The question of the altar across the Jordan
1 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh 2 and said to them, 3 “You have observed all that Moses, the servant of Yahweh ordered you, and you have obeyed me constantly. You have never deserted your broth ers over this long period of time; at every point you have obeyed the orders of Yahweh your God. 4 Now that Yahweh your God has granted your brothers the rest he promised them, go back to your tents, to the land given into your possession by Moses the servant of Yahweh, beyond the Jordan.
5 But take care above all to keep the commandments of the Law which Moses the servant of Yahweh gave you: love Yah weh your God, follow his paths always, keep his commandments, be faithful to him and serve him with all your heart and all your soul.” 6 So Joshua blessed them and sent them away; they went home to their tents.
7 Moses had given territory in Bashan to one half of the tribe of Manasseh; because of this Joshua gave land to the other half of Manas seh among their brothers on the west bank of the Jordan. As Joshua sent them home to their tents he blessed them 8 and said to them, “You are going back to your tents with great wealth, with cattle in plenty, with silver and gold, bronze and iron and great quantities of clothing; these are the spoils of your enemies that you shared with your brothers.”
9 The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh went home again; they left the Israelites at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, and made their way back to the land of Gilead, the territory which belonged to them and where they had settled in accordance with the order of Yahweh given through Moses. 10 When they came to the circles of stones at the Jordan which are in Canaanite territory, the Reuben ites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there beside the Jordan, an imposing altar of great size. 11 The Israelites were told, “The Reuben ites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Ma nas seh have built this altar facing the land of Canaan near the circles of stones at the Jordan, beyond the territory of the Israelites.”
12 At this news the children of Israel summoned the whole community at Shi loh, ready to make war on them.
13 The Israelites sent the priest Phine has son of Eleazar to the Reuben ites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manas seh, in the land of Gilead, 14 and with him ten leading men, one leader from each tribe in Israel; every one of them was head of his family among the clans of Israel. 15 When they came to the Reu benites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Ma nas seh in the land of Gilead, they said to them:
16 “The whole community of Yahweh asks you: What do you mean by this treachery com mitted against the God of Israel? Why turn aside from Yahweh today, building yourselves an altar? You are sinning against Yahweh himself.
17 Was the sin at Peor not enough, the sin from which we are not cleansed even now, in spite of the plague that ravaged the whole community of Yahweh? 18 You have stopped following Yahweh today, and you have set yourselves in revolt against him today. Tomorrow his anger will be roused against the whole com munity of Israel.
19 Do you think your land is unclean? Then cross over into the territory of Yahweh, where his Holy Tent is and come to live among us. But do not rebel against Yahweh or set yourselves apart by building an altar to vie with the altar of Yahweh our God. 20 When Achan, son of Zerah betrayed his trust in the matter of the anathema, did not Yahweh vent his anger on the whole community of Israel, although he was only one man? Did he not have to die for his sin?”
21 The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the heads of the clans of Israel:
22 “Yahweh is the God of gods! Yahweh well knows, and let Israel know it too: Let Yahweh punish us immediately if there has been defiance or treachery on our part against Yahweh. 23 Let Yahweh punish us if we have built an altar to turn away from Yahweh and offer holocaust and oblation and communion sacrifice on it. 24 We made it to prevent what might happen one day when your children say to ours: ‘What link have you with Yahweh the God of Israel? 25 Has not Yahweh set the boundary of the Jordan between us and you, you sons of Reuben and sons of Gad? You have no share in Yahweh.’ Thus your children might make us turn aside from Yahweh.
26 So we said to each other, ‘Let us build this altar, not for holocausts or other sacrifices 27 but as a witness between us and you and among our descendants after us. It will prove that we, too, worship Yahweh with our holocausts, our victims and our communion sacrifices in his presence. So that your children will never be able to say to ours: You have no share in Yahweh. 28 For, in this case, we should say to them: Look at this structure, Yah weh’s altar made by our ancestors not for holocausts or other sacrifices but as a witness between us and you.’ 29 We have no intention of defying Yahweh or turning away from him today. We are not building an altar for holocaust or oblations or sacrifices to compete with the altar of Yah weh our God that stands before his tabernacle!”
30 When Phinehas the priest, and the leaders of the community who were with him, heard the answer of the sons of Gad and of Reuben and of Manasseh, they ap proved of them. 31 Then the priest Phine has son of Eleazar said to the sons of Reu ben and sons of Gad and sons of Ma nas seh, “Now we clearly see that Yahweh is among us, because you have not sinned against him; you have saved the children of Israel from the punishment of Yahweh.”
32 The priest Phinehas son of Eleazar and the leaders left the Reubenites and the Gadites and returned from the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, and they brought back this answer to the Israelites. 33 The Israelites were pleased to hear this; they gave thanks to God and spoke no more of making war and ravaging the country where the sons of Reuben and of Gad had settled. 34 The Reubenites and the Gadites named the altar: ‘Witness’, “Because,” they said, “it will be a witness between us that Yah weh is God.”