Understanding the Old Testament

An Almost Tragic Misunderstanding

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Now that the armies of Canaan had been defeated and the wars won, Joshua sent the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, back across the Jordan River to their families, lands, and possessions. (Joshua 22:1-9)

But before crossing the Jordan and going home, these tribes erected an altar along the banks of the river. (Joshua 22:10-11) Significantly, this altar resembled the one inside the Tabernacle on which the Israelites offered their sacrifices to God. (Joshua 22:28)

Now recall that the Lord had directed that all sacrifices must be offered at the location which He would choose, and nowhere else. The altar constructed by the eastern tribes appeared to violate this mandate. Remembering the Lord’s harsh discipline of them on so many other occasions—most recently with Achan—the tribes west of the Jordan River prepared for a war to crush this apparent idolatry. (Joshua 22:12 and 17-20)

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and they decided to send a delegation to the eastern tribes, led by Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest. (Joshua 22:13-14)

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh explained that their altar was not for the purpose of offering sacrifices, but only to serve as a witness that their descendants were followers of the Lord just like the Israelites who were west of the river. (Joshua 22:21-29) This explanation satisfied everyone.

Thus, war was averted and peace prevailed.

Questions to ponder or discuss: When we reach a conclusion hastily, why are we so frequently wrong? Do you believe we make better decisions when we act rationally rather than emotionally? Why or why not?

.Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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