“Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you” (v26-27). Three tribes had been given land east of the Jordan River, and they returned there after helping conquer the rest of Israel. These eastern tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh) built an altar to “witness” that they belonged to greater Israel, but the western tribes misunderstood (v10-12). Thinking the eastern tribes were building a rival worship center, they nearly went to war.
“Today we know that the Lord is in our midst” (v31). Even the ancient Israelites knew that God’s people are not defined by geography or ethnicity but by worship of the Creator. He is in our midst.