Joshua 22

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1 Then Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh,

2 and said to them, "You have kept all that Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you.

3 You have not left your brothers these many days to this day, but have performed the duty of the commandment of Yahweh your God.

4 Now Yahweh your God has given rest to your brothers, as he spoke to them. Therefore now return and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of Yahweh gave you beyond the Jordan.

5 Only take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded you, to love Yahweh your God, to walk in all his ways, to keep his commandments, to hold fast to him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul."

6 So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away; and they went to their tents.

7 Now to the one half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given inheritance in Bashan; but to the other half gave Joshua among their brothers beyond the Jordan westward. Moreover when Joshua sent them away to their tents, he blessed them,

8 and spoke to them, saying, "Return with much wealth to your tents, with very much livestock, with silver, with gold, with brass, with iron, and with very much clothing. Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers."

9 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 to the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession, which they owned, according to the commandment of Yahweh by Moses.

10 When they came to the region about the Jordan, that is 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 the Jordan, a great altar to look at.

11 The children of Israel heard this, "Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar in the forefront of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that pertains to the children of Israel."

12 When the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up against them to war.

13 The children of Israel sent to 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,

14 and with him ten princes, one prince of a fathers' house for each of the tribes of Israel; and they were everyone of them head of their fathers' houses among the thousands of Israel.

15 They came to the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, to the land of Gilead, and they spoke with them, saying,

16 "Thus says the whole congregation of Yahweh, 'What trespass is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following Yahweh, in that you have built you an altar, to rebel this day against Yahweh?

17 Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we have not cleansed ourselves to this day, although there came a plague on the congregation of Yahweh,

18 that you must turn away this day from following Yahweh? It will be, since you rebel today against Yahweh, that tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.

19 However, if the land of your possession is unclean, then pass over to the land of the possession of Yahweh, in which Yahweh's tabernacle dwells, and take possession among us; but don't rebel against Yahweh, nor rebel against us, in building an altar other than the altar of Yahweh our God.

20 Didn't Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the devoted thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? That man didn't perish alone in his iniquity.'"

21 Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered, and spoke to the heads of the thousands of Israel,

22 "The Mighty One, God, Yahweh, the Mighty One, God, Yahweh, he knows; and Israel shall know: if it was in rebellion, or if in trespass against Yahweh (don't save us this day),

23 that we have built us an altar to turn away from following Yahweh; or if to offer burnt offering or meal offering, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings, let Yahweh himself require it.

24 "If we have not out of concern done this, and for a reason, saying, 'In time to come your children might speak to our children, saying, "What have you to do with Yahweh, the God of Israel?

25 For Yahweh has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you children of Reuben and children of Gad. You have no portion in Yahweh."' So your children might make our children cease from fearing Yahweh.

26 "Therefore we said, 'Let's now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice;

27 but it will be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we may perform the service of Yahweh before him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings;' that your children may not tell our children in time to come, 'You have no portion in Yahweh.'

28 "Therefore we said, 'It shall be, when they tell us or our generations this in time to come, that we shall say, "Behold the pattern of the altar of Yahweh, which our fathers made, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice; but it is a witness between us and you."'

29 "Far be it from us that we should rebel against Yahweh, and turn away this day from following Yahweh, to build an altar for burnt offering, for meal offering, or for sacrifice, besides the altar of Yahweh our God that is before his tabernacle!"

30 When Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation, even the heads of the thousands of Israel that were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them well.

31 Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the children of Reuben, to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, "Today we know that Yahweh is in the midst of us, because you have not committed this trespass against Yahweh. Now you have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of Yahweh."

32 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, to the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought them word again.

33 The thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and spoke no more of going up against them to war, to destroy the land in which the children of Reuben and the children of Gad lived.

34 The children of Reuben and the children of Gad named the altar "A Witness Between Us that Yahweh is God."

  

Exploring the Meaning of Joshua 22      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Joshua 22: The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half Manasseh return.

With the land of Canaan now settled by Israel, the time had come for the men of Reuben, Gad, and one half of Manasseh to return to the other side of the Jordan, where their wives, children, cattle and sheep were left. The men of these two and a half tribes had been ordered to fight alongside the other tribes of Israel, and only then to return home.

They left, and when they came to the banks of the River Jordan, they built a large altar to the Lord. When the rest of Israel caught word of this, they wanted to go to war with these tribes, because they felt the altar was a sacrilege - Israel had the tabernacle for its worship of the Lord. They sent Phineas the priest to ask why they had built the altar. These tribes across the Jordan replied that in the future, the people of Israel may move against them, and reject them. They said the altar would serve as a witness to their worship of the Lord, just as the Israelites in Canaan worshiped. This answer pleased the priest, and when he told the leaders of Israel, it pleased them too.

The spiritual meaning of this episode is a very important one for us. The tribes living on the other side of the River Jordan stand for the worldly activities of our outward life, which in themselves are a very important part of our spiritual life. These actions make up the external part of spiritual life, in which we are able to do good (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 9824[2]).

The tribes building an altar to God portrays our understanding that all the good we do, and all the use we provide, is possible because of the Lord. He is the giver of all good, which is why we must serve the Lord. Without use, spiritual thoughts and beliefs do not have a foundation (Arcana Caelestia 9473[3]).

Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh said that the people of Israel might cut them off in the future. In spiritual terms, this would be to separate spiritual life and external life in daily living. This would result in such things as hypocrisy, and faith without charity, both of which are a threat to our spiritual well-being (see Swedenborg’s work, Doctrine of Life 4).

The altar, which was built on Canaan’s side of the Jordan before these tribes crossed over, was to stand as a witness to the union between the tribes within Canaan and the tribes across the Jordan, as one nation before the Lord (Arcana Caelestia 9714).

This unity means that we must be equally present in three areas of life: in the depths of our heart, in our worship and adoration of the Lord; in our mind, in our understanding and delight in the Lord’s Word with all its truth; and in our outward actions, where our acknowledgement of the Lord as our God leads us to be sincere, just, moral, fair, compassionate and dedicated to the service of God.

The answer from the three tribes pleased the priest and, in turn, the leaders of Israel. This reception represents our affirmation that ‘being spiritual’ does not take the place of helping others, but really demands that we serve the Lord in our daily actions (see Swedenborg’s work, Apocalypse Explained 325[4]).

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