Joshua 22:21-34

Talks for Growing Christians

The Two and One-half Tribes Explain the Purpose of the Altar

Joshua 22:21-34

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Lesson Number 31

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. It is wrong for believers not to think ahead.
  2. It is right for believers not to retaliate.

Practical Application

  1. What kind of message are you sending to the next generation?


  1. What was the basic problem between the tribal divisions?
  2. How was the situation resolved?
  3. Why is Joshua 22 a good chapter to study whenever misunderstandings arise between believers, whether it be in a Christian family, a Christian ministry, or in the church?
  4. In what way were both divisions wrong?
  5. How did God safeguard a common worship of Himself by His people?


  1. The two and one-half tribes built an altar, which caused great concern on the part of the other tribes, thinking that they were setting up a separate system of worship. In their eyes, this was rebellion, apostasy, idolatry.
  2. The accusing party sent a committee to investigate, and found that the motives were pure, that they had built only a memorial replica of the true altar at Shiloh to be a witness to their families for generations to come. Their interpretation was that even though they lived on the east side of the Jordan River they were part of Israel that lived on the west side. They were one nation under God.
  3. When a major misunderstanding took place between the two divisions of tribes, it nearly caused a civil war. Fortunately, an investigating committee was set up to understand the real reason for their actions. When the "offending" party was given an opportunity to explain their actions, the "accusing" party realized they had misjudged their motives. Not only was war averted, but the two divisions realized that they were one nation under God.
  4. Even though their motives were good, the east siders failed to think ahead as to how their actions might be interpreted by the west siders. The west siders were quick to judge (misjudge) the motives of their brothers.
  5. God chose a central sanctuary in the land where all His people were to come to worship. Read Deuteronomy 16:16-17.


  1. The east siders failed to think ahead as to what their actions might mean to their brothers, even though their motives were good. We need to avoid even the appearance of evil to others. This means thinking about a situation and prejuding our own actions in light of others.
  2. It would have been easy and "natural" for the east siders to retaliate, but they didn't. Instead, they responded, "The Lord knows! If we are in error, let the Lord Himself require an account." They were willing to be disciplined if they were wrong. What a great lesson for us! Read 1 Peter 5:6 for a proper attitude in such a situation.


  1. Be careful of the message you are sending to the next generation. Think before you act. Make sure your motives are pure and your actions read rightly.
  2. When the older generation faithfully follows and worships the Lord, then the next generation will get the message. Is this the message you are sending?

Key Verses

  • "The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods! He knows!" (Joshua 22:22)
  • "If we have done wrong, may the Lord Himself require an account." (Joshua 22:23)
  • "Let us build an altar as a witness between you and us and our generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at His sanctuary." (Joshua 22:26-27)

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