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Scripture reading – Joshua 22-23

Proving humanity’s propensity is often war, and little peace, Israel’s victories over the nations that occupied Canaan, were followed by a misunderstanding that brought the nation to the brink of civil war (Joshua 22). 

Joshua 22

A Misunderstanding and a Threat of Civil War (Joshua 22:1-9)

With the battles over, and the nation secure, Joshua summoned the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh (22:1). Those tribes had chosen the land of Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:12-20) as their inheritance. While their men went to war with their brethren, their families remained behind as they had promised Moses and Joshua (Joshua 1:12-18). With the nation at rest, and the land divided, the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were discharged and allowed to return to their families and lands on the east side of the Jordan (22:1-9).

Before their departure and acting as the shepherd leader of Israel, Joshua challenged the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to take “diligent [highly disciplined] heed [observe; keep; obey] to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave [abide in His presence] unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (22:5).

A Provocation of War (Joshua 22:10-20)

Crossing the Jordan, those tribes on the east side determined to memorialize their relationship with the LORD and Israel and built an altar as a testimony to the generations that would follow (22:10).

Some in Israel misunderstood the altar’s purpose and feared the tribes on the east side had departed from worshipping the LORD at His altar in Shiloh. With that assumption, some men of Israel determined to go “to war against them” (22:11-12). Fortunately, a delegation of leaders that included Phinehas, the high priest’s son, was sent to investigate and question the altar’s purpose (22:13-14).

The Investigation of the Delegation (Joshua 22:21-34)

The delegation learned that the altar was a monument, not a place of worship, as they feared. Instead, it was meant to serve as a lasting testimony of their relationship with the LORD and the tribes on the west side of the Jordan (22:21-29). Phinehas and the other men of the delegation accepted the explanation and made peace with Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh (22:30-34).

Joshua 23 – Joshua: “Old and Stricken in Age”

A Summons to Assemble (Joshua 23:1-2)

This chapter is the first of two final assemblies called by Joshua as he understood his life was numbered, not in years or months, but in days and hours. We are again reminded that Joshua was “waxed old and stricken in age” (23:1).

Joshua summoned the leaders of Israel and said, “I am old and stricken in age” (23:2). He reminisced about all the LORD had done for Israel. Finally, he reminded the people that the LORD drove the nations out of Canaan and gave them the land as He promised (23:3-4).

Like the great leader he was, Joshua foresaw the challenges Israel would face in the years after his death. His words heralded the passion of every godly leader who longs to see God’s people prosper and walk in the ways of the LORD.

Joshua reminded them how the LORD had fought for Israel and never forsook His people (23:4-10). He challenged them to be “very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (23:6).

Consequences Should Israel Disobey the LORD (Joshua 23:7-16)

He admonished the people to separate themselves from the heathen who continued to live in parts of the land (23:7). He promised, as the LORD had driven out greater nations than Israel, He would bless them and do the same if they would love, and obey His Law and Commandments (23:8-11).

Joshua warned: Should the people fail to love the LORD, keep His law, and separate themselves from the heathen and their ways, “the anger of the Lord [would] be kindled against [them],” and they would perish (23:16).

Closing thoughts:

What a tragedy and a challenge for us! The same God who longed to bless Israel if they would obey His commandments longs to bless us. Yet, His blessings are conditioned upon us loving and obeying Him.

Joshua 22:55But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Questions to ponder:

1) What tribes did Joshua discharge to return to their land? (Joshua 22:1-4)

2) What was Joshua’s final challenge to the tribes on the east side of the Jordan River? (Joshua 22:5)

3) What did the eastern tribes build to memorialize their relationship with the LORD and Israel? (Joshua 22:10)

4) Why did the other tribes threaten war against the eastern tribes? (Joshua 22:11-12)

5) How was the threat of war resolved? (Joshua 22:13-14)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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