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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 22

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

Verses 1-9

Jos_22:1-34 The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh had faithfully remained throughout all of the days of conquest. Joshua now calls them to him and commends them for faithful service. He then sends them to their land east of Jordan with praise for their faithfulness and a parting charge. He urges them to do God's will and serve him with all their heart and soul. Interestingly, Joshua used six action commands to outline their service to God. They were to do, love, walk, keep, hold fast and serve. Of course, they are to take their portion of the spoils of war home with them to be divided among their people ( Jos_22:1-9 ).

Verses 10-34

As they were on their way home, they decided to erect an altar on the west side of Canaan. It did not take long for word to reach the rest of Israel about the erection of an altar by the two and one-half tribes. The other tribes immediately assembled at Shiloh in preparation to go to war against their brethren. They sent Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, along with one ruler from each of the remaining nine and one-half tribes to discuss the matter before marching to war.

When Phinehas and the rest of his company arrived in Gilead, they set forth their charge that the erection of an altar was in direct violation of God's command ( Lev_17:8-9 ; Deu_12:5-14 ). God intended for his people to come together in the one place he chose to offer sacrifices to him. This would serve to keep the people united and stress the importance of doing his will. If the people found those of a certain city serving other gods, Moses' law required that the people and livestock of the city be killed and the city with all its goods burned and left forever as a heap ( Deu_13:12-18 ). In this way, the rest of the people would put away from them the accursed thing.

To show the importance of dealing with the sin quickly, Phinehas cites to instances in Israel's history. First, he reminds the people of the time when Israel remained in the Acacia Grove of Moab and worshipped Baal of Peor. In connection with this, they committed adultery with the women of Moab. Twenty-four thousand died at the command of God because of that sin ( Num_25:1-9 ). Phinehas says Israel is not free from that sin even as he speaks, apparently because they still had the type of heart that would allow them to go after harlots and worship false gods. Though the plague was stayed, its potential for revival was there because the people were so inclined. This made it essential to deal with similar sins quickly. Second, he told of Achan's sin in the more recent past ( Jos_7:1-26 ). Though only one man sinned in taking of the accursed thing, many suffered in the defeat Israel suffered at Ai. Until they put away the accursed thing, the people were not free from the curse being on all of them. Therefore, he went on to suggest any fear the land they had been given on the eastern side of Jordan was unclean and needed special offerings to be cleansed could be resolved by their settling on the western side of Jordan among the rest of the tribes ( Jos_22:10-20 ).

The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered in a way intended to prove without a doubt their loyalty still rested with the God of Israel.

They began by using all three of his names, El, meaning the strong one, Elohim, the Supreme Being to be feared, and Jehovah, the truly existing One, the God of the covenant, as is pointed out by Keil and Delitzsch. Then, they repeated the three names and said God, because he is all knowing, knew if they were in rebellion and could punish them accordingly. However, their purpose had been to erect a replica of the altar in Shiloh as a witness between the descendants of those on the east of Jordan and those on the west of Jordan that they all served one God as one nation.

Their answer satisfied Phinehas and the other representatives, so they went home and reported it to the rest of Israel and war was averted. The two and a half tribes named the altar Witness ( Jos_22:21-34 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Joshua 22". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/joshua-22.html. 2014.
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