Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Joshua
Book: Joshua
Chapter: 22

Reuben and Gad, with the half Tribe of Manasseh, dismissed to
their homes. (1-9) They build an Altar of Testimony, The
Congregation offended thereat. (10-20) The answer of the
Reubenites. (21-29) The children of Israel satisfied. (30-34)

1-9 Joshua dismisses the tribes with good counsel. Those who
have the commandment have it in vain, unless they do the
commandment; and it will not be done aright unless we take
diligent heed. In particular to Love the Lord our God, as the
best of beings, and the best of friends; and as far as that
principle rules in the Heart, there will be constant care and
endeavour to walk in his ways, even those that are narrow and
up-Hill. In every instance to keep his Commandments. At all
times, and in all conditions, with purpose of Heart to cleave
unto the Lord, and to serve him and his kingdom among men, with
all our Heart, and with all our soul. This good counsel is given
to all; may God give us Grace to take it!

10-20 Here is the care of the separated tribes to keep their
Hold of Canaan's religion. At first sight it seemed a design to
set up an Altar against the Altar at Shiloh. God is jealous for
his own institutions; we should be So too, and afraid of every
thing that looks like, or leads to Idolatry. Corruptions in
religion are best dealt with at first. But their prudence in
following up this zealous resolution is No less commendable.
Many an unhappy strife would be prevented, or soon made up, By
inquiries into the matter of the Offence. The remembrance of
great sins committed formerly, should engage us to stand On our
Guard against the beginnings of Sin; for the way of Sin is
down-Hill. We are all concerned to reprove our neighbour when he
does amiss, lest we suffer Sin upon him, Le 19:17. The offer
made that they should be welcome to come to the land where the
Lord's Tabernacle was, and settle there, was in the Spirit of
true Israelites.

21-29 The tribes took the reproofs of their brethren in good
part. With solemnity and Meekness they proceeded to give all the
satisfaction in their power. Reverence of God is expressed in
the form of their Appeal. This brief Confession of Faith would
remove their brethren's suspicion that they intended to Worship
other gods. Let us always speak of God with seriousness, and
mention his name with a solemn pause. Those who make appeals to
Heaven with a careless "God knows," take his name in vain: it is
very unlike this. They express great confidence of their own
uprightness in the matter of their Appeal. "God knows it," for
he is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and intents of the
Heart. In every thing we do in religion, it highly concerns us
to approve ourselves to God, remembering that he knows the
Heart. And if our sincerity be known to God, we should study
likewise to let others know it By its fruits, especially those
who, though they mistake us, show zeal for the Glory of God.
They disdained the design of which they were suspected to be
guilty, and fully explained their true intent in Building this
Altar. Those who have found the comfort and benefit of God's
ordinances, cannot but desire to preserve them to their seed,
and to use all possible care that their children may be looked
upon as having a part in him. Christ is the great Altar that
sanctifies every Gift; the best evidence of our interest in him
is the work of his Spirit in our hearts.

30-34 It is Well that there was On both sides a disposition to
peace, as there was a zeal for God; for quarrels about religion,
for want of Wisdom and Love, often prove the most fierce and
difficult to be made up. Proud and peevish spirits, when they
have passed any unjust blame On their brethren, though full
evidence be brought of its unfairness, can By No means be
persuaded to withdraw it. But Israel was not So prejudiced. They
looked upon their brethren's innocence as a token of God's
presence. Our brethren's zeal for the power of Godliness, and
Faith and Love, notwithstanding the fears of their breaking the
unity of the Church, are things of which we should be very glad
to be satisfied. The Altar was called Ed, a Witness. It was a
Witness of their care to keep their religion pure and entire,
and would Witness against their descendants, if they should turn
from following after the Lord. Happy will it be when all
professed Christians learn to copy the Example of Israel, to
unite zeal and steady adherence to the cause of Truth, with
candour, Meekness, and readiness to understand each other, to
explain and to be satisfied with the explanations of their
brethren. May the Lord increase the number of those who
endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the Bond of peace!
may increasing Grace and consolation be with all who Love Jesus
Christ in sincerity!