Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered…
The Reubenites and Gadites easily vindicate their conduct. They have had no intention of setting up a rival altar, for they do not mean to offer any sacrifices except in the place appointed by God. Their altar is to be simply a memorial. They have built it under a sort of apprehension that possibly, in times to come, their children might be led, in ungrateful forgetfulness of the past, to forsake the Lord and His service. The Reubenites and Gadites teach us a wholesome lesson. It is incumbent on us to strive, as they did, to keep alive the memory of the great things which God has done for us, that we may not fall under the reproach addressed by Christ to His disciples: "How is it that ye do not remember?" (Mark 8:18). Christ knows how prone we are to forgetfulness. He has therefore given us two great aids to memory - Holy Scripture and the sacraments. Nothing can ever take the place of the Scriptures. These alone give us the full story of redemption. But it was needful that that story should be brought before us also in a symbolic form, which should appeal vividly to the heart. Baptism and the Lord's Supper supply this necessity for the Church. "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this wine, ye do show the Lord's death till he come," says the Master (1 Corinthians 11:26). The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ, broken for our sins. The cup which we bless is the communion of His blood, shed for our offences. Thus does the Lord's Supper recall to us the sacrifice of Calvary, as the altar of the Reubenites and Gadites brought to their remembrance the tabernacle sacrifices. But they had not, and we have not, to offer for ourselves upon this altar of remembrance, for there can be no other sacrifice than that offered once for all upon the cross. The Mass, by its pretension to be a real sacrifice, belies the true meaning of the Eucharist. The church which celebrates it commits exactly the error into which the tribes beyond Jordan would have fallen, if they had presumed to offer upon their altar sacrifices which could be legitimately presented only upon the one altar of the nation. Let us be on our guard against materialising the sacraments, and so offering to God a worship which must be abhorrent to Him, since it seeks acceptance in virtue of another than the one efficient and perfect sacrifice. - E. DE P.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel,