Good morning!

Greetings in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.



Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!  (Psalm 133:1)

In the sweeping saga of ancient history, painted vividly with conquests and underscored by divine promises, there emerges a compelling narrative that explores the depths of human connection and the formidable power of unity. This narrative unfolds in the 22nd chapter of the Book of Joshua, a text that captures a critical moment in the lives of the Israelite tribes. As they settle into their newly claimed territories—a land flowing with promise and potential—the bonds that have held them together through decades of wandering and warfare are tested in an unexpected way.


This test comes not from external enemies but from within their own ranks, presenting a unique challenge to the fabric of their unity. As the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh prepare to return to their allotted lands across the Jordan River, their actions spark a serious misunderstanding among the Israelite community. The construction of a significant altar by the Jordan becomes a focal point of contention, misinterpreted by the other tribes as an act of defiance against shared religious convictions. 


This unfolding drama provides a profound exploration of the themes of trust, misunderstanding, and the effort required for reconciliation. It is a story that not only highlights the challenges inherent in maintaining unity but also illustrates the transformative power of addressing conflicts through understanding and dialogue. The lessons gleaned from this chapter are not just historical footnotes but are deeply relevant, offering timeless wisdom on the importance of unity and brotherhood in any community.





The Challenge of Misinterpretation


After years of wandering in the wilderness, battling kings, and conquering lands under divine guidance, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh stood ready to return to their allotted territories east of the Jordan River. Their journey had been one of collective struggle and shared victories, binding the tribes of Israel in a bond of deep mutual dependence and spiritual commitment. However, before crossing the Jordan to settle in their lands, these tribes did something that would test the unity of the entire Israelite congregation—they built an imposing altar by the banks of the Jordan River.


This action, intended as a commemorative gesture, was misinterpreted by the other tribes of Israel, leading to a significant crisis. The altar, rather than being seen as a symbol of shared faith and continuity with their brethren across the Jordan, was perceived as an act of rebellion and a breach of the covenant with God. The rest of the Israelites feared that by setting up their own altar, the eastern tribes were creating a rival center of worship that could lead to idolatry, as forbidden in the law (Deuteronomy 12:13-14), “Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, but at the place that the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.”


The swift escalation of concerns into potential conflict underscores how quickly unity can be threatened by misinterpretation. The altar, meant to be a link of faith and a reminder of shared heritage and obligations, was misconstrued as a divisive and rebellious act. This situation highlights the fragility of peace within communities and the ease with which misunderstandings can spiral out of control when communication falters.


This incident in the biblical narrative teaches a crucial lesson on the importance of seeking clarity and understanding beyond initial appearances. It is a poignant reminder that effective communication is essential in maintaining harmony within any group. The potential conflict was rooted not in actual disobedience to God’s commands, but in a lack of communication about the intentions behind the actions of the eastern tribes.


The resolution of this misunderstanding, as detailed later in the chapter, involved direct dialogue and a willingness to listen and understand the perspectives of others. This approach not only prevented conflict but also reinforced the bonds of unity among the tribes by clarifying the true purpose of the altar—it was meant as a witness between them that they, too, worship the Lord (Joshua 22:27), “that your children might not say to our children in time to come, ‘You have no portion in the Lord.’


Thus, this episode within the Book of Joshua serves as a powerful illustration of the importance of transparency, dialogue, and the active pursuit of peace. It invites us to reflect on our own interactions and the ways in which we might misinterpret the actions of others due to insufficient communication. In our communities and personal relationships, this story urges us to prioritize understanding and dialogue, thereby ensuring that unity is preserved through the bonds of shared faith and mutual respect.





The Power of Constructive Dialogue


Recognizing the potentially explosive nature of the misunderstanding surrounding the altar built by the eastern tribes, the Israelite leadership took a deliberate and thoughtful approach to address the issue. Rather than leaping to conclusions or resorting to military action, a delegation led by Phinehas the priest, known for his zeal in upholding God’s commands, was dispatched to engage in direct dialogue with the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. This proactive step highlights the critical importance of dialogue in resolving conflicts and underscores the scriptural principle that wise counsel and understanding should precede action.


The delegation’s journey across the Jordan was driven by a desire to understand the intentions behind the construction of the altar, which was perceived as a potential violation of the covenant with God. The law was clear that Israel was to have only one altar for sacrifices, located at the tabernacle, as emphasized in Deuteronomy 12:5-6, “But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.”


As the discussions unfolded, the eastern tribes eloquently explained that the altar was not intended for sacrifices but was erected as a “witness” between them and the other tribes. They feared that future generations might deny them access to the Lord’s altar at Shiloh, claiming they had no part in Israel’s religious community because of their geographical separation by the Jordan. They stated, “The replica of the altar was to witness between us that the Lord is God” (Joshua 22:34), reinforcing their commitment to the unity of Israel and the shared worship of Yahweh.


This revelation from the eastern tribes averted a disastrous conflict and proved to be a profound lesson in the power of open communication. It highlighted how misinterpretations can lead to conflict, and how these can be effectively resolved through earnest dialogue, seeking to understand each other’s perspectives. This incident thus serves as a testament to the value of transparency and the willingness to listen—a combination that can transform potential strife into an opportunity to strengthen communal ties.


Moreover, this scenario underscores the broader biblical theme that peace and unity are often achieved not through force or coercion, but through understanding and mutual respect. The willingness of both parties to engage in dialogue, coupled with their shared commitment to faith and community, ultimately enhanced the bonds between them, ensuring that the altar stood as a symbol of unity, not division.


In conclusion, the resolution of the conflict over the altar in Joshua 22 is a compelling illustration of how proactive communication and a willingness to understand the motivations of others are indispensable in preserving unity within any community. It teaches us that when faced with disagreements or misunderstandings, our first recourse should be dialogue and a quest for understanding, guided by a commitment to shared values and mutual respect. This approach not only resolves disputes but also strengthens relationships, building a foundation for lasting peace and cooperation.





The Strengthening of Bonds through Shared Values


The resolution of the conflict surrounding the altar built by the eastern tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Joshua 22 offers a profound illustration of the essential elements that foster true unity. Initially a source of serious discord, the altar ultimately emerged as a poignant symbol of unity and mutual respect among the tribes of Israel. This transformation highlights a vital principle: at the heart of any robust community are shared values and commitments that, when properly recognized and celebrated, have the power to resolve conflicts and strengthen bonds.


The eastern tribes’ intention behind constructing the altar was deeply misunderstood by their fellow Israelites, who feared a breach of their sacred covenant with God—a covenant that commanded worship at a singular altar to prevent idolatry and maintain religious purity as decreed in Exodus 20:24, “An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.” However, upon learning that the altar was intended as a monument to their shared faith and commitment to this covenant, the other tribes’ perceptions shifted from suspicion and accusation to understanding and affirmation.


This incident vividly demonstrates that unity is not merely about avoiding conflict but actively involves cultivating relationships based on shared beliefs and objectives. The altar, initially a point of contention, became a testament to the tribes’ common dedication to worshiping the God of Israel and maintaining a spiritual connection despite geographical separation. It stood as a declaration that their unity transcended physical boundaries and was rooted in a collective commitment to their faith and values.


Furthermore, the story encourages us to examine the fundamental values that connect us with others. In any community, whether ancient or modern, the recognition of shared values is crucial. By identifying and reinforcing these common beliefs, a community can enhance its cohesion and resilience. The experience of the Israelite tribes invites us to actively engage in practices that reinforce these bonds—be it through shared rituals, mutual agreements, or communal gatherings that celebrate and solidify our common ground.


This narrative also teaches that effective communication and a willingness to seek understanding are key in overcoming misunderstandings and fostering unity. When the leaders of the Israelites chose dialogue over immediate retribution, they opened a pathway to deeper mutual respect and cooperation, which ultimately strengthened the entire community. This proactive approach to conflict resolution, grounded in a desire to understand before reacting, is a powerful model for any community navigating the complexities of internal and external challenges.


In conclusion, the resolution of the misunderstanding in Joshua 22 serves as a compelling reminder of the strength of shared values in forging and fortifying community bonds. The story of the altar teaches us that unity is a dynamic and proactive endeavor that requires not only the avoidance of conflict but the active cultivation of communal ties through shared beliefs and mutual respect. It challenges us to reflect on the foundational values that unite us with others and to commit ourselves to practices that not only celebrate but also strengthen these essential bonds. By doing so, we can build communities that are not only resilient in the face of misunderstanding but are also vibrant in their expression of shared faith and purpose.




Summary: Lessons in Unity


The narrative found in Joshua 22 provides a compelling exploration of the challenges and triumphs associated with maintaining unity within a community. It highlights a critical moment when misunderstanding and misinterpretation almost led to conflict among the tribes of Israel. This story not only reflects the difficulties inherent in sustaining communal harmony but also illustrates how such challenges can be transformed into opportunities for strengthening bonds, provided there is a commitment to open dialogue, mutual respect, and understanding.


As the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh construct an altar by the Jordan, their actions are initially misinterpreted by the other Israelite tribes as a sign of rebellion against the covenant with God. This misunderstanding threatens to disrupt the unity that had been painstakingly built over years of struggle and cooperation. However, instead of rushing to judgment or resorting to conflict, the concerned tribes send a delegation led by Phinehas the priest to engage directly and understand the intentions behind this seemingly divisive act. This proactive approach of seeking clarity through dialogue unveils the true purpose of the altar—not for sacrifice, but as a symbol of shared faith and a witness to their unbroken commitment to God and each other.


This incident underscores the vital role that communication plays in resolving conflicts and maintaining unity. It teaches us that misunderstandings, while challenging, are also opportunities for communities to engage more deeply, clarify intentions, and reinforce their commitment to shared values and objectives. The resolution of the conflict in Joshua 22 serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative potential of understanding and the strength of unity forged through a common purpose.

As we navigate the complexities of our own relationships, whether personal, professional, or spiritual, the story from Joshua 22 encourages us to value open communication and mutual respect. It invites us to actively seek and celebrate the shared values that connect us, to embrace dialogue as a tool for overcoming differences, and to recognize the strength that comes from a united approach to challenges. In doing so, we not only avoid unnecessary conflicts but also build more resilient and supportive communities in Him, which are capable of withstanding the tests of misunderstanding and time.


Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank You for the lessons of unity shown through the tribes of Israel. Guide us in fostering understanding and respect within our own communities. Help us to communicate openly, to listen earnestly, and to build bonds over the shared values in Christ we hold dear. May we always remember that in unity, there is strength, and through Your divine guidance, we can overcome any misunderstanding in You.





Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  (Ephesians 4:3)