Reading 66/341, Joshua 20-22

After all that, the Israelites almost accidentally kill each other over the law.

...Joshua...

The Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘Assign the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you by Moses, that the manslayer who kills any person unwittingly or unaware may flee there. They shall be a refuge for you from the avenger of blood. He shall flee to one of those cities, and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city, and declare his case in the ears of the elders of that city, and they shall take him into the city to them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. If the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unaware and did not hate him before that. He shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the current high priest, then the manslayer shall return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from whence he fled. They set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (this is Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. Beyond the Jordan, east of Jericho, they assigned Bezer in the desert in the plain of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan of the tribe of Manasseh. These were the appointed cities for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourns among them, that whoever kills any person unwittingly might flee there, lest he die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.

Then the heads of fathers' houses of the Levites came to Eleazar the priest, and to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the heads of fathers' houses of the tribes of the children of Israel, and they spoke to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the pasture lands from it for our livestock.” The children of Israel gave to the Levites out of their inheritance, according to the commandment of the Lord, these cities with their pastures. The lot came out for the families of the Kohathites, and the children of Aaron the priest, who were of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of the Simeonites, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities. The rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, ten cities. The children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities. The children of Merari according to their families had from the tribe of Reuben, and from the tribe of Gad, and from the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities. The children of Israel gave by lot to the Levites these cities with their pastures, as the Lord commanded by Moses. They gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities mentioned by name, and they were for the children of Aaron, of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi; for theirs was the first lot. They gave them Kiriath-arba; Arba was the father of Anak (this is Hebron), in the hill country of Judah, with the pastures of it round about it. But the fields of the city, and the villages of it, had been given to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession. To the children of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron with its pastures, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Libnah with its pastures, and Jattir with its pastures, and Eshtemoa with its pastures, and Holon with its pastures, and Debir with its pastures, and Ain with its pastures, and Juttah with its pastures, and Beth-shemesh with its pastures: nine cities out of those two tribes. Out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with its pastures, Geba with its pastures, Anathoth with its pastures, and Almon with its pastures: four cities. All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their pastures. The families of the children of Kohath, the Levites, the rest of the children of Kohath, they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim. They gave them Shechem with its pastures in the hill country of Ephraim, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Gezer with its pastures, and Kibzaim with its pastures, and Beth-horon with its pastures: four cities. Out of the tribe of Dan, Elteke with its pastures, Gibbethon with its pastures, Aijalon with its pastures, Gath-rimmon with its pastures: four cities. Out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Taanach with its pastures, and Gath-rimmon with its pastures: two cities. All the cities of the families of the rest of the children of Kohath were ten with their pastures. To the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, were given Golan in Bashan with its pastures, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Be-eshterah with its pastures: two cities. Out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishion with its pastures, Daberath with its pastures, Jarmuth with its pastures, En-gannim with its pastures: four cities. Out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with its pastures, Abdon with its pastures, Helkath with its pastures, and Rehob with its pastures: four cities. Out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with its pastures, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Hammothdor with its pastures, and Kartan with its pastures: three cities. All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their pastures. To the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with its pastures, and Kartah with its pastures, Dimnah with its pastures, Nahalal with its pastures: four cities. Out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with its pastures, and Jahaz with its pastures, Kedemoth with its pastures, and Mephaath with its pastures; four cities. Out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with its pastures, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Mahanaim with its pastures, Heshbon with its pastures, Jazer with its pastures: four cities in all. All these were cities of the children of Merari according to their families, the rest of the families of the Levites, and their lot was twelve cities. All the cities of the Levites in the midst of the possession of the children of Israel were forty-eight cities with their pastures. These cities were each with their pastures round about them, thus it was with all these cities. So the Lord gave to Israel all the land which he swore to give to their fathers, and they possessed it, and lived there. The Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he swore to their fathers, and not a man of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Nothing of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you. You have not left your brothers these many days, until this day, having kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God. Now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as he spoke to them. Therefore now turn, and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan. Only take diligent care to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you: to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave to 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 to their tents. 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 to the west. When Joshua sent them away to their tents, he blessed them, and spoke to them, saying, “Return with great wealth to your tents, and with very much livestock, with silver, and with gold, and with bronze, and with iron, and with very much clothing. Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers.” 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 the Lord by Moses.

When they came to the region around 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 on. The children of Israel heard, “Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the fronteir of the land of Canaan, in the region near the Jordan, on the side that pertains to the children of Israel.” When the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go against them to war. The children of Israel sent to the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 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. 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, “Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, What trespass is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord, in that you have built an altar, to rebel this day against the Lord? Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we have not cleansed ourselves to this day, although there came a disease on the congregation of the Lord, that you must turn away this day from following the Lord? And it will be, since you rebel today against the Lord, that tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. However, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass over to the land of the possession of the Lord, in which the Lord's tent dwells, and take possession among us, but do not rebel against the Lord, nor rebel against us, in building an altar besides the altar of the Lord our God. Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the devoted thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? That man did not perish alone in his iniquity.

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, “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, the Mighty One, God, the Lord, he knows, and Israel also shall know, if it be in rebellion, or if in trespass against the Lord (do not save us this day), that we have built an altar to turn away from following the Lord, or if to offer on it burnt offering or grain offering, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, let the Lord himself require it, and if we have rather from carefulness done this, and of purpose, saying, ‘In time to come your children might speak to our children, saying, “What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you children of Reuben and children of Gad; you have no portion in the Lord,”’ so your children might make our children cease from fearing the Lord. Therefore we said, ‘Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, but it shall be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we 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 tell our children in time to come: “You have no portion in the Lord.”’ Therefore we said, ‘It shall be, when they tell us or our generations in time to come, that we shall say, “Behold the copy of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, but as a witness between us and you.” Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord, and turn away this day from following the Lord, to build an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering, or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God that is before his tent.

When Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation, 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. Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is in the midst of us, because you have not committed this trespass against the Lord. You have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord.” 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. 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. The children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Witness, “For”, they said, “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”

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