Joshua 22

1 Then Joshua called a meeting of all the people from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh.
2 He said to them, "You have done everything Moses, the Lord's servant, told you to do. You have also obeyed all my commands.
3 For a long time you have supported the other Israelites. You have been careful to obey the commands the Lord your God gave you.
4 The Lord your God promised to give the Israelites peace, and he has kept his promise. Now you may go back to your homes, to the land that Moses, the Lord's servant, gave you, on the east side of the Jordan River.
5 But be careful to obey the teachings and laws Moses, the Lord's servant, gave you: to love the Lord your God and obey his commands, to continue to follow him and serve him the very best you can."
6 Then Joshua said good-bye to them, and they left and went away to their homes.
7 Moses had given the land of Bashan to East Manasseh. Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan River to West Manasseh. And he sent them to their homes and he blessed them.
8 He said, "Go back to your homes and your riches. You have many animals, silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and many beautiful clothes. Also, you have taken many things from your enemies that you should divide among yourselves."
9 So the people from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh left the other Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan and went back to Gilead. It was their own land, given to them by Moses as the Lord had commanded.
10 The people of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh went to Geliloth, near the Jordan River in the land of Canaan. There they built a beautiful altar.
11 The other Israelites still at Shiloh heard about the altar these three tribes built at the border of Canaan at Geliloth, near the Jordan River on Israel's side.
12 All the Israelites became very angry at these three tribes, so they met together and decided to fight them.
13 The Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest to Gilead to talk to the people of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh.
14 They also sent one leader from each of the ten tribes at Shiloh. Each of them was a leader of his family group of Israelites.
15 These leaders went to Gilead to talk to the people of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh. They said:
16 "All the Israelites ask you: 'Why did you turn against the God of Israel by building an altar for yourselves? You know that this is against God's law.
17 Remember what happened at Peor? We still suffer today because of that sin, for which God made many Israelites very sick.
18 And now are you turning against the Lord and refusing to follow him? "'If you don't stop what you're doing today, the Lord will be angry with everyone in Israel tomorrow.
19 If your land is unclean, come over into our land where the Lord's Tent is. Share it with us. But don't turn against the Lord and us by building another altar for the Lord our God.
20 Remember how Achan son of Zerah refused to obey the command about what must be completely destroyed. That one man broke God's law, but all the Israelites were punished. Achan died because of his sin, but others also died.'"
21 The people from Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh answered,
22 "The Lord is God of gods! The Lord is God of gods! God knows, and we want you to know also. If we have done something wrong, you may kill us.
23 If we broke God's law, we ask the Lord himself to punish us. We did not build this altar to offer burnt offerings or grain and fellowship offerings.
24 "We did not build it for that reason. We feared that some day your people would not accept us as part of your nation. Then they might say, 'You cannot worship the Lord, the God of Israel.
25 The Lord made the Jordan River a border between us and you people of Reuben and Gad. You cannot worship the Lord.' So we feared that your children might make our children stop worshiping the Lord.
26 "That is why we decided to build this altar. But it is not for burnt offerings and sacrifices.
27 This altar is proof to you and us and to all our children who will come after us that we worship the Lord with our whole burnt offerings, grain, and fellowship offerings. This was so your children would not say to our children, 'You are not the Lord's.'
28 "In the future if your children say that, our children can say, 'See the altar made by our ancestors. It is exactly like the Lord's altar, but we do not use it for sacrifices. It shows that we are part of Israel.'
29 "Truly, we don't want to be against the Lord or to stop following him by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings, or sacrifices. We know the only true altar to the Lord our God is in front of the Holy Tent. "
30 When Phinehas the priest and the ten leaders heard the people of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh, they were pleased.
31 So Phinehas, son of Eleazar the priest, said, "Now we know the Lord is with us and that you didn't turn against him. Now the Israelites will not be punished by the Lord."
32 Then Phinehas and the leaders left the people of Reuben and Gad in Gilead and went back to Canaan where they told the Israelites what had happened.
33 They were pleased and thanked God. So they decided not to fight the people of Reuben and Gad and destroy those lands.
34 And the people of Reuben and Gad named the altar Proof That We Believe the Lord 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

Scripture taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.