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7 went unto their tents. Now to the [one] half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given [possessionem Bashan: but unto the [other] half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this side Jordan westward. And when Joshua sent them

8 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 who are left at home, according to what God appointed, Num. xxxi. 27. in a similar case. This ivas but a proper token of regard to their brethren, of gratitude to God for sparing their own lives,

^ and protecting their families during their absence. 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. £0 And >when they came unto the borders oi Jordan, that [are] in the land of Canaan, on the brink of the river, the chilr dren 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, that is, high and conspicuous, that might be seen a great •may off".

i 1 And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the ;children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manassah have built an altar in their own country, over Against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at -the passage of the children of Israel, where the .waters were miraculously di

•12 vided. And when the other tribes of 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, according to (he commandin Deuteronomy xiii. 15. It was natural to infer they would sacrifice on this altar, and whether to the true God, or any other, it was equally forbidden. It had an ill appearance.; and however prudent their design

13 was, they should first have consulted God or Joshua. 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,

14 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. This was proper and prudent, as they were brethren, had behaved well, and shown great regard to Israel, and the God of Israel. They sent to inquire into the matter; a chief

man from each tribe, to show they were all unanimous j and Phinehas, the son of the high priest, who was eminent for piety and zeal, and well knew the law in this case, was probably the

15 spokesman. And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manassehy unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying,

16 Thus saith the whole congregation of the Lorw, What trespass [is] this that ye have committed. against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Loud, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the Lord? They accused them of a great trespass, and rebellion against God; committed on the very day when Joshua had just charged them, and they were returning in safety to their families: this was indeed rather too hasty, before they liad inquired for what end the altar was built; but their fears were alarmed, lest God should be angry, as in former times; and

17 therefore they add, [Is] the iniquity of Peor too little for us, the worship of Baalpeor, (Num. xxv. 3, 4.) which brought a plague that destroyed twenty four thousand? is it not enough that we provoked God to wrath then, but must we provoke him again now? from which we are not cleansed until this dav, although there was- a plague in the congregation of the Lord, the scandal of which still remained; or rather the infection of it

18 and inclination to it; But that ye must turn away this day from following the Lord? and it will be, [seeing] ye rebel today against the Lord, that tomorrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel; that is, very soon he will be

19 wroth with you, and with all Israel for permitting it ; Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession [be] unclean for want of a tabernacle and an altar, [then] pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the Lord, wherein the Lord's tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us; a very fair and friendly proposal: but rebel not against the Lord, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the Lord our God. This expresses great zeal for God, and great pity and charity to their brethren. They only insist upon it that they do not rebel against God, and break the common bond by which they were all united to him and one another. To enforce

20 this they add, 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, his family perished with him, and part of Israel before Ai. Thus, like good magistrates, they were solicitous to remove publie vice, lest it shoidd bring ruin on the nation.

21 Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh replied with a great deal of good sense, piety, and candour; and though the speech of their brethren was ill grounded, they did not warmly resent it, but, with all terionsness and mildness, answered and said unto the heads of

22 the thousands of Israel, 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

23 us not this day,) 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 him punish us for it. They apjleal to God for this in the most solemn manner, mention his name with the highest reverence; He knows ive had no such design, and Israel shall know; we will make our integrity appear to all our brethren., by our future carriage, that we had no such design as you charge us with. Tlien they explain the true rea

24 son; And if we have not [rather] done it for fear of [this] thing, with the greatest anxiety lest any such thing should happen, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the Lord Goo

25 of Israel I 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, no right to serve him, or expect any favour from him ; so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the Lord, from making profession of his

26 name, and worshipping him according to his will. Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt

27 offering, nor for sacrifice: 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; let it be a lasting monument, to testify to succeeding ages that we have a true right

28 in the same God and his worship with you. 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 wit-1

5E? ness 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. Thus declaring, in the strongest manner, their utter abhorrence and detestation of any such design.

SO 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 Mauasseh spake, it pleased them. They neither questioned their sincerity, nor blamed their imprudence or rashness, but were .fully satisfied

31 with their apology. And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the

priest said unto the children of Reuben, and to the children Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the Lord [is] among us, with his gracious presence and favour, because ye have not committed this trespass against the Lord, which would have brought down some heavy judgment upon us; now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord, from his wrath, which would have been kindled against us had you committed the sin

32 we suspected. 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

33 word again. And the thing pleased the children of Israel, they all rejoiced in Ms happy event; and the children of Israel blessed God, tliat they had found no guilt in their brethren, and were freed from theirfears, and from all the calamities of a civil war s 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, (o denote the intention of the altar, and prevent any future misconstruction, called the altar [Ed,] that is, a witness: for it [shall be] a witness between us that the Lord [is] that God which we own for pur God, and will worslup according to hit own rule: thus the matter was amicably adjusted, to the satisfaction and joy of both sides.

REFLECTIONS.

t. "\7t7"^ learn> that fidelity to our promise, and steady obeV V dience to God, are worthy of applause and commendation. For this Joshua commends the Reubenites and their neighbours. It is much for our honour and advantage to be constant and faithful in the discharge of our duty ; he that is so, is approved of God and accepted with men.

2. Zeal for God's honour and the purity of his worship, become every true Israelite. Thus the nine tribes and a half, though they had but just sheathed their swords and rested from the fatigues of war, determined to draw them again, and attack their brethren and associates, rather than God should be affronted or his worship corrupted. We, christians, are forbid to draw our swords against any of our brethren, who worship God in what we apprehend a wrong way; the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. Yet it becomes us to take all prudent and christian methods to show our zeal for God ; but let it be founded in knowledge, and regulated by all prudence and tenderness.

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3. The prudence of those tribes, in examining before they attacked their brethren, is worthy of our imitation. Solomon observes, in all cases, with good advice make war, more especially against brethren. Wisdom should guide our zeal. Before we censure our brethren, we should inquire whether there is a cause; give them opportunities to explain themselves and their conduct. Most men are too ready to censure at random. A little prudence and inquiry would prevent innumerable mistakes and quarrels. Let us guard against rash censures, else our zeal for God ■will lead us from him; and we may be promoting Satan's cause, while we think we are doing God good service.

4. If we are ever so severely censured and reproached, let us put on meekness, and rule our own spirits; so these Reubenites did. Had they answered with reproaches and passion, perhaps it might have occasioned the loss of thousands of lives, and perpetual difference and contention between the tribes of Israel. A toft answer turneth aitiay wrath. They did not bid the other tribes mind their own business, or give them an impertinent answer; but explained the matter, and with all calmness vindicated themselves; a good example to us when we are reviled, not to revile again.

5. It is a very desirable thing to be able to appeal to God and man for the uprightness of our intentions and actions, when we are censured and condemned. There is something prodigiously affecting in the manner of the Reubenites' address ; it carries all the marks of innocence and purity. It is no uncommon thing for those that erect another altar or place of worship to be censured and condemned, though they may keep close to God and not depart from him ; they are often charged, by violent bigots, as schismatics and rebels. It is fit we should give a mild answer to such unjust censures. The Lord God of gods knows that we have not built or supported a church, to promote faction or party, to draw men from God and religion, but to lead them to him. We hold communion with all that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. And it should be our concern to let Israel know this; to let them see, by the purity of our worship and the regularity of our lives, and especially by christian charity to our differing brethren, that our principles are good, and our motives upright.

6. Good men, and especially pious parents, are greatly concerned and solicitous that religion may not be lost in their families. For this end the Reubenites built their altar, lest their children should forget God and lose religion. Therefore we should willingly contribute to the support of God's house; should take all precaution that our children may not cease from following the Lord. Every one that knows the benefit of religion, will be more solicitous about this, than securing estates for them.

7. It is the surest sign of God's presence with any people, when they are kept frow sin, v. 24. preserved from those prac

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