Pardon me for finding comedy in this chapter; it could be just my ignorance of Semitic literary forms.
The play is almost done now, at least this act in which the children of Israel more or less conquer the land, and then everyone says goodbye and goes home to his respective parcel.
A little history: Way back before they had crossed the Jordan, two-and-a-half of the 12 tribes had fallen in love with land on the east side of the river and asked to settle there instead, which somehow has always given me the sad feeling I had when some of the Telmarines in Prince Caspian took Aslan up on his offer to return to earth rather than stay in Narnia under his rule. But it all worked out, because the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh were willing to fight with their brothers till everyone's inheritance was secured.
Now that was done and all were turning their swords into plowshares, as it were, and the two-and-a-half tribes were heading back to their wives and kids in the fertile region where Og and Sihon had once reigned. Then someone among the returnees got the idea to erect an altar by the Jordan, and word of this reached the ears of the nine-and-a-half tribes, who promptly geared up for war. (Mosaic law forbade offering sacrifice anywhere but in God's designated place.)
Good old Phinehas son of Eleazar, renowned for single-handedly arresting a plague in the wilderness by skewering an Israelite who had brazenly brought a pagan woman into the camp, was tapped to lead a delegation confronting the supposed apostates. It was either he or some other spokesman who, when the band arrived in Gilead to fight, launched into a grandiloquent speech denouncing the easterners' treachery. There is no hint that he asked questions first. The oration takes up five verses and impugns a variety of evil motives before the accused have even had a chance to open their mouths.
When the speaker finally comes up for air, the eastern tribes offer a satisfactory explanation for their piling of memorial stones, and warfare is averted. But not, I hope, before a good lesson is learned by all:
"Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19).
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