Joshua 22:10-20 (NIV) 10 When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. 11 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, 12 the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them. 13 So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead–to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 14 With him they sent ten of the chief men, one for each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans. 15 When they went to Gilead–to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh–they said to them: 16 “The whole assembly of the LORD says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? 17 Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the LORD! 18 And are you now turning away from the LORD? “‘If you rebel against the LORD today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. 19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the LORD’s land, where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the LORD or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the LORD our God. 20 When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.'”
On verses 10-20: The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh (whom I’ll call collectively, “Team RGM”) are traveling on their way back to Gilead, their lands located east of the Jordan River. On their way to Gilead they stop and build a huge altar on the western or “Israelite” side of the Jordan River (v10). When the rest of the tribes see the huge altar that Team RGM have built, they immediately assume that Team RGM were worshiping another god. So the rest of the Israelites prepare to go to war against Team RGM. They send a delegation consisting of Phinehas the priest’s son and some tribal leaders to speak with Team RGM’s leaders. The delegation accuses Team RGM of turning away from the Lord. The delegation compares what Team RGM have done to “the sin of Peor” (v17), which happened generations prior when some Israelite men slept with Canaanite women and worshiped their gods (see Numbers 25). The delegation also compares what Team RGM have done to the sin of Achan in Joshua 7 where Achan coveted the wealth of other nations and died as a result (v20).
Later in verses 21 to 29 we will learn that the reason why Team RGM built this altar on the western side of the Jordan had nothing to do with worshiping another god. On the contrary, Team RGM built this huge altar as a visual reminder for all the Israelites and their descendants that, regardless of which side of the river they lived on, Team RGM and the other tribes of Israel were one nation worshiping the same Lord together.
What can we learn from this? Notice that the Israelite tribes living to the west of the Jordan jumped to the conclusion that Team RGM were sinning by worshiping another god, when in fact they were doing the opposite. They began accusing Team RGM before they fully understood the situation. They could have benefitted from following James 1:19, which tells us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Thus one lesson we can learn from this event is: before you reach a conclusion about someone, before you accuse them of anything, be sure you understand the situation first. Don’t jump to conclusions before understanding the situation. Look before you leap. As Proverbs 18:13 (TLB) says,
13 What a shame—yes, how stupid!—to decide before knowing the facts!
You will save yourself and others a lot of unnecessary embarrassment, trouble and conflict if you would ask questions and understand the other side’s situation first before arriving at your conclusion.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word which shows me the importance of looking before I leap. May I be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to be angry. May I not foolishly jump to conclusions before trying to fully understand the situation first. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!