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The Reubenites and the Gadites. According to the Hebrew idiom, these are in the original in the singular, as in Genesis 12:6. Thus a tribe, as has been before remarked, or even a family (Joshua 6:25), is spoken of frequently as a single individual (cf. Joshua 17:14, Joshua 17:15, Joshua 17:17, Joshua 17:18). It seems probable that this chapter occurs in strict chronological order, and that the soldiers of the two tribes and a half remained under the national banner at Shiloh until the work of survey and appointment was completed. But this cannot be affirmed with certainty. The word אָז with which the chapter commences, is not the usual word for chronological sequence, though it does not preclude it (see note on Joshua 8:30). And the time during which these soldiers must in this case have remained separated from their wives and families was a very long one. Some have even supposed that it lasted fourteen years (see Genesis 12:3). On the other hand, the words "gathered together to Shiloh," in Genesis 12:12, implies that the tribes west of Jordan had left Shiloh. Nor did there seem to be the least need for their services after the battle of Merom. We must be content to leave the matter in uncertainty, with the remark that if the armed men of the two tribes and a half did remain during this long period away from their homes, our sense of their ready obedience must be greatly enhanced, as also of the personal influence of the leader at whose instance they did so. The half tribe of Manaseh. Some cities read שֶבֶט here for מַטֶּה, and as the tribe is spoken of in a political and not in a genealogical point of view, the reading, as far as internal considerations go, would seem preferable. The two words, however, are not always used with complete strictness, but are sometimes regarded as synonymous (see note on Joshua 13:29).
Many days (see note on Joshua 22:1). The expression in the original implies more, a great many days, the usual expression for a period of considerable length. Thus the military service of these tribes must under any circumstances have been a prolonged and arduous one, and they well deserved the encomiums which Joshua here lavishes upon them. It is a remarkable and almost inexplicable fact, that while the sojourn in the wilderness is represented as one long catalogue of murmurings, not one single complaint disturbs the peace of the tribes while Joshua led them. This remarkable consistency of the narrative throughout, so great a contrast to what precedes and what follows, and felt to be so by the writer (Joshua 24:31), is of itself no small pledge of the trustworthiness of the whole. A collector at random from various narratives, themselves to a considerable extent fictitious, could hardly have managed to cull portions which would form an harmonious whole. A writer who was inventing his details would hardly have thought of making his history so great a contrast to the rest of the history of Israel, save with the idea of exalting the character of his hero. But there is no attempt to set Joshua above Moses, or any other Jewish leader. In fact, it is an argument for the early composition of the hook that there is no reference, not even an allusion, to any later events in the history of Israel. Why there was this marked difference between Israel under Joshua, and Israel at any other time, is a question somewhat difficult to determine. Yet we may believe that it was the evidence of visible success. While the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, they felt keenly, as men accustomed to a civilised and settled life, the inconveniences of a nomad existence. By their mingled impatience and cowardice they had forfeited their claim to God's protection. Even the observance of their feasts, and still further the rite of initiation into the covenant itself, were in abeyance (see notes on Joshua 5:2-8). So uncertain, humanly speaking, was their future, that it was as difficult a task, and one the successful accomplishment of which was above unassisted human powers, for Moses to keep them together in the wilderness, as it was for Joshua to lead them to victory in the promised land. And it is one of the commonest of Christian experiences, both in the history of individuals and of the Christian Church, that times of prosperity are times of content and outward satisfaction. It is the times of adversity that try men's faith and patience. As long as the Israelitish Church was subduing kingdoms, winning splendid victories, experiencing the encouragement derivable from God's sensible presence and intervention, there was no discontent, discouragement, or wavering. But the trials of the long wandering, as well as those incident to the quiet, unostentatious discharge of duty, were fatal to their faith and patience. Can theirs be said to be a singular history? Kept the charge. The words in the original have reference to the punctual discharge of a duty entrusted to a person to fulfil. It may be rendered, "kept the observance of the commandment." This commandment, as we have before seen, was given in Numbers 32:1-42. (see also Joshua 1:12-18).
Given rest. LXX. κατέπαυσε, the word used in Hebrews 4:8.
But take diligent heed. This passage is a quotation from the Book of Deuteronomy (Joshua 6:5; Joshua 10:12; Joshua 11:13, Joshua 11:22; 30:6, 16, 20, etc) The expressions, as Keil well remarks, are "crowded together, so that obedience to God's commands may be the more deeply impressed on their hearts." It is worthy of remark, that while beginning with the love of God, Joshua does not end there. The best proof of love is our conduct towards the person loved. If love be genuine, it is the practical principle which produces diligent service, punctual obedience, faithful attachment, the devotion of the heart and soul. Commandment and law. The first of these words, derived from a root signifying to set up, has rather the force of what we call a positive precept, referring to single acts. The word translated law, derived from the root to cast, hence to stretch out the hand, to point out, refers rather to moral precepts. The Greek νόμος and our law are used in the same sense. Cleave unto Him. The Hebrew is stronger, cleave into Him, as though regarding not so much isolated actions as principles of life. Our life was to be "rooted and grounded," to use an apostolic phrase, in His. But the full significance of these words could not be understood till One had come who enabled us by faith to "eat His flesh and drink His blood," and so be united to Him as the branch to its root.
To their tents. It would seem that, during the whole of these "many days," the conquered cities had remained tenantless, waiting for the return of the warriors from their long expedition. "Those that were first in the assignment of the land were last in the enjoyment of it; so 'the last shall be first and the first last,' that there may be something of equality" (Matthew Henry). The first part of the quotation is due to Bishop Hall, who also says, "If heaven be never so sweet to us, yet may wee not runne from this earthen warfare till our great Captaine shall please to discharge us."
Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh. We have here, as Keil remarks, a specimen of our author's habit of repetition. Four times do we read (Joshua 13:14, Joshua 13:33; Joshua 14:3; Joshua 18:7) that the Levites were to have no share in the division of the land. Four times (in Joshua 13:8; Joshua 14:3; Joshua 18:7, and here) does he repeat that the tribe of Manasseh was divided into two, and had its inheritance on either side Jordan. The same kind of repetition occurs in the narrative of the passing of the Jordan. It has been before remarked to be a characteristic of the style of the Old Testament generally, but nowhere is it found to a greater degree than in the Book of Joshua. Yet this, to which critics of the analytical school have objected as a sign of spuriousness, is in fact one of those peculiarities of style which mark the individuality of the writer. It is to inspired history what the Gospel and Epistles of St. John are to inspired theology. The form belongs to the author; the matter, at least as regards its general purport, belongs to God. A Hebrew writer, we are reminded in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' does not quote or refer to what has been already stated. If it is necessary to make his narrative clear, he repeats it.
Riches. The word here used is an uncommon one, and occurs only here and in the later Hebrew. Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren. This was the just reward for their toils. And here, as elsewhere, we may observe the strict and scrupulous integrity of Joshua. The division of the spoil by other leaders has often been the cause of heart burnings and even of mutiny. Here each man has his due, and no room is left for reproach or dissatisfaction.
Out of Shiloh. See note on Joshua 22:1. In the land of Canaan. To distinguish it from Gilead, the land of their possession, on the other side of Jordan. Whereof they were possessed. Another instance of that repetition which was according to the genius of the Hebrew language.
The borders of Jordan. Literally, the circles (cf. notes on Joshua 13:2; Joshua 18:17; Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32). Conder suggests downs, and it is most probable that the word refers to curved outlines, such as we frequently see in the hollows of our own chalk downs, or in any place where the strata do not yield easily to the action of water, and yet have been moulded by such action. That are in the land of Canaan. Again the intention is to lay stress upon the fact that the historian is still speaking of the country west of Canaan. A great altar to see to. Literally, an altar great to sight, i.e; large and visible from a great distance. Bishop Horsley, however, would render a great altar in appearance, supposing that what is meant is that it only looked like an altar, and was not intended to be used as one. One of the most valuable results of the Palestine exploration movement has been the discovery of the site of this altar, which seems probable, in spite of Lieutenant Conder's abandonment of the theory in his 'Tent Work in Palestine,' 2:53. The reasons for the identification are as follows. The altar must be near one of the fords of Jordan. It must be on this side of Jordan (see note on Joshua 22:24, Joshua 22:25). It must be in a conspicuous position, as we have just seen. Now Kurn Sartabeh or Surtubeh (see note on Joshua 3:16), visible from a great distance on all sides, from Ebal, from near Gennesaret, thirty miles off, from the Dead Sea, from the eastern high lands, and from the Judaean watershed, fulfils all these conditions. Dr. Hutchinson replies that the altar is stated by Josephus to have been on the east side of Jordan, and that it was improbable that the two and a half tribes would have erected the altar on the cis-Jordanic territory, or so near to Shiloh, because Ephraim would have resented this. Moreover, the words, "a great altar to be seen," would imply that it was to be visible from a long distance, so that the two tribes and a half might see it from their side of Jordan. It must be confessed that the evidence for the identification is but slight, but so also are the arguments against it. For
(1) Josephus is not infallible, and the Hebrew text seems to assert the very opposite of what he says. And
(2) the other tribes did resent the erection of the altar.
Lieutenant Conder now admits that it is possible that the words stating that the tribes crossed "by the passage of the children of Israel "(Joshua 22:11, but see note there) leads to the idea that the ford by Jericho is meant, and not the Damieh ford by Kurn Sartabeh. See, however, the translation given below. The fact that the Arabs call the place the ascent of the father of Ayd, which has a close resemblance to the Hebrew word Ed, "witness," does not appear conclusive, though it lends some degree of probability to the theory. On the other hand, it might be contended that if the Reubenites and Gadites had not erected the altar on their own territory, it would not have excited the wrath of the remaining tribes. But as the best authorities are content to leave the matter uncertain, it must be left uncertain here.
Half tribe of Manasseh. Throughout this part of the narrative, when the body politic, rather than the descent of the tribe, is to be indicated, we have, not מַטֶּה, but שֶׁבֶט. See above, Joshua 13:29. An altar. The original has the altar. Over against אֶל־מוּל. It is difficult to fix the meaning of this expression. מוּל seems to have meant the front of anything, and therefore אֶל־מוּל would naturally mean towards the front of, or in front of. Thus we have had the expression in Joshua 8:33 (where see note), where it seems to mean, in the direction of, and in Joshua 9:1, where it seems to have the same meaning. With verbs of motion it signifies towards, as in Exodus 34:3, and 1 Samuel 17:30. Here it clearly cannot be pressed to mean across Jordan. See note below. The borders of Jordan. As above, 1 Samuel 17:10, the circles of Jordan. At the passage of the children of Israel. The word translated "the passage of," literally," unto over," has originally the sense of "across." Here, however, it means "towards the region opposite to the sons of Israel," i.e; in the direction of the country on the other side Jordan. The country across Jordan was usually designated as בְּעֵבֶר or מֵעֵבֶר Jordan. אֶל־עֵבֶר, the phrase used here, we find in Exodus 28:26, apparently in the sense of across (so Exodus 39:19). In Deuteronomy 30:13 it is used of moving in the direction of a place, "across" or "over the sea." In Ezekiel 1:9, Ezekiel 1:12, with the addition of פָנָיו, the phrase means "straight forward." In 1 Samuel 14:40 לְעֵבֶר אֶהַד means "on one side." In 1 Kings 7:1-51. לְעֵבֶר means "over." Thus the altar was not necessarily on the other side Jordan.
Gathered themselves together at Shiloh. The commentators refer here to Le Joshua 17:8, Joshua 17:9, and Deuteronomy 12:4-14. See also Le Deuteronomy 17:4. The punishment for the sin is to be found in Deuteronomy 13:12-16. We have before remarked (note on Deuteronomy 13:3) upon the singular obedience of the Israelites during the life of Joshua. The present incident is another exemplification of the fact. It is not Joshua who summons the children of Israel, it is they who voluntarily gather themselves together. The solemn provisions of the law have been infringed, they hasten at once, if necessary, to put the law in execution. The vivid sense of the triumphs they had enjoyed under Joshua, and the safety in which they now were enabled to dwell, filled their hearts with a strong, if short-lived, feeling of gratitude to Him who had done so great things for them, and of indignation against his foes. We may here observe two points which demonstrate the consistency of the narrative, and are evidences for its genuineness.
(1) The children of Israel were not remarkable for their obedience to the law, or to heaven-sent leaders. Both their previous and subsequent history forbid us to predicate for them the quality of obedience. Whence, then, comes this new born and ephemeral "zeal for the Lord," which displays itself in such a remarkable manner on the present occasion? Whence, but from the long catalogue of splendid victories and wonderful Divine interpositions recorded in this book, and from the sense of security arising out of them? Whence, but from the great fear of the children of Israel that had fallen upon the inhabitants of Canaan, so that, to use the striking expression of our historian in Joshua 10:21, "none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel."
(2) The offence and its penalty are recorded in the book of t. he law, and especially in the Book of Deuteronomy. Unless, therefore, we are to conclude that all this history, in spite of its natural and life-like character, was entirely the invention of later ages, we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that Deuteronomy, as well as the other books of the Pentateuch, was in existence when these events occurred. For if not, where was the offence of the two tribes and a half? How was its gravity to be determined? What induced the rest of Israel, including apparently the other half of the tribe of Manasseh, to prepare for war with their brethren? The only rational explanation of the history is that the tribes beyond Jordan had contravened the provisions of the law of Moses, contained in the Book of Deuteronomy, and that the rest of Israel were preparing to inflict the punishment decreed in that law against such contravention. And these provisions and that punishment we find in the five books of that law as it is at present handed down to us. Our only alternatives, then, would seem to be, to reject the history, or to accept the law in tote. And if we take the former, we have to explain how it is that the law and the subsequent history, though entirely fabulous, came to be arranged into so harmonious and consistent a whole. To go up to war against them. Calvin blames the Israelites a little unjustly here. They did not act rashly, as he asserts. Though they prepared to visit the offence with instant chastisement, they gave their brethren an opportunity of explanation. And when that explanation was given, it proved so entirely satisfactory that all hostile intentions were laid aside. "Not onely wisdom, but charitie moved them to this message. For grant they had been guilty, must they perish unwarned? Peaceable meanes must first be used to recall them, ere violence be sent to persecute them" (Bp. Hall). It is to be feared that Christians have not always so restrained their impetuosity when the cry that the faith was in danger has been raised, and that the zeal, so well tempered by discretion, of the Israelitish congregation at this time, is an example of both qualities which puts many Christians to shame. Even Masius cautions us here that we should not "temere moveamur suspicionibus." But he derives hence an argument, and cites St. Augustine in favour of it, for the doctrine that heretics may be proceeded against by the civil sword. Knobel's remark upon this verse is a perfect gem of the "destructive criticism." The account of all Israel gathering together to war against the two tribes and a half "is unsuitable to the circumspect and mild Elohist." Are all writers of history, except those who have no battles or sieges to describe, rash and savage by nature? And even the "circumspect and mild Elohist," or a member of the Peace Society itself, might venture to describe a gathering which, though at first it assumed a warlike form, ended in mutual explanations and a perfect understanding. Of a very different stamp is Bp. Hall's apostrophe, "O noble and religious zeale of Israel! Who would think these men the sonnes of them that danced around the molten calf?"
Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest. Their messenger was well chosen. He was the representative of the high priest, whose duty it was to call attention to all infringements of the law. He had proved his own fiery zeal for the purity of Israelitish faith and life by his conduct at a critical moment of his countrymen's history, when Balaam's miserable intrigues had brought the Israelites to the brink of destruction (Numbers 25:7). Such an envoy, if the trans-Jordanic tribes had indeed disobeyed God's command, was well qualified to bring them to a sense of their sin. Once again we find him in his proper position, at the head of the children of Israel (Judges 20:28), and that was when they were once more assembled to avenge the atrocious crime of the men of Gibeah.
And with him ten princes. Phinehas represented the tribe of Levi, the high priest being too great to permit of his forming part of such a deputation. The actual head of each tribe accompanied him; that is, the head of the family, as we should call it, in each tribe. This seems preferable to Keil's idea, that some tribes were represented by a prince, and some by heads of families, which seems inadmissible from the fact that the Hebrew states that each tribe was represented in the same manner, אֶחַד נְשִׂיא אֶחַד נְשִׂיא. What is doubtless intended here is to emphasize the weight and importance of the deputation sent with Phinehas, a weight and importance befitting an embassy which might have to announce the determination to exterminate the two and a half tribes as completely as Jericho had been exterminated. The mention of ten princes shows that the cis-Jordanic half tribe of Manasseh was represented. Tribes. The word here, after "father's house," is the genealogical מַטֶּה not the political שֶׁבֶט. The thousands. Or families (as in Judges 6:15; 1 Samuel 10:19). See however Introduction, p. 29.
Trespass. The Hebrew word signifies to act deceitfully or faithlessly. It was an act of ingratitude towards the God who had established them in the good land in which they now found themselves. Such ingratitude and desertion of God was equivalent to rebellion, the term used immediately afterwards. The embassy clearly assumed that the fault had been committed, and that it would be necessary to proceed to extremities. Yet, deeply moved as they were, they did not refuse to listen to reason, and rejoiced that it was not necessary to inflict the fearful vengeance which otherwise would have been their duty. How great a contrast is this to the readiness, nay, even the eagerness, which many owning the Christian name have displayed to destroy the body, and the soul also, if that were possible, of their brethren in Christ, who have been overtaken, or have been supposed to be overtaken, in a similar fault!
Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us? How natural the illustration in the mouth of the speaker! It was Phinehas who had avenged the iniquity of Peer, and arrested the judgment for that offence as it was about to fall. How natural that the occurrence should be, as it were, branded upon his memory with a hot iron, and that the mention of it should spring at once to his lips when he saw his brethren, as he thought, upon the verge of a similar offence! Peor is, of course, a contraction for Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:3). This god derives his name probably from Mount Peer, or "the cloven mountain" (Numbers 23:28). From which we are not cleansed until this day. Here we have the expression of the feeling which was never removed until Christ came. It was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sin. No ceremonial lustrations could "cleanse us from its guilt and power." No destruction of the prime mover of the offence, though it may avert the wrath of God, can remove the moral reproach which lies upon the sinner. Not even the destruction of twenty-four thousand persons (Numbers 25:9) can purify Israel from the taint of pollution. In the eyes of a sincere servant like Phinehas, the stigma rests upon Israel still, nor could anything avail to take it away. Truly, the law was, indeed, "our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ." What Keil says of Calvin's explanation, that "the remembrance was not yet quite buried, nor the anger of God extinct," is unsatisfactory. His own explanation, that "the heart of Israel still delighted in their sin," is even more so, since we have no evidence whatever that this was the case at the time of which we are speaking. We have here again to remark that the history in Numbers is here presupposed, and an allusion to an incident in Numbers is here placed in the mouth of one of the chief actors in it. How natural, if the history be a veracious one! How marvellously ingenious, if it he not! The circumstance is mentioned again in Hosea, in the time of Jotham or Hezekiah, and again in Psalms 106:1-48; which would appear to have been written during the captivity. Thus we have a chain of testimony concerning it which makes it difficult to assign a time for the invention of the story, if it be invented, since all references to it in Scripture are perfectly consistent with each other, and display none of the signs of gradual growth which we invariably find in the case of legends. A plague. The original is noticeable, the plague; a natural mode of speech for one who well remembered it.
But that ye must turn. The original has the imperfect, of an action not completed, "and ye are turning." There is no need to give the adversative sense to! The ye also is emphatic. "Ye are turning against the Lord today, tomorrow ye will involve the whole congregation in calamity." That tomorrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel. This passage also is quite consistent with the circumstances and with the position of the speaker. Not merely anger but fear is visible throughout—fear of His wrath who had manifested His power so signally of late. There was no longer any temptation to rebel against Him. The Israelites were no longer suffering the daily pressure of comparative privation and distress, such as it was impossible to avoid in the wilderness. While, on the contrary, there was every reason to remember His power Who had driven the heathen out before them and planted them in, Who had not failed to punish them when they deserved it, and Who, by the fate of their enemies, had made it clear that His hands were not waxen short. Thus the heads of the tribes, and Phinehas especially, were alarmed lest Israel should forfeit the prosperity they at present enjoyed, and exchange it for those terrible woes that God had shown He could inflict when His people rebelled against Him.
If the land of your possession be unclean. Rather, be defiled, either by the idolatrous nations around, or by being cut off from the worship of the true God at Shiloh. The only satisfactory explanation of this somewhat difficult passage which has yet been given is that of Masius, who explains it of a possible belief on the part of the two and a half tribes, that they were cut off by Jordan into another land, a land which had no title to the promises and privileges of Israel, no share in the worship of the one true God at Shiloh. If they entertained such an idea, then, however unfounded their conviction, it were better far to abandon the land, how suited to their circumstances soever it might be, and come across the Jordan, and dwell in the midst of their brethren, and under the protection of the tabernacle of the Lord. Beside. That is, separate from, suggesting the idea of an exclusion of those who committed such an act from the worship of the Lord.
Did not Achan the son of Zerah. Here again the reference to the past history of Israel is suited to the speaker and the circumstances, and this appeal, therefore, strengthens our conviction that in the history of Achan we have fact and not fiction. The case of Achan is even more in point than that of Peer. In his case the Israelites had a clear proof that "one man's sin," unless completely and absolutely put away, brought God's dis. pleasure on "all the congregation" (Numbers 16:22). The repulse at Ai, fresh as it must have been in the memory of all, was sufficient evidence of this. How much more then would His displeasure fall upon Israel, if they condoned this act (as it seemed) of gross and open rebellion against the Lord who had brought them out of Egypt, and had put them in possession of the land He had promised them? Commit a trespass (see note on Joshua 22:16). In the accursed thing (see note on Joshua 7:1). And that man perished not alone in his iniquity. Literally, and he, one man, did not expire in his iniquity. The Vulgate has, "and he was one man, and would that he had perished alone in his iniquity." The sense is the same as in our version. Achan did not perish alone, for not only did he involve his family in his ruin, but the loss of life at the first assault of Ai lay also at his door (see Joshua 7:5).
The thousands. See above, Joshua 22:14.
The Lord God of gods. The double repetition of this adjuration is suited to the greatness of the occasion. No words can suffice to express the horror and detestation of the two and a half tribes at the sin of which they have been supposed guilty. Nor does our version at all approach the majesty of the original form of oath. The Vulgate and Luther approach nearer to it when they render the one, "fortissimus Deus Dominus," and the other, "der starke Gott, der Herr." But no translation can do justice to the vigour of the original. The three names of God, El, Elohim, and Jehovah, are each twice repeated in their order. El representing the earliest Hebrew idea of God, strength (as that of the Aryans was splendour) comes first. Then Elohim, with its pluralis excellentiae, suited to a nation whose theological holizon was expanding, and suggesting 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 in earth. Then came the name by which He had revealed Himself to Moses, Jehovah, 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. It was impossible for any Israelite to have devised a more awful formula by which to clear themselves from the charge of rebellion against God. The same striking phrase is adopted by Asaph in the fiftieth Psalm, when he desires to give especial emphasis to the words of God which follow. Some of the Babbis interpret Elohim here of angels, and explain, "the God of angels." Dr. Perowne, on Psalms 50:1; prefers the LXX. θεὸς θεῶν. Lange, on this passage, translates feebly, "God, God Jehovah," but he abandons this in his commentary on Psalms 1:1-6. for the interpretation given above. Ewald prefers the LXX. rendering. Vaihinger suggests, "the mighty God Jehovah." But the majority of recent commentators prefer the rendering given above, and it is supported by Jewish authorities of credit (cf. Jeremiah 32:14; Nehemiah 9:32). He knoweth. These words are in the strictest Hebrew form of the present tense. It is not merely implied that "God knows" as a general fact, but He is called to witness in the most emphatic manner. "He is at this moment aware that we are speaking the truth." Save us not this day. These words are not parenthetical, as in our version, but in their eagerness to clear themselves (another fact of vivid narration not to be lost sight of, as indicating that the information came originally from an eyewitness) they change the construction. "El Elohim Jehovah, El Elohim Jehovah, He is witness, and Israel shall know—if in rebellion, and if in transgression against the Lord, mayest Thou not save us this day—to build an altar to us, to turn from after the Lord." The whole sentence betokens the strong agitation of those who uttered it—"ex vehementissima animi perturbatione effundunt illi potiusquam pronuneiant" (Masius)—and to whatever period we may attribute the composition of the Book of Joshua, there can be little doubt that he had access to authentic documents, written by eyewitnesses of the scenes that are described. Rosenmuller discusses another interpretation, which regards these words as an address to Phinehas; but while admitting that it is a possible one, rejects it as less suitable to the context. Besides, it may be remarked that "save us" can only be addressed to God. To man, "spare us" would have been said.
Let the Lord himself require it. Or, the Lord, He shall exact, i.e; the penalty.
From fear of this thing. This translation cannot be correct. Had the Hebrew original intended to convey this meaning, we should have had מִדְּאָגַת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה The literal rendering is, "from anxiety, from a word." The word here translated "anxiety" (LXX. εὐλάβεια) is applied to the sea, and is translated "sorrow" in Jeremiah 49:23. It is translated "heaviness" in Proverbs 12:25. In Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 12:18, Ezekiel 12:19, it is translated "care," "carefulness," and is applied to eating food. It obviously refers to agitation or anxiety of mind, and the proper translation here is, "we did it out of anxiety, for a cause." So Masius and Rosenmuller, who render the word דְאָגָה here by sollicitudo.
Joshua 22:24, Joshua 22:25
What have you to do with the Lord God of Israel? For the Lord hath made Jordan a border. Literally, What to you and to Jehovah the God of Israel, since He hath given a border between us and between you, sons of Reuben and sons of Gad, even the Jordan. Thus the reason for the erection of the altar was the very converse of what it had been supposed to be. So far from considering themselves as shut out from the communion of Israel by the natural boundary formed by Jordan, the two and a half tribes were resolved that no one else should ever think so. If the descendants of the remainder of the Israelites should ever venture to assert anything of the kind, there was the altar, erected in a conspicuous position on the west side of Jordan, left as a perpetual memorial of the great struggle in which Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh had taken part, and which had resulted in the final occupation of the land of Canaan. Keil and Delitzsch remark that there was some reason for this anxiety. The promises made to Abraham and his posterity related only to the land of Canaan. For their own advantage these tribes had chosen to remain in the trans-Jordanic territory conquered by Moses. It was quite possible that in future ages they might be regarded as outside the blessings and privileges of the Mosaic covenant. For the present, at least, they value those blessings and privileges, and desired to have some permanent memorial of the fact that they had a right to share them. From fearing. It may be worth while to notice, as a sign of later, or at least of different authorship, that the Pentateuch employs a different (the feminine) form of the infinitive for the form found here.
Let us now prepare to build us an altar. Literally, let us make now to build to us an altar. Burnt offering, nor for sacrifice. In the "burnt offering" the whole victim was consumed. In the "sacrifice" part only was offered on the altar. The rest was eaten by the priest or the person who offered it.
But that it may be a witness. Rather, for this altar is a witness before Him. Literally, before His face; in the tabernacle, that is, where His special presence was enshrined.
Behold the pattern. Rather, Look at this facsimile. The Hebrew is even stronger than our version. The existence of an exact reproduction of the altar in Shiloh, erected on Canaanitish ground by the two and a half tribes before their departure across Jordan, was an incontestible proof of their original connection with Israel. And the fact that they had erected it, not on their own territory, but on that of their brethren, was, though they do not use the argument, proof positive that it was not intended to be used in contravention of the precepts of the law. The nature of the facsimile is explained by Exodus 20:24, where the precise form of altar seems to have been presented as a contrast to the stone altars employed by the heathen.
God forbid. Literally, profane or accursed to us be it from Him. So Keil, Gesenius, and Knobel. That we should rebel against the Lord. The embassy had the effect not only of eliciting an explanation, but of showing how earnest, at that time at least, the tribes of Israel were in the service of God. And we may learn here, as Robertson remarks of St. Paul's frank and explicit vindications of himself, the value of explanations. Many a misunderstanding would be averted, many a feeling of rankling displeasure, culminating in an inexcusable explosion of anger, might be avoided, nay, many an unjust suspicion against a fellow Christian's honesty and sincerity of purpose might be dispelled, if men would but follow the example of the ten tribes on this occasion, or lay to heart the words of our Lord in St. Matthew 18:15, "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."
It pleased them. The genuine. ness of their zeal for God's service is shown by their readiness to be appeased by a plain explanation. Had they been actuated by jealousy or party spirit, they would have admitted no defence, or have endeavoured out of the clearest exculpation to find some new topic for complaint. So religious party spirit has been wont to inflame men's minds in later times, so that they desired rather victory over a supposed antagonist than the discovery that no offence at all bad been committed. True religious zeal is slow to anger, and easy to be appeased, when it appears that no harm has been intended. It might have been contended in this case, if controversy rather than truth had been the object, that the action had a dangerous tendency; that though the altar was not intended for sacrifice, it might be used for that purpose; that it was unwise to put a temptation in the way of future ages to substitute worship there for worship in the tabernacle. Such arguments are not unknown even to Christian zealots. Israel was satisfied that no harm was intended. It was not thought necessary to point out possibilities which were not likely to be realised.
Now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord. The word here rendered "now" is rather then. But the Hebrew word, like our own, is used as implying not only consecution of time, but consequence of action (see Psalms 40:8; Psalms 69:5; Jeremiah 22:15). Thus the meaning here is, "We see, then, that instead of bringing upon us heavy chastisement, as we had feared, ye have acted in a way which secures us from the punishment of which we were afraid."
Did not intend. Literally, did not speak. That is, no one, after the explanation, was found to support the proposal which had previously been found to be necessary.
Ed. This word is not in the original. It is found in some late MSS. and in the Syriac and Arabic versions, but not in the LXX. or Chaldee. Even in the MSS. which have it, the word is found sometimes before and sometimes after the Hebrew word signifying "altar." This may either be because, once omitted, it was conjecturally supplied, but it is more probable that it was never there at all. The passage may be rendered, "And the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad gave a name to the altar, 'for it is a witness between us.'" But it seems more likely that the word "Ed," though not expressed, is in. tended to be understood. The LXX. and Vulgate give incorrect renderings of the passage. The Lord is God. Rather, as in 1 Kings 18:39, Jehovah is the God; that is, the one true God. Some MSS. have interpolated הוּא here from the above cited passage. Such altars, or mounds, of witness seem not to have been unusual among the Eastern nations (see Genesis 31:47-52).
Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh at home.
Three points are especially noticeable in this chapter. First, the reward of those who have laboured on behalf of their brethren; next, the duty of claiming our privileges as Christians when severed from our brethren; and lastly, the necessity of zeal for the purity of religion.
I. SELF DENIAL SHALL HAVE ITS REWARD. Our Lord tells us that he who gives a cup of cold water to his brother shall not lose his reward. We find a similar statement in Matthew 10:41. The reward includes this life as well as the next (Mark 10:30). Joshua blessed the two tribes and a half, and sent them to their inheritance. So does Jesus say to those who have laboured in His cause, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord." And as the Reubenites and their brethren were blessed with silver and gold and a multitude of earthly possessions, so the Christian enjoys riches which are far above what earth can give, even the riches of the glory of God's inheritance among the saints. If he leaves home and friends for the work of the Gospel; if he devotes himself to a long and weary warfare against sin, the time will come when the true Joshua will dismiss him to his inheritance, across the Jordan-stream of death.
II. WE MUST NOT LET ISOLATION DEPRIVE US OF THE PRIVILEGES OF THE COVENANT. Many an Englishman is in the position of the two tribes and a half. He emigrates to distant lands, and he often forgets to assert his oneness with those whom he has left behind. So did the members of the Church of England neglect in America to reproduce the organization of their native land. So continually do men
(a) cast off all religious profession whatever, or
(b) neglect to keep up sufficient connection with their brethren at home, and thus to keep up the solidarity and mutual brotherhood of Christian churches.
Of late this evil has been much diminished. The "great altar to see to" is visible on all sides. Those who leave us for the colonies, or for foreign lands, are not left without the ministrations of their own nation and faith. Christians deprived of the superintendence of the ministers of religion assemble for prayer and reading of the Scriptures. Thus a witness is set up before God and man that they have both part and lot in the Christian brotherhood. It is the one worship of the one God. There is no desire to set up altar against altar, to break the bonds of Christian love and fellowship. The new communion has its own laws and regulations, suited to its own peculiar needs, for the gospel practically forbids us to set up one hard and fast rule for all races and regions alike. But the one faith and the one Church exists throughout, united, not in the unity of external rules and rites, and organization and tribunals, but in the holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity.
III. WE MUST BE ZEALOUS FOR THE CAUSE OF TRUE RELIGION. Had the Jews continued to display the same zeal for God which they showed in this instance, they would have escaped the fall which afterwards befel them. So, had Christians maintained their first zeal and purity and mutual love, the Christian Church would have been spared much of its sad history, and so large a portion of the world would not have remained heathen. But as the Jews allowed mixed marriages and intercourse with heathen tribes to undermine their attachment to God and His law, so has familiarity with the world deadened the zeal for true religion among Christians. The zeal which was displayed in early Christian times concerned faith more than morals. The zeal shown now concerns morals rather than faith. But a true Christian spirit will care for both. Faith is the salt that keeps practice from corruption, and a carelessness or tendency to compromise in matters affecting the fundamental principles of Christian truth or worship is as sinful as would have been the conduct of the Israelites had they suffered the erection of the altar of witness to pass without explanation. Such a spirit of compromise is the danger of our own day. It is our duty
(a) to decide for ourselves what are the essentials of Christianity, and
(b) when we have decided it, to declare perpetual war against those who would deny them.
While we are careful not to insist upon anything as essential which is not "contained in Scripture, or may be proved thereby," we must make the maintenance of the recognised truths of Christianity a sine qua non. The spirit abroad which maintains that no teacher should be removed from his post for any consideration whatsoever, is as opposed to truth as that which would remove him without fair trial or sufficient cause. The task of deciding on the limits of religious freedom is a difficult one, and demands exceptional gifts. But the denial that there are such limits is contrary to the main principles of law and gospel alike.
IV. WE ARE BOUND TO RESTRAIN ZEAL WITHIN PROPER BOUNDS. The Israelites did not proceed to action without due inquiry. They sent a deputation to their brethren to invite them to clear themselves if they could. And the result was an honourable acquittal, though there was a strong prima facie case against them. Would that all religious investigations had been as fair! For though the duty of maintaining the purity of the Christian faith is most undeniable, yet the converse is equally true, that we must be sure that it is the Christian faith that is at stake. The practice on the part of the mediaeval Church authorities, of treating suspicion of heresy as a crime, was a violation of the commonest laws of justice. The practice of holding a teacher responsible for every inference which could be drawn by a merciless logic from his theses, although these conclusions are energetically repudiated by himself, was not the offspring of zeal for the truth, but of prejudice and passion. The custom of declaring views heretical which, though opposed to the voice of authority and the force of numbers, did not touch the essentials of the faith, was an outrage against Christian liberty, and a violation of the great principle laid down in this chapter, of subordinating the letter to the spirit. For the Reubenites and their brethren had unquestionably broken the letter of the law. The erecting of such an altar as they had erected was strictly forbidden. And yet by that very violation they had been proving their sincere adhesion to the spirit of the violated law. And their defence was not only accepted, but joyously and thankfully accepted (verse 31). If in those days the spirit was set above the letter, how much more in our own. Let us take heed then that we do not, misled by blind party zeal, fall upon those who are our allies in the great and holy work. Let us not exact too strict a conformity with the letter of Holy Scripture, but let us seek hearts purified by love to God to discern its real spirit. It is no easy task, no doubt, but it may be performed through prayer and love to God and man. With hearts so filled with the sacred fire, it may well be that we shall often gather together to Shiloh ready and burning for the conflict, yet be appeased when we learn what seemed a foul wrong to God was inspired by the deepest devotion to His cause, and may say with Phinehas, whose zeal for the truth cannot be disputed, "This day we perceive that the Lord is among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the Lord."
V. ALWAYS BELIEVE THE BEST. "Charity hopeth all things," says the apostle. The Lord Himself bade us always, when we had a cause of complaint against our brother, to begin by talking the matter over with Him. So also says the wise man in the Apocrypha, in words which well deserve to be remembered. "Admonish a friend, it may be he hath not done it, and if he have done it, that he do it no more. Admonish thy friend, it may be he hath not said it, and if he have, that he speak it not again. Admonish a friend, for many times it is a slander, and believe not every tale." It is never safe to neglect this counsel. The case may look very bad against your friend, but so it did against the two tribes and a half. In fact, in their case, nothing could be worse. They were caught in flagrante delicto. There was the altar, erected in a most conspicuous situation—a great altar to be seen. The Israelites might have argued that it was useless to ask explanations when they had the fact before their eyes. But they were not so rash. And the result showed that they would have been blameable indeed if they had been so precipitate. How many a friendship has been severed, how many a life-long estrangement has been caused, how much misery has been brought about, by the want of courage to go frankly to a friend and ask for an explanation of what seems indefensible. You may have your testimony from unimpeachable witnesses, or witnesses you believe to be unimpeachable, and if in truth they are not slanderers, or mischief makers, they may yet not be in possession of certain material facts which give the ease an altogether different aspect. At least the rule is clear—never condemn any one unheard. Wounded feeling or offended pride may make us averse to seek the explanation; the effort may be painful, almost intolerable, yet justice demands that it should be .made. And you may afterwards have reason to "bless God" that you did not "go up against your brother to battle." Either he may repent, and then "thou hast gained thy brother," or he may never have offended, and then the bonds of Christian friendship will never be relaxed at all.
HOMILIES BY R. GLOVER
Rarely do we find such an instance of misconception as is here recounted. The two and a half tribes, whose territory lay to the west of Jordan, had acted with the highest honour. During the five or six years occupied in the conquest of their land, they had voluntarily accepted the task of fighting—and fighting in the van in all the battles of Israel. When they leave completed task behind them, they return laden with spoil: rich in the gratitude of their brethren; solemnly blessed by Joshua. And yet within a few weeks, all their brethren—including those of their own tribes who had settled to the west of Jordan—are up in arms, ready to exterminate them. All this change is brought about by one of the most deplorable things in life—A MISUNDERSTANDING. Such things happen still, and it may illustrate and remove some of them if we observe the course of this. In the misunderstanding before us, we observe, first—
I. THE INNOCENT CAUSE. The two and a half tribes were, as they explain, solicitous to keep in unity with Israel. The possibility of their being treated as outsiders weighed on them. The erection of an altar precisely the same in pattern with that in the tabernacle struck them as a means of embodying a testimony that they had enjoyed the same access to the sanctuary with their brethren on the west of Jordan. By weighty precepts, Moses had forbidden any multiplication of altars. One God, one worship, one people, was to be the rule: Levites in every tribe, sacrifice only in the central consecrated spot. They were alive to the sin of schism, and the wickedness of seceding from their people, and the thought of it does not enter their minds. They would have acted more wisely if they had consulted the priests first, explaining their desire and purpose. But their very innocence makes them neglect to take precautions against being misunderstood. So far from desiring to break, they are solicitous to keep the unity of Israel. And the altar which their brethren think will destroy was erected by them to keep it. Yet they are misunderstood. So shall we be, and so will others be by us. There is hardly a word we can speak but can carry two meanings, or an act we can do but can carry two aspects. And if we attempt by the avoidance of speech or action to escape misunderstanding the endeavour will be in vain. At the same time, the fact that a large proportion—say 75 per cent—of misunderstandings have an innocent cause should set us on our guard against the next thing we observe here, viz.—
II. A HASTY CONSTRUCTION PUT UPON IT. How discreditable was this haste to assume that the worst explanation was the truest! If any part of the community had proved their patriotism, brotherliness, their honour, and their faith, it was these unselfish warriors who had laboured so generously for the general well being. But haste always leaves its fair judgment at home. It argues from its fears, its temper, its prejudice, its suspicions. Judgment being a slow-moving thing, that does net come to conclusions quick enough for its purpose. And so here, instantly there is put upon this act the construction that it evinces a purpose of secession, first, from the religion, and, next, from the people of Israel. Israel is not the only community disposed to hasty and harsh constructions. There is in all of us a vile readiness to believe the worst of men; a certain disposition to chuckle over the discover, of what seems a fault; an evil suspicion, arrogating to itself peculiar wisdom, suggests always that the worst view must be true. Observe here, the hasty construction is not only miststaken but utterly mistaken. It has concluded the very opposite of the truth. And our hasty constructions are not more accurate. Let us be on our guard. The truth may be the very opposite of what on the first blush it appears to be. What seems presumptuous and unholy may spring from the deepest devoutness. Observe thirdly—
III. A SENSIBLE INQUIRY. Phinehas, the high priest, and the ten princes of the nine and a half tribes are sent first of all to ask, "What trespass is this that ye have committed?" Some cooler heads and calmer hearts have suggested that before civil war be entered on there should he, at least, an explanation sought. None can cavil at a suggestion so prudent and pertinent. The best men for such a task are sent, not with weapons of war, but with words of peace—words still hasty and suspicious, but yet spoken in love and with a desire for the right. Then, for the first time, the two and a half tribes learn the evil construction which might be put on their deed. And the surprise with which they receive the accusation, convince all of their innocence of the things of which they were accused. The simple inquiry was all that was necessary to get the most perfect satisfaction. How many misunderstandings would at once be billed if men had just the courage to ask a question! But the suspicion which hastily concludes the worst is generally wedded to the cowardice which dare not ask if its conclusions are right, and so misunderstandings endure. If in a friend there is that which pains you, ask himself why he does it. Let the inquiry be a respectful one. Let the priestly and princely part of your nature make it. Let it be direct and full. Let no fear of being suspected to be yourself uncharitable permit you to be uncharitable. "If thy brother sin against thee, go and tell him his fault, between thee and him alone." If there was more of the manliness that would expostulate, there would be more of the saintliness that could forgive. Lastly, observe that the inquiry leads to—
IV. A HAPPY TERMINATION. There was every probability of the misunderstanding having a most disastrous termination. What would have been the issue of such a war? To crush a third part of Israel, and that the most warlike portion, would probably have cost the lives of another third; and the remnant surviving would at once have been at the mercy of the remnants of the Canaanite still surviving, and able to form strong alliances with Phoenician and Philistine neighbours. The extinction of Israel neither more nor less trembled on the verge of probability through this misunderstanding. Blessed are the peacemakers. The inquiry elicits the most satisfactory facts. The momentary, doubt of their brethren's good faith passes away. Their confidence in their faith and patriotism is resumed; for many, many centuries mutual suspicion is destroyed, and Israel on both sides of Jordan is an undivided people. A little wisdom, a little delay in speech or action until knowledge becomes certainty, a brotherly approach to those who have offended us, might bring outmost hopeless misunderstandings to the same .satisfactory end.—G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Service and reward.
I. THE SERVICE. This is characterised by the following points of merit:
1. Obedience to discipline. The two tribes and the half tribe are commended for obedience to their supreme commanders. Soldiers, servants, employes, all persons under authority, should recognise the duty of loyal obedience from the heart, and perform it
(a) conscientiously—"not with eye service as men pleasers;"
(b) diligently—working as laboriously as if for their own pleasure; and
2. Brotherly kindness. These tribes had not left their brethren. They had been foremost in conquering Canaan for them. Humanity, patriotism, and Christianity should lead us to labour unselfishly for the welfare of the world, our country, and fellow Christians.
3. Faithfulness to God. These tribes had "kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord their God." We have a charge from God to keep. Our duty is not confined to our relations with men; we have duties to God (Malachi 1:6). Even our duties to men should be discharged with a supreme regard to the will of God (Colossians 3:22), and our religious devotion should guide and inspire us in human duties.
II. THE REWARD. This is marked by the following features:
1. It is delayed till the service is complete. The Reubenites and their associates were the earliest tribes to have an inheritance apportioned to them; but they were the latest to enter into possession of it. Thus the first are last. We must not expect the rewards of faithfulness before our work is complete. It is wrong to desire to hasten to our heavenly reward at the neglect of earthly duty. The "rest which remaineth" is secure, though the enjoyment of it is delayed. The force of God's promises is not weakened by time.
2. It is so appointed as to satisfy the desires of those who receive it. The two tribes and the half tribe preferred to settle on the east of Jordan, and they were permitted to do so. As they chose for themselves they must take the consequences, whether for good or for ill. God allows us much liberty in shaping our own destinies. When He does not give us what we desire, the refusal is not arbitrary but merciful. In the end He will give us our heart's desire—either the thing we desire now, or something else to which He will incline our hearts, so that we shall desire that. As there are varieties of dispositions among Christians, so there will be differences in the heavenly reward.
3. It takes the form of rest and peaceful occupation. The army is disbanded. Warfare was a temporary necessity; it was not to be regarded as a constant occupation. Home life is most natural and most blessed by God. The spiritual warfare of Christians is only temporary. It will be followed by
(c) the home life of heaven.—W.F.A.
Loyalty to God in separation from the Church.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF TRIAL.
1. Isolation. The Reubenites and their associates had chosen an inheritance which would separate them from their brethren. There was danger lest the separation should injure their fidelity to God. The influence of Christian example and the sympathy of the Church are great aids to devotion. When these are lost special care is needed to prevent devotion from growing cold. This applies
(a) to those who go from their homes to business occupations which separate them from old religious associations,
(b) to those who leave their country for the colonies. etc.
2. Evil surroundings. These tribes were about to settle amongst a heathen population. In addition to the loss of the good example of their brethren's devotion, they would become liable to the injurious influence of bad associates. If duty calls us to live amongst those whose lives are unchristian we need to be watchful against the fatal influence of their example. Lot was injured by living in Sodom.
3. The cost of religious ordinances. Though these tribes established worship for themselves, they must have missed the good of the tabernacle services. They who live beyond the reach of such religious ordinances as they have found profitable in the past—as in lonely country places, or the backwoods of colonies—should be on their guard against the spiritual deadness which may result unless they are assiduous in private devotion. The proximity of a suitable place of worship should be a first consideration in the choice of an abode. Convenience, society, health, beauty of situation are too often considered to the neglect of this important requisite. Heads of families should know how much this affects the character and destinies of their children.
I. THE DUTY OF LOYALTY. The duty is illustrated in various phrases that it may be made clear and be well insisted on. This is no small matter. It should engage our chief attention. Several points are here included, viz.,
1. Devotion of heart. This is the root of true loyalty. It springs
(a) from personal love to God, and cleaving to Him;
(b) from the service of inward desire—serving with the heart;
(c) from thoroughness—serving with the whole heart.
2. Obedience in life. This is "to walk in all His ways." True loyalty does not confine itself to the secret desires of the heart. It comes out in the life. There it is not only seen in definite acts but in the general course of conduct. We are not to be faithful only in supreme moments, but to walk obediently—to continue a constant course of obedience.
3. Diligence in fulfilling God's commands.
(a) These tribes were to take heed. We need thought to consider what is God's will, and care to see that we are doing it.
(b) They were to keep God's commandments. The details of duty must be observed after we have cultivated the general spirit of devotion.—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY E. DE PRESSENSE
We have seen the Reubenites and Gadites generously taking their part in the war for the conquest of Canaan, though they had already come into possession themselves of their assigned share on the other side of Jordan. In this way the solidarity of the nation was vindicated. Joshua now sends back these soldiers of their country to their own inheritance, and we see in the verses before us the reward of their fidelity to duty.
I. THEIR FIRST RECOMPENSE IS A MATERIAL ONE. They carry away a goodly share of the booty which accrued to Israel from its successful warfare. The man of God cannot always count upon this temporal reward. It may never be his. And yet it is certain that, as a general rule even in this life, the fulfilment of duty is a condition of prosperity. Evil gives only deceptive and evanescent joys; it is opposed to the Divine law, which must in the end prevail. It entails also terrible consequences. Is not all sensual indulgence a deadly and ruinous thing? Does not hatred kindle with its accursed torch fire and war, only to be quenched with blood? Does not the wicked dig the pit into which he himself falls (Psalms 7:15). Punishment may tarry. Penalty is slow footed, as Homer says, but it is guided by the unerring hand of Divine justice. The people who fear God and work righteousness are in the end always the blessed people, and the Psalmist rightly pronounces them happy.
II. The highest recompense is not however this material prosperity, BUT THE APPROVAL OF GOD. "Ye have kept," says Joshua to the Reubenites and Gadites, "all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you" (verse 2). There can be no purer joy than to hear words like these from the Master's lips: "Well done, good and faithful servant, etc." (Matthew 25:21). They waken in the depths of our hearts the glad echo of an approving conscience. This is not the proud satisfaction of self righteousness; it is the joy of having rejoiced the heart of God; of having done something for the Saviour; of having in some measure responded to the love freely received.
III. OBEDIENCE LEADS TO OBEDIENCE; GOOD BEGETS GOOD. "The path of the just is as the shining light, shining more and more." So Joshua, in sending back these valiant soldiers of their country, gives them in parting some holy admonitions. We see that he judges them worthy to apprehend the law of God in its "true breadth and length," in the spirit and not in the letter. It is to be noted that he sums up the whole in that commandment which is ever new, and never to be abrogated, that which St. John calls the old and the new commandment (1 John 2:7): "Love the Lord your God, and walk in all his ways; keep his commandments, and cleave unto him and serve him with all your heart, and with all your soul" (verse 5). Thus does each step or word in the Divine life prepare the way for a yet further advance, and so we go from strength to strength, from grace to grace.—E. DE P.
The Cause of this Outbreak of Wrath
The feeling excited in the people of Israel by the news that the Reubenites and Gadites had set up an altar beyond Jordan is a proof that the religious condition of the nation after the great benefits received by it was very healthy, while the act of the Reubenites and Gadites is no less an evidence of their gratitude to God. The indignation of the ten tribes is aroused by their impression that the Reubenites and Gadites have committed an act of rebellion against the holy law of God, in seeking to offer sacrifices on any other than the national altar. They are filled with holy zeal for the name of God and jealousy for His glory. "Ye have turned away this day from following the Lord," say their messengers to the two tribes supposed to be thus rebellious. If we inquire into the causes of so keen a spiritual life in this people usually so stiffnecked and prone to estrangement from God, we find that it can be accounted for in two ways.
I. ISRAEL HAS VIVIDLY IN REMEMBRANCE THE CONSEQUENCES OF ANY VIOLATION OF THE LAW OF GOD. Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and was not the anger of the Lord kindled against all Israel? It was not Achan alone who perished because of his sin; the whole congregation suffered on his account (Joshua 22:20). In this holy fear we see the vindication of the stern judgment of God. "Whom he loveth he chasteneth, that they may be made partakers of his holiness."
II. THE SECOND EXPLANATION OF THIS HEALTHY MORAL CONDITION IS GRATITUDE FOR BLESSINGS RECEIVED in the signal victory over the Canaanites, which the people felt they could never have achieved in their own unaided strength. Thus we need the discipline both of adversity and of prosperity in our spiritual education. Prosperity alone does but harden; adversity unrelieved would sink the soul in despair. God knows our proneness to wander, hence He chastises us to put us in mind of our sins and of His holiness. But He remembers that we are but dust. Hence He blends joy with sorrow in our changeful lives, and the two together work out in us the gracious purposes of eternal love.—E. DE P.
The Reubenites and Gadites easily vindicate their conduct. They have had no intention of setting up a rival altar, for they do not mean to offer any sacrifices except in the place appointed by God. Their altar is to be simply a memorial. They have built it under a sort of apprehension that possibly, in times to come, their children might be led, in ungrateful forgetfulness of the past, to forsake the Lord and His service. The Reubenites and Gadites teach us a wholesome lesson. It is incumbent on us to strive, as they did, to keep alive the memory of the great things which God has done for us, that we may not fall under the reproach addressed by Christ to His disciples: "How is it that ye do not remember?" (Mark 8:18). Christ knows how prone we are to forgetfulness. He has therefore given us two great aids to memory—Holy Scripture and the sacraments. Nothing can ever take the place of the Scriptures. These alone give us the full story of redemption. But it was needful that that story should be brought before us also in a symbolic form, which should appeal vividly to the heart. Baptism and the Lord's Supper supply this necessity for the Church. "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this wine, ye do show the Lord's death till he come," says the Master (1 Corinthians 11:26). The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ, broken for our sins. The cup which we bless is the communion of His blood, shed for our offences. Thus does the Lord's Supper recall to us the sacrifice of Calvary, as the altar of the Reubenites and Gadites brought to their remembrance the tabernacle sacrifices. But they had not, and we have not, to offer for ourselves upon this altar of remembrance, for there can be no other sacrifice than that offered once for all upon the cross. The Mass, by its pretension to be a real sacrifice, belies the true meaning of the Eucharist. The church which celebrates it commits exactly the error into which the tribes beyond Jordan would have fallen, if they had presumed to offer upon their altar sacrifices which could be legitimately presented only upon the one altar of the nation. Let us be on our guard against materialising the sacraments, and so offering to God a worship which must be abhorrent to Him, since it seeks acceptance in virtue of another than the one efficient and perfect sacrifice.—E. DE P.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Misunderstandings among good people.
Bitter contention often arises from simple misunderstanding. The Israelites were on the verge of a civil war as a result of a simple mistake of judgment. Much unhappiness might be avoided if the lessons of this incident were well considered by Christian people.
I. CONSIDER THE INCIDENT IN RELATION TO THE TRANS-JORDANIC TRIBES. They erected an altar of witness which was supposed by their brethren to be an altar of sacrifice, a rival to the altar at Shiloh, a mark of national secession and religious schism.
(1) We should be careful to avoid the appearance of evil. These tribes had voluntarily chosen a position of isolation. They were now acting in a way which exposed their conduct to suspicion. It is our duty to prevent the misinterpretation of our conduct when possible
(a) lest quarrels be engendered;
(b) lest the name of God be dishonoured;
(c) lest the weak be hindered.
(2) We must expect sometimes to be misunderstood. There are persons who are always ready to give an evil interpretation to ambiguous actions. We must not refrain from doing right for fear of being misjudged. False judgment is a trial to be endured with patience and accepted as a means of discipline to humble us and drive us to the sympathy of God (1 Corinthians 4:3).
(3) A refuge from the misunderstanding of men may be found in the knowledge and sympathy of God. The suspected tribes appeal to the "Lord God of gods," who knows everything. When men misjudge, God sees the truth. It is better to be blamed by all the world and approved by god, than to win the world's approval at the expense of God's disapproval.
(4) We should explain our conduct when it is questioned by those in whose good opinion we are interested. The trans-Jordanic tribes made a full explanation of their motives in building the altar. The pride which disdains an explanation is
(a) foolish, for it injures ourselves;
(b) unjust, for it allows the world to suffer for a false impression; and
(c) ungenerous, since our brethren have a right to expect us to justify our conduct when this is possible.
II. CONSIDER THE INCIDENT IN RELATION TO THE TEN TRIBES. These tribes were hasty in judgment, but wise in conduct.
(1) Zeal for God's honour is always commendable. Phinehas and his friends feared dishonour to the name of God. It is well to be jealous for God's truth rather than for our private interest.
(2) We should be cautious of passing an adverse judgment on others. Phinehas was too hasty. Many are too ready to form an unfavourable opinion of the conduct of others. Charity should incline us to view this in the best light (1 Corinthians 13:7).
(3) Contentions often spring from mistakes. It is so in the wars of nations, in ecclesiastical differences, in personal quarrels.
(4) It is our duty to inquire well into the grounds of a quarrel before taking an active part on either side. The Israelites sent a deputation to their brethren. It is unjust to decide and act on the uncertain information of mere rumours. Before saying anything ill of a person we should endeavour to see the accused himself, and hear his explanation.
(5) We should frankly recognise our errors of judgment. The Israelites admitted their mistake. It is mean and unchristian to hold to a mistaken judgment from feelings of pride. The Christian should always work for peace (Matthew 5:9).—W.F.A.
The altar of witness.
I. THE OBJECTS AIMED AT. The Israelites were proved to have been in error when they assumed that the erection of the altar was a sign of religious schism and tribal secession. On the contrary, it was intended to prevent those very evils.
(1) It was erected to preserve the unity of the nation. National unity is always a desirable end of patriotic efforts. It secures strength, mutual help, brotherly sympathy, and the means of progress. Christians should aim at restoring the unity of the Church; or, where this is not possible, at preventing further divisions. While the external unity of the Church is broken, oneness of spirit and oneness of aim should be bonds of common sympathy between Christians. It would be well if Christians could make it evident that their points of difference are far less important than that common ground of essential faith on which all are united. Less emphasis would then be given to the internal controversies of the Church, and more weight to the great conflict with sin and unbelief and the great mission to evangelise the world.
(2) The altar was erected to maintain the religious faith of the trans-Jordanic tribes. Religion is more important to a people than fertile lands and well-built cities. We make a poor exchange when we sacrifice privileges of worship for worldly convenience. Separation from the ordinances of religion endangers the faith of religion. It should be our first duty to see that religious wants are supplied
(a) for ourselves,
(b) for our families,
(c) for destitute places, such as newly built suburbs of great towns, outlying hamlets, the colonies, etc.
II. THE DANGER FEARED. The men who built the altar of witness thought that the national unity and religious faith were endangered.
(1) Separation from the other tribes was a source of danger. It is difficult to be faithful when we stand alone.
(2) Time would increase the danger. These men built the altar with a view to the future. The severest test of faithfulness is the trial of endurance. Christians rarely forsake Christ suddenly. Early impressions linger for a time and fade gradually; but they will fade unless they are renewed. We cannot maintain the faith of a life on the lessons of youth. For constant faith we need constant "means of grace."
(3) New generations would be less fortified against the danger. The altar was built chiefly for the sake of the children of the future. The Church can only be maintained by bringing the children into the places of the elders as these pass away. Children do not become Christians instinctively, or by the influence of the mere atmosphere of religion about them; they must be taught and trained; therefore the education of the young should be a primary object of Christian work.
III. THE MEANS EMPLOYED. An altar of witness was erected. This was not for sacrifice and worship, to rival that of the tabernacle, like the altars attached to the calves at Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:28, 1 Kings 12:29).
(1) It was simply a visible symbol.
(a) It was a symbol—truth is often suggested most clearly by parables and illustrations.
(b) It was visible. Truth should be made clear and striking.
(c) It was substantial. Truth should be established by solid evidence, not melted down into vapid sentiments.
(d) It was enduring. We should not be satisfied with superficial impressions, but aim at establishing an enduring faith.
(2) The Christian has altars of witness, e.g.,
(a) the Bible preserved to us through the dark ages,
(b) the institutions of the Church, baptism, the Lord's supper, and public worship;
(c) inwardly to the Christian, the indwelling Christ who is first our altar of sacrifice and then our altar of witness, bearing testimony to the fact that we are His, and one with his true Church by the Spirit He gives to us, and the fruits of this Spirit in our lives (Romans 8:9).—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE
Joshua 22:26, Joshua 22:27
A misunderstanding removed.
Having completed their engagement, the auxiliaries of Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were dismissed by Joshua in peace and honour to their homes, now at length to settle down to the enjoyment of their possessions on the east of the Jordan. Joshua had strictly charged them "to love the Lord," and "to walk in all his ways," and to share with their brethren the spoils acquired in war. One of their first acts on arriving in Gilead was to erect an altar, conspicuous by size and position, and framed after the pattern of the altar before the tabernacle.
I. THE INTENTION of the eastern tribes.
(1) To have a memorial of their unity in religious faith with their brethren across the river. Religious ceremonies were inseparably interwoven with the national life, so that to be refused a right to participate in the former would imply a denial of their claim to kinship. The Jordan might hereafter be regarded as a natural barrier of exclusion from the privileges of dwellers in the land of promise. When the Reubenites, etc; had proffered their request to be permitted to dwell on the east of the river, they had not perceived this possible difficulty so clearly, but now, after having trodden the promised land, and viewed the habitations of their brethren, they were seized with anxiety lest in after years they might be regarded as "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel." Their conduct exhibits a respect for God. Their chief care was not for horses or trophies of war, but for the preservation of a common interest in the worship of the true God, and all the advantages thereby secured. They feared the selfishness of the human heart. Men so often like to reserve to themselves peculiar honours and privileges, to be esteemed the only true people of the covenant. Brotherly love and sympathy are forgotten in the attempt to surround ourselves with walls of exclusiveness. And against this narrowing of the national bounds the altar was to be a continual guard, a silent yet eloquent and forcible "witness" to the brotherhood of all the tribes. And amongst Christians of today some such voice is not unneeded to remind us of our common interest in the "altar" (Hebrews 13:10), the cross of Christ, whereby we are made "one body."
(2) To prevent a lapse into idolatry on the part of their descendants. The altar would be a standing reminder of the commandment of God, which forbade the rearing of strange altars for sacrifice. These easterns showed a right sense of the importance of preserving the religion of their fathers, and of handing it down uncorrupted to remotest ages. If the knowledge of the true God vanished, then farewell to all prosperity! What a hint to parents! Men toil to gather wealth for their heirs, to found an estate, to perpetuate the family name; it is more important to perpetuate piety, to train up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. "The fear of the Lord" (verse 25) is the choicest treasure which children can inherit, and apart from it riches do not prove a blessing. Religion and prosperity eventually go hand in hand. Statesmen, if wise, will seek to establish the throne in righteousness. Their aim will be that religion shall flourish in the land, not necessarily by direct enactments, but by removal of all restrictions to its progress. It is not our commerce, our art, our resources for war that constitute our strength or hope for the future, but love to God, the prevalence of honesty and integrity, peace and truth. We need not so much ascendancy over other nations as over ourselves, our own passions and prejudices, vices and errors.
(3) To secure the offerings of the proper sacrifices at the tabernacle. Not only rights were remembered, but consequent duties. The altar would ever call these tribes to attend to the performance of their obligations, not to neglect "the service of the Lord." Some of the people would have a long distance to travel, and might grow weary of providing for ceremonies celebrated at such a distance from their dwellings. What shall be the "witness" in each household, testifying to the duty incumbent upon its members to contribute of their substance to the support of God's cause? The Bible? The missionary box? And in our churches the first day of the week is a mute appeal, seconded by the gathering now and again around the table of the Lord.
II. THE INDIGNATION of the western tribes.
(1) Exhibited in a striking manner their jealousy for the Lord God. Though these brethren had been lately endangering their lives and strength on their behalf, marching at their head and capturing their places of abode, nevertheless this kindness does not excuse an after fault. Our gratitude must not blind us to derelictions on the part of our friends. It were mistaken love that hesitated to reprove error. Nor did the westerns delay, they were prompt in action to prepare to root out evil. They knew the value of early attention to it. A little water quenches a fire which, if allowed time to spread, will surpass the power of a flood to extinguish. Let us not say of any sin, "Is it not a little one?" Attack the disease at its commencement or it will defy all treatment! Better lose a limb than the whole body.
(2) Manifested the abiding impression produced by past events. Peor and its dreadful plague, Achan with the loss in battle and dire retribution exacted from the offender and his family, had written in letters of fire and blood the wrath of God against iniquity. The lessons were remembered. Punishment graves the commandment deep within the conscience. Well for us if the past is not forgotten, its events recorded not on the sands but on the rocks. The reasoning of the Israelites was clear. If two and a half tribes transgressed, surely it was to be feared that God would chastise the entire nation; perhaps blot it out from under heaven, since lie had in previous days manifested such severe displeasure at the defection of a few of the people. We cannot allow our brother to persevere in sin and ourselves remain unharmed. The contagion spreads. "Am I my brother's keeper?" is a foolish inquiry and a groundless plea.
(3) Rested on a misunderstanding. And so does much of the strife which prevails. It is frequently impossible for men to know all the reasons by which others are actuated, and a partial view is often unjust. We do not advocate false leniency, or a total suspension of judgment. In the sermon wherein our Lord gave the warning, "Judge not that ye be not judged," He also declared, "By their fruits ye shall know them." We are apt to be hasty in drawing our conclusions, and it is probable that concerning a brother's behaviour we are especially quick in rushing to an adverse judgment. If acquainted with all the circumstances we might praise where now we blame. Let us try to avoid putting uncharitable constructions upon each other's acts. Appearances deceive. In heaven the harmony of love will be perfect, for we shall know even as also we are known. No veil of flesh shall intercept the vision of the spirit. Every signal flashed is clearly deciphered in the pure light of the presence of God; there is no cloud, no haze, to mar the reflection of His glory.
III. THE MISUNDERSTANDING REMOVED.
(1) The right method was pursued by the complainants. Before proceeding to the arbitrament of the sword they resolved to send an influential deputation to remonstrate, and to seek to dissuade their brethren from the indulgence of idolatrous practices. They manifested their sincerity and affection by offering to provide settlements within the land of Palestine, if the eastern tribes were now repenting of having chosen an unclean possession (verse 19). Such is the method of dealing with brethren whom we believe to be sinning against God. Inquire and expostulate! "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." Reformation is better than excommunication. Wisdom and affection concur in urging the adoption of such a course.
(2) The apparent offenders displayed similar reasonableness of spirit. They willingly explained what they had done; did not stand sullenly upon their rights, refusing to render reasons for their action. They did not ask what business their brethren had to interfere with them, "Who made you rulers and judges over us?' Their procedure conveys lessons for modern days. Peaceable overtures must be peaceably met, and even unjustifiable suspicion must be pardoned.
(3) The suspected altar became a pleasing object to all. The explanation was accepted, and the deputation, gratified with the answer they received, bore home a favourable account, and the dispute was amicably terminated. The end was even better than the beginning, for the affair reflected credit upon all concerned. God grant that all misapprehensions among believers may vanish with equal celerity and happiness! that no root of bitterness be allowed to spring up and trouble them. Nothing should delight us more than to be enabled to exonerate our brethren from blame. ]Discovery of their freedom from guilt is a sweet proof of the presence of God in our midst (v. 31).
CONCLUSION. This narration begets the inquiry whether we have any part in the Lord. Can any secret place of prayer, or any word or deed testify that the Lord is our God? The strongest union is formed by religious ties. Where families are thus united the bands of love axe indissolubly cemented. Have we a family altar, not material but spiritual, a witness to the Lord? May the lessons thus derived from an old book be indelibly stamped upon our hearts.—A.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
God's presence manifested in the faithful conduct of His people.
I. GOD IS PRESENT IN THE MIDST OF HIS FAITHFUL PEOPLE. By the nature of things, God is present everywhere (Psalms 139:7-10). Yet there is a more intimate and revealed presence of God which is not universal, but which is the peculiar privilege of some, while to others it is denied. This consists in the outflow of sympathy, the exercise of special grace, the nearness of spiritual communion. Two persons can be locally near, and yet in thought and sympathy very distant from one another. Spiritual presence is conditioned not by space but by sympathy. When we are out of sympathy with God He is far from us. When we are one with Him in sympathy He is near. This is a real presence. God does not simply send blessings and breathe benedictions from a distance. He makes the bodies of His people a temple (1 Corinthians 6:9), and their hearts the home of His Spirit (John 14:23).
II. GOD'S PRESENCE IS A FACT OF GREAT INTEREST TO HIS PEOPLE. Phinehas expresses satisfaction in the recognition of God's presence.
(1) God's presence should be a source of blessing, since
(a) He is our father, and we are homeless without Him;
(b) He is the Almighty One, and we are full of need;
(c) He is the light and life of all things, and without Him we are in darkness and death, like a planet without its sun.
(2) God's presence is proved by experience to be a source of blessing, bestowing
The possession of all the treasures of the world without God would leave the soul poor indeed. His presence is a pearl of great price.
III. GOD'S PRESENCE CAN BE RECOGNISED BY THE CONDUCT OF HIS PEOPLE.
(1) God's presence is discernible. It is not for ever secret and hidden. Phinehas perceives the presence of the Lord. We do not always perceive it, but there are events which make it strikingly apparent. If we know how to recognise it, we need not be always asking, "Is the Lord among us or no?" but, like Hagar (Genesis 16:13) and Jacob (Genesis 28:16), we shall be surprised and satisfied with the manifestation of God in our midst.
(2) God's presence is manifested in the conduct of His people.
(a) It is not proved by our opinions: we may have very correct ideas about the nature and character of God while we are far from Him.
(b) It is not made manifest by our feelings: emotions are deceptive, and very strong religious feelings may be found in a very godless life.
(c) It is seen in conduct.
IV. THE CONDUCT WHICH PROVES THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS FAITHFULNESS IN HIS SERVICE. Phinehas perceives "that the Lord is among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the Lord." Faithfulness in the service of God, and a consequent spirit of brotherly kindness and sympathy, such as that now manifested among the tribes of Israel, are good signs of the presence of God in a Church.
(1) His presence is the cause of fidelity. Our fidelity reveals His presence, but it does not secure it. He is present first, and inspires devotion, and binds His people together in united affection through their common devotion to Him.
(2) He must need depart from His people when they become unfaithful. No past enjoyment of God will secure His abiding presence. If God depart, though wealth and ease and numbers testify to apparent prosperity, we may exclaim, "Ichabod—the glory has departed."—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
Joshua 22:30, Joshua 22:31
A mistake and its rectification.
When Joshua dismissed the trans-Jordanic tribes to their homes he pronounced his benediction upon them, in grateful acknowledgment of the services they had rendered to their brethren of the other tribes, and with full confidence in their loyalty to the God of Israel. It soon seemed, however, as if this confidence had been misplaced. Their building of a "great altar over against the Land of Canaan" had a suspicious appearance. What could it be intended for but as a rival to the altar at Shiloh, and therefore a wicked violation of the Divine command in reference to the one chosen place of sacrifice? (Le Joshua 17:8, Joshua 17:9; Deuteronomy 12:1-32). The issue proved this suspicion to be groundless; and what seemed likely at first to lead to a serious breach in the religious unity of the nation ended in a signal manifestation of the presence of the "one Lord" in the midst of it (verse 31). We see here—
I. A NOBLE EXAMPLE OF ZEAL FOR GOD AND FOR THE PURITY OF HIS WORSHIP. It was a true instinct that warned the leaders of the ten tribes of the danger of a rival altar on the other side of the Jordan. They saw how easily the river might become a cause of moral and spiritual separation, the geographical boundary a dividing line of conflicting sympathies and interests. A flame of holy indignation was kindled within them at the thought of the glory of Israel being thus turned to shame. Their zeal is shown
(1) in their instant resolution forcibly to arrest the evil at its very beginning (verse 12). Though they had so lately ceased from war, they will at once take up arms again, even against their brethren and compatriots, rather than suffer this wickedness to be done.
(2) In the wise measures they adopt. They will hear and judge before they strike, and the dignity of the appointed court of inquiry (Phinehas and a representative prince from each of the tribes) indicates their sense of the solemnity of the crisis.
(3) In the earnestness of their remonstrance. Their words are somewhat overstrained (verse 16). The slightest departure from the appointed order is to them an act of guilty rebellion.
(4) In the sense they have of the latent propensities of the people to idolatry, in spite of all the sad lessons of the past (verse 17).
(5) In their readiness to suffer loss themselves by the narrowing of their own inheritance rather than this supposed evil should be done. All of which is greatly to their honour, inasmuch as it shows how true they were to their allegiance to the God of Israel, and how earnest their purpose to maintain the religious unity of the commonwealth.
II. A SUCCESSFUL ACT OF SELF VINDICATION. If the suspected tribes were rash in raising the altar without having first consulted the heads of the nation, and especially the high priest from whom the will of God was to be known, and without duly considering the aspect it might bear to their brethren on the other side of the river, yet they themselves were also wronged by this too hasty judgment on the meaning and motive of their deed. The honesty of their purpose is abundantly made manifest. Note
(1) the spirit in which they receive the remonstrance. This at once bespeaks the purity of their intent. It is a serious charge that is brought against them, but they meet it with no angry recrimination. There is surprise, but nothing like resentment. This, perhaps, not only quenched the arrow of rebuke, but turned it back upon the source from whence it came. "Innocence doth make false accusation blush," and the guilelessness of their bearing must have brought a feeling of shame to their accusers, for having so hastily condemned them. In nothing is the moral quality of a man indicated more than in the way in which he receives an unmerited rebuke.
(2) Their desire to approve themselves to their brethren, as well as to Him who knew what was in their hearts. "The Lord God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know" (verse 22). No right feeling man will be indifferent to the good opinion of his fellow men.
(3) Their thorough religious sympathy with the leaders of the people. The building of the altar, instead of being meant as an act of revolt, was done "for fear of this very thing." We are reminded not only how possible it is to mistake men's motives, but how the same motive may prompt to actions that seem to be at variance. Formal differences and separations in the Church are not necessarily schism. They may be the outgrowth of that very loyalty to truth and conscience which is one of the main elements of its living unity. The principle that binds men in allegiance to Christ may be at the root of much that seems to separate them from one another. A truly upright spirit rejoices in spiritual uprightness that may assume forms widely different from its own; and that is the most Christian conscience that most respects the consciences of others.
(4) Their prudent regard to the possibilities of the future. Not as a substitute for the altar at Shiloh, but as the shadow and memorial of it, did they rear this altar; that their children, looking upon it, might never fail to claim their part and lot in the fellowship of Israel. The loyalty of a godly soul will always manifest itself in the desire and practical endeavour to hand down its own inheritance of blessing unimpaired to coming generations.
III. A GREAT CALAMITY AVERTED BY A POLICY OF MUTUAL FORBEARANCE. What might have been a disastrous feud was arrested at the beginning by a few frank outspoken words. Honesty of purpose on the one side detected and appreciated honesty of purpose on the other. The "soft answer turned away wrath." "Charity covered the multitude of sins." And thus the very altar that seemed likely to break the bond of the nation's unity, rather became a witness to it and a means of strengthening it. So may it ever be. The true cure for the discords of social life and of Church life lies in fidelity to conscience, tempered by the forbearance of love. "If thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between him and thee alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother" (Matthew 18:15). "Let us not therefore judge one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way" (Romans 14:18).—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26