize from the Lord, because of your having built an altar apart from the altar of the Lord our God.
20 Lo! did not Achar the of Zara commit a trespass of the accursed thing, and there was wrath on the whole congregation of Israel? and he himself died alone in his own sin.
21 And the sons of Ruben, and the sons of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasse answered, and spoke to the captains of the thousands of Israel, saying,
22 God God is the Lord, and God God himself knows, and Israel he shall know; if we have transgressed before the Lord by apostasy, let him not deliver us this day.
23 And if we have built to ourselves an altar, so as to apostatize from the Lord our God, so as to offer upon it a sacrifice of whole-burnt-offerings, so as to offer upon it a sacrifice of peace-offering, —the Lord shall require it.
24 But we have done this for the sake of precaution thing, saying, Lest hereafter your sons should say to our sons, What have ye to do with the Lord God of Israel?
25 Whereas the Lord has set boundaries between us and you, even Jordan, and ye have no portion in the Lord: so your sons shall alienate our sons, that they should not worship the Lord.
26 And we gave orders to do thus, to build this altar, not for burnt-offerings, nor for meat-offerings;
27 but that this may be a witness between you and us, and between our posterity after us, that we may do service to the Lord before him, with our burnt-offerings and our meat-offerings and our peace-offerings: so your sons shall not say to our sons, hereafter, Ye have no portion in the Lord.
28 And we said, If ever it should come to pass that they should speak to us, or to our posterity hereafter; then shall they say, Behold the likeness of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for the sake of burnt-offerings, nor for the sake of meat-offerings, but it is a witness between you and us, and between our sons.
29 Far be it from us therefore that we should turn away from the Lord this day so as to apostatize from the Lord, so as that we should build an altar for burnt-offerings, and for peace-offerings, besides the altar of the Lord which is before his tabernacle.
30 And Phinees the priest and all the chiefs of the congregation of Israel who were with him heard the words which the children of Ruben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasse spoke; and it pleased them.
31 And Phinees the priest said to the sons of Ruben, and to the sons of Gad, and to the half of the tribe of Manasse, To-day we know that the Lord with us, because ye have not trespassed grievously against the Lord, and because ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord.
32 So Phinees the priest and the princes departed from the children of Ruben, and from the children of Gad, and from the half tribe of Manasse out of Galaad into the land of Chanaan to the children of Israel; and reported the words to them.
33 And it pleased the children of Israel; and they spoke to the children of Israel, and blessed the God of the children of Israel, and told them to go up no more to war against the others to destroy the land of the children of Ruben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasse: so they dwelt upon it.
34 And Joshua gave a name to the altar of the children of Ruben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasse; and said, It is a testimony in the midst of them, that the Lord is their 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!

Footnotes 7

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

The Brenton translation of the Septuagint is in the public domain.