Unity: Joshua 22

Coincides with Sunday,  November 6, 2016

Today’s study is based on one of the few Old Testament stories that shows brothers dwelling together in unity. From the sibling rivalries of Genesis (Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, etc.) to the tribal disputes of Judges and Kings, God’s people have never done well at simply getting along with one another. This story, therefore, stands out as a rare jewel in the larger narrative of conflict, and gives insight into fostering and maintaining good relationships.

Preliminary question

  • From your own experience and/or observation, what are some of the main reasons for conflict?

TAKING IN: Understanding?

  • What are the repeated words and ideas?
  • Get your bearings for this story by looking at the map of the 12 tribes. The conflict will be taking place by the separation of the Jordan river. Why do you think that presence of this river would have made tribal unity more challenging?
  • Why do you think Joshua needed to emphasize to the tribes east of the Jordan that they needed to be very careful to obey the law of Moses (22:5)?
  • Why did the tribes on the west side of the Jordan gather to make war on the western tribes (22:12)? What do you learn from this about conflict? What do you think about the actions of both sides prior to the conflict?
  • Observe the speech of the western tribes in verses 16-20. What presumptions and fears were they acting from?
  • Observe the speech of the eastern tribes in 22-30. What were their motives for building the altar?
  • No one really apologizes in this story? Why not?
  • In the entire book, this is the only story from which Joshua is absent (after he blessed and sent home the eastern tribes). What do you think might be the reason for this?
  • The altar was intended to be a witness for the coming generations that they all served the same God. Why would this be important?

LIVING OUT: Applying

  • The Jordan became a potential barrier to relationship. What are some common barriers that tend to make people suspicious of one another?
  • As you look at both sides in this story, how do you see this kind of conflict repeated in our world today? Consider especially the presumption and fear that led to the confrontation.
  • Can you think of some examples when you have incorrectly judged the motive of another person? How much can we really know the motives of others (or of ourselves)? In this regard, Paul urged the Corinthian church to refrain from judging motives, saying that he would not even judge his own (1 Corinthians 4:1-4).
  • What are the “altars of witness” that remind Christians today of our unity.
  • How does Jesus fulfill this story? (See, for example, John 17 and Ephesians 2:11-17).

More in this category:

Go to top