Joshua 22: East vs. West
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Joshua 22: East vs. West

Original Publication Date
August 6, 2016
Updated
Jun 3, 2023 7:19 PM
Tags
JoshuaChapter StudyTempleSacrificeDivision of Israel
Bible References

Joshua 22

Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on August 6, 2016 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Introduction

The Israelites almost had a civil war during the early days of the nation, which could be a foreshadowing of their eventual split into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Southern Kingdom of Judah. However, unlike the eventual split of Israel and the civil war of the U.S., the initial squabble was not between the north and the south, but the east and west.

Fulfillment of the Oath

Now that all of the tribes had an inheritance, Joshua considered the tribes of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh successful at fulfilling their oath to march into battle until Israel possessed the land. Thus, the 2 and a half tribes are dismissed to return to their inheritances east of the Jordan. They are given spoils of war to take with them and share amongst the members of their tribe back home. When they return to the east, they build a grand altar; this is what sparks the confrontation.

Declaring War

When the residents of the west see this grand altar, they are furious and ready to declare war. In preparation for the war, they send Phineas, son of Eleazar and presumably the acting high priest, along with 10 princes from the tribes to negotiate with the eastern tribes. As an aside, I'd like to point out that despite their misgivings about the altar, the eastern tribes did not rush into war; instead, they used a diplomatic approach first.

The issue was that sacrifices were only to occur at the altar specified by God, which was in the tabernacle at Shiloh (in the west). The western tribes feared the eastern tribes were positioning themselves to disobey God and begin sacrificing animals in an unauthorized location or possibly to an idol. This would have brought the wrath of God on the entirety of Israel. As such, the western tribes recognized it as their duty to prevent such a thing from happening.

Misunderstandings

The eastern tribes quickly deny the western tribes' accusation. They reveal that the altar they constructed was meant to serve as a sign of unity and link them to the western tribes. Since they resided outside of the promised land, they desired a symbol marking their land as God's land. The tribes explained that in the future, when generations asked about their relationship to those to the west, they could show that they worshipped the same God. The eastern tribes decried any desire or intention of sacrificing on the altar. This explanation pleased the western Israelites greatly. Upon settling the matter, the tribes of Reuben and Gad named the altar Ed, which meant witness.

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