THE STORY OF AN ALTAR BESIDE THE RIVER
Joshua xxii: 1, to xxiv: 33.
HEN the war for the conquest of Canaan was ended, and the
tribes were about to leave for their places in the
land, Joshua broke up the camp at Gilgal, which had
been the meeting place of the Israelites through all
You remember that two of the tribes and half of another
tribe had received their land on the east of Jordan
(see Story 33), but their
soldiers crossed the Jordan with the men of the other
tribes. Joshua now called these soldiers, and said to
"You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord
commanded you; you have stood faithfully by your
brothers of the other tribes; and now the time has come
for you to go back to your wives and your children in
your own tribe-lands on the other side of Jordan. Go to
your homes, where your wives and children are waiting
for you. Only remember always to keep the commandments
of the Lord, and be true to the Lord, and serve him
with all your heart and all your soul."
Then Joshua gave them the blessing of the Lord, and
sent them away. They left Shiloh, where the Tabernacle
was standing, and came to the river Jordan. There on a
great rock where it could be seen from far, they built
a high altar of stone.
THE ALTAR WHICH STOOD AS A WITNESS
Soon it was told among the tribes that the men of the
two tribes and a half-tribe had built for themselves an
altar. God had commanded the people to have but one
altar for all the tribes and one high-priest, and one
offering for all the tribes upon the altar. This was
for the purpose of keeping all the people together, as
one family, with one worship.
 The people of Israel were greatly displeased when they
found that these tribes had built an altar, while there
was already one altar for all the tribes at Shiloh.
They were almost ready to go to war against the tribes
on the east of the Jordan on account of this altar.
But before going to war they sent one of the priests,
Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, and with him ten of the
princes of Israel, one from each tribe, to ask the men
of the tribes on the east for what purpose they had
built this altar. These men came to the men of Reuben
and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and said to
"What is this that you have done in building for
yourselves an altar? Do you mean to turn away from the
Lord and set up your own gods? Have you forgotten how
God was made angry when Israel worshipped other gods?
Do not show yourselves rebels against God by building
an altar while God's altar is standing at Shiloh."
Then the men of the two tribes and a half answered:
"The Lord, the only God, he knows that we have not
built this altar for the offering of sacrifices. Let
the Lord himself be our judge, that we have done no
wrong. We have built this altar so that our children
may see it, standing as it stands on your side of the
river and not on our side: and then we can say to them,
'Let that altar remind you that we are all one people,
we and the tribes on the other side of Jordan.' This
altar stands as a witness between us that we are all
one people and worship the one Lord God of Israel."
Then the princes of the nine tribes and a half were
satisfied. They were pleased when they knew that it was
an altar for witness and not for offerings. They named
the altar Ed, a word which means witness. "For," they
said, "it is a witness between us that the Lord is our
God, the God of us all."
Joshua was now a very old man, more than a hundred
years old. He knew that he must soon die, and he wished
to give to the people his last words. So he called the
elders and rulers and judges of the tribes to meet him
at Shechem, in the middle of the land and near his own
When they were all together before him, Joshua reminded
them of all that God had done, for their fathers and
for themselves. He told them the story of Abraham, how
he left his home at God's call; the story of Jacob and
his family going down to
 Egypt; and how after many
years the Lord had brought them out of that land; how
the Lord had led them through the wilderness and had
given them the land where they were now living at
peace. Joshua then said:
"You are living in cities that you did not build, and
you are eating of vines and olive-trees that you did
not plant. It is the Lord who has given you all these
things. Now, therefore, fear the Lord, and serve him
with all your hearts. And if any of you have any other
gods, such as Abraham's father worshipped beyond the
River, and as your fathers sometimes worshipped in
Egypt, put them away, and serve the Lord only. And if
you are not willing to serve the Lord, then choose this
day whatever god you will serve; but as for me and my
house, we will serve the Lord."
Then the people answered Joshua:
"We will not turn away from the Lord to serve other
gods; for the Lord brought us out of Egypt where we
were slaves; and the Lord drove out our enemies before
us; and the Lord gave us this land. We will serve the
Lord, for he is the God of Israel."
 "But," said Joshua, "you must remember that the Lord is
very strict in his commands. He will be angry with you
if you turn away from him after promising to serve him;
and will punish you if you worship images, as the
people do around you."
And the people said, "We pledge ourselves to serve the
Lord, and the Lord only."
Then Joshua wrote down the people's promise in the book
of the law, so that others might read it and remember
it. And he set up a great stone under an oak-tree in
Shechem, and he said:
"Let this stone stand as a witness between you and the
Lord, that you have pledged yourselves to be faithful
Then Joshua sent the people away to their tribe-lands,
telling them not to forget the promise that they had
made. After this Joshua died, at the age of a hundred
and ten years. And as long as the people lived who
remembered Joshua, the people of Israel continued
serving the Lord.