Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh,
We have already seen, that a detachment of 40,000 men, of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, had passed over Jordan armed, with their brethren, according to their agreement with Moses. The war being now concluded, the land divided, and their brethren settled, Joshua assembles these warriors; and with commendations for their services and fidelity, he dismisses them, having fist given them the most pious and suitable instructions. They had now been about seven years absent from their respective families; and though there was only the river Jordan between the camp of Gilgal and their own inheritance, yet it does not appear that they had, during that time, ever revisited their home, which they might have done at any time of the year, except the harvest, as the river was at other times easily fordable.
And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you:
Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God.
And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.
But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away: and they went unto their tents.
Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given possession in Bashan: but unto the other half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this side Jordan westward. And when Joshua sent them away also unto their tents, then he blessed them,
And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.
And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
the country of Gilead
And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to.
This verse should probably be rendered, "And when they came to the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, Then built an altar by (or beyond, al) Jordan, a great altar to the view." It would appear, that when they came to the river, they formed the purpose of building the altar; and when they crossed it they put that purpose into execution. It is evident that they did not build it west of the Jordan, for that was not in their territories, and the next verse expressly says that it was built over against the land of Canaan.
And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.
at the passage
And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.
Supposing they had built this altar for sacrifice, in opposition to the command of God, they considered them as rebels against God and the Israelitish constitution.
And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest,
And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one was an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel.
Heb. house of the father. an head.
And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying,
Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,
Is the iniquity
But that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.
and it will
he will be
Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD, wherein the LORD'S tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the LORD our God.
Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.
Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel,
Then the children
The conduct and answer of these Reubenites and the associates are worthy of admiration and imitation. Though conscious of their innocence, they permitted Phinehas to finish his speech, though composed of little else than accusations, without any interruption; and taking in good part the suspicions, reproofs, and even harshness of their brethren, with the utmost meekness and solemnity they explain their intention, give all the satisfaction in their power, and with great propriety and reverence, appeal to that God against whom they were supposed to have rebelled.
The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,)
if it be
That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require it;
let the Lord
And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?
In time to come
For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD.
But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD.
Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.
God forbid that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn this day from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD our God that is before his tabernacle.
And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them.
it pleased them
Heb. it was good in their eyes. It is remarkable, that Joshua is not once named in this transaction; but this only shews, that he did not in his old age assume any regal authority, but left the elders and magistrates to conduct the general business, only acting himself when great occasions made it necessary. Yet we cannot doubt, that his wisdom and piety influenced the counsels of the elders and people at this time.
And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the LORD is among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the LORD: now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the LORD.
the Lord is
And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the princes, returned from the children of Reuben, and from the children of Gad, out of the land of Gilead, unto the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought them word again.
And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt.
And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God.
i.e, a witness. The word witness, or testimony, is not found in the common editions of the Hebrew Bible; and is supplied in Italics by our venerable translators, at least in our modern copies; for in the first edition of this translation, it stands in the text without any note of this kind; but it is found in several of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., and also in the Syriac and Arabic. Several also of the early printed editions of the Hebrew Bible have the word ed, either in the text or in the margin; and it must be allowed to be necessary to complete the sense. It is very probable that an inscription was put on this altar, signifying the purpose for which it was erected. Thus was this affair most happily terminated.