1At that time Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2 and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you. 3You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God. 4And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them. Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that 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 cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” 6So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.7Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given a possession in Bashan, but to the other half Joshua had given a possession beside their brothers in the land west of the Jordan. And when Joshua sent them away to their homes and blessed them, 8he said to them, “Go back to your tents with much wealth and with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and with much clothing. Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers.” 9So the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home, parting from the people of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, their own land of which they had possessed themselves by command of the Lord through Moses.
For seven years, the military men from the tribes of Manasseh, Reuben, and Gad had been fulfilling their promise to their brethren to help them claim their inheritance on the west side of the Jordan River. They had been granted their land already from Moses himself. As a part of that grant was the promise that they would lend their military might to the battles that would ensue over the rest of the land. Seven years is a long time to be deployed, but now that time has come to an end. It is time for them to return to their families.
Yet there was no hint of complaining as they helped their brothers secure their land west of the Jordan. The day of homecoming for the Transjordan tribes now arrives, and it has a completely positive tone. Joshua’s sermon to them includes words of kind compliment (22:2–4), exhortation (22:5), and blessing (22:6–8). While Joshua acknowledges the obedient service rendered by the soldiers he is dismissing, he also knows that the old Adam or sinful nature still resides in God’s people as long as they live on this earth, even though they are new creations through faith. God’s minister therefore adds urgent exhortation. Those tribes will be going home in long caravans heaped with “much wealth”: “with silver, with gold, with bronze, and with iron, and with very many clothes” (22:8). They will also take with them “very much livestock” (22:8)—large herds and flocks to add to the stock already in the pens they built back home perhaps a decade ago (Num 32:16). All this is not their true treasure. The Lord and his holy covenant with Israel are their unique and everlasting wealth. So Joshua urges them to remain faithful to the Lord, who, in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), will give the world its priceless treasure through this covenant nation: Jesus Christ.
Harstad, A. L. ©2004. Joshua (p. 685). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
As I read these verses this morning, I was reminded of the words of Jesus as he shared the parable of the talents distributed to the servants while the master was away. When the servants have invested the master’s resources, his response to them is . . .
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.
These fighting men from Manasseh, Reuben, and Gad have served faithfully and well. They can return to their homes as heroes. Joshua also leaves with them a commandment and teaching for the future.
- to love the Lord your God,
- to walk in all his ways,
- to keep his commandments,
- to cling to him,
- and/yes to serve him
- with all your heart and with all your soul.
These are wise words for us to hear today as well for we can never go wrong if we walk through each day with these words ringing in our ears.