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From Eternity Past

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    Civil War Avoided

    Two tribes, Gad and Reuben, with half the tribe of Manasseh, had received their inheritance before crossing the Jordan. The wide upland plains and rich forests of Gilead and Bashan had attractions not to be found in Canaan itself. The two and a half tribes, desiring to settle here, had pledged to furnish their proportion of armed men to accompany their brethren across the Jordan and share their battles till they also should enter upon their inheritance. When the ten tribes entered Canaan, forty thousand of “the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, ... prepared for war passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.” Joshua 4:12, 13. For years they fought bravely by the side of their brethren. As they had united with their brethren in the conflicts, so they shared the spoils. They returned “with much riches, ... and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment,” all of which they were to share with those who had remained with the families and flocks.EP 369.5

    With an anxious heart Joshua witnessed their departure, knowing how strong would be the temptations in their isolated and wandering life to fall into the customs of the heathen tribes that dwelt upon their borders.EP 370.1

    While Joshua and other leaders were still oppressed with anxious forebodings, strange tidings reached them. Beside the Jordan, the two and a half tribes had erected a great altar similar to the altar of burnt offering at Shiloh. The law of God prohibited on pain of death the establishment of another worship than that at the sanctuary; it would lead the people away from the true faith.EP 370.2

    It was decided to send a delegation to obtain from the two and a half tribes an explanation of their conduct. Ten princes, one from each tribe, were chosen. At their head was Phinehas, who had distinguished himself by his zeal in the matter of Peor.EP 370.3

    The ambassadors, taking it for granted that their brethren were guilty, met them with sharp rebuke. They bade them remember how judgments had been visited upon Israel for joining themselves to Baal-peor. Phinehas stated to the children of Gad and Reuben that if they were unwilling to abide in that land without an altar for sacrifice, they would be welcome to share in the possessions and privileges of their brethren on the other side.EP 370.4

    In reply, the accused explained that their altar was not intended for sacrifice, but simply as a witness that, although separated by the river, they were of the same faith as their brethren in Canaan. They had feared that in future years their children might be excluded as having no part in Israel. This altar, erected after the pattern of the altar of the Lord at Shiloh, would be a witness that its builders were also worshipers of the living God.EP 370.5

    With great joy the ambassadors accepted this explanation, and the people united in rejoicing and praise to God.EP 371.1

    The children of Gad and Reuben now placed upon their altar an inscription pointing out the purpose for which it was erected. They said, “It shall be a witness between us that Jehovah is God.” Thus they endeavored to prevent future misapprehension and remove what might be a cause of temptation.EP 371.2

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