Joshua addressed the eastern tribes before they returned to their land on the other side of the Jordan. He charged then with following the commands of God and blessed them. They took with them much plunder to share with their tribes, returning “with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing” (22:8).
These tribes did a dangerous thing when they arrived back at their area: “When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan (22:10). The other Israelite tribes assumed that they were building an altar in contravention of God’s commands and they sent a delegation to express their concerns before sending an army to destroy them. Their primary concern seems to stem from fear that God will punish them for the sin of these other tribes, although this did not take place immediately as it had with Peor. “If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel” (22:18). They even offered to let these tribes move across the Jordan and share their land. These trans-Jordan tribes replied that they were certainly not rebelling against God, stringing together as many adjectives and references to his greatness as they could in the process: “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows!” (22:22). They explained that they had built a replica of the Lord’s altar to stand as a testimony to future generations that all tribes, on both sides of the Jordan, worshipped the One True God and they called it “A Witness Between Us—that the Lord is God.”