Cities of Refuge

After seven years of continuous war, Joshua divided the conquered land among the different tribes. Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh had already received their portion on the other side of the Jordan. Levi received no share. Instead, the Levites were given forty-eight cities throughout the land of Israel, among them, the "cities of refuge," where an unintentional killer could find refuge. Attached to the service of the Holy Temple, the Levites became the teachers of Israel.

A Promise That Was Kept

Joshua then called the two tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh. They had kept their promise to Moses faithfully and fought shoulder to shoulder with their brothers for the conquest of the land of Canaan. Expressing his appreciation, Joshua now told them that they were free to return to their homes. Before bidding them farewell, however, he adjured them to keep the commandments of the Torah, and to cling to the G‑d of Israel.

Shiloh: The Spiritual Center

The Tabernacle had been moved from Gilgal to Shiloh, which thus became the spiritual center of Israel for many years. The two and a half tribes departed, and soon reached the Jordan. Before crossing, they decided to erect an altar on the west shore of the river, as a memorial to the solidarity of the children of Israel. Word of this soon reached Shiloh. The leaders of Israel, realizing the danger of disunity that might result from a second altar, immediately sent a delegation to dissuade their zealous brethren from building the altar in competition with the Tabernacle at Shiloh. On learning of their brothers' apprehension, the two and a half tribes declared that their only intention was to create a monument which would commemorate their devotion to Israel. To offer up sacrifices on this altar was far from their purpose. This answer satisfied the delegation and all Israel, and Shiloh remained the only recognized spiritual center of all Israel.