Joshua 22


‘Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you. Now that the LORD your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan. But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan along with their fellow Israelites.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites.” So, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the LORD through Moses. Joshua 22:1-9

Joshua 22 deals with false criticism, he starts by commending the 2 ½ tribes because they had obeyed Moses, Numbers 32:1 ff. Following the defeat of the Midianite kings, the 2 ½ tribes requested that the land east of Jordan be given to them as their possession. Moses at first was suspicious of the idea because he felt it would prevent the rest of the people from crossing over.

The men of the 2 ½ tribes assured Moses that they would fight with their brothers until the land was subdued west of Jordan. Moses then made an agreement with them that if they would help take the land of Canaan then they could have the land east of Jordan.

Moses then gave the word to Joshua and to Eleazar the priest that the 2 ½ tribes were to receive the land east of Jordan that had belonged to Sihon and Og, kings of the Amorites.

In short, they had obeyed Joshua, they had fought alongside their brothers, they had obeyed God and therefore, they can go and possess the land east of Jordan.

Joshua then goes on and commands the 2 ½ tribes to love God, walk in all His ways, keep His commandments, hold fast to Him and serve Him with all their heart and soul.

Joshua then proceeds to compensate the 2 ½ tribes and so he blessed them, gave them a portion of the spoil and sent them home.

‘When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them. So, the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. With him they sent ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans. When they went to Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh—they said to them: “The whole assembly of the LORD says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the LORD! And are you now turning away from the LORD? “‘If you rebel against the LORD today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the LORD’s land, where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the LORD or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the LORD our God. When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’ Joshua 22:12-20

The 2 ½ tribes returned to the land that had been given them to possess. Now, across the Jordan, they are separated from their fellow Israelites. So, there may have been a feeling of isolation. The 2 ½ tribes, therefore, decided to build an altar.

The altars were important because it was upon the altar that sacrifices and burnt offerings were made. This one must have been large enough to be seen at a great distance.

Word got to the rest of Israel that the altar had been built, somehow misunderstanding always travels fast. It’s like a wind, there’s no way of stopping it and so the ‘whole congregation of Israel’ was ready to go up against their brothers in war.

This reminds me of my brethren, we hear something, and before we get all the facts in the case we’re ready to go to war. How many congregations have been split down the middle because all the facts weren’t gathered in the case?

Somehow, we forget all about Ephesians 4:3 where Paul says, ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’

And Colossians 3:14 where he says, ‘And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’

No, we sit back in our smugness, and say, ‘Nope, not gonna be anybody ruling the roost here but me. If things don’t go to suit me, then things just won’t go.’

Or, ‘Even if all I heard wasn’t true, most of it probably was anyway. So, we’ve just nipped it in the bud now.’

The whole group of people did not cross the Jordan, they sent the son of the priest and ten chiefs from the tribes. Maybe, out of love they didn’t attack immediately. Isn’t that how we are to act? Galatians 6:1.

The committee let the issue be known. The committee reminded them of past apostasies. Peor, this is where the people worshipped idols, Numbers 25:1-9. 24,000 people died as a result of it. Achan and the sin he committed. The committee offered land west of Jordan in order to keep them from rebelling.

‘Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: “The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the LORD, do not spare us this day. If we have built our own altar to turn away from the LORD and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the LORD himself call us to account. “No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? The LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the LORD.’ So, your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the LORD. “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the LORD at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the LORD.’ “And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the LORD’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’ “Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.’ Joshua 22:21-29

The 2 ½ tribes were willing to discuss the issue which is great news, the name of God was invoked, and notice that the 3 names of God are repeated, the Mighty One, God, and the Lord.

Three different names but each one has a meaning, the Mighty One, El, represents the earliest Hebrew idea of God meaning strength, God, Elohim, suggests the manifold ways in which El the Mighty One displayed His greatness, as the source of all power, mental, moral, and physical, in heaven and earth.

The Lord, Jehovah, the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses; the Self-Existent One, the author of all being, He whose supreme prerogative it was to have existed from all eternity, and from whose will all things were derived.

God’s judgment is asked if any wrong was intended, and will be used ONLY if God required it. And what was it? It was a fear that future generations would question the 2 ½ tribes’ part with God’s people. The Jordan would be looked upon as a border forbidding them from having a portion with God’s people.

The good news is, there is a solution to this problem, an altar was built, and the altar would serve as a witness to the fact that the people were one and the altar was not intended to show rebellion against God.

‘When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the LORD is with us, because you have not been unfaithful to the LORD in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the LORD’s hand.” Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived. And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us—that the LORD is God.’ Joshua 22:30-34

The explanation was heard but how often do not brethren listen to what someone has to say? We close our minds and let words pass by and sometimes we do not even sit down and discuss. Phinehas spoke up and said that the Lord was in their midst.

We must beware of being so prejudiced that we will not accept the truth from the person we have called in question. Love demands that we do.

The committee went back to spread the word that they had jumped to a false conclusion. If you’ve told something about someone else that wasn’t true, did you go back to correct it when you found out the truth?

We can learn from this, don’t tell anything bad about anyone, check it out with the person you’ve been told about and if it’s true, try to help them but if it’s not true, straighten out the person who talked to you.

The people returned to their homes. When the truth was learned, the issue was settled and it wasn’t brought up anymore. And so the altar was set up and it was called ‘Witness’.

Their fruit bore witness, Matthew 7:15-20. Can we judge by anything else?


We ought to be zealous for the purity of faith and doctrine, we ought not to judge people on circumstantial evidence, we ought to sit down and discuss calmly and clear the air, we ought not to let anger get in the way of resolving differences and finally, we ought to let love rule in everything.

Go To Joshua 23



"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."