Joshua, Chapter 22

- א כ א -

The Tribes East of the Jordan River Build an Altar

Joshua encourages the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh to return to their lands on the eastern bank of the Jordan River; because they have already fulfilled their promise to help conquer Canaan, they can now go home. Joshua sends them on their way with blessings and a portion of the spoils. The eastern tribes build what seems like an alternative altar, which infuriates their brethren on the western bank. 

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh explain that they do not intend to worship an alternative or competing altar, but have rather built a monument symbolizing the common destiny of all twelve tribes on both sides of the Jordan River. A delegation is sent to look at the altar and returns home convinced of the eastern tribes’ sincerity. Civil war is averted. The Israelites understand that harmony must prevail. They are surrounded by multiple enemies and therefore need to work together, overcome their differences, and accept each other’s imperfections. Only then can they prosper and progress.

“But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law… to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways” (Joshua 22:5)

 “What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel… in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD?” (Joshua 22:16)

“But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD… that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD” (Joshua 22:27)

Sociability is finding purpose and joy by connecting to others, in the context of family and community.