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Joshua having, as the captain in Israel under the Lord, accomplished all the purposes for which the two tribes and a half of Israel, whose possession was assigned them on the other side of Jordan, had accompanied Israel to the war, now dismisses them with a blessing to return. In their return they build an altar to the Lord, which, at the first, gave great offence to the rest of the tribes, when they heard of it, fearing that it savoured of idolatry. But when they heard the cause, that it was intended to commemorate the glory of God, they were well pleased. These are the principal contents of this chapter.
There is somewhat very striking in the history of the Reubenites, and Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, in their choosing to set up their rest on the other side of Jordan. No doubt, as it is the Lord himself who fixeth the bounds of his people's habitation, those parts of Israel, (for they were, we hope, still of the true Israel in common with their brethren) were overruled to this desire, for the accomplishment of some gracious purpose. But yet in the view of it, I would say for myself and Reader, may the Lord grant that we may never set up our rest on this side our Father's home. Jesus is gone before. And, therefore never may we rest, until We are where he is, to behold his glory. John 17:24
How very sweet it is to behold the uniform attention of God's servants to his glory. Joshua will not suffer the people to depart without once more putting them in remembrance of the first, and best, and greatest of all concerns. So, blessed God, may the sweet remembrancer of Christ Jesus, continually remind me of my engagements to the Redeemer. I would pray for grace to cleave unto him, for he is my life.
Doubtless there was somewhat prophetical in the blessing of Joshua, as there was in all the blessings of the patriarchs, when taking leave: see Genesis 49:1 ; Deuteronomy 33:1 .
No doubt, the object for which they erected this altar, was with an eye to God's glory. Perhaps their minds began to fear, that now, separated as they were from the other tribes, they should be led to forget sometimes that they were Israelites, and therefore took this method to perpetuate their origin and connection with the God of Jacob. And that the motive was pure, however mistaken it might be, seems evident from hence, that they did not erect a memorial of the wars of Joshua; but to perpetuate the glory of God. Blessed Lord! wherever I am, or however engaged, enable me to set up in my heart, rather than in any outward building, an Ebenezer to the praise of thy grace. Jesus! do thou live there in unceasing remembrance!
The holy jealousy of God's people, affords a lovely picture to contemplate. In the first view of things, no doubt, the conduct of the two tribes and a half, which were returned home, appeared to be in opposition to the divine precept; and we cannot but admire their zeal for the cause of God. The place only of the Lord's choosing was to be the hallowed spot, where his people were to offer on the altar. Reader! is it not so now? Is not Jesus the altar of our offering? Deuteronomy 12:5 .
Who could be so proper to be the leader on this occasion as Phinehas, whose zeal for God's glory and honour, had manifested itself so strikingly upon another event before? Numbers 25:7 . And, Reader, do observe with what prudence the embassy is conducted. They do not strike the blow of resentment first, and then attempt to justify what they had done after. But they expostulate on the supposed ill conduct of their brethren, by way of manifesting their wish to reclaim, rather than punish. Oh! that in the jealousies and controversies among brethren, and especially concerning divine things, all that profess the pure and lovely gospel of Jesus, by the same Spirit, had been, and ever would be, actuated! - Think, Reader, what a beautiful example is here held forth to all those who alike profess to seek salvation, in the name and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ! And let not the Reader close his view of this expostulation of Israel to his brethren, before that he hath particularly noticed the generosity of Israel as a people. They were ready to give up part of their portions in Canaan, if their brethren thought the other side of Jordan polluted and unclean; and would have come over to them again, to dwell with them where the Lord's tabernacle was. Oh! how very sweet and precious it is, when a true zeal for the Lord outruns all other considerations. Let Jesus be but honoured, and let what will come of temporal conveniences. Paul, if I mistake not, felt somewhat of the same spirit 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 .
I include all these verses in one point of view, because so delightful a passage of scripture, which takes in the whole of the meek and candid answer of the accused, ought not to be broken. The thing speaks for itself, and the words are too plain, and the answer too, satisfactory, to need a comment. The opening of it is very striking, solemn, and affecting. Looking up to, and calling in for, a witness of truth, the glorious covenant Jehovah Aleim, Israel's God, was bringing the point to a speedy issue. Pleading the purity of their intentions, and then the apparent usefulness of their designs, very properly succeeds to that appeal. And, observe, above every other reason, which they offer for the erection of this altar, that it was only an altar of remembrance, and not for use in sacrifice. Doth not this plainly show, that those tribes, in common with the rest, had an eye to one sacrifice and one offering? And to whom could this refer, but to him, who in gospel times, was to offer himself without spot to God, through the Eternal Spirit, for the salvation of his people? With an eye to this the prophet beautifully speaks: Malachi 1:11 .
This is certainly an interesting relation, and the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to have it stated to the church at large. We cannot but take a part in the pleasing view of the harmony of brethren. What an happy issue is brought to pass in this alarming business, as it at first appeared, by the overruling grace of the Holy Spirit on the minds of both parties.
Phinehas is a most engaging character in scripture. If the Reader will consult what is said of him elsewhere, he will, I think, be led to see in him, a lively type of the ever blessed Jesus. Numbers 25:10-13 .
The return of the embassy in peace, must have been highly grateful to all Israel. When ministers return with an account of their success, in their acting as ambassadors for Jesus, what holy joy doth it occasion even in heaven itself? Luke 15:10 .
The word Ed signifies witness. Oh! that there may be many memorandums, as witnesses for me, of my interest in a covenant God in Christ. And, yet abundantly more and above all, do thou, blessed Spirit, witness to me, and in me, that I am united to Christ, and that he is formed in me the hope of glory. Romans 8:16 ; Colossians 1:27 .
My soul! in this contest of Israel learn to remark how exceedingly disposed by nature the best of men are to form misconceptions, and draw unfavourable conclusions of each other's conduct. Alas! what a veil of ignorance hath the fall thrown over our minds. While I admire and pray for grace to copy after the zeal of Israel, in everything which concerns God's honour and glory, I would no less seek grace also, to imitate the children of the two tribes and half over Jordan, and think it not enough to do right, and to seek the Lord's countenance to it, but very cheerfully explain all my motives, when those motives are with an eye to God's glory, to the inspection and approbation of men.
But is there not an higher improvement to be made in our view of the subject? Do I not behold in the Reubenites and their companions, the representation of all awakened believers on this side Jordan? Are we not all, as they were, remote by situation from the tabernacle, and the precious things in Canaan? Though Jesus graciously condescends to visit us, and warms our hearts with the sweet visits of his love, yet do we not need continual monuments to tell our hearts, that this is not our home; and these are not the objects on which our affections here below should be placed? How often do even the ordinances of holy worship prove unsatisfactory: and the wells of salvation we cannot draw from by reason of our earthly, barren and lifeless frames! Precious Jesus! I would not erect an altar, nor offer a sacrifice, nor make mention of a burnt offering! I would not bring, if I had them, thousands of rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil: but I would look to thee; my longing eyes should fix on thy person, and my soul look to thee in the most dependant assurance of salvation, in thy blood and righteousness; for thou art the one only altar, the high priest and sacrifice; thou art all and in all. Be thou my witness, my hope, my portion, all the day. And although I am as yet on this side Jordan, yet, bye and bye, thou wilt come and take me to thyself, and I shall behold thy face in glory, when I awake up after thy likeness.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 22". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26